Manchester United recorded a fourth-straight victory with a comfortable 3-0 win over West Ham United that provided a welcome cleansing of several unwanted streaks.
Looking to avoid a third-consecutive home loss in the league for the first time since 1979, United went in front midway through the first half with a first Premier League goal in 14 months for Danny Welbeck. That was soon followed by a first ever goal at Old Trafford for Adnan Januzaj before Ashley Young ended his run of 19 months without a league goal with a stunning third with his first touch after coming on.
Carlton Cole pulled one back late on, but it never looked like being of any consequence.
It is a victory that takes United up to seventh in the Premier League table and one that never looked in doubt after Welbeck had given them the lead. While not getting on the score-sheet, Wayne Rooney was once more the standout performer for David Moyes’s side. With Robin van Persie still on the sidelines, one wonders how much worse off United would be had they allowed Rooney to leave in the summer. He is integral to everything positive right now as he supplies the quality missing from the center of United’s midfield.
Januzaj provided further flashes of the immense talent that will one day surely see him as the team’s talisman, although, as he did when scoring his first goals for the club against Sunderland, he blotted his copybook somewhat when being rightly booked for a blatant dive.
West Ham, meanwhile, can only dream of the kind of creative quality provided by Rooney and Januzaj. Despite the light relief of progressing to the League Cup semifinals in midweek, Sam Allardyce’s side were desperately lacking in inspiration and without Andy Carroll deservedly remain firmly in a relegation battle.
Having impressed in West Ham’s Capital One Cup victory over Tottenham, Adrian was handed a first Premier League start. And it proved to be an eventful first half for the Spanish goalkeeper. First came the positive when he reacted outstandingly to fling himself across goal and keep out a shot from Tom Cleverley that looked destined for the net. The former Real Betis man did well too when he kept out a deflected effort from Antonio Valencia at his near post.
But that good work was undone as United went ahead in the 26th minute. The home side, who had shown little to that point, cut West Ham open with Rooney inevitably key, dropping off the front. Rooney received Welbeck’s pass and laid it perfectly back into the forward’s path down the left of the box, but although his low shot across goal was struck well on his weaker left foot, it was only the delay in Adrian getting down that allowed it to find the net.
West Ham, who had at least posed a brief threat from some direct play up to that point, became increasingly meek as an opposing force. At the same time, United started to up the temp of their passing. Alongside Rooney, Januzaj was becoming an increasing threat and had already had a penalty appeal, rightly, turned down before he produced a moment of real quality to double the champions’ lead.
Welbeck aided the young Belgian with a fine flick back into his path before Januzaj made light work of the obstacle posed by James Collins by cutting back inside the rugged defender and placing a composed right-foot shot into the far corner to this time leave Adrian with no chance.
It should have been 3-0 before half-time. Antonio Valencia led a quick breakaway before exchanging passes with Rafael to give himself a clear sight of goal just inside the box, but the winger curled over the bar with an effort that encapsulated his rather wasteful afternoon.
United’s performance tailed off after the interval, although Johnny Evans should have done better with a free header from six yards. The team suffered a blow when Welbeck was forced off early in the second period, to be replaced by Javier Hernandez. But it was another substitute that reignited the contest.
Rooney was again involved as he laid Valencia’s deflected cross into the path of Young in the 72nd minute and, fresh from his memorable goal in the League Cup victory over Stoke in the week, the oft-criticized winger produced another with an unstoppable strike into the top corner.
The arrival of Alex Buttner off the bench helped provide West Ham with a something to cheer when the left-back played Cole onside to slot coolly past De Gea. It was never going to matter, though, as United recorded another victory in a period of far-from daunting fixtures from which they need to take full advantage.