Ahead of the season opening encounter against West Ham United on Sunday, we take a look at one of the greatest Premier League comebacks against our opponents of this week. We take the short trip to April 2011 and see what history has in store for us.
United visited Boleyn Ground with their title charge faltering. United were aiming for a stunning 19th top flight Championship and the team needed a Rooney masterclass to win it. It was a crucial game for the club in mid-April and right in the middle of the title run-in.
The game started in the most horrible way possible as lax defending from Player of the Shortlist Nemanja Vidic and his central defensive partner Chris Smalling allowed West Ham to have more than one sniff at goal. In the end it was mistakes at the back that gave away two first half penalties to the Hammers. Vidic chopped down Charlton Cole and Patrice Evra handled the ball in the box forcing the referee to point to the spot. Mark Noble duly converted both the penalties and West Ham went into the break with an unlikely and flattering 2-0 advantage.
In the second half, United gave out a side re-energized, possibly because of the famed Hairdryer Treatment from Sir Alex. United came out, showed great resilience and played like Champions they were.
But United still failed to find a way through and required a 15-minute brilliance from Wayne Rooney to salvage their day.
On the 63rd minute mark, Wayne put the ball down outside the area for a free-kick. If you asked me where United looked for inspiration for the unlikely comeback, I wouldn’t have had an answer. But Wayne picked his spot and found it as United got an unlikely goal back.
The free-kick galvanized United and we threw the kitchen sink at the Hammers. It took less than 10 minutes for United the equalizer. Valencia’s ball found Rooney whose first touch took out a bunch of defenders and lashed it home for his and United’s second.
The goal broke West Ham’s spirit and like so many times before the opposition was beaten before the full-time whistle. It was only a race against time.
And this race United won. Emphatically.
Matthew Upson’s handball in the area gave United a penalty to seal the comeback and his hattrick. But like so many other Rooney moments, it was sullied by the player. Rooney went on to swear into the camera during the celebration and was later handed a two-match ban. The ban forced him to miss the FA Cup semi-final against City. United lost and any hopes of a Treble that season were dismissed.
Back to Upton Park.
United lead 3-2 but there was still time for another United goal. Javier Hernandez slotted home from close range in the 84th minute to complete the scoreline.
Ironically, Chicharito will in all likelihood line up against United on Sunday having joined the Hammers from Bayer Leverkusen in the off-season.
United went on to clinch the record-shattering 19th English Championship soon and Ferguson’s promise to knock Liverpool off their perch was fulfilled.
Here’s to another memorable win over the Hammers…