[Premier League] West Ham United 0-2 Manchester United
ManUtd: Wayne Rooney (8, 33)
Wayne Rooney scored twice in the first half to help Manchester United to a comfortable 2-0 win over West Ham.
The first was a spectacular long-range effort that evoked memories of David Beckham's goal at Selhurst Park in 1996, and gave the Reds breathing space with only eight minutes on the clock. In fact David Moyes' side had already looked comfortable before Rooney's opener, despite several changes from the line-up that performed so well against Olympiacos in midweek.
Injuries, suspensions and possibly thoughts of next Tuesday's Manchester derby led to a reshuffle that included Michael Carrick and Phil Jones playing together in central defence. Marouane Fellaini's early header was cleared away from two yards out by Carroll, while Juan Mata forced Adrian into a save before Rooney's spectacular effort. Collecting a pass from Ashley Young just inside the opposition half, the striker looked up quickly and caught the home goalkeeper off his line with a looping effort that dipped into the net to stun all those inside the Boleyn Ground – which included Beckham himself.
Mata and Shinji Kagawa both had efforts saved before United struck again with a characteristically potent counter-attack. The hosts were still claiming a penalty for Darren Fletcher’s challenge on Kevin Nolan when Rooney fed Ashley Young, who raced upfield before crossing. Mark Noble's fluffed clearance went straight to Rooney, who will never score a simpler close-range goal.
The home side gave a spirited response after the break, but United kept their opponents at arm's length and even though Fellaini had a late penalty claim ignored, the Reds comfortably brought the curtain down on a clinical away win.
The match Buoyed by Wednesday's win in Europe, United returned to domestic matters in confident style with another potent away performance. Happy to counter-attack from the off, the Reds had already had two good chances in the few minutes before Wayne Rooney's amazing opening goal (more of which to follow), and continued in that vein with that cushion to rest on. The predictable post-half-time flurry from West Ham was soaked up without alarm – with a Michael Carrick-Phil Jones centre-back partnership performing admirably – but another goal would have given a better reflection of United's comfort.
The goals With David Beckham watching on, Rooney produced something, well, Beckham-esque, matching the ex-Red's famous effort at Selhurst Park in August 1996 to put United ahead in spectacular style. Collecting the ball nearly 60 yards from goal, United's no.10 shook off James Tomkins and then had the vision and audacity to spot home keeper Adrian off his line before looping the ball in, leaving the befuddled Spaniard flat on his back and in his own net. If the first goal was genius, the second was a gift as a backtracking Mark Noble put an Ashley Young cross straight onto Rooney's foot. It took sheer, hard graft, too – Rooney raced out of defence as the move began, fed Young and was then in the right place to finish off the move. Text-book – a captain leading by example. The goal takes Rooney past Jack Rowley into third place in United's all-time scoring list with 212 goals.
Star man Wayne Rooney reflected on "one of his worst days in football" less than a week ago, but that brilliant first goal must have partially erased those memories. That moment of magic rocked the home side and they had nothing in the tank to answer it – underlining how world-class players can make all the difference. But credit must also go to Michael Carrick, who looked perfectly at home at the heart of a makeshift defence, while Juan Mata pulled the strings with some sublime touches.
Sub-plot With a few personnel and positional changes made from the side that carved out last Wednesday's stirring win over Olympiacos, could this version of United knit together? Carrick teamed up with Phil Jones in a central defensive pairing tasked with dealing with Andy Carroll and they looked steady from the outset. David Moyes now looks to have a few options to mull over for City's visit this week. What a moment this would be to take that impressive away form – nine wins on the road in the league – and turn it into the consistency the manager has craved all season.
The opposition The Hammers had a strong, solid look about them, but it was not suited to chasing the game, something they had to do from the eighth minute onwards. Carroll was a threat but was comfortably shackled.
Move of the match Shinji Kagawa and Mata combined nicely just before half-time before the Spaniard pulled the ball back to Rooney, lurking outside the box. Having pulled the trigger to go for his hat-trick, he badly skewed the ball off towards the corner flag to end a move that deserved much better. Rooney smiled wryly, after all, he'd already bagged one spectacular goal.
In the stands "We're gonna win the league," sang the travelling United fans after Wayne Rooney made it 2-0, tongues firmly in cheeks. The Reds in the away end at Upton Park were treated to another commanding away display and, buoyed by Wednesday's win in Europe, they roared the Reds on to a vital domestic win.