Ferguson frustrated by United's 'lax' approach

Manchester United 2 West Ham United 0
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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson showed a mixture of admiration and irritation in the wake of Manchester United's comfortable victory over West Ham at Old Trafford, which came courtesy of two strikes in the first half from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo's goals and some inspired play from Dimitar Berbatov were more than enough to cater for the feeble challenge presented by Gianfranco Zola's side, who slipped to their fourth straight defeat.

Ronaldo will take the headlines for two well-taken goals that increased his tally to five for the season, yet it was Berbatov who tormented the visiting defence most with the talents which persuaded Ferguson to spend £30m on bringing him to Old Trafford from London. He was exceptional, but the problem for Zola's team was that so were several other players in red shirts.

While Ferguson lavished praise on both players, he was irked in equal measure by the fact they failed to score more goals after the interval.

Ferguson said: "The first half was magnificent and I was looking for more of the same in the second half. Goals can be important come the end of the season but we took our foot of the pedal. They ended up too lax for me.

"Ronaldo took his goals very well, but Berbatov's play was magnificent. He showed fantastic imagination, control and balance and you'd pay double the money to watch that."

Ferguson made no fewer than five changes from the side held to a draw at Goodison Park last weekend, the most notable being the omission of Wayne Rooney at the expense of Carlos Tevez.

Zola, who earned lavish praise from Ferguson in his programme notes, was without the suspended Carlton Cole as the visitors embarked on the seemingly thankless task of trying to arrest their recent slide.

Their challenge appeared far greater within 14 minutes – the time it took United to forge ahead and capitalise on their enterprising start. Berbatov had been denied a certain goal by the outstretched boot of Matthew Upson before Nani's slide-rule pass found Ronaldo on the penalty spot and the outcome was inevitable, the Portugal international sweeping home a clinical shot past the helpless Robert Green. Nani came within inches of doubling United's advantage just two minutes later but saw his angled drive flash just wide as the onslaught showed no signs of abating.

Craig Bellamy was becoming an increasingly isolated figure leading his side's attack on his own, yet even he would not have failed to admire the sublime skill of Berbatov in creating Ronaldo's second goal.

Taking a long pass from Anderson, Berbatov left James Collins in a daze on the byline with a quicksilver turn before finding Ronaldo for the simplest of finishes. It might have taken Berbatov some time to settle after his arrival from Tottenham, but this moment of genius alone made the wait worthwhile.

Within half-an-hour the visitors had been left facing a damage limitation exercise as the gulf in class between the sides continued to be cruelly exposed. Tevez should have increased the misery on the cusp of half-time but he headed Patrice Evra's cross straight at Green from close range. In the end it didn't matter that no more goals came and Zola admitted there were few answers to the problems posed by United when they decide to turn on the style.

Zola said: "We knew it was going to be difficult, to be hard for us but we made it that little bit harder by conceding two goals so quickly.

"Manchester United are such a special team, but our second-half performance is a starting point. It gives us something to build on. I know the qualities of my players so I'm not worried. I still believe in them and have faith in them."

Zola is also facing an anxious wait to discover the extent of a calf injury sustained by Julien Faubert and he added: "We don't know how long he will be out for but it doesn't look good."

Goals: Ronaldo (14) 1-0; Ronaldo (30) 2-0.

Manchester United (4-4-2): Kuszczak; R Da Silva (Neville, 80), Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Ronaldo, Fletcher (Carrick, 68), Anderson, Nani (Rooney, 68); Tevez, Berbatov. Substitutes not used: Foster (gk), Giggs, Park, O'Shea.

West Ham United (4-5-1): Green; Faubert, Collins, Upson, Ilunga, Behrami (Boa Morte, 44), Bowyer (Sears, 69), Mullins, Etherington (Collison, 46), Di Michele; Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Lopez, Davenport, Reid, Tomkins.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Manchester United Evra; West Ham Collison, Collins.

Man of the match: Berbatov.

Attendance: 75,397.

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