What to make of that? First, we must always remind ourselves that playing away to the champions elect is not an easy thing. Against that, Fulham turned in one of the more empty performances of recent times. It was as if United were playing against their own U18 side at half pace on a Tuesday afternoon.
Which is also weird because for the first few minutes we looked fantastic. Some of the movement between the lines was nice, the passing angles were clever, unusual. We had three decentish half-chances. Then…
Nani waltzed through a few tackles, slipped in Berbatov, goal. Why couldn’t anyone stop Nani in the buildup? Really, really, disappointing. The cries for offside may have been correct, but it was close – Salcido and Berbatov looked level enough to me.
Then another. Schwarzer came out and didn’t get a long ball, eliminating himself from the defence. Nani chipped a falling Aaron Hughes, whose glanced header only diverted the ball to Valencia, who headed home from a yard out.
Two ridiculous goals, and from there it was if Fulham decided that it wasn’t their day after all and stopped trying. These are professional footballers, I know it doesn’t work like that, but it’s so disappointing? They can do much better.
The United team was: O’Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Scholes, Gibson, Anderson, Nani, Valencia, Berbatov. Of course these are good players – they’re about to win the league – but they shouldn’t be able to completely nullify a Fulham side that’s close to full strength and that wanted to have a go. Perhaps with the two goal donation United just didn’t take risks, and there was nowhere for Fulham to play. Perhaps the heat was stifling. Perhaps it’s just one of those things.
Again, let’s remind ourselves: United away. But these games offer players the chance to show what they’re made of, the chance to show that they can compete with the best. Who in the Fulham side earned 7/10? Hangeland did well, as usual, Dempsey showed up, Murphy tried, but Zamora was too isolated, Dembele disappointed, Kakuta (after a very lively start) showed why at the moment he’s best suited to 10 minutes at the end of games, and everyone else really failed to make an impact. Gera came on and at least showed some effort, but effort isn’t enough, is it?
These games happen, but it seems a shame that Manchester United away has become such a waste of a fixture.