Premier League – Ten-man United romp past Hammers
After their midweek caution, Manchester United returned to their usual swashbuckling selves with a raucous 4-1 win against West Ham.
Where to begin?
Two goals by Cristiano Ronaldo, taking him to 30 in the Premier League and 40 in all competitions?
A quite magnificent 30-yard screamer by West Ham old boy Carlos Tevez?
An overhead kick of equal brilliance from reported Manchester United target Dean Ashton?
All this took place in a breathless first half that saw United romp to a three-goal lead before Ashton and Nani caused bums to squeak around Old Trafford.
But a goal from another Upton Park old boy, Michael Carrick, helped United hold on for a win that takes them closer to their 10th Premier League title in 16 season.
West Ham have developed into something of a bogey team for United under Alan Curbishley, winning their last three against them.
But Ronaldo, coming off a four-game goal ‘drought’, settle nerves with just three minutes on the clock.
Cutting inside from the right, he left Neill on his backside and took advantage of George McCartney‘s backing off, scudding a low shot in via the shins of James Tomkins.
United’s 1-0 win against Barcelona came via an unfamiliar brand of football, letting their opponents dominate possession and getting men behind the ball.
Normal service resumed as they kept the ball for minutes at a time, taunting and teasing their visitors.
It was one such spell that led to the second goal on 24 minutes, as the hosts passed the Hammers into submission.
Tevez is still adored by Hammers fans for his role in keeping them afloat last term, and even the visiting supporters applauded his goal two minutes later.
The Argentinian shimmied inside from the left and gave Robert Green no chance with a swerving, dipping drive from long range. Given the majesty of his goal, Tevez showed commendable restraint and respect in subduing his celebrations.
Just as the game seemed over, the excitement went up yet another notch. An unconvincing Wes Brown backheader gave Ashton a sniff, and the bleach-blond striker slammed a brilliant bicycle kick into the top-left corner.
In scoring the goal, Ashton gave himself a buttock injury that forced him off early in the second half.
It was an attempt to emulate Ashton that led to Nani’s red card. The winger totally miscued his effort, bringing a caustic response from Neill.
The Australian is programmed to wind up opponents and it worked perfectly, bringing a weak headbutt from Nani, who then shamefully collapsed holding his own face.
He will be suspended for next weekend’s trip to Wigan, although the performance may have seen him dropped anyway.
United slowed the pace after the break, but there was still time for Carrick to put the result beyond doubt.
He picked the ball up on halfway and nobody challenged until Neill at the edge of the box, who could only redirect Carrick’s shot past the helpless Green.
Alex Chick / Eurosport