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Beckham and Scholes show Hammers duo the way to go.

Byline: MARK BRADLEY at Upton Park

JOE COLE and Michael Carrick may be the future of the England team but they were left in no doubt at Upton Park that David Beckham and Paul Scholes are already the finished article.

Indeed, the watching Sven-Goran Eriksson may have learned a vital lesson about the likely summer prospects for the immensely talented but not yet fully developed West Ham midfield duo.

Although he could yet decide that one of them deserves the chance to travel to Japan for experience, the learning curve of Under-21 European Championships campaign beckons for both players.

While Cole and Carrick matched up promisingly against even Patrick Vieira earlier this season, they were left in the shadows by Beckham, Scholes and Roy Keane at Upton Park.

Manchester United's midfield trio picked their side up by the bootlaces as they twice went behind in the opening 20 minutes to a header by Steve Lomas and a strike by Frederic Kanoute.

Beckham produced a sublime chip to make the scoreline 1-1 after Scholes had intercepted Cole's over-ambitious crossfield ball.

And with Carrick understandably struggling to make his mark in his first game back after six weeks out injured, Nicky Butt was left unmarked to volley Beckham's free-kick to make it 2-2.

As West Ham's midfield and defence collapsed, Scholes, who had been left out of United's midweek line-up, hammered home his point with United's third goal after the break, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it 4-2.

United's nerves became frayed when substitute Jermain Defoe pulled a goal back and the visitors were fortunate to escape a claim for a spot-kick.

But in the finale to a mesmerising match, the game's two leading lights combined to seal victory when Beckham converted a late penalty after Scholes was fouled.

Amid so much drama and sublime skill, Carrick and Cole had a lot to live up to. Given their inexperience, the fact that they did not manage to shine is hardly surprising and is no real criticism.

However, if Eriksson needed to learn more about the gulf which still exists between England's established world-class stars and their promising youngsters, it was clearly apparent.

West Ham boss Glenn Roeder declared: "You must remember that David Beckham and Paul Scholes are many seasons ahead of Joe in terms of experience and knowledge.

"So it would be very hard to expect him to match up to those two just now. They are playing in an exceptional side which helps them to show their array of skills.

"As good as they are now and some of them are worldclass already, they are only going to get better. That's why I think England will have some exciting times over the next few years."

Roeder, who was part of Glenn Hoddle's England coaching team, added: "The reason they've carried on improving is that they're excellent characters.

"You always knew which were the Manchester United players with England, they did extra after every session and had to be dragged off the training ground.

"I'm sure Joe and Michael will recognise how good they are but there's no reason why those two and Jermain Defoe can't eventually match them."

While Defoe - dubbed the "black Michael Owen" by team-mate Paolo di Canio - was the only one of the trio to sparkle, albeit briefly, against United, it was no disgrace in being eclipsed by Beckham.

The midfielder's superb display on his return to his East London roots, inevitably amid abuse from the home crowd - albeit less than in previous years - was recognised by his manager.

Sir Alex Ferguson said:

"David Beckham's form over the past few weeks has been magnificent."

That is not to say Cole, Carrick and Defoe do not have the potential to shine just as brightly.

What they must do, however, is ensure that the lesson from Beckham and Scholes now rubs off.

WEST HAM . . . . .3 (Lomas 8, Kanoute 20, Defoe 78) MAN UNITED . . . .5 (Beckham 17,89 pen, Butt 22, Scholes 55, Solskjaer 64) WEST HAM: James, Schemmel, Repka, Dailly, Winterburn (Defoe 74), Labant, Lomas, Carrick, Cole, Di Canio, Kanoute. Subs: Hislop, Moncur, Pearce, Garcia.

MAN UTD: Barthez, G Neville, Blanc, Johnsen, Silvestre, Beckham, Scholes, Keane, Butt, van Nistelrooy (Fortune 87), Solskjaer (Forlan 84). Subs: Carroll, Irwin, P Neville.

BOOKINGS: West Ham's Schemmel and Repka and United's G Neville, Solskjaer.

REFEREE: Mr M Halsey.

ATT: 35,281.

CAPTION(S):

GOALS GALORE: David Beckham salutes the travelling support after netting a sublime first equaliser (top), Nicky Butt twists acrobatically through the air to bring the scores level again (left) while Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Beckham celebrate the latter's penalty (right) CHALLENGE: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fends off the attentions of Tomas Repka at Upton Park on Saturday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 18, 2002
Words:787
Previous Article:Penalty woe for Shearer.
Next Article:KEANE: WIN SEVEN AND IT'S HEAVEN FOR UNITED.


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