LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores the opening goal with a long range shot during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester United at Boleyn Ground on March 22, 2014 in London, England.

West Ham United 0-2 Manchester United: Rooney goal the highlight of Red Devils’ routine win (video)

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Manchester United’s campaign to slip into Europe via sixth place is alive and well after beating West Ham 2-0 at Upton Park. A fantastic goal from Wayne Rooney opened the scoring, and with the forward adding another before the break, there was really nothing the hosts could do to close the gap.

Marouane Fellaini had a chance in the fourth minute, but who remembers that now? All previous memories were wiped away by Rooney’s spectacular goal in the seventh minute. The forward pushed past James Tomkins as the ball bounced favorably, allowing Rooney to hit his shot on the half-volley. From an impressive 57 yards out, the ball sailed across the pitch, flying passed West Ham goalkeeper Adrian, who was scrambling to get back between the sticks.


West Ham’s best chances of the half came from Andy Carroll. The forward first headed a free kick from Mark Noble just wide. Then came a cross from Stewart Downing, heading toward the back post. Carroll came flying in for the header but David De Gea was there to save.

The wasted opportunities came back to haunt the hosts in the 33rd minute. The West Ham defense made a mess out of clearing the ball, with Noble’s clearance falling directly at Rooney’s feet. His second goal wasn’t anywhere close as inviting as his first, but hey, they all count, right?

West Ham’s vital signs are weak. Manchester United have been popping the ball around them with relative ease in the second half. Stewart Downing wastes a chance to get at the visitors down the right, leaving the ball behind initially and them cuffing his cross too deep

Sam Allardyce attempted to liven things up by replacing Mohamed Diamé with wideman Matt Jarvis. The move helped little, only resulting in a tame effort from Jarvis, easily rescued by De Gea. By about the 65th minute, the West Ham manager was absolutely livid, unable to believe his players’ performance. The hosts had trouble stringing together passes, getting into decent positions and, of course, finding the target.

West Ham United: Adrian, Demel, Collins, Taylor (Nocerino 83), McCartney, Noble, Tomkins, Diame (Jarvis 58), Nolan (C. Cole 72), Downing, Carroll

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Carrick, Buttner; Mata (Welbeck 77), Fletcher, Fellaini, Young; Kagawa; Rooney (Hernández 77)

Subs: Evra, Lindegaard, Chicharito, Nani, Welbeck, Cleverley, Januzaj

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.