Advantage United as Rooney inspires comeback



There have been many late comebacks this season. Indeed, Manchester United’s ability turn to mediocre performances into victory is perhaps the defining hallmark of a season that again rests in the Reds hands. This time at the Boleyn Ground, where United has suffered so much in the past, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side came from two down to West Ham United to score a potentially vital win in the Premier League title race. With Chelsea and Arsenal drawing later in the day, United eased two points further ahead, although with matches against both London sides to come, nothing is settled.

With the hosts two goals ahead within 25 minutes United’s visit to east London threatened to be every bit as traumatic as previous matches on this ground. The Reds’ 2-1 defeat in 1992 handed Leeds United the initiative in the old First Division; three years later and a 1-1 draw enabled Blackburn Rovers to take the title. Just six wins in the past 17 visits and a 4-0 loss on this ground in November’s Carling Cup quarter-final attest to the trouble United has faced in east London.

Not this time. Ferguson’s half-time reorganisation of United’s tactics, and Wayne Rooney’s 14 minute hat-trick, settled the game that for much of the opening period seemed beyond the visitors.

“We played like champions today,” Ferguson said, whose team is now seven points clear with as many games to go.

“We didn’t lose our faith in our ability and that was a great boost to us. It was a real championship performance.

“They probably only had two shots at goal, but two-nothing down at half-time you’re under the cosh. I felt we had to go for it. I brought on Chicharito, put Ryan back to left-back. At that point I’m saying to myself goal difference doesn’t matter. Lets get something out of it.

“We kept creating chances in the first half. Valencia had them on toast. He’s so comfortable on the ball, they couldn’t get it off him. In the first half he delivered two or three fantastic balls in, we just didn’t get enough on them to capitalise. But in the second half, when Chicharito comes on, he gives you that lightning pace and he’s threatening them all the time behind. So it meant they were going right back towards the box and gave us a lot of space to operate.”

Yet, Ferguson’s decision to leave out top-goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov, in-form Javier  Hernández and winger Nani, seemingly handed West Ham the initiative. Deploying Rooney, not in the deeper position that has prompted a return to form in recent weeks but as a lone front-runner, Ferguson asked veteran Ryan Giggs and newly fit Antonio Valencia to provide width. Indeed the latter, whose ability to run at defenders United has sorely missed, proved a constant threat on the right.

The changes left United disjointed in central midfield and vulnerable in defence, despite Nemanja Vidic’s return to partner Chris Smalling in the heart of the Reds’ back-four. Within 15 minutes the hosts took control of the game as Frank Noble scored from the spot after Patrice Evra handled. Tomas Hitzlsperger’s fine long pass split United’s defence and Carlton Cole drew the Frenchman’s infringement.

Within 10 minutes the Hammers were further ahead, Vidic bringing down Cole for the second spot-kick of the match. United’s captain argued that the foul was outside the area – there were no more than inches in it – but Noble lashed home his second penalty to give the hosts a potentially decisive lead.

It could have been so much worse, with Vidic receiving a caution after bringing down Demba Ba before half-time. As the last man, United’s captain may have been fortunate not to see red, although with the ball not under the Senegalese striker’s control it was hard for referee Lee Mason to judge whether a clear goalscoring opportunity had been denied.

Yet, it is testament to both United’s resilience and Ferguson’s ability to gamble that the Reds turned the game around in the second half. If the 69-year-old Scot had offered West Ham the momentum with his initial team selection then Hernández’ introduction for Evra radically altered both United’s state of mind and the match.

The Mexican’s pace, Valencia’s willingness to run at Wayne Bridge and substitute Berbatov’s understanding of space, opened up the game, turning United’s ample first half possession into chances and goals.

Rooney superbly curled in a 25-yard free-kick on the hour to bring United back into the match, before the England man skipped past two players to lash home a second with 20 to go. The striker brought down a curtain on a horrible 12 months by completing his hat-trick from the spot after Matt Upson handled Fabio da Silva’s attempted cross. And United’s come-back was complete with the inevitable Hernández goal with five minutes to go.

It was only a fifth away win in the Premier League this season but on chances alone a thoroughly deserved one. There is also a sense that United’s victory will have deeply hurt both Arsenal and Chelsea, whose inconsistency has enabled Ferguson’s side to pull away.

“It makes an impact on us. Seven games left. You can count the games down one by one,” added Ferguson.

“It ends up you run out of games and hopefully we’re there. Arsenal have games in hand and it could go to goal difference but I somehow don’t think so.”

The Reds excellent recent record at the Emirates will again be put to the test, although by the time United visits north London in May the title could already be over, with Chelsea seemingly focused on Europe and Arsenal simply not mentally strong enough to compete. It’s a charge, whatever United’s weaknesses, that cannot be levelled at the Reds.

“We don’t give up. No matter what the score in the game, we keep going,” Giggs told ManUtd.com.

“We’d played some good stuff in the first half. We just gave silly goals away. We were getting into good areas but the final ball wasn’t good enough. We just needed to concentrate more in the final third. We felt if we kept creating chances and got a goal back we could go on and win it.”

So it proved and with United’s title rivals dropping points, the victory may yet be pivotal. This time, on this ground, it went in United’s favour.

Match Facts
West Ham – 442 – Green; Jacobsen, Upson, Da Costa, Bridge; O’Neil (Obinna 83), Parker, Noble (Keane 83), Hitzlsperger; Cole (Piquionne 68), Ba

United – 4231 – Kuszczak; Fabio Da Silva, Vidic, Smalling, Evra (Hernández 46); Carrick, Gibson; Valencia, Park Ji-Sung (Berbatov 64), Giggs; Rooney (Nani 87)

Attendance – 34,546
Man of the Match – Valencia

Possession: West Ham 37% – 63% United
Attempts: 6 – 18
On Target: 2 – 9
Corners: 0 – 16
Fouls: 10 – 9

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  • Zi Indefatigable

    I think we can beat Chelski with this team. Especially with Rio back.

    So happy!

  • Zi Indefatigable

    I just spotted that Tony V’s cross for Rooney’s second was with his left foot. THE BOY HAS IMPROVED!!

    Also, I think Berba changed the game. He was exactly what we needed.

  • han

    lets face it, vidic was v lucky not to be shown 2 yellows – still united have been on the end of a number of ref errors so it was time for us to be lucky
    shearer’s comments post match on motd about rooney were probably the most sensible things he has said for a long time and few dues to him since he is not known for his love for our club
    berbs was excellent when he came on and unlucky not to score; some of his passing was excellent and his link up play really turned the game – sweet pea too looks great but i still view him best as a sub rather than a starter

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Actually, I don’t think Berbatov made the difference… it was Rooneys first goal… they were allways going to crumble once we got 1.
    We were swarming their end for most of the game, but they were defending 2 gifted goals… we just needed to get 1, and pile forward… they were lucky it wasn’t 6 or 7.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  • ltel

    yeah but berba was class when he came on. giggs was brilliant at left back, valencia was maybe the motm for me.imagine how good we could be with a midfield

  • Zi Indefatigable

    Carrick played well. I made sure I had myy eye on him for the whole match and he does A LOT that nobody notices.

  • ltel

    naa 5/10 for carrick.. passes the ball sideways in the middle of the park. doesnt drive us on, shit at defending. pointless really. has the odd good moment but defo not enough of them

  • sheesh

    Blog Commenter said:
    Carrick played well. I made sure I had myy eye on him for the whole match and he does A LOT that nobody notices.

    Like put his United kit on?

  • Steve

    And yet still all we have had in the papers and tv today has been about the swearing. It was a strange one but people shouldn’t let it take away from Rooney doing his job clinically. Some big performances and I am not ashamed to admit that I love the Da Silva twins. Don’t even care which one! Both lads with balls of steel. If there was one downside to the game it was that SAF allowed Gibson to wear the shirt again.

    • Mongoletsi

      Shearer dismissed the swearing last night, said to move on. Will the press care/listen?

  • http://none ian

    It was all about attitude & belief. Valencia’s attitude is always spot on & he is a terrific player; Park & Giggs worked hard; Rooney has got some fire back in his belly; Carrick kept the ball moving; Fabio is just as good as his twin, fantastic; Hernandez scared the shit out of them & Berba had the space to play.
    There is a helluva lot of moaning on this forum but if Wenger had the same influence on his players as SAF they would be out of sight.

    • mongoletsi

      I agree with everything you said here. Carrick is genuinely playing better. He’s not good enough on current form, but he’s no longer “shit”. Berba was good but sulked and sulked; didn’t join in celebrations etc.

  • B

    Here is a heart-warming story from the game, reported in Norwegian media: A group of 35 children, most of them suffering from cancer, went to see the game at Upton Park organized by a cancer support group. They were seated in the West Ham supporter section and were screamed at, harassed and threatened with beatings. This was because they didn’t cheer when West Ham scored.

    A sad detail is that many of the hooligans had their own children with them. This did not seem to make them behave any better.
    http://www.dagbladet.no/2011/04/02/sport/fotball/premier_league/manchester_united/west_ham/16050191/

  • han

    Blog Commenter said:
    Here is a heart-warming story from the game, reported in Norwegian media: A group of 35 children, most of them suffering from cancer, went to see the game at Upton Park organized by a cancer support group. They were seated in the West Ham supporter section and were screamed at, harassed and threatened with beatings. This was because they didn’t cheer when West Ham scored.

    A sad detail is that many of the hooligans had their own children with them. This did not seem to make them behave any better.
    http://www.dagbladet.no/2011/04/02/sport/fotball/premier_league/manchester_united/west_ham/16050191/

    ffs that link is all dutch to me…lol
    the “happy hammers” are a bunch of spiteful cockney cock sucking daddy fingering fuckers who we should have sent down a few seasons ago when tevez was playing for them and scored at OT in their final game – 2006/07 i think it was but they won and sheff united were relegated instead
    i see that rooney will be possibly charged by the fa for his passionate outburst yesterday – from the bbc

    FA director Sir Trevor Brooking told BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek: “There will be a decision [on Monday].

    “It was a surprise, after scoring a hat-trick, to react that way. It is something we will have to look at.”

    ffs brooking – use ur nonce on this – he has apologised so move on, nowt to see here; if he is charged they will probably want to ban him for 3 games so that will give th erentboys and arsebandits some hope

    • Triggs

      If they suspend him, that will be one hell of a precedent to set. Surely it’ll just be a fine.

    • Zombie Cucumber

      The behavior of the Hammer fans is disgusting and depressing, but no worse than our fans singing about Hillsborough and Heysel, at Anfield, at a Youth Cup match.

      Check it: http://tinyurl.com/62hreoz

      Funny, I don’t remember anyone on the Rant bringing that up. All we could talk about was our young talent. Point being that every club has asshole fans. Including us.

      On another topic: would Spurs please get their shit together and knock City down to fifth place?

  • Triggs

    But for some shakiness at the back, United were excellent yesterday. We controlled the game (even with G Bomb in the middle) and Valencia was a constant threat. He put about five brilliant crosses into the six-yard box in the first half that, if Chico had started, he would surely have got on the end of one of them. Chico’s threat and movement in the second half was the difference for me – surely nailed on to start on Wednesday.

    Berba’s touches when he came on were a delight – he looked like he was just taking the piss! Hopefully he’ll get an opportunity to start next Saturday against Fulham. Again, Rooney had a shocker (until the goals), his first touch was all over the place BUT he’s a game changer and he’s still a hell of player when he plays like he did in the second half.

    BRING ON THE CHAVSCUM!

  • ltel
  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    Interesting to see how the Indian fans and cricketers conducted themselves when they won the cricket World Cup. Needless to say if England won the world cup football they might not be as dignified! Passionate but not violent and abusive!

  • herbie simms

    Giggs done a good job. Fergie made some good tactical decisions in the game and it paid off. And whats this about Nani not being happy at Old Trafford and he may be moving on. Have you guys read anything into this?

    • Mongoletsi

      Do you not have the inside gossip on Nani? I thought he was gonna link up with Ronnie next year when Jose comes in with his £150m war chest.

      That’s what you said mate!

  • ltel

    read about it a few months ago, he has been interviewed since and has stated he doesnt want to leave and is loving life in manchester.

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    Football is possibly the best sport in the world to watch but unfortunately is ruined by poor behaviour, management and governance at many levels. Too much money and egos are the root of most of it.
    You wish every player could conduct themselves like Ole Gunnar or Hernandez. They have proven you don’t have act like a moron to be good, respected and successful.

  • ltel

    boxing is the best sport to watch. similar problems there

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    Can’t say boxing is my favourite sport.

    Whichever you look at it its two humans trying to knock each other’s brains out – not very intelligent!

    Not much more than glamourised and legalised hooligan style streetfighting. Humans in their most caveman-like form.

    • Victor

      Tennis is best.

  • ltel

    bollocks.. its not aout knockin each others brains out at all.. people who think it is are not very intellient

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    I can appreciate the amount of training that goes into it, but it is just a contest where the primary objective is to knock out or physically injure an opponent just isn’t clever! Most of the boxers now are average anyway compared to the 80s and early 90s.

  • ltel

    well your primary objective isnt to knock out of injure, it to win as with any sport,is it clever to put a round piece of leather between 2 sticks for fun?when you break thing down to there basic level all sport isnt clever. and to say the standaed has droped isnt right either, you dont folow the support so i can only presume you have that idea from someone elses opinion. im sure floyd mayweather and manny pacquio would disagree, as would it

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    As far as I am concerned boxing is:

    A. A primary violent sport
    B. Not the force or quality it was in the 80s

  • ltel

    i think its the quality of the average fighter that has improved. nothig is ever as good as the previous few decades. same can be said for football music and that.its only in years to come it can be fully appreciated

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    Comparing the standards now to say the 80s is interesting. I think in terms of technique there has been improvement but today’s athletes seem to lack character. There aren’t many Robson/Keane type figures in United’s current side.

  • ltel

    yeah but there are those sort of players out there. we just chose not to buy them.
    as with boxing i think footy is better now becuse the standard of the average player has improved. as has coaching fitness and the wholse science area of it

  • http://www.sourceofgravity.com Bill

    The leaders in the current squad are Ferdinand, Vidic, Giggs and Scholes. Trying to think of high character players that are available to buy? Bastian S at Bayern is one, but I can’t think of many more.

  • fazal

    The peculiar thing is that Fergie seems to be a much better tactician sitting in the stands than in the dugout!! Is it the height? The supporters? He certainly didn’t take such bold and telling decisions early in the season.
    Anyway, our defence was not poor but they simply struggle against strikers who use their strength, body, weight, (basically bullies) rather than talent to get past defenders. That’s why Chelsea will probably play Dogba against us. Central midfield was the usual pathetic…Carrick and his lesser twin doing what they do worst: stand around and pass back to the defence.
    What will scare opponents is the wealth of talent in our attack…Rooney (back in form) Chicharito (the guy is simply a genius at what he does and LOVES UTD too!!) Berba taking the piss (the ball sticking to his feet), Valencia back in business and Nani…if we unleash these then we will win this league without question.
    At 2 nil down I knew we were going to win or at least draw. I think the confidence that this will give our players and fans alike should get Chelsea quaking in their boots…they won’t even have that cunt Atkinson to the rescue as well…

  • ltel

    fuck are you on about mongo?

    i dont mean this as a racist slur

    • mongoletsi

      What?

  • han

    fuck this racist bollocks on here recently
    call a cunt a cunt and all that please
    pc is fine in the work place but i doubt that any of the ranters on here are racist per se

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    was good when rooney swore at the camera, surprised more hasnt been made of that, not heard much about it

  • brianofnazareth

    han said: fuck this racist bollocks on here recently call a cunt a cunt and all that please pc is fine in the work place but i doubt that any of the ranters on here are racist per se

    Fuck off Honky!! White trash wanker!!

  • Ashish

    Tony V has been absolutely immense ever since recovering from his injury.

    But it seems to me as if the opposition have to go 2-0 up in order for United to start playing the way we usually do.

  • ltel

    we always play better a goal down. it does my head in
    whn its scrappy and we are scared of giving a goal away we usually do
    when it seems we have nothing to lose we are incredible

  • Victor

    Rooney looking at a two match ban.

    FFS, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is a better organization and less corrupt than the English FA.

    And English people wonder why the world is against them they play in international tournaments.

    This is why you twats. Grow the fuck up. Rooney should now retire from international football. His country doesn’t care about him. What is it with you English? You did the same to Beckham, now Rooney too.

    Your lot doesn’t deserve footballing talent.

  • captainhormone

    Blog Commenter said:
    Rooney looking at a two match ban.

    FFS, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is a better organization and less corrupt than the English FA.

    And English people wonder why the world is against them they play in international tournaments.

    This is why you twats. Grow the fuck up. Rooney should now retire from international football. His country doesn’t care about him. What is it with you English? You did the same to Beckham, now Rooney too.

    Your lot doesn’t deserve footballing talent.

    racist much??

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    An article about weekends results…
    http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/opinion/blogs/laptop-martin-lipton/The-Monday-morning-manager-on-how-Manchester-United-and-City-profited-from-slip-ups-by-Arsenal-Chelsea-Tottenham-and-Liverpool-to-near-the-title-and-Champions-League-respectively-Martin-Lipton-s-Premier-League-review-article719994.html
    I love this line from Hughes…
    “When you play for United you never lose; you just sometimes run out of time.”

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    cap says hughes isnt a legend

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Yeah but…

    Cap is a fat cunt!