Reading match reports after a West Ham win can be a taxing affair. Wading through the vitriolic abuse reserved for opponents, you can barely spot our contribution to the event. Accounts of the Manchester United game offered scant praise for the home team. The media seem more interested in pouring scorn on Mourinho and his mind numbingly dull standoff with Paul Pogba.
United’s performance was described as feeble and abject, while West Ham’s victory was merely the result of an ambush; some surprise attack that exploited United’s incompetence. Never mind that West Ham were dominant in midfield, and totally outplayed them in the first half?
Match of Day happily joined in with a detailed analysis of United’s failings, while Lineker and Wrighty simply said ‘West Ham played well’. Please curb your enthusiasm gentlemen, don’t get too carried away. You would think West Ham just got lucky and played them at the right time?
A marginally offside first goal and deflected second was a stroke of luck West Ham richly deserved. Of course, 84 per cent possession was never going to last and we had to work much harder in the second half.
However, West Ham were resolute in defence and the result was never in doubt; even after Marcus Rashford dragged United back into the game at 2-1. Mark Noble’s sumptuous through ball provided Arnie with a simple tap in for 3-1, a result that flattered United.
But here’s the source of irritation for West Ham and any mid-table club who beat one of the big five; it can never be accepted the Hammers were superior in every department and simply emerged as the better team. The story has to alight on United’s off-field shenanigans as the cause of defeat. Yes, it’s their worst start to a season in 29 years and Mourinho’s lost the dressing room. Oh really, the scales have dropped from our eyes; what’s the point in recycling the same old story?
West Ham are eternally cast as Cinderella in a game with its very own class struggle. A society where the rich get richer and the poor if they’re lucky, stay exactly where they are. Consequently, the media follow their master’s voice; lamenting failure and marking success only where they think more people care. West Ham have never had a true champion in the media; someone who will give credit when duly earned and criticism if justified.
Whatever recognition comes our way, it won’t stick in the memory when the page or channel is flipped over. All that lingers is the image of a petulant, grey haired fifty something who doesn’t like the toys he’s been given. A neutral observer would surely conclude the Hammers were superb; playing a fluent, one touch passing game, adding backheels for sheer impudence.
We made pretty triangles all over the pitch, but this time with an end product. Fans were pleasantly confused by the artistry, asking with some justification ‘what’s going on here?!’ I feel we can beat almost anyone in this kind of form. No longer do I see gaps between home games as a holiday; I’m now looking forward to the ultimate test against Manchester City.
Don’t say it out loud, but it feels like the West Ham way is finally coming home. Still, I can’t help wondering if this message has been lost in the media coverage? Admittedly, Manchester United are one of the world’s greatest clubs managed by a big personality who provides good copy. Wide coverage is therefore required to satisfy fans’ interest, but not at the expense of clearly balanced reporting.
United’s sense of entitlement makes failure so much more interesting than success; to the special one failure is an alien concept, and every setback is savoured with more than a touch of schadenfreude. But isn’t West Ham’s turnaround an even better story. An under-achieving club spends big in the summer, and after a disastrous start finally turns the corner?
Well, apparently not, as West Ham are not the only club suffering from the same media bias; Brighton and Derby recorded highly credible victories against United, but were robbed of any kudos by attention falling on their opponents. There has always been a disproportionate focus on the big five and nothing is likely to change. The press will gravitate towards the red and blue shirts (with perhaps a hint of lilywhite); MOTD will show highlights of mid-table clubs further down the running order.
Sky and BT Sport are enthralled by the traditional powerbase and Radio 5 Live are still madly in love with United (their Salford HQ notwithstanding). The arguments are well rehearsed and easy to justify; but seriously where’s the hardship in presenting a truly balanced view of the game, just for a change?