Tag West Ham United

Tag West Ham United

Sobering loss poses serious questions

December 2, 2010 Tags: , , Reads 37 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson promised faith in youth this season, although he may have cause to rethink the assertion after his team’s humiliation in East London on Tuesday. That Manchester United’s 29 match unbeaten run came to an end in such empathic fashion so soon after scoring seven at the weekend was surprise enough

That the Reds surrendered so meekly all the more shocking. But while Ferguson’s younger players failed to perform, arguably it was his experienced pros that truly let him down.

True, West Ham United exposed all of Bébé’s many weaknesses and Gabriel Obertan often looked lost too, while Chris Smalling was often uncomfortable and Jonny Evans – not for the first time – physically dominated. Fabio da Silva demonstrated his inexperience too.

Yet United, with Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs deployed in central midfield, hardly lacked for big match nous. The addition of John O’Shea and Tomasz Kuzsazck offered yet more experience to a side whose average age was nearly 25. Not 20.

Sir Alex Ferguson brushed off the defeat, blaming individual mistakes and ‘soft’ goals, which is no surprise. He cannot but support younger players who have yet to build a reputation or the confidence that goes with it. But the nature of United’s drubbing has sparked a debate not only about the quality of the club’s youngsters but the squad’s strength-in-depth too.

“I didn’t expect that, that’s for sure. If you analyse it the goals we gave away were absolutely too soft,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“We had one or two half chances and Gabriel Obertan had a shot saved by the goalkeeper (Robert Green) which then hit the post.

“The goals killed it. You can’t just give goals away at this level. That first goal was a break for them. We were in control in the early part, played some good football. But goals change games.

“The thing that sparked it was the goal that was disallowed because it got the crowd up. It spurred them on.”

Not that Ferguson is likely to criticise his youngster’s potential having very publicly placed faith in the group before the season’s start. Indeed, there’s some sympathy with Ferguson’s view in the match statistics, which saw United dominate possession – 55 per cent – and create as many chances as the hosts.

Moreover, arguably the worst performers were United’s senior men, with O’Shea, Giggs and Fletcher performing poorly. Anderson, after dominating midfield against Blackburn last weekend, seemed less than interested in the first period; presumably Ferguson’s hairdryer inspired a less insipid response after the break.

Kuzsazck simply confirmed that his exit sooner rather than later is to be welcomed not feared. Not least by Smalling, who has looked so assured in previous outings, but turned into a nervous wreck in the freezing cold on Tuesday night.

Yet, one cannot but be struck by Bébé’s failure on the right-wing. After scoring in the previous round, and netting a stunning double for the reserves recently, much was hoped – if not expected – of the £8 million Portuguese. Instead the winger’s commitment to running down blind allies and delivering without any quality was total.

Meanwhile, Obertan’s quality with the ball at his feet is potentially outstanding but his understanding of the game rudimentary at best. Even Hernandez had one of his least effective games in a Red shirt, demonstrating that without true support he is unable to dictate the flow of United’s attacks.

For all the defender’s attacking endeavors, Fabio’s failure was summed up in the opening period when he let a simple pass roll under his foot and across the touchline. Not a good day at the office.

But if one player’s ignominious failure at the Boleyn Ground was a case study for the team, then Evans takes it. The Ulsterman’s embarrassment by Carlton Cole for a second time this season mercifully ended in the second period with his substitution. That United fans had already sung for Wes Brown surely not a coincidence.

Of course, time rather than conjecture is the ultimate judge of whether United’s squad and younger players are up to the job. Humiliation in East London can do little to the players’ confidence though. Indeed, Obertan, Bébé and Fabio will now see little action, save for the upcoming dead rubber against Valencia at Old Trafford, before the season’s end.

Unless Ferguson risks deploying them in the FA Cup third round fixture against Liverpool. After Leeds United at the same stage last season, surely that’s a risk the Scot is unwilling to take.


Kids face Hammers test

November 30, 2010 Tags: , Matches 167 comments

Manchester United’s second string travel to Upton Park this evening in the continuing quest to win a third Carling Cup in a row. Sir Alex Ferguson’s youth and fringe players will be offered another chance to shine, with momentum also key after United’s thumping 7-1 win over Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford last weekend.

However, Ferguson could make 11 changes to the side that beat Rovers, with ‘keeper Ben Amos set to start and Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Javier Hernández almost certainly involved.

“It would be great to win it three times in a row. The League Cup has become an interesting trophy now,” said Ferguson.

“We come into it a bit later and it gives me an opportunity to play the young players as I did against Wolves. They responded very well.

“The players who played against Wolves are hopefully the future of the club. There’s a great potential there. All we have to do is develop that potential and realise it. By the time they are 24 or 25, we hope they will be the next Manchester United.”

The match could also offer young wingers Bébé and Gabriel Obertan another chance in the first team picture against West Ham United. Obertan scored a stunning goal against Bursaspor recently, while Bébé struck a magnificent double for the reserves last week.

Indeed, the match is perhaps more crucial to Obertan, who has now been at the club for 18 months but is yet to break into the first team on a regular basis despite injuries to Ryan Giggs and Antonio Valencia.

Of those who started on Saturday perhaps only Anderson could feature tonight, with the Brazilian short of minutes this season. The player’s forceful performance against Rovers was a reminder of those early in his United career. However, in the past two seasons the midfielder has failed to progress, with injuries and temperament holding the 23-year-old back.

Ryan Giggs, also short of minutes this season, could feature from the bench as the Welsh legend, 37 yesterday, regains fitness.

But it is United’s youngsters whom are the focus tonight, with 20-year-old Amos hoping to force his way into the first team picture. Surprisingly promoted to number three ‘keeper after Ben Foster’s departure in the summer, Amos says that he is learning from Edwin van der Sar every day.

“I’ve said a few times that it is a little bit like training with your dad,” the Macclesfield-born player told ManUtd.com.

“I don’t think he’ll appreciate that, but he’s great. I’m chewing at his ear all the time, trying to get bits of advice. He’s very open and he says what he thinks.

“There’s only one position and we train a lot, training everyday without playing is difficult, but you’ve just got to keep yourself motivated and make sure you’re ready and available when you’re needed.

“The next game is always a target for me. They don’t come round too often being the number three keeper, so I’ve just got to make sure I’m ready and I’m peaking when those games come around.”

United’s last defeat in this competition came in September 2008 when Coventry City won 2-0 at Old Trafford in the third round. Since which time Ferguson’s fringe side picked up the trophies in Spring 2009 and 2010.

United’s recent record against West Ham is excellent too, despite the painful results in 1995 and 1992, which cost United the Premier League. Ferguson’s side has scored 13 goals without reply against the Hammers in the last five meetings between the sides, with the Reds winning the last half-dozen encounters.

Meanwhile, West Ham is expected to field a strong team, although key players Frederic Piquionne, Valon Behrami and Scott Parker miss the game through injury. Danny Gabbidon, Herita Ilunga, and Kieron Dyer joined Mark Noble, Manuel da Costa, Jack Collison and Thomas Hitzlsperger as long-term absentees this week, while Lars Jacobsen is cup-tied.

However, Mexican winger Pablo Barrera is looking forward to meeting compatriot Hernández with whom he stared at the World Cup in South Africa.

“I know him well. We first played alongside each other for the under-20 national team when we were 18 or 19 years old. He’s a year younger than me,” said Barrera.

“He’s a good guy. He’s laid back but works hard, is very conscientious and is a good player.”

Given Hernández’ scoring record this season, few would bet against the striker hitting the net again tonight.

West Ham – 442 – Green; Gabbidon, Jacobsen, Upson, Tomkins; Kovac, Behrami, Barrera, Stanislas; Piquionne, Obinna.

Subs from: Boffin, Boa Morte, Hines, McCarthy, Reid, Cole, Spector, Faubert, Nouble, Spence, Kurucz, Stech, Brown.

United – 442 – Amos; Neville, Smalling, Evans, Fábio; Bébé, Gibson, O’Shea, Obertan; Macheda, Hernández.

Subs from: Rafael, Brown, Anderson, Carrick, Park, Eikrem, Dudgeon, Gill, Morrison, Brady, Kuszczak, Fletcher, Giggs.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistant referees: R S Ganfield & S Ledger
Fourth official: Andre Marriner

West Ham – LDDDLW
United – WDDWWW

Slick Reds ease to West Ham win

August 29, 2010 Tags: , Matches 6 comments

Wayne Rooney scored as Manchester United cruised to victory over relegation-threatened West Ham United at Old Trafford with a vibrant performance. After the disappointing draw with Fulham last weekend, United regained momentum in a Premier League title race that is already beginning to take a familiar shape.

The weight finally lifted and fitness levels creeping towards a sharpness not seen before his injury against Bayern Munich in March, Rooney can now enjoy a new level of freedom from press scrutiny. For the time being at least.

After all, Rooney has traditionally scored in bursts, and with the drought counting now ended, the Scouser is now liberated to fire United towards a strong start to the season.

While United’s talisman opened the Reds account from the spot, Sir Alex Ferguson reserved special praise for Dimitar Berbatov and Paul Scholes, outstanding against Avram Grant’s side, alongside the lively Nani.

“Dimitar and Paul Scholes orchestrated that victory,” added Ferguson, whose side remain unbeaten this season.

“They deserved their standing ovation and Dimitar’s goal was excellent.

“You have to win your home games and we are back on track after dropping those two points at Fulham last week.

“It is too early to say what formation the league is taking at present but the usual suspects are up there.”

Yet the game threatened to fall as flat as the Old Trafford atmosphere in the first half, with United’s possession not converted into goals in front of the Stretford End.

Grant’s side, hardly obdurate in the opening games of the season, demonstrated much of the fight it will need to avoid the drop come May. Rob Green, the much derided now former-England goalkeeper, Matthew Upson and Danny Gabbidon did much to keep United’s attack at bay.

As the half wore on Scholes, the returning Ryan Giggs and Nani on the right wing exerted ever greater influence on the match though. Indeed, shortly after Nani had hit the bar, Scholes found Giggs on the left, with the Welshman far too good for former United player Jonathan Spector, who gave away the spot kick. Rooney duly converted on the half hour.

The Reds doubled the advantage minutes into the second half as Old Trafford finally warmed to the occasion if not the weather. Nani started and finished a smart move, smashing a left foot shot past Green into the top corner. The goal had all the hallmarks of Cristiano Ronaldo; the heir apparent now firmly crowned.

Then the dénouement as Nani beat two West Ham defenders before teeing up Berbatov to score with an acrobatic finish. The Bulgarian, still not without his frustrations, has outshone his strike partner in the early season matches.

“Strikers want to score, but it is Wayne’s performance that we should be talking about,” added Ferguson.

“He was full of life and energy. He worked his socks off. He needs games but the 90 minutes will bring him on.”

“I thought his overall game was much better, he looked a lot stronger and we look forward to him playing for England now and coming back fitter,” added assistant manager Mike Phelan.

West Ham meanwhile remain rooted to the foot of the table having lost its opening three matches. With games against Chelsea, Stoke City away and Tottenham Hotspur coming up there was more than a touch of gallows humour about the travelling support.

They’ll need it.

United, on the other hand, head into the international break with the mood lifted after the recriminations of last week’s draw. Tougher tests lie ahead, of course, not least an away trip to Goodison Park, followed by Rangers and Liverpool at Old Trafford after the break.

Rooney, fit and now scoring goals, will at last relish the upcoming matches.

Match facts

United: van der Sar; O’Shea, Vidic, Evans (Smalling, 74), Evra; Nani, Scholes (Carrick, 74), Fletcher, Giggs; Berbatov (Owen, 74), Rooney.

Man-of-the-match: Dimitar Berbatov
Attendance: 75,061

Possession: United 54% – 46% West Ham
Attempts: 11 – 7
On target: 7 – 2
Corners: 8 – 2
Fouls: 3 – 5

Reds look to hammer OT visitors

August 28, 2010 Tags: , Matches 99 comments

Old Trafford expects its second victory of the season, with West Ham United in town for this afternoon’s late kick off. The Hammers, beaten twice already, conceding six goals in the process, look prime candidates for relegation, with manager Avram Grant admitting his team is suffering from “a lot of psychology problems” early in the season.

United’s principal selection choice surrounds in-form Paul Scholes who could be rested for the tie. Although with the international break coming up, the ginger midfielder can take a well-earned rest after the Hammers’ visit. Ferguson could draft in Michael Carrick or Ryan Giggs to central midfield alongside Darren Fletcher.

Wayne Rooney, now recovered from the stomach bug that kept the striker out of United’s disappointing draw with Fulham last weekend, will partner Dimitar Berbatov in attack, while Nani should return to the starting line-up in place of Ji-Sung Park.

Ferguson, uncharacteristically critical of his team following last Sunday’s draw with Fulham, is seeking an improvement in both performance and fitness, with several key players close to a return.

“Things are looking up here,” the manager told the press on Friday.

“Rio Ferdinand has trained this week, which was a big surprise to me. He’s made fantastic progress. Anderson is training with the first team and he had a bit of a reserve game of course on Tuesday so that’s really good news.

“We’ve got no injuries from last week’s game. Wayne Rooney has trained all week and he’s back.”

“We’ve always had really good games against West Ham and we expect that again. Obviously we were really disappointed with last Sunday, throwing away two points like that.

“Its uncharacteristic but its early season and I do think some of the players needed the game, the second half of the game dropped. We think they’ll be much better tomorrow.”

However, Ferguson is likely concerned about the form of his central defenders, with Jonny Evans given a particularly hard game by Fulham’s Bobby Zamora. The young Irishman found himself the wrong side for Fulham’s first equaliser and was unable to deal with Zamora’s physical game.

Good news then that Ferdinand is perhaps only two weeks from full fitness having trained with the first team squad this week. Although not able to feature against West Ham, the defender’s progress is speedier than anticipated.

“I must admit he hadn’t done anything football wise when we spoke last week,” added Ferguson.

“Maybe when he read what I said it gave him a bit of a kick. He’s come in and trained all week. He’ll train with the reserves today, and won’t be involved tomorrow [against West Ham] but we’ll try and get him a game in the next two weeks.”

Unsurprisingly Ferdinand’s defensive partner Nemanja Vidic is delighted with the England captain’s imminent return, with the pair having played so few games together over the past year. While Ferdinand has suffered with back, groin and knee problems, Vidic spent much of last season on the sidelines with a mystery nerve complaint.

However, the Serbian has no concerns about adapting to the old partnership when Ferdinand returns after the international break.

“We’ve played alongside each other for over four and a half years so it’s easy to play together, even when you’ve been out for a while,” stand-in captain Vidic told ManUtd.com

“We’ve shown over the years that, as a partnership, we have a good relationship, but we obviously need to reach the right form and you need to play every week to get that. Hopefully we can.”

It’s no concern for today’s game of course, although Evans’ performance will be under ever greater scrutiny.

West Ham travel north having made its worst ever start to a Premier League campaign, with captain Scott Parker admitting he is “dreading” the thought of the trip to Old Trafford. The Hammers play Chelsea, Stoke away and Tottenham Hotspur next, facing the very real prospect of beginning the season with six defeats.

Grant travels without injured quartet Jack Collison, Zavon Hines, Peter Kurucz and Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Team – 451 – Green; Reid, Gabbidon, Upson, Ilunga; Faubert, Parker, Noble, Kovac, Dyer; Cole. Subs from – Barrera, Piquionne, Sears, Stech, Tomkins, Boa Morte, McCarthy, Ben Haim, Spector, Da Costa, Stanislas, Daprelà, Obinna, Nouble.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Assistant referees: Adam Watts & Martin Yerby
Fourth official: Michael Jones

United – WWW
West Ham – LL

United beat Hammers at a canter

February 24, 2010 Tags: , Matches 1 comment

Manchester United move to within a point of Premier League leaders Chelsea after a comfortable win over West Ham United at Old Trafford tonight. Two goals from in-form Wayne Rooney and a late strike from Michael Owen were plenty enough to beat Gianfranco Zola’s relegation-threatened side in the driving Manchester snow.

Antonio Valencia and Rooney were the capital side’s principal tormentors as United recovered from Saturday’s heavy defeat at Everton. The England striker scored his 26th and 27th goals of a highly fruitful campaign – each headed home from Valencia’s right-wing delivery.

Sir Alex Ferguson recalled Nemanja Vidic to the starting line-up following an 11 match absence with a trapped nerve. However, the giant Serbian’s central defensive partner in crime, Rio Ferdinand, remained in the stands with a recurring back injury despite completing a four-match suspension. The England captain will certainly miss the Carling Cup final next weekend.

With one eye on the Carling Cup final Ferguson rested both Edwin van der Sar and Michael Carrick, bringing Ben Foster and Anderson back into a much changed side.

But the match lasted barely a quarter for the returning Brazilian Anderson, forced off with a suspected knee ligament injury and replaced by Ji-Sung Park. It made little difference to United, who dominated possession in the opening exchanges with Darron Gibson and Paul Scholes lively in the heart of United’s midfield.

Not that the Hammers opted to stay on the defensive with Giullermo Franco shooting just wide for the Londoners and then Alessandro Diamanti forcing Foster to quickly back pedal as the England international kept out the deflected shot.

Rooney, forcing a last-ditch tackle from Jack Collison and then Gibson, twice, went close for the home side as United increased the pressure on Rob Green’s goal.

But the best of United’s play continued down the right and inevitably Valencia created the opening goal. Berbatov’s classy pass wide, volleyed across goal by the Ecuadorian and headed into the net by Rooney capped a wonderful United move.

Chances came for Rooney, on the volley, and then Park who forced an effort against the frame of the goal before the former-Evertonian headed home his second of the game. Once again Valencia provided the creative impetus on the right-wing with a delightfully chipped cross.

The rampant Scouser almost embarrassed Green, latching onto Valencia’s through ball and lofting a strike from the acutest of angles. Fortunately for the wandering England ‘keeper Julien Faubert stopped Rooney’s effort on the line.

There was still time to add a third and substitute Owen, who had spoken about his omission from the side in recent weeks, scored with his first touch. The diminutive hitman lofted over the advancing Green from Scholes’ weighted through-ball.

“I think there was a good attitude tonight and a real hunger for victory. West Ham have been doing very well recently so it was a good victory for us,” said Ferguson, who is likely to be deeply concerned with Ferdinand’s omission.

“He felt a twinge on his back this morning. We did a warm up at Carrington and he felt a twinge so we couldn’t risk it of course.”

But Ferguson will warm to the performances of United’s other key men at Old Trafford tonight. Rooney and Valencia will certainly start Sunday’s cup final along with the commanding Vidic. The trio were superb in a controlled United performance.

But the Scot will also have noted the mature performance of Gibson in the heart of United’s midfield who could yet force his way into the Carling Cup side.

Carrick’s ‘blip’ leaves United with no room for error

February 22, 2010 Tags: , Matches 1 comment

Michael Carrick believes that Saturday’s heavy defeat to Everton is a one-off, with Manchester United previously in great form. The former-West Ham United midfielder meets his old employers tomorrow night at Old Trafford in a game that Sir Alex Ferguson’s men dare not contemplate anything other than all three points.

United face lowly West Ham with just 11 games to go in the Premier League season, while Chelsea has a European Champions League fixture. Victory will take Ferguson’s men to within a point of the leaders. Defeat, even in a season of widespread mediocrity, could spell the end of United’s challenge.

But in contrast to Patrice Evra, who stated the players didn’t believe in themselves last Saturday, Carrick says that the team has already written off the result.

“We were surprised at the performance on Saturday and hugely disappointed with the way the game went,” said Carrick, who has won three Premier League titles while a United player.

“We have had some massive games in the last month and played really well over that period of time.

“That is why Saturday was such a shock. I suppose we have to look at it as a one-off. We are certainly not getting too down about things.

“We have to bounce back but the manner of our performances over the past few weeks leads us to believe we can do it again.”

United will certainly be helped by the return of Rio Ferdinand, who has completed a four match suspension. With Wes Brown and Jonny Evans both guilty of glaring defensive errors at the weekend, Ferguson may also choose to bring Nemanja Vidic back into the side. The Serbian has taken part in full-time training for more than three weeks but only made the bench for Saturday’s loss.

In midfield United is again without the suspended Nani and injured Ryan Giggs so Ferguson may choose to hand Gabriel Obertan a match after the Frenchman’s cameo at the weekend.

The manager must also decide whether to keep faith with the Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov partnership that disappointed on Merseyside. Rooney’s muted performance was arguably his worst for several weeks, although the Bulgarian scored a superbly taken goal.

Whatever the formation tomorrow, United now requires dropped points in at least two matches from Chelsea. It offers Ferguson’s side almost no room for error.

“It has been a funny season with the results that have been thrown up and I certainly hope there are more slips before the end, adds Carrick.

“It is frustrating to know we need Chelsea to slip up once or twice but we need it to be a big game when they come to Old Trafford and ensure there is a lot riding on it.

“We still believe we are in there fighting. There are a lot of points to play for so we need to keep winning and apply some pressure.”

Indeed, after the Carling Cup final next weekend United faces winnable games against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham before a 21 March showdown with Liverpool.

West Hammered in United rout

December 5, 2009 Tags: Matches 2 comments

Manchester United produced a storming second half performance to welcome Sir Alex Ferguson back to the bench. Goals from Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes and a stunning strike by Darron Gibson sealed a convincing United win at Upton Park. But Ferguson will face further defensive injuries that leaves United with eight defenders on the sidelines.

With Ferguson back on the touchline following his two match ban, United started the match with an unfamiliar defensive line-up. Gary Neville joined Wes Brown in the centre of defence – both forced out of the game before the end of the match – and Darren Fletcher lined-up at right-back.

The rout, United’s biggest winning margin at Upton Park since 1967, came after a quiet opening half-hour from the visitors. With typically boisterous Upton Park crowd, the home side attacked adventurously without creating any clear chances.

United’s midfield five, supporting lone-man Wayne Rooney, struggled for penetration with Valencia hugging the touchline and Ryan Giggs offering the Scouser the closest support. Gibson, retained following his brace against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, struggled to impose himself on the match. The Irishman gave away the ball and shot wildly in a nervous-looking opening.

Despite the low-key start United’s makeshift rear-guard held off an unimaginative West Ham attack, which was lacking leading scorer Carlton Cole through injury.

And on the cusp of half-time the visitors had the lead, with veteran Scholes firing a left-foot half volley into the roof of Rob Green’s net from the edge of the area. The former-England international hinted at retirement this week but on this evidence Ferguson will hope to sign up the midfielder to at least another year. Scholes now needs just one more strike to reach 100 Premier League goals.

The visitors were in no mood to let West Ham recover after the break and on the hour Gibson finally found his shooting boots with a glorious strike into Green’s top-corner. Using the outside of his boot, Gibson finished a swift United counter to end the game as a meaningful contest.

Within ten minutes United had doubled its advantage with goals from Rooney and Valencia to round-off an emphatic victory and a wonderful performance in the second period.

Despite the result, Ferguson must patch up a defence that comprised Fletcher, Anderson, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra by the final whistle. With a trip to Wolfsburg just days away, the Scot will need to rush back flu-victim Nemanja Vidic.

“It’s always a hard place to come to, we’ve experience difficult games over the years,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.

“We had six players missing before the game. Gary Neville came off and then Wes Brown had to come off too. We’re down to the bare bones.

“We finished the game really well. 4-0 is a really good score away from home, good for the confidence and good for the goal difference. We hope by the end of the month we’re close to Chelsea and if we are we’ve a great chance.

“Nemanja Vidic missed the game with flu but we’re hoping to have him back [for Wolfsburg]. We might have to play Michael carrick again, he did really well there.”

On the positive side Ferguson was able to praise the performances of Scholes and Gibson in central midfield.

“It was a great goal to get at an important time, it settled us down,” said Ferguson of Scholes’ strike on 45 minutes.

“We said that about the boy [Gibson]. He’s capable of scoring from outside the box, he has fantastic power, and it was a wonderful hit. He keeps trying to score form outside the box and we really encourage that.”