Wayne Rooney rediscovered his goalscoring touch, and his timing, in front of Fabio Capello to set Manchester United on their way to a comfortable victory here last night.
A day before the England manager names his first competitive squad since the ill-starred World Cup, for the two European Championship qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland, Rooney netted United's first from the penalty spot, ending a barren spell that had lasted 18 and a half hours since United visited Bayern Munich on 30 March.
The brilliant Nani and Dimitar Berbatov added further goals in the second half as rock-bottom West Ham were swept aside, suffering their third successive Premier League defeat. "Wayne had a lot of energy today which was good because he has not had much football," said his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. "He looked much more himself. Strikers want to score and he got off the mark. But the performance was key. We played very well today."
Rooney missed last Sunday's draw at Fulham with a virus and was one of three changes made to that team. He tested Robert Green with a low shot after 10 minutes as United began to press their opponents back.
Avram Grant made two alterations to the side beaten at home by Bolton. Strangely, he did not start with any of his six new signings, the latest of which was the Nigerian striker Victor Obinna, who agreed terms for a move from Internazionale on Friday. The Hammers' manager went with Carlton Cole ahead of Frédéric Piquionne as the lone striker but he had little joy against the excellent Nemanja Vidic.
Rooney miscued a volley after Berbatov's nod-down as United kept up the intensity and their threat was all the more apparent when Nani, who squandered a penalty at Craven Cottage, curled a shot away from Green but the goalkeeper tipped it on to the bar and away for a corner.
Ten minutes later, the opening goal arrived. Ryan Giggs ran at Jonathan Spector inside the area and the defender needlessly clipped the Welshman's heels.
Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot and Rooney collected the ball as his name was chanted from all corners of the stadium. He skipped up and placed his penalty firmly to Green's left, having sent the keeper the wrong way. All of his outfield team-mates ran up to congratulate the striker, whose low-key reaction suggested he has lost no faith in his ability during the lean spell.
There should have been more for United. Green saved expertly from Darren Fletcher's shot, Berbatov fluffed his lines after a teasing Giggs run and Nani, released by Giggs, lifted the ball over the bar as Green advanced.
West Ham's only effort of note in a half that justified bookmakers' odds of 20-1 against an away win, came when Kieron Dyer hit the side-netting.
It soon got worse five minutes after the break when Nani doubled United's advantage. Paul Scholes fed Rooney, who played it into Nani's path and he left three defenders on their backsides before his left-foot shot passed Green in a blur. The Portuguese signalled his appreciation to Rooney, but he deserved the plaudits himself.
The Hammers, with Scott Parker and Mark Noble busy in midfield, were being outclassed. But there was plenty of commitment and Dyer deserved better when running on to Faubert's back-heel and clipping the outside of Edwin van der Sar's post with his shot.
That was punished by Berbatov's classy third goal when Fletcher, John O'Shea and Nani exchanged passes before the latter's chipped pass found Berbatov. Dropping off Spector, his marker, the Bulgarian smashed a scissors kick into the back of Green's net.
"I'm not sure it was a penalty," said Grant. "In the second half we conceded early and it was too difficult after that. We have tough fixtures but now we have two weeks' break and then we will go again."Reuse content