Fulham 1-3 Manchester United
United’s manager David Moyes will surely be delighted with his team’s thirteen minute spell of razor-sharp ruthlessness, expanding their unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions with a well deserved fourth consecutive win. Not bad at all, but we want more!
Victories featuring the fingers-crossed, gormless pairing of Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley in central midfield are bound to be as rare as hen’s teeth. Allowed huge mounts of space by the geriatric, stiff-upper-lipped London-Lad pairing of Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker, Messrs, Van Persie and Rooney had the run of Craven Cottage and enjoyed themselves tremendously. This season they will rarely get as easy a first half as they did at Craven Cottage.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Fulham’s embattled manager, Martin Jol; but, if it’s horses for courses, his team never stood a chance. A lackluster defeat at Southampton last weekend and a mid-week Capital One Cup exit to Leicester City in midweek have Jol teetering like a drunk on the North Face of the Eiger. After having made the footballing Lord of laissez-faire, Dimitar Berbatov, his captain for the day, it may be that the big Dutchman has given up the ghost already and is simply awaiting the whisper of the axe. The latest bookmaker free bets can be especially interesting.
Fulham fell a goal behind only nine minutes in as a sharp United effortlessly dissected the Cottagers anemic defense. Beautifully functional in execution, Robin Van Persie hoovered up a long Nemanja Vidic pass and swiveled exquisitely before playing in an unselfish Rooney, who cut the ball back to Valencia. The Ecuadorian winger took his time and expertly prodded home his chance.
With Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones quicker than Sidwell and Parker in the first half, who needed Michael Carrick or Marouane Fellaini? But having made a few useful plays, once relaxed, Tom Cleverley really does love to give the ball away to the opposition and Scott Parker seized on two telegraphed efforts. The first time, he, too missed with his pass, but the second time he put in a fine pass to Dimitar Berbatov. Fortunately, Rafael Da Silva made a clever, well-timed tackle to frustrate the Bulgarian striker. Moments later, however, United dismantled any sense of self-esteem the West Londoners had quickly built up, scoring twice more in the space of four minutes.
The brilliant Adnan Januzaj was the instrument of the second goal. After having been dispossessed by Parker, Parker went down in a dramatic heap after losing it back to the young Belgian. But the referee, Lee Probert, was having none of it and, while Parker jumped back up to argue, the baby-faced assassin was off to the races before passing to an unmarked Van Persie, who powered the ball home from 15 yards out. Two minutes more and Rooney made child’s play of a tap-in after a fine sweeping diagonal run made it 3-0.
In the second half, not helped at all by injuries to Rafael, Cleverley and Evans, United made three substitutions and suddenly turned promiscuously lax. It would be pointless to blame Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini or Shinji Kagawa, when collective vanity and complacency were the true problem. With Jones and Fellaini now policing midfield, United were too static to to think in terms of their usual counterattacking tactics. Apart from Rooney, Van Persie, and the ebulient Januzaj, United’s collective confidence seemed to suddenly drain away.
Relentlessly sloppy, United looked all set to botch yet another match after the 65th minute, when a 20-yard shot by Alexander Kacaniklic pinged into the net after taking a deflection off Valencia. Still way too casual even then, United began to miss pass after pass and stopped chasing and pressing. And things really tightened up tremendously after Jol made a couple of wise decisions. First, in the 75th minute, the big Dutchman substituted Berbatov’s partner-in-sloth Bryan Ruiz with Adel Taarabt. Soon after, on came Darren Bent for a tired Scott Parker. The graft and passing prowess that Taraabt added to his team’s midfield almost paid off with a couple of headers from Bent and Berbatov that hit United’s upright.
The subdued home crowd were only roused when it came to booing. Letting Bryan Ruiz have it when he left the field and Darren Bent when he came on. There was also a serious confrontation between Marouane Fellaini and right back Sascha Riether after the Fulham defender clearly appeared to stamp on Adnan Januzaj. Clearly, Januzaj, with his amazing capacity to dribble, enrage his opponents and draw free kicks so well, is already becoming a special part of the Premier League.
Considering the concussion suffered by Tom Cleverley and the high number of foul and indignities perpetrated on Adnan Januzaj, it’s about time Marouane Fellaini was kept out on the pitch to serve and protect his teammates. This protection factor is, right now, essential!