West Ham United hosted Manchester United tonight in the last ever game to be played at the Boleyn Ground, before moving into the Olympic Stadium next season.
There were sad scenes outside the stadium in the run-up to the game, as the visitor’s team bus was attacked by West Ham fans, causing the kick-off to be delayed by 45 minutes.
The Red Devils started Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata, while Anthony Martial returned from missing the win over Norwich City through injury.
The Hammers were aiming to sign off from their famous ground with a win, starting with Andy Carroll, supported by Dimitri Payet.
The teams took to the pitch to one rousing rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, the famous West Ham anthem. The seats also had commemorative claret and blue clad shirts on them to add to the sense of occasion. The video wall also showed a montage of famous West Ham players, with the biggest cheer reserved for the late, great Bobby Moore.
The Hammers, chasing a Europa League spot while aiming to dent the top four ambitions of their opponents, were definitely up for this one, and made a dream start by taking the lead on 10 minutes. Diafra Sakho latched on to a cut-back to sidefoot the ball past David De Gea and into the bottom corner.
West Ham kept up the pressure, and almost doubled the lead a few minutes later. A Payet corner found captain Mark Noble, and his volley could not be diverted goalwards by Cheikhou Kouyate. The visitors were clearly reeling.
Payet then failed to test De Gea as West Ham continued to dominate. Andy Carroll then had a chance, which was also saved. It was almost doubled when a Lanzini cross deflected off Marcos Rojo, and Michail Antonio rose to head home. However, the assistant referee had ruled that the ball had gone out of play, and a corner was awarded.
Manchester United finally got into the game, and had a couple of efforts through Rooney and Rashford, but these failed to trouble the West Ham goal.
Lanzini then fired wide, before Payet did likewise. A Payet corner was headed over by Sakho as West Ham finished the first-half strongly. The visitors could have had a penalty as Martial went down under a challenge from Michail Antonio, but it seemed like it would have been harsh if it had been awarded.
Michael Carrick replaced Morgan Schneiderlin as the visitors looked for a way back into the game. And they quickly found one on 51 minutes, Mata squaring for Martial to fire home.
Payet and Sakho had chances to put West Ham back in front, but these were not taken. Chances came and went for both sides, Payet’s corner found Carroll, whose header was cleared off the line.
Both teams then found the net inside a four-minute spell. First the Red Devils took the lead, Martial doubling his tally after being found by Rashford.
The Hammers quickly equalised, Antonio rising highest to head home to send Upton Park into raptures once more.
The game swung once more on 81 minutes, a Payet free-kick found Winston Reid, who headed one to put the home side in front again. De Gea will surely be disappointed to not have done better with the header, though.
Kouyate headed over, as United continued to struggle against the barrage of set-piece deliveries raining down on them.
The visitors were denied a goal in injury time, Aaron Cresswell clearing from under his own crossbar, under pressure from Rashford.
But West Ham were able to hold on, to give Hammers fans the perfect Boleyn Ground send-off on an emotional night.
Speaking before the game, Rooney said: “It wasn’t nice. The bus got smashed up, but we are here now. I’m sure you will see the pictures.
“It’s not for me to say, but it is disappointing of course. It’s a big night for West Ham, but West Ham as a club will be disappointed for what their fans have done.”
Strangely, West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan refused to criticise the attack, and instead had a go at the Red Devils for not arriving earlier.
“I’m gravely disappointed, more for our supporters,” said Sullivan.
“What people forget is they’ve got trains and buses to get home and we’ve got a wonderful, wonderful show after the game for them. Many just can’t stay any more.
“Man United should have got here at 4pm. They know it’s our last game. They had the same problem at Tottenham a few weeks ago.
“I think the police and officials have been kind. I’d make them kick off at 7.45pm if I was in charge.”
By Steve Osborne @BlizzardSteve75