Man Utd 3-1 West Ham: Post-match reflections - Casemiro contribution, Weghorst’s role & mixed from Maguire
We’ve picked out five major talking points from Manchester United’s FA Cup win on Wednesday.
and live on Freeview channel 276
But it was far from a straightforward affair for Erik ten Hag’s side men, who were well off their best in the first half and allowed West Ham to take the initiative after the break via Said Benrahma’s goal. United did manage to respond in the final 15 minutes as Nayef Aguerd’s own-goal levelled proceedings before Alejandro Garnacho and Fred netted in the latter stages.
It was another cup victory for the Red Devils following huge wins over Barcelona and Newcastle United, and the 20-time English champions have already played a remarkable 17 cup matches this season, with at least three more on the horizon.
It also continues United’s remarkable home record under Ten Hag and, in addition to the comeback win over West Ham, Old Trafford has served up successes against Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Barcelona this term. But after an enthralling night, our United reporter has provided five post-match reflections…
Casemiro crucial contribution
United began the game with Lisandro Martinez, Raphael Varane, Casemiro and Marcus Rashford on the bench, and all of the quartet were called upon to improve United’s fortunes in a game that looked set to run away from them.
There are undeniable concerns about the strength in depth of Ten Hag’s squad, and all sides will struggle without four key players, but it was remarkable just how much the team’s standards dropped in the absence of Casemiro and co.
And it was the Brazilian who really helped turn the game around, as he wrestled control of midfield, kept the ball moving in the centre, sprayed repeated passes out to the insatiable Garnacho on the left, and even popped up with a few dangerous headers in the opposition box.
Casemiro replaced the underwhelming Scott McTominay at the break, in a change that very much signifies the difference between the United of this season and last.
Weghorst’s mixed night
Wout Weghorst failed to get on the scoresheet again for United, and he sent a good chance early in the second half just wide. It’s been so near yet so far for Weghorst since arriving on loan in January, and the attacker was significantly better after being pushed into a no.10 role, having previously started up front.
It was from a slightly deeper position that Weghorst managed to play a part in all three goals, with the Dutchman pressurising West Ham defenders into mistakes for the first and third goals.
“I think he [Weghorst] was one of the best players on the pitch,” Ten Hag said after the game. “I think he understands positioning in and out of possession. He is doing a really good job for the team.”
Fred’s goalscoring impact
Fred grabbed a late third for United on Wednesday, with what turned out to be the hosts’ final touch of the game. That was Fred’s sixth goal of the campaign - his highest-ever tally for the club - and his 10th in a little over 18 months.
In comparison, the 29-year-old only netted four times in his first three years at Old Trafford and his finishing was often the butt of many jokes from the United dressing room. But Fred’s become a midfielder who now regularly chips in with important goals, and netted against Spurs and Barcelona earlier this term.
Maguire’s shaky confidence
Harry Maguire came back into the starting XI on Wednesday and put in a solid display at the heart of defence. He particularly impressed in the early stages as he tackled Michail Antonio to stop a West Ham breakaway, prevented Tomas Soucek winning a header in the United box, while Maguire also put in some important clearances at the back.
Yet a booking for a rash challenge on Antonio was his biggest moment in the opening period, and one that will be included in the extended highlights above the aforementioned incidents. The yellow card clearly knocked Maguire’s confidence in the final 15 minutes of the first half, and highlighted the fragilities in the defender’s game as his passing looked less certain.
It wasn’t a poor performance from United’s no.5, but he was aided by a second period that saw Ten Hag’s side dominate possession.
Victor Lindelof also returned at centre-back and United certainly looked less assured with the Swede and Maguire in defence compared to Varane and Martinez. In fact, the latter came on for Lindelof after 58 minutes.
After being replaced, United’s no.2 headed straight down the touchline and towards the tunnel, presumably, to the dressing room. Lindelof’s unusual decision not to sit on the bench could hint that he picked up a knock against West Ham, with the attention surrounding another excellent win meaning Ten Hag wasn’t asked about the situation after the game.