Manchester United made 10 changes to the side that beat Liverpool at the weekend. Only Rafael retained his place, which meant recalls for Wayne Rooney, Nani and Anderson among others, with Lindegaard given a run out in goal. West Ham made a few changes from the side that lost to Sunderland; with youngsters Jordan Spence and Daniel Potts coming into an injury-ravaged defence. Mohamed Diame was back in the midfield alongside Alou Diarra, and rare outings were provided to Matt Taylor and Gary O’Neill.
The home side got off to the perfect start with only 8 minutes gone as Anderson set Javier Hernandez away with a superb pass, the Mexican just onside as he unselfishly squared the ball to the unmarked Wayne Rooney to roll into the empty net.
The game moved into a lull for the next 20 minutes, with Diame and Diarra working hard to stop United moving through the gears – Diarra was actually playing in the centre of a back 5 for West Ham, looking to stem the home side’s recent appetite for goals. This defensive outlook worked to a degree for the Hammers, keeping United at bay – however they lacked penetration and support for the isolated Carlton Cole up front. West Ham looked to threaten on set pieces when they earned them, but couldn’t manage an effort on Lindegaard’s goal. The home side threatened to extend their advantage on the half hour mark when a neatly worked corner resulted in a cracking holf-volley from Nani which was brilliantly cleared off the line by young Daniel Potts, again impressing at left back. Chris Smalling got up well from the resulting cross but could only direct the Antonio Valencia cross straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen. The game opened up after and West Ham went down the other end, resulting in a Ricardo Vaz Te shot taking a deflection which took all the pace off the strike, ending up straight at Lindegaard. West Ham were safe until half time apart from a nervy spill from Jaaskelanien under no pressure, reducing Man United to a couple of speculative efforts which sailed over the bar. Jaaskelainen made a smart save down to his right on the stroke of half time from a low Wayne Rooney strike.
The away side started with a lot more urgency in the second half, and had a good shout for a penalty. Carlton Cole prodded the ball against Rafael’s thigh, which then flicked up onto his arm - appearing to move towards the ball. Referee Phil Dowd was unmoved and United went down the other end and should have scored; a horrendous error from Alou Diarra allowed Hernandez in on goal, but the usually lethal Mexican skied the ball well over the bar from 8 yards with only Jaaskelainen to beat. The game was suddenly end to end stuff, and West Ham threatened again from a corner when Lindegaard flapped at a cross under pressure from Winston Reid. Carlton Cole was becoming a real handful and West Ham were popping the ball off him inside the Man United penalty area, with midfield runners buzzing around him. The Hammers dominated the opening 15 minutes of the second half, exerting a large amount of pressure on the Man United goal and pressing the home side all over the pitch. Matt Taylor broke through down the right hand side and drilled in a low cross which was scrambled away by Rafael at the back post with Carlton Cole lurking for a tap-in. Sam Allardyce threw on top scorer Kevin Nolan and Jack Collison for Carlton Cole and the clearly tired Mohamed Diame to try and capitalise on their pressure, moving the quiet Ricardo Vaz Te up front. Jaaskelainen made a good smothering save when the ball broke to Hernandez on rare a United counter-attack to keep the Hammers in the game, and Man United brought on Michael Carrick for the rusty Anderson to try and regain control of the match. The match continued to ebb and flow however with both teams threatening on the counter, Matt Taylor slicing wide on the edge of the box after good work from Alou Diarra to set him up.
The game should have been sealed for Man United when Ryan Giggs received the ball on the left wing, and rolled back the years by jinking out of a cul-de-sac past 3 West Ham defenders and clipping a cross into the area which nudged the outstretched hand of Jordan Spence. Phil Dowd gave the penalty after some deliberation, which may have been deemed slightly unlucky for the youngster . Wayne Rooney stepped up, leant back, and sent the ball into orbit, clearing the crossbar by some distance. Sir Alex Ferguson was visibly furious on the touchline, and one wonders if United will let Rooney take another penalty with his record from 12 yards making for some uncomfortable reading – missing 10 out of 27 since joining United in 2004. Paul Scholes was brought on to further shore up midfield for the Red Devils, whilst Elliott Lee was given his debut and thrown upfront for the visitors. Scholes almost immediately received his customary yellow card for an appallingly late challenge on Matt Taylor. West Ham punted balls into the box and scrapped away to try and level the tie, but the home side dealt with the crosses hurled in to hold onto a victory which sees them through to the 4th round to play Fulham at home. Another spirited performance by West Ham against last season’s runners-up will have pleased Sam Allardyce, and can only bode well for the last few months of the season.
Man of the match: Ryan Giggs. A wonderful display making the evergreen pro seem like he was 19 again, not 39. Was everywhere tackling, creating and dribbling. It was fitting that he had the final touches of the game, sprinting 40 yards down the touchline to keep the ball down in the corner and confirm United’s involvement in the competition.
Man United: Lindegaard – 6, Rafael – 7, Smalling – 7, Jones – 6, Buttner – 6, Anderson – 6, Giggs – 8, Valencia – 6, Nani – 5, Rooney – 5, Hernandez – 6
Subs: Carrick (for Anderson) – 6, Scholes (for Nani) – 6
West Ham: Jaaskelainen – 6, Spence – 6, Tomkins – 5, Reid – 6, Potts – 7, Diame – 7, Diarra – 6, Taylor – 6, O’Neil – 5, Vaz Te – 5,C Cole – 5
Subs: Collison (for Diame) – 6, Nolan (for Cole) – 6, Lee (for Vaz Te) – 6.