05/12/2009 17:00, Report by Ben Hibbs
West Ham 0 United 4
Both sides made a lively start; a youthful West Ham sought to get at United’s untried back line, while Anderson, Scholes and Gibson attempted to assert their dominance in numbers. But after ten minutes Giggs’ sloppy pass almost allowed the Hammers a cheap opener. His loose ball across United's penalty area to Fletcher let in the tricky Zavon Hines. The young winger’s centre found Jack Collison at the far post with an empty net in front of him, but Giggs responded to the danger of his own making and crucially hooked the ball clear.
After 17 minutes of an end-to-end start, United earned a flurry of corners, Gibson going closest to finding a way through the crowded penalty area from Wes Brown’s headed knock-down. West Ham threatened on the break, but the Reds cranked up the pressure further still. Rooney’s audacious 23rd-minute effort from 30 yards was worth a crack but well over, while James Tomkins had to react quickly to stop Evra’s cross reaching Rooney at the near post on 30 minutes.
Seconds later Scholes saw a left-footed shot from the edge of the area go narrowly wide, but just as United seemed to be getting a foothold in the game the team’s defensive problems took a turn for the worse (which had seemed almost impossible) as skipper Gary Neville pulled up with groin injury after 34 minutes and was forced off. With only the inexperienced Ritchie De Laet on the bench in a defensive capacity, Sir Alex brought on Michael Carrick at centre-back, so United’s back four read: Fletcher, Carrick, Brown, Evra.
However, it one of United’s midfielders not playing in defence, Scholes, who found the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time. And it was typical Scholes. Lurking on the edge of the box, he chested down a headed clearance and moved away from his marker in one elegant movement, then he let fly with a 20-yard shot on the bounce. Rob Green got a hand to it but could only take some of the sting out of the shot as it nestled in the top corner.