Wayne Rooney struck a stunning second-half hat-trick as United roared back from 2-0 down to claim a pulsating Barclays Premier League win at Upton Park.
Mark Noble converted a pair of first-half penalties for West Ham to seemingly deal the Reds’ title hopes an untimely setback. United had bossed the match despite Noble’s double, however, and deservedly overturned the scoreline in the second period.
Rooney curled home a magnificent long-range free-kick, thundered in a superb leveller and converted a penalty in a breathless 15-minute spell, before substitute Javier Hernandez turned home a late clincher to cap another rousing fightback from the Reds.
Watching from the stands in the second instalment of his touchline ban, Sir Alex Ferguson will again wonder how his side insist on putting all their followers through the wringer, before switching his attention to Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Stamford Bridge.
With the visit to Chelsea looming, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov and Chicharito all started on the bench, while Edwin van der Sar was a precautionary absentee with a minor groin injury. Sir Alex's defensive selection was preordained, with Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Rafael all injured and Jonny Evans starting his three match ban. Fabio and Patrice Evra started at full-back, flanking a central-defensive partnership of Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic.
As United bossed the early exchanges, Smalling's first telling contribution of the game was a thumping header which Rob Green comfortably tipped over the bar. After another corner, however, the Reds fell behind. Thomas Hitzelsperger's gargantuan pass released Carlton Cole and, as the striker flicked the ball over Evra, the defender's raised hand blocked