Manchester Utd 2-2 Fulham

My sense is that performances like that don’t just happen. Fulham, I think, realised that an intergalactic thrashing was on the cards unless they worked out some kind of plan, and in so doing reminded us (as if we needed reminding) what’s been missing all season.  It’s too simple to suggest that the players haven’t had instructions or plans all year but let’s be honest, they’ve certainly played with, er, freedom, so yesterday’s performance was encouraging not just on the basis of the result, but because the team played like a team with an idea of what it was trying to do.  It could have resulted in a 7-1 thrashing as well, but for once we got out with some dignity. That’s terrific.

The selection:

Stek-Riether-Heitinga-Burn-Riise-Tunnicliffe-Sidwell-Kvist-Richardson-Holtby-Tankovic

tactics

The clever bits, as best I saw it:

Riether stopped this ridiculous bombing on that has been causing us so much danger lately and stayed in a very disciplined tucked in right-back role. He did pretty well.

Ryan Tunnicliffe then basically doubled up. It was a selfless display on his debut – he didn’t do much flashy, but he did a fabulous job for the team and between them they shut down the left flank (obviously United poured in 300 crosses but more or less on our terms).

On the other flank Kieron Richarson has clearly had a good, encouraging pep talk. Words to the effect of “this one’s all about you, Kieron. You are our outlet, our drive, our counter-attack.” He was fabulous, making some runs that defied belief. He could have scored, maybe should have scored, but contributed so much besides that it almost seems churlish to bring this up. He was at it again in the last minute when we equalised. I thought he was man-of-the match.

The defensive pairing was freshened up with John Heitinga, but it was Brede Hangeland, not Dan Burn, who made way. Heitinga looked like someoen who had played in a world cup final and his incisiveness and snap showed us a bit of what we’ve been missing. Burn had the game of his life, and while United played into his hands, you were waiting for the barrage to cause a mistake but it never did.

Scott Parker made way for William Kvist. We criticise Steve Sidwell but to his eternal credit he does have this eye for goal. Sidwell is the better player but his immobility is starting to be an issue, and in a game like this it felt like Kvist was the better option. Kvist is basically Etuhu 2.0, doing lots of unheralded work that makes the team better. Sidwell was the chief recipient of this and was able to get up and down as he likes to. His run for the goal was splendid.

Holtby-Tankovic(Bent) was good, too. I imagine the half time switch could have been pre-ordained: Tankovic did very well in the first half, particularly when he set up Richardson’s chance and pulled the centre backs from the middle of the pitch for Sidwell to run into (good spot, Frankie Taylor). Bent’s menace was less tangible but the whole idea of him coming to the club was to gobble up chances when they arise, and let’s face it, he’s been very disappointing. But he worked very hard today, often dropping into midfield leaving Holtby further up (presumably as a fulcrum for counter-attacks, which makes a lot of sense) when we didn’t have the ball. I was convinced he was going to miss with the final header but despite the occasion and everyone flying around him, he held his nerve and scored. Holtby was terrific but I think we knew he would be. The pass for the goal was sublime and his all around play is that of someone who has “big things” ahead of him. I only hope we can stay up and perhaps have a chance of hanging onto him.

Overall it felt like Fulham were finally running out of patience with what has failed all along and looking to the new, fresh, future Fulham to sort out this ungodly mess. We need to remind ourselves that this was a freak of a result – we won’t be parking the bus like that again – but if much of our problem has been psychological lately then this kind of thing can’t help but make a big difference. Mitroglou up front and a bit of luck here and there could see us back in the escape mix. The nice thing is that we’ve never seemed to have it in us to counter attack or to break at pace but we did it yesterday, which in turn suggests possibilities we didn’t know existed for this team. Maybe there is hope after all.

10 thoughts on “Manchester Utd 2-2 Fulham

  1. Good post !
    I think the 3( not sure who thought what ) were fed up with lots of players including Hangeland and Dempsey and Parker not being good enough of late .
    Refreshing the side had the desired effect .
    We could never have put in a performance like that with Berbatov in the side . we would always have been 1 man short . Good to see that we have realized that we aren’t good enough to dominate teams and “take the initiative” (Jols favorite phrase). This is the first game this season we have actually had a “team” where every player worked for the Fulham cause and not just their own .
    Lets learn the lesson and nevr sign players like Tarabt , Berbatov o rRuiz again , . Flare players coming in hav e to be mor in the mould of Holtby
    Colin, Sweden ( Fulham supporter since 1966when I saw the whitesbeat Liverpool at the cottage in the first gerat escape to stay up !!

  2. I really feel as if the best last 2 games that Fulham has played with total team effort have been at Old Trafford. The 3-2 loss at the beginning of last season before Dempsey and Dembele left to yesterday’s match. I truly hope this new emphasis on team play and not one v one flash is the norm. Was enjoyable to watch, see the youngin’s get a run out…the integration of the old and new.

  3. There really has been a mass dumping of the underachievers. Overdue in my opinion but genuinely brave.

    I’m now optimitic that we’ll at least fight to stay in this division.

  4. It’s a nice morale-booster, but let’s not pretend that we’ll get many points by surrendering 75% of the possession and counting on goals on the counter to save us.

    That being said, I like the team ethic displayed and I hope the same can translate to matches where we’re trying to control the ball and generate chances through build-up play.

  5. Someone of TIFF described Richardson as follows: “Kieron, I can barely move but you can have my last drop of blood, Richardson”. Best description I’ve seen. This was a Beckham vs Greece moment, except more disciplined. That run for the chance that he missed was something else. How badly we have needed someone like him on the left. But I don’t think this is a one-off. Very small sample size, but we’ve played three matches with Riise and Richardson on the left:

    Man City at home. Lost 2-4, but this was one of the early Rene encouraging performances. And Richardson scored.

    West Ham at home. 2-1 win.

    Man U away: 2-2 draw.

    As with Reither, our super-attacking full backs need better coverage than someone like Kaca — and maybe also Dejegah — can provide. And I think we’ve found our combination on the left. It wasn’t just Richardson’s energy. His speed really caught the eye.

    Will be interested to see how it shakes out on the right. Tunnicliffe did really well defensively. But if we want our right midfielder to do more than damage limitation I expect we’ll play someone else there. A few years ago it would’ve been Duff, no question. But now it’s surely either going to be Cole or Dejegah. And as Dejegah seems out of favour, I suspect it will be Cole. Maybe Tunnicliffe against the top-6, Cole against the rest.

      1. Ha! I hadn’t thought about it like that, but yes exactly. Why not?

        On a related note, while I am still fairly certain we are going down, how great is it seeing players like Tankovic, Burn and Tunnicliffe all doing so well? As long as we can keep them, I’m excited about the future.

          1. Could not agree with you more. Right now I can name off the top of my head a potenital under-22 matchday squad (with at least two others on the fringe of it). I don’t think I’ve ever been able to name more than two youth players at any one time before this. Of course, that’s a fairly meaningles guide as to quality. But it really highlights the exciting possibility. Relegation is either going to be the opportunity to bring these players on, or is going to be the moment when our wonderful academy breaks apart. I’m desperately hoping for the latter.

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