A couple of times, a game of football threatened to break out at the London Stadium on Thursday night, but on each occasion end-of-season fatigue and the inevitable disinterest that comes when nothing is really at stake quickly saw any semblance of excitement extinguished.
Having flirted with the relegation battle at times this season, West Ham United are safe from the drop, and Manchester United are secure in second place, with an FA Cup final little more than a week away, hence the exhibition pace the two sides played out this drab 0-0 draw at.
For David Moyes, it was a respectable point against the club that likely still haunts him in many ways, having washed out in just nine months as manager at Old Trafford in the 2013/14 season, his reputation still bearing the scars of that ill-fated reign.
Where José Mourinho is concerned, after an uninspiring defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion last time out, worries of a loss of momentum ahead of the cup final would not be unfounded.
A multi-player scuffle, incited by Paul Pogba and Mark Noble in the 87th minute, was height of the entertainment, yet, eagle-eyed as ever, we still picked out four lessons we’d like to share.
Shaw shows worth
Lining up as United’s left wing-back in a lesser-seen 3-5-2 formation, Luke Shaw was making only his ninth Premier League start of the season, and the marginalised England international did well.
In addition to his two tackles, the 22-year-old was a willing runner in attack, solely responsible for the Red Devils’ width on his flank, chipping in with two shots, one key pass and one completed dribble.
And he almost notched his first career goal, but Hammers keeper Adrián managed to deflected his well-struck first-half shot on to the post.
Arnautović Moyes’ biggest West Ham success
Powerful and direct, Marko Arnautović was West Ham’s most threatening attacker throughout, rattling off three shots, while making as many key passes and completing the same number of dribbles.
The former Stoke City forward’s combination of pace and power gave Chris Smalling real trouble and came as close to forcing a goal as anything West Ham mustered.
He may not have been the man to sign him, but Moyes’ major success in his middling West Ham tenure to date has been to make Arnautović’s £25million transfer fee look thoroughly reasonable.
Mourinho’s men easily frustrated . . . again
Faced once again with an opposition utilising a deep defensive block, United quickly ran out of ideas, and not for the first time this season.
Mourinho’s men have suffered defeat to all three promoted sides this term, the most recent reverse coming at the hands of Brighton at the AmEx Stadium last week, and the common theme has been the 20-times champions’ inability to break down stubborn backlines.
West Ham sat deep and defended narrowly, a combination that has flummoxed United too often for Mourinho’s liking. The away side started with Alexis Sánchez and Jesse Lingard up front in Romelu Lukaku‘s absence, and both seemed too eager to involve themselves in play well out of sight of Adrián’s goal.
United also lacked natural width, meaning the Hammers were able to congest the central space and snuff out their opponents’ attempts at intricate interplay outside the box. Mourinho needs to formulate a plan B beyond relying on long balls to Marouane Fellaini (out injured).
Rice on the money
Republic of Ireland international Declan Rice continues to impress for West Ham. The 19-year-old, starting on the right side of the Hammers’ back three, exuded calm in all his work, thwarting the Red Devils and helping marshal Alexis Sánchez.
Only midfield destroyer Noble made more combined tackles and interceptions than the teenage defender, whose stock is on the rise at the London Stadium.
On the ball, Rice kept it simple, completing 97.7 per cent of his 43 passes in what was a mature and diligent display.