Rampant Rooney denies Hammers

Wayne Rooney did the damage as Manchester United saw off West Ham United at a bitterly cold Old Trafford on Tuesday night.

The England striker headed in seven minutes before half-time just as the travelling Hammers faithful started to think of seeing out the first half. Rooney repeated the trick on 55 minutes, nodding in to assure the champions of the points,

Michael Owen's late third off the bench confirmed the end of a two-match winning run for Gianfranco Zola's side, who were on the receiving end of a thoroughly professional Red Devils display, just as AC Milan were seven days before.

There was no sign of what was to come in the opening stages. Jonathan Spector was the liveliest performer on view, with the former Manchester United man three times getting in timely blocks in the first ten minutes to stop the ambitious Antonio Valencia down the home side's right wing.

Alessandro Diamanti was proving an effective screen in front and a charge down of a Gary Neville clearance fell for Carlton Cole to have the visitors' first effort of the night, although it never troubled Ben Foster, in for Edwin van der Sar in the champions' goal.

On 20 minutes, Rooney surged forward and looked likely to get a shot on Robert Green's goal but for a late saving tackle from James Tomkins. The Hammers quickly broke on the counter and, after neat footwork from Radoslav Kovac, the ball found its way to Valon Behrami, who shot just wide across Foster's goal.

The keeper was to be more troubled a minute later by a deflected Diamanti effort, and he just about managed to prevent the Italian's looped shot from crossing the line. West Ham were on top but the home side sparked into life on 26 minutes when Valencia and then Darron Gibson tested the visitors' defence before Green scrambled away a flicked effort from Dimitar Berbatov.

Gibson shot tamely into Green's hands on 33 minutes before Upson did likewise to Foster barely 30 seconds later. Gibson went closer soon after that with Green having to tip his 25-yarder around the post before the Irish midfielder had a third go with a more pedestrian effort.

The deadlock was broken on 38 minutes when Rooney finished off a devastating move that began with Vidic surging forward unchallenged. He played it to Berbatov who picked out Valencia. The winger caught it first time and volleyed back for Rooney to head in.

The No9 was proving unplayable and nearly beat Green again with a 20-yard volley as the interval approached. The hosts were quick off the mark in the second half, Ji-Sung Park, an early replacement for the injured Anderson, smashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar with Green beaten.

Birthday boy Mido, a half-time Hammers arrival, won a corner a minute later and after the first effort was cleared, Behrami sent a shot skywards from Diamanti's second flag-kick. The home side were in control though and Rooney's second came in similar fashion to the first, Berbatov releasing Valencia who picked out his team-mate with ease in a central position.

With the Hammers support singing 'We're gonna win 3-2', the visitors refused to give up and Cole was inches away from connecting with a chipped Behrami cross on the hour just after Rooney had nearly embarrassed Green with the keeper stranded. Paul Scholes could have made it three-nil on 65 minutes before a desperate Tomkins tackle stopped Rooney getting his hat-trick.

Diamanti had Foster sprawling to save as the match entered its closing stages before Kieron Dyer returned from injury to try and liven up the Hammers attack. It was the home side that were still the most threatening, and they wrapped up the win as the match entered its final ten minutes through Rooney's replacement Owen's confident finish. Upson could have got a consolation after that but scooped over from five yards. While the hosts contemplate the League Cup final on Sunday, all Hammers thoughts will quickly turn to the visit of Bolton Wanderers on Saturday week.