By Robert Dean
Manchester United’s Robin Van Persie broke West Ham hearts with an injury time equaliser in the FA Cup third round at Upton Park.
Van Persie was able to come on and make a telling contribution, despite Sir Alex Ferguson choosing to rest his star man from the start.
The Dutchman showed his class to expertly control Ryan Giggs’ raking long pass, before finishing confidently with his right foot to level the game at two apiece.
Manchester United had the brighter start and looked comfortable in possession, with Tom Cleverly intelligently knitting play together.
On nine minutes this pressure nearly paid off when Javier Hernandez was inches away from connecting onto a knock down from Chris Smalling.
After this West Ham grew in confidence and the game looked like it had all the makings of a classic cup tie.
They were unlucky not to take the lead on 12 minutes when Alou Diarra rose well to head home a Jack Collison corner, but Paul Scholes stuck to his duty to clear of the line.
Less than ten minutes later West Ham were forced to clear of the line themselves, when 18 year old Dan Potts, son of former Hammers favourite Steve, denied Nemanja Vidic his first goal of the season.
Potts, who was making his first appearance since returning from a loan spell at Colchester, looked calm and assured in defence and showed he is ready to compete at the highest level.
Manchester United made the break through on 23 minutes with a slick counter attacking move down the right hand side.
Hernandez delivered an inch perfect low cross to find Cleverly in the box, who coolly stroked home to put the visitors 1-0 up.
The game also marked the return of Joe Cole to the club where he started his career.
The former Chelsea and England star always remained popular with the home support and received a rousing reception.
The cultured midfielder was instrumental in West Hams equaliser on 27 minutes, when he delivered and in swinging cross from the left for defender James Collins to skilfully glance home.
The only other chance of the half fell to Danny Welbeck when another counter attack led to him breaking with pace and power to get into the box, only for Jussi Jaaskelainen to beat away his powerful effort.
Manchester United started the second half brightly and should have put themselves ahead on 48 minutes.
After West Ham failed to clear a Rafael cross, the ball, again, sat up nicely for Cleverly but this time he was not so accurate, blazing the ball over from 18 yards.
Joe Cole continued to sparkle and was able to carve out to two good chances for his team around the hour mark.
The first came from a mazy dribble on the right followed by a pin-point cross to Carlton Cole in the box, but, the striker’s header was confidently held by David De Gea.
The second lead to West Ham’s second goal, which was a near carbon copy of their first.
Joe Cole found himself with room on the left and was again able to find James Collins in the box, who superbly headed home into the corner of the net to leave De Gea no chance.
After that Ferguson decided to bring in the reinforcements in the shape of Van Persie, Giggs and Antonio Valencia.
Van Persie made an instant impact with his first touch of the game and should have done better with a near post header from a corner.
From there on West Ham defended doggedly and kept Manchester United quiet for the large part, restricting them to very few goal scoring opportunities.
Welbeck and Giggs may feel they could have done better with close range, headed opportunities to level the game, after crosses from Alexander Buttner and Rafael respectively.
Carlton Cole also had a chance to put the game to bed for West Ham, on 88 minutes, when he received the ball unmarked at the far post but De Gea was quick of his line to smother the ball.
The game appeared to be petering out into an historic West Ham win before Van Persie’s moment of genius levelled the game to send it to a replay.
The replay will be played at Old Trafford on Wednesday 16th of January and the winners will face either Fulham or Blackpool at home in the fourth round.