Manchester United 1-0 Fulham – as it happened
La dee da dee da, la dee da dee dee, all good pals and jolly good company. Yes, it’s Manchester United v Fulham at Old Trafford – email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details of your spree.
United were lucky to get away with that one, not because it was an even game, because it wasn’t, but because Fulham were denied a penalty that looks an easier decision every time you see it. I’ve no idea why Michael Oliver refused it – perhaps he wasn’t sure enough – but Carrick knocked Murphy down, and didn’t get the ball. Anyway, I’m off – night.
FULL-TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 FULHAM
90+3 min: Smalling can only hoick an attempted clearance into touch, and Fulham have a throw levelish with the penalty area. Riise hurls it in, and a towering header from Jonny Evans is enough to see it away. That’s it.
90+2 min: United look nervous now, Dembele tricking his way through a couple of challenges, and for a second the ball is loose, before a crucial touch from Rafael allows Carrick to miskick clear.
89 min: Lucky escape for United, Ruiz floating forward in the inside-left channel and sliding an ball into the box for Murphy. As he prepares his right peg for a shot, Michael Carrick bumps into him firmly enough to knock him over and gently enough to give the referee a excuse not to give a penalty, which he doesn’t. But he probably should have done, because Carrick didn’t get the ball.
88 min: Giggs allows the ball to role across his left foot for Young, who advances into the box, but instead of shooting, he tries to find Hernandez and fails.
84 min: Fulham get the ball away, but only Dempsey and Pogrebnyak are arsed to break. Dempsey it is in possession, and Evans, accompanied by Scholes, does well to win the ball initially, before they combine to concede a free-kick. This causes minor mayhem as United struggle to get it clear but never materialises into a shooting opportunity despite some impressive trickery from Dembele – though he follows it by tripping over the ball. United then attack, Hernandez fooling himself when feinting to avoid to defenders, and suddenly the game has tempo.
82 min: United give away a free-kick forty-five or so yards from goal, and Fergie unwraps a Wrigley’s. Ruiz’s kick is well-flighted, drawing De Gea into a punch, but the keeper flies out and clocks it one. He then lands on his wrist and looks in a portion of pain.
81 min: Yet another cross from Valencia, this time for Hernandez, who wafts a toe in its direction but can’t make any significant contact.
80 min: Valencia – again – finds space on the right and his hard, low cross is perfect for Evra, who steps over it for no reason rather than attempt a shot with his right foot.
79 min: Final change for United, Fergie embracing the club’s proud tradition of attacking football and replacing Rooney with Scholes.
78 min: Murphy flights a ball over the top that Dempsey is but a (very thin) cunt hair away from connecting with.
75 min: United should finish it, but Schwarzer makes a brilliant double-save. First, Valencia crosses deep from the right and Young, meeting is sweetly on the volley, sees his effort pushed away. First to the rebound, he opens his body and aims for the far corner, only for the keeper to read him and block again – to the edge of box, where Giggs laces a third effort that ought to locate the empty net, but instead is straight at Hangeland.
73 min: Evra uses a reverse bungee and a ladder to boot away from Duff’s head, around the edge of the United box, and oddly no foul is given, as the ball runs loose and Evans hurtles into a tackle with Pogrebnyak to avert consequent danger. Ferdinand off Smalling on.
72 min: Giggs and Rooney attempt to dance through the Fulham defence with shimmies and gimmies, and eventually are crowded out.
71 min: Murphy – who’s scored three winners at Old Trafford – replaces Diarra.
68 min: Obviously there’s nothing surprising about Ferguson preferring to introduce Hernandez and not Berbatov, but United’s problem tonight has been creating chances, not finishing them. In the meantime, Rafael bounces forwards and squares for Rooney, whose shot is blocked – out to Valencia on the right. His cross is teed up for Giggs by Carrick, and from a good position around the D, he drags a shot wide.
67 min: Frei departs, Ruiz slicking into the fray.
65 min: Ruiz readies himself, and United pass around his teammates some more, who, at the moment, are about as effective as David Cameron’s PR gimps.
63 min: First substitution – Javier Hernandez replaces Danny Welbeck, who’s had a disappointing night.
60 min: It’s very hard to see anything other than another United goal in the next bit of time – the possession stats show 70-30, and in terms of serious possession it’s probably more like 85-15. If I supported Liverpool, I’d explain how that relates to Rafael Benitez’s net spend, but instead, I’ll gratuitously assert that he is a sweaty, chaffing, steaming lipid.
57 min: All United at the moment, about fourteen minutes of uninterrupted possession. Carrick rolls the ball into Rooney, in the D, who plays a one-two with Giggs that involves a backheeled return. He then clips a gentle ball between centre and full-back for Young, and Kelly does very well to block as he opens his body out into a Thierry Henry finish.
55 min: Alan Parry says “the Fulham man Dembele”. For one brief, shining moment, I think he’s said Fulham mandem, and picture the definitive oxymoron.
53 min: Fulham give possession away in centrefield and United work it left to Young. When it looks for all the world that he might, fucking finally, go outside his man, he shifts inside Kelly and unfurls a low curler that Schwarzer palms away.
50 min: Much like the first half, the second begins with United pinning Fulham back. Their movement looks a little sharper though, defenders and midfielders swapping positions to find space.
47 min: United almost achieve a golazo, Valencia bousting free eighty yards from goal and feeding Rooney in the centre-circle. He then takes the return and with his second touch, sends possession onto Giggs, who lifts an immediate ball over the top for him to collect once more, bludgeoning a shot that Schwarzer saves well with his body.
46 min: A Duff backheel down the line finds Kelly, and he scoots beyond Evra and rams over a lowcross that De Gea does very well to grab vaulting forwards.
46 min: Fulham set us pootling away once more.
Some Wilkinson product hydrates – but only during shaving, lest anyone assume it work also via osmosis and telepathy.
Aha – Rooney didn’t duck under the cross for the goal, but missed his attempted glance, even with his new hair.
Though there weren’t many chances, that wasn’t a disgusting half of football. Fulham threatened on more than a few occasions, and passed the ball smartly through midfield when able to get possession. But they, and John Arne-Riise in particular, lost concentration for a crucial moment just before the break, and that was all Wayne Rooney needed to give United the lead; he’s been astonishingly prolific given patchy general play.
HALF-TIME: MANCHESTER UNITED 1-0 FULHAM
45 min: United look confident now, Young drilling a crossfield ball for Valencia that makes you forget for a moment that he’s called Ashley and has watches and earrings. Although they can’t turn it into a chance, they immediately build again, and Rooney kills a pass that’s behind him and steps over it to move it into his stride, then playing in Young with a clever ball that eliminates the entire Fulham back-four from proceedings. But Young, with no excuse for so doing, hits the post, and turns out to have been offside too, in similar circumstances.
GOAL! UNITED TAKE THE LEAD!
The initial corner is shit, Young overhitting an attempted short ball for Valencia. But Fulham don’t press, so he gets to whip in another cross, from the left corner of the box. Rooney, aware of Evans loitering behind him, ducks underneath, which confuses Riise – admittedly not a tricky task. But still, Evans does very well to slide into a cut-back from the byline as Schwarzer comes out, which Rooney smelts high into the net for the opening goal.
40 min: United botch three attacks in quick succession, thanks to miserable passes, before Valencia drills a low cross that Welbeck can’t quite reach. Young then retrieves possession, and rolls in Evra outside him, for a cross that’s deflected behind for a corner and elicits a rejected penalty appeal that has Evra literally hopping mad.
36 min: Fulham conduct some composed possession before Rafael – who often provides United with tempo when they need it – steals in to rob Frei. Finding Rooney, United break, and the next pass, for Welbeck, is almost wack enough to cede possession. But Welbeck powers through the resultant challenge, and thirty yards from goal, attempts a precise finish that ends up a backpass – earning himself a bollocking from Giggs, who’d hared up the pitch and was exhorting him to slip it left.
34 min: Giggs tanks in on Dembele unfeasibly late and is booked, but Alan Parry thinks he shouldn’t have been, because – wait for it – he’s not that kind of player. He emotes this whilst watching a replay that proves to the contrary.
33 min: Rafael plays a one-two off Gary Cooper and podges into the box. But instead of crossing, he elects to have a shot, arcing a tame left-footer into Schwarzer’s arms and the near post.
31 min: United win a corner and take it short, Young to Giggs. Giggs then advances, chucking in a few feints and lollipops, before drilling a low cross that Kelly blocks away. The ball then bounces up perfectly for Patrice Evra to power a scissors kick into the top corner, but instead he tickles one just past the post.
29 min: Valencia powers into the box and tries a one-two with Welbeck that doesn’t look on – except that it is, thanks to Welbeck’s ridiculous and particular dexterity in that department. Racing on to the return, Valencia looks to shoot, and Riise is down quickly to block, eliciting another ricochet that squirts back to Schwarzer.
27 min: Though the corner comes to nothing, it allows United to exert some pressure, and eventually they won a free-kick on the left of the box. Young whips it in, but Fulham head away without much alarm -though the balance of play is now titled back in United’s favour.
25 min: Young and Welbeck combines twice in a minute, Young’s slack pass ending matters the first time and finding his man the second, forcing Hughes to block behind for a corner.
23 min: Evra – who for all his defensive incompetence, has been excellent going forward recently – breaks out of defence and feeds Valencia in the centre-circle, who turns the ball along the outside of his right foot and follows with his body, running left as Rooney takes over. But his touch is heavy, and the attack breaks down.
20 mins: Diarra and Pogrebnyak combine to find Dempsey, thirty yards from goal and running at Evans, who guesses that he’ll dip outside onto his right foot, which he doesn’t. Instead, he lets one go with his left, that’s easy enough for a sprawling De Gea to hold.
18 min: After doing the cube route of -infinity in the first thirteen or so minutes, Fulham have grown into the game and are knocking the ball around will purpose and confidence – until they give it away.
16 min: Carrick feeds a clever ball into Rooney’s feet, and he swivels adroitly before overhitting a fade for Young, haring down the left. He manages to make the cross, but flinging himself into it, all he can do is find Schwarzer’s soft, supple arms. Dembele then breaks through midfield and teases Evans, cutting inside then slicing and dicing a long-range left-footer several hectares wide of the far post.
14 min: Fulham finally craft an attack, a cross from the right arriving at Dempsey and forcing a slipping Evans into a block. From the corner, De Gea does well to tip a looping Hangeland header away from under the bar, and Fulham build quickly, Dempsey failing to find the unmarked Frei bursting to burst on his outside, Rafael intercepting.
13 min: Fulham have some possession, before Riise decides he’d rather have a few turns on his abdominzer, and gives it away.
1o min: I just can’t warm to Ashley Young, and don’t think it’s because he’s called Ashley. United continue probing, and Rafael injects some pace, turning in past Frei and straightening his run to whip over a cross. Giggs introduces it to his head, but his effort is close enough to Schwarzer for him to save without undue undeness.
8 min: Lovely exchange down the left between Carrick and Evra, the former picking a beautiful ball that splits three defenders like a best-fit line, and when Evra looks up, he pulls back to Rooney on the edge of the box. He dips back left, and has a go at goal, but the shot is blocked easily enough. Seconds later, he takes possession again, and with men either side, passes behind Welbeck and the move breaks down.
6 min: Instead of having Matt Le Tissier commentate, they might perhaps put his career highlight on in the corner. United have Fulham penned back inside their own half, and will score eventually if that doesnae change.
4 min: I’ve always imagined Ryan Giggs as a languid, vertical love, hands on hips, one periodically raised in beseeching appeal for a free-kick.
3 min: United attempting stroking, Fulham attempting absorption.
1 min: Welbeck pressures an error out of Hangeland, who miscues a bouncing ball with his blockheed. It’s then worked back to Young on the left edge of the box and he and Rooney attempt some dainty pokes, before Welbeck lays back to Carrick but sells him short.
1 min: It hath commenceth.
If we get Fergietime tonight, we might get to see Giggs engaging in some full penetration. Which position is your money on?
Talk me down – you can help, use the hashtag #FCFlive.
First email, and it’s Benjamin List (brother of Kill): “No-one appears to be giving Fulham a chance, but I think Johnny [sic] Evans is playing.” Sorry, but that witticism is several months out of date – Evans has been largely excellent this season, after a couple of dodgy ones.
I look the look of this Fulham side. Dembele and Dempsey are very sharp, in particular, and though it’s a shame that New Berbatov Bryan Ruiz isn’t around, we get a look at Frei, who is also a talent.
“Ryan Giggs will penetrate” says Gary Neville, as though his skills haven’t been laid out in the papers for all of us to enjoy. Rooney has some good thrust too.
Apologies – that was dryer than a constipated anus in a Plutonian vacuum. In happier news, my dinner of mini-burgers was a roaring success.
Let’s have some teams:
Man Utd: De Gea, Rafael Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Young, Welbeck, Rooney.
Subs: Amos, Jones, Berbatov, Smalling, Hernandez, Scholes, Cleverley.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Kelly, Hughes, Hangeland, John Arne Riise, Duff, Dembele, Diarra, Frei, Pogrebnyak, Dempsey.
Subs: Stockdale, Ruiz, Murphy, Senderos, Etuhu, Briggs, Trotta.
Probably the best of them, but what a bell with that haircut: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
BREAKING NEWS! JOY FOR BENCHES EVERYWHERE AS BERBATOV RETURNS! Otherwise, Young and Giggs come in, Hernandez and Scholes move to the bench. Fulham bring in Frei, Hughes and Duff for Senderos, Ruiz and Johnson.
Preamble. “When it goes it goes quickly, and there is nothing you can do about it”. So said Alex Ferguson in the summer of 1995, and it’s a sentiment – and experience – that will be resonating amongst the members of the Manchester City dressing room round about now. But though we’re being encouraged to assume that Fulham will lose tonight because they lost in 2003 and whenever else the fuck, this is perhaps the trickiest of United’s remaining games until the derby. Fulham have proper players with technique and intelligence, and if they can locate their testicles, should provide a decent test.