From the Newsroom - Dave Evans

It was just a year ago when we all thought that Mauro Zarate had played his last game for West Ham.

He was in the team that returned from West Brom with all three Premier League points, but differences with then manager Sam Allardyce meant he was out of the team and shipped off to west London and Queens Park Rangers.

Things did not get much better there as first injury and then non-selection restricted him to just four substitute appearances.

What a difference a year makes. With the arrival of Slaven Bilic, has come a new start and a new belief in the skills and potential of the 28-year-old Argentinian.

He has scored five goals already this term and though Saturday at Old Trafford turned out not to be his day, he was the man who took the game to Manchester United with his flair and daring.

Without Dimitri Payet, Enner Valencia, Diafra Sakho and latest injury victim Manuel Lanzini many thought that West Ham would be in for a long and tough afternoon in Manchester on Saturday.

But even without those key men, West Ham looked confident, took the game to Louis van Gaal’s men and on another day would have had the game sewn up by half time.

That first half was as good as the Hammers have played on the road this season and that includes the trips to Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City. The only thing that was missing was the finishing.

Zarate was one of the reasons for that first-half dominance. While Adrian did not have a shot to save in the opening 45 minutes, Zarate hit the post, albeit without realising it; Winston Reid headed against the base of the same post, while perhaps the best chance fell to Victor Moses who failed to beat David de Gea in a one-on-one situation.

United have only let in one home league goal all season and most visiting teams have not had much of a sniff of even an opening there, so to have four golden chances in the opening 45 minutes was a monumental achievement.

Earlier in the season it would have been game over and three more points for West Ham, but it wasn’t quite to be.

The second half saw United storm back – it is United at home after all – but the Hammers kept their belief, defended superbly with Winston Reid at his very best, but they still would not have held out if it wasn’t for the fact that they relieved the pressure with some attacking of their own.

And then came the moment - the moment where West Ham could and should have secured the match.
It was a great move. Michail Antonio put in a low cross with the outside of his boot, Andy Carroll played a superb knock down which fell neatly into the path of the onside Zarate.

But inexplicably, the Argentinian somehow managed to poke his shot wide with just the keeper to beat and he buried his head into the Old Trafford turf in disbelief.

Zarate apologised for the miss on twitter on Saturday night, but there was no need.

At least he was in the right place at the right time and over the years since that Carlos Tevez winner on ‘Great Escape’ day, the Hammers have rarely got into the United box at all.

This is a different sort of West Ham though. Not a defence first, play for a point team, but a confident side who know they can play with the best, even if they are missing their own key men.

Zarate is a part of that and a year is clearly a long time in football. Without a change in manager and the arrival of Bilic, he would have been long gone. Now he is a vital attacking player for the team.

Not bad for a free transfer who couldn’t get into QPR’s relegation team!

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United.