West Ham United couldn’t quite stretch their unbeaten league start to five games on Sunday afternoon, as they were beaten 2-1 by Manchester United in Stratford.
After naming the same side for their first four matches, David Moyes made two changes as Kurt Zouma and Nikola Vlašić made the home debuts with Craig Dawson dropping to the bench, while Michail Antonio was missing through suspension. Alex Král was still made to wait for a first involvement, as he was named amongst the substitutes. Arthur Masuaku was included in a Premier League matchday squad for the first time since the 3-2 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on April 5.
Declan Rice made his 150th appearance for the club in Thursday night’s UEFA Europa League win over GNK Dinamo Zagreb and he retained his place for this game.
With the transfer dealings that the visitors have been involved in over the summer, this was the first tough looking test that the fixture list dealt the Hammers and it was looking as though it would live up to that billing right from the start as Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side were awarded a succession of corner kicks but thankfully for the majority inside the stadium, the West Ham defence were able to deal with the danger.
The Irons then had a good chance to open the scoring with seventeen minutes gone. Jarrod Bowen had been moved into a central position with Saïd Benrahma in a supporting role. The two combined to take the ball from Harry Maguire and Benrahma played the ball back to Bowen but when trying to go for goal, his effort was blocked.
It took just five more minutes for the former Hull City man to go even closer when he was on the end of Vladimír Coufal’s cross and tried his luck again but this time, visiting goalkeeper David De Gea managed to get a boot in the way of his latest attempt.
Solskjær’s men nearly took went in front but Łukasz Fabiański did superbly to tip an effort from Bruno Fernandes onto the post.
The Red Devils had dominated much of the game but the East Londoners went ahead on the half-hour mark and it was another Benrahma special. His partnership with Bowen was working well and Bowen had made a clever move to set up the Algerian on his right foot. Although Raphaël Varane tried to block the effort, the former Brentford man took a touch and sent the ball flying into the net, giving De Gea no chance.
The visitors were quick to respond and Cristiano Ronaldo was looking to add another goal since returning to Old Trafford on Deadline Day. Fortunately for the home support though, Zouma managed to thwart him with a great block.
However, the Portuguese winger always finds a way to goal and he did exactly that here when he picked up the rebound after Fabiański had made a superb save to keep his initial header out, following a cross from Fernandes.
Ronaldo was the danger man for the visitors and he was in the thick of things again but Fabiański showed that he wasn’t going to be beaten again.
Up the other end, Vlašić sent Aaron Cresswell’s cross over the top before referee Martin Atkinson blew for half-time.
At half-time you could bet that the Hammers were thinking what might have been if they had held onto the goal advantage.
The Red Devils continued to be the dominant side but Fabiański kept his team in the game as he made a block from Ronaldo after the former Real Madrid and Juventus player had linked up again with Fernandes, who had taken advantage of a loose pass from Pablo Fornals.
Ronaldo was really making a difference and he was trying to win his team a penalty on a number of occasions but Atkinson wasn’t interested in either of his appeals and gave nothing.
On sixty eight minutes, Moyes made his first change with Vlašić making way for Andriy Yarmolenko.
Solskjær brought on former Hammers’ loanee Jesse Lingard in place of Paul Pogba in the seventy third minute to a great reception from both sets of fans, while twenty minutes later, more substitutes were introduced for both sides as Moyes threw on Manuel Lanzini for Benrahma, while Nemanja Matić entered the fray for the visitors.
Lingard scored a number of important goals while he was on loan in Stratford but this time, he came up with a goal that left the home end feeling disappointed as he produced a spectacular shot to beat Fabiański.
In stoppage time however, the was further drama as the home side were awarded a penalty after VAR official Darren England had told Atkinson to check the monitor. Atkinson initially gave a corner but reversed his decision after the consultation.
With his side having missed the last four spot kicks, Moyes decided to bring on Mark Noble to see if he could convert so the club captain replaced Bowen. The Scotsman’s decision backfired on him though as he missed the chance to equalise, meaning that Noble had failed from twelve yards for the first time since December 2017.
The victory for the Red Devils means that Moyes is still yet to beat his former club since leaving Manchester in 2014. He will get another chance to achieve the feat when the two sides meet again on Wednesday night for a Carabao Cup third round tie.