West Ham 2 Man United 2: Four lessons as Robin van Persie rescues a point
West Ham 2 Man United 2: What lessons did we learn as the Hammers hold the league leaders to a draw at Upton Park?
Carroll shines in bid to earn West Ham deal
Sam Allardyce was tight-lipped on Andy Carroll’s long-term future at West Ham United in the build-up to this game. The 24-year-old is on a season-long loan at Upton Park from Liverpool but it has been an injury-affected spell. However, the England international has enjoyed a run of games in the Hammers first-team in recent weeks and is starting to produce the type of performances which could convince the east London side to cough up a large transfer fee this summer. Deemed unsuitable for Brendan Rodgers free-flowing Liverpool, Carroll has all the necessary assets to excel under Allardyce. The Newcastle United youth graduate is big and powerful with an impressive work-rate, providing a focal point for the Hammers to direct their attacks. Carroll had a couple of early sightings on David De Gea’s goal before his knock-down from Matt Jarvis’s cross teed up Ricardo Vaz Te, who finished with the United goalkeeper out of position. The forward was at his belligerent best against the league leaders and his tussle with one of the Premier League’s best centre-half pairings was a highlight at Upton Park.
Kagawa groomed to fill Rooney void?
Shinji Kagawa could be the man to fill the void left by Wayne Rooney if the England striker departs for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, as is being speculated. The Japan international wasn’t at his best at Upton Park but there were enough signs to indicate Kagawa could have a big Red Devils future. Ferguson has struggled to shuffle his pack to include the playmaker in his starting line-up at times this season, but with Rooney still unconvincing, the United boss may alter his formation next season to include Kagawa. The former Borussia Dortmund man is a shrewd mover, embracing a tika-taka style of football which wouldn’t be foreign at Barcelona, but still knowing when to thread a telling pass or killer cross. Kagawa was instrumental in United’s opener, shuffling past three West Ham defenders before crossing for Antonio Valencia, who couldn’t miss with the goal at his mercy. Even Ferguson’s decision to haul off Rooney in the 70th minute – and not Kagawa – with United trailing 2-1 highlights the manager’s growing faith in the Asian star – and waning faith in his English forward. Ferguson’s tactical move was justified too as Kagawa’s neat footwork manufactured shooting space in the Hammers area, with his effort rattling the woodwork, with (an offside) Van Persie on hand to tuck away the rebound to level the score at 2-2.
Diame puts his name in the shop window
Mohamed Diame was heavily linked with a move to Arsenal in the January transfer window, with West Ham issuing a club statement from both the player and Sam Allardyce to quash speculation. While it may have bought the Hammers some more time, it’s difficult to see Senegal international staying at Upton Park beyond the summer. The 25-year-old produced a lung-bursting run to lead the counter attack which created Vaz Te’s opening goal for the home side before the midfielder curled a delicious shot out of De Gea’s reach and into the far corner to put the home side ahead in the second half. But it’s not just his attacking abilities which have caught the eye in the English top flight this season. His tireless energy and ability to scrap for the ball are all attributes which would be valued at Old Trafford. Not since Roy Keane’s departure have United boasted a midfielder who has a commanding presence and can win the ball with devastating authority. Diame has just that, and like Yaya Toure, can also drive forward and pose a threat to opposition defenders. Ferguson take note!
Valencia needs to find form after morale-boosting goal
While Michael Carrick and Rafael da Silva have earned the plaudits for an eye-catching season, United winger Antonio Valencia has struggled to replicate his scintillating form which saw him become a key member of the Red Devils side at the back end of the 2011-12 campaign. The Ecuador international has complained about a lack of first-team action in recent weeks but was handed a starting berth at Upton Park. He offered Rafael protection against West Ham’s prolific crosser Matt Jarvis but he struggled to offer much threat going forward. With Wilfried Zaha set to arrive from Crystal Palace in the summer, Nani, Valencia and Ashley Young are all fighting for their respective United futures. The former Wigan Athletic man drew the visitors level just past the half-hour mark as he popped up in the Hammers area to tuck a finish past Jussi Jaaskelainen after good work by Kagawa. Valencia will be eyeing a run of games in the season’s climax to help prove to Ferguson that he still has a future at Old Trafford.