With manager Sam Allardyce in the dugout, it's always tempting to cast West Ham as the Premier League's grunting neanderthals, but their 2-2 draw against Manchester United was as much about poise as it was about power.
The energetic Hammers were good value for their hard-fought point at the Boleyn Ground. With replays showing Robin van Persie in an offside position before scoring United's leveller, they should have taken all three and United could barely have complained.
Fortunately for Allardyce and his men, those two missed points won't make or break their season. Survival is all but mathematically assured, and Big Sam will be back next season to watch over another campaign, as the Hammers look toward their Olympic Stadium move in 2016.
Being in the top flight by the time that comes around is essential. And while not all Hammers fans will appreciate the way Allardyce's team play, they will certainly appreciate not being in the relegation scrap.
Addressing the doubting purists, Allardyce would rightly argue there was much to admire against United.
West Ham's first goal was the result of a blistering counter-attack, with Matt Jarvis searing down the left before cutting back a fine cross for Andrew Carroll at the back post. The big man made a mockery of Patrice Evra's challenge and headed down for Ricardo Vaz Te to do the rest.
Direct football doesn't have to be dour football. West Ham's break was swift, and the technical execution of its parts was immaculate. Had the same goal been scored by Real Madrid, we would have marvelled at it.
After United had predictably levelled through Antonio Valencia—the result of a wonderful shimmy and cross from Shinji Kagawa—West Ham produced something genuinely special.
Vaz Te linked intricately with Guy Demel on the right, before Mohamed Diame swivelled away from a challenge and curled a sumptuous shot into the far corner. Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea could only watch it bend outside his reach and nestle into the corner.
If the Hammers first was the stuff of Madrid, this was a goal that Barcelona would have been proud to score. Neat, instinctive passing, with the culmination a devastating finish of technical brilliance.
And you thought West Ham were all about kick and rush.
United's equalizer was again owed to Kagawa, who was moved into a central role during the second half and began to thrive in the way we imagined when he arrived from Borussia Dortmund. It was the Japanese player's shot that struck the woodwork and allowed Van Persie to score his second goal in two games.
Replays showed Van Persie was offside when Kagawa let fly, but the officials missed it and United moved a point closer to their inevitable 20th league title. Those wondering if defeat might have opened the door to Manchester City are living in fantasy.
On the balance of play, Sir Alex Ferguson's team deserved a point in East London. United enjoyed 66 percent of possession and had six shots on target to West Hams' two (whoscored.com).
As ever it was, Michael Carrick pulled the strings against his former club. Carrick attempted 117 passes in the game, more than three times the number played by anybody in a West Ham jersey. The fact he achieved a 90 percent success will hardly come as a surprise (whoscored.com).
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GOAL! West Ham 2-2 Man Utd! Van Persie levels again for United, although he should have been flagged offside4/17/2013, 8:20:43 PM
There were flashes of the Van Persie who's gone missing of late, and also some encouraging signs from Valencia on the right flank. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand also proved themselves tough opponents for Carroll and Co. when West Ham attacked.
Carroll was among the best players on the pitch. The striker held up possession well, linked play and worked tirelessly. The big man deserved a goal for his efforts, but also courted controversy with a loose elbow that caught Vidic. Jarvis and Diame also impressed for the Hammers.
Ultimately, 2-2 was a fair scoreline for an entertaining game that brought together two teams of contrasting styles. United had to get physical, while West Ham showed their technical flair.