vital win for Manchester United, who move above Arsenal in the table. Two penalties from Paul Pogba settled a very match, though West Ham deserved at least a point and maybe three.
This was a smash-and-grab victory that keeps Manchester United in the hunt for a top-four finish. They were hardly pretty but will not care given the business end of the season requires wins and wins only. Paul Pogba was the saviour as he scored two penalties, creating the latter with a ball into Anthony Martial, as Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team secured all three points with only 10 minutes left.
Both United’s penalties were dubious, though, as was the decision to rule out a Felipe Anderson effort for offside when the game was scoreless.
With Luke Shaw and Ashley Young suspended and Tuesday night’s Champions League quarter-final second leg at Barcelona in mind, changes for United were inevitable. Of the starters in Wednesday’s 1-0 first-leg defeat here, six survived as in came Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Juan Mata, Martial and Jesse Lingard.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side had three changes from the XI that began Monday’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea, with Pablo Zabaleta, Robert Snodgrass and Arthur Masuaku brought in. Marko Arnautovic was the most notable absentee, through illness.
There was an open start to a half that continued throughout. Felipe Anderson’s “illegal” goal came when he finished beyond David de Gea but the strike was ruled offside despite Diogo Dalot appearing to have kept him onside.
West Ham were enjoying space between the United defence and midfield and along the flanks. Still, there was the same freedom to play for the home side and when Fred utilised this to move his team forward Mata was dumped over by Snodgrass and the referee, Graham Scott, pointed to the spot despite the Spaniard perhaps being outside the area and contact possibly fair. Up trotted Pogba to hammer home a 15th goal of the season.