Glorious homecoming for Joe Cole overshadowed by Dutch of class of Robin van Persie
Late equaliser from RVP denies Sam Allardyce a famous victory over his old sparring partner
The mutual admiration between the managers of West Ham and Manchester United broadened out to include just about everyone who spoke of Robin van Persie following an exciting 2-2 draw between the clubs at Upton Park on Saturday.
The worry for Sam Allardyce, a long-time friend of Sir Alex Ferguson, is that Van Persie's will be the name in the headlines again after the replay at Old Trafford on Wednesday week.
The Dutchman scored the only goal of the Premier League game there – the fastest of the season at 32 seconds – when the teams met in November, inflicting West Ham's fifth successive defeat at the ground. On Saturday, he appeared for only the last 25 minutes, including the crucial period of added time during which he saved United from one of their occasional early exits from the competition that have prevented them adding to a record 11 wins.
It was the manner of the late equalising goal and Ryan Giggs's assist, as much as the sheer drama of it, that was on all lips afterwards. "Something they can show to kids, how to move and finish in the last third," said United's captain Nemanja Vidic.
"One of the classiest goals you will see this season," added Allardyce, whose own captain Kevin Nolan acknowledged: "What a touch and a finish, what a ball. Hats off to them."
Then there was local hero Joe Cole, who against most other teams would have assumed that he had assured victory by setting up both goals for James Collins before retiring wearily to the substitutes' bench after 78 minutes of an emotional return to the East End. "He is different class and in his prime, he is hard to stop. He is just sublime," Cole said poetically. "You take away Messi and Ronaldo and he's probably the best player in the world. Technically, he is fantastic. Moving central means there is a bit less running in there and he can use his technique and use his finishing, which is just incredible.
"He uses both feet. He is a joy to watch and a pain to play against. To be fair to us, you can't point the finger at anyone, it was just a world-class ball from Giggs and a world-class finish."
Cole, "really choked up" by the warmth of the reception he received, drew much appreciation for his own performance and it was easy to imagine Andy Carroll in particular salivating at the two crosses he put in for Collins to head home.
With Matt Jarvis, a second-half substitute, also excellent at delivery from the flanks, Ferguson believes West Ham are "the best team in the league" at crosses and set pieces.
That would suggest they do not need the 37-year-old former England captain David Beckham, a spectator on Saturday, even though Allardyce mischievously declined to rule out the possibility. "You never know," he said afterwards.
Another striker to follow Marouane Chamakh on loan, the Brazilian Wellington Paulista from Cruzeiro, is a far more likely arrival this week, although Allardyce could also enter the race for Loïc Rémy. Meanwhile Carroll and the influential midfielder Mohamed Diamé could both be fit for the replay.
Latest in Sport
A tight game could be in prospect here. Northampton have been keeping things very tight of late and ...
by Gareth Purnell
18 May 2013 02:01 AM
I can’t ever watch games of football or rugby without wistfully wondering what it must be like to be...
by Martin Ayres
16 May 2013 05:10 PM
Since PSG’s exit to Barcelona in the Uefa Champions League quarter-final in April, PSG have been sur...
by Matthew Riding
15 May 2013 02:37 PM
Stoke City investigate 'religious abuse' after 'pig's head is found in Kenwyne Jones' locker'
Is David Beckham one of the Premier League all-time greats? He's not even in the top 1,000 says Chris Waddle
Groundhog day looms for Arsène Wenger as Arsenal battle for a place in the Champions League on final day
Andre Villas-Boas ready to spark Tottenham revolution
One last swipe at Manchester City and then Sir Alex Ferguson was gone...
- 1 Stoke City investigate 'religious abuse' after 'pig's head is found in Kenwyne Jones' locker'
- 2 Gove’s lesson: spare the comma, spoil the child
- 3 Ukip captures Labour fortress in South Yorkshire by-election
- 4 You thought Ryanair's attendants had it bad? Wait 'til you hear about their pilots
- 5 Join Ryanair! See the world! But we'll only pay you for nine months a year
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.