Just a week after being crowned premiership champions, Manchester United have been relegated under a little known league footnote which states that any team beaten twice by West Ham in the same season automatically faces the drop. An appeal is already being hurriedly put in place, while Wayne Rooney has been spotted heading in the direction of FA headquarters with an iron bar and an even more furrowed brow than usual.
Officials at Old Trafford have claimed that if they had been aware of the clause they would have fielded a stronger team for this afternoon's end of season clash. With one eye on the FA cup final and the other cocking a self-satisfied wink at the camera, Man Utd trooped out a line-up which included three players from the under-16 team, two defenders with broken legs, Nemanja Vidic and A. Wyatt Van Mann, Holland's only dwarf goalkeeper.
Despite the weakened opposition West Ham still needed 44 minutes to take the lead, having started the game with seven of their players attacking in the wrong direction then wasting a further five minutes appealing for lbw against Gabriel Heinze (who had been asleep against the goal post before being disturbed by an unexpected Hammers strike). The winner finally came when Bobby Zamora mistakenly connected with the ball while trying to clear a coke can from the pitch and found the head of Carlos Tevez, who had fortuitously chosen that moment to lean forward to tie his shoe laces. Van Mann leapt at full-stretch to block the shot but narrowly missed by about five feet.
Manchester United started the second half with renewed vigour, having rounded up the other four players who had not bothered to come onto the pitch for the first half. Wayne Rooney's entrance in the 65th minute, after being texted by Alex Ferguson during his regular Sunday browse round ChavWorld, created a few chances but Roy Carroll was a sensation in goal for West ham, swearing the ball off the line on several occasions.
At the end of the match the West Ham squad were given a standing ovation by all of the visiting fans sober and slim enough to stand. The United players, meanwhile, were rushed from the pitch as supporters expressed their disgust by pelting them with cucumber sandwiches and volevants.
Sir Alex Ferguson was reported to be "almost purple with anger". His mood after the match, however, has yet to be commented upon.