Rare Old Trafford win brings back fond memories of Tevez and Co

27.11.16 - Manchester United vs West Ham United - Premier League - Diafra Sakho heads home West Ham's goal.

September saw a momentous, rarely seen occasion. Was it a solar eclipse? Nope. Did Halley’s Comet pass? Even rarer – West Ham played Manchester United at Old Trafford and won. After 17 unsuccessful attempts, we finally recorded a 1-0 victory, our first one since 2007 — ironically also a 1-0 win.

But despite the similar scorelines — and the fact that Mark Noble started both in the centre of midfield – where we are now as a club, is a very different place to where we were then. Because, if mention of the year 2007 hadn’t clicked in the memory, the last time we beat them was THAT win, at the back end of the 2006/07 season.

The season that thankfully became known as the ‘Great Escape’ — not that we knew it at the time. Having come off the back of an FA Cup Final and tenth place finish just 12 months before, and with the summer signings of the World Cup Stars Tevez and Mascherano, hopes were high.

Sadly, the performances levels weren’t, and amidst a takeover wrangle and promises from our new Icelandic owners of more high profile signings to come, the results were nothing short of catastrophic, with the club rock bottom with nine games to go. Six wins from eight with Carlos Tevez finally showing us what he was capable of, alongside epic performances from the likes of Rob Green and Bobby Zamora — plus the introduction of a certain young midfielder — we gave ourselves an outside chance.

However, with a win away against Manchester United still needed on a final day which would see their star studded squad, including the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo and Scholes pick up the Premier League trophy, the 7,000 West Hams who travelled up that day did so more in hope than expectation. However, after a diminutive Argentinian gave us a first half lead, some tight defending and confident goalkeeping meant we held on to the single goal lead despite United’s big name stars coming on in the second half. Ah — maybe it wasn’t so different after all?

But the differences are apparent. Fourteen years have passed between the two victories. Fourteen years that have seen 13 defeats and four draws, with a combined aggregate score of 34-8. Sure, we’ve had some close results in that time, but never before have we felt such genuine closeness in parity as a club to Manchester United.

No relegation battle, no random big money signings failing to perform, and no longer the expectation of defeat — David Moyes has seen to that, and the transformation in the club in those 14 years are in reality light years apart. Gone too is our historical reliance on one stand out player, for the current crop are very much a squad who will all dig in and work for each other.

The 10 changes between the league fixture, that many felt hard done by in defeat, and the cup victory shows that what we lack in superstar signings, we make up for in overall ability. The likes of Areola and Kral on debut, re-introductions of Diop, Johnson and Fredericks to the team.

Everyone who was brought into that team performed superbly, and will have given Moyes plenty of food for thought over the coming weeks. Because unlike the class of 2007, there is no reason not to believe we can compete at the very top of this division with this current crop. Whilst we can praise the changes that have happened to our club, that game in 2007 came within 12 months of a Cup Final and a new owner — and I’m sure there are many who would take that in a similar timescale.

Though, the season after our last win at Old Trafford, the superstar of that team went on to join Manchester United. Let’s all hope that current superstar Declan Rice doesn’t go all Carlos Tevez on us!

Other close calls since 2007:

Man Utd 1 — 1 WHU — FA Cup 2015/16
The 2015/16 season was one where we upset many of the so-called ‘Big Teams’ getting wins against Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal and at Man City. Whilst we’d go on to famously beat them at Upton Park’s farewell swansong, the FA Cup quarter final springs to mind, where Dimitri Payet’s incredible free kick gave us brief hope of a Wembley trip, before a Bastian Schweinsteiger (which is something similar to what I called him at the time) foul on Darren Randolph unsurprisingly went unpunished, allowing Martial to score a late equaliser. Man Utd went on to win the replay, and the FA Cup.

Man Utd 1-1 WHU — Premier League 2019/20
Played out in the eerie silence of an empty Old Trafford during the covid hit 2019/20 season, West Ham had performed another minor great escape in utilising the lockdown period of football to cobble together some kind of form and approached the game at Old Trafford with the wind in their sails, having just beaten Watford 3-1 and Norwich 4-0, a game in which Michail Antonio had scored all four. This game was remembered for Antonio’s mocking of Paul Pogba, in full view of the Frenchman, for giving away the penalty from which Antonio had scored. Antonio took the penalty having been given the ball by Mark Noble, knowing a clause in our No.30’s contract stipulated that the owners had to pay him an extra £10k if he’d netted one more goal. The kind of Shithousary that we can all admire.

Man Utd 1-0 WHU — FA Cup 2012/13
The last time West Ham had ridden on the crest of the promotion wave, we had reached the FA Cup final, back in 2006. Could history repeat itself following our play off success in 2012? Ummm, no. An early Wayne Rooney goal (before he blasted a penalty into orbit later in the game) set the tone for one of the worst games I’ve ever attended. A strong penalty shout was turned down for us — it’s Old Trafford after all — and the game was probably most notable for the fact we remained competitive despite starting with the lesser spotted Alou Diarra in one of only six appearances in midfield!

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