08/02/2009 15:13, Report by Ben Hibbs
West Ham 0 United 1
The Reds reclaimed top spot in the Premier League with an efficient display against West Ham. And though the match may not have been a classic, Ryan Giggs’ match-winning goal certainly was.
The Welsh winger had been yet to find the net in the league this season, but the 35-year-old has been refined to save all his experience and talent for a time when it matters most.
This was United’s fifth 1-0 away win this season, which you have to say is championship form, operating with a metronome beat that rings ominously for the Reds’ title rivals.
United, still missing Wayne Rooney and Patrice Evra, and also without skipper Gary Neville, started the match with two games in hand on closest rivals Liverpool, who somewhat fortunately went a point ahead at the top of the league on Saturday when Fernando Torres snatched a last-gasp 3-2 win against Portsmouth.
Regaining top spot was clearly the priority, but it was never going to be an easy ride. Being the league’s form team, with an increasingly more potent attack and a record-breaking defence, the chances of achieving it appeared positive. But West Ham are themselves third in the form table with four wins and two draws from their last six league games.
United's players looked as bright as their white away shirts early on, freely passing through a 4-4-2 formation that regularly saw Cristiano Ronaldo on the left and Ryan Giggs on the right push high up the pitch. However, this is a fixture that never lacks bite, and West Ham were bristling with determination and fight, busily trying to dismantle United’s play. And they did a decent job of it.
The Reds’ record run of clean sheets, stretching back to 8 November, twice looked like coming to an abrupt end in the first half. After 11 minutes, Lucas Neill had West Ham’s first shot as the Reds failed