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Around them, there were rare starts for Tomasz Kuszczak and Darron Gibson, while Paul Scholes returned from suspension and John O'Shea and Anderson from injury.
Chris Smalling, in action for the first time against his former club since his move to Old Trafford last summer, looked every inch a distinguished defender. He tackled fearlessly, passed assuredly and won the majority of his aerial duels in both penalty areas.
Of course, there was no Wayne Rooney for Manchester United as the striker served the first of his two-game domestic suspension after being charged by the Football Association for using “offensive, abusive and/or insulting language” in the Reds' 4-2 win over West Ham last weekend.
In Rooney's absence, Dimitar Berbatov led the line in what was only his third start in United's last 12 fixtures. And it was the Bulgarian who shook the Reds out of their early slumber, firing United into the lead on 12 minutes.
Nani must be credited for much of its invention, the Portuguese jinking past a number of would-be Fulham tacklers and playing a neat one-two with Anderson before laying the ball off to Berbatov on his left to finish with a cool side-footted shot into the far corner.
Fulham's early bluster disappeared completely. For the rest of the half, the home side was comfortable in possession and carved out regular chances. Anderson wasted the best of those the Reds failed to convert, screwing his shot wide on 19 minutes, while Valencia and Nani caused havoc on the flanks.