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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee