“He’s just masterminded a 6-0 victory over Arsenal.”
Yes, but what about the manager you really do have, Mourinho coveter? You know, he might actually be getting the hang of it, and just in time for tomorrow’s Manchester derby too.
It’s been quite a week for David Moyes. Humiliation at home to Liverpool, of all sides, at the start turned to relief in midweek as Robin van Persie kept Manchester United in the Champions League. And then, on Saturday, it was Wayne Rooney’s turn to give him a lift.
Of course, both of his goals were utter freaks. The 57-yard volley over hapless West Ham goalkeeper Adrian will be replayed over and over again and just happened to have been scored under the nose of one David Beckham, who set the bar on that particular feat in London in 1996. The second was merely an oddity; a clearance hit his boot and flew in.
But that should not disguise the fact United dominated the game from start to finish, just as they used to do under Alex Ferguson. It was a complete performance carried out by a line-up that had looked experimental to say the least.
And boy were United fans concerned about it when they saw the team-sheet. Michael Carrick, the midfielder, would play centre-back on the proviso that Marouane Fellaini would occasionally help him cope with Andy Carroll, the gargantuan focus of West Ham’s attacking ambitions.
Throw the names ‘Shinji Kagawa’ and ‘Ashley Young’ into the starting mix and the sense of pre-match foreboding was almost palpable. But entirely misplaced.
And that was merely a sub-plot. The absence of Van Persie, hurt in the European game, could turn out to be highly significant in a way no-one envisaged a few months ago. Could it really be that United are better without him? The Dutchman had been moaning about other players in his ‘spaces’ and generally giving the impression of not being convinced by Moyes. Fair enough, but taking him out of the equation and putting Rooney up top also breathed life into Juan Mata.
The answer to Moyes’ biggest problem had been staring him in the face all along and it will be interesting to see what happens when Van Persie regains fitness.
Especially now Rooney has been wearing the captain’s armband. Nemanja Vidic will be free to reclaim it tomorrow when Manchester City come to Old Trafford but he will soon be off to Italy. Moyes was coy on whether Rooney would be skipper come the summer.
“There will be no decision made until next season but we had injuries and a suspension today and I thought Wayne picked up and did what he had to do,” said Moyes.
“He wore an armband today and maybe took a wee bit of pride in that, wanting to show exactly what it means. He wanted to take that responsibility and you always want players who want to take responsibility.”
United will still kick-off 12 points behind their noisy neighbours, who are also likely to end the campaign with more silverware given that Moyes’ memorable week also saw them drawn against holders Bayern Munich in the Champions League last eight.
But at least a season that was in danger of spiralling out of control has been firmly stabilised, although the Scot will know City possess the firepower to ruin all that despite the absence of Sergio Aguero.
As for West Ham, they are far from happy. Three successive defeats have reminded their supporters that the turgid and predictable style of play preferred by Sam Allardyce is seeing them sink slowly back into the relegation equation. United goalkeeper David de Gea had just one save to make all game; inevitably a header from Carroll.
“It could have been different for us if a couple of things had dropped in the right places,” said Mark Noble, the midfielder whose clearance hit Rooney for the second goal.
“On another day, a month ago, they were going in for us. But we’ll keep doing the same things, keep working and hopefully it will go for us.”
WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Adrian 7; Demel 6, Tomkins 6, Collins 6, McCartney 6; Noble 6, Diame 4 (Jarvis 58, 2); Downing 7, Nolan 5(C Cole 73, 6), Taylor 5 (Nocerino 83); Carroll 6.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 7; Rafael 6, Jones 7, Carrick 8, Buttner 7; Fellaini 7, Fletcher 7; Young 7, Mata 7 (Welbeck 76, 6), Kagawa 6; Rooney 8 (Hernandez 76, 6).
Referee: Lee Mason 6