centred ball across the penalty area finding his countryman free, and Ronny struck the ball left-footed past Robert Green.
United’s relentless forward march soon paid dividends with the second goal arriving 15 minutes before the break. It was a goal of sublime creation. Anderson’s channelled pass set Berbatov on his way, but with the ball tight to the byline the Bulgarian had precious little space to operate in. No problem. He stopped the ball with his left foot, pirouetted and flicked the ball over James Collins’ challenge with his right. Having skipped away it was a matter of squaring the ball across the six yard box for Ronaldo to slide in and grab his second of the night.
There was a palpable feeling of resignation among the away supporters as they ironically chanted “we’re going to win 3-2”, and it’s something that opposition teams have become accustomed to doing against the Reds: accepting that, at times, United are unplayable.
The second half started with the Reds comfortably in control; without any strong urgency to rack up a big score, but always displaying a desire to entertain, Berbatov in particular working through his full repertoire of languid yet awe-inspiring touches.
And if you think this article displays a lack of incident from Gianfranco Zola’s men, it’s simply that there was so little to report. It was all one-way traffic; exquisite football, at times carnival-like stuff, and West Ham had no response. Tellingly, a glance at the home bench showed Rooney and Ryan Giggs, among the Reds’ best performers in recent weeks, while Michael Carrick, Gary Neville, Ji-Sung Park, Ben Foster and John O’Shea provided further options perhaps only Chelsea can match.
Rooney and Carrick entered the fray with 20 minutes to go and West Ham hearts must have sank further still. Even Anderson was taking long-range shots from 30 yards.