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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fulham Vs. Manchester United Result Report

There was little festive cheer for United fans at Fulham on Saturday afternoon as goals from Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff consigned the Reds to a fifth league defeat of the season.

Sir Alex’s men were under-strength yet again due to the club's ever-mounting injury crisis, but did themselves few favours on a ground that, before 2009, the Reds hadn’t lost at for 45 years.

Too often United were sloppy in possession and the makeshift backline struggled to find an answer to Bobby Zamora’s physical presence. Last weekend United lost to Aston Villa despite dominating much of the game. At Craven Cottage on Saturday, however, the opposition were good value for the three points.

The home side worked hard in midfield and restricted the Reds to optimistic pot-shots from long range. Meanwhile, Zamora and Zoltan Gera caused havoc against a makeshift Reds defence that included young Beligan Ritchie De Laet, making just his third league start at senior level.

Of course, this wasn't the first time Sir Alex has been forced to field a weakened side in recent weeks. For the most part, however, United have largely coped well with depleted resources. But at Fulham there was a feeling that this was one step too far, one game too many for players who have now been playing out of position for almost a month.

With seven defenders unavailable through injury, Michael Carrick was again utilised at the heart of the defence, alongside fellow midfielder Darren Fletcher and the young De Laet. And while Sir Alex’s men enjoyed plenty of the ball in the early stages, they failed to test Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal. Instead, it was Tomasz Kuszczak who was drawn into the first save of the game on 17 minutes, showing lightning-fast reflexes to push over Zoltan Gera’s close-range volley.

Unfortunately Paul Scholes wasn’t quite as sharp five minutes later. Receiving the ball 35 yards out and facing his own goal, Scholes dallied long enough to allow Danny Murphy to nip in and win possession. The former Liverpool midfielder advanced, picked his spot and fired low past Kuszczak from 20 yards to give the home side the lead.

And it almost got worse for United just after the half-hour mark. Gera and Zamora, who had combined so well to fashion Gera’s earlier chance, caused more havoc inside the Reds’ penalty area before Zamora headed wide at the back post.

Possession is key when playing 3-5-2 but, the opening 10 minutes aside, Sir Alex’s men struggled to assert themselves on the game in the first half. There was certainly little forward thrust from the Reds, as Fulham’s midfielders worked hard to press United and force early long balls.

The half-time break came as something of a relief to the Reds, but any instructions the manager issued at the interval required instant reassessment when Fulham went 2-0 up just 19 seconds after the restart. Damien Duff found space on the right and crossed to the back post where Clint Dempesy nodded the ball back across goal for Zamora to slam home on the half-volley. It was a cruel blow for United but no less than Zamora deserved on a day when he was head-and-shoulders above any other player on the pitch.

Fulham’s second goal prompted United to revert to 4-4-2 and make two substitutions. Ritchie De Laet made way for Fabio, who went to right back as Darren Fletcher moved into the centre of defence, while Dimitar Berbatov replaced Darron Gibson and Wayne Rooney drifted out to the left flank.

The change almost paid instant dividends, as Berbatov teed up Rooney inside the box to fire just wide of the far post. The Bulgarian injected some much-needed creativity to the United side and he was again responsible for creating another Reds chance a few minutes later. This time Scholes miscued his shot from the edge of the area and the ball rolled harmlessly wide for a goal kick.

Just as the Reds began to show glimpses of a fightback, Damien Duff put the game beyond doubt. Again Zamora did well, chesting down a long ball forward before finding time to lay the ball off to Duff, who rounded off the scoring by volleying home from just inside the penalty area.

It capped a day United fans will be keen to forget, as Sir Alex and his team now turn their attention to the Reds' trip to Hull City next weekend.

Fulham Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clips

Fulham [3 - 0] Manchester United
22' [1 - 0] D. Murphy
46' [2 - 0] B. Zamora
75' [3 - 0] D. Duff