West Ham 0 Manchester United 2 match report: Wayne Rooney a class apart for United
Striker adds a second to stunning opener as Moyes’ men continue revival in fine style
Wayne Rooney, as dispirited a figure as any of his team-mates during defeat in Manchester United's last Premier League game at home to Liverpool, added another spectacular goal to his portfolio to set the abdicating champions on the way to a second reviving victory of the week. He beat the goalkeeper from some 57 yards out before adding another goal himself as United dominated the game and put all the panic about their manager David Moyes into more rational context.
“It was just instinct,” Rooney said afterwards. “I turned, had a quick look and saw the keeper off the line. I've tried it many times and thankfully it went in. It is up there with my best. I would not say it is my favourite, but when they come off it is great for me and the team.”
Moyes has known more about him than most since their earliest days together at Everton and even he was impressed by “the technique and the power”, his only concern being that once it bounced the ball might loop up over the bar. A pre-match downpour may have helped in ensuring it hit the net on the rise.
United's manager was just as pleased with his team's display, not least in restricting West Ham to one effort on target against a side missing no fewer than four centre-halves: Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Rio Ferdinand. “Our performance was very, very good,” Moyes said. “We're showing signs of doing better and the only disappointment was that we didn't score more from the good football we had.”
West Ham's Sam Allardyce, playing the spoilsport, felt Rooney had committed “a blatant foul” on James Tomkins “who was going to head the ball away”, before setting himself up for the first goal.
It was all the more special for taking place in front of David Beckham, who had done the same thing for United from even further out at the start of the 1996-7 season on the other side of London, when Wimbledon were playing at Selhurst Park.
The United captain shouldered Tomkins out of the way five yards inside the West Ham half and volleyed the ball over the retreating goalkeeper Adrian, who, like Neil Sullivan in Wimbledon's goal all those years ago, had the look of man knowing something terrible is about to happen. It did and high up in the main stand Beckham - once a young United mascot for this fixture - smiled broadly. He had plenty more to please him as his old club counter-attacked throughout with a verve that could have brought several more goals. It was encouraging that they did not miss Robin van Persie, who will be out for up to six weeks. Rooney was therefore deployed as the principal attacker, with Juan Mata immediately behind him and Ashley Young and Shinji Kagawa out on the flanks; all of whom did well. Rio Ferdinand would have come in against his first club for the suspended Nemanja Vidic but was suffering from a bad back, so Moyes asked Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini to alternate in filling in alongside Phil Jones.
Apart from the occasional leap by Andy Carroll, one of which led to a header straight at David de Gea, the back-line was not troubled. The ball was more often at the other end of the pitch as United repelled attacks and broke out at pace, doing so classically to double their lead in the 33rd minute. Lee Mason dismissed penalty appeals as Kevin Nolan went down under Darren Fletcher's challenge and within seconds Young was going down the right to cross. Mark Noble, though he had done well to be back in a position to clear, was desperately unlucky in knocking the ball against Rooney, who reacted instinctively in guiding it into the net.
That might have been a fourth or even fifth goal. As early as the third minute Carroll had to block a header by Fellaini on the line as Young crossed. Barely a minute later, a dreadful square pass by Tomkins was intercepted by Kagawa, who found Mata for a shot held by Adrian.
Before Rooney's second strike, the goalkeeper had redeemed himself with two further saves, from low shots by Kagawa and then Mata. In a much quieter second 45 minutes Fellaini, in one of his more effective performances, tended to drop deeper to good effect in combating the aerial threat that was all West Ham had to offer. “Our cutting edge wasn't quite good enough,” said Allardyce, which was an understatement. “Now we've got two massive games against Hull and Sunderland.”
West Ham (4-2-3-1): Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney; Noble, Diame (Jarvis, 58); Downing, Nolan (C Cole, 73), Taylor (Nocerino, 83); Carroll.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Carrick, Buttner; Fellaini, Fletcher; Young, Mata (Welbeck, 76), Kagawa; Rooney (Hernandez, 76).
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Rooney (Manchester Utd)
Match rating: 6/10
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