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.
United appeared in total control, both midfield and defence confidently keeping possession. But on 17 minutes Jonathan Spector, playing in an unfamiliar midfield role, went on a surging, unchallenged run through the centre of the park. He squared the ball to Victor Obinna on the edge of the area and continued his run, but Obinna’s shot struck Spector – now in an offside position – as it deflected past Tomasz Kuszczak. The West Ham players and supporters all celebrated, but the linesman’s flag was up for offside. The decision was completely correct, but a perceived sense of injustice galvanised the home side and within five minutes they legitimately had the lead, via the same combination of players. Obinna, a potent and lively threat all night, twisted and turned before lofting a pass into the area, which Spector glanced past a stranded Kuszczak.
The Reds looked shaken, West Ham were stirred. In midfield United looked overrun, while defensively Sir Alex’s men appeared unsettled. The boss made a move to address the balance of the team by switching his full-backs; Fabio moved to the right and O’Shea to the left.