It’s absolutely right that we’re still talking about this goal three days after it was scored: it was sublime.
Everyone has appreciated the touch and finish from Robin van Persie, and correctly so, but there’s so much more to this than just that.
This is the starting position for all the relevant players when Ryan Giggs has the ball at his feet:
If Giggs plays the ball too centrally, then van Persie would have been outnumbered by Dan Potts and James Collins, or Jussi Jaaskelainen could have come off his line to defuse the situation. Alternately, had Giggs tried to knock his pass into the channel on the right-hand side, Collins and Potts would also be in decent positions, and James Tomkins (5) – trailing the play – would have had the time to return to a more central position. Either way, the immediate chance would have been gone, and United would likely have been crowded out.
The only place where West Ham were vulnerable, was on that far corner of the box – and even then, the pass had to be weighted perfectly enough not to take away van Persie’s angle of opportunity. Not only does Giggs hit his teammate in stride, but he does so off the half-volley from 60 yards away. To do that, and to do it with the game on the line, is quite astonishing.
The first touch from van Persie? Out of this world, because it takes Dan Potts out of the equation immediately. Potts is young and inexperienced, but that’s really irrelevant, because once the Dutchman is beyond him he can’t touch him and he just has to hope that his goalkeeper comes up with a save.
Even at that point though, van Persie is wider than he would want to be and on his wrong foot. No bother, he slides it past Jaaskelainen nonchalantly and United were level. You can admire thirty-yard volleys, diving headers, and wonderful bits of skills, but when you see something which traverses the fine margins of the game so precisely, it takes your breath away.