West Ham Utd 0 Man Utd 4

  • by Staff Writer
  • Saturday, 5th December 2009

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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