In wintery setting at Upton Park, Manchester United slipped to an unforgivable 4-0 defeat to West Ham United in the Quarter-Finals of the Carling Cup.
American, Jonathan Spector, scored two first-half goals to shock his former employers, but United were then subjected to even further shame as Carlton Cole bagged a brace after half-time to seal West Ham’s place in the next round of the competition.
The embarrassing loss to the Hammers not only ends United’s unbeaten run at 29 matches, but it prevents the Reds from defending their back-to-back Carling Cup titles.
A bundled-up Sir Alex Ferguson opted for a very predictable Carling Cup line-up, but the surprise inclusion was Darren Fletcher, who was said to be ruled out until the Arsenal match, which is further proof that the United manager does not ever reveal his cards.
The only somewhat shocking absentee was Federico Macheda, who was named to the subs’ bench along with the promising youngster, Magnus Eikrem.
Sir Alex’s opposite number, Avram Grant, who is under immense pressure from the West Ham owners to win, selected a very strong line-up, which included the likes of Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson and Robert Green, but their combative midfielder, Scott Parker, was only named to bench.
On an almost-frozen pitch, West Ham did well to put the young, warm-weather preferring United players under some pressure in the early going winning two early corners, but they failed to capitalize on them.
United pinned the Hammers inside their own penalty area, and in the seventh minute, they created a fantastic opportunity through some good, tight passing.
Down the right-hand side, Bébé, John O’Shea and Anderson combined well with the former pumping a cross into the box, and it fell kindly to Gabriel Obertan, but his close-range shot was tipped on to the foot of the post by Robert Green.
With the ball coming off the post and into the danger area, James Tomkins reacted before Javier Hernandez to poke away to kill of the early threat.
A minute later, Obertan then did well to evade Julien Faubert down the left flank, but he was unable to pick out a teammate with his cross which fizzed across the face of goal.
The danger was not cleared, though, as Bébé cut inside his marker, but his near-post shot was weak and Green did well to get down and save.
West Ham had their chance to test Tomasz Kuszczak, but Victor Obinna’s good work to pick out came to nothing as Radoslav Kovac blasted well over when presented a good shooting opportunity from the top of the area.
The game started to become a lethargic battle in the midfield, but that all changed in the 16th minute when the tie got a little spice of controversy.
Given way too much time and space, Jonathan Spector tore through the United midfield and fed the ball to Obinna at the top of the area, and the Nigerian’s left-footed shot deflected past Kuszczak and into the United net.
However, the goal was eventually, but correctly ruled out by the linesman on the far-side, after he witnessed that the vital deflection came off Spector, who was in an offside position.
United were warned, and to appease the resentful home supporters, it was the same two players who combined to put the Irons in front.
Spector, who arrived in England with United, did well to outwit his marker, Darren Fletcher, and head home Obinna’s delightful chip into the box.
With United clearly at sixes and sevens at the back, the United coaching switch O’Shea to left-back, and brought Fabio to the right to help cope with the pace of Obinna.
Chicharito was played in on the left-hand side of the West Ham box, and with his marker over playing him, he cut back on his favored right foot to float a cross to the far post, which was met by an onrushing Ryan Giggs, but the 36-year old could not get manage to get any pace on his header and Green made an effortless save.
Again, Spector was allowed to run at the United defense, and he again teamed up to find Obinna, but both him and Fabio could get a real touch as they both over ran the pass, but the ball was sitting their for the taking and the American thumped it passed the the United goalkeeper to put his team up 2-0.
With a minute, United had a chance to pull one back after Fletcher picked out Bébé, but the winger’s header was grabbed well by the Green.
Obinna, who scored in West Ham’s vital 3-1 win over Wigan Athletic at the weekend, was given another chance to find the target, but this time Kuszczak was able to get down and palm his shot away.
Obertan and Fabio did well to work some space down the right, and the young Brazilian put in a tempting cross into the West Ham six-yard box, which was touched out of the reach of Chris Smalling by Green.
Near the end of the half, Mark Clattenburg got an earful from Sir Alex after two tasty challenges by Tal Ben-Haim and Matthew Upson on Fabio and Chicharito, respectively.
West Ham were very deserving of their half-time lead, because United were very poor and look completely out of sorts as they were clearly way too over confident, which prompted Ferguson to bring on Federico Macheda for Bébé for the second-half.
The game continued were it left off at the end of first 45 minutes, but United had a good chance to pull one back after a terrible mistake by erratic goalkeeper.
Green attempted to punt the ball down the field, but it smack an unsuspecting Macheda, but with the ball was just out of the reach of Chicharito and the Irons’ goalkeeper did well to tackle the chance.
The mistake seem to temporarily encourage United to get forward and they earned a corner kick, but Fletcher’s volley failed to test Green.
Against the run of play, West Ham got their third goal after Carlton Cole left Jonny Evans for dead and headed home Obinna’s cross into the far corner.
To compound their misery, the snow started to get thicker and made life miserable for United and some more confusion.
Sir Alex then introduced Rafael to relieve his twin brother, Fabio, from what could only be described as a forgettable evening for the young, but that did not change their fortunes.
After receiving an harmless ball, Cole, again, slipped passed Evans and slotted the ball passed the helpless
After some good work from Hernandez, he earned a free-kick in a very decent area for Giggs to strike, but he was unable to get any real height on it and it struck the West Ham wall.
A wonderful long pass from Smalling spotted Giggs, but the Welshman could not get the proper touch and Green slid out to gather it.
After his horror show, Ferguson prevented Evans from taking any further criticism part by hauling him off in favor of the dependable Wes Brown.
United nearly got a goal back after some very good interplay, but Chicharito blasted just over the West Ham bar.
Grant, who will be seen as a genius after this game, made two substitutions to rest some of his better players by bringing on Winston Reid for Tompkins and then Zavon Hines for Barrera.
United had another good chance to score, when Smalling, who was up in attack following a set-piece, was denied by Green, but even if he scored it would have been correctly ruled out through offside.
From 40-yards out, Obinna showed his confidence as he blazed a shot just over the United bar.
West Ham then had a half-a-shout for a penalty, but Clattenburg was in a good position to wave away the appeals that O’Shea fouled Hines.
Frustration was clearly on display when Fletcher and Louis Boa Morte, who was West Ham’s best player, got tangled up
Giggs whipped in a free-kick to the back post, which was nicely met by Chicharito, but his header did not test Green as it whistled wide of the post.
Grant’s last change allowed Cole to receive a standing ovation as he was replaced by young Junior Stanislas.
Second-half sub, Reid received the first yellow card of the match for a tough tackle on Macheda near the corner flag, but the ensuing free-kick, which cleared everyone, was very symbolic of United’s performance.
Clattenburg’s final whistle could not come soon enough for the brave traveling United supporters who were brilliant throughout, but were forced to watch their club fall flat on their faces.
Manchester United were soundly beaten by West Ham United, but the embarrassment of the defeat should urge them on in the next couple of games, or they will not only lose their
The only player that really did much of anything was Javier Hernandez, because even at 4-0, he never gave in, and to be fair on him, he was stranded on an island in the 4-5-1 formation, as the midfield never got any real service up to him.
T. Kuszczak – 6; J. O’Shea – 5, C. Smalling – 6, J. Evans – 3 (W. Brown – 6), Fabio – 4 (Rafael – 6); Bébé – 5 (F. Macheda – 5), D. Fletcher – 5, R. Giggs – 6, Anderson – 5, G. Obertan – 5; J. Hernandez – 6
Shots (On Target): 9 (5)
Fouls Conceded (Suffered): 9 (9)