Fulham 1-3 Manchester United: Reds blow Fulham away then switch off

Clive Rose

Manchester United took only twenty-three minutes to go three up at Craven Cottage against Fulham, but a combination of injuries and complacency meant that their performance soon tailed off.

Manchester United earned a 3-1 victory at Fulham that could and should have been a more resounding victory if not for a few injury and complacency problems from the visitors.

Antonio Valencia, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney had United in a 3-0 lead inside twenty-three minutes, before Jonny Evans, Rafael and Tom Cleverley all had to be replaced at half-time, with Alexander Kacaniklic gaining a consolation for the hosts.

United stormed out of the blocks, with the Phil Jones-Tom Cleverley midfield pairing that impressed against Norwich midweek immediately putting the hosts under pressure, and some poor defending released Wayne Rooney down the left for the first big chance of the game. Adnan Januzaj had made the run to the centre, but Rooney wisely held off on the pass for Antonio Valencia, who arrived late at the far post to side-foot home with ease.

Fulham felt that the goal was offside, but they were to be even more aggrieved shortly afterwards. Scott Parker appeared to be fouled by Adnan Januzaj (although replays showed that he was well on his way down beforehand) and United pounced, the young Belgian playing Van Persie down the left to smash a magnificent finish into the roof of the net to beat Maarten Stekelenburg at his near post.

And United soon made it three when Van Persie escaped the offside trap once again (about time) to square for Rooney to complete a simple finish. Fulham looked like a beaten team, "Twelve days of Cantona" and songs heralding other former players sounded out from the away fans, and United appeared to be about to run riot.

But a few niggling injuries made for a sour end to the half, with Rafael, Tom Cleverley and Jonny Evans all pulling up with knocks before being replaced at half time by Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini, and Shinji Kagawa. The fresh legs didn't give United too much more energy however, with the team struggling to reproduce the stellar first half.

Rooney was particularly guilty of giving the ball away too often, and Fulham soon pulled a goal back when Kacaniclic cut inside, only for Rooney to get a toe onto his effort which deceived David de Gea and sent the ball trickling into the far corner to give the hosts a way back into the match.

Fulham almost made it two later on as Darren Bent hit the bar with a chipped effort, with United badly complacent as the second half wore on. Kieran Richardson even almost came back to haunt his former club as he got onto the end of a ball into the area, but his diving header was tame and well wide.

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