MAN UNITED 1, WEST HAM 0
Manchester were United as they battled to the end to snatch a last-gasp home victory against West Ham to move into the Premier League’s top four.
Barely half a minute of stoppage time remained when substitute Marcus Rashford scored the matchwinning goal which almost lifted the roof at Old Trafford.
And the celebrations which followed Rashford’s fifth goal of the campaign and those at the final whistle proved that there is spirit in the campaign, despite repeated reports of unrest.
Interim manager Ralph Rangnick dashed on to the pitch to warmly embrace each player which showed a true connection, a contrast to the disconnect which has been replied.
It was the first time the German had recorded back-to-back wins in the league since he succeeded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
And Rashford’s goal lifted United from seventh to fourth in the seeming battle for the last Champions League spot – Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea are well clear of the rest.
They way things are shaping up, it looks as battle between the Reds, West Ham, Tottenham and Arsenal for the fourth spot.Embed from Getty Images
Rashford said: “It is obviously an important goal and such late on is an amazing feeling. We have to use that winning feeling. We could have been a bit better on the ball but managed to get the goal we needed and can use that as motivation now.
“When there are two teams so close together in the table, both are fighting to be in front of one another and today we managed to get there. We are sitting fourth now, some teams have games to play, but it is nice to be in that position.
“The wins are what’s important, when you get wins, consecutive wins, you can really start to go on a run and that is what gives everyone confidence.
“We have had a difficult week, there have been many games in one week, so the break is needed. It’ll be good for us.”
Rangnick added: “The atmosphere (in the dressing room) is amazing. Quite rightly the boys were celebrating. They know what a massive win this was.
“Those are the best kind of wins when the other team has not time to come back. We are extremely happy with the performance and the level of physicality we played with bearing in mind we played three days ago at Brentford.
“We didn’t always find the best solutions in the final third. In the last 20 minutes we had too many shots on goal when there was no realistic chance to score. We needed to be a bit more patient, but in the end, it was about taking all three points.
“We had to take some risks in the last 15 minutes but, in the end, I wanted to show the players it is about winning this game and I’m more than happy we scored the goal in the last minute.”
Rangnick added the goals Rashford scored against Brentford and West Ham will have lifted him.
He said: “Marcus is one of the top strikers in England and played in the Euros.
“He has all the attributes, pace, skills, size and physicality of a striker. It is all about confidence, but I am sure those two goals will increase it.
“Now it is about continuity and he can play an important role in the team.”
And of the support, Rangnick continued: “I would like to thank the Red Army’s support during the game. It was amazing as they pushed and carried us through the game.
“It’s always good but today was massive and they were also aware of how important this game was.”
Hammers’ manager David Moyes said: “It’s not easy when you lose a goal in the last second.
“It was certainly avoidable. We made a couple of poor decisions in the build-up to it.
“A draw would have been a good result as we hadn’t played well enough to score goals, but we certainly kept Man Utd out enough to get the draw.
“I want to win. I’m not coming to these team to let them beat me. I’m coming to challenge them. I can’t fault the players for their effort. But we just lacked little bits and did not do the correct things, how to see games out and we didn’t do that in the last minute.
“They [the team] been great, we need to keep at it, hanging in there. See where we end up. It shows you how disappointed we are that we’ve come here and should have got a point.”
There was one change to the United side which won at Brentford on Saturday.
Victor Lindelof missed out after a burglary at his house, so Harry Maguire returned after injury to captain the side.
Moyes made three changes from the side which lost at Leeds United last time out.
Alphonse Areola started in goal, his Premier League debut for the Hammers, with Lucasz Fabianski not involved. Issa Diop and Nikola Vlasic dropped to the bench while Tomas Soucek and Kurt Zouma returned.
There was plenty of endeavour from both sides in the early stages, but no end product.
That was mirrored by United’s first clear-cut chance in the 20th minute when Bruno Fernandes put in a perfectly delivered cross from the left but Cristiano Ronaldo, six yards out, failed to connect as he flung himself at the ball.
Ronaldo went down more in hope of winning a penalty after being challenged by Kurt Zouma. Replays suggested some contact but not sufficient to win a spot kick.
Indeed, neither goalkeeper had a save to make in opening period which promised much but delivered little.
That changed soon after the restart when Fred, released by Fernandes, brought a fine save for Areola to turn away his goalbound drive from just inside the box.
The Hammers’ best opening came soon after when Jarrod Bowen lashed a shot into the side netting as the match suddenly sprang to life.
Raphael Varane saw a near post header from Alex Telles’ corner narrowly clear the bar from six yards and a half volley from Anthony Elanga flew just wide.
Rangnick made his first change just after the hour when Elanga made way for Marcus Rashford.
United, desperate for a breakthrough made their last two changes with nine minutes left as Fred and Mason Greenwood were replace by Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial.
The entrance of the wantaway Martial was greeted with a mixture of cheers and jeers as his stance has split fans.
Towards the end, the Hammers had chances to snatch victory.
Tomas Coucek glanced a near post header just wide of the far post from Bowen’s corner and David De Gea had to turn a low cross from Declan Rice round the post for a corner as it would have crept in.
Then two-and-a-half minutes into stoppage time came the Reds’ dramatic winner.
Fernandes, Ronaldo and Martial linked to release Cavani on the left of the box and he crossed low to the far post for Rashford to score with a simple tap-in.
But there was an anxious wait for a VAR check as Cavani had looked suspiciously offside.
It was the fourth time Rashford had scored a winning goal in the 90th minute or later in the Premier League, a feat no other player has bettered.