David Hautzig's Match Report
One of the best memories of childhood growing up in New York was a snow day. They were very rare in Manhattan, but when they happened they were glorious. Today I had a full day of sales appointments set up, starting with my friend, and Fulham supporter, William. Snow started at sunrise, and with only a few inches in the forecast I prepared to hit the road. But William texted me and said the roads were slick, and that rescheduling was in order. The rest of my customers concurred when I checked in with them. Instead of a day playing tackle football in the snow in Riverside Park, my grownup reward was having the FA Cup on various TV’s in the house. In the end, those childhood snow days were a lot better.
The starting eleven was not a surprise. We all saw Antonio feel his hamstring at Craven Cottage and then signal to come off. The response on Twitter was equally predictable, with rampant criticism at the decision not to sign a striker in January. I had very little problem with that decision, considering our abysmal record with cold weather transfers. What did bother me a bit was the priority shown by Moyes. I would have used today’s lineup against Fulham, even against Sheffield United as well, in order to go after today’s match with 100% commitment.
The first sniff of a chance came in the 12th minute when Martial was sent in after a quick set of passes between Telles and Rashford. Fabianski came out to meet him, but so did Ogbonna. Martial’s boot caught Ogbonna on the ankle, and despite him trying to walk it off his day, and God knows we hope that’s all it will be, was done. A few minutes later the home side was back in the West Ham eighteen yard box with Greenwood looking to get a shot on target, but Cresswell made the block.
For the opening 25 minutes, West Ham looked much more like a side that was languishing near the bottom of the table and hoping to just get today over with than a side fighting for a top six spot on merit. Maybe the fatigue Moyes mentioned and was somewhat ridiculed for was a real factor. In the 26th minute Fabianski made a stunning save off a header from Lindelof that deflected off Dawson and was headed in, but his diving touch pushed it off the post.
West Ham won their first corner in the 37th minute, and the only thing that came out of that set piece was the possibility of seeing the new concussion substitution protocol tested when Diop and Martial banged heads. But both were OK to continue at that point.
Manchester United 0
West Ham 0
The second half started with a number of West Ham substitutions, including the first ever concussion substitute with Diop coming off despite playing 15 minutes after his clash with Martial. Johnson and Fredericks were introduced, with Bowen joining Diop on the bench. The most notable thing to come out of the first moments of the second half on the pitch was yet another West Ham player laying on he ground. This time it was Yarmolenko, who rolled around a few times before indicating that he too was done. If there was to be a silver lining to all of the changes it would come in the form of 18 year old Mipo Odubeko. Perhaps the experience of today without any real expectations will pay dividends down the road. Unfortunately the road travelled by the young man today should be forgotten.
West Ham were able to break with numbers in the 68th minute, but as has happened enough times in the past Fornals was not able to make the final pass to create the opportunity. But as lackluster as West Ham had looked to that point, despite solid play defensively, it was a small feat to be deadlocked at nil-nil. A few minutes later an errant clearance from Wan Bissaka led to a West Ham corner, but Cresswell’s delivery didn’t beat the first man and the men in red cleared.
The home side kept up the pressure, with shot attempts from Martial and Fernandes. But Dawson put his body on the line and made the necessary blocks. West Ham tried to create some pressure of their own, but while the possession numbers were better than the first half there wasn’t a shot, on or off target, to be found. Back down towards West Ham’s end, Telles found Martial with a cross but the header went wide. Was Moyes lulling the hosts to sleep? Maybe he was lulling me to sleep and I got confused.
West Ham won a corner in the dying embers of normal time, and after waiting for a brief VAR look at a possible hand ball by Wan Bissaka, Noble sent a decent ball into the box. Dawson rose high to get to it, but his header was cleared by Telles.
Manchester United 0
West Ham 0
It’s kind of amazing what a single bad touch can mean. In the 8th minute of added time, Benrahma rolled a pass to Rice near the top of the Manchester United box. The West Ham Wunderkind’s first touch was heavy, he lost possession, and United broke with numbers. After the initial attack was deflected up high, Soucek’s attempted clearance was gathered up by Rashford, who then tapped a pass to McTominay. His low, hard shot finally beat the resolute Fabianski.
Manchester United 1
West Ham 0
By the halfway point of the second stretch of added time, I realized I hadn’t written anything or paid a great deal of attention. A couple of work related phone calls forced me to turn down the volume. The sight of Lanzini replacing Mipo did, however, grab my attention and not in a positive way. I hope Moyes pulls him aside after tonight and tells him not be discouraged, that it was a tough spot to throw him into the deep end. I suspect he will.
Benrahma was able to put his head on a cross from Johnson with five minutes left, but beyond that West Ham had no end product.
And no more FA Cup in 2021.
Would today have been different had we had a fit Antonio? Maybe. Would today have been different had we purchased another striker in January? Again, maybe. In a season that has exceeded all expectations thus far, it’s easy to feel let down. But I won’t do that. The West Ham we have now is far better than any West Ham we have had in quite some time. If this season is about steadying the ship and consolidation, which is what it really needed to be, then patience is needed.
Mama said there’d be days like this.