Hojlund, Garnacho help Man Utd whip Hammers 3-0
Rasmus Hojlund extended his scoring streak to four consecutive Premier League games, and Alejandro Garnacho netted twice as Manchester United secured their most substantial home league victory of the season, propelling them back into the top six against West Ham at Old Trafford.
Hojlund secured a clever 23rd-minute finish, initiating the hosts’ path to victory. Shortly thereafter, Garnacho doubled their lead with a deflected effort, taking advantage of a missed opportunity by West Ham’s Emerson to equalize.
The Argentine forward added another goal towards the end of the match after Scott McTominay gained possession in the West Ham half.
Remarkably, this marked the first occasion since October that Manchester United had achieved three consecutive victories and only the second time they had accomplished this feat in the entire season.
However, the triumph came with a setback as tenacious defender Lisandro Martinez, making his fourth appearance since returning from foot surgery, appeared to injure his knee in a second-half altercation with Vladimir Coufal. Despite attempting to continue, he had to be substituted shortly thereafter.
For West Ham, dropping to seventh, it was a missed opportunity. Emerson squandered another chance following Garnacho’s goal, and Diogo Dalot made a crucial block when Jarrod Bowen had a clear run onto a long ball over Harry Maguire’s head.
Manchester United goalkeeper Andre Onana played a pivotal role, making excellent first-half saves to deny Ben Johnson and Mohammed Kudus.
Hojlund on fire for Red Devils
The anticipated new chief executive, Omar Berrada, was not present at the first home game since his impending appointment was revealed. However, Ineos had representation in the form of Sir Dave Brailsford, whose perspectives are evidently crucial in shaping United’s direction once Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s 25% acquisition is ratified by the Premier League later this month.
If manager Erik ten Hag fails to secure a return to the Champions League, he must, at the very least, demonstrate a promising future to solidify his position. Hojlund could play a pivotal role in that regard.
Throughout this season, queries have been raised about United’s recruitment decisions, particularly their choice not to pursue Harry Kane and instead invest £72m in Danish striker Hojlund. By Christmas Day, Hojlund had yet to score a league goal.
However, he has now netted four in as many games since breaking his scoring drought against Aston Villa on December 26. His latest goal showcased a combination of finesse and power.
Following Casemiro’s decisive tackle, Hojlund skillfully shifted to his right to create shooting space, unleashing a powerful low shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. This goal marked his entry into double figures for the season across all competitions.
At just 19, Garnacho is even younger than Hojlund. While expecting the teenager to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo’s career might be ambitious, there’s a resemblance in Garnacho’s early years, producing moments of sublime skill followed by occasional decision-making lapses.
Garnacho, however, enjoyed a stroke of luck when his shot from the right wing took a deflection off Nayef Aguerd. The home fans are hopeful that the celebratory image of Garnacho, Hojlund, and 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo sitting together on an advertising board in front of the Stretford End signals the promising future Ten Hag needs to deliver.
Mainoo had been substituted by the time Garnacho scored his second goal. His replacement, McTominay, drove forward purposefully to create the opportunity as Manchester United returned to the top six for the first time in nearly two months, despite still trailing fourth-placed Aston Villa by eight points.
West Ham pay for Emerson miss
Having emerged victorious in their previous two encounters with Manchester United, West Ham sought a third consecutive triumph, a feat not accomplished since the mid-1970s.
Despite attempting 13 shots at the home goal by halftime, West Ham found themselves unlucky to be trailing. Onana, in goal for Manchester United, notably thwarted a Tomas Soucek effort deflected off Aguerd that was destined for the corner.
Emerson missed a golden opportunity to equalize after dispossessing Maguire in the Manchester United half. Despite charging into the penalty area with intent, he appeared to struggle to position himself for a shot. Narrowing his own angle, he awkwardly stabbed his left foot at the ball, sending it harmlessly wide and bringing relief to Onana.
Following Dalot’s denial of Bowen, West Ham faced an insurmountable deficit, suffering their first league defeat since the five-goal loss at Fulham on December 10.
Manager David Moyes’ additional concern centered around goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who endured a first-half collision with Kurt Zouma, resulting in a facial injury. Areola managed to last until halftime but was substituted with Lukasz Fabianski taking over in the second half.
On 6 February, Manchester United will commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Munich air disaster.
In observance of this anniversary and as the nearest home game to the date, the customary service took place outside Old Trafford two hours before kick-off.
Prior to the match, both Ten Hag and Moyes laid wreaths, and the teams emerged to the ‘Flowers of Manchester’ anthem. This anthem pays homage to the eight players, including English stars Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor, and Roger Byrne, who lost their lives when the club’s flight crashed during take-off after a refueling stop on their way back from a European Cup quarter-final in Belgrade.
This anniversary holds particular significance as it is the first to pass since the passing of Sir Bobby Charlton, who was the last surviving United player from that ill-fated flight.