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Man Utd 1-0 Fulham Prem30 The Sun

last updated Tuesday 27th March 2012, 5:23 PM
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Neil Curtis at SunSport

Man Utd (1) 1 Fulham (0) 0

When Alex Ferguson ends up down by the touchline jabbing his watch you know the bum is squeaky.

Having dominated against a club who have won at Old Trafford just once in 49 years, his side could count themselves fortunate to have come away with all three points.

They had controlled possession and ensured Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer was Man of the Match with the saves they forced him into.

And yet, and yet...

With two minutes left, Michael Carrick's challenge in the area on Danny Murphy should have resulted in a penalty.

It was a big call that ref Michael Oliver simply could not make.

You can only imagine what Manchester City fans were shouting at their TV screens having tuned in with hope.

United were off the hook - and how big could that decision be.

In a title race as fantastic as this, it seems the tension is going to grab both clubs.

It gripped the Red Devils as they too often played the wrong final ball.

It gripped them when Carrick made a challenge he did not need to at the end.

But the stats will show that Wayne Rooney's 42nd-minute goal decided it.

Red Devils fans will enjoy the look of the Premier League table this morning more than the closing minutes of last night's match.

United now lead not by goal difference but by a full three points... a game.

They have shifted into pole position.

But if Fulham at home can bring a bead of sweat to the brow, nothing is certain.

A club with the worst away record in the Premier League and they nearly grabbed a point. But Rooney's 28th goal of the season in all competitions - and 11th in nine games - keeps United's relentless pursuit of the title going.

Since back-to-back defeats at the turn of the year, they have won nine games and drawn one.

They have clung on to City's coat-tails then overhauled them.

As boss Ferguson himself said: "We are in the right place at the right time and, most importantly, with the right players.

"We have the right players to make a really determined effort to lead over the last lap and go all the way. Our guys have been flogging away and perhaps wondering if they would ever catch up before we hit the finishing line.

"The players deserve the recognition that goes with being leaders."

If they want to stay there, Fergie will want to see his players taking their chances better than they did last night - and also providing a better final ball.

Before Rooney's goal, the men in red were flapping their arms at each other in frustration at the choices made by individuals when in possession.

Ryan Giggs had an early header held. Antonio Valencia nimbly swapped passes with Danny Welbeck before having a shot charged down.

Patrice Evra put an overhead kick just wide.

And moments later a brilliant flick from Valencia found Rafael.

But his finish was woeful and Welbeck - waiting in the middle - let him know it.

When Evra hit a cross into the box that caught Stephen Kelly on the upper arm, United's French left-back jumped up and down in despair as no penalty was awarded.

United were starting to get fractious - but salvation was just a minute away.

Ashley Young crossed from the left and when both Rooney and Brede Hangeland missed with attempted headers, the ball bounced off a startled John Arne Riise.

Jonny Evans was on to it and turned the ball back for Rooney to fire home from close range.

You thought the floodgates would then open.

And United did go looking for the key after the break as they set up camp in Fulham's half.

Valencia and Young both had stinging volleys superbly stopped.

But as the minutes clicked down, Fulham sensed an edginess fill this famous ground. Fill the terraces and the play of their opponents.

They decided to have a go and when Murphy found his way into the box, Carrick kicked his ankle and sent his foot on to the ball.

Maybe it was that which deceived the referee as Murphy went down.

But when even Red Devil-turned-TV pundit Gary Neville says it should have been a pen against United at Old Trafford, you know it was a pen.

We are told these things even themselves out.

Don't say that to a City fan.


MAN UNITED: De Gea 7, Rafael 7, Ferdinand 6, Evans 6, Evra 6, Valencia 7, Carrick 7, Giggs 6, Young 8, Welbeck 6, Rooney 6. Subs: Hernandez (Welbeck 63) 5, Smalling (Ferdinand 74) 5, Scholes (Rooney 79) 6. Not used: Amos, Jones, Cleverley, Berbatov. Booked: Giggs.

FULHAM: Schwarzer 8, Kelly 6, Hughes 7, Hangeland 7, JA Riise 6, Duff 6, Dembele 7, Diarra 6, Frei 6, Pogrebnyak 6, Dempsey 6. Subs: Ruiz (Frei 67) 6, Murphy (Diarra 72) 5. Not used: Stockdale, Senderos, Briggs, Etuhu, Trotta.

REF: M Oliver 6


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