Manchester United fell way short of expectations in what was certainly an eventful encounter at Upton Park, right from when the team bus entered the stadium, or were not allowed to in today’s case, to the final whistle and that saw an emotional crowd bidding farewell to one of England’s hallowed stadiums in recent memory. It was a game, an opportunity handed to Manchester United on a platter to redeem their disappointing season thus far, by their neighbours and rivals Man City, of all teams, and Van Gaal’s side, in the end, well and truly blew it – possibly signalling the manager’s fading career at United.
The game was delayed by three quarters of an hour, owing to United’s suspect logistics department, which would not be the first time this season coupled with a rowdy welcome by the West Ham fans – that saw bottles thrown at the United team bus, tear gas and the like – indicative of what was going to come, on this momentous occasion. The plan had worked after all as Van Gaal’s side struggled to get a grip on the game, as West Ham upped their intensity several times over in the opening stages, leading to a fine opener worked in by Sakho, in to the bottom left corner of the goal.
United grew into the game and had more of the ball in the middle and final third yet only managed to have three touches inside the box in the first 45 minutes – and their first attempt at goal came in the 32nd minute – a wayward shot off target by captain Wayne Rooney who found himself very deep in the middle alongside Schneiderlin and later, Michael Carrick. This has been the story of Manchester United under Van Gaal and this has seen them alienate themselves from what they once took pride in – flamboyance, fearlessness and the willingness to throw everything at the opponent.
The visitors only had three attempts on goal
United’s first shot on target ended up in the back of a net as Martial netted his tenth goal in his debut season. De Gea’s quick long ball caught the West Ham back four by surprise as Rashford and Mata combined to set up the Frenchman’s goal. United looked like they were headed for the final week in the driver’s seat in the race for fourth after Martial got in behind the defence again, looping the ball in from a tight angle sending away fans into delirium and more importantly lifting Van Gaal off his seat – a rare event as far as the manager is concerned.
Any chance of a Manchester United comeback was snuffed out as the home side scored two goals in the space of four minutes, giving West Ham the onus again to the roar of a raucous crowd. The home side deserved to win and certainly had a fair few gilt-edged opportunities to make it a memorable scoreline but nonetheless, it was a win befitting the occasion and the performance on the day, which also gives them a chance to pip United for the fifth place and a guaranteed Europa league spot with a week to go.
For Manchester United, the focus must now shift towards the looming FA Cup final that could ultimately be the saving grace in another largely tepid season – both in terms of the way the side played for most part and the results that ensued. Whether the board would act decisively over Van Gaal’s future factoring in the damning realisation that they will most probably not be involved in the Champions League next season, like they did with David Moyes will be interesting – but the fact that it has prolonged this far in itself baffles many associated with the club and understandably so.
But this defeat of all the defeats should be that final straw in a season of failed promises and progress.