A stoppage time goal from Daley Blind rescued a point for United after the Reds laboured to get back into the game against a West Ham side who’d taken the lead just after half time. Although the second half saw an improved performance from the Reds, this was a largely disappointing performance and two points dropped in what increasingly looks like an and of season scramble for Champions League places.
De Gea was easier the busier goalkeeper in the early stages and was called upon to turn behind a drive from Enner Valencia before tipping over the same player’s header from the resulting corner. Later the United keeper would need to save with his legs as Tomkins headed down at the far post from a free kick. Meanwhile, at the other end, Adrian had little to do, with United failing to make use of the pace in their side against a Hammers rearguard that lacked their two first choice central defenders.
Although the Reds saw more of the ball in the last few minutes of the half, the best they produced was a shot from Di Maria that went into the midriff of Adrian. The space the Argentinian was given indicated there was something in this match for United were they to get Di Maria, in particular, on the ball more often with Januzaj and Rooney struggling to make an impact in midfield.
The second half was only three minutes old when West Ham took a deserved lead through a makeshift central defender. Following a free kick into the United box, the ball fell to Kouyate who juggled the ball on his right foot before striking it past De Gea via a deflection. There will, rightly, be questions asked about why he was not closed down more effectively but in truth it was a goal that had looked like coming almost from the first minute of the game.
The real issue was that United needed to get a grip on the midfield, and quickly.
To an extent, that’s what they did. Van Persie found himself free on the right of the penalty area but hammered his shot straight at Adrian, then found his shot blocked when Januzaj fed him in on the left. United’s attacks were sporadic rather than sustained, however, and it wasn’t until fifteen minutes from time that the Reds carved out a clear-cut opportunity, the ball falling to Falcao with only the keeper to beat, only for the Colombian’s shot to go haplessly wide.
With Fellaini coming on in an advanced position, there was more directness about United’s play and a series of assaults on the West Ham goal ended with the big Belgian heading narrowly over the bar. Adrian’s legs then kept Van Persie out again as the Dutchman aimed his shot inside the keeper’s near post.
It looked like United were heading for defeat when Blind, one of the few Reds players to show any real composure in the match, came up with a dramatic equalizer. The ball fell to him in the penalty area and, from twelve yards out, the Dutch midfielder made no mistake. It brought a share of the spoils but there were too many weaknesses in United’s overall play at the Boleyn Ground for Reds fans to take anything more than a mild sense of relief away from the game.