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 Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 14:05 GMT
Man Utd march on
David James dives in vain
James was unable to keep out Veron's free-kick
Man Utd 3-0 West Ham

Manchester United increased the pressure on Arsenal with a comfortable win over West Ham to move level on points at the top of the table.

Two goals in two first-half minutes ended the game as a contest, although a poor decision robbed bottom-of-the-table West Ham the potential lifeline of a goal.

We played some fantastic football at times - I am pleased with the scoreline but we have had to work for it

Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson

West Ham had a first minute penalty appeal waved away by referee Rob Styles after Jermain Defoe tumbled attempting to cut inside Phil Neville.

The Hammers' confident start belied their position, with Michael Carrick prompting prominently early on.

Manchester United fired a warning shot across West Ham's bows on 13 minutes, John O'Shea's glancing header at the near post drawing a good reaction save from David James.

It was a warning West Ham failed to heed as Manchester United took the lead a minute later.

Key moments
14mins: Solskjaer heads Man Utd ahead.
16mins: Veron's free-kick makes it 2-0.
44mins: Defoe goal ruled out.
61mins: Schemmel own goal makes it 3-0.

The Hammers were opened up down their left flank where Phil Neville galloped into open country to deliver an inviting near post cross for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose header deflected off Tomas Repka to leave James flat-footed.

It took Manchester United less than two minutes to double their lead.

Repka was booked for clattering Van Nistelrooy from behind and Veron doubled his punishment by curling an exquisite free-kick over the wall to beat James' despairing dive.

Carrick's free-kick on 31 minutes caught Manchester United's defence sleeping but having worked himself free Trevor Sinclair failed to connect with a spectacular bicycle kick.

West Ham's defence continued to creak every time it was leaned on, and when Van Nistelrooy found himself with a clear sight of goal on 37 minutes, his failure to beat James from nine yards was something of a collector's item.

The Hammers were denied the lift of a goal by a poor decision two minutes before half-time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer heads Man Utd into the lead
Solskjaer's header deflected off Repka

Defoe looked offside in the middle as the ball ricocheted into his path to bury past Fabien Barthez, but referee's assistant Phil Barston failed to see O'Shea near the corner flag playing Defoe onside.

West Ham began the second half in a similar confident vein as the first.

But after Defoe went close their early momentum petered out and Manchester United took up the baton.

Van Nistelrooy lost out in a duel with James after Ryan Giggs had played the Dutchman through, but a third was not delayed.

Manchester United strung together 22 passes which ended with Gary Neville whipping in a cross which Van Nistelrooy again missed, but was turned into his own net by Sebastien Schemmel.

Van Nistelrooy failed to get enough power in a volley to seriously test James, while Barthez was extended for the first time on 76 minutes to keep out Wes Brown's deflection.


Manchester United: Barthez, Gary Neville, Brown, Silvestre, O'Shea (Blanc 73), Solskjaer (Beckham 45), Veron, Phil Neville, Giggs, Scholes (Forlan 73), van Nistelrooy.
Subs not used: Ricardo, Richardson.

West Ham: James, Minto (Breen 89), Repka, Dailly, Schemmel, Sinclair, Carrick, Lomas (Moncur 85), Cole, Defoe, Pearce.
Subs not used: Bywater, Camara, Ferdinand.

Booked: Repka.

Attendance: 67,555

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Five Live's Alan Green
"Man Utd gained early and total control"
 Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson
"We're getting the breaks now"
 West Ham boss Glenn Roeder
"We won't cave in"
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