Manchester United produced a storming second half performance to welcome Sir Alex Ferguson back to the bench. Goals from Wayne Rooney, Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes and a stunning strike by Darron Gibson sealed a convincing United win at Upton Park. But Ferguson will face further defensive injuries that leaves United with eight defenders on the sidelines.
With Ferguson back on the touchline following his two match ban, United started the match with an unfamiliar defensive line-up. Gary Neville joined Wes Brown in the centre of defence – both forced out of the game before the end of the match – and Darren Fletcher lined-up at right-back.
The rout, United’s biggest winning margin at Upton Park since 1967, came after a quiet opening half-hour from the visitors. With typically boisterous Upton Park crowd, the home side attacked adventurously without creating any clear chances.
United’s midfield five, supporting lone-man Wayne Rooney, struggled for penetration with Valencia hugging the touchline and Ryan Giggs offering the Scouser the closest support. Gibson, retained following his brace against Tottenham Hotspur in midweek, struggled to impose himself on the match. The Irishman gave away the ball and shot wildly in a nervous-looking opening.
Despite the low-key start United’s makeshift rear-guard held off an unimaginative West Ham attack, which was lacking leading scorer Carlton Cole through injury.
And on the cusp of half-time the visitors had the lead, with veteran Scholes firing a left-foot half volley into the roof of Rob Green’s net from the edge of the area. The former-England international hinted at retirement this week but on this evidence Ferguson will hope to sign up the midfielder to at least another year. Scholes now needs just one more strike to reach 100 Premier League goals.
The visitors were in no mood to let West Ham recover after the break and on the hour Gibson finally found his shooting boots with a glorious strike into Green’s top-corner. Using the outside of his boot, Gibson finished a swift United counter to end the game as a meaningful contest.
Within ten minutes United had doubled its advantage with goals from Rooney and Valencia to round-off an emphatic victory and a wonderful performance in the second period.
Despite the result, Ferguson must patch up a defence that comprised Fletcher, Anderson, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra by the final whistle. With a trip to Wolfsburg just days away, the Scot will need to rush back flu-victim Nemanja Vidic.
“It’s always a hard place to come to, we’ve experience difficult games over the years,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.
“We had six players missing before the game. Gary Neville came off and then Wes Brown had to come off too. We’re down to the bare bones.
“We finished the game really well. 4-0 is a really good score away from home, good for the confidence and good for the goal difference. We hope by the end of the month we’re close to Chelsea and if we are we’ve a great chance.
“Nemanja Vidic missed the game with flu but we’re hoping to have him back [for Wolfsburg]. We might have to play Michael carrick again, he did really well there.”
On the positive side Ferguson was able to praise the performances of Scholes and Gibson in central midfield.
“It was a great goal to get at an important time, it settled us down,” said Ferguson of Scholes’ strike on 45 minutes.
“We said that about the boy [Gibson]. He’s capable of scoring from outside the box, he has fantastic power, and it was a wonderful hit. He keeps trying to score form outside the box and we really encourage that.”