United returned to Craven Cottage for the second of their London away trips in a week, as they took on Martin Jol’s Fulham side who have so far disappointed in the league. Late heartbreak last season, and a humiliating 3-0 capitulation the season before meant United were facing a traditionally difficult fixture against the West London side, but having recently found good form were hot favourites to take the three points back up the M6. An injury to Rio Ferdinand saw Ryan Giggs come into the side for a rare start, with Phil Jones dropping back to centre half, in one of only 2 changes to the side who dispatched QPR at the weekend.
With goals being the only thing lacking from United’s recent performances, the reds looked keen to set the record straight with a scoreline to send out a message to the rest of the league. With just 4 minutes on the clock, United were in front, Nani capitalizing on some tentative Fulham defending before cutting back to the grateful Welbeck, sweeping home his 6th of the season. It was an irrepressible United performance, roared on by the red masses gathered in the Putney End with Antonio Valencia, Nani, Rooney and Giggs all ripping into Fulham with regularity and aplomb. An injury to Phil Jones whilst worrying, did little to dampen United’s momentum, and they were soon 2 ahead after Giggs’s undefendable cross was nodded home by Nani at the near post, putting the reds out of sight. The icing on an almost perfect first half was added by Giggs, who’s deselected shot looped over the helpless Stockdale, handing the Welshman the enviable stat of having scored in every single Premier League season, and condemning Fulham to a long second half.
As often happens in a game as comfortable as this, United seemed to take their foot off the gas in the second half, preserving vital energy for a busy run of fixtures taking us into the new year. The home side were also seemingly convinced there was no way back, making for a quiet period in the game, which saw fleeting action at either end. Anders Lindegaard, afforded a rare start in the United goal seized his opportunity when called upon, denying Dempsey with a diving save on the goal line and Andy Johnson on two separate occasions as the Dane attempted to keep his 5th consecutive clean sheet for the reds. Danny Welbeck nearly added a flourish to a fine individual performance, as his perfectly timed run and attempted chip over the keeper narrowly went over the cross bar.
In true United style however, the best was saved for the dying moments of the game, as firstly Rooney scored in his 3rd consecutive league game, unfurling an unstoppable 30 yard pile driver into the bottom corner to make it 4. Not to be outdone however, substitute Dimitar Berbatov added extra gloss to a superb United performance in stoppage time, as the Bulgarian back heeled home his first league goal since the reverse fixture between the 2 sides in April, providing United with the goals and performance that will hopefully propel them into a strong title challenge in the new year.
Lindegaard – 7 Fine saves in the second half.
Smalling – 7 Kept the dangerous Dempsey quiet.
Jones – 6 Looked promising until unfortunate injury.
Evans – 6 One late lunge but otherwise solid display.
Evra – 6 Much improved from torrid QPR performance.
Valencia – 8 Exhibition in wing play and solid at right back when called upon.
Carrick – 7 Dominated the midfield continuing upward surge in form.
Giggs – 7 Capped fine performance with goal.
Nani – 8 MOTM Continued hot streak of form with scintillating display.
Rooney – 8 Stunning goal and impeccable performance.
Welbeck – 7 Got United off to a flier, selflessly worked for team.
Young – Injured after coming on.
Park – 6 Provided space for others to operate.
Berbatov – 6 Delightful finish to excellent United performance.