The most recent knockout competition meeting was in the Carling Cup in November 2010, in which West Ham hit four goals past a much-changed Reds side. Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez were all involved that night and were named in United’s side for this visit to Upton Park.
Only five starters from the 4-0 league win over Wigan on New Year’s Day remained in the team: De Gea, Evans, Cleverley and Hernandez, while Rafael kept his place but was pushed forward into a midfield diamond. Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick were rested, while van Persie was among United’s substitutes.
It was a scrappy, somewhat formless start to the game but chances soon flowed freely at both ends. After nine minutes a sliding Chicharito couldn’t quite connect with Smalling’s pass across goal, while West Ham quickly went up the other end and from a corner Paul Scholes cleared a header off the line and Nemanja Vidic mopped up from the rebound.
United had the ball in the back of the net as the sprightly Shinji Kagawa picked out the run of Chicharito, who squared for Welbeck to finish past Jussi Jaaskelainen. Chicharito, however, was clearly offside. United had been gradually ramping up the pressure on the West Ham goal when Vidic’s header from Alexander Buttner’s corner was cleared off the line by young Dan Potts.