Manchester United 3 West Ham 1 match report: Ashley Young returns in style to finish off Hammers

United’s midfield make their mark on way to comfortable victory

Old Trafford

Someone forgot to tell West Ham that this is supposed to be the season of vanishing aura at Old Trafford. Instead it was a return to the old days: Manchester United running a thread through the visiting midfield and their opponents reaching half-time without a solitary shot on target. United’s fans felt emboldened enough as evening encroached to “stand up for the champions”, not a fact to report too often this season.

For a change, the questions about job security belonged to the opposition manager. “We are not in a very good position in the League. We are concerned about that – all of us, owners included,” Sam Allar-dyce said. “Where you actually finish in the League depends on the money you’ve spent; it’s a statistical fact, that.”

He said the return of his injured “players of quality” – Stewart Downing, Ricardo Vaz Te, Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll – will make the difference. But five defeats in seven put his team in a bad place, while his analysis of United – “You always have to weather the storm and not give them too much encouragement” – simply lacked contemporaneity.

There were quarrels with officialdom – Allardyce claimed a Tom Cleverley penalty-box handball; his opposite number, David Moyes, said George McCartney should have been dismissed for putting studs into the foot of Javier Hernandez, who scored a controversially disallowed goal – but few argued with the verdict that West Ham were just dismal.

We must beware false dawns with United, but they could be in the top four by the new year. Their last four games of 2013 are all against teams in the bottom half, while the top four will all have played each other twice. “The rhythm in attack is beginning to get better, we’re beginning to create more chances,” said Moyes.

The script of this season suggested that Ravel Morrison might be a potential tormentor, though his performance yesterday – anonymous – did not suggest that Sir Alex Ferguson had failed Moyes by letting the 20-year-old go. A bad hack at Cleverley, which earned Morrison a booking, was his one conspicuous moment as a United midfield that has looked so vulnerable to sides advancing through it at pace instead stamped its own mark.

Phil Jones offered more of the poise which has made him United’s stand-out player in the middle so far this season, and Wayne Rooney’s workmanship was outstanding again. But the touch and finish of Danny Welbeck were the outstanding commodities of a first half in which the result was all wrapped up.

Welbeck’s role at the axis of a give-and-go move helped carve out both goals within an 11-minute period. A dextrous flick of his instep created the first, releasing Cleverley’s pass to Rooney, who forged forward and returned it to Welbeck, who slotted his first Old Trafford goal since October 2012 from an acute angle.

Second time around, Welbeck was the provider, delivering to Adnan Januzaj, advancing to take the ball back, then flicking it back to the teenager, who feinted past James Collins with a touch of the left foot and sent it past the Spanish goalkeeper Adrian with his right.

Januzaj was also booked for one of the season’s more ridiculous pieces of gamesmanship – diving for a challenge from Collins which never came – though Moyes leapt equally athletically to his defence. “If you look at the last two games, the amount of tackles he has had to take, he has taken more tackles than any other player. So we’ll talk to him about it, but you might be picking on the wrong person today,” the manager said.

Yet with Rooney dropping deep to help United build, the chances kept coming. Chris Smalling, as assured as Jones in the way he built counterattacking opportunities, began a move which ended in Antonio Valencia firing over. Even Ashley Young was able to rediscover the forgotten pleasure of wearing United’s jersey, settling on a Rooney lay-off to curl a third goal, four minutes after arriving in place of Januzaj. He had not scored here since May 2012.

That West Ham broke through to score was a reminder that they did possess strikers. One substitute, Carlton Cole, capitalised on the failure of another, Alex Buttner, to push up with the defensive line, bursting on to Modibo Maiga’s pass to spring the offside trap and score.

Moyes reflected on the prospect of reinforcing his squad next month. “We’ll look, but I wouldn’t turn around and say we’re massively sure we’ll get them, because a lot of the players we’d be interested in won’t be available in January.” This was a day when that need of extra help seemed a little less urgent.

Line-ups:

Manchester Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Evans, Evra (Butner, 80); Cleverley, Jones; Valencia, Rooney, Januzaj (Young, 68); Welbeck (Hernandez, 54).

West Ham (4-1-4-1): Adrian; Demel, Collins (Rat, 75), Tomkins, McCartney; Noble; Diamé, Morrison, Taylor (Collison, 62), Jarvis (C Cole, 71); Maiga.

Referee: Michael Jones.

Man of the match: Jones (Manchester Utd)

Match rating: 7/10

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015