Match Report: Alex Ferguson praises Ryan Giggs after Wayne Rooney's hit-and-miss return for Manchester United

Manchester United 1 West Ham United 0

Old Trafford

The look of thunder on Sir Alex Ferguson’s face when he wheeled around and absorbed Wayne Rooney’s second missed penalty of the season – and Manchester United’s fifth – should not obscure the evidence that Ryan Giggs, in the words of the song, is tearing them apart again.

The player – whose goal against Arsenal in the dying seconds of the FA Cup semi-final replay at Villa Park 14 years ago will, for many, always be his best – stage-managed a tie which never seriously looked in any doubt. He has not always looked immortal this campaign but the manager's words did not feel like hyperbole as he promised tonight that Giggs would be around next season. "Just a fantastic human being," Ferguson said of him.

There were many moments to marvel at – the 39-year-old thundering into a second-half tackle on West Ham forward Ricardo Vaz Te, for instance, and his balance in executing a first-time pass which allowed Javier Hernandez, just offside, to find the net. Or else the probing, clipped cross which drew a handball from Jordan Spence and the penalty which Rooney piled into the night sky.

It was not entirely a stroll. The need of substitute Michael Carrick to bring some control to a midfield which was then beginning to lose it confirmed as much. Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager, stretched things a bit when he insisted tonight that referee Mike Dean's lack of "courage" to award a penalty after a borderline Rafael da Silva handball was pivotal – but a more vintage United side would have been out of sight.

Rooney's penalty scuff – for which he could perhaps point to the dire state of the Old Trafford turf – takes United's number of misses ahead of the four they have converted and Ferguson had the parable of Johnny Hubbard, the so-called Rangers "penalty king" of the 1950s to quote. Ferguson warned in November that Rooney, for whom this was a mixed first outing since his woeful pre-Christmas display in Swansea, should convert more. Before tonight Rooney had scored 74 per cent of his penalties in the league and Champions League in the last nine years, missing six out of 23.

"I don't think it's one of these things. I think we have to improve on that," Ferguson said. "There's been talk about the boy [Rickie] Lambert at Southampton who scored 33 out of 33. That's what penalty-kick taking is all about. There are several great examples over the years. [Matt] Le Tissier 47 out of 48. There was player [Hubbard] in Scotland played for Rangers – 57 in a row. Your penalty kick is your opportunity to take an advantage – whether it's a foul or a handball – of scoring a goal." Hubbard scored 75 from 78.

West Ham seemed to have more important fish to fry than this match: Queen's Park Rangers at home on Saturday. Joe Cole, whose supply line seem to have mortally damaged United in the first tie, was rested. Allardyce deployed a three-man defence, trying to get numbers into midfield but United were too incisive to get bogged down and cramped for space.

Anderson, who has finally started showing in flashes this season why Ferguson invested £20m in him six years ago, executed the 40-yard ball from his own half of the field in the ninth minute which destroyed Allardyce's makeshift defence, sending Hernandez tearing down the left to level unselfishly for Rooney. He slid the ball in and gestured to the skies for his wife Coleen's 14-year-old sister Rosie McLoughlin, who has died following a lifelong battle with a genetic disorder.

West Ham's Daniel Potts cleared off his line and Chris Smalling could only head tamely at goalkeeper Jussi Jasskelainen. But for a 20 minutes or so after the break the visitors, whose wing-backs had clearly been challenged by Allardyce to be more ambitious, looked like they might score, as Matthew Taylor drew defensive errors.

Alou Diarra looked like the occasional centre-half he is; one powerless to stop penetrative passes ricocheting off him to allow Hernandez and Anderson two more golden opportunities.

West Ham could have no complaints with the penalty decision, which saw Rooney belt the ball over, right-footed. But neither could they moan about the night's outcome. Giggs rose above the mediocrity to carry United on.

Man of the match Giggs.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire). 

Attendance 71,081.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own