West Ham offered brutal reality check in Champions League race as Man United flex financial muscle

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Marcus Rashford’s last gasp winner for Manchester United brutally underlined the task West Ham face in going toe-to-toe with the big boys in the race for the Champions League.

West Ham looked to have held onto their place in the top four before Ralf Rangnick showed the strength and depth on offer that David Moyes simply cannot call upon.

With the Hammers, welcoming Tomas Soucek and Kurt Zouma back into the side, repelling everything that had come their way, Rangnick sent on Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani to make an impact, and they finally struck with the final kick of the game.

Zouma returned to the West Ham squad for the first time since limping off against Chelsea in early December. The Frenchman’s presence came as a boost for Moyes and he was needed within the opening five minutes to put in a smart block from a Mason Greenwood effort as United broke quickly following a mistake from Craig Dawson.

Having been all at sea in the first half at Brentford on Wednesday night, the hosts were much more controlled here and dominated the early stages. Cristiano Ronaldo kept his place despite his show of petulance on Wednesday and should have had Rangnick’s side ahead on 20 minutes when the Hammers left him free at the far post, but the Portuguese was an inch shy of Bruno Fernandes’s devilish cross.

Both sides struggled to create throughout the first 45 minutes, United well restricted by West Ham with Declan Rice particularly impressive ahead of Zouma and Dawson. While the hosts were hindered by the east Londoners, West Ham were wasteful, Moyes frustrated with their rash use of the ball when it was won back.

Things livened up a touch after the break, Alphonse Areola dived to save from Fred before Jarrod Bowen volleyed into the side netting.

West Ham had their own chance to win it late on as Soucek could only steer a Bowen corner wide of the far post with his head.

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

The visitors would have been flattered by three points but were dealt a cruel blow in the final minute of three added on. A poor header from Ryan Fredericks let United in. Ronaldo drove forward and played in Martial who then fed Cavani, whom VAR confirmed to be just onside. The Uruguayan then laid in his fellow substitute Rashford who tapped in his second goal in as many games.

That the three men Rangnick had sent on combined to deliver this huge blow to West Ham’s Champions League hopes only further underlines the task that lies ahead for Moyes.

The Scot wants to add this month and is on the hunt for a forward who can hit the ground running and a central defender to add cover. The man Moyes wanted at the start of the window, Jesse Lingard, didn’t even get a look in from the bench for United here, further underlining just how heavily the odds are stacked against the Hammers.

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