Thursday 22 March 2018

Manchester United darken Avram Grant’s mood with defeat of West Ham United

Manchester United (1) 3
West Ham United (0) 0

Mark Ogden

Avram Grant's attire at Old Trafford pretty much reflected the circumstances in which West Ham United find themselves, three games into their Premier League campaign.

Dark grey suit and dark grey shirt, buttoned to the neck but without a tie, giving the impression that something was missing.

Grant’s team were just as insipid as their manager’s wardrobe and, regardless of the outcome of the Israeli’s pursuit of Tottenham forward Robbie Keane before Tuesday’s transfer deadline, it will take more than the acquisition of the much-travelled Irishman to inject some life into West Ham.

Manchester United's victory was never in doubt, even prior to Wayne Rooney’s first-half penalty, which ended his five-month barren spell.

A marauding performance by Nani, combined with Dimitar Berbatov’s continuing surge in form, ultimately steered Sir Alex Ferguson’s team to a 3-0 win which left West Ham with three games and three defeats. Having escaped a sinking ship at Portsmouth to take the helm at Upton Park, Grant knows that he faces another battle for survival. But with Chelsea next up following the international break, Grant concedes that the job is tougher than he anticipated .

He said: “The players always speak about last season, which I don’t like because there is no need to be traumatised. It’s not easy to keep up morale, especially after last season, but I said to the players from the beginning that I want to see their character when we are winning and when we are losing.

“We have zero points now but it’s only the start of the season. We’ve had tough fixtures and I don’t think any team at our level in recent years has had such tough fixtures at the beginning of the season.

“We have two weeks now to think about everything and become stronger. After 10 or 15 games, we’ll know what the situation is.”

Luring Keane from Tottenham would help Grant’s attempt to add firepower to his team, but he concedes that West Ham’s financial difficulties could scupper a loan move for the player. Grant said: “I hope [to sign Keane], but I don’t know. The club has big, big debts.’’

In mitigation, West Ham could point to United hitting top form as a key factor in their defeat. Rooney’s goal was significant in that it ended his barren run after, in the words of United assistant manager Mike Phelan, returning “dishevelled from England exploits” at the World Cup.

But at 1-0, United could see West Ham’s shallow confidence ebb away and they proceeded to attack at will, with Nani particularly impressive.

The Portuguese winger accused Ferguson of “breaking my confidence” by overlooking him early last season, but 2010 has been a different story and Nani is developing into a genuine threat.

His goal, following crisp build-up play by Rooney and Paul Scholes, was a drive from 20 yards and he then teed up the third, Berbatov’s 69th-minute scissor-kick.

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