WE played West Ham United yesterday; it was a game in which we stole a replay from the jaws of certain knock out. West Ham do not have a hex over us, nor does Sam Allardyce, it was not a case of us not taking the FA Cup seriously; it’s just Manchester United doing what Manchester United do so well and so often, it’s almost becoming boring. Some credit does have to go to West Ham though; returning Hammer hero and Kop flop Joe Cole did make a return and did quite well for a lad who has been exiled in France for some time.
I HATE West Ham United. I hate the fact that there fans seem to think they have a divine right to stay in the Premiership and I hate the fact that when we had the chance to put them out of it last season, we played like our boots were made out of treacle. I hate them because whatever their season is like up to the time they play us, if they have a chance to trip us up they will take it.They like to think they have a voodoo over us and who can argue, after all the dents have given us along the way. Kenny Brown’s goal and one moment of glory for the relegated team that suddenly turned into Brazil for the game against us, 1995, last year, take your pick. Last year really didn’t hurt us that much, it would have been nice to relegate them for all that they had done to us, but we did pinch their one and only decent player so call that even. They think they won the world cup, they think their academy is a dynasty and their style of play is essential to the Premier League.
If it were all one the line in one game, the opponents were West Ham, the venue was Upton Park and we had to collect a win to be crowned the best team in the Universe, you can bet a fair wedge that West Ham would play their best performance ever and crow about how they screwed us over once again. Sir Alex said as much a few years ago about Leeds, that for some teams you’d think it was more important to get a result against United to stop them winning the league, than anything else. West Ham United is one of those teams.
“When that happens, particularly when the team is motivated against you, you are going to get a hard day, and we had a hard day.”
SIR ALEX FERGUSON YESTERDAY
Yet friends the United of Old Trafford is made of stern stuff. Defeat is never terminal, success is never permanent. We will not finish the year on top of the league like we would have wanted to but the damage is only minor and this defeat has come at a time in the season where form can be recovered. We just have to play better, dear God we must play better.So as you see I do have an irrational hatred of West Ham United, but it is based rationally on a set of circumstances and results that really stick in the throat both when they happened and now. I make no apologies for raking over the West Ham subject once again because you can bet the bubble blowers will be dining out on yesterdays result for some time.
First things first I thought today was going to be all poetic and historic. As it happened, only the historic part caught on because we got our trophy back, or rather the Busby Babes delivered it back to us, nice touch I thought. But I missed the poetic part, the part where we sent West Ham spiraling into the fizzy cola leagues like the rest of the Premiership wanted, and finally gained payback for both of those days at Upton Park when they played their part in denying us championship success. That day when that West Ham no mark turned up and scored to defeat us in 1992, his one and only moment of West Ham glory, and that day when try as we might we just couldn’t put the ball in the net. It was all so poetic, we would finally get revenge and do what the whole of the stadium (bar the ones ‘forever blowing bubbles’) wanted: Send ‘em Down!
Of course the ability to perhaps send them down relied on us actually being able to play a half decent game today and despite dominating the game for huge parts of it, we didn’t seem to be able to shift the wall that the Hammers had erected. Despite my words of praise for Darren Fletcher elsewhere this season, nothing could convince me that Kieran Richardson is worthy of the same praise, certainly not today. You see I freely admit now that Darren Fletcher is worth the medal that hangs around his neck, when we needed him he turned in a solid performance or two. He is the microwave meal of footballers, you can probably get better but when there is no time for absolute total quality, he is adequate enough to fill a hole. You wouldn’t want a microwave meal all the time but when you need it, it is there for you. Like a microwave meal, you can sometimes be surprised by the quality you find in the finished product. I can only hope Kieran Richardson played today and most of the other times in the past few weeks, because Sir Alex wants to sell him.
The players we had out there should have had enough to win the game so to use the ‘weakened side’ argument is wrong and disrespectful to the players who were out there. Ronaldo, Rooney et al also turned up for the second half and still couldn’t break through. West Ham get one chance and bury it, and it happens to be the player that is at the centre of the storm. A good player he is too, one that I highly doubt will be wearing West Ham colours next season. Most of the league wanted West Ham to go down, me included, not only for the reasons already stated but for the fact that this player who is supposedly legally registered with the club, a fact that many managers and chairman elsewhere doubt, has been the focal point of their revival and possibly should not have been playing at all.
Dave Whelan says that he and other club chairman are prepared to take this further and see that West Ham are dealt with in courts. I do not know how much water any case will hold but I do know that in other cases points were docked and huge potentially crippling penalties were imposed. As a Lancashire lad born and bread I speak specifically of the Bury FC incident when they unknowingly fielded an ineligible player and were subsequently thrown out of the FA Cup and ordered to pay back prize money and gate receipts because of a simple case of one mistake with paperwork. West Ham on the other hand were knowingly deceptive in their dealings and admitted to such to the Premier League. Not for one minute would they have stood up and asked for the points deduction instead of the monetary fine but it does make you wonder. Bury, nor any of the other smaller clubs that this has happened to, do not have 5 million pounds to give away in fines but when a fine was suggested for the Shakers it was suggested by the powers that be that in the interests of equality the punishment should be competition based rather than financial. In the case of West Ham that has not happened. I seriously doubt that anything will now happen to the club, it may all be viewed as done and dusted by the Premier League.
I should also say that this is in no way an intended defence of Sheffield United or their manager Neil Warnock. Warnock has gone through this season blaming every single other person that he can for the results of his side, West Ham, Manchester United’s line up today, referee A, referee B. Quite frankly the man needs to look closer to home as to the reasons for his sides relegation. The sort of form his side put together recently was relegation form, his stubborn desire to stick to 4-5-1 did not help and I am glad that moaning loudmouth is out of the Premiership.
But then again, relegation is not my concern. I did after all just witness my team claim our trophy back. It was the last game of the season for me at the Theatre of Dreams and what a wet, cold, but unbelievably happy way to see out the season. There was this moment where everyone was gutted about the performance and urging us to score then a second later, as the clock showed only a minute remaining it was as if we suddenly remembered that we had a trophy to collect. We must play better next week at Wembley but I have a feeling we will, we would have done if this game had meant more to us in terms of winning the league, it would have been nice to end on a victory but it doesn’t really matter. The gap between us and Chelsea was SIX points at the end of the season, now that is a gap – it’s not the size of the gap it’s what you do with it but the fact that Chelsea didn’t claw us back to within one or two points is impressive.
Nine Premiership titles, 16 in total…we got our trophy back!