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Wayne Rooney, West Ham, and a foul mouth

Manchester United face West Ham tonight, and fans of both clubs will remember what happened when the teams last met.

As United charged towards their historic 19th title two seasons ago, there was one particular game late on in the season where it threatened to fall apart.

The Red Devils had traveled to Upton Park for the midday kick-off full of confidence, but suddenly found themselves 2-0 down after their defensive sloppiness gifted the Hammers two first half penalties.

As they have done so many times this season, United fought back in the second half, and it was Wayne Rooney who inspired it.

The striker bagged a hat-trick, his highlight of a difficult 2010/11 season, with the game sealed by Javier Hernandez scoring a fourth. Yet the game is best remembered for Rooney's foul mouth outburst at a camera after netting his third from the spot.

"What, ****ing what?" - It was not what Sky had advertised as the family friendly Premier League, being transmitted through the UK's television sets on a Saturday lunchtime, and the world.

The three words deflected all the praise from Rooney's magnificent performance, in a way they simply would not have done if it were almost anyone else. And United fans were furious when the FA decided to make an example of him, banning him for two matches.

It was harsh, and United got by OK without him, but the player learned a valuable lesson; he has not repeated his actions since.

United won't have any problems if he can repeat his hat-trick actions tonight. But he needs to break a unwelcome streak if he is to do so.

We detailed yesterday how Robin van Persie had gone three league games without a goal, Wayne Rooney has gone five without scoring in the division. You have to go back to the match with Stoke more than a month ago to find the last time he scored in the Premier League.

He will hope to be United's difference maker tonight, but it won't be easy. He has played a more withdrawn role this season to accommodate Van Persie, but freedom could be more limited this evening.

West Ham are without one half of their defensive central midfield partnership Mark Noble, suspended, but Mohamed Diame is expected to drop deep and attempt to deny him space. It will be up to Rooney to get his movement right and drag Diame out of position in an attempt to manipulate the game and allow Anderson a chance to express himself through the middle too.

Tonight's game could be a cracker, especially if the Hammers score first - And based on United's record this season they just might, but you can expect Rooney to be right in the thick of it.

What are your predictions for tonight?

image: © nasmac

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