Manchester United acquired the point needed to secure second spot in the Premier League with a 0-0 draw with West Ham United at the London Stadium.
It was a pleasant evening in the capital but there was no shaking the end-of-season feeling surrounding the game, with the Hammers safe from the drop. Indeed, the only real spark came in the closing stages when a flare-up required referee Jon Moss to reach into his pocket for the first time.
Jose Mourinho opted for a three-man central defence, with Chris Smalling flanked by Phil Jones on the left and Victor Lindelof on the right. Full-backs Antonio Valencia and Luke Shaw were encouraged to get forward but the early chances fell to the hosts.
Marko Arnautovic has been in good form since the arrival of David Moyes and, after he had a shot easily saved by David De Gea, the Austrian was unable to divert the ball on target when Smalling miscued a cross by Aaron Cresswell.
Scott McTominay sparked the Reds’ best spell of the first half, after Ander Herrera robbed Manuel Lanzini in a dangerous position, when he flashed a drive just wide. Good work by Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez led to Jesse Lingard forcing a flying save out of Adrian, and the home keeper was beginning to earn his pay.
Valencia capitalised on some slack defending to tee up Alexis and, when Adrian kept the Chilean’s effort out, Shaw followed up to drill the rebound against a post. Replays showed Adrian got a slight touch to frustrate the defender who, like McTominay, is still to get off the mark for the Reds.
Shaw was clearly fancying his luck, looping another attempt into Adrian’s arms after De Gea allowed a long-ranger by Cresswell to skip wide at the other end. Arnautovic continued to look a threat and drifted past Smalling to find Joao Mario at the near post but the ball bounced off target to United’s relief.
In first-half stoppage time, Lingard unleashed a swerving drive that was pushed away by the busy Adrian, who was proving far more effective than in the recent match here against Manchester City. After the break, Alexis reached a Pogba backheel and accelerated past Adrian but his ball towards an unguarded net was headed away by Angelo Ogbonna.
Adrian made another save when Lingard’s effort from distance was too close to him and, after Jones made an important clearance when Arnautovic was being a nuisance again, Pogba had a few attempts. The Frenchman headed wide after neat wing-play by Valencia, thrashed an audacious 40-yarder off target and was unlucky with a bending drive, following tenacious play by Alexis.
As the game drew to a close, West Ham mustered sporadic breaks but Arnautovic sliced a volleyed attempt and Jones made an important header to stop the ball reaching substitute Andy Carroll. Completely out of keeping with the general mood, there was an untidy melee towards the end which resulted in Pogba and Noble being booked. The West Ham skipper was extremely fortunate not to be dismissed for raising his hands before Carroll also became involved in the fracas.
Lanzini swept a free-kick wide as injury-time began but the game ended goalless with defenders Ashley Young and Eric Bailly both entering the fray as late substitutes. United’s clean sheet was the 18th of the season in the Premier League for De Gea and it ensured he claimed the Golden Glove for the first time in his Reds career.
West Ham: Adrian; Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Zabaleta, Kouyate, Noble (c), Masuaku (Carroll 66); Joao Mario, Lanzini, Arnautovic.
Subs: Hart, Evra, Fernandez, Obiang, Cullen, Hugill.
United: De Gea; Valencia (c) (Bailly 93), Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; Herrera, McTominay, Pogba; Lingard (Rashford 74), Alexis (Young 91).
Subs: Romero, Blind, Mata, Martial.
REDS IN SECOND
United have clinched the runners-up spot in the Premier League with Tottenham four points adrift ahead of the final day. It isn’t the position anybody wanted to finish in but it marks a great deal of progress from last term.
THREE AT THE BACK
There could be a clue as to the thinking about the shape of the side for the Emirates FA Cup final with Chelsea, like West Ham, operating a three-man defence. Jose decided to match up to that system at the London Stadium and he does have a number of centre-backs at his disposal so it could be an option on the big day.