Rooney in full tilt for Manchester United
The late, great George Best received a minute’s applause from the players of West Ham United and Manchester United at the Boleyn Ground in east London on Sunday, as a tribute to the legend that was the one and only Belfast child.
In a dramatic start to the match, which Manchester United won 2-1, the Hammers took the lead in 55 seconds, as Matthew Etherington’s pass on the left wing put Marlon Harewood in the clear and he drilled a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal, past helpless Red Devils goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
West Ham manager Alan Pardew’s faith in recalling Roy Carroll in favour of Shaka Hislop paid dividends in the first half, as the Hammers goalkeeper produced a left-handed save to prevent Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring on 10 minutes. Then, at full stretch, he kept out Paul Scholes’s low shot as he made his presence known against his former club.
On 21 minutes, Carroll was called into further action as he dived to his right to stop Wayne Rooney’s cross-shot, after the Man United marksman had turned inside Danny Gabbidon.
Four minutes before the break, Carroll again denied Rooney as he clawed away his low strike.
The relentless pressure of the first half took its toll on the Hammers after the break. Manchester United drew level in the 47th minute as Ji-Sung Park’s through ball found Rooney unmarked in the penalty box, and he turned inside Anton Ferdinand and fired an unstoppable shot into the centre of the net.
On 55 minutes, Man United took the lead. From a Rooney corner on the right flank, Carroll was caught napping as John O’ Shea rose above the West Ham defence to head the ball into the roof of the net.
On 69 minutes, the Red Devils came close to increasing their lead when Van Nistelrooy drove his effort past Carroll, only to see the ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce away to safety—but West Ham’s fate had already been sealed.
“Perhaps it was fitting that Rooney put in that performance. On the tribute to George Best that went beforehand, I thought it set the scene for a great game today. It was really nice that Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Trevor Brooking and Sir Alex Ferguson were out on the side, and the way the West Ham fans responded was superb.
“They were at full tilt today, Man United, make no mistake about that, and Rooney in particular, and maybe [he deserved] to wear the seven on his back, he was that good,” said Pardew.
“I thought that whole tribute to George Best was brilliant, and the game fitted in with that. It was a shame for us that the result didn’t go our way, but you have to sometimes hold your hands up and say the better team won,” concluded Pardew.