Manchester United scored three goals in 13 minutes in a brilliant second-half comeback to beat West Ham 3-1 Saturday in the first Premier League match with fans in attendance since the coronavirus outbreak in March.
Trailing 1-0 at halftime in front of 2,000 supporters at the Olympic Stadium, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer introduced substitutes Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford, who had been left out of the starting lineup because they were carrying minor injuries. They changed the game.
Paul Pogba ran onto a pass from Fernandes and curled a long-range shot into the corner in the 65th minute, before smart buildup play involving Fernandes ended in Mason Greenwood controlling a left-wing cross and driving home a finish in the 68th.
Rashford then ran onto Juan Mata’s through-ball and chipped the goalkeeper for the third goal in the 78th, ensuring United maintained its 100% away record.
Just last weekend, United came from two goals down to beat Southampton away.
“When you are 1-0, 2-0 down, the boys still believe,” Solskjaer said, “and that character is important.”
West Ham went ahead through tall midfielder Tomas Soucek at a corner in the 38th and should have been leading by a bigger margin at halftime as Jarrod Bowen, in particular, ran rings around United’s defenders.
Bowen had a goal disallowed for a narrow offside, and teammate Pablo Fornals poked a shot against the post.
Fernandes and Rashford started as substitutes with Solskjaer wanting to give them some rest amid a busy run of games that sees United play Leipzig in a huge Champions League fixture on Tuesday and then Manchester City in a Premier League derby on Saturday.
“You have a duty to be ready when you are called upon,” Solskjaer said. “Bruno and Marcus came on and did well.
“First half we had loads of possession but we didn’t go anywhere with the ball. Second half we stretched them more and ran in behind. The quality was much better. The goals were exceptional.”
West Ham manager David Moyes was unhappy that United’s first goal was allowed to stand, believing a long clearance from goalkeeper Dean Henderson — filling in for the injured David De Gea — drifted out of play before being latched onto by Fernandes.
“The linesman is claiming he didn’t see it. It was a poor decision,” Moyes said. “The ball was out of play, the players’ reaction gives the best way to look at it and all our players knew it was out of play as well.
“(After that) we turned off.”
Fans were allowed to return to British soccer grounds this week at the end of a second national lockdown.
England is the first of the major soccer nations to allow supporters back into football games during COVID-19′s second wave.
Fans, wearing face masks, were spread out in the lower and middle tiers of the Olympic Stadium.
“I am pleased the fans saw a performance that was very good, certainly for 60 minutes,” Moyes said. “Just disappointed we couldn’t give them a result.”