Six days ago, Manchester United were being humiliated by Liverpool at Old Trafford. But on Saturday against West Ham -- and despite the absence of Robin van Persie -- they were on cruise control, riding a pair of goals from Wayne Rooney (including what might go down as the goal of the season) to a routine, comfortable 2-0 win.
The first half -- and probably the whole match -- was overshadowed by Rooney's wonder-goal. Challenging James Tomkins for a bouncing ball on the halfway line, Rooney rolled his opponent, spotted Adrian off his line, and blasted a perfect 55-yard shot home to give the visitors the lead. It has been coming, too. For all the talk of Manchester United's issues this season, they're still dangerous on their day, and David Moyes' side had had West Ham on the back foot for most of the opening spell.
The Hammers replied by pushing up, and Mohamed Diamé might have done better when he worked his way through the visitors' makeshift defence only to delay his shot to long and cough up possession, but Manchester United had West Ham right where they wanted them -- pressing up the pitch and leaving space behind into which they could surge.
The visitors' second came on the counterattack. With West Ham screaming for a penalty at one end of the pitch, Ashley Young surged up their left flank, and although the winger's cross wasn't good enough to find Shinji Kagawa at the back post, Mark Noble made a hash of the attempted clearance, hitting the ball off Rooney's ankles and in to make it 2-0 to Manchester United.
Rooney's brace turned out to be more than enough for Manchester United to secure the points. Down by two, West Ham didn't have it in them to push for a comeback draw, and the second half was an extraordinarily quiet affair. With the points wrapped up, Moyes had the chance to rest the likes of Rooney and Juan Mata with 15 minutes still left to play -- the focus now is on the Manchester derby in midweek. If the Red Devils can get a win there, perhaps some of the sting will be taken out of the season.
But seriously, go look at that Rooney goal some more.
West Ham United starting lineup (4-5-1): Adrian; George McCartney, James Collins, James Tomkins, Guy Demel; Mark Noble, Mohamed Diamé (Matthew Jarvis 58'); Matthew Taylor (Antonio Nocerino 83'), Kevin Nolan (Carlton Cole 72'), Stewart Downing; Andrew Carroll.
Manchester United starting lineup (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Alexander Buttner, Michael Carrick, Phil Jones, Rafael; Marouane Fellaini, Darren Fletcher;Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata (Danny Welbeck 77'), Ashley Young; Wayne Rooney (Javier Hernandez 77').
Goals: Rooney 8', 33'.