Football Features

“Ninth time lucky!” – Five things learned as West Ham stun Manchester United in EFL Cup upset at Old Trafford

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:18, 22 September 2021

In an tight and tense night of football, West Ham beat Manchester United 0-1 at Old Trafford in the EFL Cup.

What did we learn?

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1. Dawson & Diop showcase defensive depth

West Ham rolled up to Old Trafford in the EFL Cup without either of their best centre-backs in Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna, and given the Hammers were in siege defence mode for basically 80 minutes, you would have thought that would come back to haunt him, but it didn’t. United piled on the pressure, sending crosses and passes into the box but in the end it was Dean Henderson who made the bigger saves.

That’s down to Craig Dawson and Issa Diop. The centre-back pair were colossal, getting their heads and feet to everything United put in. Diop ended the night with 6 clearances, Dawson with 5. The two biggest totals in the game. Noble even chipped in with 4. It was a really impressive showing at the back and the only United defender to really put the fear of god into the Hammers was Greenwood but every time his crosses came in, guess who was on the spot to clear? You guessed it: Dawson or Diop.

2. Martial FC is going down

Anthony Martial was a sensation in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first full season, bagging 23 goals in 48 games. He was back in the no. 9 shirt and finally looked ready to take the next step in his career and making good on his talent to become a world-class super stud.

Then he just, kind of, didn’t? An early red card in 2020/21 didn’t help, but he just never got going again. United looked so much brighter with Mason Greenwood or Edinson Cavani up-front and Marcus Rashford on the left. He scored just 7 times in 2020/21.

Tonight was his big chance to make a case for his inclusion in the first XI. With Marcus Rashford injured, there’s a spot in the front four up for grabs that Martial really should have claimed, but instead he turned in his worst performance yet. The man had no presence, no penetration, nothing. There were some decent flicks, but that is nowhere near enough for someone wearing the Manchester United no. 9.

Martial FC has an intense following, but on the basis of this season in general and this game in particular, Martial FC is in great danger of going down.

3. Juan Mata: collective king

It’s easy to forget Juan Mata is at Manchester United because of how little he plays, however whenever he does take the pitch it’s hard to understand why he doesn’t play more, such is the positive impact he has on the United team.

Mata played an hour tonight and was absolutely superb. United never managed to score while he was on the pitch but Mata came closest of all when his improvised half-volley was touched onto the crossbar by a desperate Alphonse Areola.

But that shot wasn’t even what Mata did best; it was the Spaniard’s influence over the rest of the United side that was worthy of plaudits. Despite fielding a team of back-ups who have never played together as an XI, United played with more collective cohesion than their starting XI would, and that’s because of Mata and the way he linked with everyone.

Mata was constantly on the move, constantly exchanging passes with everyone, bringing out levels in Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek we’ve not yet seen in a United shirt. It was such a bright display, and the great shame is that Mata’s peak years were wasted on the worst Manchester United since in 30 years. What Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wouldn’t do to take 10, even five years off his no. 8.

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4. Moyes’ big moment: the first win since Tevez

David Moyes was a disaster at Manchester United manager and was rightfully sacked before the season was out. Since he left Old Trafford he’s managed various sides and gone back to Old Trafford but eight visits all ended without victory. Then tonight.

West Ham attacked with purpose in that opening 10 minutes and justifiably got their goal, a lovely worked effort revolving around Ryan Fredericks and finished by Manuel Lanzini. They lost Fredricks soon after that, but carried on playing with intensity and focus. They didn’t give their hosts a single second of respite and even when The Red Devils were dominating, West Ham never looked overly bothered even though they had made almost as many changes to their starting XI.

This was a huge moment for David Moyes. His first win at Old Trafford ever as a visiting manager. Ninth time lucky. West Ham’s first win at Old Trafford since 2007 when Carlos Tevez scored the winner. Just a massive result. Could the enormity of this win carry them further in this competition? In others? Let’s see!

5. The trickiest of rewards: the full Carabao Cup fourth round draw

After securing their historic win at Old Trafford, West Ham’s reward is a brutal tie against the four-time defending Carabao Cup champions Manchester City. Elsewhere Marcelo Bielsa will take Leeds to the Emirates Stadium and Preston get to host Liverpool.

Here is the Carabao Cup fourth round draw in full:

Chelsea vs. Southampton

Arsenal vs. Leeds

Stoke vs. Brentford

West Ham vs. Manchester City

Leicester vs. Brighton

Burnley vs. Spurs

QPR vs. Sunderland

Preston vs. Liverpool