With Manchester City being held to a one all draw by Stoke, Manchester United had the chance to open up a 3 point gap at the top of the table. Playing at Old Trafford against an out of form Fulham side, United were expected to take all three points.
For the first twenty-five minutes the home team seemed to be conscious of the possibility of being outright league leaders. A cagey start saw Fulham grow in confidence and take the initiative. Dembele and Dempsey went close with some good efforts, but De Gea was on top form again to keep them out.
With half an hour gone, Man United settled into patient passing and possession football, with intermittent bursts of flare; most of which occurred on the right-wing with Valencia looking like he was back to his best. The Fulham defenders backed off him as he charged at them with pace and control, linking up well with team mates. A burst into the box saw him play a one-two with Welbeck (similar to one that lead to Hernandez’s goal in the previous game) but Valencia’s cross was blocked and cleared to safety.
Evra was up and down all game supporting the attack; in the forty-first minute his cross hit Kelly’s arm but appeals for a penalty were waved away. From the resulting corner, following Dempsey’s clearance, Young crossed the ball to the back post and Evans reacted first to set up a smashing close range Rooney goal.
Fulham could hardly get the ball in the second half and by the sixtieth minute Man United had 70% possession, compared to the 53% at half time. The Red Devils went close several times, but could not convert their chances. Schwarzer was repeatedly performing heroics in the Fulham goal. He made a double save from Ashley Young and Giggs’ follow up was blocked by Hangeland, keeping the score at 1-0. Fulham had a decent penalty shout in the 89th minute, but the referee could not see it clearly and didn’t give it.
The Upper Hand
Many were not impressed by United, proclaiming a lack-lustre, lethargic performance. However, the Manchester side controlled the game well for the most part and did what was needed to win the game.
It has been said that Manchester United have not played well this season, while other teams have been praised for their performances. But at the end of March, into the final stretch, it is once again the reds of Manchester sitting at the top of the table. Sir Alex Ferguson’s men know what it takes to win over the course of a season. Time and time again, after the busy Winter period Man United are able to push on while others fade. Man United have come from seven points behind and now sit three points clear of their nearest rivals.
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