West Ham vs Man Utd Match Report (Big Sam furious as Hammers denied victory at Upton Park)By: Ian | April 18th, 2013
It’s not often the manager gets the blog picture. Even stranger coming in off the back of a match that had more than enough candidates. But I think it the best indication of how West Ham took their match against Utd last night, and how gutted they were not to win. A late Van Persie conversion preventing that, prompting fury from the Hammers and quotes about Utd involving such words as: “We played like Champions.” As much as I will give credit to the way Utd, yet again, came from behind, twice, to take a tough point, I also think this statement ignores the sheer effort of West Ham and overstates Utd’s performance on the night.
De Gea, Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Jones, Kagawa, Van Persie and Rooney provided the Reds strength. Once again, note a lack of a definitive winger on the left. On the other side, we have Valencia, not even close to his poorest form of last season this season, but with a chance to show his worth. I will give the man his credit and say he provided his best performance in a long time, not that it was fantastic, but certainly a vast improvement, that’s with the goal aside too. Anyway, on with the game itself. West Ham, generally solid on home turf, started the better and were presented with an opportunity within five minutes. Carroll, the man to watch, wiggled himself some space on the edge of the box, turned and fired goalwards, with Nolan declared offside as he tried to reach the ball, which ultimately went untouched and wide. An early warning.
Carroll, in to some form of late, prompting instant discussions as to how he might fit effectively into the England set-up (for a high-ranking national side, England do seem to smack of desperation at times and the way players chances of making the squad are talking up and down all the time destabilises the whole thing in my opinion), headed over from a corner. Another warning, unheeded, as West Ham took the lead on 16 minutes. For all the notions prior to kick off that Utd would face the long ball over the top to the target man, the move West Ham conjured was anything but. The ball given away in West Ham’s half saw the very impressive Diame burst out of his own half, feeding Jarvis on the left. Ferdinand came across to meet him, Jarvis sized him up, and left him flat-footed as he struck left. The dink inwards found the head of Carroll, who got it back across the goal for Vaz Te to dive in and convert. Fully deserved, an excellent move, 1-0 to Big Sam’s boys.
Utd responded brilliantly, (”I call your bluff, sir!”). Quite right, nothing changed from Utd’s perspective. The pace didn’t pick up, and as I was listening in on radio as well, and having missed the line-ups, one could be forgiven for being completely unsure who was upfront, for they weren’t mentioned. However, more success was being found down the left flank than the right, and indeed the breakthrough came from there. Van Persie nutmegged Collins to let Kagawa drive in, and the man from Japan got his head up and the ball across to Valencia for a tap-in even he couldn’t mess up. A flash of good play for the Reds, but not much enthusiasm from Valencia, given that was his first goal of the season. Maybe he was celebrating more inwardly.
Diame, causing problems, found the netting after getting around Carrick easily, and when such an approach didn’t work, Nolan found the floor in the box, only for his penalty claim to be waved away. An unusual clash between Carroll and De Gea after a corner left the former with a yellow card and the latter with a few bruises, but the equal scoreline flashing across the board still remained harsh to the Hammers. Utd’s shots on goal level was poor, on target even more so, with the goal the only chance. 100% conversion rate perhaps, but rather woeful from a team including Van Persie and Rooney.
Jones, with the confidence of his new found miss-the-header-but-get-it-in-off-someone-else’s-back ability, tried to create a lead from Van Persie’s assist after a Rooney cross (you will perhaps note I haven’t mentioned Rooney much – more on this later). At the other end, Vidic was forced to clear before the ball found Nolan, shortly before Carroll tried his luck with a dipping long-range effort De Gea raised a preventative hand to. A sign of confidence from the home side, which was all the more merited a moment later, as Vaz Te’s skill starting a move that found Diame out wide. With the most elegant of turns, leaving Rooney in no man’s land (or Swindon – whichever you prefer), he fashioned himself space and struck a curling left footed strike that sailed around everyone and into the bottom corner. It was a truly delightful connection between ball and boot, and it put West Ham 2-1 to the good, and they were value for it.
A low-level Van Persie corner found Rooney lurking, with his scuffed effort somehow beating Jaaskelainen, but not O’Neil, who booted it off the line. Up to this point, it didn’t look like West Ham were up against the league leaders, and the substitution was overdue. Rooney departed for Giggs, with little surprise. Rooney lost the ball on many an occasion, provided little of his usually excellent passing, and generally turned in a low-energy performance. A quick poll was taken: “If Utd were offered £30-40m for Rooney, would they take it?” The response was a high-ended yes. There have been several occasions where it looked as though this event may indeed become reality, but just a few seasons ago, it would have been unthinkable that Utd were to lose their icon, especially after the departure of Ronaldo. Influential as he can be, it now seems to be the case at the moment that he is not held in such esteem as previously. I read little into the ‘left out of big matches’ debate, but overall, you would have to say the arrival of Van Persie has not produced the devastating partnership everyone hoped for. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that both struck form to the detriment of the other. That isn’t to say they haven’t played together well, they have, but its not as defence-splitting as it would look on paper. Hence Rooney has been pushed further away from goal, and although he can play there superbly, it’s not his place.
Back to the action, Valencia put in a good ball for Van Persie, only for Jaaskelainen to pull off a one-handed block. The arrival of Giggs allowed Kagawa into the middle, where he should be, and it was through him the second goal came about. His blasted effort struck the post with the keeper beaten, and its rebound found Van Persie who knocked it in from an angle. The controversy came from the fact that when Kagawa struck Van Persie was offside, but not interfering with play. However, he sprung into life to get the goal, which was certainly interfering with play. Cue the picture above, and West Ham did have a case for being disappointed after their great efforts and superior performance.
Despite Kagawa being one of the brighter sparks, Hernandez replaced him as Utd went looking for a winner. The Mexican got one on target from Carrick’s ball, but it wasn’t enough. Nor was the ball from Giggs, though of quality it didn’t reach Hernandez due to Carroll misreading his directive and acting as a centre-half. The last opportunity for the Hammers fell to the replacement Taylor, who struck something, but it wasn’t the back of the net.
So it ended, 2-2. Although superior, Wigan lost to City after spurning chances, cutting Utd’s league lead to 13. Still comfortable, especially with City to face Spurs next, while Utd get Villa at home. For this match, however, I was disappointed. West Ham put in a great display and what greater catalyst can there be to generate an equal reaction than an opponent looking dangerous? Do you just sit back and watch them (unless they are Barcelona and you have no choice)? I would say not, but Utd did not raise their game as one might expect. The equaliser was deserved, just I think, but a winner? No. It does a disservice to West Ham to suggest that. The title is still on to be claimed against Arsenal, but three points against Villa would stop this dragging out longer than it needs to be.
P.S. We had a better-than-expected response in our quest for new writers. This surprised me, for it means that people are coming across this sight, people who have not hitherto joined in here. That is fine, of course, but it takes time to generate these reports. Some discussion after them is the best I can hope for. So if you do read this, please comment below. I’m sure you will disagree with something I’ve said. If not, I’ll be forced to make more and more controversial statements to get a reaction. Such as a complete squad overall, whereby Utd cut wages by firing everyone and signing the entirety of Cardiff’s squad for a fiver.