Premier League
West Ham United 2-4 Manchester United 

Saturday, 2nd April 2011
by Staff Writer

A second half defensive collapse saw the Hammers slip back into the bottom three of the Premier League.

Despite having led 2-0 at the break through two Mark Noble penalties, the Hammers succumbed to a third game without victory thanks in main to finding England striker Wayne Rooney in devastating form.

Rooney turned the game on its head almost single-handedly with a second half hat-trick inside 14 minutes - before becoming embroiled in yet another controversy after rather stupidly (and sadly, typically) swearing toward a TV camera as he 'celebrated' his final goal.

All this came long after Mark Noble had given the home crowd early hope with a brace of spot kicks themselves just 14 minutes apart. The first, on 11 minutes was sent to stand-in 'keeper Kusczcak's left after Patrice Evra handled Carlton Cole's attempted centre; the second, a fierce 25th minute effort reminiscent of Ray Stewart in his heyday, in Kuzczak's top left hand corner.

Those goals sent the Hammers into the break with visible daylight between them and their opponents - and meant Avram Grant's had scored six and conceded none in their last three halves against Man Utd (following the 4-0 Carling Cup mauling here four months ago). A nice statistic, but it couldn't last.

The only real surprise was that it took so long for Man Utd to score. A defensively-minded West Ham, playing in complete contrast to the forward thinking, marauding first half unit held out for 20 minutes before Rooney grabbed his first of the afternoon.

A beautiful bending, almost unstoppable free kick into Rob Green's left hand post it may have been but there were serious question marks over the decision to award the initial free kick.

Mark Noble appeared to take the ball on the perimeter of the penalty box but referee Lee Mason, who had already incurred the wrath of the home crowd for failing to issue Nemanja Vidic a second caution earlier in the game saw otherwise.

With depressing inevitability, United's two goal advantage was wiped out just eight minutes later when Rooney scored the pick of his three. Picking the ball up 25 yards from goal he rolled the ball to his right giving himself just enough time to wrap his right foot around a perfectly placed drive into Rob Green's right hand post.

As Avram Grant dallied on the touchline, and with Jon Spector seemingly set to come on referee Mason once again infuriated the Boleyn faithful with an astonishingly poor penalty decision against Matthew Upson that set the visitors up for only their fifth away win of the season.

Full-back Fabio had cleverly weaved his way to the touchline before playing the ball against the upper arm of an encroaching Upson (arms by his side), no more than six feet away.

Somehow the inept official declared this to be an infringement of the rules by the dumbfounded Hammers captain whose valid protests - and those of his equally-appalled team mates - were waved off. Rooney stepped up, sent Green the wrong way and grabbed the headlines - for the right reasons this time.

With West Ham reeling, a fourth was duly added with six minutes of normal time remaining as the evergreen Ryan Giggs' low centre was deflected into the path of substitute Hernandez, who converted from a matter of feet. It was the second successive season that United has conceded four at home to the Mancunians, whose relentless title challenge rumbles on.

Meanwhile West Ham fall back into the bottom three - and with no win in three, a result at bogey team Bolton next weekend becomes even more important.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Comments to follow.

Lars Jacobsen
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Wayne Bridge
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Manuel Da Costa
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Matthew Upson
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Scott Parker
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Mark Noble
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Thomas Hitzlsperger
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Gary O Neil
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Carlton Cole
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Demba Ba
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Frederic Piquionne
(Replaced Cole, 68 mins) Comments to follow.

Victor Obinna
(Replaced O'Neil, 83 mins) Comments to follow.

Robbie Keane
(Replaced Noble, 83 mins) Comments to follow.

Ruud Boffin
Did not play.

Winston Reid
Did not play.

James Tomkins
Did not play.

Jonathan Spector
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, Lars Jacobsen, Wayne Bridge, Manuel Da Costa, Matthew Upson, Scott Parker, Mark Noble, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Gary O Neil, Carlton Cole, Demba Ba.

Goals: Mark Noble (pen) 11 Mark Noble (pen) 25                .

Booked: Manuel Da Costa 59          .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: Kusczcak, Evra, Da Silva, Smalling, Vidic, Valencia, Gibson, Carrick, Park, Giggs, Rooney.

Subs not used: Amos, Anderson, Gill, Owen.

Goals: Rooney (65, 73, 79), Hernandez (84).

Booked: Gibson (33), Vidic (41).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Lee Mason.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Manuel Da Costa.