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Fulham lose out to Man Utd

last updated Sunday 14th March 2010, 9:43 PM
Fulham striker Bobby Zamora
Fulham striker
Bobby Zamora
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Man Utd (0) 3 Fulham (0) 0

Man Utd striker Wayne Rooney took his goal glut to 32 with another fine double to take Manchester United back to the Premier League summit.

Although they wasted a huge number of chances, with Dimitar Berbatov the prime culprit, United did enough to re-establish their dominant position with eight games of the campaign remaining.

Rooney provided a suitably quick-fire response after a goalless first half and after he converted Berbatov's cross seven minutes from time to leave him just 10 adrift of Cristiano Ronaldo's massive total of two years ago.

Berbatov himself then ended a frustrating afternoon by finally getting his name on the scoresheet.

It has come to that stage in the season where every round of fixtures bring their own pressure.

And, on the occasion chosen to mark Old Trafford's 100th birthday, it was United needing to follow Chelsea and Arsenal, who after initial struggles, had each ended up with three points on Saturday.

On the face of it, a Fulham side in the middle of a titanic Europa League tie with Juventus would appear to be the perfect opponents.

Yet, as Ferguson pointed out in the build-up, Roy Hodgson has revolutionised life at Craven Cottage and masterminded a three-goal victory over these same opponents in December.

At the time, United were severely weakened by a loss of defenders.

Match Stats Man Utd Fulham
Goals 3 0
Possession 55% 45%
Goal attempts 35 8
On Target 9 3
Corners 11 1
Off-sides 2 2
Saves 3 6
Fouls 7 12
Yellows 1 1
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet

With Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic back those problems are now at an end. On this occasion, it was United's attack that misfired.

The hosts had plenty of possession and got into the right areas often enough.

But at some stage, all their first half attacks broke down.

Only twice could the Fulham defence take complete credit.

A collective effort ensured Rooney did not profit when Darren Fletcher elected to square the ball after charging into the box to reach Berbatov's return pass.

Mark Schwarzer denied Rooney later in the half with a fabulous one-handed save after the England man had curled a shot goalwards from 20 yards.

Restored to the starting line-up after missing the midweek demolition of AC Milan, Berbatov had no-one to blame but himself for failing to convert his best chances, both of which were headers.

True, that part of the game is not the Bulgarian's strong point but, after finding space deep inside the Fulham box, he should have done better after being picked out by Antonio Valencia and Nani respectively.

Rooney was grumbling at half-time after being hauled down by Stephen Kelly without winning a penalty. He was all smiles 29 seconds after the restart though.

A scrappy build-up saw Berbatov nod the ball into his strike partner's path. Rooney then fed Nani before advancing into the big hole Fulham's disorientated defence had left.

Once Nani delivered the return pass back into exactly the same area, the outcome was inevitable.

With the home side in front, so was the result.

Anxiety remained though as long as the wait for a second continued.

Rooney and Berbatov both failed to profit from decent half chances, in the latter man's case an acrobatic volley from Valencia's cross that flew narrowly wide.

At least they could claim to have got somewhere near the goal, unlike Patrice Evra, who screwed his 25-yard shot so wide it resulted in a Fulham throw.

The value of having Ferdinand and Vidic back in harness was seen as the clock ticked down.

Starved of possession and chances, Bobby Zamora had been given little opportunity to press home his England credentials.

But when he ran onto a flick from substitute Eric Nevland, Zamora must have felt it was the moment he had waited for.

Instead, after being caught out by the initial move, Vidic darted back and snuffed out the opportunity with a thunderous challenge.

For Zamora it was a frustrating afternoon.

It looked like being the same for Berbatov after he failed to convert Park Ji-sung's neat cross.

But after creating yet another goal for Rooney with a neat cut-back seven minutes from time, the £30.75million man finally located the target himself, from Park's cross, to complete a scoreline more in keeping with the one-sided nature of proceedings.

After the match United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said that Wayne Rooney can match Cristiano Ronaldo's record of 42 goals in a season.

"I said a while ago it's impossible for a player to get 42 but he is on 32 and there is a challenge there for him," Ferguson told Sky Sports News. "He is capable of scoring in the next eight league games and five possible European games, so he has 13 possible games and you never know, I wouldn't put it beyond him. I was just glad he got to the 30 mark, but we are enjoying his goalscoring."

But Ferguson admitted the visitors had made life difficult for his side.

"I think Fulham with their possession made us work hard and chase around a bit. It was hard to get the ball off them. They have experienced players who are comfortable on the ball.

"We had to try and increase the pace of the game and hurry them up a bit, but the most important thing about that start (Rooney's first goal) was it put their team on the back foot and gave us momentum."

Ferguson was also pleased by the margin of his side's victory given the tight nature of the title race.

"You have to think about goal difference. We are only four goals ahead of Chelsea, I wish it was 14 to be honest, but at least it is in our advantage."

Man Utd Van der Sar, Neville (Fabio Da Silva 87), Ferdinand,Vidic, Evra, Valencia (Park 73), Carrick, Fletcher, Nani,Berbatov, Rooney.
Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Obertan, Corry Evans, Diouf, Gill.

Booked: Valencia.

Goals: Rooney 46, 84, Berbatov 89.

Fulham Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland (Greening 62), Hughes,Shorey, Davies (Duff 46), Murphy, Baird, Dempsey (Nevland 72),Gera, Zamora.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Okaka, Stoor, Dikgacoi.

Booked: Murphy(55,f).

Att: 75,207

Ref: Michael Jones (Cheshire).

Source soccernet
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