West Ham fans, seeing their side 1-0 down so early, must have been fearing an onslaught. But the Reds didn’t threaten again until Nani and then Smalling went close in the 28th minute. Nani’s superb, screwed volley looked for all money like it was arrowing into the bottom corner before Daniel Potts intervened on the line. In the next phase of play, Chris Smalling met Rafael’s cross eight yards out but could only head straight at Jaaskelainen.
Before the break, Nani let fly with a speculative 25-yard effort, Rooney forced Jaaskelainen into a smart stop from similar distance and Anderson squandered a half-chance after linking well with Hernandez. In contrast, West Ham looked toothless, failing to test Anders Lindegaard in the first period.
The Reds should have been 2-0 up inside three minutes of the restart, but wayward finishing by Hernandez meant Alou Diara’s error on the edge of his penalty area went unpunished. There followed a spell of sustained West Ham pressure, although solid United defending – particularly from Phil Jones – ensured Sir Alex’s men didn’t concede.
The visitors came mightily close, mind you. It took a goal-line clearance from Rafael to keep Matt Taylor’s cross-come-shot out of the net, while the same player almost curled a right-footed effort into the top corner minutes later.
Good work by Rafael then teed up Hernandez, but Jaaskelainen spread himself bravely at the Mexican’s feet to smother his goalbound effort. Sam Allardyce, perhaps sensing cracks developing in the Reds’ defence, made a double substitution, while Sir Alex brought on Michael Carrick to anchor the midfield. The former Hammer brought calm to United’s engine room and restricted the visitors’ counter-attacking.