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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Manchester United Vs. Fulham Match Report

Goals from Paul Scholes, Dimitar Berbatov and the returning Wayne Rooney brought United a tenth straight win in all competitions, and with it a handsome lead in the Barclays Premier League.

So now at last the table truly reflects the champions’ advantage – with the same number of games played, the Reds are superior to nearest rivals Liverpool by five points and nine goals.

United’s superiority in this contest was rarely in doubt, even with Sir Alex Ferguson making seven changes to the side that booked a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals and a possible rematch with Fulham on 7 March.

Edwin van der Sar returned in pursuit of his 14th consecutive league clean sheet and there were also recalls at the back for John O’Shea and Nemanja Vidic. Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes rejoined the midfield while Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez were reunited as the front two.

Cristiano Ronaldo therefore started wide where he produced two crowd-pleasing flicks in the opening moments for right-wing partner O’Shea, one leading to a shot across Mark Schwarzer’s bows from the Irishman.

The stunning first strike came from the opposite flank, however, when Michael Carrick’s left-wing corner was volleyed in vintage fashion by Paul Scholes. Schwarzer dived to his right and got his hands to the howitzer but could only watch in horror as the ball spun away to his left to give Scholes his richly deserved goal.

Fulham created one half-decent threat to van der Sar’s record in the first 20 minutes when right-back John Pantsil floated in a cross and Bobby Zamora headed just wide.

Between the first and second goals, Ronaldo stepped over the ball and then stung the goalkeeper’s palms with a powerful shot; Tevez’s ‘goal’ was rightly disallowed for offside and Berbatov had a close-range effort cleared off the line by Aaron Hughes and a header tipped over the bar by Schwarzer.

The Bulgarian wouldn’t be kept at bay for long, however; when O’Shea stretched to knock Scholes’ clever pass across goal, United’s number nine nipped between the indecisive duo of Schwarzer and Hughes to tap the ball over the line. Berbatov almost doubled his tally moments later when he poked fractionally wide from Tevez’s pass.

Scholes also came close to a second when he drilled a daisy-cutter to Schwarzer’s right and although the Australian could only parry it, he gathered the ball before Park could pounce. Schwarzer was beaten again in the final act of the half but Berbatov was deemed to be offside before despatching his downward header.

The same combatants crossed swords again 12 minutes into the second half when Berbatov’s shot was pawed over the bar by Schwarzer after neat play on the edge of the box by Scholes and Park.

Berbatov made way for Rooney’s return on the hour mark and the substitute needed only two minutes – and just one touch - to make it 3-0 to United. Evra’s cross from the left landed perfectly for Park and although the Korean’s shot was going wide, Rooney ghosted in behind a defender to steer it home first-time.

Fulham had little to play for now except the distinction of ending United’s remarkable run of clean sheets. But although Zamora went close for a second time in the match when he toe-poked a shot past the post, van der Sar was largely a spectator – and a very satisfied one at that, just like the joyful majority in the 75,437 crowd.

Schwarzer's watch was always the busier, right until injury time when another United substitute Darron Gibson - so impressive in the FA Cup win at Derby - sent the final shot fizzing inches wide.

Manchester United Vs. Fulham Highlghts Video Clip

Manchester United [3 - 0] Fulham
12' [1 - 0] P. Scholes
30' [2 - 0] D. Berbatov
63' [3 - 0] W. Rooney

1-0 P.Scholes 12'

2-0 D.Berbatov 30'

3-0 W.Rooney 63'