Manchester United comfortably downed visiting West Ham 3-0 Saturday afternoon at Old Trafford.
It was all downhill for West Ham. The game started with a little give-and-take before it slowly and steadily shifted in favor of the Reds. West Ham held out for some time, but United's pressure was always rising.
In the 32nd minute, just around when you'd expect, United struck first. Ryan Giggs beat former United right-back Johnathan Spector forcing the American to lunge in from behind. Wayne Rooney stepped up calmly and confidently to dispatch the spot-kick into the lower-right corner, celebrating as if he'd done it before and'll do it again.
The red United continued to out-hustle the purple and teal version, controlling more of the ball with ultimately failed ventures inside West Ham's half.
After the break, Man Utd struck early on the counterattack. Rooney played Nani through, who ultimately finished the sequence left-footed from 15 yards after a little dilly-dally.
West Ham never really gave up completely. Parker, Dyer, Cole, and Noble showed good energy at various times, but every attempted conjuration fizzled before production. Just the one shot on target for the West Londerers.
Berbatov deserved a goal and he got one in the 68th minute. Fletcher played forward to O'shea who feigned the compulsory cross from the right, instead deeking and shifting inside to Nani. Nani chipped in a precious, curled cross—deliberately!—right into Berbatov's wheelhouse, who jumped and side-volleyed from inside six yards.
That scoreline would hold after each side made several substitutions and perfunctorily concluded the already foregone result. Manchester United 3, West Ham 0.
van der Sar: 6: What score do goalies most often get? Six. Because they didn't need to really do anything, but still got a clean sheet.
O'shea: 6: Earning anything higher will always be difficult for the lumbering Irishman. His rough touch ensures daily turnovers. Directly contributed to United's third, though, and, I should be fair: it wasn't his only positive contribution. Would prefer a da Silva on the wing. Most United fans seem to agree.
Evans: 6.5: Sort of just let Vidic do everything. Evans was stuck-in when he needed to be, but that wasn't very often. More will be needed from him by harder opposition, but at least he should benefit from an overall leisurely 65 minutes.
Vidic: 9: The Serb determined very early in the match that he could do anything better than Carlton Cole and Luis Boa Morte. Vida teased them at times, giving them a few steps into the box only to crush their souls with last-second tackles, sometimes neatly, sometimes brutally. Games like this were the norm for Vida two years ago when United conquered Europe. Coincidence?
Evra: 5.5: Quiet game. Still ran a lot. Looks unfocused. I grant him that after the World Cup he endured.
Nani: 6.5: Poor first half saw him doing his usual routine: bad ideas but nice touches, good ideas and bad touches. He played much better in the second half and scored a decent goal. His form is so up-and-down I don't think he's reliable as a top-class winger, but he can still prove me wrong. Seems to have a growing fanbase among your average lay United supporter.
Scholes: 7.5: Again the ginger midfielder controlled the game going forward. He perhaps looked overwrought here and there, but if he can at least play this well throughout most of the season it'll be much more than anyone could have otherwise rightfully expected. His role is pivotal this year for Ferguson who doesn't have ample cover in that spot, especially someone as currently as effective as Scholesy.
Fletcher: 6.5: Still looking to discover his season long fine form from last term. He did more than enough today to snuff out West Ham when it mattered, despite being in fourth gear most of the match.
Giggs: 6.5: Was surprisingly sprightly today, which makes sense as he hasn't started yet this season. He was both tricky and wasteful, though, at times. Earned the breakthrough goal with his run into the box, drawing a foolish tackle from West Ham's right-back. Not very physical, but displayed a good gas tank and leadership by virtue of presence. Some nice passing.
Berbatov: 8: Berbatov was popularly undervalued the last two seasons. Fortunately for my credibility I wrote precisely that sentiment over the period. United play their best football with him as their lynchpin. He reinforced it today. It must be said, though, that today he added an extra amount of hustle, attacking 50-50 balls and headers with just a modicum more desire. That marginal difference is all it takes to convert his widespread detractors. Deserved his goal and the applause he garnered as he was substituted after a complete performance.
Rooney: 7: Rooney was well-rested and played like it. I'm not just saying that because I called for the rest last week. Rooney was refreshing in his approach not trying to be everywhere all the time, but he did characteristically track back on the most needed occasions. His assurance with the penalty was much needed and his interplay with Nani and Berbatov was often harmonic. First goal since March. Thank God.
West Ham United
Green: 6: Avoided any outrageous gaffes. Misplayed some crosses, handled others. Wasn't to blame too much for any of the goals, especially Rooney's penalty and Berba's full-volley. Shouldn't be England's number one, but is not out of place as West Ham's.
Spector: 5: A bit naive in whole. Very poor decision to up-end Giggs once the Welsham had already earned a route past him. Didn't contribute much to his side.
Gabbidon: 4: I'm not sure he touched the ball. Very anonymous.
Upson: 6: Combative with United's forwards, but outmatched by relentless pressure.
Ilunga: 5: Dealt with Nani when Nani let him. Probably conceded seven corner-kicks alone. It was always a lose-lose for West Ham's defense.
Dyer: 7: Looked twice as fast as normal today with twice the engine. Really encouraging from an oft-injured former starlet. Couldn't quite get over the hump or past Vidic and Evans, though.
Parker: 7: Reinforced why he is such a fan favorite to neutrals, myself included. Even as his side was defeated, he swash-buckled around the pitch with his characteristic blend of abandon and control. Unfortunately he was usually alone in his unbounded desire and eventually became consumed by United's community showing.
Noble: 6: Got involved on the attack whenever West Ham rarely had time to pass. Made some tackles, too, but was the fourth-best central midfielder today.
Faubert: 5.5: Flashy and sloppy. Passing is poor. He can whip in some crosses, or at times pull a rabbit from a hat, but in general his decision-making and fundamentals curb his individual progress.
Boa Morte: 3.5: Very poor. Would you blame him?
Cole: 6: Outmatched by Vidic & co. Made some niggles here and there but always muted. The tall and able Englishman has potential, with an above-average ability to hold on to the ball and turn with his back to goal. He can finish with both feet and is big in the air. Just not today.
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