Date:Friday March 31 2006
MAN UTD: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Vidic, Ferdinand,Evra (Silvestre 78), Ronaldo (Saha 87), Fletcher (Giggs 69),Pique, Park, van Nistelrooy, Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Howard, Rossi.
WEST HAM: Hislop, Scaloni (Ferdinand 67), Collins, Gabbidon,Konchesky, Benayoun, Reo-Coker, Mullins,Etherington (Zamora 80), Ashton (Sheringham 80), Harewood.
Subs Not Used: Walker, Fletcher.
The stats probably over-shadow a poor match, as United dug deep to record a seventh successive Premiership win and closed the gap on leaders Chelsea to nine points.
Luis Saha has his fan club, and rightly so after his amazing run of form, but it was great to see Ruud van Nistelrooy mark his Manchester United recall with the only goal of the match.
The Dutchman's future has been in doubt recently but the former PSV Eindhoven star proved he intends to make his own stand for a first team start.
The dilemma for Sir Alex must be the envy of just about every club in Europe, and only he knows what constitutes his full-strength side.
Saha and Van Nistelrooy are two players who are poles apart. Not a bad choice to have if ever the manager is chasing a game. With the Frenchman there seems more excitement and free-flowing attacking play. With the Dutchman you know there will be a time when he breaks free of the defender's shackles and pounce to put the ball in the back of the net.
Against West Ham, it was Park Ji-Sung who brought the game to life. Van Nistelrooy spent fruitless 45 minutes waiting for an opportunity. But when Park's injury-time cut-back found the man, van Nistelrooy swept home in the clinical fashion United fans are so accustomed to.
Dean Ashton should turned home Lionel Scaloni's fierce drive inside the opening five minutes, and the Hammers never really recovered from that miss.
As it was, United gradually emerged from their shell and, while not finding the fluidity of recent weeks, at least forced some sustained pressure, taking their cue from the departure of referee Graham Poll with a hamstring injury midway through the half.
Park was the inspiration. One of five changes to the side that defeated Birmingham on Sunday, the South Korean was at his energetic best and was a threat to the visitors every time he received possession.
Saha was introduced for Ronaldo three minutes from time and might have scored as well had his curling shot not flicked off Daniel Gabbidon's back.
However, this was Van Nistelrooy's night and he will not expect to be dropped this weekend. Expect feathers to fly if he is!
Date:Friday March 31 2006
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|Aston Villa||1||-||1||Man Utd|
|2. Man City||22||14||5||3||23||47|
|4. Man Utd||22||11||7||4||15||40|
|7. West Ham||22||10||6||6||10||36|
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