Manchester United slumped to their fourth consecutive draw in the English premier league match played at Old Trafford yesterday.
By Carlo Chikomba
The result means United are 11 points behind leaders Chelsea and, even more worryingly, eight points behind fourth-placed Arsenal and already facing a desperate battle to finish in the top four and secure Champions League qualification.
Mourinho made six changes to the team that won against Feyenoord in the Europa league with Wayne Rooney and Henrikh Mkhitaryan dropping to the bench. However, within two minutes of play, the visitors were ahead.
That was courtesy of a free kick that was conceded by Jesse Lingard on Dimitri Payet. The Frenchman dusted himself up and whipped in a superb free-kick which was met by the onrushing Diafra Sakho, who got in front of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to power a diving header past David De Gea.
That goal marked Sakho’s first in just his fourth appearance since May, when he scored against the same side at Upton Park.
The Hammers remained resolute after that but were eventually caught out when James Collins went to sleep in the 21st minute, allowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to dash away from him to meet an inch perfect Paul Pogba pass and direct his header past hapless goalkeeper Darren Randolph from close range. The goal was the end result of a well worked team effort, with all 11 team players involved in the build-up.
There was drama in the 27th minute, after Mourinho was sent to the stands for kicking a water bottle in protest to Paul Pogba being handed a yellow card for diving. In all fairness, the referee Jonathan Moss made the right call as replay suggested that was a blatant dive from Pogba.
After that the hosts created a flurry of chances which they failed to convert. Marcus Rashford squandered an opportunity to put United ahead after coming one on one with Randolf, the keeper standing firm to deny the 19 year-old Englishman with his boot.
The match was more evenly poised after the interval, with both teams failing to make the most of their chances. Randolf was at it again this time palming away Pogba’s shot and kicking away Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s shot before Jesse Lingard’s goal was correctly ruled for offside.
At the other end, Michail Antonio teed up substitute Ashley Fletcher, who skilfully worked his way into the six-yard area but his finishing let him down and he could only fire his shot straight into David De Gea’s arms.
The Hammers held on to claim a priceless away point which lifts them above the bottom three and gives them renewed hopes of turning the tide around after a miserable start to the campaign. As for Manchester United, they remain sixth on the table with their credentials as title contenders in serious doubt and they now have a mountain to climb to change that perception.