Giggs' vintage class leaves United purring
Man Utd 1 West Ham 0
FA Cup Third round replay
The look of thunder on Alex Ferguson's face when he wheeled around and absorbed Wayne Rooney's second missed penalty of the season – and Manchester United's fifth – should not obscure the evidence that Ryan Giggs, in the words of the song, is tearing them apart again.
The player whose goal against Arsenal in the dying seconds of the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park 14 years ago will, for many, always be his best, stage-managed a tie which never seriously looked in any doubt.
There were many moments to marvel at – the 39-year-old thundering into a second-half tackle on Ricardo Vaz Te, for instance, and his first-time pass which allowed Javier Hernandez, who was offside, to bury the ball.
Or then the excellent clipped cross which drew a handball from Jordan Spence, bringing the penalty which Rooney piled into the night sky.
It wasn't entirely a stroll. This isn't a vintage United and the need of substitute Michael Carrick to bring some control to a midfield which was beginning to lose it proved as much. But there was barely a chance for Anders Lindegaard to use his appearance to demonstrate a thing or two to the manager.
We can stop to reflect on the prescience of Ferguson's comments in November that "Wayne has to accept he has to have a better strike-rate with his penalties". But above all, we can marvel at Giggs.
Joe Cole, creator of the two goals which so nearly put United out, was rested for the far more important occasion of Queens Park Rangers' visit on Saturday. Sam Allardyce deployed a three-man defence, trying to get numbers into midfield, but United were too incisive to get bogged down and cramped for space.
Anderson, who has finally started showing in flashes this season why Ferguson invested £27m in him, executed the 40-yard ball from his own half of the field which destroyed Allardyce's makeshift defence, sending Javier Hernandez tearing down the left to level unselfishly for Wayne Rooney, who slid the ball in.
His gesture to the skies recognised his wife Coleen's 14-year-old sister Rosie McLoughlin, who has died after a lifelong battle with a genetic disorder.
Anderson was then the least incisive of the midfield quartet, of which Ryan Giggs was the orchestrator, but West Ham lacked the quality to seize upon his two errors in possession. It was United who almost doubled their lead when a fine cushioned pass from Antonio Valencia opened up space for Nani to bend a left-foot shot which Daniel Potts cleared off the line after the ball evaded Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Chris Smalling's header from the ball Valencia recycled in from the right was at a comfortable height for Jaaskelainen, who compounded the anxiety by dropping a Rooney cross – though no one was able to capitalise.
Allardyce had clearly challenged his wing-backs to be more ambitious at the interval and they did advance in a way which suggested an equaliser was within them. Matty Taylor created the danger but United gave him a helping hand.
The sight of Alex Buttner ambling back to his station where Taylor threatened didn't build a sense that he might ever by first-choice left-back here. Taylor first spooked Smalling on the byline and then raced to seize a lofted ball Phil Jones couldn't cut out in its flight.
But West Ham's mistakes were more glaring still and United should have finished them off early. Rafael da Silva's clipped ball into the centre in the opening minutes of the second half bounced off Diarra into the path of Hernandez, who with the goal at his mercy sliced the ball over the bar.
Diarra again looked the occasional centre-half he is when a ball Hernandez had stolen from Daniel Potts ricocheted off him into the path of Anderson, who fired at the goalkeeper.
West Ham could have no complaints with the penalty decision, which saw Rooney belt the ball over, right-footed, and kick at the turf in anger. But neither could they complain about the night's outcome. (© Independent News Service)