Just a week after a convincing 3-0 home win, United were halted in their early season progress with a 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage against recent bogey team Fulham. As if there wasn’t enough trepidation already due to recent results away to Fulham, there was more to come after Sir Alex decided to field a 4-4-2 against a hardworking Fulham midfield. J
i-Sung Park got his Premier League start of the campaign, as did Javier Hernandez, who partnered Berbatov up front in the absence of Wayne Rooney, out with a stomach bug. The same back four as in the Newcastle game started as well, as did Fletcher and Scholes who were magnificent in the last game. Following Chelsea‘s second successive 6 goal victory, United fans were hopeful of a positive result.
The game started brightly in that respect, United breaking forward with every given opportunity. After a spell of incessant pressure, the resilient Fulham defence was finally breached after a moment of inspiration from the man who is dominating the headlines at the moment — Paul Scholes. A ball played into the box by Valencia was laid off brilliantly by Berbatov into the path of Paul Scholes, who turned back the clock with a first time hit past Stockdale in goal, from about 22 yards out. A fantastic goal from a fantastic player who brought up the 150th goal of his glittering career. Provider of the goal Dimitar Berbatov then had a few chances himself to get a goal, but he wasn’t able to convert his chances.
The goal came after just 11 minutes, and in some ways it seemed to have a positive impact on the London side, who didn’t back down from the challenge and seemed to grow in confidence. Recently capped Bobby Zamora was really giving Evans some problems with his height and power, and he was able to bring the likes of Danny Murphy and Simon Davies more and more into the game. Easily the best chance for the Cottagers in the first half fell to Etuhu, who saw his initial effort saved by van der Sar, and then his rebound just tipped over the bar, after some incredible goalkeeping from the Dutchman. The score remained the same, and the teams went into halftime with the score at 1-0 — but it definitely wasn’t a secure lead.
United bossed the initial parts of the second half in the same way as the first, but just like the first, the tempo seemed to die down after some initial dominance. Fulham were finally rewarded for their persistence near the sixty minute mark. Patrice Evra was uncharacteristically robbed off the ball by Duff, who did well to get past him and find Zamora. The striker managed to pull back the ball for Simon Davies squeezed in his shot past van der Sar. Realising that this might head for a stalemate, Sir Alex brought on Nani, Giggs and Owen as second half substitutes, and Nani made some instant impact by bringing gnome urgency to United’s attacking capabilities. He came close to scoring from a freekick but his effort landed onto the roof of the net. It wasn’t all one-sided however, and Fulham were also looking for the win, coming closest through the constant threat in Zamora.
Six minutes from time, there seemed to be reprieve for United after all, when last season’s hero own goals came back to the fray, this time manifest in the form of Brede Hangeland, who helplessly saw a corner kick deflect off him into the net. There was a chance to double the lead and seal the game after United were awarded a penalty for a handball by Duff, but Nani saw his weak effort saved by Stockdale. This left many fans wondering why Giggs, who was also on the pitch, hadn’t taken the penalty instead.
And of course, the team were made to rue this missed opportunity, when Hangeland made up for his error in the 89th minute. After a spell of constant pressure from Fulham, Evans needlessly conceded a corner, that Hangeland managed to power into the bottom corner. He certainly turned from villain to hero in the space of 5 minutes. That’s how the game ended and although it was 2 points dropped — it was also a point extra gained compared to last season.
What might concern Manchester United fans is the team’s defending. Evans and Vidic looked out of sorts on occasions in the presence of Bobby Zamora. Evans in particular suffered in this game, and his distribution wasn’t to the same level of excellence as in previous games. O’Shea didn’t instil much confidence either, giving the ball away on a number of occasions. Hernandez was fairly quiet on his first start in the Premier League, though that was expected, and shouldn’t be read much into. Let’s hope that the lapses at the back are just minor blips. And it shouldn’t be all doom and gloom — it’s just two games into the season. BELIEVE.
Best Moment; Scholesy’s cracker
Worst Moment: Hangeland’s equaliser
Man of the Match: Paul Scholes
Written by Sownak27