Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fulham good value for point as United get lucky...

United went into this afternoon's clash with Fulham hoping to avenge two league defeats on the spin at Craven Cottage, it looked as though they might just do that when Paul Scholes scored after just eleven minutes with a trademark power-driver into the bottom corner from fully 25-yards out. The opening goal came about following a neat lay-off from Berbatov on the edge of the Fulham penalty area. It was Scholes's 150th goal for United and he won't have scored many better; the Ginger Prince became only the tenth player in the club's history to score 150.

However, after the first 15 minutes Fulham fought their way back into the contest and they had the better of the remainder of the first-half. On 30 minutes the West London club spurned two excellent chances when Dickson Etuhu was denied by Edwin van der Sar - but truth be told and as good as the Dutchman's blocks undoubtedly were, the home team should have been on level terms.

Peter Walton had an afternoon to forget, first he booked Atonio Valencia when he scythed down Etuhu, but minutes later the referee allowed Danny Murphy to get away with an identical tackle on Paul Scholes. The referee's performance will no doubt have angered both manager's following a catalogue of errors by the official.

The second-half started pretty much like the first, with United gaining a degree of control, but without ever seriously threatening Stockdale in the Fulham goal.
Chicharito partnered Dimitar Berbatov up front in a four-four-two formation; the young Mexican striker looked sharp and his passing was crisp, but he found it difficult to make any impression around the Fulham penalty area against a well drilled home defence. While Fulham were quick on the break, they almost always had sufficient cover at the back and much credit to Roy Hodgson and the new manager Mark Hughes for retaining the continuity which saw Fulham reach last season's Europa League Final.

As the game went on, United didn't really look like scoring; Chicharito had two efforts on goal in total, one in either half, but neither troubled Stockdale, while Berbatov had at least forced the Fulham 'keeper into an early first-half acrobatic save. Berbatov was once again the pick of the United forwards, but he needs to improve his finishing.

As the second-half went on the home team pressed United back and the visitors were extremely lucky to get away with what looked like a good shout for a penalty when Vidic was guilty of shirt pulling. United had another lucky escape when Zamora was through on goal, but the England striker pulled his shot wide of the target when he should have pulled the ball back.

While Scholes was playing well and being busy as ever, United looked vulnerable to the counter-attack, especially down Fulham's left flank. The decision to play John O'Shea at right-back didn't look like a particularly good one as the Irishman was guilty of wasting possession on a number of second-half occasions, when he opted to lump the ball down the middle, invariably, over the heads of Chicharito and Berbatov.

United's luck eventually ran out when Damien Duff somehow found his way around Patrice Evra, the former Chelsea winger played in Bobby Zamora who pulled the ball back to Simon Davies and he crashed home a well deserved equaliser on 57 minutes.

From that point on it was fairly obvious Fergie had to do something to change the pattern of the game as United were finding it difficult to break down Fulham. In a bid to do something to alter the flow of the game, Ferguson replaced the hard-working, but ultimately ineffective Park with Nani, who it has to be said didn't do much better.

Chicharito was trying to play on the shoulder of the last defender - but the ploy wasn't working; the Mexican looked much better when he dropped deeper and linked up the play, but on too many occasions it was a case of either being in the wrong place or else the service simply wasn't good enough - truth be told it was a combination of both and so it came as no great surprise when Ferguson eventually made a double substitution when sending on Giggs and Owen for Valencia and the Mexican.

United eventually started to take a measure of control when they forced the home on to the back foot. Vidic had two headers from corners, but neither troubled Stockdale. But eventually United's pressure paid off when Hangeland scored an own goal from a Nani corner.

Just minutes later United were awarded a very dubious penalty by Mr Walton following a 'hand-ball' by Damien Duff, but Nani failed to convert the resulting spot-kick as Stockdale made an excellent save, but United's Portuguese winger should have done better.

United went on to pay a high price for Nani's penalty miss as Hangeland atoned for his own goal when he powered home a headed equaliser as the clock was running down. Vidic will feel he should have done better as not for the first time, the marking in the United penalty area left a lot to be desired.

The draw was a fair result and United can have no complaints.

6 comments:

  1. Based on the performance a point was about all we deserved but we should really be winning these games if we want to take the title back from a chelsea team that have started this season the way they ended the last one.

    It was good to see our star man hit the net again for the first time this season... Own Goal! what a player.

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  2. Dave,

    While Scholes was in fine form there has to be serious concerns about midfield when we play 4-4-2 because we clearly cannot defend well and Fulham were able to get at our back four too easily. Though I will say I thought Fulham were excellent after the first 15 minutes.

    Overall, I very entertaining game.

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  3. Let's keep in mind, though, that Chelsea haven't exactly played a quality side yet. I'm not taking anything away from them, but they also haven't really been tested on a tough road trip yet.

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  4. Evgenni,

    True, but there was something lacking in United's overall performance yesterday which suggests to me we aren't going to see any great improvement any time soon.

    The midfield remains the single biggest concern. Obviously we cannot rely on Scholes forever, but even when he's at the top of his game as like right now, our midfield is too easily by-passed which happened yesterday, but credit to Fulham for that.

    The other this is wasting possession and here I'm referring to the likes of JOS, but he wasn't on his own as Hernandez and Park were also guilty of losing the ball cheaply.

    We also played far too many speculative lobs over the top to the Mexican and he's not going to win many of those being the size he is when he's up against giant's like Hangeland. Something isn't quite right with United right now IMO.

    I think our opponents have worked out that if you keep it tight at the back and do not leave gaping holes you can hit United on the counter-attack and that is what we saw yesterday at times.

    I expect to see a lot more of that against the likes of City and possibly Chelsea.

    With all that said, it was a decent game to watch and I suppose we can be thankful for that at least.

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  5. A draw was fair alright but when you get a penalty with five minutes and you're already a goal up, you expect to walk away with all 3 points. Both their goals were courtesy some mediocre defending from our side and, as you said, the midfield has been quite ordinary. It's still early days and while I still believe this team is good enough to beat the Rentboys to the title, yesterday's performance was quite ordinary.

    Disappointed, but not gutted.

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  6. Dela,

    Agree, perhaps Fergie's comments about throwing away 'silly points' alluded to that penalty miss, but when you look at the game we were quite lucky on several counts and I'm sure you'll agree.

    It could be worse, Liverpool were nothing short of dreadful against the Berties tonight.

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