Manchester United 4 West Ham United 1

Saturday, 3rd May 2008
by Alex Shilling

Two Uniteds met today, though God help anyone who should refer to the hosts today as simply 'United' on’s forum!

It was pretty obvious who were the defending Premiership Champions and who were the side sitting in tenth, trailing Manchester's other team in ninth by seven points and four points clear of that team in North London who think they're a big club, in eleventh place.

No crossed Hammer signs from Carlitos today either, at least I didn't see them. Looking back at the Sky coverage of the game (pre-recorded, of course) later though, it was nice to see him exchange a friendly greeting or three with our lads in the tunnel before the game. All very well and good, but really hoped, pre-match that he didn't have a blinder today.

Got a text about half an hour before kick off, from my network provider telling me the line-up. Why don't I get it direct from West Ham, the more gullible amongst you may ask. Well, for a start, Orange only charges me 12p for each news or team line up alert which I can stop at any time, whereas getting this subscription from the generous souls at Upton Park would knock me back around ??3 for a subscription fee. Why is he going on about this, I hear the less indulgent of a moaning Hammer mutter.

Well, actually I am getting round to talking about Luis Boa Morte's inclusion in the starting 11. And now I will. Clearly his hour-long cameo against Newcastle the previous week had been enough to merit a starting berth this Saturday, and I didn't have any real complaints about that. What I did think, however, was that i might have been a better idea to play Solano on the right, drop Noble into the centre and just drop Mullins full stop. However, I'm only a simple football fan, what do I know? The Irons went a goal down after three minutes.

It was a pretty good goal at that. Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball about 25 yards out, skipped past several if our backline (which wasn't too hard) entered the six yard box and fired it past Green via McCartney's left thigh.

We then started to pass it about a bit and looked quite good in spells but then ManYoo got hold of the ball again, the ball came in and with our whole defence doing a remarkable impression of Bould, Adams, Dixon and Linighan circa 1988, Ronaldo scored again - this time via his own thigh. The fourth straight win against the Mancs was looking less and less likely.

The Hammers were still playing good football and moving the ball around well, and Boa Morte was putting in some decent crosses in on the left, but Mark Noble was looking anonymous on the right. Quite why Curbishley had stuck him out there is beyond me, he obviously wasn't a winger and never will be. On top of that, Rio Ferdinand was having an imperious game at centre-back (he learned that at West Ham) and snuffing out most of our attacks.

Michael Carrick, another ex-Hammer, was controlling the play well in centre midfield and it felt as if even at this stage Man U were just letting us have the ball to see what, if anything, we would do with it before they took it back of us at their discretion. When the third goal came, it was inevitable. The little Argentine adored at Upton Park last season got hold of the ball about 30 yards out from goal, tried a shot, which went straight into the top corner. Admittedly, almost all our defenders stood off, but it was still a quality goal.

However, almost immediately we struck back. A ball was floated over from the right (ironically considering our right side had been near absent thus far) and Ashton smashed home his tenth goal of the season with an overhead volley, a strike of almost Carlton-esque skill, as shown by the great King Cole at Eastlands a couple of months ago.

Just before half time Lucas Neill went in for a tackle with Nani. An untidy scuffle followed and in the rather girly scrimmage that ensued, Nani did something that his namesake Mary Poppins would have popped her petticoats about: he nutted Lucas. The red card came out almost immediately, and so did Ol' Red Nose of his technical area to complain about I'm not sure exactly what.

It was a clear headbutt, even Man United's assistant manager stated that on the radio later on that afternoon. But when you're Sir Alex Ferguson, why remain quiet and accept a decision which goes against your team of superstars when you could make an official's life hell?

I actually still thought we had a chance of getting something out of the game when the half time whistle went. Foolish chap. Curbishley, 10 minutes into the second half, then sees fit to take of the two players posing most threat to the Red Devils goal: Ashton and Boa Morte. If either of them were injured so far that there was no way they could continue in the penultimate game of the season, he has my most heartfelt apologies.

What little chance we had then stayed dead in the water. With about twenty minutes to go, Carrick finished off a sickeningly wonderful move to make the score 4-1 and from then, I'm sorry to say, I was just counting down to the final whistle and hoping to minimize the damage done to our already negative GD.

So that was it, we had been beaten 4-1 by probably the best team in the world, just as we had been nine years ago. Also during that season, we suffered successive 4-0 defeats, just as we had this year. The difference between the two seasons? That year, we finished 5th and qualified for Europe.

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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Did all he could to prevent goals. None of the strikes his fault, let down by defence on copious occasions.

John Paintsil
A very good game actually, looked calm and composed at right back. Provided good support to the attack too. Was unruffled by Nani and the Portuguese winger rarely got the better of him.

George McCartney
Had a good game, supplied Boa Morte well down the wings, and played his own position well. Unlucky to get booked.

Lucas Neill
Has been good at centre back in last two games, but finaly came undone today against Man Utd's stars. None of the quick thinking or timely interceptions we've seen in the last two games, he was outshone by Tomkins and was at fault for the second goal, letting the line down when they tried to play offside.

James Tomkins
Played with maturity way beyond his years, Lucas Neill could learn a thing or two from him, particularly when it comes to sticking your body on the line and staying to your position.

Mark Noble
Why was he played here? Curbishley has known him for over a year, he must know right wing is not his position. Solano would have been a better option, Noble was absent today.

Scott Parker
Did his best, but he produces his best form with Noble in the centre. Simply outrun by Carrick today.

Hayden Mullins
Same as above, only worse. Completely outrun by Carrick and Man U midfield, didn't get any grip on midfield at all. Spent most of game covering back for defence, admittedly.

Luis Boa Morte
Good game actually, got up and down wings well and put some useful crosses in. Most of our attacks down wings channelled through him. Must surely fear for future in summer though.

Bobby Zamora
Worked hard, as always, but found life tough against Ferdinand and Brown. Doesn't have Ashton's physical presence, which is probably why it went for Deano but not for him against a resilient backline.

Dean Ashton
Don't know why he was taken off, great display of effort and fantastic goal in first half. At the centre of all our attacks.


Nobby Solano
(replaced Boa Morte, 52) Should have been on from start. Did his best and whipped in some useful balls when he came on.

Carlton Cole
(replaced Ashton, 56) Not bad, although Ashton shouldn't have come off. Did his usual role, and performed it well. Very impressed with his attitude and the way he's performed this season.

Fred Sears
(replaced Mullins, 75) Closed people down, and did all he could in the short time he was on.

Jimmy Walker
Did not play.

Jack Collison
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Robert Green, John Paintsil, George McCartney, Lucas Neill, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Scott Parker, Hayden Mullins, Luis Boa Morte, Bobby Zamora, Dean Ashton.

Goals: Dean Ashton 28                  .

Booked: George McCartney  Lucas Neill  Bobby Zamora       .

Sent off: None.

Manchester United: Van der Sar, Hargreaves, Brown, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Park, Ronaldo, Tevez.

Subs not used: Kuszczak, Anderson.

Goals: Ronaldo (3, 24), Tervez (26), Carrick (59).

Booked: Ronaldo.

Sent off: None.

Referee: M.Riley.

Attendance: 76,013.

Man of the Match: Dean Ashton.