Manchester United booked their place into the the fourth round of the FA Cup after defeating West Ham 1-0 in an FA Cup third round replay. Wayne Rooney's early tap in was enough to see the Red Devils through to face Fulham in 10 days time.
Sir Alex Ferguson rang in the changes with injury absentees Nani, Rooney and Anderson all getting starts. The defense was a changed one as well with only Rafael getting a start. The Scot decided to use Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Alexander Buttner to round out the defense and Anders Lindegaard also got a start in goal over the error prone David de Gea.
United began the match looking very well and Chicharito and Rooney were linking up dangerously for the Hammers to contend with. West Ham looked as if the prospect of getting a result at Old Trafford was too tall an order and their play was sloppy and defending desperate. After only nine minutes, Chicharito collected a superb ball from Anderson and cooly crossed for Rooney to tap the ball home. 1-0 to United and the Red Devils looked like they would certainly put Sam Allardyce's team to the sword.
In what has been an all too familiar trend this season, United could not take advantage of West Ham's poor showing and failed to widen their lead before halftime. United went into the tunnel the far superior team but only leading by a single goal. As is witnessed so often in the Premier League and world soccer for that matter, the second half was a completely different story. Perhaps West Ham sensed United's frustration at not being able to finish them off but the Hammers came out for the second 45 a totally different team and took the game to United. Now it was United's turn to play sloppy defense and there were moments when the Red Devils struggled to play the ball out of their half. United fashioned very few chances while West Ham came ever closer and closer . Ferguson decided some extra insurance was needed, so introduced Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes to control the midfield. He may have even entertained the idea of bringing on Robin van Persie but decided against it and let the Dutch striker get a much deserved rest.
An equalizing goal however, never came for the Hammers and it all looked done and dusted when United were awarded a penalty in the 79th minute. Rooney stepped up to double United's lead only for the England striker to blast over the bar. Rooney appeared as if he wanted to blame the Old Trafford turf for his horrid penalty but the striker simply took a bad penalty and United had to dig deep defensively to save their lead and win the tie. United were happy to hear the final whistle and will now play Fulham at home in the fourth round.
Man of the Match: Chris Smalling. Looked a bit off the pace in recent weeks but put in a fine performance in central defense with Phil Jones. Was equal to everything West Ham threw forward.
West Ham: Jussi Jaaskelainen; Winston Reid, James Tomkins, Jordan Spence, Daniel Potts; Matthew Taylor, Mohamed Diame (Jack Collison), Alou Diarra, Gary O'Neil; Carlton Cole (Kevin Nolan), Ricardo Vaz Te (Lee Elliott)
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