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Van Persie saves Manchester United in FA Cup

Robin Van Persie struck late to keep Manchester United in the FA Cup against West Ham. The match was already in stoppage time when the Dutch striker’s brilliant equaliser took the third-round tie to a replay at Old Trafford on 15 January. It was a gripping match with four excellent goals.

Van Persie instantly controlled a long pass from Ryan Giggs before driving a low shot into the net. It was a typical Manchester United response after West Ham had dominated the second-half. After Tom Cleverley had given the visitors an early lead, James Collins put West Ham in front with two precision headers from crosses by Joe Cole, who was impressive on his return to the club where he developed as a teenager.

Manchester United have considerably more resources to call upon though, and Van Persie was sent on late in the game to rescue the cause. "The pass from Ryan Giggs, the first touch of the ball from Robin, and his finish, was absolutely world class," Alex Ferguson said, relieved that his team was still in the competition.

Cole admitted that it had been an opportunity lost in the last seconds but was impressed by the resilience and fighting spirit of his new team-mates. He added that he had been keen to escape all the publicity that had attended his return to Upton Park and get down to playing football. He estimated that it would take around four games to get back to peak fitness and form.

West Ham had been so impressive in the second-half that they couldn’t help feeling despondent that they hadn’t secured the victory. "I am more than disappointed," the West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said. "The finish was just unbelievable but we almost feel like we lost in that dressing room. We have got a difficult January now."

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