14/03/2010 15:25, Report by Steve Bartram
United 3 Fulham 0
United moved back to the top of the Barclays Premier League with a hard-fought victory over Roy Hodgson's Fulham at Old Trafford.
Red-hot striker Wayne Rooney grabbed his 31st and 32nd goals of the season in the second half, turning in a pair of close-range finishes after pinpoint crosses from Nani and Dimitar Berbatov, before the Bulgarian added a deserved third goal late on.
United dominated possession for long periods, but had to put in a sweat-soaked shift to overcome a well-drilled, patient Fulham side who defended in large numbers, attacked with purpose and could have broken the deadlock themselves in the first half.
Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora both came close for the Cottagers, but those brief flurries were against the grain in a match dominated for long periods by the champions.
Following his side's tactical triumph against AC Milan, Sir Alex Ferguson and his staff reverted to a more orthodox 4-4-2 set-up for the bread and butter of a Sunday afternoon Premier League clash. Berbatov was restored at the expense of Ji-sung Park, while Michael Carrick returned from suspension to take Paul Scholes' place.
Fulham's sturdy defensive record - one goal conceded in their previous five Premier League games - suggested a tight afternoon, and it took the Reds 11 minutes to fashion any opening of note. Berbatov's superbly-weighted pass released Darren Fletcher, the Scot opted to square for Rooney rather than shoot, and a heroic last-ditch challenge from Stephen Kelly shielded the open goal.
To serve notice of the visitors' threat on the break, however, shortly afterwards Clint Dempsey fired a 30-yard effort fractionally off target after Gary Neville had been dispossessed by Zoltan Gera.
Nani and Berbatov were both heavily involved in United's attacking play throughout the first half, and the pair combined incisively as the winger's cross was glanced just over the crossbar by the Bulgarian. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer was helpless then, but he made a fine save to deny Rooney on the