Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Seven-Man" United Come Undone Against Fulham and the Title Race Is Back On

Manchester United gave Liverpool every chance to get back into the title hunt with an inept display against Fulham at Craven Cottage today. After the manner of the defeat to Liverpool last weekend, Alex Ferguson saw fit to recall his "old" guns to the team only to be let down by Paul Scholes who was sent off.

Wayne Rooney, who had come on as a substitute for the deplorable Dimitar Berbatov, was also sent off while United were losing 2-0 and with that went any chance of result...

Scholes and Giggs were re-installed in the United engine room for Carrick and Anderson who were both all at sea against Liverpool last weekend, but the move backfired on the Scot as Scholes was sent off for the sixth time in his career after he handled the ball on the line.

Danny Murphy, a long-time thorn in the United side scored his fourth goal against the Old Trafford giants from the penalty spot to hand Fulham a deserved lead after they had bossed United around all over the park.

Manchester United made schoolboy errors throughout the game, and Rio Ferdinand seemed to miss Vidic's presence more than the Serbian misses his. During United's recent run without conceding a goal the Englishman missed six games and was deputised by Johnny Evans who built a solid partnership with Vidic.

It was from Ferdinand's desperate pass to O'Shea that Fulham won the corner from which the handball resulted from.

With Scholes off the pitch United were effectively down to eight men as Cristiano Ronaldo and Dimitar Berbatov had long since given up the ghost for this game. Which was quite surprising considering the game was only 18 minutes old.

It was plain for anyone to see that neither player really tried and that they wanted to be elsewhere as a rampant Fulham dominated all over the pitch. And Berbatov got his wish after he was taken off at half time.

Strange to see two of United's most lauded players not seem to care. Ronaldo was petulant while Berbatov was downright lazy.

No point in playing the second half with an injured uninterested player right?

Wayne Rooney came on and with him on the pitch United actually began to look like they might take something from the game. He huffed and puffed and ran his legs into the ground as he tried to drag his uninterested team mates back into the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo walked around and barely even kicked the ball.

With United playing without the Portuguese, Rooney and Giggs began to get frustrated, and it came as no surprise to see Rooney pick up a yellow.

With his game tempered, Fulham took charge again. Andy Johnson broke down the right and crossed to Zoltan Gera who smashed the ball home to give Fulham a two goal lead.

The lead became an unassailable one minutes later as Wayne Rooney recieved a second yellow card. As he stomped off the pitch, glaring at his teammates, United's only chance of rescuing the game had gone.

Fulham deserved their win. They played all the football and Brede Hangeland has firmly established himself as one of the leagues best defenders in his debut season. Bobby Zamora played like Bobby Charlton but his finishing was more Jack Charlton as he ran Rio Ferdinand ragged all day.

The title ran is on. All Liverpool have to do is win tomorrow and a United side in all kinds of problems, with no momentum, will then have huge pressure placed on their shoulders. With suspensions mounting, Liverpool have a real chance.

This Manchester United team have been called great all season. They are far from a great side. Central midfield has been poor all season and all of their current problems stem from here. There is no driving force. No one to grab a team mate by the scruff of the neck, no one to drag the team to victory when the chips are down.

Rooney and Tevez are the most honest players in the squad and both are always played out of position for players who are not as good. To win the league Ferguson will have to sit down and get them back onside, without them United won't win anything.

So say it quietly, Liverpool have a real chance.

twitter / WillieGannon