West Ham go down at Man Utd to start tricky Xmas period teetering above drop zone
PUBLISHED: 17:18 21 December 2013 | UPDATED: 12:23 22 December 2013
Premier League: Manchester United 3 West Ham United 1
The euphoria of Wednesday’s wonderful win at Tottenham Hotspur quickly evaporated into the miserable Manchester night to leave the Hammers with an anxious festive break in front of them.
First-half goals by Danny Welbeck, Adnan Januzaj and a 70th-minute effort by Ashley Young put United well on the way to victory before substitute Carlton Cole struck a late consolation.
And that leaves Sam Allardyce’s 17th-placed side just one point clear of the drop zone ahead of the Boxing Day clash with Arsenal and crucial seasonal scraps with West Bromwich Albion and Fulham.
Both clubs had progressed to the last four of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday evening and having avoided each other in next month’s semi-finals, they now returned to their Premier League day jobs.
Having inflicted a second dose of White Hart Lane pain on Spurs in midweek, Big Sam made half-a-dozen changes as match-winner Modibo Maiga, Guy Demel, Mohamed Diame, fit-again James Tomkins, Mark Noble and Old Trafford old-boy Ravel Morrison returned to the fold.
That meant a surprise Premier League debut for keeper Adrian, whose cup exploits had clearly been recognised by Big Sam and there were not even 60 seconds on the clock, when the Spaniard was called upon to make his first save of a busy afternoon, when he brilliantly pawed aside Tom Cleverley’s first time shot after Januzaj sent a right-wing cross into the danger zone.
Kicking off in eighth-spot, nine places and 11 points above the Hammers, United had lost their last two league matches at Old Trafford and, if they were to get their flickering hopes of a title challenge back on track, David Moyes’ side needed to avoid a hat-trick of home defeats.
Following their cup win at saturated Stoke City, the United boss made just two switches from the side that had seen off the Potters as Wayne Rooney and Januzaj returned in place of Anderson and substitute Ashley Young.
Januzaj also saw his spinning 25-yarder deflect into Adrian’s clutches before Phil Jones tested the keeper with a low 18-yarder that he held at the second attempt, before Morrison’s foul on Rooney saw the England striker curl the consequent 20-yard free-kick over both the Hammers wall and the bar.
Morrison may have got away with that one but when he tripped Cleverley on the edge of the United box on 18 minutes, he left referee Mike Jones with no option but to produce the first yellow card of the afternoon.
Shortly afterwards, Antonio Valencia collected the ball out on the right-flank before bursting into the United box but, yet again, Adrian was on hand to divert the rising, angled scorcher around his near post.
Apart from a couple of penalty area skirmishes and a Matt Taylor cross-shot that bounced inches beyond the far post, West Ham had posed little threat going forward and, inevitably, it was to be the Reds, who would break the deadlock.
On 26 minutes, Welbeck neatly back-heeled the ball to Rooney on the edge of the area and the United No. 10 unselfishly played an inch-perfect return to his strike-partner, who held off the stumbling James Collins before firing a low, angled 12-yarder across the retreating Tomkins and through the diving Adrian to claim his sixth goal of the season.
And then 10 minutes before the break, the overlapping Januzaj doubled the United lead from an even tighter angle after playing an intricate left-wing one-two with Welbeck, losing Demel and drilling the ball into the far corner.
Having just netted his third goal of the campaign, joker Januzaj was then comically booked for a deceitful dive as he tried to sprint clear from Collins.
Finding themselves two goals adrift, it could have got yet worse for the Hammers just before the interval, when United broke upfield with pace and purpose but fortunately for the outnumbered visiting defence, Valencia scooped his first time shot over the top.
Just after the restart, Phil Jones saw his downward header blocked at the base of the left-hand post by the stretching Collins, who then emerged in the opposing area as the hour mark approached but, after seeing Tomkins nod Taylor’s corner back across goal, the Welshman’s glancing effort was blocked by the stooping De Gea.
With Javier Hernandez already on for Welbeck, West Ham made a switch of their own as Jack Collison replaced Taylor for the final half-hour.
Matt Jarvis and Tomkins were then booked in quick succession for fouls on Rafael and Hernandez respectively, while Young replaced Januzaj and Carlton Cole came on for Jarvis.
But it was to be the home substitution that would have the quickest impact for, within minutes of his arrival, the supporting Young collected Rooney’s unselfish square pass and curled an unstoppable 18-yarder under the right-hand angle.
“You’re nothing special, we lose every week!” chanted the vociferous Hammers fans, their sense of humour shining through another dismal defeat and, with eight minutes remaining, they did finally have something to cheer, when Carlton Cole raced onto Maiga’s defence splitting through-ball and coolly slotted past the helplessly exposed De Gea to add just a tad of respectability to the scoreline.
RED DEVILS: De Gea, Rafael, Evra (Buttner 80), Evans, Smalling, Januzaj (Young 69), Valencia, Jones, Cleverley, Rooney, Welbeck (Hernandez 54). Unused subs: Johnstone, Giggs, Kagawa, Fletcher.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Demel, McCartney, Tomkins, Collins (Rat 75), Diame, Jarvis (C. Cole 71), Morrison, Noble, Morrison, Taylor (Collison 62) Maiga. Unused subs: Jaaskelainen, O’Brien, Diarra, J.Cole.
Bookings: Morrison (18), Januzaj (42), Jarvis (65), Tomkins (67), McCartney (76).
Referee: Mike Jones