A game of two halves. Wayne Rooney‘s early goal set the tone for a first half in which United rarely looked troubled. The midfield combination of Anderson and Giggs were able to pick passes at will with West Ham sitting back and not putting pressure on the ball.
West Ham couldn’t string together anything dangerous and they were getting hit on the counter with Giggs’ passing spearheading our great first half. But, for all our good play, we couldn’t get another goal and a resurgent West Ham was almost inevitable.
Instead of coming out and attacking, we came out and sat back. Soaking up pressure instead of dealing it out, if it wasn’t for a great defensive performance there would of certainly been at least extra time. It was a second half riddled with complacency and a lack of urgency that nearly came back to bite us.
Welcome back boys. Wayne Rooney, Anderson and Nani all made their returns from injury tonight to leave our squad almost fully fit – when was the last time a United fan could say that?
Rooney, as expected, didn’t look match sharp but give him a few games and he should be back to his fluid best. We’re still yet to see Rooney and van Persie firing on all cylinders together but it is a combination that could potentially fire us to silverware this season.
As for Nani, forever maligned, I’m so glad he is back in the squad. His individuality, his willingness to take on a defender and shoot, is something we haven’t had on the wings all season. Misfiring Valencia and predictable Young aren’t game changers in the fashion that Nani is. His ability to carve something out of nothing means you have to put up with the frustrations of him missing because you know that it will be a goal every so often.
Anderson did OK tonight. He was imposing in the first half yet rather invisible in the second. He faded and was taken off just after the hour but his glorious pass to Hernandez was my moment of the match. It’s good to see that his confidence is still up there from his pre-injury form, he just needs to keep working to maintain that match sharpness.
Giggs really has still got it. What a man-of-the-match performance that was from the 39-year-old Welsh wizard. He’s had a fantastic month with his 50-yard pass to set up van Persie’s equaliser, his cameo against Swansea and tonight’s performances all standing out.
Even in the 93rd minute, he was bursting a lung for the ball in space to run it into the corner. After the game, Sir Alex heaped praise on him and said he will be playing on for at least another year – I certainly hope so.
Earlier in the season, I doubted his ability to start matches but on his merits tonight, he still has it in the tank. I need to start yoga…
England’s future centre backs. Simply put, if not for Jones and Smalling, West Ham would most certainly have scored at least once tonight. They were phenomenal together. Using their experiences of playing with each other for England’s U21s previously, they look at ease alongside each other.
When one runs to meet the ball, the other sits and vice versa. They have a natural working relationship that normally takes years to build between defenders. Certainly the future of England at centre-back, there is a strong case to argue they are the future for Manchester United too.
Jonny Evans will certainly have something to say about that but you only have to look at Adams and Keown to see the positive benefit of a centre-back partnership playing at club and country level together.
All round improvements from Hernandez. His assist for Wayne Rooney‘s goal tonight was his 7th of the season. For a player considered simply to be a finisher, that is a fantastic return and United’s second highest this season.
A first touch, incisive passing and intelligent interplay are all aspects Hernandez has added to his game this year. He is quickly maturing into a forward with far more to his game than simple predatory instincts. He is blossoming in the shadow of van Persie and if he continues at the rate he is doing, he can make himself a world beater. At only 24, he has so many years ahead of him.
Penalties. Wayne Rooney has missed 40% of the penalties he has taken for Manchester United (10). A staggering figure. Simply put – why is he still taking them? Ryan Giggs was on the pitch tonight and he hasn’t missed a penalty for United in a competitive fixture since 1992.
With van Persie in the team, surely Rooney can’t take any more penalties? He just reeks of a man without confidence on the penalty spot. He had a period last year where he kept spooning them but a brace of penalties away at Stamford Bridge seemed to kick that into touch. Evidently not.
Rooney might be one of the worlds most complete footballers but when it comes to penalties, I’d rather see someone else taking them.