WEST HAM 3, MANCHESTER UNITED 2
Kick off delayed by 45 minutes after fans attack Manchester United coach outside Upton Park
Diafra Sakho with opening goal
Anthony Martial double puts Manchester United back in the driving seat
Late headers for Michail Antonio and Winston Reid win it for West Ham
Manchester United may have dominated possession but it was West Ham who were responsible for most of the excitement as the Reds ceded the initiative back to Manchester City in the race for the Champions League next season with a late winner.
The last game at Upton Park finished with the Hammers recording 20 shots on goal to United’s three, and although United scored both of their on-target efforts it was West Ham who deservedly picked up all three points with three goals from six shots on target to end a famous final night at Upton Park with three vital points towards qualification for next season’s Europa League.
It was end to end stuff as West Ham took the lead through Diafra Sakho only to be pegged back by an Anthony Martial double but they quickly recovered through late headers by Michail Antonio and Winston Reid who secured a famous victory to bring down the curtain on 112 years at the Boleyn Ground.
The final game at Upton Park was delayed for 45 minutes after West Ham fans held up the the United coach as it attempted to enter the Upton Park car park. The incident marred what should have been a celebratory final game at West Ham’s stadium.
Bottles and other missiles were thrown at the coach, smashing some of the windows, and prompting match officials to delay the kick off due to the incident after the United players were trapped in the coach.
West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan was quoted afterwards suggesting, rather incredulously, that:
“Man United should have got here at 4pm. They made the same mistake at Spurs.”
Sullivan claimed that the delay was down to “overexuberant supporters” despite an official police statement emerging that confirmed that “a number of items were thrown at the Manchester United coach”.
“If you check the coach there won’t be any damage to it.” added Sullivan.
Said a dismayed Louis Van Gaal prior to the match: “The way we have been received is not the proper way. That makes always an influence on the players, and that’s a pity.”
United captain Wayne Rooney agreed, declaring that the United coach had been “smashed up.”
And the Football Association released a statement saying: “The FA strongly condemns the unsavoury incidents this evening involving both the Manchester United team coach outside West Ham United’s Boleyn Ground and objects thrown from a section of the home support during the game.
“We will work closely with both clubs and the Metropolitan Police to fully investigate these matters.”
After the game, a disappointed Louis van Gaal refused to blame the coach incident for the result.
“We were 100 yards behind the bus of West Ham United. As a professional, we live in this world and we know this could happen and we have to cope.
“Twenty minutes before the end of the game we were 2-1 ahead, I don’t think it influenced us.” said Van Gaal.
He added: “It’s very disappointing because we were ahead. We had changed the match with two goals and then we gave it away because of set plays.
“The only threat of West Ham is from set plays. We knew this in advance and tried to prepare but we didn’t have the centimetres to to defend them.
“As a manager you are never satisfied but when you are 2-1 ahead after 70 minutes you have to make the pitch bigger and move the ball quicker.”
Anthony Martial returned in the starting line-up after missing Saturday’s game at Norwich with a tight hamstring in the warm-up.
Daley Blind and Marcus Rashford, who were also left out of the side that won 1-0 at Carrow Road, also returned to the side at the expense of Memphis Depay, Michael Carrick, and Jesse Lingard. The latter two were left out due to ‘tiredness’ according to Van Gaal.
United may point to the earlier coach incident which delayed the kick off and perhaps disrupted their preparation but they were well and truly stunned by the energetic West Ham who penetrated the Reds defence with ease to score after ten minutes.
The Hammers clearly wanted to give their fans a proper send-off after their surrender at home to Swansea last weekend, with revenge for their FA Cup quarter-final replay defeat against United also on their minds it can’t have been hard for their manager Slaven Bilic to fire them up.
Upton Park erupted as Aaron Cresswell found Manuel Lanzini down the left side, and the Argentine midfielder’s centre found Diafra Sakho inside the area and he turned and curled in the opener past David De Gea in the 10th minute.
The Hammers should have had two more goals with chances fluffed by Andy Carroll and Dimitri Payet as they started strongly and it wasn’t until shortly before the break before the red hot intensity let up at Upton Park.
United committed more men to attack in the second half and scored the equaliser in the 51st minute when West Ham fans refused to give the ball back to David De Gea. The Spaniard launched it upfield where Marcus Rashford found Juan Mata, who handed Anthony Martial a tap-in to level the scores seconds after the ball left De Gea.
Payet was wasteful again as he spurned two chances to help the Hammers retake the lead, hitting the side netting and seeing his sweet cross fly past Sakho a shade too low for the Senegal striker to effectively head on target.
United were limited to half chances against a physical Hammers side, but they also missed the physical presence of the suspended Marouane Fellaini against Andy Carroll as the Hammers started to go more direct.
Carroll’s header was cleared off the line by Martial as West Ham roused themselves for the final quarter of the game.
But United counter attacked again. Wayne Rooney broke from midfield in the 72nd minute and found Anthony Martial who created space to round Winston Reid and beat Darren Randolph at his near post with a superb finish as he came off his line expecting a cross.
The game was not over yet, though, and Louis Van Gaal had predicted his side’s downfall prior to the game by bemoaning the absence of tall players like Fellaini to defend driven balls into the area by quality players like Payet.
The atmosphere may have been deflated by Martial’s goal but was soon rocking again just four minutes later after a header by Michail Antonio into the top corner from a Payet cross after his initial free kick had gone into the United wall.
And De Gea got a hand to Reid’s header after another fantastic cross by Payet but he couldn’t stop it from going in as the Hammers retook the lead with less than ten minutes to go and the roof came off in East London.
United threw on Jesse Lingard and Adnan Januzaj but failed to rescue a point as United’s Champions League dream began to slip away.
The Reds must now beat Bournemouth on Sunday and hope that City lose at Swansea in order to pip their rivals to a fourth place finish.
As Van Gaal said after the game regarding United’s top four hopes: “It’s still possible but it’s not in our own hands. That is the difference.”