With another West Ham game against another Manchester team this evening it’s time to get my record of this game down in black and white. I bought my season ticket knowing rugby would take precedence over football so hadn’t been to the London Stadium since West Ham managed to lose a 2 goal advantage against Watford to lose by 4 goals to 2. There’d been much written about the crowd trouble at the stadium, in particular when Chelsea visited, Hammers had been forced to make changes to the stadium and match day management. With Manchester United visiting I hoped those plans were sufficient to prevent any repeat of the trouble.
I met my younger brother Ian and his son Alex, lifelong Hammers fans, in Westfield before the match, we went for a burger at the Shake Shack, fast food with a bit more quality, their burgers are well worth the wait. We ate up and set off for the stadium, it’s no mean feat to keep up with my 6ft 4 nephew when I’m 5ft 2 with dodgy knees, but I managed to keep him in my sights. We were sat in different places so I set up off the long climb to my seat, I managed to get there without the need for oxygen and was glad to see a few others puffing as they made their way.
West Ham had improved their results after losing to Arsenal 5 – 1 at home, they’d drawn with Liverpool and beaten Swansea 4 -1 away before they lost narrowly at Leicester, could this be a turn around in their season?
Manchester United were without Wayne Rooney but had a raft of stars in their line up, strangely Slaven Bilic had decided to leave Andy Carroll and Andre Ayew on the bench. Things were going well for Hammers for the first 15 minutes, Sofiane Feghouli challenged Phil Jones for a ball he’d lost control of, from the stands I didn’t think too much of it in spite of the fact that Jones was rolling around as if he’d been shot, until Mike Dean brandished a red card at Feghouli. He was clearly shocked as were the biggest majority of the crowd. I forgot for a moment that I was watching football where such a momentous game changing decision is made without any check using the technology available in rugby.
That moment changed the game as 10 men West Ham had to defend for 75 minutes, although had you not seen the red or counted the players on the pitch I’m not sure it would’ve been plain. Manchester United looked totally lacking in ideas, it was almost as if they didn’t know where the goal was! Overall the visitors had 64% of the possession, they also outdid West Ham on the foul front, making 13 to Hammers 9, each one was met with howls from the home crowd and Jones was boo’ed every time he touched the ball and rightly so!
Juan Mata came on as a sub after half time, I said, jokingly – perhaps he’ll know where the goal is – to my young neighbour. I wish I hadn’t spoken, because of course, he did, he scored Manchester United’s first goal with 63 minutes on the clock. Hammers really did have an uphill battle now. Michail Antonio had missed what looked like an easy chance before Mata found the back of the net, what a difference that would have made, Hammers could have put every man behind the ball and closed down.
Mike Dean, having made an absolute howler with the red card then seemed to totally forget, along with his Assistant Referee’s, that offside is a thing. There were 3 Manchester United players offside when Zlatan Ibrahimovic made it 2 nil. The goal scorer being the most blatant of the 3. A mention for Marcus Rashford who came on in the second half, he shone, making 26 passes, 25 of which were completed, it was good to see a young English player do so well.
The biggest story from this game was the red card, Mike Dean has shown 14 since the start of last season, 6 more than any other referee. West Ham appealed this one and it was promptly rescinded, which is no use at all for the game they had to play with 10 men, but means he’s free to play Manchester City. At some stage football really must embrace the technology available to prevent such huge errors of judgement. Both Phil Jones, who could grace the stage and Mike Dean should be ashamed of themselves.
There were no problems between the two sets of fans as far as I could see, but I was very sad to read that a Manchester United fan passed away after falling unwell at the game, we could see the efforts being made to save him but he died in hospital later that evening. That sad news put a loss at football into some perspective.