Red Devils haunted by Spector
West Ham 4
Manchester Utd 0
Hammers in winter wonderland as Fergie's troops are sent packing
Manchester United were haunted by a spectre in east London -- or rather a Spector -- with their former player, Jonathan, scoring twice in an astonishing performance last night to summarily dump the holders out of the Carling Cup and also end their long unbeaten run.
It was all the more amazing -- even considering West Ham's travails this campaign -- because the 24-year-old American has never before scored in his 97 appearances in English football. Spector has largely been a bit-part player, a fate sometimes ascribed to their other goalscorer, Carlton Cole, who also struck twice to complete the rout.
West Ham supporters must have feared they were going to get a Scott Parker-lite display from his stand-in. Instead, with Parker rested, they got the real deal from Spector and with it an unlikely semi-final place.
In the swirling snow, United hit a blizzard of West Ham determination and were overwhelmed. The changes rang out for United, 10 in all, from the destruction of Blackburn Rovers and yet this was no bunch of kids sent out by Alex Ferguson, led as they were by Ryan Giggs.
They almost garnered an early lead through Gabriel Obertan, who was afforded space, by Matthew Upson, to drive a low right-foot shot which Robert Green, superbly, tipped against a post.
The warning was served -- and matched. The conditions dictated the pace would be brisk -- the players would freeze otherwise -- and West Ham, too, upped their game, with Victor Obinna wriggling free down the left and Radoslav Kovac eventually shooting over. Parker looked on from the bench, despite his chest infection, when perhaps he should have been afforded the evening off, given his importance.
Soon after and West Ham had the ball in the net -- only for it, correctly, to be ruled out as Obinna's 20-yard shot deflected off Spector, who had started the move and who was, quite clearly, offside.
The mood inside the ground wasn't helped, however, by the delay -- a full minute -- which it took referee Mark Clattenburg to consult with his assistant Mike Bull, a late stand-in because of the snow. Bull had flagged, but late, while the stadium announcer claimed a goal. Manager Avram Grant was warned after hurling the ball back onto the pitch.
Remarkably, in their next attack West Ham found the net again and this time it stood. Cole held the ball up inside the area and laid a pass to Obinna, who dinked a clever cross which Spector -- stealing in front of Darren Fletcher -- headed beyond Tomasz Kuszczak.
It was West Ham's first goal in six encounters against United, who had been caught flat. Incredibly West Ham then scored a second time. Again it came from Spector, who launched another Parker-style run from just inside the centre circle before picking out Obinna.
The striker was challenged and the ball ran free for Spector to continue his run and slam a shot beyond Kuszczak. By now the home side were rampant and soon after Kuszczak did well to push away Obinna's fierce low drive before, at the other end, Green pushed a deflected cross from under the bar.
The woeful Bebe was replaced and there was more fire about United after the interval, from which they almost profited as Green's goal-kick cannoned of Federico Macheda. But that fire was extinguished.
Obinna, again a whirling threat, was picked out through a quick free-kick from the spiky Luis Boa Morte -- with Fabio napping -- and his cross was met by Cole, heading home, with Jonny Evans also caught out. A poor goal to concede, a great one to score, and United were struggling.
Cole was not finished, though, and nor was Obinna. The latter teased Rafael, crossing low for Cole, who twisted past Evans and stroked his shot across Kuszczak.
Unsurprisingly, Ferguson soon withdrew Evans. Obinna went close with a free-kick and Zavon Hines almost had his shorts ripped off by John O'Shea, but no penalty was given. No matter, United still suffered their biggest loss since conceding four to Liverpool in March last year. But at least they scored that day. (© Daily Telegraph, London)