It was a strange game at Upton Park. The first half had one wondering how The Hammers were not in front, by the end of the second half one had to ask how United hadn’t snatched the three points. John Murphy gives us the talking points.
1. Is Rooney Being Wasted In Midfield?
At present United have a plethora of talent available for the number 10 role. Namely, Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata, Angel Di Maria, and Wayne Rooney.
The start of the season had seen The Iron Tulip most frequently selecting his captain to fill the hole behind the forwards with two of Falcao, Van Persie and Wilson starting up front. However, since reverting to a 4-4-2 diamond against Leicester last week, he has dropped Rooney even further behind the strikers to the right of a midfield diamond.
Van Gaal has stated that he believes Rooney’s contribution is bigger in this role and that considering his multi-functional nature it makes sense. Given the wealth of options United have up top, indeed this may justify not starting the Englishman as a striker, however it does not explain his decision at number 10.
Selecting Di Maria in the pocket does not seem logical considering United’s somewhat sparse options out wide. Surely, the Argentinian is best utilized with the ball at his feet and running at defenders?
Rooney is certainly not wasted in midfield. However, being pushed out wide is far from his best position and surely swapping his role today with that of Di Maria would have optimized both of their strengths.
2. The Hammers Deserved Their Lead
West Ham effectively bossed the first half and The Red Devils were more than a little lucky to be going in all square at half time.
The second half however started as the first had ended and it wasn’t long before the Hammers got their goal. And what a goal it was. Having just returned from the African Cup of Nations, Kouyate soloed the ball twice before turning and volleying the ball past the excellent David De Gea.
Given United’s total dominance from the point West Ham took the lead however, it is difficult to say that they deserved the win. By the time the equalizer came, it certainly wasn’t a surprise that LVG’s side took a share of the spoils.
3. Rotten Radamel
15 minutes to go, having been sent through one on one by Robin van Persie, the Colombian blazed wide and over.
We’ve been waiting for weeks for El Tigre to finally come alight but although there have been glimmers, it simply hasn’t happened. What the hell was that?
4. A Diamond In the Rough
With James Collins and Winston Reid injured many felt that West Ham would struggle to cope with some of the world class attacking options that the Old Trafford outfit would present.
Step forward Cheikhou Kouyate.
The Senagalese midfielder (come centre back) was exceptional from start to finish this evening and was rightly named the man of the match.
5. Long Ball United
Not West Ham, Manchester. The Red Devils played 30 more long balls today than the Hammers.
In his post match interview, Van Gaal explained his team’s poor first half performance by explaining that United were not playing the ball along the floor. Yet late in the second half he introduced Marouane Fellaini and the frequency of United’s “hoof it” approach only increased.
Recent stats revealed that Manchester United play more long balls per game than any other side in Europe. Taking this into account, how exactly does Van Gaal not realise that the long ball approach seems to be ingrained in his mysterious philosophy?
John Murphy, Pundit Arena