Man United a title contender after West Ham win? Maybe Pep Guardiola was right: they are back

Michallik: Not United's best performance against West Ham despite win (1:20)

Janusz Michallik doesn't think the Red Devils put on a good performance against the Hammers despite Rashford's 100th goal for United securing the three points. (1:20)

MANCHESTER, England -- Manchester United beat West Ham United on Sunday, 1-0, at Old Trafford in Premier League action.

Although shots on goal were even between the two sides (three each) and Manchester United's possession edge wasn't overwhelming (54%-46%), the difference came down to a Marcus Rashford goal in the 38th minute.

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Man United are now unbeaten in their last five league matches (and their last eight including the Europa League).

ESPN's Rob Dawson has reaction and analysis from Old Trafford.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Post-match quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. Could Man United really challenge for the title?

Pep Guardiola says Manchester United "are back" -- but could they really threaten to gate-crash the title race once the season restarts after the World Cup?

After their 1-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford on Sunday, they are up to fifth in the table, eight points behind leaders Arsenal, and have only lost once in the league since August.

United were made to work for the result against West Ham but defended well in the second half to keep a fifth clean sheet in their last six games. Goals are still not flowing but the move for the winner -- a one-two between Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen followed by a determined header from Marcus Rashford -- deserved to decide the game.

David De Gea needed to make three fantastic saves at the end to guarantee the points but Lisandro Martinez also played his part with a fantastic defensive display in the middle of the back four alongside Harry Maguire, who started a league game for the first time since the 4-0 defeat at Brentford. On a different day United would have had to settle for a point or worse but title challenges are built of gritty performances and this was one.

Maybe Guardiola has a point.

2. Rashford scores in front of Southgate as World Cup decision looms

Rashford brought up 100 goals for United with a bullet header at the back post. A day before his 25th birthday, he drove past Thilo Kehrer to score from a Eriksen cross, delightfully clipped in on the half volley.

It was Rashford's second headed goal in four days after scoring as a substitute against FC Sheriff on Thursday, but this one was in front of England manager Gareth Southgate, who was watching from the directors' box. With the World Cup just three weeks away, Rashford has found form at the right time.

Dropped by Southgate last season, the forward faces a nervous wait before finding out whether or not he's going to Qatar -- but with goals like the one he got here at Old Trafford, he's given himself a good chance of making the squad. As long as he stays fit, he's almost a certainty to go.

It's a different story for Jadon Sancho. Also dropped by Southgate last season, he was on the bench against West Ham with Ten Hag favouring Anthony Elanga on the right of his front three despite injury sidelining Antony. If he can't get into United's team even when there are injuries, he's got little chance of making England's final squad.

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3. West Ham make Ten Hag nervous

West Ham are still recovering from a nightmare start to the season but it won't be long before they're back in the top half of the table. After starting with three straight defeats, David Moyes' team are gradually rediscovering the form which saw them finish seventh last season and they might feel they deserved more from their trip to Manchester.

Their winless run in league games at Old Trafford now stands at 15 but there were spells, particularly in the second half, where they were the better team. It was an indicator of how nervous Ten Hag was getting on the touchline that he made an early change after half-time, bringing on Scott McTominay for Elanga and pushing Fernandes out of the right-hand side.

It helped United soak up a bit of pressure but they still needed Diogo Dalot to defend well at the back post to head clear three dangerous crosses and also De Gea's heroics at the end.

It didn't help West Ham's quest for a goal that when it came time for Moyes to bring on Michail Antonio he had to bring off Gianluca Scamacca -- who was lucky to escape red card for a head-high challenge on Martinez -- instead of pairing playing both of his main strikers together.

Player ratings

Man United: De Gea 8, Dalot 7, Shaw 6, Maguire 6, Martinez 8, Casemiro 7, Eriksen 7, Fernandes 6, Elanga 6, Rashford 7, Ronaldo 6.

Subs: McTominay 6, Fred 6.

West Ham: Fabianski 6, Kehrer 6, Cresswell 5, Zouma 6, Dawson 6, Rice 7, Soucek 6, Downes 5, Benrahma 7, Bowen 5, Scamacca 4.

Subs: Areola 6, Antonio 6, Fornals 6.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Lisandro Martinez, Manchester United

He was pushed close by De Gea, but Martinez had a lot of covering to do playing next to a clearly rusty Maguire and defended brilliantly all afternoon.

WORST: Gianluca Scamacca, West Ham United

Booked for a late challenge on Rashford, Scamacca was fortunate to stay on the pitch after a high challenge caught Martinez in the head and was substituted moments later.

Highlights and notable moments

Marcus Rashford put Man United ahead in the 38th minute, and it was a beauty.

Take your pick as to which part you enjoyed more: Rashford's flying finish for the header, or Christian Eriksen's lofted scoop pass into the box:

After the match: What the players and managers said

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag: "In this team it is a big attitude and winning spirit. You see that, the start of the season not that good but improving a lot. We have to keep that process going."

West Ham manager David Moyes: "If you look through the game, we have been really close. We deserved to come away with something. I don't think we could have done much more. We gave the ball away a bit too much and that led to Man United's goal but overall we played well.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford on his 100th goal: "Beautiful feeling. Something I have been working on, I feel I need to score more goals like that and keep getting in those areas. Pleased that I have managed to score today and it's always good to score regardless of whether Gareth Southgate is watching or not.:

Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea: "We had a difficult start to the season, Man United is a massive club and we are getting better. We can keep more clean sheets, play well and keep going until the end. I don't like to think too far into the future, we will just take it day by day. Big game on Thursday and we want to finish top of the group. We will go for another game, more energy and keep going again."

Key stats

  • With his goal on Sunday, Marcus Rashford has become the 22nd player to score 100 goals for Manchester United, and the team's first player to hit this milestone since Wayne Rooney in 2009.

Up next

Manchester United: Ten Hag's side have a busy 14 days ahead before the league pauses for the World Cup. After a Europa League trip to Real Sociedad (Nov. 3), they take on Aston Villa (Nov. 6) in the league and EFL Cup (Nov. 10) before closing with a trip to Fulham (Nov. 13). If they can remain on course on all fronts, there will be cause for optimism going into the festive period.

West Ham: Moyes' men also face a European game, EFL Cup third-round tie and two league fixtures before things shut down for Qatar 2022. After going to FCSB (Nov. 3) in the Europa Conference League and a league date with Crystal Palace (Nov. 6), they meet Blackburn Rovers in the domestic cup (Nov. 9) prior to what should be a spicy clash against Leicester City.