Monday 18 November 2019

United swear by red-hot Rooney

West Ham 2 Man Utd 4

Wayne Rooney leaves the field with the match ball after his hat-trick during Manchester United's 4-2 victory over West Ham at Upton Park. Photo: Reuters
Wayne Rooney leaves the field with the match ball after his hat-trick during Manchester United's 4-2 victory over West Ham at Upton Park. Photo: Reuters

DION FANNING at Upton Park

When Wayne Rooney received assurances from the Glazers about their plans to rebuild the side, they might have neglected to mention one key thing. Rooney is the player who makes United strong and even in a season when so much has gone wrong, as United chase the title, he is, finally, indispensable.

He scored a second-half hat-trick at Upton Park yesterday, which was in keeping with United's traditions before Chicharito added a fourth. Equally traditional was the two-goal deficit they had to overcome in the second half.

"We had to go for it," Ferguson said afterwards, as he praised the quality of United's bench.

United's bench -- with Nani, Chicharito and Berbatov waiting -- was strong, but only because the first 11 had been filleted. Rooney's goals made yesterday a key day. United did what they do at lunchtime and they were the only team in the top six to win today. Arsenal's dropped points last night at the Emirates could have finally ended their title chances.

Manchester United, in the first half, was not the team Rooney had stuck around to play for. United were hopeless at the back and their central midfield was anonymous. Rooney's second-half performance was enough for them to overcome West Ham, but Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday will be a greater challenge.

There will be other headlines about Rooney today. After he scored his third from the penalty spot, he ran to the camera and was picked up swearing. Ludicrously, Avram Grant was asked what he thought about a player swearing on a football field and the FA are getting ready to investigate.

They should turn down the microphones when Alex Ferguson is told. Rooney later issued a statement apologising for swearing at the camera which, he said, was not "aimed at anyone in particular".

There were a few candidates in the first half. Two penalties had given West Ham a two-goal lead and United, as they had so often during the Ferguson era, had to overcome the odds. West Ham knew what was coming and there was an inevitability about it.

"They've got great faith in themselves, faith in the team, faith in their team-mates. They trust each other and I think that's important in situations like we found ourselves today," Ferguson, who was understandably talking up the significance of the result, said later.

"It doesn't always work but you can rest assured, they keep trying to create and play their football, and in the second half we dominated."

At half time, Ferguson told them that it was next goal wins. Chicharito was on, Patrice Evra, who had given away one penalty, off and Ryan Giggs was at left-back. United summoned their spirit of adventure and they had some luck when Vidic avoided a second booking. Rooney then took over and he pushed West Ham back into the relegation zone and sent a message to the teams at the top.

"Going for it is important for our club. We played like champions," Ferguson said. He knows it. As importantly, Manchester United's rivals know it.

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