A delightful strike may force Scholes to rethink his future at Old Trafford
By Mark Ashenden
Injury-hit Manchester United ran riot in the second half to see off West Ham and keep the pressure on Chelsea.
A sloppy Ryan Giggs backpass almost let in Jack Collison before Paul Scholes hammered in the first on half-time.
Giggs set up Darron Gibson to smash home a thunderous second goal before Alessandro Diamanti went close.
Wayne Rooney and Anderson linked up well for Antonio Valencia to score a third, and Valencia then crossed in for Rooney to add to the Hammers misery.
Despite collecting three points Sir Alex Ferguson will be concerned with an injury list now totalling eight first-team defenders after Wes Brown and Gary Neville both picked up knocks.
Carrick happy to help out defence
After a lacklustre opening from both teams with Darren Fletcher starting at right-back, the Red Devils were grateful for their eventual lead as Giggs and Michael Carrick were forced to finish the match at the back.
Both Fletcher and Carrick are likely to continue their makeshift defensive roles in the final Champions League qualifier at Wolfsburg on Tuesday from which United need a top point to win Group B.
Considering there had been more goals at Upton Park than at any other Premier League ground this season, the first half was a relatively subdued affair between two sides desperate for three points at opposite ends of the table.
It was Giggs, so outstanding in recent games, who surprisingly created the first chance for the opposition.
A poor backpass from the Welsh veteran opened the door for Zavon Hines to cross from the left for Collison at the back post, but Giggs made amends by battling back to make a last-ditch tackle.
Hines, in for the injured Carlton Cole, spent much of the first half menacing the unfamiliar defence which included Fletcher because of Nemanja Vidic's illness.
Injuries and players in unusual positions were all set to dominate the talk at the interval until Scholes picked up the ball on the edge of the box with the last kick of the half.
The 35-year-old, who revealed this week his Old Trafford career may be in its final phase, chested down a cleared Danny Gabbidon header around Radoslav Kovac and blasted in brilliantly with his left foot from the edge of the box.
The former England midfielder's 99th Premier League goal was a dazzling and unexpected way to conclude what was largely a disappointing 45 minutes of football.
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West Ham were forced to bring on Diamanti for the injured Hines up front, but it was not long before his defence was undone for the second time.
Giggs combined with Rooney and burst forward with a typical counter-attack and set up Gibson on the edge of the box to score his third belter of the week after his brace in the Carling Cup against Tottenham.
Diamanti almost pulled one back with a curling free-kick but the alert Tomasz Kuszczak palmed the ball to safety.
West Ham were being overpowered by this stage and Rooney and Anderson worked brilliantly together on the left to leave Valencia to tap in United's third.
Valencia then turned provider and crossed in from the right for Rooney to make no mistake from six yards moments later.
It was a clinical showing from United and the result means West Ham remain too close to the bottom three for comfort.
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson: "It's always a hard place to come to. Scholes's strike was a great goal to get at an important time. He's capable of scoring outside the box. It was a wonderful hit."
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola: "The first goal changed the story of the game. We were defending well and they didn't create much.
"We have no complaints - our players gave everything. When you play the Champions it's always difficult and if you give them something they will exploit it. The second goal killed us."
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