Game in a sentence

West Ham played some excellent football, but in the end Robin van Persie’s stunning goal — who else — ensured a replay.

Observations

  • A relatively inauspicious opening week of the transfer window madness saw Joe Cole return to his old stomping grounds. Hailed as the next Gazza, Cole was slated to be the next big thing in English football. 2003 was a long time ago. Ten years later he returned home, putting in a vintage performance against his old friends from Manchester.
  • David Beckham was treated to a thrilling game at Upton Park — though he did leave early, wanker. The possession numbers at the end of the first half were expected, with West Ham managing just 26% of the ball. However, the irons notched eleven shots to United’s four.
  • This was the product of nervous defending from the United back line. Chris Smalling was bad, Vidic shaky at times and Buttner a non-factor.
  • Yet United opened the scoring in the 23rd minute. Hernandez delivered a low, pacey cross that found Tom Cleverley on the opposite side of the pitch. Cleverley’s finish was superb, opting to forgo a needless touch and curling the ball past Jääskeläinen in one motion . Well done.
  • Four minutes later West Ham responded. Joe Cole’s excellent delivery found the head of James Collins. Cole’s cross was made possible by a sloppy United clearance after a corner kick.  At this point the momentum swung decidedly in the Hammers favour.
  • The second half opened with Paul Scholes waltzing through the midfield ignored. West Ham were content staying off the ball, and looked the more threatening of the two sides throughout the half.
  • In the 59th minute history repeated itself. Once again a Joe Cole cross found the head of Collins, who did even better this time, leaving De Gea with no chance at making a save.
  • He didn’t want to do it, but Sir Alex was forced into introducing star goal man Robin van Persie in the 69th minute. He made an instant impact, sending a ball into the box that was headed just over the bar by Welbeck in the 7snd minute.
  • Cole’s return ended in the 72nd minute. Battered — blood in the nose — and bruised — he was suffering from an apparent thigh injury — Cole was greeted with a standing ovation, capping a storybook homecoming. Those aren’t tears in my eyes…
  • The Hammers didn’t miss beat. Matty Taylor took over where Cole left off. A dangerous cross in the 88th minute danced around the box before Carlton Cole pushed it just wide. West Ham looked like they had another goal in them.
  • Some things never change. United have a made a living off last gasp comebacks. They did it again one minute into extra time. Ryan Giggs, on for Smalling, delivered a magnificent ball to a streaking Robin van Persie down the right wing. The ball was great, but RVP still had a lot of work to do.
  • The Dutchman’s touch was better than the cross, deftly controlling the ball before beating Jääskeläinen for goal number 20 on the year. Damn this guy is amazing.
  • Sometimes my MOTD of the day picks don’t work out — here’s looking at you QPR-Liverpool. Today it did. This was a great match. See you at the replay.

Three stars

1. Joe Cole

2. James Collins

3. Robin van Persie