Manchester United vs West Ham match report: Wayne Rooney sent-off in shameful manner but United hold out to record much-needed win

Manchester United 2 West Ham 1: Jubilation quickly turned to despair as Rooney was given his marching orders having opened the scoring

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The Independent Online

Captaincy was supposed to tame Wayne Rooney. It was meant to make him a responsible citizen, an appropriate ambassador for the world’s biggest football club. So much for cosy theory. In reality he is untamed, undisciplined, unchanged.

He was rightly, if dramatically, sent off after 59 minutes of an ultimately fortunate win over West Ham for a crude kick designed to stop Stewart Downing sprinting away from him. It was cynical and connected just above the knee. Such malicious intent could not be excused.

It was a disturbing sight for Roy Hodgson, who has invested heavily in his talismanic player. The England manager watched alongside Gareth Southgate, the Under 21 coach entrusted with the task of imposing the progressive standards of behaviour Rooney so manifestly fails to appreciate.

Fears of his inability to curb his more wildly competitive instincts were prompted by his emotionally incontinent response to last Sunday’s defeat at Leicester. They will grow as a result of an incident which appeared to be an accident waiting to happen. He’s one red mist away from a red card. United will not always survive his indiscretions.

They remain an imperfect work in progress. Corners continue to invoke panic and better teams than West Ham will profit from such neurotic defending. Luke Shaw made an understated debut and was overshadowed by Rafael’s compensatory adventure.

Ironically for a side shaped by a cerebral coach with a mania for the minutiae of organisation, United are a jumpers for goalposts side, as capable of losing 5-3 as winning by the odd goal in three.

They’re getting used to 21st Century problems at what is still billed, self-consciously, as the Theatre of Dreams. The Stretford End, already confronted with the indignity of a singing section, is being canvassed on the advisability of allowing modern monstrosities like drums, megaphones and mosaics.

That’s a little Bush League for a the club which represents Premier League plutocracy, but not altogether out of context with their strange start to the season. When United’s defence relies on a teenage centre-half, prematurely labelled the next George Best, something is up.

Paddy McNair, pale, tall but slight and with 33 on his back, looked like a schoolboy who had taked a wrong turn into the home dressing room while on a pre-match stadium tour.

He acquitted himself well, reading play with intelligently, and made one brilliant saving header as West Ham pressed for a point, denied when substitute Kevin Nolan was marginally offside steering in a right-wing cross by Carl Jenkinson.

United’s disjointed defence was given little cover and radiated even less certainty. United are in a holding pattern until defensive reinforcements of appropriate quality arrive in January. In the meantime they will take what they can from more limited opposition.

West Ham had not won at Old Trafford in seven previous visits but had evidently registered the statistic that Angel Di Maria has created more clear chances than any other player in Europe’s five leading leagues this year. The Argentine, whose technique at speed is unmatched, was scythed down within seconds by Alex Song, booked for a follow-up foul inside three minutes.

The West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, a fully paid-up member of Fergie’s Fine Wine Club, has risked contravening the Trades Descriptions Act this season. Instead of the pragmatic hoofball that defines him, his side played with a pleasing urgency and surprising fluidity.

They could not, however, overcome the self-inflicted handicap of conceding twice in the opening 23 minutes. They went behind in the fifth minute to an example of what Rooney can offer, a crisp scooped right-foot volley into the far corner.

The visitors should have equalised almost immediately, when a thoughtless back pass left Enner Valencia free , but he volleyed wildly into the Stretford End.

They left themselves an irretrievable deficit when Song failed to control the ball under little pressure. Ander Herrera nicked it to Radamel Falcao, who in turn supplied Robin Van Persie. The Dutchman cut in from the edge of the area and scored with a low shot into the far corner.

United’s fallibility from set pieces cost them after 37 minutes, when Diafra Sakho scored from the rebound after Valencia had headed a corner against the bar. Allardyce suggested the offending linesman for the disallowed effort to equalise “must have had superhuman vision” but acknowledged “you simply can’t go 2-0 down at Old Trafford”.

United fans were understandably outraged at Lee Mason’s decision not to send the visitings goalkeeper, Adrian, off for handling outside his area late in the game, but their ire at Rooney’s departure was risible.

LINE-UPS:

Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Rafael, McNair, Rojo, Shaw; Blind, Herrera (Valencia, 74),Di Maria (Thorpe, 90); Rooney, Falcao (Fletcher, 64), Van Persie.

West Ham United (4-2-3-1): Adrian; Demel (Jenkinson, 64), Tomkins, Reid, Cresswell; Song, Poyet (Nolan, 75); Amalfitano, Downing, Sakho; Valencia.

Referee: Lee Mason.

Man of the match: Rafael (Manchester United)

Match rating: 7/10

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