This time last season West Ham Utd were swaggering over the pitches of the elite clubs, this time around and the players are unsure how to handle going ahead.
That was the conclusion of manager Slaven Bilic who gained a valuable point in the unlikely setting of Old Trafford with Diafra Sakho putting the visitors ahead after just two minutes.
The advantage was cancelled out by Zlaten Imbrahimovic 20 minutes later and that was the way it stayed, despite West Ham’s greater ambition in the second half.
Bilic said: “I am very pleased with the performance for the point. The only thing I didn’t like, and I said it at half-time, is when you score a goal you should be more confident than before you score.
“But we had a bit that mentality of, ‘You are afraid you score at Old Trafford’. From our goal to their equaliser we lost 11 or 12 balls unnecessarily.
“So in the first half they were better than us. They didn’t create a lot but they created one chance after they scored but then it was half-time, we spoke to the players and the way we played in the second half was really good if not great so I have to praise the players. They showed commitment, team spirit, character and most of all character.”
Bilic went further suggesting that the Irons should have left Manchester with all three points after a “very clear” penalty on the brink of half time for a Marcus Rojo handball.
“It was too close to be deliberate, it was not a booking, but the arm is here, it is very clear,” he said.
The talking point, perhaps deliberately so, will be Jose Mourinho who was sent to the stands for the second time in three home matches this season but a more deserving focus would be Darren Randolph who stood firm against a world-class strike force ensuring that first choice goal keeper Adrian may find himself on the sidelines for a while to come.
Bilic said: “He deserved his chance. We limited them in the second half but when we needed to defend in our box we were brave, we were good and sharp, and when that was not enough, we had Randolph, who was great.”
The Republic of Ireland shot stopper told the club's website : “I’d have liked to be less busy but when you’re having a good day, you’re having a good day and the saves obviously counted towards something because we got a point.
“We’re very happy. It was tough and like the Alamo at times, but that’s what it takes when you come to these places.”
The point takes West Ham a place higher to 16th, overtaking the rapid fall of Crystal Palace and keeping them in touch with mid-table.
The next match comes on Wednesday (November 30) – same place, same opponents, in the quarter final of the EFL Cup.