Manchester United secured second place in the Premier League with a 0-0 draw at West Ham on Thursday (May 10), but there was precious little else to please manager Jose Mourinho as the visitors again struggled for inspiration in attacking areas.
|Lacklustre Man Utd seal second spot with stalemate at West Ham, photo AFP / Ian KINGTON |
In a game of precious few clear-cut chances, Luke Shaw hit the post and Paul Pogba headed wide with United's best opening.
A third blank in their last five league games for United means local rivals Manchester City can seal another Premier League record by winning the league by at least 19 points if they win at Southampton on the last day of the season on Sunday.
"We are the second best team in the Premier League, a fantastic competition with lots of good teams," said Mourinho.
"We came second. I am not totally happy (because) that is not my nature, but since the moment we felt it was impossible to finish first, we had the target to finish second and it is done today."
In United's first game since legendary former manager Alex Ferguson had to have emergency surgery on a brain haemorrhage, the visiting fans showed their support to the 76-year-old Scot with persist chants of "we all love Alex Ferguson".
There was a more subdued atmosphere from the home fans at the end of another deeply frustrating campaign for the Hammers.
Two years ago to the day, West Ham waved goodbye to Upton Park in a thrilling 3-2 win over United on a night of high emotion in East London.
That victory also helped secure European football, but the move to the London Stadium, sold to supporters as West Ham's chance to compete with the Premier League elite, has so far proved a false dawn.
Survival was only mathematically secured last weekend and West Ham remain in lowly 15th place.
"It's a big achievement for us," insisted West Ham manager David Moyes of keeping his side in the top flight.
"We had to get the players in order a little bit after we came in, and we have done that. This is a big club and there are big expectations from the supporters so they will need to improve."
Mourinho reacted to Friday's meek 1-0 defeat at Brighton by making eight changes with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial relegated to the bench despite the continued absence of the injured Romelu Lukaku.
However, that failed to provoke an immediate response as West Ham posed the early threat.
Marko Arnautovic's goals have kept David Moyes's men up and the Austrian muscled his way into a good shooting position on six minutes but placed his shot too close to David de Gea.
Arnautovic then headed another good opening over before United awakened from their slumber.
Adrian has been restored in the West Ham goal for the past three games in place of England international Joe Hart, and showed why with a hat-trick of fine saves.
Jesse Lingard was first to be denied with a fiercely struck long-range effort before Adrian showed quick reflexes to save from Alexis Sanchez and then get back on his feet to turn Shaw's effort onto the post.
Lingard stung the palms of Adrian again early in the second period.
A lacklustre United display was reflected in Pogba again failing to take control of the game.
The £89 million midfielder did have the visitors' best chance when he headed wide just after the hour mark from Antonio Valencia's pin-point cross.
Pogba then sent an audacious effort from the halfway line well over Adrian's crossbar to sum up United's lack of ideas in attacking areas.
However, the Frenchman did come a lot closer with his final strike that curled just past the post from a narrow angle.
Pogba's frustration then spilled over when he was lucky to escape with just a yellow card after grappling with West Ham captain Mark Noble as tempers flared in the latter stages.