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Man Utd 2 West Ham 1 By Rob King, PA Sport Football Correspondent
Roy Keane drove champions Manchester United back to the Premiership summit
with another inspirational display at home to West Ham.
The tireless Irishman cancelled out John Hartson's 13th minute goal, thefirst
Peter Schmeichel had conceded in 693 minutes, before England youngster Paul
Scholes capped his wonderful week with the 75th minute winner.
It takes Alex Ferguson's men three points clear of Blackburn, who play Leeds
And Keane will surely now find himself a marked man in Slovakia in Wednesday
when Joszef Moeder reports back to Kosice, their opening Champions' League
Keane is a godsend for a team still struggling to produce its best, refusing
to let them take their foot off the pedal for a moment, driving them forward
His self-disregard and ferocious tackling alongside the gutsy Nicky Butt
ensures any team must be brave and determined to get a midfield foothold.
John Hartson, whose comments about driving under the influence sparked
understandable controversy this week, was booked when he squared up to Keane
just before the end after another biting challenge.
The Londoners arrived full of confidence after their surprise start to the
season had lifted them into third place, and they began well enough.
But for most of the second half they were pinned in their own penalty area and
simply ran out of strength to resist their eighth consecutive Old Trafford
Harry Redknapp was encouraged by the sight of Henning Berg in the home
defence, suspecting he might be jaded after two tough World Cup ties for Norway,
and Gary Pallister, who was hit by a new back problem on England duty.
So he set Eyal Berkovic to run at them and feed Hartson and Paul Kitson on a
surface slicked by frequent heavy downpours inbetween the sunbursts.
Fortunes turned in the space of seconds in the 13th minute. Keane swept onto
Beckham's pass and from fully 30 yards cracked a magnificent shot against
West Ham turned the scrambled clearance into a hopeful counter attack
andspeculation turned into dramatic profit when Pallister, trying to steer the
ball back to Schmeichel from the right-hand corner, miscued his header.
Hartson intercepted and rounded the great Dane as he raced off his line to
notch the Hammers' 50th Old Trafford goal.
Then Berkovic sent Kitson racing clear of Pallister. Schmeichel managed to
take the pace off his shot with a save on the border of his area and spun round
to pounce on the loose ball.
Andy Cole missed a simple equaliser after Keane had tenaciously battled past
Unsworth and Michael Hughes to deliver the ball low across the face of goal.
But in the 21st minute United levelled with a large stroke of luck, Keane
again trying his luck from distance and delighted when his shot looped up off
the back of John Moncur and flew past the wrong-footed goalkeeper, his second
goal in successive matches.
Miklosko proved a stubborn final obstacle as United asserted their authority,
though he knew little about his stop from Beckham on the half hour, the skidding
shot flying to safety off his upper chest.
But his 37th minute save from Cole was quite exceptional, the big Czech
blocking at point blank range as the United striker flew in front of his marker
to get his head on Beckham's teasing cross.
West Ham retreated in the second half, soaking up pressure with a convincing
imitation of a punchdrunk boxer.
Beckham was a splinter away from putting United ahead on the hour, curling
Gary Neville's short corner from the left onto the crossbar at the far post with
Miklosko beaten. Pallister chipped the ball back in for Scholes to head wide.
The pressure on West Ham was intense with Giggs a bootlace away from turning
in Beckham's cross soon after.
Karel Poborsky gave fresh impetus to the siege in the 68th minute, replacing
the tiring Giggs who immediately went to the dressing room.
Scholes should have struck the second soon after, sidefooting wide from Phil
Neville's inviting low cross after the youngster was put in by Keane.
United finally claimed the lead they deserved through Scholes in the 75th
Gary Neville's cross from the right was half-cleared to Beckham who returned
it into the middle for Scholes to run on and head past Miklosko's right hand
from 10 yards.
It completed a great week for the 22-year-old who scored on his World Cupdebut
for England against Moldova on Wednesday.
United looked home and dry but the visitors roused themselves for a final
effort and Schmeichel almost handed them a sensational point when he fumbled
Unsworth's long range shot.
He only just clawed the ball back before it dribbled over his line, a reminder
that United cannot afford such lapses of concentration in Slovakia this week.
Man Utd: Schmeichel, G. Neville, Pallister, Beckham, Butt,
Cole (McClair 89), Giggs (Poborsky 67), P. Neville, Keane,
Subs Not Used: Irwin, Van Der Gouw, Clegg.
Goals: Keane 21, Scholes 76.
West Ham: Miklosko, Breacker, Potts, Ferdinand, Unsworth,
Moncur (Lampard 80), Berkovic, Lomas, Hughes, Hartson, Kitson.
Subs Not Used: Sealey, Dowie, Terrier, Rowland.
Booked: Hughes, Hartson.
Goals: Hartson 14.
Ref: D R Elleray (Harrow-on-the-Hill).