Wayne Rooney scored a wonder goal, and a faintly amusing one too, as Manchester United won away from home again
Yep, nothing happened. And that's that! West Ham didn't really contribute much, while Manchester United grabbed the three points without breaking into too much of a sweat. What a goal by Rooney, is pretty much the long and short of it. That's two wins on the bounce for David Moyes's side, which doesn't sound like much for Manchester United, but in the context of their season, it's quite something. Suddenly, the Manchester derby on Tuesday looks winnable. If only they were playing it away from home, eh?
90 min: There will be four added minutes, and nothing will happen in them if the last half an hour is anything to go by.
89 min: Fellaini romps clear into the West Ham box. He's about to pull the trigger before he clatters to the ground. Has Nocerino clipped him? Hard to say at first, because the Sky cameras go all Hawaii-Five-O (original 1968 CBS series), zooming all over the place. But looking at it from another angle, the West Ham man slid in to get the ball, and Fellaini simply crumpled in a rather clumsy fashion. It doesn't really matter either way.
88 min: A quiet end to this game.
85 min: Tomkins and Fellaini challenge a 50-50 ball in the centre circle. The former slides in, and has his leg stamped on by the latter. It was an ugly challenge, though it looked clumsy rather than deliberate. Collins, who has been locked in a low-level running feud with Fellaini all evening, gets involved in a debate with the referee, but no action will be taken.
83 min: Taylor is replaced by Nocerino.
82 min: Another gilt-edged chance spurned, this time at the other end. Kagawa skates into space down the right, and he's got Hernandez clear in the centre. A decent cross would have resulted in a simple header from six yards, but Kagawa floats it far too high, and there goes that.
80 min: Jarvis drops a shoulder and makes off into space down the right. He loops a majestic cross to the far post, where it drops. Sadly, that's also where both Carroll and Cole are experiencing high levels of both confusion and dyspraxia. The ball is bundled out for a corner, but that should have been a goal. Bad strikers! Naughty strikers! "Moyes plays too much Football Manager," suggests Joe McGrath. "Makes subs on/after 75 minutes so they don't get a low match rating."
78 min: Two-goal hero Wayne Rooney - one of his strikes spectacular, one rather silly - is swapped for Danny Welbeck. Mata is also hooked, Hernandez coming on in his wake.
76 min: Upton Park is pretty damn quiet again, save for the warm glow of chatter emanating from the away section.
75 min: A long hoick upfield. Carroll wins a header. Cole doesn't quite get on the end of it.
73 min: Allardyce decides to roll the dice. Off comes Nolan, who has been all elbows and knees tonight. On comes Carlton Cole, the man Roy Hodgson wanted to purchase for Liverpool just before Luis Suarez turned up. Sliding doors, and all that.
71 min: Kagawa strokes a delicate flick down the inside-right channel, springing Rooney clear on goal, but the striker's gone too soon. Daft bugger, because a hat-trick was his for the taking there.
69 min: West Ham appear to have given up. On the touchline, Sam Allardyce has a gob on. He's waving his arms around in the 'Disgusted' style, too. I'm sensing another substitution soon.
68 min: Buttner has a dig from 25 yards. That's coincidentally the height it flew over the bar, and not much further than the distance it whistled left of the target.
66 min: Kagawa, Mata and Fellaini attempt a couple of fancy flicks down the middle of the park, in an attempt to snap West Ham's back line in two. The move doesn't quite come off, but the away side are strutting around right now. Manchester United would be top of the league if home matches didn't count. So much for the Theatre of Dreams, huh?
62 min: Nolan, cutting in from the left, looks to shuttle the ball into the centre for Carroll, but it's deflected down the inside-left channel for McCartney. The full back, had he not hesitated, would have been clean through on goal. He scampers after the ball after the event, and it runs out of play to the left of goal, De Gea out to shepherd it away to safety. West Ham claim the corner, but no no no. A more confident team might have opened up this Manchester United defence, but West Ham don't have their chops up.
60 min: Fellaini batters into the back of Taylor, just to the right of the Manchester United box. A dangerous position for a free kick, but Noble's delivery to the far post is a bit floaty. Carroll can't attack it. It's bundled out for a corner, and Manchester United are dealing with those without too much fuss this evening.
59 min: Jarvis comes on for Diame.
58 min: Kagawa, tight on the byline to the left of goal, curls a high ball to the far post for Young to guide down and goalwards. Rooney tries to thread a header into the bottom right from close range, but his effort is deflected out for a corner that's easily cleared. Manchester United are playing well tonight. Should they hold onto this lead and see out a victory, as they surely will if the evidence of this game is to be our guide, it'll be three wins from their last four league matches. The defeat to Liverpool will have been thoroughly depressing, of course, but the wider trend is promising for David Moyes, especially when you factor in the Olympiakos turnaround.
54 min: Young finds a country mile in the middle of the big city, down the right wing. He wins a corner, from which Rooney is gifted a free header, 12 yards out. Luckily for the Hammers, he balloons it well wide right of the target.
52 min: West Ham look half decent going forward, and Carroll's putting himself about as you'd expect he would. But they're not exactly employing a high-tempo pressing game when they don't have the ball. Manchester United have a lot of time to stroke it around. A move involving Rooney, Mata and Buttner doesn't come off this time, but the three of them had quite a bit of time to think about that. West Ham need to get a bit tighter here.
50 min: Carroll and Nolan combine to win another corner for West Ham down the left. This is a decent response by West Ham after a sluggish start to the half. Meeting the set piece six yards out in front of his own goal, Fellaini slices a clearance over the bar. Gloriously hopeless. The second corner causes a mild kerfuffle, Demel scuffing a shot amid the disorder. Manchester United clear.
48 min: West Ham respond by winning a corner of their own down the left. Fellaini clears it, but Downing comes back at Manchester United down the left, sending a deflected shot out of play on the right. He trots over to take the corner himself, a jog that was more exciting than what then happened at the set piece.
47 min: United waste little time in winning a corner down the left. Young takes it short, exchanging passes with Mata, and curling a shot straight down Adrian's throat from the left-hand corner of the box. A quick start to the half by the away side. Another goal for them, and West Ham are jiggered.
And we're off again! West Ham get the match moving once more. What the home side would give for a third 2-2 draw in a row against Manchester United at this stadium.
Half-time light entertainment:
Rooney hoicks a poor shot well over the bar from the edge of the box. Then Fellaini wins a brilliant ball in the centre, and soon enough Mata's romping into space down the left, and pulling the ball back for Rooney to screw a hopeless volley wide right. And that's the last meaningful action of an entertaining half that was all about a man who is certainly earning his £300,000-a-week wage today.
44 min: West Ham have been passing the ball around nicely, but they're resorting to Allardycian stereotype at the moment, with a couple of thought-free wangs down the wings. It's not working for them.
43 min: Manchester United aren't quite in total control of this game - they've allowed West Ham plenty of time down at their end of the park - but this is a much more controlled performance from them. It's been reported that they might miss Robin van Persie for the rest of the season. Well, the word "miss" is doing an awful lot of work there. Nothing in particular against the Dutch striker, but the Rooney-RVP-Mata trio hasn't been working. With one of them out of the road, United may be able to get something going. Van Persie's bad luck might prove to be rather more fortunate for David Moyes.
40 min: Taylor is booked for an extremely professional hit, a clean nick on the back of Mata's ankles as the Manchester United player picks up a long ball down the inside left channel with attacking intent. The resulting free kick, 25 yards from goal and just to the left of the target, is taken by Rooney. Desirous of a first-half hat-trick, he looks to whip a sidefoot into the top left, but there's too much juice on the effort.
38 min: Carroll fizzes a fairly basic low drive straight into the Manchester United wall. Demel latches onto the loose ball and forces a corner, from which not very much at all is achieved.
37 min: To loud ironic cheers, Fellaini is penalised for nudging Carroll in the back as the two contest a garryowen just to the right of the Manchester United D. What the home side would do for a goal right now. This is a dangerous position from which West Ham may be able to cause some bother.
34 min: Collins is booked for excessive running of the mouth. He wasn't happy with the non-penalty decision at all.
A strangulated appeal for a West Ham penalty as Nolan goes down amid a minor scramble in the Manchester United box. It's not a spot kick, the midfielder's gone down far too easily, spun out of a fair challenge. The away side romp up the other end, Young making good down the right, and firing a low ball into the middle. Noble, on the edge of the six-yard box, turns to hack clear - but succeeds only in pinballing the clearance off Rooney, whose mere presence sends the ball pinging into the bottom-right corner. As preposterous as the first goal was brilliant.
31 min: A bit of a lull in play. It's been a fairly pretty game, with decent chances - or at least half-chances in West Ham's case - at both ends. Upton Park's fallen a wee bit quiet at the moment. "That's twice now I've prefaced a wonder goal by exclaiming a post-watershed version of 'don't shoot from there, you blert' in front of my friends (Joe Cole against Sweden was the other).," admits Mike Gibbons, one of the authors of this upcoming tome, as I live and breathe. "They and I are starting to suspect I know nish about this great game." Hey, I'm in no position to criticise you for it. Manchester United were my prediction for this year's title. Tum te tum.
28 min: Carroll, going up for a West Ham corner sent in from the right, claims a penalty after the ball clanks off Rafael. No haplessness from Brazil's answer to Bruce Forsyth / Larry Grayson / Ant & Dec this time: it's brushed his shoulder. Though it's not clear he was totally sure what was going on there.
26 min: And now the scores should be level! Such is football. Diame has time - just about, it's tight - to get a shot away down the inside-right channel, just inside the Manchester United area. But he attempts to roll the ball under his boot one time too many - i.e. one time - and the over-elaboration costs him. Manchester United close him down, and the chance is gone.
25 min: Mata takes matters into his own hands, spraying a pass out left for Kagawa, who is set free into the West Ham area! But the midfielder's shot is straight down Adrian's throat, and West Ham escape. Manchester United should be two goals to the good.
24 min: Nolan, alone in the centre circle, Rafaels one into the main stand. Wha'? Eh? The quality of this game has dropped a wee bit.
21 min: Manchester United push West Ham back, enjoying an awful lot of possession just in front of the final third. But they can't prise West Ham open, and eventually Rafael passes the ball straight out of play on the right under no pressure whatsoever. It's early evening on a Saturday, so it's the perfect time for televised light entertainment, but Rafael's taking things a wee bit too far in these opening exchanges.
18 min: A lot of space for Rooney down the left. He's got time to shoot, from a tight-ish angle, but opts to pull the ball back instead. It files straight out of the area and back upfield. No good. Still, he's earned himself quite a bit of slack today. What a goal that was! "So Rooney shows Big Sam™ how to play Route One," quips Lou Roper, an eyebrow mimicking the same up-and-down arc of Rooney's shot.
15 min: Rafael is all over the shop right now. He's skinned on the outside by Downing, who reaches the byline on the left and whips a high cross into the area. Carroll slaps a downward header straight at De Gea. West Ham have responded well to Manchester United's early goal.
13 min: Rafael puts in another rash challenge, a shoulder in the back of Carroll as the pair contest a high ball down the inside-left channel. No booking, but he'll want to watch himself. Noble floats a free kick into the area, where Carroll eyebrows an effort wide right of the target.
9 min: Rafael, who is brilliant and gormless in equal measure, sticks out a cynical shoulder to check the run of Downing along the left wing. That's a booking. Slightly harsh, maybe, but you're giving the referee the chance to pull out his cards when you make challenges like that. The free kick, lumped witlessly into the box, is easily dealt with by Manchester United. "Black boots!" sings Richard Hare. "Everyone in the Scholes photo is in black boots. How many pairs of them will we see today? My bet is none, not even from the keepers - the footballing equivalent of a drummer in a band." I spotted a pair of black boots in a game the other week. Can't remember who was wearing them, or in what match, but that's not really the point: I was genuinely surprised to see them. The modern world's long passed me by, if I'm being honest.
Just inside the West Ham half, to the right of the centre circle, Rooney spins Tomkins under a high ball and spots Adrian well off his line. With the outside of his right boot, he whacks a huge up and under downfield, over the head of the keeper, and into the net! That wasn't just a witless blooter, that was perfectly judged! What a superlative goal - and David Beckham, who pulled that trick off at Wimbledon back in 1996, is in the stands to view it - with a big cheesy grin on his face, for the record!
6 min: Corner to West Ham down the left. Demel meets the set piece, and nearly flicks into the bottom left from close range. But the ball's deflected out for another corner, which is eventually wasted. This is a lovely open start, both teams clearly with attack very much on their minds.
5 min: Tomkins gifts the ball to Kagawa with an awful square pass inside from the West Ham left. Kagawa advances on the West Ham area from the centre circle, and feeds Mata down the inside left. Mata's in the area, and can see the whites of Adrian's eyes, but his shot is poor and straight at the keeper. "David Moyes really IS a football genius," opines David Da-Costa. "Statistically David Moyes is Manchester United's second most successful manager with a 54.55% win ratio. And you can make of that what you will." I'm not far short of totally innumerate, David, it's why I never do the cricket, or get paid well. But better folk than me could get 800 breezy words out of that.
3 min: Young makes a nuisance of himself down the right, forcing McCartney into the concession of a cheap corner. From the set piece, United work the ball through a couple of phases out on the right wing. Young picks up possession and whips a cross in for Fellaini, who heads down towards the bottom right from six yards, level with the left post. It's going in, but Carroll is doing his defensive duty, and shins it off the line. Manchester United unlucky to pick up where they left off against Olympiakos. Great play all round, and I'm including someone connecting ball with shin in that.
2 min: Taylor is not that far away from rolling a pass into space for Demel to romp into down the right. But he undercooks it, and a chance to test this makeshift Manchester United defence early doors is gone.
OK, so we've already had a 6-0, a 5-0, a 3-6 and a 3-2 in the Premier League today. Can these two pop in at least five as well? We'll soon find out, because they've kicked off! And, amid a storm of pre-match bubbles, it's Manchester United who get us going, and they're kicking away from the tube station, towards the stand furthest away from the tube station.
The teams are out! West Ham United are in their world-famous claret and blue clobber ...
... while Manchester United are in their white duds.
West Ham United recall Matthew Taylor and James Collins: Adrian, Demel, Tomkins, Collins, McCartney, Diame, Noble, Downing, Nolan, Taylor, Carroll.
Subs: Reid, Jarvis, Armero, Jaaskelainen, Carlton Cole, Joe Cole, Nocerino.
Manchester United utilise Michael Carrick as a centre back, by the looks of it: De Gea, Rafael, Jones, Carrick, Buttner, Young, Fletcher, Fellaini, Mata, Kagawa, Rooney.
Subs: Evra, Lindegaard, Hernandez, Nani, Welbeck, Cleverley, Januzaj.
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)
Which West Ham United will come out to play this evening? The team miserably whipped around the turn of the year in competitions various by Manchester United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Manchester City? The one that recently hauled itself out of the relegation places in spectacular style with four wins on the bounce? The one that's lost the next two? Good luck in calling that one!
Which Manchester United will come out to play this evening? Good luck in calling that one! For David Moyes's erratic side, 3-0 has been the recent order of the day. Their last three games all ended in the scoreline: an impressive win at West Brom against a side good enough to hold Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea at home this season; a miserable no-show against Liverpool; some throwback thrills of cavalier brilliance against Olympiakos.
If recent history is any guide, this promises to be a better day for the United of Manchester than the one from the east end of London. Robin van Persie needed to score late in both league and FA Cup last season to secure 2-2 draws for his side, but otherwise the Mancunians have the upper hand in this fixture of late: a 1-0 win in February 2009, a 4-0 victory later that December; and a 4-2 triumph in April 2011 when Wayne got into trouble for a bit of impromptu straight-to-camera beat poetry. West Ham did win 4-0 in the League Cup in November 2010, but Alex Ferguson fielded Bebe that day, which shows you how seriously he was taking that one.
But a 4-0 win's a 4-0 win, and Manchester United have had enough troubles against the Hammers in the past, home and away, to be wary of the threat posed by their hosts this evening. Especially as Sam Allardyce's team, on their day, have more than enough attacking quality to trouble a team whose confidence is still bound to be brittle. Good luck in calling this one!
Kick off: 5.30pm. It's on!