5 Lessons from Manchester United 1 West Ham 0
Manchester United retained top spot in the Barclays Premier League on Wednesday with a well deserved, if not slightly frustrating, 1-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford.
Robin van Persie opened the scoring with just 33 seconds on the clock, chipping a heavily deflected shot off James Collins and over the helpless Jussi Jaaskelainen, simultaneously netting the fastest goal of any top-flight team or player this season.
From then on, the Reds dominated possession and territory at the Theatre of Dreams but ultimately struggled to break down a typically well-disciplined Hammers defence that is currently flourishing under the tutelage and management of the battle-hardened Sam Allardyce.
In the end, the match provided three invaluable points for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men with the busy December schedule rapidly approaching, while providing several talking points to discuss. Here, I assess five lessons that can be learned from this midweek encounter...
1: Jonny Evans Has Grown in Stature and Style
Just under two years ago, Jonny Evans was slaughtered in the media and on the terraces following Manchester United’s disastrous 4-0 defeat to West Ham in a League Cup clash at Upton Park.
Back then, the Northern Irishman was written off and disregarded by many, who all too naively decided the defender was not of appropriate quality to represent the Reds.
How wrong could they have been?
Evans has been a revelation for the past 12 months and, on Wednesday, produced another classy display against the towering, considerable threats posed by Hammers strikers Andy Carroll and Carlton Cole.
2: Anderson Deserves to Start for Manchester United
Earlier in the week, Sir Alex Ferguson explained why Anderson’s superb cameo display against QPR last weekend meant the Brazilian was the first name on his team-sheet to face West Ham.
This news was music to the ears of many United fans, who have been crying out for the midfielder to start since starring in two Capital One Cup games against Newcastle and Chelsea this season.
'Ando' did not disappoint against the Hammers, producing a performance of great intent, composure and technical ability that should retain his place in the starting XI against Reading on Saturday.
3: Rafael Is Going from Strength to Strength
Rafael da Silva has long been considered the heir to Gary Neville’s thrown on the right side of Manchester United’s defence, and this season, the Brazilian has shown why that is so.
The flying Reds fullback has reveled under the faith shown in him this term, reaping considerable benefits that can be gained from playing first team football on a twice weekly basis.
Against West Ham, the 22-year-old was typically impressive going forward, but also displaying his defensive credentials with a couple of excellently timed tackles.
With little in front of him with regards to competition, who knows how many games Rafael will play this season and to what level he will achieve?
4: Anders Lindegaard Is a Worthy Advisory to David De Gea
Wednesday’s victory over West Ham provided a fourth consecutive start in all competitions for Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, keeping a clean sheet to boot.
The Danish international continues to battle David De Gea for dominance in between the sticks at Old Trafford as Sir Alex Ferguson continues to shuffle the pair. Although some consider the Spaniard first choice, Lindegaard has shown he is an able deputy and is perhaps worthy of greater things.
The Hammers did not necessarily provide his sternest test, yet the Reds stopper showed his quality on several occasions, coming off his line to collect a number of thumping crosses while producing a couple of smart saves to thwart Andy Carroll and Carlton Cole.
The rotation of goalkeepers is arguably not helping United, though fans can rest assured that whoever starts, both are armed with impressive, yet different capabilities and attributes.
5: West Ham Are the Best of the Promoted Teams
Sam Allardyce has worked wonders since taking charge of West Ham back in 2011, immediately earning promotion to the Barclays Premier League before making an assured start to life in the top flight this season.
The Hammers have tested a number of teams and have the look of a club content within their own surroundings.
In other words, they are not fazed by the big time and are set for an impressive campaign should they maintain their consistency and defensive stability.