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A Premiership record crowd was treated to an Old Trafford exhibition as Manchester United emphatically put down an early title marker with a 5-1 demolition of Fulham. The 75,111 fans crammed into the expanded venue bore witness to a devastating first-half performance from United, in which the hosts scored four times in the opening 20 minutes.

Louis Saha opened the scoring against his former club and Ian Pearce turned into his own net, while World Cup foes Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo proved there is no lingering bad blood with a goal apiece. Heidar Helguson's deflected shot off Rio Ferdinand lifted Fulham before the break, but Rooney scored another in the second half in a one-sided affair.

Fulham started brightly with debutant Jimmy Bullard spying some slack defending from United to feed a free kick into Papa Bouba Diop, who shot straight at Edwin van der Sar. But the visitors' resistance lasted just seven minutes as The Red Devils took the lead with a well-worked goal. Saha flicked Rooney's cross-field ball on to Ryan Giggs and promptly darted between the two Fulham centre halves to glance in the Welshman's centre.

Van der Sar made simple stops from a Diop header and Bullard free kick before United scored the first of three goals in the space of five minutes. A clever pass from Giggs found Rooney, the ball broke for Ronaldo to play Saha into space and his low cross was turned past Antti Niemi by experienced defender Pearce.
United needed no second invitation to go for the jugular and made it 3-0 on 16 minutes. Saha's athletic volley was pushed out by Niemi and Rooney was on hand to convert an easy opportunity from close range.

The Cottagers' defence was spreadeagled and the hosts capitalised again on 19 minutes when Rooney's deep cross evaded Franck Queudrue and his old sparring partner Ronaldo arrived late at the far post to prod past a helpless Niemi. Saha should have inflicted further damage midway through the first half, but he failed to connect cleanly to a precise ball into the box from fellow Frenchman, Patrice Evra.

On the half hour, the ubiquitous Paul Scholes almost got in on the act when his low drive from 25 yards skidded back off the base of the post and hit Niemi on the back, with the Finnish keeper recovering in time to prevent the ball crossing the line.

Fulham finally brought some cheer to a thoroughly miserable half for Chris Coleman's side on 41 minutes when Helguson collected Bullard's pass and saw his left-foot drive ricochet off Ferdinand and loop tantalisingly over van der Sar.
Gary Neville, who has been struggling with a calf injury, sat out the second half, which started in tepid fashion until Michael Brown incurred the wrath of Giggs for catching the Welshman.

Giggs was booked for a clumsy attempt at retribution and he was soon appealing for a penalty when his cross hit Liam Rosenior on the hand, but a spot kick would have been a harsh award. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Park Ji-sung were given a run-out on the hour mark before United created a fifth goal on 64 minutes which was a lesson in simplicity.

Scholes fed Ronaldo, who released Wes Brown down the right flank and his pull back was effortlessly swept home by the unmarked Rooney. The England ace supplied Ronaldo with the chance for what should have been the Portuguese's second goal on 70 minutes, but the winger placed his shot wide of the upright when sent in behind a hapless Fulham defence.

United's intricate passing and movement regularly left Fulham outnumbered and Niemi was on hand to make low stops from a Ronaldo drive and deflected Scholes effort. Fulham boss Coleman may not have expected much from the game given his side's woeful away record last season, but he would have anticipated greater endeavour, while United will be aware they will face much sterner examinations as the season progresses.

Sky Sports News

A good win against a very poor Premiership side who must already be haunted by relegation worries. United played very well but Fulham were just too bad a team to worry United.
 
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