Man Utd 2 West Ham 1: Pogba penalties secure three points for underwhelming host

Manchester United gave its top-four aspirations a much-needed boost as Paul Pogba proved the difference against West Ham.

Paul Pogba converted two penalties either side of half-time to lift Manchester United to an unconvincing 2-1 win over West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.   -  REUTERS

Paul Pogba converted two penalties either side of half-time to lift Manchester United to an unconvincing 2-1 win over West Ham at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Star man Pogba beat Lukasz Fabianski for the second time in the 80th minute to snatch just a second victory in six competitive games that sends Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side back to within two points of the Premier League's top four.

As it happened| Man Utd beats West Ham 2-1

West Ham had been on top after Felipe Anderson cancelled out Pogba's first-half opener and substitute Michail Antonio twice went close to giving it a late lead.

But, following Ryan Fredericks' panicked challenge on Anthony Martial in the box, Pogba's second penalty ensured the host rebounded from Wednesday's 1-0 loss to Barcelona and can look ahead to the second leg of its Champions League quarterfinal tie next week with renewed optimism.

United should have fallen behind in the 10th minute as replays showed Felipe Anderson, adjudged offside, to have been level with Diogo Dalot when firing in following Javier Hernandez's downward header.

The host quickly made the reprieve count.

West Ham had been on top after Felipe Anderson cancelled out Pogba's first-half opener.   -  AP

 

Robert Snodgrass clumsily tripped Juan Mata just inside the box and Pogba, eschewing his usual stuttering run-up for a conventional approach, sent Lukasz Fabianski the wrong way.

West Ham continued to show positive intent and there was no denying Felipe Anderson in the 49th minute, the Brazilian ghosting in at the far post and tucking away Manuel Lanzini's cross.

Marcus Rashford was hastily introduced and he forced Fabianski into a one-handed save before nodding over at close range.

Antonio rattled the crossbar at the other end before David de Gea brilliantly denied the Hammers winger a minute later.

In the end it was Pogba who had the final say, the France midfielder dispatching the winner after Fredericks, on as a substitute three minutes earlier, scythed down Martial as the winger shaped to shoot.

 

What does it mean? Red Devils remain in top-four tussle

Advancing to the Champions League semifinals is a tall order for Solskjaer's men, so qualification for that competition next season appears to hinge on doing the job domestically.

These three points, as largely unwarranted as they were, could prove crucial, particularly with fourth-placed Chelsea bracing for a tricky trip to Liverpool on Sunday.

Pogba moves past penalty hiccups

We have surely now seen the last of the bizarre Pogba penalty technique that has attracted plenty of criticism.

The World Cup winner showed maturity in twice converting from 12 yards and was the decisive factor behind United's second victory in the four games Solskjaer has overseen since his appointment as manager on a permanent basis.

What's next?

United has barely any time to rest in the lead-up to its make-or-break date with Barca at Camp Nou, which comes before Sunday's excursion to Everton.

West Ham returns to action next Saturday as it hosts Leicester City.

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