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Apr 17, 2013

Draw puts United within 4 points of title

Manchester United moved to within four points of claiming its 20th league title after Robin van Persie scored a controversial equalizer to claim a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw with a battling West Ham.

The nature of the result was befitting given United's penchant for having to fight back from losing positions this season. It fell behind to a Ricardo Vaz Te header before Antonio Valencia's first goal of the season levelled the scores. A great strike from Mohamed Diame saw the Hammers re-establish their lead in the second half.

But United again showed its spirit as Van Persie equalized with 13 minutes remaining, although there will be questions asked as to whether the Dutchman was offside. It was Van Persie's first goal from open play since Feb. 10.

"It's their job to give the offside decisions that appear in front of them," West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said of the officials. "This is a blatant one. This is not a position he should or shouldn't be in. He can see Van Persie is 2 yards offside -- he should put his flag up. He doesn't."

The draw means United have now claimed 28 points from losing positions in the Barclays Premier League this season and leaves West Ham without a league victory over them since 2007.

The hosts started the game brightly and, with the visitors toiling, it was Vaz Te who opened the scoring on 17 minutes, but the goal owed much to the driving force of Diame.

The Senegal international picked the ball up in his own half after another United attack broke down and charged over the halfway line before picking out Matt Jarvis on the left flank. Jarvis skipped past Rio Ferdinand with ease before crossing to the back post, with Andy Carroll knocking the ball down to the onrushing Vaz Te, who headed past David De Gea.

The visitors' equalizer came just after the half-hour mark after some fine work by Shinji Kagawa. The move started with Van Persie drifting out to the left wing and collecting the ball before playing in the Japan international. Kagawa then showed great composure to time his pass across goal to Valencia, who was left with the simple task of tapping home.

Neither side could take the lead before the interval but there were a series of incidents inside the United penalty area before a West Ham corner. Wayne Rooney appeared to kick out at Carroll, with referee Lee Probert talking to the England pair, before Carroll incensed United boss Sir Alex Ferguson by crashing into De Gea from the delayed set-piece.

"It's an obvious red card, but the referee has seen it differently," Ferguson said. "They're very, very aggressive, so you hope there's a strong referee. I'm not so sure we got that tonight."

The battle between Carroll and De Gea continued as the Spanish goalkeeper collected a cross despite close attention from the forward, which ultimately saw the Liverpool loanee cautioned. He almost responded with a goal but his scintillating long-range strike hit the side netting of De Gea's goal.

West Ham's second goal came soon after as Vaz Te's clever flick and Guy Demel's pass into Diame found the midfielder in possession just outside United's area. Diame turned past Rooney, who offered little resistance, and arrowed a low effort past De Gea.

Ryan Giggs was introduced by Ferguson as Rooney made way. And Van Persie had Kagawa, and the assistant referee, to thank for drawing the sides level. Kagawa cut inside before curling an effort that came back off the post and Van Persie's path, with the striker finishing clinically - although he was in an offside position when Kagawa's original shot was taken.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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