It was one of those matches that gets described as ‘pulsating’ although, in truth, United didn’t really get going until the last half hour of the game and it would be harsh to argue that West Ham didn’t deserve a share of the spoils in this 2-2 draw.
The Reds started the game like a team with their laces tied together. Despite only one change from Sunday, conspicuously absent were the control and easy dominance of that victory at the Britannia Stadium. West Ham, it must be admitted, didn’t exactly lie down like the new meek Stoke City, but even so it was a jittery start more characteristic of a team affected by the travails of a tight title scrap rather than one easing towards the finishing line.
Duly, it was West Ham who opened the scoring, Carroll’s nod down giving Vaz Tae an easy chance which he converted without fuss. Carroll’s only other contribution of note was the appalling ‘challenge’ on De Gea just before the half-time whistle which unbelievably went unpenalised. The only thing more remarkable than the lack of at least a yellow card was that someone once deemed it appropriate to blow £35 million they couldn’t afford on this throwback to English football’s dark ages. That he was booked for a far less physical challenge on the United keeper five minutes into the second half was laughable, although both incidents provided heartening evidence that De Gea isn’t about to be bullied so easily in such situations nowadays.
By then United were level, easing up the gears for Kagawa to present Valencia with a tap-in after half an hour.
It was a rare glimpse of United’s slick passing game, not to mention our only shot on target in the first half. The goal that put West Ham back in front was a peach, Diame striking a curling left foot shot through a crowd of defenders to sneak it in at De Gea’s far post.
After that United finally began to rampage forward with purpose. Rooney had a shot cleared off the line after Jaaskelainen fumbled, while the keeper redeemed himself with a fine save from Van Persie, before Chicharito had a shot after his trademark arrival at the near posted spooned away by Carroll.
Kagawa hit the post only for Van Persie to come steaming in on the loose ball to hammer it hall in characteristically decisive style. RVP may have been offside, but we’ve had so many crap decisions at the Boleyn Ground over the years that I refuse to lose any sleep about it. Still expecting some bright spark on the city or Liverpool forums to claim it as the reason for us winning the league, though.
City’s late winner against Wigan means they close the gap on us but I doubt any Reds will be allowing that to interrupt their slumber either. It would, however, now take a city defeat at Spurs at the weekend to allow us to seal the championship at home to Villa on Monday night.