Tuesday, February 10

United we fall

West Ham 0 Manchester United 1

The omens are good. Not only has DC driven Jo, Alastair and myself to the game (great idea closing the District line on a match day, TFL) he’s got us there by the unprecedented time of 3.10pm. Carlton Cole has been called up for England. Eight words I never thought I'd write. Oh, and Jo has injured her shoulder making chocolate brownies, which surely rivals Dave Beasant injuring himself dropping salad cream on his toe and Rio Ferdinand pulling a muscle in his leg watching TV.

Inside the literary and political salon that is Ken’s CafĂ© there’s a minor melee over the Lapsang Souchong when DC leaves the door open (“Oi! Tall Boy! Shut the bleedin’ door!” exclaims Carol) before we head to the environs of the East Stand.

As the sides emerge there’s a proper rendition of Bubbles and big cheers for Carrick, Ferdinand and Tevez. There’s even a chorus of “There’s only one Carlos Tevez!” Wonder if we’ll be quite so generous if he scores.

Despite the tube closures a large contingent of Man United fans have made it from Guildford and chant “Where’s you famous Danny Dyer?”

"We support our local team!" and “Live round the corner! You only live round the corner!” reply the Bobby Moore Stand.

It’s a tight game. Tevez looks lively and Ronaldo dangerous, even if he does perform several somersaults every time Lucas Neill breathes on him. Berbatov plays a lovely through ball only for Giggs to be dispossessed by an immaculate tackle from Upson. Lucas Neill has a shot saved by Van der Saar, then Noble plays a great through ball to Carlton Cole. Encouragingly CC outpaces Rio Ferdinand, but then, in front of Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho, he tries to chip the keeper instead of shooting hard and low.

Collison has a jinking run ended in their box, only for United to counter with Green making a fantastic save from Ronaldo’s shot. Ronaldo heads wide from a corner for the Mancs. “They’re just another route one side, relying on set-pieces,” scoffs Matt.
Cole has another shot blocked by the admirable Vidic before half-time.
“Do you think United can hold on?” we ask on the East Stand forecourt.

We start off well after the break and spontaneous choruses of Bubbles waft around Upton Park. Although we could do without the bad taste Ronaldo “tunnel” song. Neill has another shot saved and then Cole brings the ball down beautifully before outmuscling Vidic and being brought down. Vidic is booked and it’s a very good sign that Cole can trouble the best centre backs.

But you can’t write off United. The likely champions suddenly punish pour only mistake. Scholes knocks the ball wide to Giggs, Cole dives in only for the Welsh winger to trick him and Parker before driving low past the unsighted Green. The Surrey tribes in the Centenary Stand go wild.

But we don’t fold. A great move between Parker and Noble sees Cole’s shot blocked at the last. Tevez shoots over for the visitors, substitute Savio fires in a great cross, Ronaldo has a penalty claim dismissed and at the death Collison shoots wide.

‘Three points dropped today, two against Arsenal, we may have to write off the title,” is my verdict. But in DC’s motor we agree that the game was encouragingly close. Both full-backs got forward really well and the newly-signed Ilunga had maybe his best game for the Hammers. Best of all, Noble had a great game and Collison looked completely at home against the likely champions. United look the best team to visit Upton Park this season, but hey, we gave them a game.

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