Snow ball for Hammers

ALEX FERGUSON was hoping his latest batch of fledglings would go on to dominate the English game — but on the evidence of this display, they still need a long way to go before they challenge for major silverware.

On a frozen night in the east end of London, his young players were made to look second best by a West Ham team who are rooted to the foot of the Premier League and ran out comfortable winners to book their place in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup and end United’s longest unbeaten run for 11 years.

Jonathan Spector and Carlton Cole both scored two goals apiece to make it a night to remember for the West Ham supporters who have suffered turmoil over the last couple of years.

Ferguson is no stranger to assembling the best young talent. Who could forget the famous team he put together back in the 90s when they went onto win the treble?

There were signs that a similar team could be moulded together after the likes of Federico Macheda, Javier Hernandez, Bebe and the Da Silva brothers were brought into the club, and have played a major role in helping the defending champions reach the quarter-final stage of the Carling Cup.

But they were taught a harsh lesson by a rampant West Ham who put their league troubles behind them to book a place in the last four of the competition for the first time since 1989.

Although Ferguson will now switch his attentions back to the Premier League and European competition, he will be deeply concerned about why his young stars failed to rise to the big occasion.

After winning the last 12 consecutive ties in the Carling Cup, the United manager was looking to win the competition for a club record third season in a row and add yet more silverware to the trophy cabinet.

When the two teams were announced before the kick-off, you would have expected United to be strong favourites to win after West Ham were missing their influential midfielder Scott Parker and had a number of key players ruled out through injury.

Avram Grant’s position has been under threat for a number of weeks now, but there is something about cup competitions which seems to bring out the best in the Israeli coach.

After steering Chelsea to the Champions League final and taking Portsmouth to the FA Cup final last season, he has now defied all the odds to take West Ham to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.

One player who had a major point to prove was Spector who has been frozen out of the West Ham first-team this season.

It is ironic that Spector chose to produce one of his best performances for West Ham against the team who brought him to England back in 2003.

The West Ham fans must have been thinking who needs Scott Parker after this outstanding display from the US international and he looks certain to keep his place for the next league game against Sunderland on Sunday.

It could have been a different story for United had the woodwork not prevented Obertan from opening the scoring after just seven minutes.

Not even a disallowed strike from Victor Obinna on 16 minutes could detract West Ham. Spector opened the scoring on 22 minutes. Obinna turned provider when his cross picked out the US international who got in front of Darren Fletcher and headed the ball past Tomasz Kuszczak.

Spector was at it again on 37 minutes, bursting into the box when Obinna failed to hold onto the ball and running onto the loose ball, stunning United fans behind the goal when he fired past keeper Kuszczak.

Ferguson attempted to rally his young players at the interval but West Ham sealed the victory when Cole added a third on 56 minutes. Obinna turned provider again when his cross picked out Cole who flashed a close-range header past Kuszczak.

West Ham were not finished yet. Obinna crossed for Cole who completely turned Jonny Evans and fired the ball past Kuszczak.

West Ham fans were singing about a possible trip to Wembley and it could yet turn out to be a memorable season for the east London club if they manage to beat the drop and win their first trophy since 1980.

WEST HAM: Green: Faubert; Upson, Tomkins (Reid 74), Ben Haim; Barrera (Hines 76), Kovac, Spector, Boa Morte; Cole (Stanislas 89), Obinna

MAN UTD: Kuszczak; O’Shea, Smalling, Evans (Brown 72), F Da Silva (R Da Silva 65); Obertan, Fletcher, Anderson, Bebe (Macheda 45); Giggs; Hernandez.

Referee: M Clattenburg.

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