Keane's winner brings relief

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The Independent Online
GUY HODGSON

Manchester United 2 West Ham United 1

The swagger was in the stand in the shape of Eric Cantona and their team were barely recogniseable as the Double winners of 15 months ago, but Manchester United still had enough in reserve - just - to beat one of the Premiership's lesser lights at Old Trafford.

Goals from Paul Scholes and Roy Keane were sufficient last night but anyone hoping to witness a performance to eradicate the whiff of fading pomp would have been disappointed. Labour rather than inspiration proved the winner in a scrappy match.

To make it a less than happy night for the visitors, who have lost both their opening fixtures, they had Marco Boogers sent off two minutes from the end for a clumsy and violent challenge on Gary Neville that was so late it was touch and go whether it would beat the final whistle.

The loss of Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis has left United in reduced circumstances that was matched by the reduced attendance, which was down to 31,966 to accommodate the building of a new stand.

The game finally stirred into life in the 50th minute when United took the lead. Denis Irwin's first attempt at a low cross was charged down but the rebound came back to the full-back and his second attempt was better. The pass reached the far post where Scholes turned it in.

This lead lasted just six minutes as West Ham were rewarded for their earlier superiority with a slice of luck. Allen hit a low shot towards the six-yard box and Steve Bruce's attempt to intercept proved a mistake as his lunge thumped against Peter Schmeichel and bounced into the net.

The crowd was pleading for Andy Cole but before he could get on the need for the pounds 7m striker was reduced when United regained the lead. Scholes and Nicky Butt combined to give Keane space on the left of the area and the Irishman beat Lukek Miklosko from 15 yards.

"It's always nice to get your first win," Ferguson said. "The crisis can move elsewhere."

Manchester United (4-4-2): Schmeichel; G Neville, Bruce, Pallister, Irwin; Beckham, Keane, Butt, Sharpe; McClair (Thornley, 83), Scholes (Cole, 67). Substitutes not used: Thornley, Pilkington (gk).

West Ham United (4-4-2): Miklosko; Breacker, Reiper, Potts, Dicks; Allen, Bishop, Moncur, Williamson (Boogers, 72); Cottee, Hutchison. Substitutes not used: Martin, Sealey (gk).

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury).

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