United came into the Carling Cup quarter finals full of optimism after 38 games unbeaten in all competitions, and having won the tournament 2 years running many expected United to go on and make it a hat trick. As expected, Ferguson named a second string side, which on paper looked strong with the likes of Giggs and Fletcher getting a rare game in the Carling Cup.
United started relatively brightly, with Green being forced into a very smart save from Obertan’s shot early on. However, despite United’s abundance of quality in the midfield, they never really managed to settle down and dominate the game, allowing West Ham time and space. Obinna was giving the United full backs a torrid time, in particular John O Shea who found the West Ham winger too hot to handle despite the blizzard like conditions. West Ham appeared to have taken a well deserved lead after 16 minutes, after Obinna’s deflected shot found its way into the back of the net, only for it to be correctly ruled out for offside. However, United’s respite was brief, as 3 minutes later, old boy Johnathon Spector latched onto the end of Obinna’s cross to head West Ham infront. Most expected United to respond in true style, however, things got worse for the reds before half time, as Spector again capitalised on a slip by Fabio to put the home side 2-0 up at the break.
Many of the United players must have been dreading heading into the dressing room at half time, with the imminent Fergie haridryer looming over them. However, the team talk must have fallen on deaf ears, as United continued to unravel in the second half. The game was killed off on 56 minutes by Cole, who got the better of Evans to head West Ham into the semi finals. He followed this up with a humiliating fourth 9 minutes later, after turning Evans again, capping one of Jonny’s worst nights in a United shirt. United toiled for the last half an hour without really posing much threat to Green, and as the full time whistle approached the 6000 travelling reds were left scratching their heads wondering what had just happened.
Obviously the undefeated streak had to come to an end at some point, and most United fans will argue that they would rather it happened in the Carling Cup than any other competition. However, the manor of the defeat will seriously worry Ferguson, as many of the players on the field failed to display the required passion and commitment expected of a Manchester United football player. It would be highly surprising to not see Fergie make 11 changes for the visit to Blackpool on saturday, where United need to respond quickly with a dominant performance or face a potential dip in form and confidence.