Manchester United built on their stirring Champions League victory over Olympiakos with a 2-0 win at West Ham United on Saturday.
Without European hat-trick hero Robin van Persie on account of injury, United’s attacking onus fell on the shoulders of Wayne Rooney, and he did not disappoint with a first-half brace—the first of which was worth the admission fee alone.
United’s title defence disappeared long ago, but a decent run between now and the end of the campaign will provide building blocks for the future.
#MUFC look and feel different in attacking positions. Has DM happened upon something for the future? Look mobile, guile, trickery,skill.— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) March 22, 2014
It could also add momentum ahead of their Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich. The German titans, though, are a level or two above West Ham.
United had a decent chance inside three minutes. The giant figure of Marouane Fellaini was left unmarked eight yards out, but his header struck Andy Carroll on the line.
Rooney has been a shining light for United this season, and he threw down a marker for Goal of the Season on eight minutes.
There appeared to be no danger as Rooney collected the ball on the halfway line. But after spinning away from James Tomkins, he spotted Adrian off his line and let fly.
It was an effort of absolute brilliance, as it landed perfectly a couple of yards from goal and bounced into the roof of the net.
If it had landed any farther out, it would have bounced over the bar. It did not, and with David Beckham—he of that famous goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon way back in 1996—in attendance, Rooney wheeled away in delight.
United came into the game short of centre-backs. Michael Carrick was deployed at the back, and the Hammers attempted to take advantage.
Carroll caused problems with his height, and he saw a header well fielded by David de Gea.
For as sublime as Rooney’s opener was, his second had a touch of slapstick about it.
Ashley Young’s cross was well off its intended target, Rooney, but Mark Noble inexplicably lashed at the ball, and it hit the United captain and flew into the net.
6 - Wayne Rooney has now scored 10 @premierleague goals against six clubs (Arsenal, Villa, Fulham, Newcastle, Pompey, West Ham). Variety.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 22, 2014
Upton Park is often an intimidating ground for away teams, but United never gave the home crowd anything to cheer for at the start of the second half.
David Moyes’ men controlled the pace of the game and the Hammers had nothing by way of a response, which gave the crowd little to cling to.
Fellaini had a chance to cap the win with a goal in the dying seconds, but he missed his kick when through on goal—although there was a fair claim for a penalty for a tap of the ankle by Antonio Nocerino.
It mattered not one bit, as United were much too good for Sam Allardyce's West Ham.
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Speaking to Sky Sports, Rooney revealed his delight at the result and felt it was spawned from the win over Olympiakos.
I am feeling good. Today was a good result; it was a much-needed result after last week.
The win over Olympiakos gave us all a big left and you could see the confidence running through the team.
It is a good victory and we are really pleased with that.