Manchester United opened up a three point gap at the top of the table with a tougher-than-expected 1-0 victory over visiting Fulham, thanks to a Wayne Rooney goal just before half-time.. This game had been earmarked by many United fans as one in which to increase goal difference, especially after the thumping 5-0 win in the reverse fixture earlier this season. Despite United's dominance throughout most of the match, a combination of poor final balls and some sloppy passing almost allowed the London side to snatch an unlikely point. Sir Alex made two changes from the side that blew away Wolves in the previous fixture, bringing Ryan Giggs in place of Paul Scholes, and Danny Welbeck in place of Javier Hernández.
The game started well for the team in red, with United dominating possession of the ball, and keeping Fulham very much on the back foot. Despite this, however, there weren't too many clear-cut chances, aside from some efforts from distance. Ryan Giggs came closest to something meaningful, but his headed effort from Rafael's cross was saved with relative comfort by Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham eventually started to come into the match, and the midfield duo of Moussa Dembélé and Mahamadou Diarra were started to dictate the play in the middle of the park. They managed to create some decent openings as well, but thanks to a combination of good defending and some commanding goalkeeping from David de Gea, Fulham's attacking protagonists in the form of Clint Dempsey and Pavel Pogrebnyak were kept at bay.
Just when it looked like the sides might have been heading into half-time with the scores level, Wayne Rooney was the man who brought some relief to the home fans with his 29th goal of the season. With the help of some poor defending from the Fulham backline, Jonny Evans managed to knock Ashley Young's deep cross into the path of the on-rushing Wayne Rooney, who gratefully buried his effort high into the net from close-range.
The second half commenced in a similar fashion to the first, with United once again controlling the tempo of the game. Antonio Valencia came close to doubling the advantage after being sent through by Giggs's wonderful flicked pass, but his rasping effort was directed straight at Schwarzer, who managed to parry. Chances came in greater frequency in the second half, and Young came close on three occasions. The first was a curling effort from outside the box that Schwarzer managed tipped around the post, the next two came in quick succession, volleying first from Valencia's cross, and then following up on the rebound, although being thwarted by the veteran Fulham goalkeeper on both instances.
As the clock started ticking down, the 1-0 scoreline encouraged the Fulham players to push-on for an unlikely equaliser - and indeed, they were given further impetus from some very sloppy and awkward football from the United players (feeling the effects of "squeak- bum time" no less). The moment of controversy in the match then presented itself, when Michael Carrick seemed to bundle-over substitute Danny Murphy in the box. Thankfully for all United fans concerned, referee Michael Oliver brushed the Cottagers' appeals aside, although replays suggested that a penalty could have easily been awarded - and what a hammer blow that would have been!
When the full-time whistle finally blew, the 1-0 win came as much relief to the Old Trafford crowd, despite the high expectations before the start of the match. Jonny Evans, Rio Ferdinand and Antonio Valencia were the pick of the United players, but plaudits must also be given to keeper David de Gea, who pulled-off a couple of important stops, as well as some important punches-out from Fulham free-kicks. He did appear to injure his wrist with one such punch, but hopefully, he will be alright before the trip away to Blackburn on Monday next week.
Best Moment: Rooney's goal
Worst Moment: When Murphy tumbled over
Man of the Match: Jonny Evans
Manchester United 1-0 FulhamRooney 42'(Assist: J. Evans)
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