United holds on to beat West Ham after Rooney red
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Captain Wayne Rooney was sent off after scoring but 10-man Manchester United clung on to beat West Ham 2-1 in the Premier League on Saturday.
It was just United’s second victory in seven matches under Louis van Gaal, coming a week after a humbling loss at newly-promoted Leicester.
It had started well for Rooney when he put United in front after five minutes with a deft volley.
Robin van Persie doubled the lead in the 22nd minute with his 50th goal for United, but West Ham pulled one back before halftime through Diafra Sakho’s header.
The attacking trio of Rooney, Van Persie and Radamel Falcao combined well up front, until Rooney was sent off in the 59th minute for kicking out at Stewart Downing.
At the back, United looked vulnerable once again, although injuries meant Van Gaal had to give 19-year-old center back Paddy McNair a debut.
Of more concern to Van Gaal will be Rooney’s absence, which will last three matches if the dismissal is deemed to be violent conduct by the English Football Association.
That would rule the striker out of the games against Everton, West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea, not becoming eligible again until November.
It had taken just five minutes to make an impact against West Ham. Rafael da Silva sprinted down the right flank after dinking the ball over Aaron Cresswell. The Brazilian defender paused and crossed for Rooney, who volleyed past Adrian after one bounce.
The expert execution of the volley across the West Ham goalkeeper was befitting of a striker whose Premier League scoring record is only bettered by Andy Cole and Alan Shearer.
United’s creaky defense almost cost it the lead within one minute of Rooney’s goal. Daley Blind’s miscued clearance landed straight into the stride of Enner Valencia, but he blasted into the Stretford End. It was a let-off for the hosts, who quickly sought to settle the nervy home crowd with a second goal.
Rooney found Van Persie at the back post with a delightful cross, but the forward headed wide. Angel di Maria shot high and wide from inside the West Ham box and Rooney then fluffed a shot inside the area.
Van Persie had no such trouble when he put United 2-0 up. Adrian put Alex Song under pressure with a poor clearance and United took full advantage. Ander Herrera seized the ball from Song and Van Persie angled his shot past the West Ham goalkeeper after a clever pass from Falcao.
For all the attacking brilliance, at the back United still looked suspect.
Song slipped Sakho in behind, but Marcos Rojo raced across to put in a vital tackle. Sakho found the net a few minutes later though, due to a rare error from David de Gea. Song hit the bar with a header after the Spanish goalkeeper flapped at a corner and the ball fell to Sakho, who headed into an empty net.
Sakho put McNair under pressure as United desperately tried to hold on to its lead before the break.
After the break, West Ham continued to press. Aside from a shot by Falcao, United offered little on the attack. Slack marking from United defender Luke Shaw allowed Sakho to sting De Gea’s palms with a fierce volley.
United looked shaky in the face of West Ham’s attacking play, and their task was made much harder when Rooney was sent off just before the hour. The England captain, unable to catch Downing, kicked the midfielder from behind while he was at full pace.
Referee Lee Mason blew his whistle and then, to the shock of the home fans and players, showed Rooney his first red card for United in more than five years.
As West Ham piled on pressure, Sakho rippled the side-netting and Valencia’s deflected shot flew inches wide before McNair made a goal-saving header deep inside the United penalty area.
Kevin Nolan turned in Carl Jenkinson’s cross in the 89th minute, but linesman Andrew Garratt flagged for offside and United held on.