The second-half dismissal of Wayne Rooney may have shifted the news agenda constantly swirling around Old Trafford, for a few days at least, but every weekend seems to throw up a new challenge for Louis van Gaal as he acclimatises to English football.
head through goals from Rooney and Robin van Persie, United's much-analysed defensive frailties presented Diafra Sakho with a goal that hauled West Ham back into contention and enhanced the anxiety that has become the norm at Old Trafford.
That unease was compounded just before the hour when Rooney was shown the sixth red card of his senior career for cutting down Stewart Downing with a cynical high challenge from behind as the winger launched a counter-attack.
Ironically, with the Old Trafford crowd infuriated and the ten men of United suitably inspired, the home side enjoyed a more comfortable conclusion to the game than might have been the case, living dangerously just once when West Ham substitute Kevin Nolan scored an "equaliser" from Carl Jenkinson's cross only for it to be ruled out for offside.
"The superman linesman's got X-ray vision," deadpanned West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. "Somebody has suggested his head was offside. If the linesman can see his head is offside then he's a superman.
"I have no doubt it was a goal and 2-2. But it's our fault. Referees and assistant referees make mistakes, you have to accept that.
"We waited patiently to get an equaliser and when we got it, unfortunately, the assistant referee dropped a massive bollock. He's to blame as much as our deficiencies in front of goal but if we hadn't been so stupid in the first place and gifted them two goals, I wouldn't be as frustrated as I am."
The second United goal, in particular, was a catalogue of West Ham woe. Goalkeeper Adrian did well to keep the ball in play near the corner flag but succeeded only in kicking the ball 25 yards to Alex Song, who was dispossessed by Ander Herrera.
On a swift counter, Herrera and Radamel Falcao linked up and, with either Rooney or Van Persie to select, Falcao slipped the ball through for the Dutchman to drive in a superb finish for 2-0.
Rooney himself had opened the scoring just five minutes into the game with a superb finish from a United counter which was launched down the right wing by Rafael. The Brazilian right-back eventually picked out Rooney, who slotted the ball past Adrian with a deft flick.
In the not too distant past, the Old Trafford faithful would have been content that their team would see out the game, but times have changed. Sure enough, after 36 minutes, United were fortunate not to concede a penalty as Falcao appeared to handle in the area, and a minute later the visitors were back in the contest through Sakho.
The goal exposed the defensive problems that extend beyond the United injury list which forced Van Gaal to hand a debut to the young Northern Ireland defender Paddy McNair.
Downing's corner forced David de Gea into unconvincing near-post activity which allowed the ball to reach Enner Valencia, whose header struck the crossbar, the rebound ricocheting conveniently for Sakho, who headed into the gaping net.
"When I saw images back maybe De Gea is touched by the opponent and maybe you can cancel this goal," said Van Gaal. "But we knew in defence every free-kick, every corner kick, would be very dangerous because the West Ham players are much taller."
Whether or not West Ham's goal should have been disallowed, alarm bells were ringing thereafter, although they would have been silenced shortly after the restart had Falcao's deflected 18-yard shot flown in instead of being kept out by Adrian's impressive full-length dive.
Sakho, again, had West Ham supporters on their feet soon after the red card when he headed into the side netting.
The remainder of the game would be largely one-way traffic, with McNair required to make one clearance from a Jenkinson cross.
Sunday Indo Sport