AT UPTON PARK
WEST HAM UNITED 1 MANCHESTER UNITED 1
WEST Ham boss Sam Allardyce accused Manchester United counterpart Louis van Gaal of resorting to long-ball tactics in a bid to rescue a last-gasp point at Upton Park yesterday.
Holland midfielder Daley Blind dragged the visitors level in stoppage time, wiping out emergency centre-half Cheikhou Kouyate’s strike in the opening moments of the the second period, before full-back Luke Shaw saw red late on.
Allardyce has been unable to shrug off the stigma of favouring a more direct style of play throughout his managerial career, although it was United who repeatedly looked for the aerial prowess of substitute Marouane Fellaini in the dying stages.
The draw keeps the Hammers eighth and seven points adrift of United who occupy the final Champions League spot, although Allardyce believes a top-four finish is likely to elude his side.
“It wasn’t the normal goal you concede against United, it was just a punt up the middle,” said Allardyce. “It was actually our player who headed it so it wasn’t any great play.
“You might as well criticise Louis van Gaal for playing long ball as much I get criticism for sometimes being direct, but it paid off for them in the end so you can’t knock it.
“I think it [Champions League qualification] will be very difficult for us. We’re getting the maximum in terms of strength in depth out of our squad but it’s probably not enough to take us into the Champions League.”
United striker Robin van Persie failed to capitalise on a suicidal pass across his own penalty area from midfielder Alex Song inside the opening five minutes before a sustained period of West Ham pressure.
Spain keeper David de Gea was forced into evasive action to turn behind a 25-yard drive from Enner Valencia and then tipped over an acrobatic volley from the Ecuador hitman from the resulting corner.
The Hammers opened the scoring moments after the re-start, Kouyate – thrust into a makeshift centre-half partnership with James Tomkins following hamstring injuries to James Collins and Winston Reid – juggled a Mark Noble free-kick before turning and lashing past De Gea.
United wasted a glorious chance to level with quarter of an hour remaining, Colombia forward Radamel Falcao stabbing wide despite having a clear sight of goal after linking with Van Persie.
The visitors pressed forward in desperate search of an equaliser which came two minutes into injury time, Blind volleying Carl Jenkinson’s half-clearance beyond Adrian, before Shaw received his second booking for a late foul on Stewart Downing.
United stay fourth, five points behind reigning champions and second-placed Manchester City, and Van Gaal rued his side’s inability to make further ground on their rivals.
“Before the game, you know what it is, they have lost points, and then you can close the gap on your competitors so it is a missed chance,” said Van Gaal.
“We created a lot of chances, three open chances and we scored also the goal. In my opinion we could have won this game. I cannot say I am happy with the point.”