Fulham vs Man Utd Match Report (Rooney to the rescue)By: Ian | February 3rd, 2013
Well, of all the Premier League games played yesterday, Utd’s clash with Fulham was probably the least of the lot, in terms of match action. With Newcastle playing out a 3-2 victory over Chelsea, and Everton coming back from 3-1 down against Villa to draw 3-3, and Wigan and Southampton’s 2-2 scrap, Utd were pretty far down the billing on Match of the Day. However, the result, whilst far from clinical, was crucial, and, as was pointed out by multiple critics determined to drag a favourite line of the journalists into the conversation, this was ‘the sort of game which wins you titles’. That is, Utd didn’t play amazingly well, but got the job done to grab the three points and move TEN points clear at the top of the table (at least until City play Liverpool today).
The wingers, absent last time around, made a return to Utd’s formation in the form of Nani and Valencia, completing a now staple midfield of Carrick and Cleverley. Rooney and Robin up front, with Rafael, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra and De Gea completing the eleven. Fulham, meanwhile, were missing Berbatov due to injury, leaving Rodallega to lead their line. Nothing seemed to suggest a tougher outing than the recent fourth round FA Cup clash, but it was in the performance, not the individual players, that Fulham improved, to give them their due credit.
Nani, ever the controversial selection, seemed lively in the first half. His first attempt came from an RVP corner, forcing Schwarzer into an early save. Evra, transformed this season into a goal threat, tried the follow-up, which hit the bar, and Rooney tried third-time-lucky, but Fulham cleared away. Fulham had their share of attacking through Riise smacking a perfectly-hit long range drive, met by De Gea in a flying save that looked good for the cameras. Ruiz equalled up the woodwork count by keeping his shot low, but thankfully a few cm’s too far to the right.
Then the woodwork count went 2-1 to Utd’s favour. Rooney tried to curve the ball around following Nani’s work on the wing, and it duly smacked the upright. No goals, but then, in high drama, it went 3-1 on the woodwork count as Hangeland tried to clear, but diverted it instead onto the cross between the bar and the post. All this hitting the post was getting a bit frustrating, so what do you do in situation’s like this? Well, you pull out the plug and switch whatever it is back on again. Duly, someone pulled the plug, probably Eon, and Craven Cottage fell into blackness as the floodlights failed. It took around ten minutes of waiting in the customer service queue, clicking options 1 through 9 ceaslessly, before a human confirmed there must have been an admin error, and it was actually another cottage that hadn’t paid its bill. The lights came back on, and the players, who had temporarily returned to the dressing room, came back out for the remaining two minutes of the half, then went back in again. Half time, 0-0.
Maybe it was the disruption, but the relatively lively start to the game dwindled away, and the tempo dropped. Fulham were perfectly fine with this, with only a tame Van Persie header coming at them in the first part of the second half. Baird had a chance at the other end, and Nani’s attempt was blocked, but it was pretty bland stuff. Cue the substitutions, Hernandez for Valencia, and slightly later, Giggs for Cleverley. Valencia in particular produced a poor display, a certain cross in the first half, I think, summing up how out of it he is at the moment. It was a perfect crossing opportunity, but the ball didn’t rise from ground level, had a lack of power, and was easily patted away by Fulham’s defence. Poor from the Ecuadorian.
Rafael was required to clear a header off the line, even though Utd’s changes did spice up the forward play a little. In the end, all that passing and moving didn’t produce the breakthrough, it was a simple route-1 long ball. Jonny Evans, in good form at the back, booted the ball forward, more in hope probably. However, Senderos misjudged it, allowing Rooney to run onto it, power forward, and without beating Hughes, he curled the ball accurately around him and into the corner of the goal. An excellent finish, and a very important one, as Wayne went off to celebrate.
Chicharito had a late attempt to maybe round the keeper, but that was smothered, and it was Robin Van Persie who made a late defensive clearance. As Utd closed the game out at 1-0, attention must be drawn to the work shifts put in by, not only the defence – in which Evans was fantastic, but also by Rooney and Van Persie. It didn’t really go their way going forward, but their tracking back and headers out of the box were just as important. How other teams would pay to have strikers as good as those two in all areas of the pitch…
As mentioned above, it was a bland game, and perhaps due to that, a bland match report. But, three points are what matters, and Utd got them. If I could draw attention to the next group of fixtures: Everton, Real Madrid (A), Reading (FA Cup), QPR, Norwich, Real Madrid (H). There are some very winnable league games in there, but Everton will put up a fight as they try to do the double over Utd this season, with the massive Champions League games amongst the other fixtures. It’s a huge couple of weeks if Utd want to challenge for silverware on multiple fronts, so to enter that with a ten-point lead is excellent.
Thoughts below, if you could. They are read, and I will reply!