Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was eager to throw Scott McTominay straight into the mix following his successful groin surgery such is his importance to the Manchester United side.
His performance at the London Stadium showcased the clear faith the Norwegian has in the Scot, though it also raised the unsolved question which underpins his development.
McTominay and Fred were both at fault for failing to close down Said Benrahma for the West Ham opening goal but the Scotland international showcased his fine attacking nous with some lethal line-breaking passes and driving runs as the game went on.
The issue is the academy graduate remains in an identity crisis for United in that they need him to develop into a defensive mastermind but that he, and Solskjaer, still persist in an attacking capacity.
It is clear to see McTominay makes this United team a whole lot more balanced, the key now is identifying who his best midfield partner should be.
Jesse Lingard’s perfect response
Jesse Lingard was unfairly cast the villain after a dire team display in midweek, but this time he was a saviour thanks to a moment of sheer magic to secure all three points.
Prior to the match David Moyes revealed that any permanent move for the England international in the summer transfer window had been blocked by Solskjaer, it only made the manner of the goal that bit harder to taken given the role they played in restoring his confidence with a loan move earlier this year.
Lingard’s entire United career has been formed on proving his doubters wrong and his latest crowning moment was another perfect example of the stellar professionalism which has seen him favoured by so many managers.
He might not have the key role he wants after an impressive calendar year but at United he still has a crucial role to play as a reliable performer from the bench.
Silencing the critics
It seems ridiculous now but there were a number of critics who actually feared Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo would be an incompatible partnership for United this season, but they are proving to be a very good match.
World-class players will always find a way to adapt to their surroundings, such is their qualification to fill the title, and Fernandes’ form over the past week is further proof of his new status within the game.
While the duo have not always clicked at international level there is clearly room for them both to be at their best for United, even if Fernandes is now predominantly the creator rather than the match-winner.
Deep down he might miss being the poster boy of this United side, but it is a sacrifice worth making now United have another phenomenal star who is the final piece needed to final add silverware to his collection.
United already know how Declan Rice would fit in
It was billed as an audition for Declan Rice to show United what they are missing and his performance on Sunday afternoon showed exactly what he would offer them – but also what he wouldn’t.
Rice, 22, will likely to be one of the key names in the next summer transfer window as he slowly creeps closer towards the expiration of his current West Ham deal in 2024.https://get-latest.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.manchestereveningnews.co.uk%2Fsport%2Ffootball%2Fman-utd-ronaldo-west-ham-21613233&cre=bottom&cip=47&view=web
This summer United fans cried out for a new defensive midfielder but it is quite clear Rice is not the deep-lying anchor who many feel is needed to transform this side and allow them to adopt a 4-3-3 set-up on a regular basis.
Instead the England international would be a deluxe upgrade on the likes of McTominay and Fred, meaning he would still be best deployed in an axis rather than burdened with the sole defensive role.
United have a new partnership Ronaldo will love
If United are to achieve success this season it will be their summer signings who receive most of the praise, but any title bid also will rely on those already at the club matching their output from last season.
Integral to that will be the performances of Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba on the left wing, a duo who have gradually grown to form a new lethal partnership out wide.https://get-latest.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.manchestereveningnews.co.uk%2Fsport%2Ffootball%2Fman-utd-ronaldo-west-ham-21613233&cre=mr-bottom&cip=1&view=web&ignoreMetaDataCheck=true
Pogba has himself expressed a desire to play with attacking freedom and in his left wing role he has been granted such a wish with Shaw more than happy to fill the vacant space whenever the Frenchman drifts elsewhere.
Another bonus of their link-up play is that Pogba can deliver balls into the box by cutting into a central channel while Shaw offers a threat from the byline with his own overlapping runs.
Two very different creative outlets from the same wing is exactly what Ronaldo longs for in his role as a lethal centre-forward.