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Welbeck bursts West Ham’s bubbles

1153905-18096639-640-360Getting excited about beating West Ham at Old Trafford might be a damning verdict of how far the mighty have fallen this season but, on the other hand, the current campaign isn’t one for people who like to cherry-pick moments worth celebrating, therefore we should all sit back and enjoy today’s positives before getting on with the Christmas shopping.

For there were positives aplenty today.

Apart from the result, which interrupted a two-game losing run at Old Trafford and saw United scoring three goals at Old Trafford for only the second time in the league this season, David Moyes’men offered one of their best performances of the season on home turf, taking the game to their opponents, rather than sit back and wait for something to happen, as they had done against Everton and Newcastle.

From the very start, United’s tempo – a lot higher than in previous home games – and slick passing restored an aura of familiarity about the team, with Wayne Rooney playing off Danny Welbeck as he had done at Villa last week, while Adnan Januzaj and Antonio Valencia provided the width United desperately lacked against Everton and Newcastle.

Moyes’ insistence in placing emphasis on wide players paid off almost immediately as Januzaj’s cross was poorly cleared by West Ham’s defence before falling to Tom Cleverley who, unmarked in the middle of the box, must have thought he had scored, only for Adrian to produce a stunning save to deny him.

A ready-made target for criticism this season, in the last three weeks Cleverley has shown his game possesses a much more enterprising face and after solid and energetic displays against Aston Villa and Stoke the 24-year-old delivered another good performance today and one can’t help but thinking that he’s so much better when flanked by the likes of Phil Jones and Rooney, than when picked in a 4-4-2 formation.

Playing behind Welbeck, Rooney displayed his usual range of passing and set up United’s opener, returning Welbeck’s back-heel flick into the path of the England striker, who calmly finished past Adrian to notch his first Old Trafford goal in 14 months and his third Premier League goal in two games.

Welbeck turned provided soon after as his pass found Januzaj, who sold James Collins down the river, before dispatching the ball past the West Ham keeper to clinch his first goal at Old Trafford, as United looked to run away with the game thanks, in no small part, to West Ham’s abject performance.

Poor as Big Sam’s men were, however, Januzaj’s goal was a moment to be savoured – his dives less so – and was greeted by a raucous rendition of the “He comes from Belgium” chant.

Having almost scored a third, when Valencia – another player seemingly on the road to recovery – skied Rafael’s cross just before halftime, United went close twice in the early stages of the second half as Welbeck was inches away from converting Januzaj’s sublime ball, before Jonny Evans saw his header cleared off the line by Mark Noble, as United had West Ham on the ropes.

An injury to Danny Welbeck looked to have partially spoilt the afternoon as Javier Hernandez replaced Welbeck, before Ashley Young came on for Januzaj and, believe it or not, produced the second cracker of the last four days.

Valencia’s cross found Rooney at the edge of the box, before Rooney slipped the ball to Young who hit it first time, sending it thundering past Adrian – something, he probably wouldn’t have attempted a week or so ago, but the goal against Stoke seems to have got lift his confidence.

United then simply trudged along, until Carlton Cole was criminally played on-side by Alexander Buttner – who had replaced Patrice Evra just moments before – and scored West Ham’s first goal at Old Trafford in six seasons, to give the scoreline a less daunting look.

United’s fourth consecutive win in all competitions was another step in the right direction and one that will make the Christmas roast taste a bit better.