Manchester United dropped more Premier League points at home because of their striker shortage as they were held to a 0-0 draw by West Ham United this afternoon.
Another blank in front of their own fans will come as doubly frustrating for the Red Devils, who fail to capitalise on Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat to Stoke City earlier today.
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But this was not a stalemate without excitement. Both teams had several chances to secure maximum points as West Ham started strongly and the hosts pushed hard at the death.
Three of United’s previous five games at Old Trafford have ended goalless and it was a familiar story at the break after another first-half display in which the Red Devils lacked pizzazz.
West Ham were an attacking threat though and were unlucky not to go ahead when they hit the same post twice within the space of a minute midway through the opening period.
Aaron Cresswell’s cross caused chaos and Chris Smalling’s wild clearance cannoned off the head of Mauro Zarate and off the upright, before Winston Reid struck the woodwork with a header.
The best chance that United had in the first half was when the recalled Marouane Fellaini flicked on for Anthony Martial to have a shot blocked by the formidable Reid.
The Frenchman, on his 20th birthday, spearheaded the United attack in the absence of captain Wayne Rooney, who was one of several absentees for Louis van Gaal.
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The Dutchman was also without Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones although his opposite number Slaven Bilic could point to having even worse troubles with injury.
Diafra Sakho, Dimitri Payet, Enner Valencia and Manuel Lanzini were already sidelined when another attacker, Victor Moses, had to leave the field after 37 minutes with a hamstring problem.
Not deterred by their bare-boned attack, the Hammers continued to push forward and had a golden opportunity 10 minutes after the restart when Zarate dragged wide from an Andy Carroll layoff.
At the other end, Fellaini had a similar chance following nice link-up play from Martial and Jesse Lingard, who teed up the Belgian for a close-range shot which was brilliantly held by Adrian.
The home fans who have been bored by Van Gaal’s unadventurous style demanded their side attack and saw their calls answered as Memphis Depay came on for Bastian Schweinsteiger on 73 minutes.
The Netherlands winger made an immediate impact as he took on two players and exchanged passes with Fellaini, before squaring for Martial to side-foot just a couple of yards off target.
United applied the pressure in the final 10 minutes and came close again when Lingard had Adrian scrambling with a fizzing half-volley after the Hammers had failed to clear a set piece.
A fourth draw in five games leaves United fourth in the table – three points behind leaders Leicester City. West Ham, winless in five, climb to sixth but could finish the weekend as low as 10th.
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