Manchester United kicked off their Carabao Cup campaign against West Ham United, a team they faced just days ago in a thrilling Premier League encounter at the London Stadium.
That match saw Jesse Lingard grab the winner against the club where he spent the second half of last season on loan.
His goal was followed by a penalty right at the death that would’ve given West Ham the point had it not been for a superb save from David De Gea.
Tonight, United looked to make it two from two against the Hammers, in a tournament they last won back in 2017, and in which they have made the semi-finals for the past two years.
With an early kick-off in the Premier League on Saturday to come, and a crucial second Champions League game next week, it wasn’t a surprise to see Ole Gunnar Solskjær make a lot of changes to the side.
He revealed in his press conference that Phil Jones would feature in the squad for the first time since the FA Cup tie against Tranmere Rovers back in January 2020.
A return to action for Dean Henderson was also a pleasant surprise, a chance for him to show just why he deserves to reclaim his starting place regularly, ahead of the in-form De Gea.
There was also a chance to see how backup defenders Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly would fair with both Harry Maguire and Raphaël Varane rested.
Donny van de Beek made just his second start of the season and would be looking to show just why he deserves more game time.
Any fans turning up to catch a glimpse of Cristiano Ronaldo were disappointed as he was one of the notable omissions from the squad. His Portuguese compatriot Bruno Fernandes made the bench.Embed from Getty Images
As the game kicked off it was the West Ham who made the brighter start, feeding balls into the box.
The first real chance came from a Andriy Yarmolenko cross after Alex Telles was outmuscled but Jared Bowen failed to convert.
United were coming under increasing pressure and it was a good piece of play from Ryan Fredericks that saw him race past Telles before pulling the ball back to find Manuel Lanzini alone in the box easily scoring to give the visitors a fully deserved lead.Embed from Getty Images
Just as at the weekend, the Red Devils were going to have to play catch up and find a goal to get them back into the game.
As United got hold of the ball and began to move it forward, there was a penalty shout with Lingard going down in the box after seemingly being pulled down by West Ham skipper Mark Noble.
The referee didn’t seem to think so, although subsequent replays show that there was contact, VAR didn’t intervene this time.
As the half hour mark was approaching, United were starting to create more.
A really good chance to grab an equaliser came from a corner, with West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola failing to reach the cross which instead bounced nicely for Juan Mata who hit the crossbar.
United continued to create opportunities whipping crosses in from both flanks, but failed to find a goal before halftime.
The second half began just as the first one ended, the Red Devils were on top, having the majority of the ball and continuing to search for the equaliser.
Unsurprisingly, the visitors were doing everything they could to protect their 1 – 0 lead, playing much more conservatively.
United continued to pile on the pressure with a cross deflected by Issa Diop and falling to Diogo Dalot who drilled the ball across the goal but failed to hit the target.
Solskjær’s next move came with the introduction of Mason Greenwood, and the teenage superstar almost scored with his first touch latching onto an inviting ball over the top which was saved.Embed from Getty Images
You could heard Old Trafford getting louder, you could sense an equaliser coming.
But West Ham weren’t down and out just yet, taking pressure off the defence, David Moyes made attacking changes an attempt to get fresh legs on the field and maybe find a second goal to seal victory.
The game was becoming a lot more tense, United’s need for a goal and West Ham tentative as to what approach to take.
As we reached the 70 minuite mark on came Fernandes and Anthony Elanga to further add to United’s threat going forward, Solskjær was really going for this.
Chance after chance, it didn’t seem like this was going to be United’s night, and time was running out.
“Attack, Attack, Attack” was the chant coming from the stands and they were giving it everything.
But it wasn’t to be, and West Ham held on to secure David Moyes his first victory against United since he was in charge at Old Trafford.
Much as been said about how United can improve on their campaign last season, one that saw them finish second and lose the Europa League final only on penalties.
Of course we are still very early on in the season, and the Premier League title as well as a run in the Champions League are still very much possible.
But what is clear is the need to win a trophy, for Solskjær’s sake, but also because the club haven’t lifted silverware in four years.
Many fans don’t see the Carabao Cup as anything special, and there’s always frequent rumours of it being scrapped altogether.
However, for this group of players it represented the easiest chance to win their first trophy and show progression which is perhaps needed to keep their manager in a job.
With all that said, defeat is a disappointment.