Match Report: Manchester United 2-2 Fulham

Manchester United 2-2 Fulham

Even in this season where nothing can be taken for granted, we really didn’t expect this. Most of United’s failings at home this season have come as a result of our inability to control games against weaker opposition. That really wasn’t the case here, yet we allowed Fulham to grab a lead and hold it until late into the second half and then, with the game apparently trundling towards its close and a United victory, Darren Bent popped up at the end of injury team to secure an equaliser for the Premiership’s bottom club.

Fulham started like the bunch of youngsters and journeymen they’d appeared to be on the team sheet, more a group of bewildered individuals gathering together in the aftermath of a plane crash than a coordinated team. United attacked in numbers, thwarted only by the numbers of bodies in the opposition box before the unthinkable happened. Holtby, secured from Spurs in the transfer window, floated a decent ball into the United box; decent, but the kind of thing you’d expect a United central defence to intercept and snuff out. As it was, Sidwell timed his run perfectly and was allowed to make it by four United players before slotting home the pass completely unchallenged.

Old Trafford, not for the first time this season, held its collective breath. Were we about to witness a disastrous defeat that would dwarf all the other disastrous defeats in this campaign? It wasn’t to be the case, although the eventual outcome was almost as bad. United didn’t so much come back strongly as continue to apply the pressure that preceded the goal, Mata floating a delightful ball to the far post for Young to see his header saved by the increasingly busy Stekelenburg; Carrick then unleashed a shot from twenty yards that went narrowly wide.
Despite United’s dominance the next clear cut chance fell again to Fulham, former Red Keiron Richardson surging forward on the break to find himself with only De Gea to beat, only to blaze his shot high over the bar. United sprang back, relieved not to be two goals down, with Carrick and Van Persie seeing shots blocked in quick succession before Vidic placed his towering header from the resulting corner into the clutches of Stekelenburg. Remarkably, however, it was Fulham who went in at half-time with the advantage, and indeed almost caught the Reds on the break again in the closing seconds, Rooney crucially tracking back to cut out Richardson’s teasing cross.

The ref’s whistle was not greeted with the chorus of boos you’d expect to hear when losing to a team at the bottom of the table, more by a stunned silence. There was no more suitable reaction, because it was hard to see exactly what United had done wrong, aside from the defending on the goal. Mata, though nominally deployed on the right, was coming infield to allow Rafael to surge forward on the touchline; Fletcher was supplying the kind of energy in midfield that allowed Carrick the time to move and play the ball around; Rooney was energetic, Van Persie lively and Young, although a poor cross towards the end of the half resulted in a corner after a strangely panicked Riise put it over his own bar, wasn’t doing a lot wrong either.

Despite the scoreline, more of the same, with added urgency, seemed the most obvious response in the second half. Which is pretty much what happened. Rooney had a golden chance in the 55th minute, but Stekelenburg somehow managed to claw his shot away. The Reds were denied a clear penalty shortly after when Byrne padded the ball away from Van Persie with his hand.

Unsurprisingly, the call for Januzaj went out and was answered on the hour when the young Belgian was brought on with a familiar briefing: save the game and United’s season. A cross from the teenager came close to achieving the breakthrough almost immediately. It was met by Ashley Young who cut back for Rooney, whose shot was weak and once again gathered by the Fulham keeper. Soon after another cross from the same source brought a header from Young, which was again cleared, but the increased danger engineered by the substitution was already apparent.

By this point, formations had pretty much gone out of the window. If it was possible for Fulham to become even more rooted in their own half then that’s what happened, while further substitutions saw United finish the game with Rooney, Van Persie, Mata, Chicharito, Januzaj and Valencia all on the pitch, a clear illustration of the desperation of the situation in the last twenty minutes of the game. The equaliser came at the end of a goalmouth scramble that looked again to have ended in frustration but Mata’s ball somehow found its way to Van Persie, who scored with a tap-in. The second goal wasn’t far away. Januzaj’s cross was only partly cleared and the ball fell to Carrick whose shot gained a fortuitous deflection on its way to goal. All previous deflections had very much been in the favour of the away team, so it was almost a shock to see the ball hit the back of the net. Understandably, the ripple of relief that went around Old Trafford was audible.

And that should have been it but, with seconds remaining in injury time, Carrick was dispossessed by Sidwell, who found Richardson, whose shot was saved well by De Gea only for the rebound to fall to Bent, who struck to gain the most unlikely point that any side will secure in the Premiership this season. There will, of course, be strengthened calls for the head of Moyes after this draw, which surely makes it very difficult for United now to secure a Champions League place next season. And yet this was a game in which, apparently, United broke the Premiership record for the number of crosses and in which the long-standing critique of a failure to dominate games wasn’t a factor. Something is not right. While it’s far more difficult to pinpoint what it is than some people are claiming, it’s hard to imagine many sides of the recent past fail to see out a result like this having fought so hard to secure the advantage. The most prominent activity among fans leaving Old Trafford was the shaking and scratching of heads; better than a crescendo of boos, maybe, but a reaction that sums up our current plight better than a million articles on the subject ever could.

15 Comments

  1. When Young came off we looked a lot more threatening because there was more variety about our play. When he was still on the pitch, it looked like a looping video clip, give the ball to Young, he messes a cross, then do it again and again and again. No creativity, no ideas, no problem for a 10 man Fulham defence. I have no idea why Young is still in the squad and I hope he is one of the many who will be moving on in the summer.

  2. Good report, but its one thing i wonder. Why did Vidic play a bad ball to Carrick and put him under pressure in the dying minutes of the game instead of playing safe. I think Vidic must take the blame for the equalizer as its no point taking risks in own defence. It has seemed all season that Vidic at times has turned off his concentration and put others unneccessary under pressure. Vidic is a good player but im certain both Evans, Jones and Smalling in a similar situation would have cleared the ball to safety.

  3. Stunned,just stunned.the football gods are truly against us! Now watch Liverpool go on and sneak the title, I honestly do not know who to blame anymore.

  4. An absolute fantastic result, Man Hoof just about scraping a draw against Fulham (the Premier Leagues bottom team) will keep Moyes in his job and that ensures the long ball garbage Man Hoof will remain in mid-table indeffinitely. Any top team would have had Man Hoof buried by halftime today. Man Hoof will finish no higher than 7th, there will be no European Hoofball next season in Salford and a thrashing by Arsenal coming up in midweek.

    Long ball GARBAGE!.

  5. I think Carrick should also share blame for the 2nd goal as his partner fletcher should take blame for 1st goal. DM, needs to drop either Rooney or RvP, play the other as striker and Mata in the hole. Valencia and januzaj on the wings. Less crosses and more drive ins from the wings.

  6. Does no one else blame De Gea? Yet again he could of simply pushed the ball wide or over the bar, yet again (e.g against Swansea) he gifted the goal to a striker. Not good enough. Something is clearly not right, moyes is to blame but so is the players. Top 4 is gone. Maybe even top 6. Be good if we did win Champs League and Liverpool finished 4 thus they couldn’t enter the competition.

    • I don’t think you can blame de gea, you talking about a shot hit from 6-8 yards out from (if am correct) richardson who have a very hard shot on him. I think it was a very save from him. Defenders were too slow reacting to the rebound.

      Too many errors were made

      1) why didn’t Vidic just head it as hard as he could? With 2 minutes to play just get rid of the ball!!!!

      2) where was our right back Valencia?

      3) how did a long desperate punt up in a 4on4 situation?!!!

      This isn’t the 1st time Moyes changed it and had Valencia at right back when chasing a game. When’s he going to learn his useless tracking back and he doesn’t do much when going forward!

  7. im tellin you the solution is simple

    de gea
    rafael smalling jones evra
    valenica mata kagawa janujaz
    rooney RVP

    attack fro the wings AND through the middle… aka a plan B!!!

    when will it b learnt that flethcer carrick cleverley should never be chosen together in the middle… its TERRIBLE!!!

    as soon as the team selection was posted by utd on twitter… i immediately responded stating the team selection was poor… and it was!!!

    wasted time with terrible crosses from the wing! and no other option of attack… seriously how dumb is moyes that after millions of failed crosses from the wing he didnt realise we need to try something different???

    • Moyes has,nt really got much going on Upstairs as regards horses for courses.Having said that United will probably win against Arsenal cause Wenger is,nt all that quick either,when it comes to tactics,Arsenal can pass the ball around all day and he will think they played best.

  8. Meulensteen said United played a ‘straightforward’ game, get it out wide, get in early crosses. For ‘straightforward’ read ‘predictable’, ‘one-dimensional’ and no plan ‘B’.

    On the hour mark I thought plan ‘B’ had arrived. Moyes sent on Januzaj with 45 seconds worth of instructions. But then he played him on the wing, to get some crosses in. 45 seconds of instructions for that?

    Alas, no plan B.

    Defence was a horror story, back four and midfield. Fulham had five attacks and could have scored five goals.

  9. The defence sucked,the tactics sucked with all the crosses to a packed defence.Just think that it,s a shame for the fans mostly.Whats wrong then.Maybe a good defence and good counter attack is the answer,because what good is all the possession when it,s all so predictable.The question is ,did you learn anything David?

    • Meulensteen:You need a bit of creativity,variety to open things up.
      Moyes:We just go into the next game and take teams on and challenge them,we are a good team (We are ManU)
      Something or aura somewhere is missing,like a screw or lightbulb or fantasy.It,s reflected in the team,like a mirror.As Paul McCartney said.We were just an ordinary rythem quartet that JELLED TOGETHER.

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