James Collins and Joe Cole almost combined for a memorable night at Upton Park, but a late Robin van Persie goal earned Manchester United a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup third round. The two sides will now square off in Manchester for a replay.
Manchester United had all of the ball in the early going, but their chances went begging. Chris Smalling took a long ball and hit a great first time cross for Javier Hernandez, who was alone in front of goal, but the pass was just inches out of his reach. Not long after, Nemanja Vidic very nearly scored, but Daniel Potts cleared the ball off the line to keep West Ham even.
The Hammers, despite not having the ball at all, still did manage to create some chances and it appeared as if Carlton Cole had put them ahead, but his header was also cleared off of the line to keep the match level.
United did finally get the goal they looked bound to get and quieted the boisterous crowd at Upton Park Tom Cleverley smartly finished a good Javier Hernandez pass, but the Hammers had an answer, and then another answer.
The West Ham goals were nearly identical, with Cole picking up assists on both in his return to the Hammers. Twice he hit great crosses in for Collins, who flicked the ball into the side netting each time. They were both lovely bits of play, and both times the Hammers were helped by some dreadful United marking, as the Red Devils looked set to go crashing out of the FA Cup.
With West Ham on the front foot and United struggling for ideas, Sir Alex Ferguson brought Robin van Persie off of the bench, which proved to be a masterstroke (as if bringing on his best striker when down a goal took some deep and extraordinary thinking). Minutes before the final whistle, van Persie made a run in behind the West Ham defense, which paid off when Ryan Giggs delivered an inch-perfect 50-yard ball to him. van Persie took a perfect first touch to settle then blasted home, stunning the Upton Park faithful earning Manchester United a lifeline in the FA Cup.