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.
Just after the half-hour mark on a now rare foray forward, Chicharito crossed to the far post for Giggs, but the Welshman’s free header was straight at Green rather than making him work. But it was by no means a Reds resurgence. On 37 minutes Spector, who made eight appearances starting out his career with the Reds, was again allowed to break forward from midfield. As United failed to clear the ball, Spector gleefully pounced for his second goal of the game and United went in at the break 2-0 down.
Sir Alex had no choice but to make a change at half time. Bebe was sacrificed as the Reds switched to a 4-4-2 formation with Federico Macheda joining Chicharito up front; Obertan subsequently moved to the right and Giggs took up his new post on the left. There immediately seemed more purpose and