Sunday, December 6, 2009

Manchester United 4-0 WestHam

Manchester United made light of an injury crisis, easing to a 4-0 Premier League win against West Ham at Upton Park.

Paul Scholes opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time with a crisp finish, while Darron Gibson, Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney added second-half flourishes. But the celebrations were tempered by injuries to captain Gary Neville and fellow defender Wes Brown.
United's defensive options were already so depleted they started the game with Neville partnering Brown in central defence and midfielder Darren Fletcher at right-back.
Neville pulled up in the first half, and Michael Carrick had to fill in at the unfamiliar centre-back position. And, when Brown limped off late on to reduce United to 10 men, Patrice Evra was the only recognised defender on the pitch for United.
Further forward, Gibson was surprisingly preferred to Carrick after scoring twice in the Carling Cup in midweek, but failed to produce much quality until his goal after the break. Rooney ploughed a lone furrow up front with Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen both out of favour and on the bench.
For their part, West Ham face four months without their leading striker Carlton Cole and looked toothless without him. Guillermo Franco offered plenty of honest endeavour but little aerial presence, while Zavon Hines limped off at the break - yet another injury headache for the beleaguered Gianfranco Zola.
While the visiting fans sang Christmas carols - notably the Eric Cantona-inspired version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' - the fare on the pitch early on was less than festive. Neither side showed enough precision or invention, and the first half bumbled along in ragged fashion.

Ryan Giggs has featured prominently on shortlists for end-of-year awards, but an uncharacteristic error of his nearly gifted West ham the opener on nine minutes. Giggs's sloppy pass across the defence fell to the feet of Hines, whose low cross in front of goal narrowly eluded Jack Collison.
Gibson provided one of the few first-half moments that could pass for a highlight, seizing on a Brown knock down at the edge of the box but hitting a volley so wayward it struck the right-hand corner flag on its way out of play.
West Ham attempted to play out the final minutes of the first half with 10 fit players following Hines's knock, but the ploy backfired.
In stoppage time, a headed clearance fell to Scholes, who chested it down and powered a left-foot half-volley into the top left corner from the edge of the box. Goalkeeper Robert Green got a touch but could not keep the ball out.
West Ham actually started the second half the stronger side. Franco slid a perfect through pass for Junior Stanislas who inexplicably hesitated for long enough for Kuszczak to rush out and claim the ball. James Tomkins also had a good chance when escaping his marker on the right side of the box, but he headed straight at Kuszczak.
Just after the hour, Gibson effectively settled it. Giggs came away on the break and slid the ball into the Irishman's path at the edge of the box. One powerful thump of the right boot later, the ball was in the right corner of the net.
United cut loose, and on 71 minutes it was three. Rooney found Anderson on the left side, and the Brazilian slid a low ball to Valencia to finish from close range.
It was a lovely, slick move and within 60 seconds there was more of the same. This time Valencia turned provider, collecting a Berbatov pass and crossing for Rooney, who was in position for an easy tap-in.
To complete Zola's misery, Green went off after United's fourth goal and was replaced by the debutant Peter Kurucz. Green, apparently, was sick - and few inside Upton Park could blame him.

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