Manchester United overcame a rocky end to a tough game at Old Trafford to see off Fulham 3-2.
The big surprise from the starting line up was Sir Alex’s decision to drop Rooney to the bench, and cut Nani from the squad entirely, which apparently saw the Portuguese winger leave Old Trafford in a rage at his non-selection. On the basis of the majority of the performance that was put on by United, it would be hard to argue with Sir Alex’s decision.
At 3-1 up, Manchester United were comfortably in control of a game that they looked like they would win on a canter, until a big mistake from David de Gea allowed Fulham to get back within a goal. The Spaniard would ultimately redeem himself, making a number of stunning saves to keep United in the lead, but it was a much more uncomfortable ending to the game than it should have been for the Red Devils, who controlled the game for it’s majority, in a match where both Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa scored on their Old Trafford debuts.
It was a shaky end that was befitting of an awful start. United found themselves 1-0 down within three minutes of kick off, after Carrick clumsily gave away a free kick right on the edge of the area on Fulham’s left flank. The free kick was casually rolled into the box, where Duff had lost his marker courtesy of an unfortunate slip from Ashley Young, allowing him to slot the ball at the near post beyond De Gea’s reach, handing United a nightmare start they could ill afford after picking up no points last week at Goodison Park.
United stepped up their game from the resulting kick off though, and refused to be frustrated by Fulham’s attempts to get everyone behind the ball. Antonio Valencia had a lot of joy on the right hand side, whipping in a number of dangerous balls that might have gone in on another day, either off a Fulham defender or United forward.
The goal did eventually come, courtesy of a brilliant finish from Robin Van Persie, when the Dutchman notched his first goal for the club on his home debut when he flicked Patrice Evra’s cross across the face of Mark Schwarzer’s goal, nestling in the far netting. It was an immaculate finish, which will hopefully prove the first of many for Van Persie, and it was one that well and truly handed the prerogative in this game to Manchester United.
For the rest of the half, Fulham didn’t seem to have an answer to United’s slick passing game, in which Shinji Kagawa reveled once more. Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia both went close with some decent efforts but couldn’t find the back of the net. It wasn’t long, however, before Kagawa had.
Robin Van Persie’s corner was only half cleared when it fell to Tom Cleverley, who rifled in a Scholes-esque strike on goal which Schwarzer did very well to get his body behind. Unfortunately for the Socceroo, he couldn’t push it away from Kagawa who gleefully popped the ball into the goal to grant United a 2-1 win, which they thoroughly deserved on the back of their play.
Before the end of the half, Rafael had scored twice, but only one counted, with the first, a tap in similair to the one Kagawa had only just scored, being ruled offside. The full back got the goal he deserved, and perhaps could have added more but for Schwarzer later in the game, when he rose highest to head home Ashley Young’s floated cross to the far post. It gave the hosts a comfortable 3-1 lead that looked to be decisive at the half time break, and the second half would continue in much the same vein.
United probed for most of the half, testing Schwarzer on a number of occassions, but no goal was forthcoming. With the win seemingly in the bag, Sir Alex prepared to bring on Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, but just prior to their introduction, Fulham had pulled one back, courtesy of an almost comical mix up between goalkeeper and defender. A harmless cross turned into a nightmare when David De Gea came out to punch the ball, when it seemed he should have stayed on his line with Vidic already marking Petric. The Spaniard got nowhere near the ball, and after seemingly avoiding the heads of both Vidic and Petric, the ball bounced off Vidic’s trailing leg and into the back of the net.
Rooney and Welbeck, and then later Giggs, were all introduced shortly after, with Kagawa, Young and Anderson being withdrawn but it didn’t stem the flow of Fulham’s new found confidence as they pushed on for a late equalizer.
Rooney was taken off on a stretcher in the first minute of stoppage time after receiving a horrid, deep gash to his leg, which could now keep him out for four weeks.
In the closing stages, De Gea was forced into two very good saves, redeeming his earlier mistake, which would eventually seal the win for United, granting them their first points of the season.
United: De Gea 7, Rafael 7, Vidic 7, Carrick 6.5, Evra 7, Cleverley 6.5, Anderson 7, Valencia 6.5, Kagawa 8*, Young 6.5, Van Persie 7.5
Man of the Match:
Another quality performance from a player who will win over the hearts of United fans everywhere this season. Superb on the ball once more, extremely dangerous displaying a fabulous passing range, and a goal to top it all off. Not bad.