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Jan 292013

Manchester United 4-1 Fulham
Manchester Utd v Fulham 008 United Ease Past A Blasé Fulham!Funny club, Fulham. United have statues of the trinity, Busby and you-know-who outside Old Trafford. Fulham have a dreadful one of Johnny Haines and a gigantic thing remembering Michael Jackson, who is famous for many reasons, none of which have anything at all to do with football. Having flogged their two best performers, Moussa Dembelé and Clint Dempsey, for a healthy profit to Spurs, their manager Martin Jol picked up United’s sad-sack, capricious pseudo-striker Dimitar Berbatov, one of the rare expensive toys the Gaffer chose to toss out of his pram on the cheap. Beggars can’t be choosers, even if your owner is Muhammad Al-Fayed, when your London next-door-neighbor is Roman Abramovich’s oil cash Laundromat at Stamford Bridge . Hope springs eternal, whether you’re the manager or a Cottagers fan, but Jol’s claim at his Friday night press conference that Berbatov was “in the state of mind for one of his hat-tricks” was up there in the fantasy betting stakes of Google  locating  and mapping Shangri-La and Utopia.

It took but 45 or so seconds for  Berbatov’s face to take on that familiar 5,000 kilometer stare we’re all so familiar with as a probing Rooney shot caused instantaneous panic in Fulham’s back line and was deflected for a corner. Wazza’s corner led to Aaron Hughes getting all in a dither as Chris Smalling rose with him for the ball, needlessly raising a hand to divert the ball. Referee Mark Clattenburg wasted no time pointing to the spot. With Rooney still in the Gaffer’s dog house for an accumulation of missed penalties, it was left to the grizzled old Welsh wizard Ryan Giggs to calmly step up and slot the ball home.

Then, 21 minutes in, Giggs had a second penalty chance disallowed as Damian Duff took a chance in sticking an arm out  when another one of his  passes caught Flham’s whole defense flat-footed.  Referee Mark Clattenburg, long up there in the F.A.’s refereeing pantheon of caprice with Howard Webb and Phil Dowd decided to let this one go. Yet, Clattenburg’s decison proved to be of no no consequence. Bad then turned to worse for Fulham. Their abject state of disarray lingered. Bryan Ruiz made a series of bad passes, two of which were intercepted by Giggs. Attempts to feed Berbatov were not so much badly executed, as, having been aimed about fifteen feet in front of the Bulgar prima-donna, invitations for the shiftless genius to run, which was never going to happen. Consequently, after other passes from the likes of Sidwell and Duff failed to land on his toe, Berbatov began to spend more onfield time bawling out his teammates in frustration than running..

Yet before United truly  began to dismantle Fulham with a surgical grace, in the second half, the Cottagers managed to hold on to their luck. Anderson and Giggs came close twice and three fantastic saves by Schwartzer from Rooney and Nani kept them in the game. The Cottagers ran out of lucky breaks once the second half began, however.

First, an exquisitely hit Anderson pass found Rooney just inside the box and the Scouser had no problem blasting it past a marooned Mark Schwartzer. Minutes on, Rooney turned schemer. After executing a lovely little step-over and foot switch that Ronaldo would have been proud of, Rooney passed to Nani.. Nani missed his shot on goal, but the rebound bounced back to Rooney off Schwartzer. This time, Rooney fed a short pass to Hernandez, who tapped home the third.

Minutes later, the cheeky Chicharito got his second of the day, as the hapless Aaron Hughes let a Giggs cross bounce off his knee, missed making a clearance, and watched in horror as Schwartzer, already committed to moving in the wrong direction, had no way to stop the Mexican striker’s nicely executed tap-in of a fourth.

Fulham did pull a goal back, as a sloppy United defense allowed itself to become lax again and an unmarked Hughes headed in a corner from winger substitute Giorgos Karagounis’s  with 15 minutes to go. And although they did not oppose United with much passion, Fulham may not really be quite as bad as they often looked. After all, on the day, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney looked good enough to take on any opponent. Fulham are clearly not Real Madrid and neither will be Reading, who they face at home in the Sixth Round. Still, if United hope to have a chance against the Spanish champions, they will need Sunday’s Rooney and a far less lax back four.
65531280 manutd afp United Ease Past A Blasé Fulham!

Ivor Irwin

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