Manchester United earned a hard-fought 1-0 win on a bittely cold night at Old Trafford thanks to an early goal from leading scorer Robin van Persie.
Sir Alex stuck with Anders Lindegaard in goal again, leaving De Gea on the bench. Rafael retained his place at right back, alongside Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Evra. Reverting back to the diamond, narrow midfield, Carrick played at the base of it, with Anderson and Cleverley splitting the sides, and Rooney playing in behind Hernandez and Van Persie.
United took the lead almost immediately as a van Persie shot deflected off the excellent James Collins and looped over Jaaskelainen after just 32 seconds. United looked brighter than in recent games, Rooney especially with some neat passing combinations with Cleverley and Anderson but failed to create further clear cut chances for the next half an hour.
Things swung further into United’s favour after Kevin Nolan received an early yellow card meaning he couldn’t ‘put himself about’ as forcefully as he usually tends to do in midfield.
West Ham sat in a compact 4-5-1 formation and, as ever, looked dangerous from set pieces, the size of Nolan, Carroll and Collins particularly causing United problems. Nolan stuck the ball into the side netting from a Matty Taylor free kick before Carroll blasted a shot over the bar shortly afterwards.
Just before half-time United should have been 2-0 if not for a great save down low by Jasskelainen from Hernandez who looked sharp all game and is surely finally regaining some of the confidence that makes him such an exciting player to watch.
West Ham started the second half by pushing forward, chasing down every ball and pressuring United from goalkeeper forwards. United coped well with the pressure for the most part, Jonny Evans and Rafael looking particularly assured tonight.
Disappointingly, United never really managed to expose West Ham on the counter the way they have been exposed themselves so many times this season, even with the addition of the abject Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck.
With 10 minutes to go, Sir Alex brought off Anderson for Phil Jones wanting to add extra cover to the defence and the red’s duly managed to see out the game.
United will be pleased with both a clean sheet and three points, as well as the performance of Rafael, both centre-backs and Anderson in midfield. Next up for United is an away trip to Reading this coming Saturday.