Saturday 2nd February 2013 kick-off 17.30pm (GMT)
By Adam Morton
A thrillingly tense victory at Craven Cottage, thanks to a placed shot from Wayne Rooney in the 79th minute saw The Reds extend their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to 10 points.
In a lively first half both sides where culpable of missing good opportunities to open the scoring, in the eight minute a United corner glanced off Hangleand forcing Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer into a save that feel kindly to Evra, who poked it onto the crossbar, Rooney then flicked his rebound goalward but the ball was cleared off the line. Fulham also started brightly, hitting the post on more than one occasion and in the 12th minute De Gea proved, to those who doubt his abilities, his shot stopping can not be questioned.
With Fulham on the break, the ball broke to Riise who, with his thunderous left foot, sent a vicious dipping 25 yard shot towards goal that was smartly tipped over the bar by the young Spaniard. Unfortunately for United, with the defence looking relatively assured, the wing play from Nani and Valencia, two players are suffering from a serious dip in form, was not of sufficient quality to create golden chances as time after time their attempted crosses failed to beat the first man.
Just before halftime confusion abounded as the floodlights failed in the 42nd minute. As play was stopped in this near blackout, players huddled close to their respective benches only to be sent inside by the referee. No sooner could they have sat down in the locker room than the lights where switched back and play resumed for the final 3 minutes before half time.
United where back on the pitch long before Fulham, clearly intent on pursing victory. However, they started surprisingly dishevelled and took about 10 minutes to get into their stride when a Rooney and RVP set piece gave Schwarzer catching practice. As the game wore on and chance after chance was being wasted, it began to feel like it was one of those days for The Reds, as Fulham appeared to be gaining something of a foothold in the game and caused trouble particularly down United’s right flank.
However, Sir Alex, spotting the danger, subbed the poor Valencia for Javier Hernandez and moved Rooney onto the left wing with Nani sent to the right, this proved to be a master stroke as in the 79th minute, from a Fulham attack a Jonny Evans weighted pass found Rooney on the left who, with men over including Van Persie and Hernandez, choose to take it himself and slotted the ball home calmly to give United the lead.
In the final 10minutes there where or two minor scares, with Van Persie clearing the ball off the line and a potentially dangerous free kick in the 95th minute but despite these efforts from Fulham and Hernandez’s failure to convert a 1-on-1 with the Schwarzer, The Reds held on and now hold a sizeable lead over Mancini’s men.
Perhaps the United fans in the away end are a bit hasty warning Mancini to, “keep our trophy glistening” but this results certainly puts the pressure firmly on Manchester City who host Liverpool tomorrow. What price on a Suarez winner?
RedArmy is Britain’s biggest Manchester United Magazine.
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