Erik ten Hag’s side look dishevelled and in desperate need of a break after losing a second Premier League game in a row
How did Manchester United get themselves in this situation? Finishing in the top four should be the bare minimum for Erik ten Hag’s side, and it looked as if they were guaranteed to do so after beating Aston Villa last week to move seven points clear of Liverpool.
But that advantage has been chopped down to just a single point after a limp 1-0 defeat at West Ham following yet another goalkeeping gaffe from David de Gea. This demoralising loss came just three days after losing 1-0 at Brighton from a 99th-minute penalty, and the main takeaway is that the Red Devils look utterly exhausted.
They have had a gruelling and exciting season, going deep in four competitions. But their exertions in the Europa League and both domestic cups are now putting at risk the most basic objective, which is to qualify for the Champions League.
Liverpool and Brighton are now serious threats to that goal, and it is going to be a nerve-shredding end to the season when United must once more lean on their excellent home form, because their results away from home are diabolical.
LOSER: David de Gea
When your goalkeeper is so weak with his feet, he needs to be outstanding in every other facet. And he cannot be letting utterly feeble shots like Said Benrahma’s through his hands and into the net. This was one of De Gea’s worst howlers in his 12 years with United, and they are becoming increasingly common. It was as bad as the goal he let in from Brentford’s Josh Dasilva in the opening weeks of the season,and the fifth major error he has made this season.
His lapse did not just cost United a goal, it seemed to drain all confidence from Erik ten Hag’s side after they had looked the better team in the opening 25 minutes. The same thing happened after his early errors against Brentford and Sevilla.
And his passing was poor again too, gifting the ball to Declan Rice in the first half and Jarrod Bowen in the second. But we expect that from De Gea. What we do not expect him to be beaten by slow moving daisy-cutters. The club now need to think very carefully about whether they renew his contract.
WINNER: Declan Rice
The England midfielder was the undisputed Man of the Match, and put five-time Champions League winner Casemiro in the shade. He was everywhere from the first minute to the 98th, be it pressing De Gea and winning the ball back in the opposing area, mopping up loose balls or driving West Ham forward.
And for a few spells in the second half, he played like a winger, marauding down the left-hand side and dribbling past United defenders for fun, causing havoc as his side dominated proceedings and went searching for a second goal.
The harsh truth for West Ham is that Rice is simply too good for them now and must move to a bigger club who can match his ability and ambition. It is little wonder Arsenal are targeting him and if they had any doubts about paying a big transfer fee to get him, this performance will surely have convinced them it will be worth it.