A first-half header from Marcus Rashford, his 100th goal for Manchester United in all competitions, was enough to earn his side a 1-0 victory over West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday.
After making a slow start to the match, United burst into life in the 38th minute when Rashford powered a bullet header into the net on the end of Christian Eriksen’s sublime cross to give the home side the lead.
Veteran forward Cristiano Ronaldo, making just his third league start of the season, wasted a golden chance to double United’s lead early in the second half, firing wide from a good position, before West Ham upped the ante.
The visitor piled on the pressure as the match wore on, but found United goalkeeper David de Gea in inspired form, twice called into action to deny West Ham substitute Michail Antonio, producing superb stops on both occasions.
Another sensational save from the Spaniard to keep out Declan Rice’s strike right at the death preserved United’s win which takes it above Chelsea into fifth in the standings, one point behind fourth-placed Newcastle United. West Ham stays 13th.
“It’s a great win for us. If we want to achieve and be in the top places we have to win games like this today,” De Gea told Sky Sports.
“Of the two saves, probably the header from Zouma was the best because it was almost certainly going in but I am happy for all of them. Happy to make the saves and it’s a massive win.”
David Moyes had never won at Old Trafford as an opposition manager in the Premier League, a run of 15 winless matches, prior to Sunday’s encounter, but his West Ham side more than held its own in the first half in the Manchester rain.
Other than a couple of scuffed efforts from Rashford and Anthony Elanga, the away goal was rarely troubled early on.
The game needed a quality delivery to help break the deadlock and that is what it got as Eriksen curled a perfect cross onto Rashford’s head, with the England striker showing great determination to get on the end of it.
Other than the Ronaldo chance early in the second half, after the break it was mostly one-way traffic in United’s direction, with De Gea taking a starring role in keeping the visitors at bay.
His stop to keep Antonio’s first attempt from range was acrobatic, while the second, from a flicked header, a contender for save of the season.
Rice thought he had snatched a point right at the death with a long-range effort of his own, but across sprung De Gea to secure a vital victory for an improving United, whuch is now unbeaten in eight in all competitions.
What’s more, for the first time in the Premier League this season, United will end a day in the standings with a positive goal difference.
“The last few games against United we have done the same,” Moyes said. “We done a good job, played well, put them under plenty of pressure, we just lacked the final ingredient.
“David de Gea’s two saves were fantastic. You can’t be United’s number one if you are not a fantastic goalkeeper.
“We are disappointed not to score. We played very well at Anfield, missed a penalty, had a couple of opportunities, and it was the same tonight.”