Wayne Rooney scored and was sent off as Manchester United secured a hard-earned 2-1 triumph over West Ham at Old Trafford.
Rooney and Robin van Persie gave the Reds a commanding early lead but Diafra Sakho’s effort, also before the break, made for a nervous second half, exacerbated by the decision to send off the home skipper with around half an hour still to go.
With teenagers Luke Shaw and Paddy McNair making their debuts in defence, the Reds made a confident start and were ahead after five minutes. Rafael escaped down the right and delivered an inviting centre that was met by Rooney’s clever first-time finish.
The Hammers could have been level within a matter of seconds as Daley Blind’s mistake let in Enner Valencia but the Ecuadorian produced a wild shot into the Stretford End. Relieved, the hosts increased the pressure with Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria off target and James Tomkins blocking a Rooney shot after more nice play by the raiding Rafael.
A second goal duly arrived on 22 minutes when the busy Ander Herrera tackled Alex Song cleanly and Falcao, ignoring calls to shoot from the crowd, slipped in van Persie. The Dutch striker eased his way past Winston Reid and buried a low drive inside Adrian’s right-hand post.
United were flying, as one glorious move involving van Persie and Herrera led to Di Maria failing to apply the finish, but the visitors gained a lifeline when Stewart Downing’s corner was sloppily dealt with. David De Gea failed to make a convincing punch and, after Enner Valencia hit the bar, Sakho was left with a simple header into an unprotected net.
The second half began at a slower pace until Falcao collected a Shaw pass and saw a deflected shot from outside the area pushed away spectacularly by Adrian. De Gea also had to make a save, at his near post to thwart Sakho, before United were reduced to 10 men just before the hour mark. Rooney halted Downing’s break inside his own half with a crude foul but there was incredulity as referee Lee Mason’s decision to show a red rather than a yellow card.
Sakho headed into the side netting as obvious gaps at the back started to appear so Louis van Gaal withdrew Falcao for Darren Fletcher. The Reds lost the influential Herrera to yet another injury as he departed the scene holding his back and it became clear the hosts were content to try to repel the Hammers, without worrying Adrian’s goal.
Enner Valencia cut inside to deliver a deflected shot wide and, after referee Mason failed to produce a second red card for Sakho’s foul on Rafael, McNair was forced into a brilliant headed clearance deep inside his own box with seven minutes remaining. There was an almighty let-off in the closing stages when Carl Jenkinson’s cross was converted by Kevin Nolan but the assistant referee’s offside flag rescued van Gaal’s men.