A win is a win is a win.
A slow start and a very nervy finish sandwiched a display with as many positives as there were negatives. The early goal stung us into action, with our response as quick and commanding as it was brutal. But the late strike by Fulham saw us drop our heads, go into our shells and hold on for dear life. We ceded the ball and territory too readily and were fortunate to keep the Cottagers at bay in the final stages. The road to the finish line was rockier than it needed to be, but we got there in front in the end.
Moussa Dembele was cast in the role of midfield tormentor, doing a good Fellani impersonation in bullying, harassing and harrying our fleet of foot ball winners, his performance showing precisely why his name is being bandied about as an option for some of Europe’s elite. We could do with a player like him…
David De Gea – 5/10
An absolutely vital double save late in the first half to preserve the two-goal lead, a sharp save from distance as Fulham were knocking on the door and two close range reaction saves as we held on in the dying moments were good; great even. But he showed his age and inexperience, as well as lack of understanding with Vidic, on a few crucial plays that could have proven disastrous. He wasn’t commanding enough when coming for the ball that ultimately clipped Vidic’s heel en route to the back of the net and was reluctant to leave his line thereafter, most notably to collect a ball Vidic had left for him to collect. Fortunately the Serbian sensed the danger quickly and hoofed it away. Another case of taking the good with the bad with young David.
Patrice Evra – 5/10
He might’ve turned a corner at Goodison, with his display on Tuesday morning more heartening than all of last season. He bombed forward and was busy in attack, linking well and overlapping to get to the byline, but at the back he was again a little lax. At times it was like the absentee left back of old, with his slip in the dying embers of the game that allowed his Fulham opponent to deliver a potentially catastrophic cross proof of a defender who has lost his confidence to attack and take on the man with the ball. Good going forward, a bit bad at the back.
Michael Carrick – 4/10
No one wants the big boys from defence back more than Carrick. Certainly wasn’t bossed and bullied like he was against Everton, where he was just fractionally out of his depth. Both performances have been ok, but it looks like even he knows it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Against Everton his positional sense was reasonably good, only once was he drawn out and it was very early on in the piece. This morning it seemed like he was trying so hard to concentrate and stay focused that he occasionally forgot what was going on around him. It’s difficult and regrettable to be so critical of Carrick for being asked to play in a position outside of his job description, but there’s only so many times we can get away with it.
Nemanja Vidic – 4/10
He needs a genuine partner in crime. Only two proper games into his comeback from a serious knee injury, he looks every bit as rusty as we feared he would be. That says plenty about the standards he expects of himself and we of him. I’ve no doubt he’ll return to his best, but the absence of bonafide central defenders seems to have him a bit rattled. He appears torn between doing his job really well and covering for his partner, something that leaves him not particularly good at either. Some poor communication and questionable positioning left him with the inglorious OG next to his name; we should see him back in a comfortable state of mind if Evans features against Southampton next week.
Rafael – 7/10
Hit the back of the net twice (once from an offside position) and motored brilliantly up and down the right hand side all afternoon. He was a pest when advanced and a combative and willing obstacle when Fulham attempted to go down his side. We’ve seen matches where he can lose his head, but on afternoons like this we see his true worth. His combination with Valencia threatened more than it delivered, but they linked well and caused some problems that were very encouraging. The interplay between he, our number 7, Cleverley and Kagawa in close on the edge of the box was terrific. Hopefully it continues to develop.
Ashley Young – 4/10
The problems with our defence are easy to divine: due to injury it’s a patchwork quilt that will be strengthened with the return of personnel in the coming weeks. Its something we can see a fix for. Our left hand side, however, could become a real issue. Nani was a shadow of even his most wasteful self at Goodison Park and Young couldn’t, but for his assist for Rafael, deliver incision or penetration from his wide berth at home. Its likely just form and/or confidence, but our inability to threaten from that side of the field makes Evra feel he must take on more responsibility in the execution of attacks. It looks as though he feels like he doesn’t just have to provide an out or reset option, but actually play the role of winger when pushed up. Young probably needs to do more than cut in on his right all the time. I think opposition teams have woken up to it.
Tom Cleverley – 6/10
Better than he was at Goodison. Tidy would probably be the best description of his game. Had a few long-range efforts whistle just wide and provided the rasp that was too hot for Schwarzer, culminating in Kagawa’s tap in. Was more proactive than six days ago, playing an important role in forcing the issue after we fell behind as he made up wave after wave of attack that sought to break Fulham down. Played a lovely ball that unlocked their defence, finding an equally adept run from van Persie into the box repelled only by the quick reaction of Schwarzer. A positive performance, encouraging that he was prepared to take it upon himself when within range of goal, something to consolidate on.
Anderson – 7/10
He looks like he’s carrying a bit of extra weight, but regardless it was great to see the Brazilian showing such industry and creativity in midfield. After conceding the early goal Anderson was crucial in turning the tide and the screws. His passing and movement was terrific, and his competing across midfield was vital in our mesmerizing half hour to close out the first period. The tempo he operated at in tandem with Cleverley and Kagawa was too much for Fulham to live with. He was asked to do more than just shield our back four, moving up and down the park to lend support at both ends, which he did quite well. Maybe he should’ve gone head to head with Fellani in midfield last week, attempting to foil the big man.
Antonio Valencia – 7.5/10
We lose so much when he’s shifted to right back. His willingness to run and carry, crack in, take on the defender and compete is what makes us a difficult team to defend against. He’s capable in the role of defender, but just wasted. It was noted during the call that for his country he plays centrally in midfield. A few of his possessions were in the corridor and he looked terrific, showing good skill and composure to shift through gears and in and around traffic. One in particular had him deftly step around a would be tackler, shift the ball onto his right and rifle a shot that was only just off the mark. A devastating threat out wide, but some potential to play with should we move him inside. Variety and unpredictability are great assets to have and should be exploited as the season wears on.
Shinji Kagawa – 8.5/10 (United Man of the Match)
Probably more good fortune than good management that he was played on and popped up to score, but it was no more than he deserved. In fact, even had he slid home a second just minutes later it wouldn’t have been more than he deserved. The post had no sense of occasion in denying Old Trafford’s new midfield maestro on his home bow after some phenomenal dribbling in close. He has been at the heart of every positive United move in our opening two games, winning instant and almost universal acclaim in doing so. He tired towards the end, visibly running out of puff as Fulham played keep ball (an excellent tactic, actually. It fortunately netted the goal that got them back into it, but they had us chasing around for about 15 minutes, the result being a very, very fatigued outfit come the end), but his performance in the first half was match winning.
Robin van Persie – 6/10
A pretty quiet game by the Dutchman. He took his goal spectacularly and grafted hard up front on his own. Showed clean feet and good vision to link across the front line, but after his goal wasn’t afforded a sight of the net from then on. I suppose he is efficient. He was busy without setting the world on fire, dropping deeper into midfield when Rooney joined the action late on he again exhibited some nice touches to keep possession and distribute the ball.
Wayne Rooney – 2/5, Danny Welbeck – 2/5, Ryan Giggs 2.5/5
Fairly hard to split the subs. By the time they came on we were more interested in holding on than pushing on, with all deployed to see the game out and play a role defensively. Rooney took one for the cause (his attitude was great after being dropped to the bench, by the way), Welbeck was unobtrusive but committed and provided a big body to target or negate and Giggs showed some experience and calm.
Shinji Kagawa – 3
Antonio Valencia – 2
Anderson – 1
Leaderboard after two games
Kagawa – 6
De Gea – 2
Valencia – 2
Scholes – 1
Anderson – 1