West Ham gained revenge for defeat two days ago, eliminating at the first hurdle a Manchester United who have twice been semi-finalists under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. For the closing minutes the manager called on Bruno Fernandes: the move said that the second string he sent out had failed, and that the hope now was on his talisman saving the side yet again.
It was not to be. For David Moyes, a former United manager, this was a special win, as his men scored early and then relied on guts, luck and their wits. Despite Fernandes offering a late show of energy and invention, the visitors motor back to east London with a hard-earned victory that is a welcome boost.
This return match following Sunday’s 2-1 victory for United saw Solskjær send out a different XI in which the matchwinner then, Jesse Lingard, started, while David Moyes retained Jarrod Bowen from a side that spurned a late draw when David De Gea saved Mark Noble’s penalty.
Despite the changes Manchester United still had Jadon Sancho, Anthony Martial, Victor Lindelöf, Nemanja Matic and Eric Bailly on the field in front of a 72,468 crowd, the biggest for a Carabao Cup tie here in five years: twin indicators of the club’s upwards trajectory.
There was nearly an early setback, though, when Alex Telles failed to stop Andriy Yarmolenko feeding Bowen, whose shot was weak, but still had the travelling Hammers support in raucous voice.
United’s defence was a becalmed opposite. When Bowen again collected – this time on the left – the ball ricocheted to Alex Kral and the bushy-haired midfielder’s effort appeared goalbound before hitting Bailly. These two scares for the home team were followed by West Ham scoring. Ryan Fredricks nutmegged Telles, drove to the byline, pulled the ball into Manuel Lanzini who coolly beat Dean Henderson.
“One-nil to the cockney boys” sang jubilant Irons fans who watched as Solskjær’s men were stung into action. First, Lingard was yanked down by Noble in the area but Jonathan Moss waved away the penalty appeals, for which the referee received deserved complaints. Diogo Dalot then claimed a corner and when Mata sent it in from the right, Alphonse Areola’s punch went straight back to the Spaniard, who smacked an on-target volley only for the keeper to fling himself high to save. Sancho continued the pressure via an attempt that won another corner before, moments later, Matic found Martial but the No 9 dribbled a shot wide.
The tempo of the contest invigorated – what the dominant hosts needed was composure where it mattered: in the danger area. While Lingard showed how via a 20-yard bullet that had Areola diving low to repel it, along his right flank Dalot was making penetrating runs from full-back that were being missed by teammates. So the Portuguese displayed his own vision when switching play with a 40-yard crossfield ball that landed on Telles’s toes.
West Ham were dangerous whenever they roved forward, United’s rearguard seeming to dissolve if Bowen and Lanzini, in particular, got involved, and though Sancho ended the half by forcing Areola to save it had been the visitors’ half.
United were 45 minutes away from being knocked out before the clocks go back, the antithesis of Solskjær’s demand they go one better than the last four of the past two editions. Once more, his men were fizzing the ball about, but when Sancho, Lingard and Donny van de Beek combined, again they produced nothing.
The sight of Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood warming up suggested Solskjær was planning changes: if matters did not improve soon, the cavalry would be sent for. Dalot’s blood ran hot rather than cold when blasting a golden chance wide and though United were enjoying more possession, West Ham remained in front.
After an hour Solskjær had seen enough, throwing on Mason Greenwood for Mata. Instantly the teenager ran on to a cute Van de Beek lob and forced Areola into a save with his legs. Just before that, Matic might have been sent off for a naughty challenge on Vladimir Coufal and was fortunate there was no VAR: if the VAR had been on duty the midfielder would surely have been dismissed.
Solskjær next introduced Fernandes, who demanded the ball and urged on teammates. A dipping 20-yard effort from him drew gasps but did not concern Areola. And though Yarmolenko hit a post, Noble fluffed a chance, and Bowen went close, by the final whistle West Ham were safely into the next round.