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Manchester United’s second game in London in the space of four days saw the champions smash five past a sorry Fulham side. United had not won at Craven Cottage in the league since the 2007/08 season. Since that 3-0 win, United have lost twice (including a heavy 3-0 defeat where Sir Alex was forced to play with Carrick and Fletcher at the back) and drawn one – so an empathic win was overdue. Danny Welbeck, Ryan Giggs, Luis Nani, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov scored the goals for United, who are now two points behind Manchester City in their quest for an unprecedented twentieth league title.
De Gea & Lindegaard distribution and Deep Fulham
Turns out, although not an exact split of appearances, Lindegaard has made more first team appearances than many expected following the arrival of the talented Spanish goalkeeper. De Gea has made 18 appearances, whilst Lindegaard has made six. Tonight, Sir Alex went with the Dane, who had a very sturdy second half following a better performance from Fulham – who were very poor in the first half.
How easy Fulham made it for United can be highlighted in the Guardian chalkboard below showing how deep they sat for the first forty five minutes:
QPR did target Patrice Evra in the first half, which is where most of the tackles occurred, but generally put in more tackles higher up the pitch than Fulham. This allowed Michael Carrick, who has been simply superb for the last few games, to drop deep and pick the ball up from his goalkeeper – something Carrick excels at:
With Fulham sitting so deep, Lindegaard was able to play the ball into Carrick (whilst De Gea was forced to play longer against QPR), who – as usual – used the ball extremely well, only conceding possession five times (90% pass completion). Of course when Fulham did venture forward and committed men, United were blistering on the counter attack, playing some wonderful one touch football on the flanks, a jot to watch. As mentioned Lindegaard made some decent saves second half, but was untroubled in the first half due to how deep Fulham were.
Manchester United’s 2010/11 player of the season was again at his menacing best at Craven Cottage, assisting two goals and scoring the second with a well taken header. We’ve discussed the impact of Luis Nani in depth many times on the blog, highlighting how far he has come in his development since 2009. He was extremely unlucky that he lost out in key games towards the end of last season following a drop in form and the return of Antonio Valencia.
I’ve had a discussion with many Reds over the past few months, who agreed that Nani’s best performances came when he started on the right hand side of the pitch. He was no doubt given this freedom, last season, due to the injury suffered by Valencia against Rangers in the Champions League, however he took the opportunity with both hands. Against Fulham, he was a constant menace – left of right – and his first assist was superb, despite some questionable defending, for Welbeck to hit home.
This time last season Nani was the key man for United, I’m sure he’ll have a big say in a number of games over the festive period as well.
Goals, Goals, Goals
United have now notched up eleven goals in three league games (against Wolves, QPR and Fulham). If we look at the last time United scored eleven goals in consecutive league games this season, we’d have to take the following opposition into account:
13 GOALS = Chelsea (3), Stoke City (1), Norwich (2), Liverpool (1), Manchester City (1), Everton (1), Sunderland (1), Swansea City (1), Newcastle United (1), Aston Villa (1)
11 GOALS = Wolves (4), QPR (2), Fulham (5)
I had to include Chelsea as 13 as United scored ten from Stoke City to Aston Villa, which is over two months of football. In the space of eleven days, United have matched that. So, did the 6-1 defeat to City have an impact on the attacking nature of the side? Is this the reason United had so many 1-0 victories in the league? Or is it simply the sides United have played against recently have been weaker?
Berbatov’s brilliant backheel
I hear it now. At 4-0 up, does it really matter that the mercurial Bulgarian smoothly backheeled the ball across the line, so effortlessly, to make it 5? Probably not, but what a player to have in your ranks to bring off the bench, especially over the Christmas period. There has been many talk of a transfer to PSG for Berbatov, but Ferguson has stated that he will remain a Manchester United player. It should be mentioned that Berbatov is more of a team player than people probably give him credit for. Against Leeds United earlier in the season he filled in, remember having had extremely little playing time, as a makeshift centre half for the final ten minutes. Many a ‘divaish’ striker would simply throw their hands up in the air, hands on hips and pout Ronaldo style – not Berbatov.
United were far too good for Fulham and the scoreline was fair reflection of the game. As discussed in the Lindegaard Talking Point, Fulham were far too deep and failed to put any pressure on Michael Carrick, who brushed the ball around with ease in the centre of the park. Ryan Giggs, as usual, defied biology and put in a superb performance, weaving around the frontline from midfield and notched up his first league goal of the season – meaning that he has now scored in every Premier League season and in every season that he has been a professional (90/91 he scored a single goal and in 91/92 he scored four) – an amazing achievement.
Nani was superb, setting up two and scoring with a header, whilst Rooney and Welbeck look like they are regaining their early season partnership form. One big concern is the injuries that United are picking up, with both Jones and Young leaving the field through injury. Phil Jones (who apparently is to have an X-ray on his cheekbone), who has made the most appearance this season, picked up a knock in the face following a Clint Dempsey elbow, whilst Ashley Young (who came on for Jones) looks like he has picked up a knee injury following a challenge with Dickson Etuhu. It will be interesting to see if either are selected for the next match at Old Trafford against Wigan Athletic.
United were good tonight against a Fulham side who never got out of second gear.