If these are the last months of Jose Mourinho in English football, they will have been atypical. Of course, the conflict and the preening, the displays for TV cameras at training and the staged outrage of press conferences are all par for the course. That was Mourinho’s default from the moment he arrived at Chelsea and swept us all away.
The football? That’s a wholly different matter. His teams were never like this; supine, incoherent and timid. That awful period at Chelsea in 2015 was like this; his players a shadow of the team that had won the title.
Yet generally, like him or loathe him, you know a Mourinho team comes with added fight, a fierce intelligence, and a basic competitiveness.
Marko Arnautovic scored the third to put the game beyond doubt just minutes after Manchester United had halved the deficit
Arnautovic sealed the victory by slotting past United goalkeeper David de Gea just minutes after the visitors had scored
Jose Mourinho looks furious and wags his finger in the air as the West Ham players celebrate their third goal with the fans
Marcus Rashford had briefly given the visitors some hope after his deft flick from a corner crept inside the near post
Felipe Anderson opened the scoring early on after a clever flicked effort beat David de Gea and nestled in the corner
Andriy Yarmolenko was fastest to the second ball from the corner and doubled after his effort took a fortuitous deflection
Yarmolenko leaps for joy after his curled effort deflected in to give West Ham a two-goal advantage before the interval
Yarmolenko’s shot flicked off Victor Lindelof’s thigh and looped into the net leaving a helpless de Gea no chance in goal
Paul Pogba and Mourinho shake hands after the United boss hauled off the midfielder in the 70th minute of the match
MATCH FACTS, LIVE LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
West Ham (4-5-1): Fabianski; Zabaleta, Balbuena, Rice, Masuaku; Noble, Diop, Obiang, Yarmolenko (Snodgrass 72), Anderson (Diangana 90+2); Arnautovic (Antonio 83)
Subs not used: Adrian, Ogbonna, Fredericks, Perez
Scorers: Anderson 5, Lindelof og 43, Arnautovic 74
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Manchester United (5-3-2): De Gea; Young, McTominay, Smalling, Lindelof (Rashford 56), Shaw; Matic, Fellaini, Pogba (Fred 70); Lukaku, Martial (Mata 70)
Subs not used: Grant, Bailly, Darmian, Herrera
Scorer: Rashford 71
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Referee: Michael Oliver
Season at a glance
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
For 56 minutes, United showed none of the above. Forget the Paul Pogba show, underwhelming though he was and withdrawn on 70 minutes. This ran far deeper than an Instagram feud between two global brands.
The manner of the performance was once unthinkable in a Jose Mourinho team. The fact that a struggling West Ham team could induce him to field a back three, which at times played more like a back five, given the possession they conceded, would have been unimaginable at his peak.
When he first arrived in England, his tactical switches were innovative and usually they came off and so were inspiring. Now they just seem bizarre.
Manchester United manager Mourinho looks unimpressed as a bad week ended with an uninspiring defeat
United chief executive Ed Woodward was in the stands for the game amid an unsettled relationship with boss Mourinho
West Ham defender Issa Diop times his sliding challenge to perfection to stop Romelu Lukaku from advancing up the pitch
Mark Noble stretches out his leg to block Nemanja Matic’s pass and regain possession in the middle of the park
Playing a back three was one thing: employing Chris Smalling as the central pivot and Scott McTominay as the right-sided central defender simply looked as though he was again making the point that the board hadn’t provided him with the requisite defenders in the summer.
Victor Lindelof only lasted until 56 minutes, hooked for Marcus Rashford as Mourinho eventually reverted to 4-3-3. Phil Jones, after his penalty misses in midweek, didn’t make the bench. Neither did Alexis Sanchez. It would be hard to argue with that on the basis of his performances. Yet this was West Ham, not Bayern Munich.
In the opening ten minutes, United barely ventured out of their half. Within six minutes they were 1-0 down. Mark Noble was the best central midfielder on display but he is not a man for the modern game: not only does he lack an emoji, his social media interactions are minimal.
Lukaku tries to turn the ball goalwards after making some space in the box but can’t connect with the cross properly
Mourinho berates the referee from the touchline after he awarded a free-kick to West Ham near the halfway line for a push
United midfielder Pogba uses his body to fend off Noble and Fabian Balbuena as he tries to protect possession of the ball
Diop does well to regain ground on Ashley Young and block the United defender’s cross to deflect it out for a corner
Pogba throws his arms about in exasperation after having to buy a free-kick due to the lack of movement in front of him
He did play a superb ball through to Pablo Zabaleta and the Argentinian, inspired by his old Mancunian foes, raced onto it and crossed for Felipe Anderson, who had drifted into space to score easily from a few yards out. Zabaleta might have had a foot offside, yet McTominay was deeper than his colleague and it was a mightily close call which required VAR.
There was no real response from United. They looked a team constrained by their innate caution. Romelu Lukaku did head against the post in 21 minutes after good work from McTominay and Young, but that was a rare foray.
West Ham had the upper hand, they were the team attempting to play on the front foot. As such, they got a little lucky on 42 minutes, though that is often the case when you press your cause constantly.
Anderson’s corner was met misheaded by Issa Diop and picked up by Yarmalenko. He sized up his options, tried a chipped shot and saw it rebound off Victor Lindelof and loop over David de Gea.
If ever a moment summed up what United are becoming it was a corner on 56 minutes. In front of their travelling support, Ashley Young sized up the striker. A brief frisson of hopes was almost tangible. Until Young, attempting to play a cut back ball to the edge of the box, succeeded in finding only Noble, who gleefully pounced and counter attacked. It was woeful stuff.
It was of course a coincidence that the moment Paul Pogba left the pitch, United scored. He alone could not be blamed for the performance. Equally, he had done nothing to ameliorate it.
West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski gets down well to his right to deny Marouane Fellaini’s close-ranged header
A dejected Rashford makes his way over to applaud the travelling supporters after the final whistle at the London Stadium
So, after this week of contention and conflict, it seemed poetic that just as he trudged off the pitch on 70 minutes to be replaced by Fred, United’s afternoon brightened a little. A corner immediately followed from Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford met it with an impudent back heel, which beat Fabianski and suggested that a comeback was imminent.
For United had been much better since the 56th minute switch to 4-3-3. With Rashford tying up Masuaku, Young had repeatedly got in to cross, and Fellaini always lurked, ready to punish any lapse – but United had left themselves too much to do. They couldn’t afford further mistakes yet their listlessness tends to invite them.
So it was on 74 minutes, they were authors of their downfall. De Gea tried to play long, but United immediately gave the ball away to Mark Noble. No-one pressed him so he threaded a ball through for Marko Arnautovic who simply ran through a static back line and finished coolly.
He celebrated by holding up the shirt of Carlos Sanchez, who damaged ligaments in midweek and faces months out. A few yards away from the celebratory melee stood Mourinho. He seemed lost, a man cut adrift and without the answers to the ever pressing questions.