Man United test fans and patience in turgid win

Posted by Mark Payne

Wayne Rooney missed his second penalty of the season against West HamPA PhotosWayne Rooney missed his second penalty of the season against West Ham

Manchester United's history is littered with sublime FA Cup replays. There was a semi-final against Oldham in 1994 that roused emotion. The almighty combat with a tremendous Arsenal side in 1999 also lingers long in the memory. After Ryan Giggs's fabulous long ball and Robin van Persie's game-changing finish in London ten days ago, this match was set to join the pantheon. It didn't, and the most memorable part of the 1-0 win against West Ham was how freezing it was at Old Trafford.

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In many ways, the major news of the day was gazumped hours before kick-off. Pep Guardiola announced that he would be managing Bayern Munich next season and in the process deflated the fans of Manchester City and Chelsea, possibly United's too. It is a subject that will dominate coverage for the next few days.

That shift in focus will probably suit Wayne Rooney, who had a mixed return from his latest, fortuitously timed, injury. Perhaps there will be less of an inquest into his latest missed penalty - that's now ten in a United shirt. A thrashed, lazy effort, which should have buried the game in the second half. More than anyone else, he will be grateful that Hernandez set him up to score an easy goal in the ninth minute.

After that strike though, the game was pretty turgid. Football fans are emotionally invested in their teams for a number of reasons. Whilst those who follow United enjoy their share of glory, one of the reasons they earn the right is because of cold nights and games like this. Behind it all, even if it didn't seem so at times, United are desperate to retain this trophy and it is nearly a decade since the grand old cup resided at Old Trafford.

West Ham weren't that enterprising either. Maybe their players were keen to get back on the coach to London, but rarely did they threaten. The stats inform us that the Hammers registered four shots on target, but I don't remember any of them. Anders Lindergaard had no mud on his knees at the final whistle and enjoyed an easy evening's work.

Sam Allardyce was a little upset at the non-award of a penalty: "We are very disappointed we are not given a penalty which is blatant and clear for the referee to see." It certainly wasn't the slickest defending on show from United, but he was really just angry that they didn't win the initial fixture. In truth, West Ham deserved nothing from this game and that is exactly what they got. United deserved little more, but it turned out to be enough.

FA Cup fixtures have etched the names of legends into the club's history in the past. Where would United be now without goals from Mark Robbins, Mark Hughes or Eric Cantona's double penalties? In 2013, more headlines would have been made if United had fallen at this hurdle. Despite Allardyce's protestations, that was never really in danger. But it certainly wasn't a classic.

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