Anthony Martial bails out awful United to rescue FA Cup replay with West Ham
Manchester United 1-1 West Ham
It stopped the rot, for now anyway, but while Anthony Martial's late equaliser kept Manchester United alive in the FA Cup, Louis van Gaal's players offered little evidence to suggest they may actually overturn West Ham in an Upton Park replay to make it to the semi-finals.
It was another 90 minutes of frustration for those inside Old Trafford who have grown tired of the same lack of ambition and quality.
It was West Ham, given flair and cutting edge by Dimitri Payet, who dominated this quarter-final and although Payet should not have been on the pitch to score his stunning 68th-minute free-kick opener, nobody of a red persuasion could begrudge the visitors their goal.
United huffed and puffed, but Martial at least gave them a second chance by volleying in Ander Herrera's cross on 83 minutes.
Perhaps Van Gaal's players will have regained their confidence and form when the replay in east London - which will be the last Cup tie at Upton Park and has yet to be arranged - comes around, but while this draw ensured that United's season cannot come crashing down on three fronts this week, this late escape may just prove to be a case of delaying
Considering the quarter-final results prior to this game, with both Chelsea and Arsenal eliminated, this was surely the moment for Van Gaal's team to seize the moment.
But it was a strangely tentative United which began the game. Perhaps last Thursday's humbling Europa League defeat at Anfield, on the back of the insipid 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion the previous Sunday, had plunged United's morale back to the depths of December.
The United boss started four of his summer signings on the bench so injuries could not be an excuse.
Van Gaal had experience, but he chose not to use much of it, preferring instead to start with the likes of Guillermo Varela, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
West Ham, in contrast, were packed with experience and authority. Andy Carroll went close to scoring, and then creating, the opener twice inside the first six minutes. The former Liverpool forward then flashed a diving header from Aaron Cresswell's cross over.
United were restricted to half chances - Lingard shot wide from distance while Rashford sent a scissor-kick over.
West Ham were containing United with ease at the same time as creating the clearest scoring chances, with David de Gea forced into a reflex save to keep out Emmanuel Emenike's header.
There was an alarming lack of cutting edge to the home side's play. Yes, United produced some enterprising attacks with Lingard and Varela linking well but it was nothing that gave West Ham too much cause for concern.
Darren Randolph did not have a shot to save until Herrera's 57th minute free-kick curled into his grasp. Herrera then saw a shot hit Winston Reid's arm, but it was a flimsy penalty appeal by United.
Then came the key moment. With Payet and Marcos Rojo chasing a 50-50 ball in the penalty area, Old Trafford held its breath. Rojo slid in and Payet fell, but with referee Martin Atkinson dismissing West Ham's penalty appeals, the official also failed to book Payet for diving.
A yellow card would have been followed by a red, due to an earlier booking, but Payet escaped and rubbed it in three minutes later by beating De Gea from 25 yards after being fouled by Daley Blind.
United's luck seemed to be out, but Martial threw them a lifeline with his late goal.
West Ham peppered De Gea with four corners in stoppage time. But United held on. They are clinging onto their season with their fingertips, but it is a weak grip.