A brace from Wayne Rooney gave Manchester United a 2-0 win over West Ham at Upton Park and a perfect tonic after Robin van Persie was ruled out for the next month through injury.
Leading the line for one of the few occasions this season, Rooney opened his account with a sensational lob from just inside the opposition half after only eight minutes. The watching David Beckham, scorer of a similar effort against Wimbledon 18 years ago, was just one of the thousands compelled to rise to their feet in acclaim. Rooney then added what proved to be a decisive second just past the half-hour mark.
It had been a fine first-half display from United in particular, with Juan Mata making the most of being handed his favored No. 10 role for the first time since his January arrival. The Spaniard linked up well with both Rooney and Shinji Kagawa, while Antonio Valencia offered the width to give the trio space. It was as coherent as United have looked going forward in some time.
After getting a priceless win over Olympiakos in midweek, this was another performance that David Moyes will be looking to build on going forward. He will be delighted, too, that his team prospered despite making several changes. A particular concern on the team sheet was an injury to Rio Ferdinand meaning former West Ham youngster Michael Carrick was deployed in the center of defense alongside Phil Jones. While West Ham were primed to take advantage of the duo in the air, despite Andy Carroll threatening on a couple of occasions, United did well to stem the threat.
The visitors had two clear openings inside the opening minutes, first when Marouane Fellaini had a free header in the box cleared off the line from Andy Carroll and then when Mata’s tame shot was comfortably saved by Adrian. Eight minutes in, the game was to turn decisively and spectacularly in United’s favor.
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With the ball bouncing forward just past the halfway line, Rooney shrugged off the attentions of James Tomkins, legally in the eyes of the referee, before looking up and seeing Adrian well off his line and striking a perfectly flighted lob over the goalkeeper’s head and with one bounce into the net. The goal had the United coaching staff jumping for joy for the second time in four days.
They were far more anxious later in the half, though, when Carroll’s threat materialized in getting above Phil Jones, but the powerful striker could only direct his header straight at David de Gea. Yet, while United showed some vulnerability to West Ham’s direct tactics, they gave the home side far more problems with their incisive play on the counter attack. After Darren Fletcher won the ball back strongly, Mata fed Kagawa in the box but his shot was too close to Adrian. It was a similar outcome when Mata fired at goal after a Rooney pull-back.
The second goal they craved would have to wait until the 33rd minute. Just seconds after Kevin Nolan had an ambitious penalty appeal waved away, Rooney found Young down the right and then when the winger’s cross was met by a woeful clearance by Mark Noble he reacted well to turn it instinctively into the net.
The second-half was far less eventful. In fact United perhaps should have had a penalty when Fellaini was disrupted from shooting by a late challenge from substitute Antonio Nocerino. A West Ham side, who have now lost three games on the bounce to remain on the edge of the relegation battle, could only muster one effort on target throughout the 90 minutes as United held on with something to spare.