Having already had a taste of the physical threat that West Ham pose at home, United went back there knowing a win would take them within touching distance of the title. After the good away win at Stoke at the weekend and with West Ham having little to play for now, you could have been forgiven for assuming a win might be a formality. But, West Ham, as they often seem to do, have a knack of raising their game when United come to town. Here we discuss the talking points of an eventful match and we welcome comments from both sets of fans.
Andy Carroll: The good and the ugly
Andy Carroll has been the butt of jokes up and down the country since his £35million move from Newcastle United to Liverpool, but put in a good performance against United in the week. Carroll was a constant menace, winning a significant amount of headers against Ferdinand and Vidic. For his noticeable lack of technique, especially for £35million, there is no doubting his courage and persistance when leading the line for his club. With all of his decent play, Carroll was involved in a controversial incident when he smashed into David De Gea like Roseanne Barr at a buffet. Sir Alex Ferguson was highly critical of the striker’s challenge and was surprised the England man stayed on the pitch:
“It was a red card. There is not a doubt about that. The referee did see it but didn’t see it as a red card. He saw that incident and chose not to give him a red card.”
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce saw it slightly different, bringing the highway code into it:
“I think it is a yellow card at most because Andy has committed to try for the header and you can’t stop dead. When you commit on a corner and you start off running, you can’t stop dead even though you aren’t going to get it. Your Highway Code will tell you that when you travel at 60mph it will take 300 yards to stop, so when Andy’s travelling at 15mph…”
So, where do you stand on the issue. Should Andy Carroll have been sent off for his challenge on De Gea?
Robin van Persie offside goal
Not much of a talking point really, as it is quite clear – Robin van Persie was offside when he struck home after Kagawa’s sensational strike that came back off two posts. Here is a still from the moment Kagawa’s struck the ball:
Kagawa great, Rooney not so much
Aside from de Gea’s bravery, the big positive to come out of the game was unquestionably Kagawa’s influence on the side. His technical ability, trickery and intelligence has been evident on countless occasions this season but in brief spells rather than over the duration of a game.
Kagawa had set the tone for his game quite early on actually – right in front of the away fans he’d worked hard to get back and then block a cross out for a corner. Often such elusive players can be criticised for not pulling their weight but that doesn’t apply to Shinji, even if he’s slight in frame. Starting on the left but moving infield all the time, Carrick was quick to try to get the ball out to him, or Valencia as quickly as possible. Although United were once again somewhat lopsided, Kagawa chose his moments to stay wide and cut in sensibly with one such example leading to the opening goal.
Having come inside van Persie after he drifted wide he remained unflustered once into the penalty area and coolly beat a man before picking out Valencia to tap in. What he’d done was so simple but in many ways was classic United. It was the second goal though that really showed his spark. From out of nothing he’d picked the ball up centrally, dummied a player to create space and then did something United players don’t do enough; took a shot from the edge of the area. His bending effort was unlucky to hit both posts but then lucky that van Persie followed up from an offside position. Once again it was his composure to be direct from a position that had him surrounded that created the goal. Just minutes beforehand, Giggs had been in a similar position but opted to go wide rather than shoot.
That Shinji was subbed off was probably an error but that Rooney had been withdrawn earlier in the game was spot on. So often you wonder if Rooney’s reputation means that he’s left on the pitch rather than taken off but he’d been playing terribly and thus was right to be subbed. Having done so well in a central position at Stoke it was strange to witness such a contrasting performance. He’d played off van Persie with license to drop deep but seemed to struggle to find space or have any positive influence on the game. His shooting was wayward and his effort that nearly trickled over the line due to bad goalkeeping was far from cleanly hit – had it been, he’d have scored.
Ultimately, he paid the price for too many wayward passes and probably just wasn’t as involved as United would have wanted him to be. He, like a few players in the side, is no doubt worse off for not having a proper central midfield behind him and therefore is having to do work he shouldn’t really need to. So far in April, United have played four games but only once have had central midfielders in the middle, other players have had to fill in on the occasions and there’s little doubt that’s to the detriment of the team.
Manchester United picked up a valuable point away at West Ham on Wednesday, with goals from Antonio Valencia and a controversial equaliser from Robin van Persie. Van Persie struck with thirteen minutes remaining on the clock, but television replays showed that the Dutchman was indeed offside, which was missed by the officials. It was the second time United fought their way back in the match, having gone down to a first goal half goal from Ricardo Vaz Te.
Valencia netted his first goal of the season after good work from Kagawa on the left flank. Mohamed Diame scored a sensational goal ten minutes after the break and then Van Persie struck in the final quarter, which came a few minutes after Jussi Jaaskelainen’s great save from United’s number 20’s header. United had chances to win it and looked the better side for spells of the game but West Ham will feel they were good value for a draw. Similarly, for United, four points from Stoke away and West Ham away within a few days is a good return. All eyes now will be on White Hart Lane – if Spurs can beat City on Sunday, United can be crowned champions with a win on Monday night against Aston Villa.