Date: 6th January 2013 at 12:35am
Written by:
Last minute hero

Less than a week into the New Year, and it was time for Manchester United to make their first appearance in the FA Cup, against fellow Premier League side, West Ham.

 The Cup has not been a competition of success for United since 2004, with Sir Alex Ferguson pointing out that Rio Ferdinand has not won one, and that it would be desirable to win it for him. Regardless of sentimentality, Sir Alex will be hoping for better things from his side in the biggest domestic cup this season, given his particularly high standards.

To highlight the seriousness with which he was taking the game, Sir Alex named a strong side for the trip to Upton Park. David De Gea started in goal, with Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans in front of him. Buttner was at left back, Smalling at right. In midfield, Cleverley and Scholes were partnered up, with Kagawa and Rafael Da Silva on the right. Up front stood Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez.

The first half was a fairly even affair, with both sides getting forward and looking positive, without either truly dominating. Although the visitors started off the brighter, as the half progressed, the hosts brought themselves into the game. United looked sharp and quick on the counter, and were slick in their passing moves, focussing on the right early on. Hernandez was called offside before squaring to Welbeck, and Scholes found Smalling down the right before he played a ball across, trying to find Hernandez charging into the box, but the ball was just too much of a stretch for him.

After 20 minutes, a breakthrough. Hernandez collected the ball on the right before playing a low ball across the box. Cleverley came charging in on the left to meet the ball completely unmarked to finish coolly to give his side a 0-1 lead.

The lead barely lasted 5 minutes before a free kick was never truly cleared, and Joe Cole picked up near the left corner of the box, before curling in a ball that met Collins in plenty of space to head home and leave De Gea with no chance. 1-1 and game on.

The second half began with United able to regain some control of proceedings, without coming across a clear cut chance. However, around the hour mark, the hosts completed a turnaround, in similar fashion to their first. Joe Cole once again played in a cross, with Collins in space to glance a header in. 2-1 and once again, United fell behind.

With trouble afoot, United sent on the cavalry, in the form of Van Persie and Antonio Valencia. Van Persie nearly had an immediate impact, heading wide from Buttner’s corner. With time running out, Giggs was also brought on to find a way back. The game looked set for a nervy and tense finish. West Ham were tightening up ready for an attack, effectively congesting the area as United got forward. As added time was shown it looked as though they would hold on.

However, 92 minutes on the clock, and Giggs played through Van Persie with a brilliant pass from left to right, beating the defense before finishing beautifully to draw the game level at 2-2, to earn a late cup replay.

With that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.

1) Ferguson is taking the Cup seriously

Of course, a replay is not an ideal situation. Given United’s heavy schedule as it is, Sir Alex will no doubt want to keep extra matches to a minimum. However, it would also be fair to say, fans would like to see United make a good run at the Fa Cup this season, given the lack of success in this competition for many years. It was clear that Sir Alex was taking this seriously considering the relative strength of the side he named, as well as the players he had on the bench, namely Van Persie and Valencia. West Ham away was always going to prove a tough game and if a replay is what was earned, then so be it.

2) Marking the weak point

If there was one area of the defense that proved a problem for United on the day, it was the marking. The two goals scored by the home side were very similar, with Collins in space to get on the end of a Joe Cole cross. The first time in particular saw Collins pushed back by Vidic giving him more space to head in. Both were good headers from quality crosses from Cole, but one could not help but feel United looked vulnerable in the air and there is no doubt it will have been felt the goals conceded were soft.

3) Kagawa got a lesson in physical football

With United starting the better of the sides, West Ham came into their own as the half went on. They started to close the visitors down in midfield, not allowing players like Scholes the space to seek out players with passes. It took a more physical, though not rough, turn and Kagawa above all probably suffered the most. The midfielder, only recently returning from injury, found himself closed down and not allowed the chance to move, occasionally getting dispossessed. It was something of an introduction to the physical side of the English game, a lesson as to what Premier League sides can offer.

4) Rafael on the right wing, an interesting idea

With Valencia struggling for form, and Nani out injured, Rafael Da Silva was given a chance to shine down the wing. With the youngster performing well at right back this term, regularly providing a threat down the right, it was worthwhile seeing how he would do when given a wing role. It ended up proving to be probably not the best occasion to showcase what he is capable of. Although much of the play was down the right at times, Smalling, overlapping, appeared to be there and Rafael was on the end of some over hit passes. As the game went on, he appeared to play more out of position as Valencia was introduced.

I think the Brazilian should be given more occasions in that position, if the situation calls for it, but it is unlikely that it will become a regular sight.

5) Giggs can still produce

On Saturday, as has been for much of this season, United have not known when they are beaten. On this occasion, they left it right until the death, with Giggs playing a fantastic cross field ball, pin point to Van Persie, who took a great first touch before finishing and equalising for his side. For all the criticism Giggs has come in for this season, often justified, the game produced a moment where he showed that he still has something to give and is still capable of moments of magic. A phenomenal goal.


7 responses to “Five Things We Learned – West Ham United vs. Manchester United”

  1. cleggster says:

    Agree on the Kagawa and Rafeal points

  2. Aminu Saminu says:

    i like to show my appreciasion towerd the game,and i advice the team to consider effort and technique that refeal de slv shwo on give all theprevilage for the game at that possision,thang

  3. Andrew says:

    It does look like Ferguson wants a real crack at the FA Cup this season. I think it is a good attitude to have and hopefully we can get to the final this season. Our record in the competition over the last 10-12 years has been poor. I won’t expect our strongest side to be played until the semi-final or even the final, but its a great chance to utilise our squad.

    I know some people will be annoyed by a replay and the extra game, but I actually think it might work in our favour. Ferguson will want to ensure that Rooney, Nani and Anderson are ready to play that match. It will be the perfect game to bring them back into the fold. Nani and Anderson have been out for a while, and the sooner they return, the better. It is also a chance for Welbeck, Buttner, Scholes and maybe Fletcher to get another game.

    I think Rafeal is best at right back, but that is not a reflection on his performance against West Ham. The boy is a lion and is always running and working hard. I just don’t want confusion over his role, and this season he has been our best player, alongside Van Persie and Carrick.

    We need to support Antonio Valencia who is clearly going through a difficult time. Last season he almost carried us to the title, but now its our turn to carry him. The lads work rate is something to admire even when his form is not great. Rafeal loves playing with him on the right side as well. It’s only January and he still has time to recover his season. I remember it was around this time last season when he actually came into form and started creating every goal we scored.

    I thought the game yesterday was great experience for Shinji Kagawa. The guy needs a crash course on English football and that game was perfect. I think he will going to be fine because he is tough and intelligent. Also he is only 23 years old and so has time to improve. The lad is a real prospect and its possible we won’t see his best form until next season. I do think he can still have an impact this season, which will hopefully result in winning the Premiership title.

    • MJ says:

      well said about valencia, i share your thoughts 100%. i had a take on him in another united blog if you’re interested:

      yes, he hasn’t been in too fine form this season, but this is partly down to opponents doubling up on him now (probably i’m losing my vision, but i remember at least two west ham defenders standing near the line whenever he had the ball). a one trick pony he may be, but running past two defenders is not the easiest task, but i counted TWO crosses from his left foot, which is exactly two more than i’ve seen in his first 3 1/2 seasons. maybe he’s trying to change/adapt his style, who knows? plus, as far as i’m concerned, he has never really been in poor form before. every player has a right to be in poor form sometimes, you just can’t expect a player to spend 15 years on top form. the nani-breathing-down-his-neck piece sounds reasonable to me as well, hopefully it’s true, because in full flow he is a monster of a player. UP THE V

  4. Drew says:

    I believe we actually started in a 3-4-1-2, w vidic in the center back flanked by Evans and smalling. Buttner was starting as a left winger, and was not very effective. He would need a lot if game time and improvement to replace evra or to be a regular starter in my mind, but you never know. Look how far Johnny Evans has come.