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United's abberation against Liverpool became a blip as Fulham inflicted another shock defeat for the champions at Craven Cottage.
The damage caused by Danny Murphy's first-half penalty and Zoltan Gera's late goal on the break was compounded by red cards for Paul Scholes, for handling a goalbound effort, and substitute Wayne Rooney for two bookable offences. With Nemanja Vidic already banned, the Reds now have three players unable to face Aston Villa on Sunday 5 April.
Sir Alex Ferguson made five changes to the side that suffered a demoralising home defeat to Liverpool. Jonny Evans replaced the suspended Vidic; the other four adjustments recalled Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to the midfield and brought Dimitar Berbatov into attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
Fulham fielded the same team that impressively beat Bolton away last weekend but was crushed 4-0 by United at Craven Cottage in the FA Cup only a fortnight ago. Clint Dempsey had been the Cottagers’ main doubt with a bout of food poisoning but he was involved from the start and how, suffering the first foul from Scholes inside 20 seconds and then striking the first shot wide of the target moments later.
United returned fire with Berbatov heading over from an Evra cross but otherwise Fulham enjoyed most of the opening moments in the spring sunshine. Bobby Zamora and Simon Davies also flexed their shooting muscles, albeit inaccurately.
Craven Cottage has been a happy hunting ground for Ji-sung Park but a poor pass from the Korean led to the first goal and Scholes' dismissal. Davies forced a corner after Park cheaply conceded possession; when Fulham giant Brede Hangeland nodded towards goal from the resulting set-piece, van der Sar