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Saturday 16 December 2017

United boss van Gaal relieved as Blind strike foils Hammers

Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal (R) shakes hands with goal-scorer Manchester United's Dutch midfielder Daley Blind
Manchester United's Dutch manager Louis van Gaal (R) shakes hands with goal-scorer Manchester United's Dutch midfielder Daley Blind

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal praised his players’ determination to salvage a point in yesterday’s Premier League clash at West Ham.

Daley Blind emerged as United’s saviour when he volleyed home a 91st minute equaliser to send Van Gaal and his United side home with an unlikely point.

But the Reds boss, while complementary of United’s second half display was left fuming by a lacklustre opening half.

He said: “We played very badly in the first half and we showed a lot of spirit in the second half, especially after the (West Ham) goal in the beginning - we gave that goal away I think.

“And then we played football after the goal, but you have to do it from the first minute. But I have to say what a spirit my team showed after going 1-0 behind.”

Van Gaal attributed his side’s display to being unable to win the second balls after winning possession in the air and called for his creative personnel to play their own game, or risk losing their places to more physical players.

He added: “We need the guts to play football along the floor. That we have done in the second half.

“With him (Fellaini) we have more power. With Adnan (Januzaj) and (Angel) di Maria, we have more creative players. The second ball you cannot always win with these players.

“But you have to win (the ball), otherwise I have to line-up always (with) players like Fellaini.”

United should have equalised sooner, but Falcao sliced wide after a one-two with Robin van Persie.

“He was angry with himself,” Van Gaal added.

“I’m always happy when we create chances, because then you can score goals. The goal is coming the next match.”

Meanwhile, Hammers captain Mark Noble cursed his side’s luck after they failed to hold out for the three points at Upton Park.

“It feels like a loss to be honest,” Noble said.

“It just shows how far we have come that we’re gutted we drew with Man United at home, with some world-class players out there today.

“I thought in many ways we were the better team and we just couldn’t hold out until then end.”

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce echoed Noble’s view that the east Londoners were unfortunate not to win the game and appeared to take a slight dig at United’s style of play.

“The lads are absolutely gutted in there and so they should be,” he said.

“I think it was an absolutely fantastic performance and from the point of view of where we were just towards the end (of the match), I thought we were going to make sure we saw it through and unfortunately for us it was not to be.”

Allardyce added: “I suppose in the end we couldn’t cope with long-ball United. It was just, ‘thump it forward and see what they could get’ and in the end it paid off for them.”

Juan Mata was the odd man out as Van Gaal made five changes, while Kouyate might have felt uncomfortable at the back on his return from the African Nations Cup and injury.

Alex Song’s hospital pass towards Kouyate almost gifted the visitors an opener inside five minutes. Van Persie intercepted, but could not control the ball.

The hosts then benefited from a poor defensive decision as Rojo failed to head clear Song’s lofted pass and Enner Valencia struck a swerving effort from 25 yards which De Gea saved.

The goalkeeper denied the West Ham striker with a more acrobatic save from the resulting corner after James Tomkins had won the ball.

West Ham’s pace troubled United again when Rojo miscontrolled a pass, lost out to Enner Valencia and clattered Mark Noble. Referee Mark Clattenburg played advantage, but Sakho’s cross was poor.

A yellow card for Rojo followed, but only after Di Maria had an effort from 25 yards saved by Adrian.

West Ham took the lead four minutes into the second period when United’s defensive flaws were exposed. Rooney failed to clear Noble’s free-kick and the ball fell to Kouyate, who was being marked by the United captain.

The Senegal midfielder-turned-defender pulled the ball down with his back to goal, took a second touch to steady himself - all the while with the ball in the air - and then struck a fierce finish through the crowded six-yard box, helped by a deflection.

The strike seemed to awaken United from their Sunday afternoon slumber, with Falcao firing wide from 25 yards and Van Persie volleying at Adrian. The hosts might have had a second, but De Gea saved from Noble and Kevin Nolan in quick succession and substitute Matt Jarvis could only head off target.

Marouane Fellaini, on for Januzaj, caused havoc and Blind’s goal came when Rojo hopefully lofted the ball into the area and Jenkinson’s weak header fell for the Dutchman to fire low into the corner.

There was only time for Shaw to be sent off for a second bookable offence after he caught Stewart Downing out wide as the Hammers were denied.

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