Monday, 1st January 2001
But a spirited fightback from the Hammers produced a late consolation goal - Freddy Kanoute pounced for his fifth in four games.
Still haunted by the memory of last seasons 7-1 drubbing Harry Redknapp sent out an ultra-defensive 5-4-1 formation. John Moncur was drafted in to add some bite to the midfield, whilst Titi Camara deputised for Paolo Di Canio, whose late withdrawal from the squad due to a heavy cold will undoubtedly have tongues wagging in Fleet Street.
The worst possible scenario would have been a Man Utd goal in the opening minutes - which was exactly what happened. Ole Gunner Sjolskjaer took the ball from Rigobert Song after the defender dithered, and struck the ball across the face of Shaka Hislop from 12 yards to give the home side the advantage inside two minutes.
With the Hammers on the backfoot, Man Utd pressed forward with some urgency. Goal number two duly arrived when Phil Neville's low drive across the box appeared to miss everyone in it's path which wrong-footed Shaka Hislop who could only watch helplessly as the ball rolled into the corner of the net.
It could have been worse had Hislop not pulled off a couple of stunning saves to keep the Hammers in the game. The score remained at 0-2 at the break.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first. Man Utd continued
to press forward, and the third goal came when Dwight Yorke stole between Song and Tihinen to nod home a stunning header following an inviting cross from Roy Keane.
Three up, and Man Utd took their foot off the pedal. Roy Keane and the excellent Ryan Giggs made way for youngsters Greening and Wallwork, which was the cue for the Hammers to start playing.
Joe Cole, brought on at half-time in a double switch with Hannu Tihinen to replace the disappointing Titi Camara and John Moncur began to take a hold on the midfield. Despite lacking match fitness he provided the spark which the Hammers had been lacking in the first period. Harry Redknapp must have been wishing he had started with Cole instead of Moncur, who was totally overrun by the opposition.
Freddy Kanoute began to get a feel for the goal with two strikes which were well saved by Fabian Barthez, before he became only the third player to score against the French keeper at old Trafford this season. Trevor Sinclair's 75th minute corner found the head of Kanoute who nodded home from 3 yards to give the Hammers a glimmer of hope.
With seven minutes left it should have been 3-2. Joe Cole's inch-perfect through ball found Frank Lampard, who skipped around Barthez only to blast over with the goal gaping. Had that gone in the Hammers could have been in line to pull off one of the great escapes in football.
But it wasn't to be, and Harry's men were left to reflect on a first half
in which the game was lost. The result leaves the Hammers in tenth spot in the table - two down on Saturday, and with just three points from nine out of the Christmas period.
The Sky Sports schedulers must have been rubbing their hands with glee when the fixture computer threw that one up. Talk about a dream for New Year's Day, you couldn't have bet on that and of course it had to be the LIVE one.
Obviously they were hoping of a repeat performance of our April fool's Day fixture but on recent match form we did look to be in with a shout. Our festive season didn't really get off to the greatest of starts and I for one was thinking that maybe, we would have a slight dip in form again.
However the away loss at Leicester seemed to kick the lads into shape and we steam rolled Charlton Boxing Day. A Vintage Hammers performance. It was looking like we were in the mood to inflict some damage on Chelsea last Saturday but due to circumstances beyond our control we never got the chance to prove that, so we had to see if we could pull off something today.
I must confess to approaching the match with a bit more confidence than usual but that soon abated when we went 1-0 down after 2 minutes. I had visions of it being into double figures. It was like the Hammer House of Horrors, thank heavens it wasn't a Valentine's day fixture or it would have been a Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. Rigobert Song did redeem himself though after the howler that gave away the first goal but I think the jury is still out about the 2nd goal, with Andy Gray under the impression that Stuart Pearce may have had a final touch.
Boy was I glad to see half time. Our midfield was over run and John Moncur was positively tame. The only player who had actually done pretty well was Shaka because if he had been on an off night then it would have been heading for double figures by half time. It was one of the worst performances I have ever seen by any side against United. What the hell happened. Late night last night lads or was it just the fact that it was United? The latter was hopefully the case.
I was actually contemplating watching the 2nd half partially under a duvet because I honesty thought we were in for another nightmare half. However H made a double substitution and it seemed to kick start the rest of the team.
We had the pleasure of seeing Joe Cole back in the thick of things and actually having a go. He maybe should have been on from the start, it would have freed Frank, Freddie, Titi and Trevor to do their stuff and maybe give us a few more chances. When we went 3-0 down I was considering just leaving my tape run and decamping to bed but Freddie's goal gave me some hope. Yes, I did think that we were capable of coming back. Then Frank missed a sitter.
How he quite managed that I don't know but my feelings towards him were made blatantly clear and I was not impressed. Yes, his number one fan was actually giving him some grief. (Yeah I do give him grief believe it or not.) He should have sunk that in the net. The thing is, he knew it, you could see by the look on his face that he knew that he should have got that in and set us up for a final 10 minutes when maybe we could have equalised. I bet his Dad wasn't amused either.
Its such a shame that we didn't get any points from the game today as I think it would have set us up nicely for the FA Cup and the impending visit of Sunderland on the 13th. I hope that the team go into next week in a better frame of mind than they did tonight and we don't get the Winter blues. We are doing so well, we can get that place in Europe but we need to believe in ourselves a little more. Harry needs to ensure that happens and we need to get behind the team as a whole. Freddie was my man of the night and I think the rest of the team need a good kick up the backside.
Shaka deserves a mention as well, he spared the blushes on numerous occasions.
Last shout of the night goes to Gray for putting up with a Manchester United fan for 90 minutes and being civil. I don't think I could have displayed that much restraint and that is coming from a lady.
Here's hoping for a better few games for us over the coming weeks.
West Ham United: Hislop, Winterburn, Pearce, Song, Lomas, Camara, Lampard, Carrick, Sinclair, Moncur, Kanoute
Subs: Cole (Camara 45), Tihinen (Moncur 45), Forrest, Potts, Diawara
Manchester United: Barthez, P.Neville, G.Neville, Brown, Silvestre, Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Yorke, Solskjaer
Subs: Greening (Giggs), Wallwork (Keane), Butt (Scholes), Van Der Gouw, Clegg
Goals: Solskjaer (2), P.Neville (31), Yorke (56), Kanoute (71)
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