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Real Madrid vs. AC Milan in Dubai

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By ESPN Staff

Curbs delighted with Reo-Coker's reaction

Alan Curbishley has called on Nigel Reo-Coker to continue leading the fight against relegation after the midfielder helped get West Ham's new boss off to a winning start at Upton Park.

Curbishley's reign started on Wednesday and his first match in charge ended in a 1-0 win yesterday over Premiership leaders Manchester United, the club he failed to beat during his 15-year stint as Charlton manager.

Netting the winner was particularly sweet for Reo-Coker, who had been linked with a move away from the club and then held partly responsible for the departure of manager Alan Pardew at the start of last week.

Curbishley, however, does not expect the Hammers skipper to leave in next month's transfer window and, after helping his side edge closer to escaping the relegation zone, wants Reo-Coker to show similar form next week against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

'I know there has been a lot of criticism levelled at the players and maybe he has taken the brunt of it, I don't know,' said Curbishley.

'It's easy to pick on someone when it's not going so well, but I haven't spoken to him about it - if he wanted to answer his critics then he has done it, but I would like him to do it again next week against Fulham.'

Reo-Coker finished at the near post with 15 minutes remaining, with United's lead at the top of the Premiership cut to two points as Chelsea won earlier in the day.

Curbishley, however, hopes United maintain their challenge to prevent Jose Mourinho's side strolling to another title.

'(Sir Alex Ferguson) knows it's going to be over 38 games and they have had a fantastic start,' Curbishley said. 'You don't want the Premiership to be a one-horse race, you want it to be contested as much as it can and we'll see if it is.

'We've got other worries on our minds and we'll get on with ours.'

United boss Ferguson believes now is the time for his side to show their character.

'We've got to show our mettle, that's the hallmark of champions and we've proved that many times in the past, and this team is young enough to do that,' said Ferguson, whose side knew before kick-off Chelsea had closed the gap by coming from 2-1 behind to defeat Everton.

'We're two points clear. It's not been a great day for us in the sense of dropping points over Chelsea and they have come from behind, which is a bit of luck for them in this situation.

'But the championship was not going to be won in December anyway, but what it does tell you is that once you get to January you have a good idea of how you're placed.

'The Christmas period is always fraught with difficulties in terms of squad rotation and when to rest players, so a lot of decisions will be made, but I'm happy with the form of the team, they're playing well.'