Veteran midfielder Paul Scholes showed he still has something to contribute by starting the scoring on Saturday in Manchester United’s 4-0 rout of West Ham in the Premier League.
The 35-year-old Scholes had indicated on the eve of the match that he could retire at the end of the season because of his failure to make “much of a contribution” to the team.
But he rebutted his own criticism on the stroke of halftime at Upton Park with a fierce volley from 20 metres (yards). Darron Gibson, Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney each scored in the second half.
United’s victory kept the pressure on leader Chelsea, which was at Manchester City in the late match.
Arsenal climbed to third by beating Stoke 2-0, Aston Villa climbed up to fifth by beating Hull 3-0, but Liverpool squandered another chance to keep up with the top four by drawing 0-0 at Blackburn.
In the battle against relegation, Portsmouth stayed bottom despite beating Burnley 2-0 and Wolverhampton moved above Bolton in the drop zone by beating Gary Megson’s side 2-1. Birmingham continued its surge up the standings by winning 3-2 at Wigan to claim a third straight victory.
United manager Alex Ferguson had been forced to field a makeshift defence due to injuries, with midfielder Darren Fletcher at right back. And when captain Gary Neville, playing at centre back, limped off after 34 minutes with a groin injury, Michael Carrick was shifted into the back four.
While United’s defence looked fragile at times, the team was still a potent threat going forward. Scholes controlled the ball on his chest and struck past Robert Green to break the deadlock with half time approaching.
And in the 61st, Gibson was released by Ryan Giggs and the Ireland midfielder struck home from the edge of the penalty area.
Ten minutes later, United scored twice in quick succession. Valencia dispatched Anderson’s cross past Green from close range and then the Ecuador winger turned provider to setup Rooney’s goal.
At Emirates Stadium, Arsenal lost striker Eduardo da Silva with a muscle injury before kickoff and captain Cesc Fabregas had an early penalty kick saved by Thomas Sorensen.
But Andrei Arshavin, who had won the penalty after being tripped by Rory Delap, scored Arsenal’s first domestic goal since November 7 in the 26th.
Arshavin, who was leading the attack because of injuries to most of the club’s strikers, collected a long pass from left back Armand Traore and the Russian exchanged passes with Fabregas before volleying past Sorensen.
Second-half substitute Aaron Ramsey gave Arsenal a two-goal cushion in the 79th when the Wales midfielder dribbled inside the box and flicked the ball past Sorensen.