The goal



Having spent the best part of a decade chasing an 12th FA Cup victory, Manchester United’s stars certainly did a fine job of nearly trashing this year’s attempt at overcoming the first obstacle. From a goal ahead at West Ham United on Saturday, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side was saved at the last by a strike of such quality it deserved to win the tournament itself.

Little wonder the Scot led the eulogies post-match, both for van Persie’s late late strike, and the man who has transformed United’s season. Indeed, while United leads the Premier League by a healthy seven points there are apparently few at Old Trafford who do not desire another successful trip to Wembley.

Certainly, those supporters traveling to east London seek a return better than United suffered in 2005 and 2007 when Ferguson’s men lost in finals at Cardiff and Wembley.

Yet, for more than half an hour United laboured after falling behind to an unlikely brace of headers by James Collins – a pair of crosses supplied by the returning Joe Cole.

Ferguson’s side, suffering for six changes and more than one player deployed out of position, struggled not only for cohesiveness in attacking areas, but a defensive uncertainty that has become the pattern for the campaign. Twice United failed to cut out delivery from wide areas; twice Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidić lost their man.

Fortunate, then, that van Persie and Giggs should conjure up one of the finest strikes of the season to take these sides back to Old Trafford in 10 days time.

“When you’re 2-1 down with a couple of minutes left you just hope you get a break,” said Sir Alex Ferguson moments after Manchester United’s injury-time equaliser at Upton Park.

“But the manner of goal – the pass from Ryan Giggs and first touch from Robin van Persie and his finish – is absolutely world-class.”

Empty cliché it may be, but Ferguson’s blandishment to a goal made in Cardiff and finished, quite wonderfully, by Rotterdam’s finest, was every bit as “world-class” as it gets. From Giggs’ 50 yard pass, struck deliciously on the half-volley inch perfect into van Persie’s path, to the Dutchman’s sublime control, second touch and low finish past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Yet, in six short months United fans have come to expect little else from van Persie, who now has 20 goals in 26 appearances this season. The comparison is inconsequential, of course, but by the same stage of the 2007/8 season, in which Cristiano Ronaldo went on to score 42, the Portuguese was a goal short of van Persie’s number.

It is a sign, says Ferguson, of a player who has “brought maturity to our front line.”

Captain Vidić is more effusive still, lionising the Dutchman as an example to all; a player far better than most United fans dared to believe before he arrived at Old Trafford this summer.

“His touch is magnificent and his finishing is top class,” said the Serbian.

“It is movement from the book, touch from the book, goal from the book. It is something they can show to kids, how to move and finish in the last third. He was magnificent for us, we just hope he is going to be in the same form in the end.”

The real surprise, however, is Giggs’ contribution, not just to van Persie’s goal, but over the extended festive period. A late Indian summer, perhaps, but a glorious one even if performances against Swansea City, Newcastle United, Wigan Athletic and now West Ham turn out to be the Welshman’s last hurrah in a United shirt.

But the real goal secured in United’s draw at Upton Park was not van Persie’s masterpiece per se, but a home draw with Fulham or Blackpool in round four – another shot at Wembley in the late spring.

“We want to stay in the competition and have a go at winning it,” Sir Alex told MUTV.

“We’ve had some terrible draws over the years and been knocked out early, we don’t enjoy that. For us to be losing 2-1 in that game was amazing given the chances we created and the football we played.

“But when you play West Ham you have got to defend your crosses from the set pieces because they are brilliant and the best team in the league at that, but we didn’t do it. When Ryan Giggs headed over the bar, Danny Welbeck hit another over, Tom Cleverley hit one more over and then Shinji Kagawa had one blocked near the line, I thought it wasn’t going to be our day.”

But it was, just about, and the sides will meet again in Manchester on 16 January, in what is now becoming a hugely crowded programme leading up to the Reds’ Champions League fixture with Real Madrid next month. Few in Ferguson’s camp are complaining though, not least the manager whose wild celebration at van Persie’s goal belies an enduring passion for the cup.

Sam Allardyce, who has not always enjoyed a positive relationship with West Ham supporters, declared himself “more than disappointed,” with the result. “We almost feel like we lost in that dressing room.”

That is the nature of conceding late, but the Hammers could hardly have done any more on the day.

After all, as Allardyce put it succinctly – “the finish was just unbelievable.” As the Centenary Stand erupted a little past the 90th minute, thousands of United supporters rose to concur.

Robin van Persie

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  • Denton Davey

    Now we’ve heard about Giggs’ pass, RVP’s touch and the shot but what about RVP little skip that sent him past the West Ham defender ? – he’s even, then he’s leavin’. KAPOW !

    • Mongoletsi

      That’s GiggsWiggsy to you! xx

  • Mongoletsi

    The first goal was pretty good too; good inter play and a fine finish.

  • Scott

    The ’07 final was at Wembley Ed.
    For the second goal I thought Vidic was marking someone else but the defence was a joke as they were a man short, disorganised.
    Loved the strut of Van Persie after the goal.

  • steggo

    Great goal. However football has a way of tempering great moments with absolute lows. Watching that cheating turd from Uruguay celebrate his handball was a disgrace. The creep is not even subtle.Disgraceful.

  • Violent Banana

    Denton and Mongo: the first rant love story?

    3 games against Liverpool, West Ham and Spurs (away) in only 8 days isn’t ideal; but I’d love us to win it this year. 2005 still pisses me off.

  • Scott

    2005 was a travesty but it serves them right that they haven’t won anything since. Karma. Watching the players they had it is unbelievable that they won nothing. There was some tv show on bravo in 05 or there abound and a poll of fans named Arsene as the greatest manager in the history of English football. Even then it was ridiculous but now he looks lost. Financially well run, which is something other clubs should look to but I actually think he’s doing better now than he was a few years ago. Financial constraints and he’s got them overachieving, a few years ago the squad of players were massively underachieving.

  • dozer

    Commenter said:
    2005 was a travesty but it serves them right that they haven’t won anything since. Karma. Watching the players they had it is unbelievable that they won nothing. There was some tv show on bravo in 05 or there abound and a poll of fans named Arsene as the greatest manager in the history of English football. Even then it was ridiculous but now he looks lost. Financially well run, which is something other clubs should look to but I actually think he’s doing better now than he was a few years ago. Financial constraints and he’s got them overachieving, a few years ago the squad of players were massively underachieving.

    The same applies to Mourinho of the present. He’s a fantastic manager but still very overrated.

  • dozer

    This has to be among the goals of the season surely. It’s not just RVP’s skill, but Giggs’ ball and the timing and impact of the goal.

  • Pikey McScum

    Sadly, it’s probably the best thing Giggs will do all season…

  • Spudiator

    To be honest, if that is the best thing Giggs does all season, it’s still not bad. I’d be more concerned if it was the ONLY thing he did all season (which I realise is always a possibility).

  • brianofnazareth

    Pikey McScum said:
    Sadly, it’s probably the best thing Giggs will do all season…

    To be fair to the old fella, he’s done well when called upon this season,West Ham, Newcastle and Swansea, as much as the other midfielders.

  • Chris K

    Im kinda shocked that Giggs has been better on the left lately than Valencia on the right. Better in the final third, and better chances on goal.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    giggs has a spell like this every season, where his absurd xfactor passes start coming off left right and centre, he doesnt give a fuck if it ends with him giving the ball away loads of times, hes still more likely to produce magic than all the other midfielders, except nani

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    And Scholes, who plays passes like that for fun.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    scholes doesnt try the low percentage stuff much anymore

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Low percentage for Scholes is impossible to most.

  • sidney

    Scholes is getting worse off the ball. It’s as though he’s become a parody of himself.
    He only plays for an hour but it’s a long hour. If the press focus on it, and we get a ref who is under pressure, then Scholes is going to be sent off in the first half.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Scholes only has 1 real use, as far as I’m concerned… coach… I wouldn’t even pick him for the silly cups anymore… we’ve too many fringe players who need the games more.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    taggarts blind to it but surely scholes in himself knows he cant hack it

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    I don’t know if you can blame the player… you start out as kid in love with a game down the park, show some promise, and from there on, your every waking moment is spent playing and training, and dreaming of one day playing pro… and then you not only make it, but join one of the worlds best clubs, play for your country, and win a shit load of awards… that would be very, very hard to just walk away from…bit like boxers who don’t know they’re past it… keep going until they get it pounded into their skull… they’re finished.

    Blame Ferguson… he tells them they’ve still got it, so they keep coming back… good thing they’re not fighters… Ferguson would talk them right into brain damage.

  • sheesh

    Neville knew he was past it, much to his credit.

    Why should Giggs and Scholes be any different?

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Would you quit???

    I doubt I would… they’d have to shoot me to get me to quit… or just stop picking me to play.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    he only quit last time cause he werent happy with being a squaddie, then he came back, clearly had been given assurances, and waltzed straight back into the side

    hes more likely thinking he should be playing more now than he should pack it in

    theyre both right not to pack it in tho,

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    When he came back last year though, he was actually an improvement on the rubbish we had… this year though, Ferguson needs to stop this con job… they’re not good enough, and he has no reason to pick them anymore, except to just fly in the face of everyone who disagrees…

  • Scott

    I did think they should have retired after the ’08 CL final, they were not up to it but having seen them over the last few years I think they were capable for the league but Scholes wasn’t capable against the top opposition, though he did score the goal against Barca a year earlier to put United into the final. Giggs had a poor season by his standards last year but he has been decent the last few games,especially that Hail Mary pass, not just a one off. I think he may go on ’til Fergie retires.

    I have to say, I don’t think it’s just Fergie, they are useful players because the Glazers won’t pay money for someone else to come in who is anywhere near their standard and they wouldn’t pay the wages either.
    They might fund a move for someone who isn’t too expensive, maybe 30 million but even then take Giggs and Scholes out of that midfield and there’s no room for injuries. If they were released right now you’d only have Cleverly and Carrick who couldn’t get a rest. Rafael was put on the wing against West Ham so I think the midfield is short on numbers and Fergie just thinks there’s no one out there who can come in and actually make a positive difference. They might pay for a cheap midfielder but what use would they be?

    I think Fergie also likes the way they go about things, their attitude. It’s was well publicised that Fergie didn’t like the attention Beckham attracted and the media circus, maybe he feels these two give out the example of a footballer that he wants the other to follow, especially the young players. Maybe they allow him another way to speak to the players.

    • ForeverRed

      Fergie’s allowing sentimentality to cloud his judgement – Fletcher, Scholes and Giggs are not the future. While they might be ok with occasional roles in the PL campaign, few would claim they they are still the requisite standard for a European Cup challenging side. But while they play, others fail to get the game time they need to develop. You can see why Pogba left, like him or not. This approach will cost us other academy /reserve players without us getting the chance to see if they have what it takes.

      Had RvP not been recruited (credit to Fergie for this) we would still be playing Welbeck every week. Much as I like the guy’s commitment and effort, his goal scoring leaves much to be desired as has been put into context since RvP’s arrival. Welbeck is young though and should be given chances; however, in midfield sadly, we don’t have a world class player to highlight what we are missing in the way that RvP has done up front. Why we don’t address it but still spend big money on squad players like Young and Jones (or as rumoured, another striker) is baffling. Fergie should be going all out to get someone like Wanyama for the same he paid for one of the above squad players who don’t even command nailed on starting positions.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    “Fergie’s allowing sentimentality to cloud his judgement – Fletcher, Scholes and Giggs are not the future”…

    And Lampard is???

    It’s not sentimentality Mate… it’s senility.

  • Spudiator

    To be fair Alf, the Lampard stuff is (at the moment at least) nothing more than media speculation. Unless we go out and actually sign Lampard, which I still highly doubt we will, then you can’t really judge Fergie on that.

    I think Scott hit the nail on the head about Scholes and Giggs’ attitudes, like them or not, they are undoubtedly the consumate professionals in an era of unbelievable egos and prima donnas, and while they’re contribution and influence on the pitch is undeniably on the wane, their influence in the training ground for all the young up-and-coming players could be priceless. Pogba’s been mentioned so many times in this kind of argument, and maybe we were wrong to let him go without putting up more of a fight, but look at Ravel Morrison, he is absolutely the anti-Giggs! Similar kind of player, but a polar opposite in terms of attitude, work-rate and commitment, if we’d kept him, he could’ve been a poisonous influence on the team morale.

    In that respect, I guess you can’t entirely blame Fergie for being just a little sentimental for players like Giggs and Scholes, players of that kind of dedication are so unbelievably rare now, it seems, and I’d imagine he’s desperately clinging onto them in the team just in the hope of using their influence to avoid any more of the youth team taking the Ravel route.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    any problems morrison had with utd wouldve been removed by giving him a go in the side, hed probably have turned out our raheem sterling, dont remember him doing anything worse than refusing to play a game, which scholes has done before, and any wrong doing hes did away from utd dont matter, giggs is hardly the model man

    as for pogba, theres obviously no way it can be twisted into a good thing for utd and the right decision from the manager, an obviously talented teenager left out in favour of park and rafael in cm, now getting games for a side as good as we are, complete fuck up

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Spudiator said:
    To be fair Alf, the Lampard stuff is (at the moment at least) nothing more than media speculation. Unless we go out and actually sign Lampard, which I still highly doubt we will, then you can’t really judge Fergie on that.

    I think Scott hit the nail on the head about Scholes and Giggs’ attitudes, like them or not, they are undoubtedly the consumate professionals in an era of unbelievable egos and prima donnas, and while they’re contribution and influence on the pitch is undeniably on the wane, their influence in the training ground for all the young up-and-coming players could be priceless. Pogba’s been mentioned so many times in this kind of argument, and maybe we were wrong to let him go without putting up more of a fight, but look at Ravel Morrison, he is absolutely the anti-Giggs! Similar kind of player, but a polar opposite in terms of attitude, work-rate and commitment, if we’d kept him, he could’ve been a poisonous influence on the team morale.

    In that respect, I guess you can’t entirely blame Fergie for being just a little sentimental for players like Giggs and Scholes, players of that kind of dedication are so unbelievably rare now, it seems, and I’d imagine he’s desperately clinging onto them in the team just in the hope of using their influence to avoid any more of the youth team taking the Ravel route.

    But I don’t want to get rid of them… I just don’t want them playing anymore… both of them, but especially Scholes, would surely have a lot to offer as coaches.

  • marlon

    Pogba left because United didn’t give him the contract he wanted – said so himself after the move (seems he would’ve been worth the money though). With Morrison, I seem to remember a Fergie quote something like “Get rid of all the cunts”. On Scholes and Giggs, about half our squad are under the age of 25 and among the other half there aren’t many players who would be anywhere near as good an influence as Scholes and Giggs.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    any problems morrison had with utd wouldve been removed by giving him a go in the side, hed probably have turned out our raheem sterling, dont remember him doing anything worse than refusing to play a game, which scholes has done before, and any wrong doing hes did away from utd dont matter, giggs is hardly the model man

    as for pogba, theres obviously no way it can be twisted into a good thing for utd and the right decision from the manager, an obviously talented teenager left out in favour of park and rafael in cm, now getting games for a side as good as we are, complete fuck up

    I agree about Pogba… but my biggest complaint is directed at the Glazers ridiculous contract policy… as soon as it was obvious he was going to be any good, he should have been tied down to a longer contract… not allowed to run it down… that was the biggest fuck up.

    As for Morrison… can’t agree with that… I don’t care how good he is… he’s a nasty little cunt… I can forgive a villainous youth for his crimes, stuck in a life of hardship and poverty… but Morrison had the chance to get out of the gutter, and couldn’t keep his head down… there are a million kids across the country, doomed to ghetto life, who would give their bollocks for the chance that Morrison has pissed away.

  • steggo

    You can never accuse United of being ageist-anyone over 30 guaranteed a game. Where did I put my boots?

    Completely agree with you about Pogba and Morrison,Alfonso. It seems strange that we cannot keep a decent,young CM,we can only fill the gaps with the aged. I wonder how Giggs or Scholes would have felt at the beginning of their career if they had found themselves in that situation. Or has the ethos of the club changed that much over the years?

  • bman

    Yeah I think one we reason why we and other clubs get a lot of academy kids snatched away is because of wages — some other club is willing to offer 20k a week straight away. But I can understand the club not wanting to pay its academy graduates so much so early, because if you do, then what’s the point of having the academy in the first place? If you match the poaching club’s wage offer, then in reality you’d be paying over the market price for the player because you’ve already invested time and money in his training, and then you have to outbid the market just to keep him? If you let that pattern establish itself, it’ll be the end of academies at rich clubs altogether. Besides we’ve nicked our own share of fledglings from elsewhere, notably Pogba in the first place.

  • bman

    But yeah Pogba is a damn shame, because he looks like the sort of player we’ve been waiting for. Morrison is just a pathetic cautionary tale.

  • Pikey McScum

    The actions of mercenary wee cunts like Morrison and Fryers (if reports about how he was “disrespected” are true) are the things that make me more and more disillusioned with the state of the game i.e. players demanding big wages depsite barely breaking into the first team. I suppose on the flipside it’s a reaction to the lack of first team football and someone dangling nicer wages at them elsewhere, but still….wee cunts

  • Tommy

    When has moving away from old trafford ever done anybody’s career any good? Forlan, Tevez… Maybe Beckham, off field. But in footballing terms he’d have been better staying. Not that he forced a move but still. It can be argued that Ronaldo hasn’t had as good of a time since making that “dream move”. There’s not exactly a long line of youngsters who have left (or been allowed to leave) and gone on to do great things. Fuck em. I look forward to watching Fryers waste his career trying to get Tottenham to the knockout stage of the European cup when he could have been winning trophies with us.