Inspired United Put the Hammer Down

By Scott, Ged | The Birmingham Post (England), April 3, 2000 | Go to article overview

Inspired United Put the Hammer Down


Scott, Ged, The Birmingham Post (England)


The only race for any Premiership title is now the one for second place.

While Manchester United were showing a clean pair of heels by putting seven past West Ham United at Old Trafford on Saturday, the champions-elect were also effectively doing in their rivals.

Leeds United's second straight defeat - this time, at home to the other of this season's Champions League aspirants, Chelsea - leaves them to concentrate on the battle for Europe.

For a short while, it looked as if West Ham might have cause to make Sir Alex Ferguson choke on Saturday night's testimonial dinner.

Paulo Wanchope - who also scored at Old Trafford for Derby County last season - showed his liking for the place by breaking clear to put the Hammers ahead on 11 minutes.

But then United woke up, spotted that Craig Forrest was in the West Ham goal, and the avalanche was about to begin.

Forrest's less-than-enchanted last visit was between the sticks for Ipswich Town five years ago, when Andy Cole broke the Premiership's scoring record with a nap hand of five goals in United's nine-card trick.

This time, Forrest limited the damage to seven, although he was at fault for the first when he was slow to get down to Paul Scholes' shot.

Two minutes later, Forrest even saved the first of United's two penalties, but Denis Irwin tucked home the rebound, Cole got in on the act again on the stroke of half-time and, from then on, it was one-way traffic

Scholes added a cheeky second, then got it right from the spot as United converted their first successful penalty in four attempts, David Beckham put the icing on the cake with a trademark free-kick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made Ferguson's day complete.

With the Champagne of a sixth Premiership triumph in eight years on ice, it all left the Manchester giants to head off for their midweek Champions League trip to Real Madrid ten points clear of Leeds.

David O'Leary's younsgters couldn't recover from the shock of seeing an Englishman score for Chelsea at Elland Road.

Young Jon Harley's 62nd-minute winner was enough to settle the contest and give Chelsea - who also have next Sunday's FA Cup semi-final with Newcastle United to think about - a European tonic for Wednesday, just in case things go pear-shaped against Barcelona.

It leaves Leeds just a point clear of a Michael Owen-inspired Liverpool and looking anxiously over their shoulders, with Arsenal and Chelsea now both firmly involved in the race for the two other Champions League places. …

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