Hail Ronaldo!

With West Ham showing a marked lack of appetite for getting back into the game, Manchester United, despite being reduced to 10 men, had it all easy.

It took Manchester United three minutes to open the scoring in their final home Premier League game, and they might easily have reached double figures against a predictably limp West Ham had not Nani idiotically evened up the contest by getting himself dismissed before half-time.

Even then, the home side’s 10 men managed to increase their lead in the second half, with West Ham showing a marked lack of appetite for getting back into the game. This is not to suggest Alan Curbishley’s players were doing their manager’s second favourite team a favour, West Ham have shown a marked lack of appetite since around Christmas, even without being two or three goals behind.

Even so, Curbishley must have been embarrassed all over again by his players’ abject failure to offer any semblance of a contest in the second half. He sent assistant Mervyn Day up for the press conference.

Needing to win the final two games to ensure the EPL title, Sir Alex Ferguson could not have asked for friendlier fixtures than West Ham at home and Wigan away.

Manchester United scored on virtually their first attack, certainly Cristiano Ronaldo’s first serious foray forward, in a manner that suggested shooting fish in a barrel might be more taxing. Ronaldo left Lucas Neill on his backside by the touchline and advanced unchecked into the area, George McCartney backing off until all he could effectively do was deflect the eventual shot past Robert Green.

Old Trafford breathed a collective sigh of relief and settled down for a stroll in the sunshine, rising to applaud Ronaldo again in the 24th minute as he collected his 40th goal of the season and his 30th in the League. He becomes the fourth player to do that in a 38-match Premier League season. He also joined a select group of players to have scored with an unusual part of his anatomy.

Staying onside while ghosting to the far post as James Tomkins failed to cut out Owen Hargreaves’ cross, Ronaldo was in such a good position when the ball came through he simply allowed it to roll past Green off his shorts. You could say he is now in the full members’ club.

A 30-yard screamer from Carlos Tevez beat Green much more spectacularly, probably even beating Paul Scholes’s effort against Barcelona for Old Trafford’s goal of the week, though the promised avalanche never materialised.

For one thing West Ham pinched a goal back, Dean Ashton acrobatically taking advantage of a moment’s confusion between Wes Brown and Rio Ferdinand, and for another United found themselves numerically disadvantaged when Nani fell hook, line and sinker for Neill’s crafty old-pro provocation.

Just when it seemed Curbishley was a shoo-in for the end of season stupidity award, for making comments about Manchester United that would have been out of place, Nani butted Neill and then had the cheek to drop to the floor himself to cover his embarrassment. You could tell it was a completely asinine thing to do in the 37th minute of a game from which Manchester United needed all three points, because Ferguson said it was. “It was real immaturity,” Ferguson said. “He’ll learn. He’s retaliated and he’s not got to do that. I don’t think he’s given the referee any choice. It gave us a few nervous moments before the interval, but we sorted ourselves out after that and managed to keep hold of the ball better.”

Ferguson was able to say that with a smile playing around his face because the points were in the bag. Had United been playing Blackburn, or anyone with more heart than the Hammers, Nani might have commenced his learning with his manager’s boot up his backside. As it was, West Ham dismally failed to produce a shot worthy of the name in the second half, and compounded that failing by allowing Michael Carrick all the time he needed to pick up a loose ball in midfield, advance on goal and make the game safe. And with it the title, presumably.

United were relaxed enough at the end to let Ryan Giggs on. If he gets a run-out at Wigan he can break Bobby Charlton’s club appearance record of 758 in Moscow. “He’s got a good chance,” Ferguson said.

United are not playing West Ham in Moscow, though, so do not put money on it.

The Results

May 4: Arsenal 1 (Bendtner 77) bt Everton 0. Half-time: 0-0; Liverpool 1 (Torres 58) bt Manchester City 0. Half-time: 0-0.

May 3: Aston Villa 0 lost to Wigan 2 (Valencia 52 & 63). Half-time: 0-0; Blackburn 3 (Santa Cruz 45 & 77, Roberts 47) bt Derby 1 (Miller 19). Half-time: 1-1; Bolton 2 (Diouf 42, Murphy o.g. 83) bt Sunderland 0. Half-time: 1-0; Fulham 2 (McBride 52, Nevland 87) bt Birmingham 0. Half-time: 0-0; Manchester United 4 (Ronaldo 3 & 24, Tevez 26, Carrick 59) bt West Ham 1 (Ashton 28). Half-time: 3-1; Middlesbrough 2 (Riggott 40, Sanli 53) bt Portsmouth 0. Half-time: 1-0; Reading 0 lost to Tottenham 1 (Keane 16). Half-time: 0-1.

April 28: Derby 2 (McEveley 31, Earnshaw 77) lost to Arsenal 6 (Bendtner 25, Van Persie 39, Adebayor 59, 81 & 90, Walcott 78). Half-time: 1-2.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008