West Ham 1 Man United 1: Four talking points as Daley Blind nets leveller
Four talking points as Daley Blind denies West Ham victory at Upton Park
What a day for Kouyate
Cheikhou Kouyate may have gone AWOL following Senegal’s Africa Cup of Nations exit, but the 25-year-old didn’t go missing at Upton Park. He was used as a makeshift centre-half in the absence of Winston Reid and James Collins for the visit of Manchester United. If you were a Red Devils fan, you would expect world-class strikers Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie to test the Hammers man. However, Kouyate had a relatively straightforward afternoon as the United pair lacked the movement of their opposite numbers, Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho. Alex Song, who was guilty of over-confidence at times with some suicidal passing, did shield his defence well, aiding the Senegalese midfielder-come-defender. With added defensive responsibility, few would have predicted that Kouyate would make the difference at the other end of the pitch. But the former Anderlecht man showed the composure of a makeshift striker after he juggled the ball before he unleashed an unstoppable drive past David De Gea from close range. Capping a near-perfect 90 minutes, Kouyate even managed to shake off a second-half injury but West Ham were denied a deserved victory after Daley Blind’s injury-time equaliser.
Clash of the would-be England full-backs
If Roy Hodgson wasn’t at Upton Park on Sunday evening, the England manager had the watchful eye of his coach Gary Neville casting his eye on proceedings. The former Manchester United right-back was primed to watch an intriguing battle between Carl Jenkinson and Luke Shaw unfold. The pair are two of the brightest English prospects coming through at full-back – and their performances on Sunday demonstrated why. Jenkinson has benefitted from his loan move to West Ham, and manager Sam Allardyce has improved the defender, who has been a regular fixture in the east London side’s XI. The 23-year-old was not only tasked with keeping tabs on Adnan Januzaj, but he had to be mindful of the threat Shaw posed on the overlap. Shaw is quick, but so is Jenkinson. From set-pieces, Jenkinson carried out his duties as the England international kept Van Persie quiet at set-pieces. On this showing, Jenkinson should have an Arsenal future next season. Shaw, meanwhile, ended the day with an early bath after the defender picked up a second booking in the closing moments.
Dominant De Gea
If there was any doubt about David De Gea’s value to United, he underlined his ever-growing reputation by denying the Hammers in a one-sided first half. The Spain international has already scooped countless man-of-the-match awards this season, and he had to be alert throughout the Upton Park clash. De Gea pushed Valencia’s powerful effort behind for a corner, before he instinctively tipped the West Ham striker’s acrobatic effort over the crossbar from point-blank range. Showing the confidence to claim a number of Stewart Downing’s testing crosses, De Gea proved that he is just as good with his feet as his hands after he booted James Tomkins’ header clear of danger. In the United number one’s defence, he could do little to prevent Kouyate’s strike as the visitors finally wilted under consistent set-piece pressure. The United goalkeeper is yet to sign a new deal at Old Trafford, and when Real Madrid get their hands on a tape of this game, the La Liga giants will be ready to add an extra couple of million to their offer, particularly in the wakes of Iker Casillas’ nightmare in Saturday’s Madrid derby.
Van Gaal needs to strike United balance
Neville described United as “getting out of jail” after Blind guided a late equaliser past Adrian in the second minute of added time. It should have been the away side’s second defeat in 17 games but Marouane Fellaini injected some much-needed panic in the West Ham area, creating space for the Netherlands international to level. While Van Gaal will point to the team spirit United showed to dig out a result, there were more negatives than positives for the Red Devils. As Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher pointed out during Sky Sports’ coverage, Radamel Falcao and Van Persie don’t work as a partnership. The United strikers were static and James Tomkins and Kouyate were never really tested, despite being a makeshift centre-half pairing. Van Gaal’s midfield was clustered and disorganised, resulting in Wayne Rooney dropping incredibly deep at times, whilst Angel di Maria struggled against Song’s physicality. It goes without saying that West Ham dominated set-pieces, too. Positives for Van Gaal? Well, the United boss can take encouragement from the performance of his back four who coped reasonably well against a well-drilled Allardyce side in open play. Of course, having De Gea in top form helps.