19/12/2009 17:00, Report by Nick Coppack
Fulham 3 United 0
Receiving the ball 35 yards out and facing his own goal, Scholes dallied long enough to allow Danny Murphy to nip in and win possession. The former Liverpool midfielder advanced, picked his spot and fired low past Kuszczak from 20 yards to give the home side the lead.
And it almost got worse for United just after the half-hour mark. Gera and Zamora, who had combined so well to fashion Gera’s earlier chance, caused more havoc inside the Reds’ penalty area before Zamora headed wide at the back post.
Possession is key when playing 3-5-2 but, the opening 10 minutes aside, the champions struggled to assert themselves on the game in the first half. There was certainly little forward thrust from the Reds, as Fulham’s midfielders worked hard to press United and force early long balls.
The half-time break came as something of a relief to the Reds, but any instructions the manager issued at the interval required instant reassessment when Fulham went 2-0 up just 19 seconds after the restart. Damien Duff found space on the right and crossed to the back post where Clint Dempesy nodded the ball back across goal for Zamora to slam home on the half-volley. It was a cruel blow for United but no less than Zamora deserved for his impressive performance.
Fulham’s second goal prompted United to revert to 4-4-2 and make two substitutions. Ritchie De Laet made way for Fabio, who went to right back as Darren Fletcher moved into the centre of defence, while Dimitar Berbatov replaced Darron Gibson and Wayne Rooney drifted out to the left flank.
The change almost paid instant dividends, as Berbatov teed up Rooney inside the box to fire just wide of the far post. The Bulgarian injected some much-needed creativity to the United side and he was again responsible for creating another Reds chance a few minutes later. This time Scholes miscued his shot from the edge of the area and the ball rolled harmlessly wide for a