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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fulham Vs. Manchester United Match Report

United booked a return trip to Wembley after a sublime display at Craven Cottage earned them a 4-0 FA Cup quarter-final victory over Fulham.

After a slow start, the Reds soon clicked into gear with Carlos Tevez putting Sir Alex’s men 2-0 up in the first half with a close-range header and right-foot rasper. Wayne Rooney curled home a third after the break, before Ji-sung Park added a fourth nine minutes from time as the rampant Reds sealed an FA Cup semi-final spot in style.

With Internazionale and Liverpool both looming, Sir Alex was expected to make wholesale changes to the side that had earned a hard fought victory at Newcastle three days earlier. As it turned out, the United manager made just two, bringing in Anderson, in place of the rested Cristiano Ronaldo, and Tevez who took Dimitar Berbatov’s position up front with the Bulgarian dropping to the bench. It was the first time since Boxing Day that Tevez had started alongside Rooney and it didn’t take the duo long to create United’s first opening of the game after just three minutes.

Rooney pounced on a poor clearance from Brede Hangeland and lifted the ball into Tevez’s path. The Argentine set himself and as the ball dropped fired a powerful low drive goalwards. Only an excellent palmed clearance from Mark Schwarzer prevented the ball from nestling in the far corner, while the rebound just eluded Rooney as Fulham cleared their lines.

Nemanja Vidic, a tower of strength all afternoon, had to literally clear off his own line on 14 minutes when Simon Davies’ lofted pass was flicked towards goal by Andy Johnson as Edwin van der Sar rushed to meet him. The Dutchman got a slight touch on the ball, but he had Vidic to thank as the Serbian raced back to maintain parity.

A minute or so later Clint Dempsey rose above John O’Shea to meet Bobby Zamora’s right wing cross, but van der Sar was on hand to make a smart save.

United had begun the game in much the same vein as they did at St. James’ Park – second best. But whereas the Magpies had made their most of their early possession, Fulham failed to make theirs count and were made to pay on 20 minutes when the Reds took the lead.

A Michael Carrick corner was flicked on by Rooney towards the far post where Tevez was waiting to sneak a header past Paul Konchesky on the line from the tightest of angles.

The goal brought a reassurance and a confidence to United’s play which had been missing for the opening quarter of the match. The increasingly influential Rooney chanced his luck from the centre circle three minutes later, but his Beckham-esque effort dropped onto the roof of Schwarzer’s net. The striker then had a goal ruled out for offside, despite the 23-year-old looking level with the last defender.

A minute after Davies had thrashed a volley over van der Sar’s goal, Rooney should have netted United’s second when he connected with Park’s low centre from the right wing. Unfortunately, the ball rebounded off Schwarzer’s right-hand post and away from danger.

Carrick saw a finely struck 25-yarder clasped by Schwarzer, but the Australian keeper was powerless to prevent United doubling their lead in the 35th minute. Having collected a pass from Fletcher on the halfway line, Tevez jinked inside before firing a right-foot rasper into the top corner for a glorious second goal.

It was a bitter blow for the home side who had started so brightly, but they still posed a threat to United’s backline and almost struck an immediate reply when Andy Johnson found himself through on goal after a tangle with Rio Ferdinand. Thankfully, the Reds’ skipper recovered in time to make a vital last-ditch tackle as Johnson looked to pull the trigger. Soon after van der Sar dived at the feet of Zamora to win the ball after the Fulham striker had got in behind John O’Shea.

Just before the break, the United defender found himself in the thick of the action at the other end after being found by an exquisite pass from Michael Carrick following an excellent passage of play from the Reds. But O’Shea’s powerful shot was repelled by Schwarzer as the visitors threatened to put the game beyond Fulham.

Jonny Evans replaced Rio Ferdinand at the restart as a precaution after the captain went over on his ankle in the first half. The change did little to disturb United’s rhythm with Rooney and Tevez continuing to torment the Cottagers. And it was the former this time who got his name on the scoresheet five minutes in the second period, curling a brilliant effort round John Pantsil and past the outstretched arm of Schwarzer from just inside the area.

A three-goal cushion allowed Sir Alex the luxury of making some changes ahead of the crucial Champions League clash against Jose Mourinho’s men with Richard Eckersley and Danny Welbeck replacing John O’Shea, who was feeling his hamstring, and Rooney.

United weren’t about to sit back though and Ji-sung Park went close to grabbing a fourth, twice in quick succession. First, he saw a daisycutter well held by Schwarzer, before the Australian parried a low drive from the Korean soon after.

Park would not be deterred, however, and he finally found a way past Schwarzer on 81 minutes and calmly curled a right-foot effort into the net. Wembley here we come!

Fulham Vs. Manchester United Highlights Video Clip

Fulham [0 - 3] Manchester United
20' [0 - 1] C.A. Tevez
35' [0 - 2] C.A. Tevez
50' [0 - 3] W. Rooney

0-1 C.Tevez 20'

0-2 C.Tevez 35'

0-3 W.Rooney 50'