West Ham 2 Manchester United 2
West Ham: Vaz Te 16', Diame 55'
Man Utd: Valencia 31', Van Persie 77'
LONDON // A strange sense of drift has settled around Manchester United towards the end of this season, the title probably wrapped up so early that it almost does not feel like a triumph - particularly with the club knocked out early from the Uefa Champions League and FA Cup.
It is that air of anticlimax, presumably, that led to Robin van Persie's insistence this week that the season starts now for United. The Dutch striker called on his teammates to target the record total of 95 points, set by Chelsea in 2005, but after last night's 2-2 draw against West Ham United at Upton Park, they must now win their last five games of the season to surpass that mark.
Defeat in the Champions League to Real Madrid and the FA Cup against Chelsea may have created an impression of struggle, yet the league reverse against Manchester City last week followed a run of 18 league games without defeat. Their past 10 league games have yielded 25 points.
Yet for all that, there was a lethargy about United from the off and Andy Carroll, having been allowed to turn on the edge of the box five minutes in, had a shot brush the outside of the post.
The striker, on loan from Liverpool, having recovered from injury, is finally showing signs of form in an otherwise injury-hit campaign, looking back to something like his equine best.
When he is on song, his sheer size makes him almost impossible to defend against, and he was central to the goal that gave West Ham a 16th-minute lead. Mohamed Diame led the break following a United corner, spreading the ball left to Matt Jarvis. When he crossed to the back post, Carroll, with a thrash of his mane, headed back across goal and Ricardo Vaz Te was in the right place six yards out to nod home.
The other side of Carroll is that his willingness to charge at a loose ball or a potential problem occasionally goes too far. He seemed to hack at Wayne Rooney, again far from his best, as they waited for a corner in first-half injury time and then, as he attacked the delivery, left a trail of devastation behind him, Rooney, Patrice Evra and David De Gea all on the ground, the latter after taking Carroll's head full on his cheek.
The ferocity of West Ham's start seemed to unsettle United but as the pace dropped, the precision of United's passing, particularly that of Shinji Kagawa, began to tell.
The Japanese midfielder is a player who, partly because of injury, has been an irregular presence in the United side in his first season since joining from Borussia Dortmund, but there is a crispness and a an almost wilful minimalism to his play.
Just after the half-hour, he played a one-two with Van Persie on the left, cut into the area and, with Rooney in the middle of the box screaming for a cutback, glided by Winston Reid. Kagawa then rolled the ball across goal for Antonio Valencia who, three yards out, was never going to miss.
The first half had given United warning, but faced with a similar onslaught at the start of the second half, they succumbed again. Guy Demel helped on a Vaz Te flick to Diame, who spun brilliantly on the corner of the box and whipped a curling shot inside the far post.
A scuffed Rooney shot bobbled by Jussi Jaaskelainen and had to be hacked off the line by Gary O'Neil. The Finnish keeper made a superb reaction save from a Van Persie header, but United levelled with 13 minutes to go, an offside Van Persie finishing off after Kagawa's shot had hit both posts.
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