From one extreme to another, United followed Saturday’s 7-1 Barclays Premier League hammering of Blackburn Rovers with a disjointed 4-0 Carling Cup quarter-final defeat away to West Ham, surrendering the Reds’ two-year grip on the trophy and ending a 29-game unbeaten run in all competitions for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.
West Ham, playing with the shackles off from their struggles against relegation in the league, looked hungrier and certainly more organised than United, who could conjure none of the verve and magic of the weekend’s demolition of Sam Allardyce’s side, and instead at times seemed intent only on defensive self-destruction.
Despite United’s success in this competition in recent years it still does not top the list of priorities, but that will not soften the blow of a frustrating and disappointing night in East London as United missed out on a 13th appearance in the semi-finals of the League Cup.
For the trip to a snow-capped Upton Park, Sir Alex made ten changes from the team that so freely took Blackburn apart at Old Trafford, with only Anderson surviving from the weekend’s starting XI. Although there was widespread change in the United ranks, the team still boasted plenty of senior men, with Anderson joined in central midfield by Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher.
An early flurry of West Ham possession quickly gave way to a spell of United dominance, and the Reds had the first chance after seven minutes following a series of raids down the right side. After several attempted crosses, John O’Shea’s sidefooted ball found Gabriel Obertan. The Frenchman took two touches to create space for a shot, which Rob Green brilliantly tipped onto the post. Javier Hernandez slid in at the far post for the rebound, but James Tomkins beat the Mexican to the ball.