Jut when West Ham thought they were through to the next round of the FA Cup, Robin van Persie proved vital for Manchester United yet again with a late equalizer. The draw will now force a replay at Old Trafford to determine who will go on to the next round of the competition.
Sir Alex Ferguson made some changes to the United squad with Rafael playing out wide in defense but with an emphasis on getting forward and Alexander Buttner getting a rare start. Robin van Persie was rested as well as Rio Ferdinand and Chicharito and Danny Welbeck formed the attack for the Red Devils. The match was always swinging more towards West Ham's favor but United did have their chances with Chicharito barley missing a nice cross. Perhaps against the run of play, Tom Cleverley finally broke the deadlock after 23 minutes with a nice goal. Chicharito sent in a beautiful ball towards Cleverley who took his swerving shot exceptionally well. 1-0 up, United were a bit fortunate but West Ham were yet to have their say.
Fresh into Upton Park after his move from Liverpool, Joe Cole looked to have finally found the right team and his performance showed it. The midfielder was on top of is game and his inch-perfect cross on to the head of James Collins in the 27th minute was all West Ham deserved after taking the game to United. The half finished level and United certainly must have felt that there was plenty of room for improvement for the second half.
The second half began with United and West Ham both fashioning chances but both sides were unable to convert. This would come back to haunt United however, when Cole and Collins again linked up brilliantly to set up almost an exact copy of their first goal albeit from a free-kick. West Ham found themselves in the unlikely position of being 2-1 up and what is more, completely in control of the match. Ferguson saw that changes had to be made immediately and added van Persie and Antonio Valencia. Even though both players provided an injection of ideas and pace, United were growing continually more frustrated by the Hammers resilient defense. Once the game entered the 90th minute, the West Ham faithful knew they were going to pull off the upset of the tournament's early round but van Persie again proved invaluable by grabbing an injury time leveler. Indeed the Dutch goal machine is virtually unplayable this season, with van Persie seeming to score whenever he feels fit. Many United fans will have to question where their club would be this season without him as van Persie forced through an FA Cup replay which will take place at Old Trafford. No doubt West Ham will have felt deflated after coming so close to providing a huge upset and the prospect of having to beat United at home is perhaps a daunting one for the East London club.
Man of the Match: Robin van Persie. James Collins and Joe Cole were superb for the Hammers but even Collins had to admit that sometimes you have to just " throw your hands up" at the skill and class of van Persie in his post-match comments. The Dutch striker's importance to United could not be overstated and took his equalizer with fantastic ability.
West Ham: Jussi Jaaskelainen; James Tomkins, James Collins, Guy Demel, Daniel Potts; Kevin Nolan, Jack Collison, Alou Diarra (Mark Noble), Joe Cole (Matthew Taylor); Carlton Cole, Ricardo Vaz Te (Matthew Jarvis)
Manchester United: David de Gea; Rafael, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling (Ryan Giggs), Nemanja Vidic, Alexander Buttner; Paul Scholes (Antonio Valencia), Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa; Chicharito (Robin van Persie), Danny Welbeck
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