West Ham fall short once again as big-game winless run continues to leave hopes of crashing top six in tatters

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

West Ham are desperate to upset the Premier League’s big-six apple cart and yet somehow, right now, it always seems to just about roll on by.

A 1-0 defeat to Manchester United here at Old Trafford made it 11 League games without a win against the established elite since the turn of the year.

None of those results - nine defeats and two draws - have been damning in isolation and, some of them clearly less than the Hammers deserved, but the trend is an issue for a team playing catch-up in the race for the European places and not picking up points consistently enough elsewhere to close the gap.

That this was the seventh of those defeats to have come by a single goal will be of little consolation to David Moyes, particularly here at the home of his former club, as he reached an unwanted personal milestone: from 70 League matches away at Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United in his managerial career, the Scot’s win total stands at precisely zero.

Quite where the issue lies is not clear. Naturally, the Hammers are operating at a disadvantage in terms of resource and quality, but that has not stopped them in the past: in the first half of last season, Moyes’ men beat Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool in the League and knocked both Manchester clubs out of the League Cup.

So is it a question of belief?

Certainly, there were parallels here with the defeat at Anfield earlier this month, the Hammers going behind at one of English football’s most historically daunting venues and remembering too late it is not the fortress it once was.

At half-time, the visitors were fortunate to trail only to Marcus Rashford’s superb header from Christian Eriksen’s cross but into the latter part of second-half it was the home side who were left clinging on.

David De Gea made a brilliant saves to deny Kurt Zouma, while Harry Maguire’s heel took Jarrod Bowen’s scuffed finish away from the far corner before Declan Rice was also thwarted by a terrific stop from the Spanish keeper deep into stoppage time.

Southgate in attendance as England stars deliver mixed bag

Bowen’s recovery from an ankle injury and Victor Lindelof’s illness - which handed Maguire a start - meant there was plenty for watching England manager Gareth Southgate to feast on as the penultimate round of games before he names his World Cup squad wrapped up.

Maguire did little to ease concerns about his form, twice hopelessly exposed on halfway as West Ham countered and saved only by the recovery work of Lisandro Martinez.

More pleasing for Southgate will have been the displays of Luke Shaw and Rice, the former getting closer to the form that made him such a star at last summer’s Euros and Rice already there.

Best of all, though, was the performance of Rashford, whose terrific run and header was that of a player whose confidence has been restored. The forward’s goal was his seventh of the season in all competitions but first in the Premier League since the last international break, for which he was seemingly in line for an England recall until being ruled out by injury.

Paqueta absence hurting Hammers

Moyes persisted here with his experiment of using Flynn Downes as a Lucas Paqueta placeholder at No10 but again it simply did not work.

The former Swansea man struggled positionally, largely marked out of the game by Casemiro, a holding midfield player who has nullified some of the best playmakers in Europe over the course of a career that has delivered five Champions League titles, and who controlled affairs here.

 (PA)
(PA)

Devoid of a link man, the Hammers relied too heavily on the individual talents of the lively but often isolated Said Benrahma to launch their attacks, while Gianluca Scamacca hardly had a kick (when he did, it was of Lisandro Martinez’s head, rather than the ball).

It is no coincidence that the Italian’s Scamacca’s performances have dropped off since Paqueta’s injury brought a temporary suspension to what had quickly become a fruitful relationship and the Italian was dragged before the hour-mark in favour of the more industrious Michail Antonio.