AT the end of a week in which Manchester United secured a Champions League quarter-final place and Wayne Rooney scored a goal that will live long in the memory, you could forgive David Moyes and his players for thinking victory in tomorrow’s derby could be the next step on the road to redemption.
Nobody around Old Trafford is getting carried away, however. There have been too many ups and downs this season, too many false dawns.
Moyes declared after a promising victory at Upton Park: ‘I’m not going to shout about it and say we’re starting to pick up.’ Then Michael Carrick stood beneath darkening East End skies and delivered an even more sombre verdict: victory over Manchester City won’t begin to make up for the failures of this season.
‘I don’t think it matters,’ said the England midfielder, who was forced to fill in as an emergency centre back because of United’s injury list. ‘It’s just another game for us. A big game but it’s not going to repair any of the damage that’s been done in recent months by us losing games.
‘Beating City would help us in terms of keeping our run going. We understand the fans and the result they want, and for us as players it’s exactly the same, but we’re still not getting carried away because of the season we’ve had.’
Usually it’s United gearing up for a title run-in at this stage of the season. Instead, the best they can hope for is to dent City’s Barclays Premier League challenge.
Coming so soon after a humiliating 3-0 Old Trafford defeat by their other great rivals Liverpool, it is understandable that nobody at United is making any bold statements.
‘Losing against Liverpool at home hurts badly and it’s not a nice thing to go through,’ added Carrick (right). ‘It’s horrible after a game like that. You don’t watch the telly or leave the house for a couple of days if you can help it.
‘When you’re at this club and things aren’t going well it’s not always a nice place but mentally you have to deal with it. We’ve all had a tough time this season.
‘Again, Tuesday is a big game but we can’t go into that game thinking about previous weeks. We have to think we can get a good result, like we did against Olympiacos and West Ham.’
Rooney will quite rightly steal the limelight for his spectacular eighth-minute strike on Saturday and United’s captain was also on target with the second goal 25 minutes later.
But Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini, Moyes’s signings who have not enjoyed the best of starts at Old Trafford following transfers that cost the club more than £60million, both delivered their best performances yet for United.
Fellaini was instrumental in helping Carrick and Phil Jones deal with West Ham’s aerial threat on a night when the champions arrived without four centre backs, while Mata prospered in a central role behind Rooney. With Shinji Kagawa also to the fore, you wonder if Robin van Persie’s knee injury lay-off might benefit some of his team-mates.
However, Fellaini angered West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, who thought that the Belgium midfielder should have been sent off for his second-half challenge on James Tomkins. Referee Lee Mason took no action at the time and it remains to be seen if the FA have a closer look today.
‘I thought Fellaini was lucky not to get sent off,’ said Allardyce. ‘But you’ve got to be absolutely certain if you’re the referee that you’ve seen what’s happened. Hopefully, James will be OK for Hull on Wednesday.’
WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Adrian 5; Demel 5, Collins 5.5, Tomkins 5.5, McCartney 6; Noble 5, Taylor 5.5 (Nocerino 83min); Diame 5 (Jarvis 58, 6), Nolan 5.5 (C Cole 73, 6), Downing 6.5; Carroll 6.5.
Subs not used: Jaaskelainen, Reid, Armero, J Cole.
Booked: Collins, Taylor.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6.5; Rafael 5, Carrick 7, Jones 6.5, Buttner 6; Fellaini 7, Fletcher 6.5; Young 6.5, Mata 8 (Welbeck 78), Kagawa 7; Rooney 9 (Hernandez 77).
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Evra, Nani, Cleverley, Januzaj.
Man of the match: Wayne Rooney.
Referee: Lee Mason 6. - Daily Mail
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