Slouching towards Cheltenham: Fulham 0-3 Manchester Utd

(sorry, I haven’t got it in me to do a proper report)

An awful afternoon with no redeeming features. At least it’s over with now.

Danny Murphy had a busy enough game and nearly opened the scoring with a long range volley that very nearly dolloped into Edwin van der Sar’s net. Our old goalkeeper showed why he’s still employed by the best team in the country, stretching expertly to tip the ball wide. It was the closest we would come to scoring.

Meanwhile at the other end a free-kick was awarded on the edge of our box and Owen Hargreaves whipped a clever shot into the corner of Niemi’s net for 1-0.

Murphy nearly scored again, arriving at the far post to power a header low but at van der Sar.

Then United scored a second, playfully working the ball wide for Scholes, who crossed into the six yard box and onto the head of Park Ji Sun, whose header crashed home via the crossbar. How did a diminutive Korean winger find himself doing such a thing in the middle of our defence?

And that killed the game as a contest. The odious Nani dived but was not yellow-carded, and was later hurled into the metal advertising hordings by an irate Konchesky. It was my favourite part of the game.

United added a third thanks to Simon Davies’ own goal.

They then sat back and let Fulham play. This led to the bewildering site of Fulham trying (and failing, obviously) to walk the ball through a massed United defence for twenty minutes.

What a waste of time.

Moritz Volz can be pleased with his energetic display. The German, replacing the suspended Andreasen in midfield, gave a spirited an effective performance. Tackling, passing, and running directly at opponents. He should get another go against more human opponents.

The same might be said for full-debutant Eddie Johnson. The American striker was deployed on the right wing, and proceeded to have a diabolical first ten minutes. His touch was not good, balls bouncing off him and caused big problems for his teammates (Stalteri, playing behind him at right back, in particular). He was regularly outjumped by the not huge Patrice Evra, and seemed to be having a miserable game. As things progressed he regained some confidence, but was still over-reliant on Bullard for easy off-loads. He had a couple of shots, neither of which were particularly close, and will at least know that he’ll never have to play in a match like that again. He seemed overwhelmed by events and will presumably feel like he’s been hit by a big red London bus tonight. No matter: the promise is there, and he’ll get used to things.

Results elsewhere were not kind to us today and we must now appreciate that relegation is more likely than not. Something special is now required, and the team in white looks anything but special.

The gallery:


The teams came out to hundreds and thousands of cardboard washing machine advertisements.  The Premiership!   Great!


Somewhere out there CCN reader AFJ is trying to kick a ball into a giant washing machine!  The Premiership!


Debutant Eddie Johnson realises that this is a bitch of a league to play in.


We are Fulham!


The sun sets on a rubbish season.

20 thoughts on “Slouching towards Cheltenham: Fulham 0-3 Manchester Utd

  1. I didn’t get a chance to post until now and as I was writing something up temporarily until Rich got his game report up, poof, Rich gets his game report up. So I deleted my post which went up within a minute or two of his.

    So, I’ll just post what I written. I have a slightly different look on things than you did Rich.

    Sinking deeper – Fulham 0-3 Man United

    But we didn’t expect anything other than that, did we really?

    I thought Mc Bride was pretty ineffective again and I’m not sure why he wasn’t one of the substituted players today.

    I thought Eddie Johnson seemed to settle into the game the more he played and was one of the few players who showed penetration. But I have to say that seeing him on the wing is still killing me. He was much more effective when the team switched to a 4-4-2 and he played on top with McBride. Also, how strange that Dempsey is instrumental in getting GAM onto the team and now GAM has taken Clint’s place. At least this week as well as last week he did. I really want to see him start up top with McBride next week.

    The defense wasn’t too bad today. They were just horrible, but, only for a moment or two. And of course good teams like United will kill you with that mistake or two that you make in a game. But the midfield were totally outplayed most of the game. Which should be no surprise to anyone.

  2. Yeah… I’m sure Roy’s thinking to use EJ’s pace on the wing, but he’s not much of a dribbler… he’s a pacy forward who can get behind the line and cause problems. He had a couple decent passes, but looked shaky early.

    Bullard was, once again, the best looking player… it’s so weird. You watch the teams trade possession, Fulham don’t LOOK that bad… and, somehow, end up on the wrong end of a lop sided score again.

    I mean, maybe I’m wearing my blinders, but the results (and amount) seem so odd considering what I see on the field.

  3. Terrible performance. Volz was our best player today, a right back playing as a holding midfielder. That tells you everything that you need to know about the state that we’re in. Sure, he should have been more prepared on the first goal when he had his head down while Hargreaves’ free kick whizzled over his head, but he constantly showed initiative and got forward. Unfortunately for us, many good opportunities landed at his feet and he just doesn’t have the ability to take advantage of them.

    Just don’t understand this formation. As I’ve said before, we’re wasting McBride playing this way. Not to mention, playing Volz, Davies & Johnson all out of position. Sure, everyone is tense with the club in this position, but to put so many players in positions that they are not comfortable with is just making things worse.

    When you’re facing ManU without Vidic, you have a real opportunity for some chaos in their central defense. Ferdinand just doesn’t play well w/o him and Wes Brown is just not good (can’t believe that foul on Volz was not a PK). If you give McBride a partner up front, you have a much better chance of being able to take advantage of this. That was a real mistake on Roy’s part on not trying to exploit this (besides bringing on two strikers during the last 3 min of the match, what was that about?).

    I thought that Pat Dolan summed it up best on Setanta. He said that Hodgson’s moves all indicated fear and you can’t have fear in a relegation battle.

    Bullard was horrible today. He constantly got caught in posession and gave the ball away needlessly. If he’s going to play in the hole behind McBride, he can’t be running all over the place just to receive a short pass from a defender.

    Hughes had a howler. He should have easily cleared that ball that Park scored on. Like many, he looked nervous and unsure of himself all day. Oh, it all doesn’t matter now as we’re Championship bound.

    When I find myself questioning the tactics of our third manager in less than one calendar year, I wonder if the team just isn’t good enough to play in the Prem and we should just take our medicine and move on. As I explained to my wife, it’s a bitter pill for me to swallow when I know that next season, I’ll only see Fulham play a couple of times. I’m practically sick to my stomach right now.

  4. George-

    Agree with you more that El Steve in your assessment of Bullard. Again I thought he was trying too hard and he had some awful passes today. Some giving the ball away in our own d third. Also, I’d be willing to bet he took at least 4 shots from 25 yards or more.

    I didn’t get the last sub thing either. Was RH trying to kill time to get us out of our misery?

  5. Gentleman Jim was suggesting that one motive was to get a good round of applause for Volzy. Perhaps.

    I don’t have Setanta so I had to rely on the chat room and GJ. He was also surprised to see Johnson on the wing as he had introduced the lineup as a 4-4-2.

    The one thing I didn’t expect to say in March, was that our biggest impediment to success over the last month has been the tactics of the manager. I though that was all over with the ungrateful whiny-bitch Sanchez.

    Good news for me? I can still follow FFC through GJ next year in the CCC.

    Oh, and great report and photos wmc

  6. I think you’re being harsh on Bullard. With performances like the one he delivered against Villa, it was obvious that opposition managers would soon start to instruct their players to pay him close attention, and that happened today. He was given very little time on the ball, and often had 2 and sometimes 3 players buzzing around him. With the movement of his team-mates being so poor, it was inevitable that he would start to get caught in possession, of find some of his passes intercepted.
    As for the long shots – again, I think a few times he became frustrated at the lack of options being offered by his team-mates and so thought he would just take a chance. At least he had a go – most of our players appear to have contracted what is called in darts and golf “the yips”, whereby they suffer a paralysing performance anxiety as soon as they near the 18 yard box. Cue endless sideways passing with no penetration.
    In contrast, Murphy was given much more freedom, but frequently squandered it through appalling passing.

  7. Utterly depressing today. Man Utd barely broke sweat and you felt if they were really bothered or provoked into any serious action by us they could have scored about 10.

    As everyone else has said, other results mean we now need an absolutely stonking comeback. Oh well. It’ll be exciting if we manage it, and it’ll hopefully be exciting next year if we don’t.

    Our season starts here does it Roy? Ok, but why couldn’t it start against Bolton, or Boro, or West Ham? I hope we go for it a bit more now. Let’s play with strikerS. No point going down with a wimper.

  8. Also, how often did we wander into attack, find nothing obvious on, and end up passing all the way back to Niemi?

    United’s midfield was excellent (Hargreaves seemed to have a sixth sense for where we were going next) but we really offered little threat. I don’t know why football looks so hard for this team, but it does.

  9. George – I’m with you, I’m sitting here, it’s 7 minutes past midnight, and I’m still feeling devastated, sick, awful. And I knew we’d lose today. But there was just nothing there. I’m tempted to say that this is the league now, but it’s not impossible to fight, to beat the odds. Look at Barnsley beating Liverpool. These things can happen. But we’re not fighting, or if we are we’re not doing it effectively.

    wrt next season, perhaps Fulham USA can sort out some kind of DVD setup? The games will still be filmed, perhaps the club will sort out some kind of distribution system. It might not be possible with tv deals and whatnot, but I have to think they’ll try to keep the large US following involved. Does Fulham TV on the website have all the games, or is that just delayed highlights?

  10. I believe it’s just the highlights (it was last season when I was a subscriber).

    I saw most of the match on Setanta. I guess I wasn’t gutted or disappointed because this is exactly the result I expected. I’ve accepted the fact that we’re going down and anything we win from here on out is just icing for our Championship cake.

  11. I really can’t say Bullard was horrible… let me clarify my last post more.

    I’m not saying, so much, that the team played well… they just didn’t look entirely outclassed, like they should be against Man U… then there comes the lapses, BOOM 3-0.

    See… you may see Bullard trying too hard out there, but there has been absolutely no offense, other than what’s generated by him, since he’s returned from injury.

    Let’s be real though… when’s the last time there was a goal that Bullard wasn’t directly involved in?

    Survey says: Simon Davies in the 8th minute at Upton Park of an eventual 2-1 defeat… on January 12th.

    There have been SIX league games and an FA Cup tie in that span. In those seven matches, the only two goals were in the victory against Villa where Bullard hit a bullet free kick and put a pin point cross on the boot of Simon Davies.

    If I’m Jimmy Bullard, I’m looking at the situation and realizing that, unless I’m carrying this team, we’re not scoring.

    I think we ALL realize this too. Maybe he reads the internet too much, because everyone has been talking about the return of Bullard the savior.

    Is this leading to him overworking? Yes… but can you fault a player for that? If the one problem I have with a player is that he tries too hard, shit, I’m in heaven.

    I saw Bullard dribbling into space (or at least attempting to)… turning, looking towards goal… trying to create something. I thought he worked relatively well on the right side, with Johnson… though relatively is the key word.

    Was it his best performance? No… but really, other than Volz (who I should have mentioned), who else actually looked decent? Murphy looks worse each game. Davies’ influence has decreased, gradually, as the season has worn on. McBride is consistently isolated, despite still having a penchant for winning the ball. Johnson was okay, but he’s not ideally a right winger… he doesn’t really have the skill set to provide anything, save speed, on the right side.

    To me, the only times I see the light at the end of the Fulham attacking tunnel, is when Bullardinho has the ball at his feet.

    I’ll be honest, I shut the match off shortly after 3-0… so maybe those last 15 minutes, after the game was meaningless, may have changed my perception… but I doubt it.

  12. If we agree or disagree with you is not the issue here El Steve. From Rich and I, thank you for your very clarifying post. Great stuff. We appreciate the fact that you spent so much time clarifying your thoughts and sharing them with all of us. The same goes for everyone. Great stuff!

    I think I can speak for Rich and me and say, were just gutted right now. We knew what the result would be. We knew what we were up against. We understand the difference between a 1 million dollar signing and numerous 25 to 30 million signings are. Quality which whittles itself down to goals. Nanny was nothing short of magnificent. What was the best we could come up with. Im not sure? An own goal?

  13. Good stuff, Steve. You say yourself that as Bullard’s star has risen, Murphy’s and Davies’ have dropped. Are the two not connected?

    Murphy certainly was growing into the team’s leader. He took all the free-kicks, he was the man to go too when his teammates were in trouble, and he was an on-field quarterback type. Now Bullard comes in, and in the first few games we see Bullard and Murphy standing over free-kicks, then Murphy’s realising that he isn’t going to take them and now it’s only Bullard. All this when our best dead-ball kicker is…. Simon Davies.

    Davies too: he is a magician on the right, at least for our level. He’s quicker than he looks, and a devilishly effective crosser. Now, for whatever reason, he’s on the left, and not influencing things nearly as much. This one’s less obviously related to Bullard, but still you wonder. Has this all-consuming midfield force lessened the abilities of those around him?

    I’m not saying that any of this *is* the case, but I think it’s worthy of consideration.

    Meanwhile, the defence is looking alright. Stalteri was one of our better players yesterday, and Konchesky did alright. Hangeland and Hughes are as effective a pairing as we’re likely to have for a while.

    Which just leaves the forward situation. As I mentioned last week, hasn’t McBride proved that he’s not up to the lone striker role yet? I don’t want to sound repetitive, but if he can’t make things happen on his own he’s no use as a lone striker. We’d be better off with Clint up there I think, and better still with a Johnson/Dempsey combination. You’d think they’d work well together.

  14. It’s been seen, for club and country, that while McBride may fit the prototype for a lone striker, he’s not very effective at it.

    For as much as the 4-5-1 seems to have brought some midfield stability, can the fact that no offense is produced possibly usher some change in philosophy sooner, rather than later?

    We’re now, what, 5 deep with strikers going for a lone spot? McBride, Healy, Nevaland, Johnson, Kamara?

    Could we possibly use the fact that we have some depth at midfield to make competition there even tougher?

    I mean, we really have some options and variability with what can be done up top… two speedsters in Johnson and Kamara, a bruiser in McBride, a finisher (despite this season) in Healy, and Nevaland who seems to be more of a heart and work rate player.

    It may be right that having Murphy and Bullard in the middle may be making too much confusion between the two… so why not alleviate the problem? Move Murphy to the bench as a tactical sub for his versatility, Dempsey out left, Davies out right (or reversed, judging by Hodgson’s penchant to have players on their off foot at the wings) and Bullard/Andreason in the middle.

    Just a tought… but 2 goals in 7 matches is totally unacceptable… especially when both were in one game.

    Also, I alluded to it earlier, BQ, but you’re right that it is really curious moving Davies to the left… the thought’s gone through my mind plenty of times too… is Roy really that heavy on in swingers? Or are Seol and Bouazza that weak of options? It’s always seemed weird to me that he’d put Dempsey on the right and Davies on the left… Dempsey’s naturally a lefty, and Davies a righty… just seems pretty obvious how it should go… perhaps just REALLY trying to encourage play up the middle?

  15. You know, I was thinking. What happened to Fulhamish? We’ve got the one side of it, losing games we’re supposed to win. But what about the other? Winning games we’re not supposed to? Has the good half of Fulhamish been relegated ahead of us?

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