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West Ham Utd 0 Man Utd 4

Filed: Saturday, 5th December 2009
By: Staff Writer

West Ham went down by four to the reigning champions at the Boleyn this aftenoon - just seven days after scoring five.

Alan Curbishley, the predecessor to current boss Gianfranco Zola who is set to be awarded vast sums of cash as a result of his 'constructive dismissal' case could never quite fathom why supporters complained about his team's performances given that the results were, on the whole, positive (including no less than three wins against today's opponents).

Those complainees registered their disapproval mainly on the basis that the football was dour, unexciting and not befitting a West Ham team. They got their wish when Curbishley departed in a fit of pique and the club appointed Zola, a manager more entrenched in the club's traditions of open, attacking football.

Yet here we are 15 months on and West Ham are, quite frankly, in a shambolic state both on and off the field. Zola's attacking philosophy is fine in principle - but when he is reduced to filling his team with naive youngsters, bargain-bin finds and cast-offs it is rendered utterly ineffective, as was the case today when the Irons were embarrassed by a Manchester side missing a number of key players themselves.

Unfortunately Zola, whose patched-up team had come through 45 minutes anything but second best was master of his own downfall when he opted to keep the injured Zavon Hines on the pitch as the opening period drew to a close.

Hines - who unconfirmed reports claim requires a knee op that would entail a lenthy post-Xmas lay-off - could barely move, let alone run as the first half entered added-on time but was instructed to remain on the pitch by Zola, who was presumably hoping to keep Hines' half-time replacement under wraps.

Whatever the reason, the decision backfired as West Ham had no outlet and the visitors were allowed to keep possession deep in United's half. After a couple of scares as the ball fizzed across the Irons' box, Paul Scholes finally broke the deadlock with a 20-yard drive that beat Rob Green at his right post - much to the displeasure of Zola, who was clearly furious on the sideline (possibly at his team, himself, or both).

The goal was a massive blow to West Ham, who had given a good account of themselves in a reasonably even first half. Confidence visibly drained, their second half performance was a shadow of the first - not for the first time this season. It's not often that a West Ham team can be accused of lacking fight when playing the current Premier League champions, but today was, rather worryingly, one of those occasions.

At the break those not lured to the various in-house bars were treated to a rare sighting of formerly camera-shy chairman Andrew Bernhardt handing over a cheque to Stephanie Moore for the Bobby Moore Cancer Fund. Whether the shock of seeing our current Chairman hand over a cheque was greater than the appearance itself will forever remain unknown, but following recent interviews it is clear that the man charged with selling the club to someone who actually wants to own it is keen to take on a more public persona. (Rumours that CEO Scott Duxbury had been locked in a cupboard along with Terry Brown's model boat are thought to be wide of the mark...)

Back to on-pitch affairs, and once the reds doubled their lead on the hour mark through a thumping drive from Darron Gibson there was only going to be one outcome - the only question being how bad would it be? Perhaps mindful of Arsenal's mini-collapse here earlier in the season Man Utd continued to push on and found little resistance as they went on to score through Valencia (70 minutes) and Rooney (72) with goals that were reminiscent of training ground drills, such was the ease at which they cut through West Ham's hopeless rearguard.

West Ham, spurred on by a dimished Boleyn crowd rallied as the game drew to its inevitable conclusion and went close to grabbing a consolation first through James Tomkins' header and an Alessandro Diamanti free kick. Bar those efforts there had been very little for stand-in 'keeper Tomasz Kuszczak to do - but West Ham will not be the last team to be outclassed by their opponents this season.

There will be few crumbs of comfort for Zola on this showing; that's seven goals now that the Hammers have conceded at the Boleyn without reply - and all within 90 minutes. Following such a hapless display it would perhaps be pointless to dwell on the negative aspects, of which we're all painfully aware, and reflect instead on Peter Kurucz's debut appearance.

Kurucz, who came to England from Hungary earlier this year entered the fray when number one Rob Green was forced to retire after 73 minutes (the England goalkeeper had been sick in his goalmouth earlier in the game). The 21-year-old, who has worked closely with coach Ludo Miklosko since moving to London had little to do but looked reasonably assured between the sticks.

Kurucz was one of no less than five academy products to play against the current world champions today, with a further two on the bench. With Matthew Upson, Luis Jimenez, Mark Noble and Carlton Cole (not to mention Dean Ashton) all absent, Zola's squad is being stretched to its absolute limit - something that should be considered when the inevitable questions regarding the manager's ability to do his job arise.

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by john dick
04:20AM 8th Dec 2009
''Good stuff, but why not grasp the nettle. Zola has made too many mistakes and needs to go before it is too late.
There are some really bad teams in the Premier so not much improvement is needed to stay up.

We do not have a right back so why not play three centre backs from Upson, Da Costa, Tomkins and Gabs, and have Ilunga and Faubert as wing backs. Parker is in fab form, if he is allowed to go forward with Kovac covering and Diamanti should be our attacking ace with Carlton when he returns (Frank Nouble needs to given his chance as a replacement, if not we must by another big striker in the window).

We hsve Jack and Mark to battle in midfield and we could hammer some of the fellow strugglers. It is not rocket science.''

by Chris
09:40AM 7th Dec 2009
''I went to the game and I have to mirror Bobby Goulds' comments about Zola 'Green and out of his depth'. I like Zola and his philosophies, but his decision making at times is unbelievable.

Why would you drop Da Costa who has looked solid at the back and put back the shaky James Tomkins back in to mark Rooney? Why have Diamanti on the bench (again) when Zola could get the best out of him for the first half / 60 mins rather then go behind and chase the game (again)? He's clearly a talent. There is obviously some personal problem here, and there were rumours Zola didnt even want him, Nani did. It's another Curbishly/Tevez situation.

Most of our bench was better than the team on pitch, and why not give the highly rated Nouble a half? Big and strong, surely that's what we need. Hines is a winger at best and you cannot rely on him.

Why have Spector on in-front of Faubert? I know it's desperate when you want Faubert to be playing, but surely anything is better than Spector. Awful, awful player. Bet Ferguson was kicking himself letting him go.

Zola lost us the game by not substituting Hines when he could clearly not run. Every time we booted the ball up-field it came straight back and it was obvious to everyone in the ground par Zola that Man Utd would score.

Why play Rob Green in the first place if he had been ill all day?? I saw him from close range walking off and he looked like a ghost. Ridiculous decision to play him.

Zola and Clarke need to sort this out fast, who is there to give the players a good kick-up the arse from the side-line? There's nothing, Clarke just sits there, no passion. There is no fire.''

by co3reporting
07:42PM 6th Dec 2009
''Went to the game yesterday and noted Zola's comments afterwards. I'm hoping he didn't mean it to sound the way it came across but he appeared to be a bit resigned and saying "Oh well what did we expect we were playing Man Utd, they are the Champions". Absolute rubbish and not good enough, what's going to happen against Chelsea? I hope not more of the same.

I have seen many games against Man Utd, especially in the Premier League and we always give them a game at ours. Lets not forget they have lost two championships at The Boleyn as Steve Bruce seems to consistently elude to, but yesterday quite frankly was terrible. Whatever was said before the game they just weren't up for it. I know seconds before half time is an awful time for any team to concede and the second goal was a great one but you could sum us up in one moment yesterday.

Moments after half time Franco, who unlike most of the rest had a decent game, put a brilliant ball in for Stanislas but he, like us yesterday, was a yard off the pace and never made it, whereas 1.1 there and it would have been game on. It's simple Zola, put your arm around Diamanti, tell him he's great then stick him in midfield and tell him to get on with controlling things because we are noticeably short of creation but he looks like he may have more than most. That will also take the pressure off our frail looking defence.

We've got to get something against Birmingham and Bolton away because if not our position is going to look perilous, oh and then there's...Chelsea!''

by robinhammer
06:48PM 6th Dec 2009
''Glad I didnt have tickets for the game to be honest, we are very short of experienced players and have let to many go, look at the form of Bowyer and Zamora to name two!

Anyway enjoyed Madness' matinee performance in Southend Saturday afternoon!''

by g portugal
01:38PM 6th Dec 2009
''I agree with the article and with Mick's response. Zola's poor decision to keep Hines on cost us the opportunity to go into half time level, which would have been a big confidence booster considering the shambolic defence on display the previous week. It was an ill-judged, poorly thought out response from Zola and calls into question his ability to manage effectively. Putting Dyer on for Kovac resulted in two more goals conceded, shattering our goal difference and confidence.

Clearly the defensive set-up is not working. If this team is to avoid relegation, the manager need to think outside the box, pardon the pun. Which means considering playing Tomkins, or even Gabbidon despite being left-footed, at right back. It is not working with Faubert and Spector and if we don't address this, we are as good as down.

Really dumb, short-sighted decision not to re-sign Neill. Especially if these morons knew that they were going to sell Collins, which in itself is one of the stupidest decisions ever made by West Ham.

You made your bed Icelandics; now lie in it before we redefine for you what the words abuse and humilliation mean.''

by mick
11:18PM 5th Dec 2009
''I have supported West Ham all my life and I have made my kids support the Hammers. I have stood on the terraces and seen us go down a few times now, but always with a fight and passion. This year is a joke, the club is on the verge of collapse and we maybe have four Prem players and thatís being kind. The youngsters show great promise but they are not ready for a relegation battle. The board need to remember the loyal supporters you fill the ground every week paying very good money to see a second rate West Ham. I really am lost for words I feel betrayed by the team I love.''

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