Football: Ince returns with vengeance

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The Independent Online
West Ham United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Chapman 70, Morley 73

Manchester United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Hughes 6, Ince 87

Attendance: 28,832

THIS most evocative of fixtures duly threw up a game to match those thrilling contests that misty memory insists the two clubs produced at will in the Sixties. Bobby Moore, on the day when the stand bearing his name was opened, would have approved; Bobby Charlton in the directors' box undoubtedly did.

The watching Terry Venables must, too, have been encouraged for the game, not least by Paul Ince, who rescued a point for United with a goal three minutes from time as personal reward for a display of character in the face of abuse by fans of his former club. He even had two bananas thrown at him.

West Ham gave a performance of persistence in retaliating from a goal down with two in three minutes and seeming to have inflicted on United only a second Premiership defeat of the season. But the leaders' quality, more patchy than usual in the absence of Ryan Giggs with a thigh tweak and more vulnerable in defence than of late, deserved the recompense of a point. A United below par still show some fine strokes.

Not that their manager Alex Ferguson entirely agreed. 'We were in chaos at times. Our clearances were bad, our marking was bad. It was an uncharacteristic display for us defensively,' he said with rare force. Not that he has needed often to be forceful.

Nor should he have needed to be on this occasion. United were quickly ahead with Eric Cantona, naturellement, the instigator. He supplied Roy Keane on the right and his low cross was met by Mark Hughes, who stole in between Alvin Martin and Ludek Miklosko to slide the ball home.

A header by Trevor Morley was tipped on to a post by Peter Schmeichel as West Ham responded with gusto, unwilling to acquiesce disheartened, as have many this season. Ian Bishop, notably, relished the contest in midfield. But United, with Cantona often dropping deep to augment midfield and spraying the ball around with elan, still had chances aplenty to seal the game, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis guilty of bad misses.

They were duly punished, first when Lee Chapman drove home from close range after the ball had dropped to him from a tussle for Matty Holmes's cross with Denis Irwin. Then came a reminder of United's fallibility. Gary Pallister passed back to Schmeichel, who was robbed by Chapman. Holmes took over, crossing low, and when Schmeichel fumbled, Morley stabbed home from a yard. Upton Park was in uproar.

Then came Ince to provoke noise of a different sort. At first in the match he had seemed uncomfortable at the jeering of fans who still resent his move north for pounds 1.8m four years ago, or more precisely the way they perceive he and his agent engineered it. But now his competitive instincts took over and he was on hand to stab home after Miklosko failed to gather Keane's low cross. Justice, both sportingly and spiritually, had been applied, United's unbeaten run stretched to 33 games.

'We can all take a booing but that was a terrible indictment of a club like West Ham because they don't deserve it. It is sad reflection on life,' Ferguson added. At least on a day of more enduring virtues, which the home manager Billy Bonds preferred to mention even if he would not condemn the jeering, we had an appropriate ending.

Blackburn's woe, page 5

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