Wayne Rooney has been hit and miss this season. At times he has been unplayable. At times, he has been found wanting. But big players come through when you most need them. And with time ticking down, Rooney delivered to send Manchester United ten points clear of Manchester City.
Fulham were a different side to the one that barely showed up at Old Trafford seven days previously. They certainly started with a purpose. David de Gea twice kept them out in the early knockings. A John Arne Riise corker from 25 yards was tipped over the bar. However the effort from our Spanish stopper to tip John Ruiz's effort onto the post was out of the top drawer. I think I had to watch the replay about four times to realise he diverted it onto the post.
United too had chances. Hangeland diverted one onto the top of his own bar with Valencia close on the follow up. Rooney also struck a post with a curler from the edge of the area. The game was played at a fast pace and neither team could gain any kind of control on proceedings. Both teams were also there to be got at. The players enjoyed a welcome breather when the lights went out just before the interval. I dare say Mr Al Fayed needs to pay some bills?
The second half played out much like the first. There was a premium on clear cut chances. Robin Van Persie struggled to make an impact on the game also. There was a lot of huff and puff from both teams yet neither seemed able to manage a decisive blow.
Rafael came to United's rescue with a goal line clearance from a Fulham corner. And DdG managed to scramble a shot away, although I would prefer if he did not make a habit of spilling it straight back into the danger zone.
Needing a goal, Sir Alex rolled the dice and sent on his trusted Welsh Wizard and his little Mexican assassin. It was Chicarito who was under a hopeful ball forward. Phillipe Senderos deemed it prudent to get tight to him. The pass floated over both of them and Rooney ran onto it and bore down on goal down the left side. Using the Aaron Hughes as a shield, he bent the ball round the unsighted Mark Schwarzer. It was a wonderful finish, worthy of winning any game.
However the game was not won yet. It took some pretty heroic defending from both Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand to repel Fulham, clearing away many a cross with towering headers. Yet we also needed another goal line clearance. This time from Van Persie. He didn't have the best day in front of goal, but he still done his job when needed at the back. What a buy he has been...
These really were a massive three points. With City entertaining Liverpool tomorrow it once again puts the pressure back on them to get three points. At worst we would have maintained our seven point advantage over City come 6PM tomorrow. And with the return of Champions League football, we need all the points we can get, however they come. Because believe me, these were not pretty points tonight.
But I don't care!