Manchester United strolled to a four nil victory without ever putting their foot on the gas, to put the pressure back on Chelsea.
The score line flattered the away side as West Ham failed to take advantage of a weakened United back four. But the counter attacking play was vintage United and proved to be too much for the Hammers as they succumbed to defeat. West Ham looked the stronger side in the opening minutes with Ryan Giggs making a rare error at the back, before quickly redeeming himself with a last ditch tackle in the six-yard box to take the ball away from Jack Collison.
It was the Red Devils who took the lead just before half-time with their first real threat of the game, but for the travelling away fans it was worth the wait. Having been in the newspapers in the morning talking about the prospect of retiring, Paul Scholes firmly placed his name at the top of Manchester United greats with a superbly taken goal. Scholes smartly chested the ball down to take it away from Radoslav Kovac before unleashing a venomous left footed strike which Robert Green did well to get a hand to, but was unable to prevent it from hitting the roof of the net.
Having been involved in some high scoring thrillers in recent weeks West Ham were incapable of getting on the score sheet, partly thanks to Tomasz Kuszczak who made a strong save from a wonderful Alessandro Diamante free-kick. The second goal came just after the hour mark from some quick link up play between Wayne Rooney and Giggs before Darren Gibson fired in a brilliant shot to cap of a perfect week for youngster.
After Gibson’s striker, United wrapped up the win with two simple tap-ins from Antonio Valencia and Rooney. The quick fire passing and movement were too much for the London side as the Red Devils found space to move in between the Hammers defence and midfield and finish the game off. The final score will have pleased Sir Alex Ferguson but the growing least of injured defenders is becoming a concern as both Gary Neville and Wes Brown failed to make it through the ninety minutes.
Gianfranco Zola: “Their finishing was excellent, especially their first two goals. The first goal changed the story of the game. We were defending well and they didn’t create much. After that, the second goal was a fantastic strike. I can’t be too hard on the players. They gave everything again so there is nothing to say, nothing to complain about.”
Sir Alex Ferguson: “It’s always a hard place to come to. Scholes’s strike was a great goal to get at an important time. He’s capable of scoring outside the box. It was a wonderful hit.”
The more mature players of Manchester United were on hand to guide the youngsters through what ended up being a routine win for the Manchurians.
Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have been the foundation for Manchester United’s starting XI for over ten years now and although they may not start or finish as many matches as they would have done in the past, there is no doubt that both have been instrumental in the Reds success in the Premier League. The reigning champions were never at their best against West Ham but they showed the rest of the league how to grind out the three points whilst improving their goal difference.
This match was a story of two halves. The first one was poor from both sides and they looked to be going in at half-time all square. But a trademark Scholes drive ensured that United took the lead going into the dressing room. Both Giggs and Scholes were the driving force through the rain in London and it was their awareness and attitude which saw United win comfortably. This is a fixture which the away side have struggled with in recent seasons but the wise heads made sure that this was not the case, as they begin to mount the pressure back on Chelsea.
Having been his own worst critic Scholes admitted he was not having his best season in the newspapers on Saturday. But his array of passing and wisdom in the centre of midfield was the ideal combination with Darren Gibson’s raw talent and enthusiasm.
“What Paul Scholes can do I want to do better,” maybe a dream which pops into Gibson’s head occasionally, and when it comes to scoring goals he clearly has a similar aim. After two well struck shots on Tuesday, Gibson scored a stunning strike again to stamp his mark on this Manchester United side.
With an injury list growing rapidly Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted with the progress that youngsters like Gibson are making in the side. Michael Carrick was asked to fill in for an injured Gary Neville who pulled up with a groin strain and Wes Brown was unable to finish the match too. With Jonny Evans, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand all absentees, Sir Alex could be hard pushed to play four defenders against Wolfsburg in the Champions League.
For Gianfranco Zola’s West Ham it is back to the drawing board as they need to establish a regular starting XI and picking up points against those teams around them in the table, otherwise they are looking at a battle to stay out of the relegation zone.
It is too early to say whether Gibson will have the same impact on the Premier League as Scholes has had. There are few that can follow in the footsteps of one of the most illustrious midfielders in Premier League history, but the United youngsters have the most experienced and ideal teachers in the game if they wish to transpose their potential into trophies in the future. It may be too early for Alan Hansen to stick is foot in it yet, but the youngsters at Old Trafford may still follow in the footsteps of their heroes.
West Ham 0-4 Manchester United – Scholes 45+1, Gibson 61, Valencia 71, Rooney 72
West Ham : Green (Kuruc 73), Spector, Tomkins, Gabbidon, Ilunga, Kovac (Dyer 67), Parker, Stanislas, Collison, Hines (Diamante 46), Franco.
Manchester United : Kuszczak, Neville (Carrick 34), Evra, Brown, Anderson, Giggs, Scholes, Fletcher, Valencia, Gibson (Berbatov 62), Rooney (Owen 72).
West Ham – Manchester United
2 – Corners – 8
11 (7) – Shots (on target) – 18 (11)
8 – Fouls – 16
0 (0) – Yellow cards (Red) – 1 (0)
3 – Offside – 2