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Van Persie’s late show bursts West Ham’s bubble

1The last time United played a cup game under the floodlights at Upton Park, both the performance and the cold were so disheartening that very few of the thousands that had traveled to London would have cherished memories of that day.

Despite more accomodating weather conditions and a much improved performance, today’s game wasn’t going to be remembered either by the traveling fans, as United were three minutes away from suffering defeat and the ignominy of a third round elimination for the first time since Jermaine Beckford netted the winner at Old Trafford three seasons ago.

Time and again this season, when the odds were stacked against them, United have turned to Robin Van Persie and the Dutchman got his club out of jail again, after West Ham had raced into a deserved 2-1 lead, thanks to two headers from James Collins, who had been living his own personal FA Cup dream until Van Persie’s finish forced a replay for this third round tie.

Ryan Giggs, who had missed the chance to equalise seconds earlier, picked out Van Persie with a superb lofted pass over the West Ham defence as the Dutchman peeled off James Tomkins to create himself enough space to control the ball with his right foot before slotting it in the far corner past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

It was a goal of sheer beauty and panache, but one that had looked extremely unlikely, for United after falling behind with 30 minutes left had huffed and puffed to no avail and the home fans were already savouring a famous win when Van Persie struck.

The former Arsenal striker was named on the bench, as Sir Alex Ferguson reshuffled his team as widely anticipated before kick-off. Smalling, Vidic, Evans and Buttner formed the back four in front of De Gea, with Rafael pushed forward, on the right side of a diamond-shaped midfield containing Paul Scholes, Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley while Hernandez and Danny Welbeck were deployed up-front.

1The opening exchanges were vibrant, with Hernandez failing to get on the end of a good cross by Chris Smalling, before the two teams exchanged goal line clearances. With 11 minutes played, Paul Scholes prevented Diarra’s header from crossing the line, as did Dan Potts nine minutes later when Vidic’s header had seemed goalbound.

Halfway through the first half United were ahead thanks to the sort of goal that would have had advocates of the passing game jubilating. Hernandez exchanged passes on the right touchline before squaring the ball across the box towards Tom Cleverely whose run had not been tracked, allowing him to curl the ball into the far post to put United ahead.

Four minutes later, Joe Cole’s cross found James Collins completely unmarked in the box and the central defender made no mistake, burying the ball past David De Gea.

United could have gone ahead again ten minutes after the equaliser but Welbeck’s shot was saved by Jaaskelainen after the United striker had orchestrated a brilliant solo counter-attack. Tom Cleverley then spurned a chance to secure his second goal of the game when he shot high from the edge of the box straight after the restart.

With an hour gone, Cole and Collins produced a carbon copy of West Ham’s first goal – the defender was again left totally unmarked in the box and headed past De Gea, who was fuming with Nemanja Vidic for allowing Collins the second free header of the game.

Valencia and Van Persie replaced Scholes and Hernandez, while Giggs  was introduced for Smalling later on, but United looked far from threatening, as West Ham controlled the game with ease, helped by Kagawa’s poor performance as the Japanese, who had struggled to get into the game, was caught in possession a few times.

Then, just as Sir Alex Ferguson was contemplating a ninth year without the FA Cup and the home fans were in full voice, Robin Van Persie took centre stage. And when he does, he very rarely disappoints.


Dan (@MUFC_dan87)





  1. The_Philosopher

    5 January 2013 at 23:08

    Robin van Perfect saves the day again! Again.

    Ferguson should have kept Chicharito on the field and instead substituted Kagawa. Chicha combined well with van Persie prior to the West Ham cup tie, so he should have been left to play with van Persie.

    Not to say that Kagawa played badly. No one passed the ball to him really. It was as though Kagawa was playing a separate game to everybody else. The team was play one way and he was playing another way. He would fit right in at Barca. He was trying to play short little passes to build the play up slowly, while the rest of the team was trying to play balls over the heads of the West Ham players.

    Lionel Messi can only play for Barca. Anywhere else and he would look like a fish out of water. Just like Kagawa did today. I don’t blame Kagawa. He just plays a different style of football.

    Ferguson played Giggs in midfield again. I think Nick Powell would have been a better choice there. If Ferguson can waste games giving Giggs play time in midfield then surely he can afford to give Powell games. Powell might even be more effective than Giggs in midfield.

    Rafael can’t play right wing. I see that now. Maybe later he might learn to play better but based on today’s performance he isn’t good enough.

    Valencia wasn’t much better.

    We need two new world class wings. And we need them more urgently than we need a world class midfielder.

    Carrick, Anderson (when he’s fit) and Cleverley play well enough to hold us in the middle.

    But our wing situation is deteriorating quickly.

    Nani needs to just get fit. Find his form. And sign a new contract.

    And then we need a quality left footed winger.

    Buttner is raw. I am worried about his quality. Or maybe he is a long term situation. But he has lots of work to do to improve. In Ferguson I trust on this one.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Leighton Baines in a United jersey right now.

    Smalling didn’t do much today I don’t think. I would imagine Ferguson chose him to play at right back so that he could help neutralise the aerial threat that the Hammers would pose. But he didn’t do that very well at all today. Collins had two easy headers for his two goals. Both Smalling and Vidic were missing in action for those goals.

    Smalling isn’t much good going forward. so he didn’t really add much to our squad dynamic today I don’t think. He’s a quality player though.

    Cleverley’s goal was top drawer. Very good strike. That was a strikers goal I thought. Cleverley is getting more consistent in terms of his performances. I am very happy to see that.

    I wonder what Lindegaard must be thinking with De Gea conceding so many goals.

    But I suspect Ferguson has finally settled on De Gea now. I think the chopping and changing with De Gea and Lindegaard was to keep Lindegaard happy.

    We’ve earn a replay. I don’t see us losing it at Old Trafford.

    So again: Robin van Persie scores the goal that saves the day again! Again.

    • ash is the man

      6 January 2013 at 08:04

      @The_Philosopher: the fa cup is no longer a big deal and winning the league is far more important- hence why there was so many changes.
      and may i ask you what is wrong with rvp saving the day again? isnt that why we paid so much money for him, if you ask me i am fine with him saving the day, besides we had a poor team out so cant really complain with the result.
      kagawa is no wayne rooney and will never be as effective as wayne rooney for united, not a great buy in my opinion, not for united

  2. Redrich

    5 January 2013 at 23:55

    Once again quite a few United players had their ticket punched on-board the RVP express.
    Kagawa for one, must be hugely relieved that we get another crack at them. He seemed confused by what he was trying to do or what position he was playing. By the way what position was he playing?? If he is a CM then he’s in the wrong league – time and time again he was hustled off the ball, losing possession and without the strength to win it back. If he is a striker then please strike the ball, preferable at the goal!!
    I know he’s just come back from injury, but seriously, this was a very weak performance and one I hope he can improve on.

    Defensive line got caught marking the wrong man again, and not just once, they got caught twice with the same bait. Cheap and easy pickings for the West Ham big men as they reeled in their chances without even a struggle. When will we ever learn from these mistakes or is the learning curve too steep for the likes of this current crop. Ferguson should really consider some freshness here – and quick about it.

    But the real story is our Superman, RVP.
    I don’t want to talk about where we’d be without him or should I say I don’t want to think about where we’d be. The man is just magnificent at what he is charged to do. The execution of his goal was as good as I’ve seen in many a year. The positioning, the control, the execution – just fantastic (big hand for Giggs’ great pass, too). What a gem he is.

    Time to regroup and figure out how we’ll outscore Liverpool.

    • Onkar

      6 January 2013 at 04:37

      @Redrich: Rightly put it bro.. Its about planning to outscore opponent now… as we just cant seem to keep a clean sheet…

  3. Onkar

    6 January 2013 at 04:39

    Btw we are lucky that RVP is not a striker who is dependent on his pace to score goals. He is more of Skills and Positioning kind of a Players.. Hopefully this will help him and us as he gets older as well… Currently he is playing like a Old Wine… Older It is better it is…

    • Redrich

      6 January 2013 at 06:03

      @Onkar: It’s not a matter of how old the wine is, it’s when to serve it.
      RVP is at the perfect ripeness for our team and it’s not a day too soon or a day too late. We are clearly getting the best out of him now and who knows whether that will be a part of him (or us) next season.
      We have plucked a ripe fruit, and how sweet it is.

  4. ForeverRed

    6 January 2013 at 04:43

    Thoughts on today….Decent first half; pretty much in control with Scholes running the show in midfield. Good goal by Cleverley. Second half, very few chances created and lost control of the midfield once Scholes departed. Much more even contest. Lack of midfield presence/support again cost us as the CBs were outnumbered on crosses/set-pieces against their big men. When Scholes, Cleverley, Kagawa and Rafael line up in front of the back four you know you’re going to be vulnerable to anything physical/in the air, and so it proved.

    RvP again demonstrating what our transfer policy (until his acquisition) has lacked for 5+ years – buying world class. I’m struggling to think of another purchase Fergie has made in the last 5 years who has markedly improved the team. Lots of youngsters (many loaned out never to be seen again) and squad players, but no-one who has made the impact RvP has. Look at the team & there is an obvious gap between the 30-somethings and the early 20-somethings. Very little at the peak age of 25-30. This is mis-management and it is hurting us, especially when it comes to world-class talent in key positions (e.g. midfield/defence). Further, hearing that a heavy Old Trafford pitch is unsuitable for our most combative DM, Darren Fletcher, must send shivers down the spines of the likes of Real Madrid.

    Sadly I also don’t think we have the coaching staff capable of producing a world class player of our own. Welbeck, one of our our best home grown hopes, for example, looks like a drunken sailor in comparison to RvP – always slowing the play down and turning back/playing safe in critical positions rather than having vision & playing the early ball. Kagawa, though clearly not match fit, looks a shadow of the player we signed from Dortmund. What are we teaching our youngsters in training? Why is Powell not coming on instead of 40 yr old Giggs? What has happened to Valencia?

    Bottom line – world class players tend to make a difference. We have very few of them (and no, the Premier League should not be our barometer of quality). It seems Fergie has accepted that wining the League is his is goal rather than having serious ambitions in Europe. I for one would be much happier with #4 than #20. Bring in a couple of world class players in key positions and this side would be transformed! Why are we f…ing around? We have the money but not the guile. The time is now Fergie!!

    • The_Philosopher

      6 January 2013 at 06:29

      @ForeverRed: I like your angles. You make some good points.

      The purchase of Robin van Persie really does throw into question our transfer policy that refuses to buy quality and prefers to buy unproven yet high potential players.

      I think there should be a balance between buying ready made players and future prospects.

      As far as I understand Ferguson likes developing players. He likes to teach them his way of playing football rather than buy a proven player who has ‘alien’ philosophies. It seems as though Ferguson doesn’t like to teach old dogs new tricks. He wants to have his own dogs in the squad. Dog’s that will listen to him.

      With some players buying them young is good. Chicharito is a prime example. He is going to turn into a brilliant player because he works hard and he is willing to sacrifice for the team. Thats the kind of player that Ferguson likes.

      The problem with buying youngsters only is that some of them don’t turn out well. When they’re young they look like they have potential but as the years roll on things just don’t quite come together for them.

      Its a good policy to some extent but it has its flaws as well. Ferguson needs to balance the policy. One out of the box ready to deliver player for every three high potential youngsters.

      And I agree that Ferguson’s ambition seems to be satisfied with winning the premier league while we languish in Europe. Our squad is good enough to grind out a title in England. But thats all we can do right now is work hard and grind out results. When we face a truely quality outfit like Barca no amount of talentless grinding can save us. Our lack of world class quality is ruthlessly exposed.

      That said Ferguson is the best pipeline manager I have ever seen. He just keeps producing briliant squad after brilliant squad. He has built and rebuilt his squads successfully over his 26 years. How many managers can boast that?

      And I totaly hear you on the Giggs issue. Nick Powell should be playing all the games Ryan Giggs is getting in midfield!

    • Stephen

      6 January 2013 at 16:19

      @ForeverRed: Was that Giggs who played the ball of the match to RvP? Give credit when it is deserved.
      It is not the training with Kagawa, he is struggling with the pace of English football, simple, lets not do the blame culture thing it is boring.

      • The_Philosopher

        7 January 2013 at 11:31

        @Stephen: I have to confess actually. I think Giggs did get the ball to van Persie for the match saving draw.

        I think I should shut up about Ryan Giggs. Ferguson got it right today. It seems like only a fool would question Ferguson’s judgement.

        Its not entirely surprising however. Giggs is a brilliant player. His only issue is that he lacks fitness at his age.

        The problem comes in because he can’t perform well every game. And in the games that he sucks in you wish Powell or someone else had been chosen. But every now and then Giggs comes up with a valuable performance.

        What can you do?

        In Ferguson I trust.

      • ForeverRed

        9 January 2013 at 01:32

        @Stephen: Stephen – Giggs has been one of our best players over the Holiday Period and his pass to RvP was inch perfect. Fantastic goal all round.

        I am lamenting the broader problem of a lack of world class in the key 25-30 age range – other than RvP that is. The combination of our transfer policy and the failure of our academy to produce such talent in the 2000-2005 period is responsible for this given that if such players had been coming through as 18 year olds in that period, they would now be in their prime. Sadly I can’t point to any. Instead we are left with an unbalanced situation of too many players in, or approaching, the twilight of their careers at one end and with one or two exceptions (e.g. Rafael, because he’s been given a good run of games),largely unproven youth at the other. Other than RvP who was a notable exception to our transfer policy over the last few years, there is very little else to point to in the prime age range that could be labelled as world class.

        So with all our money and facilities, why do we have such a poor record over the last 10 years of developing world class players through our academy system? I’m not saying that this is unique to Utd given the state of Home Nations football in general, but Utd should be particularly concerned about given our history, current transfer policy and need to compete at the highest level.

        • Redrich

          9 January 2013 at 02:42

          @ForeverRed: Yes and yes. The failure of our youth policy is striking and the lack of WC players is lamentable. Totally agree.
          I think Ferguson thought he could repeat the class of ’95 at will. Wave his magic wand at the academy and we would reload cheaply. This certainly came as good news for the Glazers, who backed him to the hilt.
          He got Ronaldo and Rooney and United rode their coat tails until Ronaldo moved on, United have been in decline since!

          The better approach, IMHO, is to to have a bilateral philosophy that aims to improve the team by both developing youth and adding experience as older players fade away.
          You keep the team in touch with the top level, you give the younger players solid mentors, and most importantly, you do not waste money and valuable time on players that have no chance at all making the grade.

          I would guess that with the signing of RVP and the success he’s brought us, there may well be a sea-change now. Coupled with SAF’s manic desire to tear the trophy away from citeh, we might see a few shocking signings (dare I say Lampard).

          If there would be one thing that could stain SAF’s reputation, it would be his capitulation to the penny pinching ways of the Glazers.

  5. Owen

    6 January 2013 at 08:35

    Amount of money spent combined on Kagawa,Young and Jones is ridiculous.All 3 are mid-table quality.It seems RVP,Rooney,Evra,Rafael and Carrick are only players capable to wear United jersey .These players make others look good.Rest all are useless.

    • ash is the man

      6 January 2013 at 09:27

      @Owen: i think jones will develop well, he just needs time, he is extremely young and raw, i agree with the other two, i think young is ok because he can be a squad player, however i dont like the notion that some people believe kagawa should be replacing rooney as our number ten 🙄

  6. Warzycha

    6 January 2013 at 13:11

    Oh, I can see other pals here are saying that we lack the world class players and we can’t compete for the champions league. I agree with you in most of what you re saying.

    I ‘m not trying to say we are no good or we ONLY need WORLD CLASS. I just believe we need a serious physical presence in the field. Carrick is slow, Evra is tired in this age, Vidic is not the defensive force he used to be and hopefully he will be the 80-90% of the player he was. Same goes for Ferdinand. Young is not the player we bought. We lack the 25-30 years old players who are match winners, as ForeverRed said. We also had so many injuries in the past two seasons that you can’t really say “Oh, that’s a fit Manchester United and all the stars will give their 100%”. No, we never had that in the past two seasons.

    In the end, if we give Chicha ,Nani, Rafael, Kagawa, Cleverley (<-love this guy) and Anderson the time to mature, we will have a great attacking squad. This squad already produces so many goals! Think about having these 6 young lads fit and in their peak age!!!
    (PLUS we have got Smalling and Jones, who will become great great players)


    So, if Scholes stops football in the end of the season, I can see SAF buying a very athletic midfielder . And if Ferdinand stops too, I can see him buying a great defender. If Giggs leaves the team, then he buys a great winger too. 🙂
    That's a great team in the making.

  7. Redrich

    7 January 2013 at 02:39

    I would doubt that many here would argue that the 24m for RVP wasn’t worth it. His addition probably not only singlehandedly allayed a possible poor season, but has turned us into contenders for 3 competitions.
    He has stamped his mark, indelibly on our club, and will, no doubt, be thought of as a United legend, along with the likes of Cantona, RVN, Cole and Ronaldo.

    But how would you feel if RVP is now at the height of his potential, that we are seeing the very best he has to offer now, and that we should expect a decline from this season on?
    He’s 29 years old and if history has proven one thing, it’s that strikers are the most potent between the age of 26 – 29 and that the decline after that (in terms of goal production) is usually quite dramatic. They are still quite useful for a few years to come, but not the game changing usefulness that we see of RVP now.
    Consider also that Rooney, at 27, may not ever fulfill his potential. His career has stalled and time is running out for him to make the statement that would make him the contender for the Ballon d’Or, or our most valuable asset, or even a great striker that could join those mentioned above.

    The cost of a striker is the most expensive of all, and if you pick the right one, the returns are the most profitable. I would say that RVP was a good investment, and if Ferguson was to do the same again in the summer, it would also put black ink on our win/loss column.
    As much as we see the need for MF and defensive help, there is no denying that money well spent on a striker, is goals/wins/trophies in the bank.

  8. Stephen

    7 January 2013 at 10:17

    Owen, don’t you think you are being a little premature writing off a 20 year old? Jones for me will come good, he has plenty of ability and has been pushed from pillar to post. Fergie needs to settle on one position, which for me is centre back and play him solely there.

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