EFL CUP:MANCHESTER UNITED FIND FORM TO DISPATCH WESTHAM OUT OF CUP
Tony Martial scored. And then Tony Martial scored again. The Reds were on fire last night hitting 4 past westham And now they are three games from the first trophy of the Jose Mourinho era.
It will not be easy, despite the softest semi-final draw against Hull. With Liverpool or Southampton waiting in the EFL Cup final, United still have work to do – particularly if Jurgen Klopp’s much improved Koppites make it through. And will Klopp play the kids in a Wembley showdown against Manchester United? Unlikely.
Yet Mourinho has always set great store in laying down a marker by winning the first real trophy of the season and, wherever he was in the stadium, he will have been mightily pleased by this result, and this performance.
Some thought him arrogant for electing to take his latest touchline ban from the Football Association immediately – removing himself from sight for Wednesday night’s game. It suggested he was taking West Ham, and the competition, lightly, showing them a lack of respect.
By the end he looked entirely justified in his disdain. West Ham were a soft touch, unable to last beyond the first attack of the game in either half, weak defensively and often lazy.
If Martial grew in confidence on the left it was because West Ham did such a poor job containing him in the first-half, with Michail Antonio in particular contemptuous of his defensive duties. Mourinho had it spot on. His team may need him at Everton on Sunday. This one they could handle on their own.
Mourinho did not break cover during the game, but there was plenty to delight him in his hidey hole. Bastian Schweinsteiger made a cameo appearance as a late substitute – his first appearance in 255 days, since March 20 against Manchester City – and had a hand in the fourth goal.
Martial’s influence was equally exciting. Mourinho seemed to suggest a week ago that the striker was running out of time to impress, with Old Trafford’s song about the prolific nature of his scoring feats – and the value he represented at £50m – seeming increasingly optimistic.
Yet the manager’s shake of the reins appears to have done the trick. Martial did miss a few in the first-half, but he scored twice after half-time and the first, at least, was taken in some style, an extremely confident finish.
It would have helped the tactical schemes of visiting manager Slaven Bilic if his players had not started each half with a defensive yawn, but that should take nothing away from United, who played some excellent stuff.
They have been improving for several weeks now, creating chances without getting the goals, but this could be the turning point. Win at Everton and a head of steam will be building. United are starting to look like the team they should be, given the stellar, physically imposing nature of the squad.
Wayne Rooney, in particular, was exceptional and only a rush of blood that led to a booking – first a foul, then some very visible dissent – spoiled an otherwise impressive performance in his favoured number ten role.
He is suspended for the next match, so has no chance of equalling or breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s United goalscoring record at his spiritual home, Goodison Park. A pity: on this form United could do with him, no matter Mourinho’s worries about his pace.
Rooney’s booking aside, if there was a negative for United it is that the 4-1 scoreline flattered West Ham. They could have had that margin before half-time, even if the early second-half goals made this a very comfortable evening. Still, stronger opposition than West Ham will not allow so many chances, and United must become more clinical if they are to sustain a title challenge in the second half of the season. Mourinho is wrong to keep blaming referee error. Many of the problems start with United’s finishing.
There was no excuse for some of the misses on Wednesday night, either. The pressure was most certainly off.
Indeed, it couldn’t have gone better for United from the start – ahead from their first attack, within two minutes of kick-off. What a beautiful move it was, too.
Rooney picked out Henrik Mkhitaryan with a quite superb cross field ball from a central position. The Armenian, beginning to return to favour with Mourinho after earning his displeasure against Manchester City, made a good run and then switched the play sweetly with a backheel pass into the path of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Suddenly the goal was open, goalkeeper Adrian – now the cup choice second string, having lost his place in West Ham’s first-team – horribly exposed. He went to ground perhaps too eagerly and Ibrahimovic dinked the ball past him, Lionel Messi-style. Adrian was left beating the turf in frustration, but he could have no complaints.
Indeed, replays showed a reckless, studs-up and late challenge on Ibrahimovic after the ball had gone, which could have caused a nasty injury. It certainly looked a yellow card, at least.
So it could have been far worse – not least because Manchester United had enough chances to have the game won within 30 minutes.
It took a fine double save from Adrian to stop West Ham going further behind after six minutes when another great pass from Rooney picked out Ibrahimovic. Adrian saved, but the United striker was on the loose ball instantly, Adrian equal to it again. After 15 minutes Rooney forced another acrobatic save from Adrian, tipping wide a viciously curling free-kick.
Martial missed two more chances – one blasted over, another with a shot as tame as a back pass – and Old Trafford regulars began to fear a familiar pattern. After 35 minutes, those fears were justified.
Pedro Obiang started the move, much as Rooney had started United’s opening goal, with a lovely crossfield ball that picked out Dimitri Payet. He went on a run, cutting in from the left and hitting a dipping shot which David De Gea, in action for the first time, spilled. Ashley Fletcher was first to react, driving the ball into the net in front of the Stretford End. He no doubt dreamed of scoring before them as a youngster when he was rated more highly here than Marcus Rashford. ‘He’s one of your own,’ sang the West Ham fans, mockingly. ‘He’s one of your own…’
The laughter didn’t last long, however.
The second-half started and within three minutes United were ahead, and never looked back.
It was a beautifully constructed goal, too: a backheel by Antonio Valencia taking defenders away from Mkhitaryan and his cutback pass perfectly weighted for Martial. Even so, the finish was emphatic and clean, a first time shot leaving Adrian no chance.
His second was easier, although the build-up was no less impressive. Ibrahimovic opened up West Ham’s defence again, and Valencia crossed for Martial to convert from close range at the far post.
The fourth, deep into injury time, was similar, but from the left side, Ibrahimovic finishing from close range after tenacious work down the left by Schweinsteiger and Ander Herrera. There were other chances in that half, too – not least from Ibrahimovic and, to the delight of the crowd, Schweinsteiger.
One day, Manchester United are going to catch hold of a team and it will be messy. For now, this, and another tilt at Wembley, will have to do.
culled from dailymail.co.uk