Premier League
West Ham United 2 Manchester United 2

Wednesday, 17th April 2013
by Gordon Thrower

Entertaining this one, even if, as usual, we were robbed by the usual bent decisions that the officials give this most corrupt of clubs.

Team news was good - Winston Reid had recovered from that which had ailed him for the last couple of matches; a timely return in light of the injury to Tomkins at the weekend. Mark Noble's trapped nerve had been released, though the decent spell of good form from Gary O'Neil meant that the boss had the luxury of being able to name Noble on the bench. Starting line up: JJ, Demel, O'Brien, Reid, Collins, O'Neil, Jarvis, Diame, Vaz Te, Nolan, Carroll.

We made a positive start. The visitors were given little time to settle on the ball and Collins in particular was looking solid at the back. The first chance of any note came on five minutes when Carroll managed to work himself some space on the edge of the box to put a low shot in. The ball seemed to clip the base of the post. It wouldn't have counted however, the linesman's flag had gone up faster than a Scotsman trying to avoid a charity collector in the street, despite Nolan not actually appearing to get a touch. A spot of selective officiating in favour of Man Utd then. How unusual.

A word to Man Utd supporters now. The planet is already aware that you are the most stupid and ignorant of supporters in the world. There's no need to prove it by stealing the ball every time it goes into the crowd as it did on 13 minutes after Demel had won a corner. We can tell you are thick simply by noting the team you "support". The same thing happened in the cup match and, no doubt the ball is already sitting in pride of place on a mantelpiece in Stevenage where the cretin will tell anyone who will listen how he beat of 2,000 cockneys to take the ball, neglecting, of course to mention that they were all wearing red shirts. When the new ball had been delivered O'Neil's delivery from the corner found Carroll but the striker headed over. However a deserved lead was not long in coming.

On the quarter hour a rare attack from the visitors broke down on the edge of the box. Diame burst forward into the visitors' half and played the ball left to Jarvis. Jarvis took the ball into the box and, with a slight feint, left Ferdinand looking like someone who has been spending too much time on aeroplanes and not enough time on the training ground. Jarvis' clipped cross was nodded down by Carroll and Vaz Te stooped to head home between the two defenders who had got back onto the line. Hoof ball? Yeah right.

The lead was no more than was merited The "he scores when he wants" chant started up - though to be honest, with only a couple of goals so far in an (admittedly injury-hit) season one would hope that he's want to score a few more.

Carroll and Jarvis were causing havoc and a nod on from the former found the latter in promising territory. The sly nudge that sent Jarvis to the ground might have provoked interest amongst the officials had the opposition been different or had it occurred up the other end of the pitch.

On 20 minutes Rooney had a shot. It was low, weak, wide and is mentioned only as an indication of what a terrible game he was having. It was possibly the visitors' first real effort on goal, if you take some diabolical liberties with the word "effort".

Carroll got another nod on to Jarvis. Again the flag went up with an urgency approaching the speed of light, Jarvis having had a few wisps of hair blown by the breeze into an offside position. It was either a remarkably good spot from the linesman or a spineless piece of officiating prompted by their usual preference for all things Salford.

They equalised on the half hour. It was a fine goal - if totally unmerited. Van Persie - in what was probably his only meaningful contribution of the game - went down the left and, somewhat fortuitously, his pass into the box eluded Collins' challenge. Kagawa beat Reid and squared for Valencia to tap home from inside the six yard box. The muppets - in their usual display of only singing when things are going for them - made a bit of noise which was quickly quietened by a burst of Bubbles.

It was cruel on us as we'd controlled the game up to that point. However, to our credit it didn't seem to put us off unduly. Diame found himself down by the by-line and, with a trademark cutback into the box shot wide at the near post, though the 'keeper possibly had it covered. Vaz Te's shot from distance a few minutes later was a tad more optimistic and went yards wide.

Carroll then won a(nother) stray pass from the visitors and fed Diame who fed Jarvis. Jarvis teased the defender before sending over another deep cross. As carroll went up for it he seemed to cop a stray hand in the face from Vidic. Strangely, the high-def razor sharp eyesight previously displayed by the linesman seemed to fail him for once and ref Probert was similarly gutless, waving play on. One wonders what would have been given up the other end. We all know the answer to that one.

Jarvis was taking the freedom granted to him and was causing problems on both sides of the pitch. A cutback to Demel saw the right-back play a first time cross into the box but Carroll failed to get enough on it to give De Gea any serious cause for concern.

It is a fact that the visitors have yet to concede a penalty all season and, on 43 minutes we saw exactly why that is. Collins played a low ball into the box. Nolan controlled the ball and, with his back to goal, was upended by a combination of a kick and a shove from Vidic. In effect it was two penalties. However, once more the officials' marvellous eyesight, earlier capable of spotting a stray decaying atom in an offside position if it had come from a claret and blue shirt, had met with a strange and selective failure. On this form they'd have to commit a dozen axe murders before they'd give away so much as an indirect free-kick for what I still refer to as "ungentlemanly conduct".

Of course this wouldn't be a match against Man Utd if they didn't have something to whinge about and, after ref Probert had added the statutory 1 minute of stoppage time that referees feel obliged to add, we won a corner. This was delayed by more than the extra minute as Carroll and Rooney tangled with each other, in the box. When the corner finally came over Carroll steamed towards the ball taking out De Gea and Evra in the process. A bit naughty? Undoubtedly. A yellow card? Probably. A red? Only in the strange brain of Alex Ferguson. After what was almost certainly some totally unnecessary "treatment" Evra and De Gea were fine - Evra being allowed to remain on the pitch for the one second that Probert decided was left after the restart. Ferguson, as is his wont, continued to get after the fourth official, as if the officials already needed influencing in the visitors' favour and the half was done.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Manchester United 1

At half time we had doughnuts. This was partly in honour of another birthday for yours truly but also a not towards De Gea's crime of the century in stealing a couple of the aforementioned confectionary items from his local branch of Tesco a couple of years back. More soberingly, they played an ad for the Bobby Moore fund at which point I realised that I am now older than the great man was when he passed away. Still an Upton Girlie-provided Kit Kat from the USA (8 fingers? No wonder they're so enormous over there) restored the mood and we were ready for the second half.

There were no changes at the interval and the visitors fashioned a chance early on. A long ball which, when played by Man Utd seems to be not a long ball at all for some reason, was aimed at Van Persie who nodded back to Jones who made a hash of the attempt and the ball was cleared.

Then a moment of pure farce . A cross in from O'Neil was gathered by De Gea who, in gathering the ball managed to grab - inadvertently - Carroll at the same time, then dropping the ball. Nolan tapped the lose ball in. All the badgering of the officials from the visitors paid dividends as the ref decided that not only was Carroll at fault for being grabbed by De Gea but, by doing so he had somehow committed a yellow card offence. Post match Ferguson made some sort of comment about weak officials. He wasn't wrong. I've seen more spine from a jellyfish impersonating Julian Clary.

Carroll didn't let the ref put him off and, in a reversal of the usual state of affairs, Nolan nodded down to him and he let forth a dipping effort that was only a foot or two wide. The respite for the visitors was temporary though and, when the lead was restored, boy it was special.

On 54 minutes the ever-improving Demel nodded down a loose ball to Vaz Te who performed a nifty bit of footwork from the right touchline before pulling the ball back to Demel who played it into Diame. Mo's first touch took him away from goal. His second was a low, powerful curling drive that gave the doughnut thief absolutely no chance. I thought Carroll's second against West Brom was going to be our Goal Of The Season. Sorry Andy but this one pushes yours into second place. Older readers may remember a Brooking effort up at the Baseball Ground in 1975 that won the ITV "Golden Goal" award for that season. This was like that, only with so much more power. Like the Brooking effort it was a goal from the moment it left his boot. Superb.

They tried to hit back on the break and a long cross from Valencia was volleyed first time by Van Persie only for JJ to make a superb save. Van Persie was offside, an offence that the linesman accidentally gave. He must have forgotten himself temporarily.

Just after the hour the visitors could have equalised - though it would have been more a self-inflicted wound had they scored. A corner from their right was played low to the edge of the box where the otherwise anonymous Rooney hit a tame first time effort towards goal. The otherwise impressive JJ failed to get a decent hand on it but O'Neil was on the line to make the clearance.

With three quarters of the match gone we made our first change. O'Neil had had a fine game and I presume that the boss must have thought he was tiring. Noble came on as O'Neil went off to deserved applause.

Shortly after Valencia was allowed a bit too much room on our left to get a cross in and Van Persie's powerful header was turned over the bar in superb style by JJ, thus making amends for his earlier aberration.

With 20 left they made their first change. Rooney (the fat Granny Shagger as the crowd had christened him) had had an awful game and when he trudged off it was to much delight from the home crowd. Giggs, the family man replaced him.

As my colleague Preview Percy pointed out earlier this week, when Man Utd are in trouble they can always rely on the officials to bale them out. So it proved yet again. With 15 left Kagawa turned in the box and shot. JJ may have had the original shot covered but it took a streaky deflection off Collins and hit both posts before a clearly offside Van Persie tapped in from a couple of yards. The linesman whose flag couldn't go up fast enough when a stray thread from a claret and blue shirt was involved couldn't spot a big Dutchman two yards offside when right in front of him. As decisions go it was right down there with the worst that have gone in their favour over the years. I await news of the punishment that the officials get for get for that one - on past form it'll probably be a bonus from the disgracefully incompetent PGMO who continue to fiddle while Rome burns.

Both sides pushed forward for the winner. Sub Hernandez failed to get enough on a header to seriously bother JJ. With 9 left the tiring Nolan was replaced by Taylor and Mo Diame who had also gotten through a lot of running also came off to be replaced by Collison.

The ref added a baffling (well not really - it was probably the amount Ferguson had instructed) 4 minutes of stoppage and in the first of those Taylor intercepted a loose ball from Carrick. Sadly the midfielder lost all composure as he reached the edge of the box and shot high and wide and that was just about it.

Full Time: West Ham United 2 Manchester United 2

We were worth all three points and to be held back again by the match officials was galling in the extreme. Next time Ferguson is on screen moaning about referees I long for the interviewer to ask him what division of the Blue Square League he thinks he'd be in without their help. It won't happen of course - they have a Pravda-style habit of banning anyone from the press who doesn't toe the party line, which is why commentators fawn over them so much.

In the meantime I look forward to the day when that advert for some betting company finally comes true and a referee who is having a rotten match can be red-carded and replaced by something more useful. Like a traffic cone in this case.

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Player Ratings

Jussi Jaaskelainen
One awful moment in the second half but he pulled off a number of decent saves.

Guy Demel
Continues to improve well - defended superbly and got forward to support Vaz Te on the right. Involved in Diame's goal.

Joey O Brien
Generally good but gave Valencia a bit too much space on occasion.

James Collins
Fine performance on a par with the one up at Anfield.

Winston Reid
For once outshone by Collins but I'm sure as hell glad that he was back rather than Pogatetz.

Mo Diame
A fine game - full of running until the end and one of the best goals you will ever see at the Boleyn.

Gary O Neil
Another splendid runout. I was slightly surprised that he came off for Noble - I think on current form I'd start him.

Ricardo Vaz Te
Good poacher's finish and some nice touches but was a bit too profligate with the ball for my liking.

Matt Jarvis
Fine first half in which he caused them all sorts of problems. Slightly less involved in the second half.

Kevin Nolan
A lot of running but not as influential as he can be.

Andy Carroll
On a par with Diame and Collins and got the sponsors' MOTM. And the telly version. And mine. Absolutely enormous up front and one defensive block towards the end was magnificent. I saw an England striker in this match. It wasn't Rooney.


Mark Noble
(Replaced O'Neil, 67)
Good to have him back - though bringing him on in the hope we'd get a penalty was optimism in the extreme!

Jack Collison
(Replaced Diame, 82)
A few interceptions in the few moments he was on.

Matt Taylor
(Replaced Nolan, 82)
You could have been a hero, Matt. Oh dear.

Stephen Henderson
Did not play.

Emanuel Pogatetz
Did not play.

Modibo Maiga
Did not play.

Carlton Cole
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Joey O Brien, James Collins, Winston Reid, Mo Diame, Gary O Neil, Ricardo Vaz Te, Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll.

Goals: Ricardo Vaz Te 16 Momo Diame 55                .

Booked: Andy Carroll 47          .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: David De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Phil Jones, Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie.

Subs not used: Ben Amos, Luis Nani, Jonny Evans, Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley.

Goals: Antonio Valencia (31), Robin van Persie (77).

Booked: None.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Lee Probert.

Attendance: 34,692.

Man of the Match: Andy Carroll.