Despite West Ham losing 1-0 to Manchester United, Manuel Lanzini emerged as David Moyes’ silver lining after a promising cameo performance at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Lanzini has struggled for game time in claret and blue since the closure of the winter transfer market, with the weekend’s outing only his second in nine Premier League fixtures.
The Argentine’s opening role at home to Sheffield United last month also marked just his third top-flight start of the season, while only Andriy Yarmolenko (346), Mark Noble (369) and Ben Johnson (391) have now played fewer minutes than Lanzini (403) under Moyes.
Moyes opted to introduce Lanzini to the action at Old Trafford having felt that his forward options had not caused Manchester United enough problems over the first hour of action, with Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio unable to trouble the Red Devils frequently enough.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had taken the lead nine minutes before Lanzini stepped onto the field through a fortuitous Craig Dawson own goal, and Moyes felt West Ham’s performance improved in line with his tactical changes.
“We thought tonight that the way we would play with two up, Jarrod and Michail as two forwards to start with, we thought that might give them a problem to start with, so I saw that as being positive in a different way,” he said, via quotes by football.london.
“But, ultimately, we got better as the game went on when we brought on Manu and Said [Benrahma] I would say that. I would also say Man United might have been better than they were and that the team that was out did not concede any goals, only one from a set-piece at that time and it was only after that that you can judge it.”
Moyes was also impressed by how Lukasz Fabianski – who Solskjaer lauded for a number of “fantastic” saves – performed in goal to keep Manchester United at bay for much of the game.
“Lukasz in recent weeks has been in really good form and that’s good because he has come back into it at an important time. He made a couple of saves tonight, he kept us in the games at different times, so his form has been very good,” the Irons boss added.
Fabianski making crucial saves is what West Ham supporters will have come to expect of the 35-year-old, who last week signed a one-year contract extension to remain at the London Stadium through to 2022 having otherwise been a free agent this summer.
Lanzini, though, will likely have caught a few by surprise given his lack of action and outcast status under Moyes, who was reportedly open to cashing in on the £12.5m-rated maestro this January amid interest from Olympique de Marseille before Andre Villas-Boas quit.
Lanzini has also struggled to deliver during his brief spells on the field, apart from his stoppage-time screamer away to Tottenham Hotspur back in October, with his goal in north London his only strike of the Premier League campaign, while boasting just a single assist.
The 28-year-old was unable to double his tallies on Sunday but he brought a creative spark to the pitch, with Lanzini offering a shot and creating one goalscoring opportunity in a side that combined for only seven attempts on Dean Henderson’s goal all game, per SofaScore.
Villas-Boas’ winter target further completed all 21 of his attempted passes, won three of five ground duels and completed his only attempted dribble, against a backline pairing of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire who have won, on average, 45% and 50% of their ground duels and are only dribbled past on average 0.4 times a game in the top-flight this term.
Lanzini only averages 1.4 ground duels won and 0.3 successful dribbles per league outing this term, plus 15.8 (88%) accurate passes from a similar average return of minutes as he earned on Sunday, so it’s clear to see that he upped his game at Old Trafford, which is a small positive to take from an otherwise disappointing evening in Manchester.