Man Utd vs West Ham FA Cup 3rd Round Replay (Welsh Wizardry not on the wane)By: Ian | January 17th, 2013
Giggs. Is there a player that epitomises everything about a club more so than he does for Manchester United? I can think only of very few select others, an elite if you will. Lampard at Chelsea, Gerrard at Liverpool, then further afield, Del Piero playing at Juventus, Maldini at Milan, and the mercurial Totti at Roma. There may be more, but already it reads like a fantasy team. Why do I mention this? Because Giggs has had his critics this season, some even going as far to say the wizard has lost his powers and that he is being kept around now purely for sentimental value and long-service recognition. The replay against West Ham, although rather a flat affair overall, proved all that to be utter rubbish.
It was a side sent out to get the job done. Lindegaard, Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Buttner, Valencia, Giggs (c), Anderson, Nani, Rooney, Hernandez. A slightly junior defence, but more than up to the task, with Rooney returning from injury, along with Anderson and Nani. West Ham’s team news revealed the absence of Cole and Collins, the combination that worked so well in the first tie. United started with fizz, looking like they wanted to get this thing done and dusted. As a result, the goal came within the first ten minutes. Anderson sent the ball from the midfield, splitting the defence superbly, Hernandez the receiver staying just onside. The Mexican turned on the motor and he was away, looking up just to slide the ball to an oncoming Rooney for an easy slide-in. A very neat goal, and for Rooney there was a personal dedication in a tough time for his family, but it was to prove the only real highlight of his game.
I thought an avalanche was coming – Utd looked in the mood for it. The next chance actually came near the half-hour though, and it took some good defending to keep out. Good work out on the right led to Nani powering in a angled volley. The keeper was beaten, but defender Potts slid in and got it away. Play went on, culminating in Smalling heading tamely straight at Jaaskelainen. More efforts came from distance; Nani and Rooney both trying their luck. No chances to report for West Ham, they looked down and out.
The tradition of a half time break stopped the ceaseless Utd pressure, but only temporarily. 2-0 looked a certainty after the restart as Diarra mis-controlled on the edge of his box. Hernandez took it and you would put your house on him just guiding it in. In a moment of rarity, however, it was screwed over and the young striker looked like he knew he should have done better. Utd’s inability to make their dominance count gave the Hammers heart, and it was Utd’s turn to defend as West Ham, for the first time, pressed forward. Taylor’s efforts came closest, but the defence held firm.
Carrick then came on, followed by Scholes, Anderson and Nani making way. Ando was decent, Nani, not so much. I won’t really go into that as they’re coming back from long absences. West Ham made changes too, a place in the competition at stake of course. But Giggs, stunningly in control from the word go, lead by example and mesmerized the crowd with some glorious footwork to glide forward, between the defenders (nothing more than minor obstacles to him), and hit in a cross that was handled by young Spence. Deliberate? Difficult to say, but penalty was given. A phrase used to describe Giggs’ run was ‘rolled back the years’. Rubbish, it wasn’t as though he stopped doing that sort of thing at 30. It was vintage Giggs and he’s never stopped doing that – he’s just had less chances and games to try it. Anyway, Rooney stepped up to take it. I thought Giggs himself would have taken it, but Wayne it was. He stepped up and skied it. A truly dreadful spot kick to add to a pretty dismal penalty kick record for both him and the club. The only two scored this season come from Van Persie (even he missed one) and Giggs. It isn’t a difficult thing to get right for players with such quality.
The whole thing became immaterial as the whistle went with Utd as 1-0 winners, but if such a thing happens against Madrid, where would we be then? Take your chances when you get them, and they don’t get much more straightforward than penalties. But anyway, Utd progress to meet Fulham, another Premier League clash. That game will come very soon, after Utd have navigated the Tottenham game this weekend. It will then only be another game against Southampton before Fulham will be met in the league too.
So overall, it was about the progress and progress we did, so all is well. And Giggs never lost it. He’s still here, and we should count ourselves fortunate for every game we can still watch him play, however long that may be.