Match in a sentence
Robin Van Persie’s late equalizer was enough to earn Manchester United a replay against a resilient West Ham United side that was seconds away from knocking the Premier League leaders out of the FA Cup.
- Manchester United lined up in a 4-4-2 with Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck leading the line. Alexander Buttner started at left back with Shinji Kagawa and Rafael playing as wide men. While Wayne Rooney was still sidelined due to injury, Sir Alex Ferguson decided to rest Rio Ferdinand, Robin Van Persie, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young.
- Sam Allardyce fielded his side in a 4-3-3 with Carlton Cole leading the line and Joe Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te on the flanks. It was Joe Cole’s first match since signing from Liverpool a few days ago. Allardyce also decided to field a midfield three of Jack Collison, Alou Diarra and Kevin Nolan. 18 year old Daniel Potts also started at left back for West Ham.
- United controlled most of the possession in the first half probing around the Hammers final third, but they were unable to create many goal scoring chances. They insisted on attacking down Potts’ side, in hope that Rafael and Smalling would overload Potts and expose the inexperienced fullback.
- Despite not having much of the ball West Ham was direct with their approach as expected, and the battle between Carlton Cole and Nemanja Vidic was entertaining. Cole did fairly well against the Serbian defender, holding up the play and linking with the midfield, which caused United numerous problems on set pieces. Vidic struggled to deal with Cole’s physical presence, and that battle was significant in the match. When Vidic won the ball it allowed to continue their attacking wave, when Cole was successful it started a West Ham attack.
- Another key battle in this match was Paul Scholes vs. Kevin Nolan. Scholes dropped deeper spraying diagonal balls across the pitch, and Nolan sat higher up the pitch trying to put pressure and limit the amount of touches the midfielder had on the ball. The downfall to this was it allowed United a bit more space in the midfield to move the ball around, but luckily for Nolan they failed to do much with that space.
- United took the lead as Scholes was able to skip past Nolan and play a ball into Hernandez. Hernandez played a one-two with Rafael and whipped in a cross that Tom Cleverley calmly placed past Jussi Jaaskelainen. Collison failed to track Cleverley’s run from midfield and it resulted in United taking the lead.
- Unfortunately for United their lead lasted four minutes as Joe Cole was able to deliver a glorious ball to an unmarked James Collins whose header flew past David De Gea into the back of the net.
- It was the Cole-Collins duo that linked up around the hour mark and once again they made United pay. Cole whipped in another fantastic ball into the box, and an unmarked Collins headed the ball past De Gea. Two fantastic balls and headers from Cole and Collins had put United on the verge of crashing out of the FA Cup.
- Fergie decided to bring on Van Persie and Valencia at the expense of Hernandez and Scholes, switching from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1. This change not only added quality in the final third but also stretched the field with Valencia’s width. At the time United had no attacking presence on the left, and it cause more havoc in the midfield. West Ham became a compact 4-5-1 and United had Rafael, Welbeck, Cleverley, and Kagawa trying to find space in a congested midfield.
- Ferguson then brought on Giggs for Chris Smalling and pushed Rafael to right back and Welbeck to the left flank. United still had problems creating goal scoring chances, but they did have a better shape going forward.
- United looked certain to crash out of the third round of the FA Cup, until Ryan Giggs delivered a sensational ball to Robin Van Persie. Van Persie’s first touch was immaculate and he shrugged off James Tomkins and smashed his shot past Jaaskelainen. It was Van Persie’s 20th goal of the season and also his third stoppage time goal since joining United and it earned them a replay at Old Trafford.
- Sam Allardyce will not be pleased with the result, especially considering Carlton Cole nearly won the game minutes before Van Persie’s equalizer. A replay doesn’t favour the Hammers, and their progress in this cup competition is down to whether they can replicate this performance at Old Trafford in the replay.
- Ferguson’s men leave it for late again, after another mediocre display. The midfield and defence will be questioned, but against inferior opposition, it seems Ferguson’s £24m signing in the summer was worth every cent.
1. James Collins
2. Robin Van Persie
3. Joe Cole