United almost took the lead after eight minutes as Nani leapt to reach van Persie’s delivery from a corner, resulting in a save from Mark Schwarzer. Evra hit the bar from the rebound and Rooney followed that up with a shot that was cleared off the line. Seconds later Evra had a shot stopped by Schwarzer, while at the other end David De Gea pulled off two fantastic saves; first he turned a long-range John Arne Riise effort over the bar, then he tipped Bryan Ruiz’s low drive onto the post.
Rooney completed a frantic opening 20 minutes with a low shot that went just past the post, and ten minutes later the United no.10 hit the post from the edge of the box after good work from Nani on the wing and Cleverley’s neat lay-off. The woodwork was struck again as Brede Hangeland’s skewed headed clearance looped onto the bar.
United were frustrated by Fulham’s stout defending, the crossbar, the post and even the floodlights, which failed with around two minutes of the first half remaining, plunging Craven Cottage into darkness for ten minutes. The players had to leave the field until the lights came back and completed the half.
The start to the second half felt flat, with a tame van Persie header straight at Schwarzer and a shanked Rafael shot from 25 yards the closest United came before the hour mark. Fulham, for their part, were content to slow the pace of the game right down, putting the onus on the Reds to lift the tempo. But United’s passing wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be.
Chris Baird had an effort saved by De Gea after 63 minutes and then at the other end the combative Cottagers midfielder put the block on Nani’s shot from six yards after van Persie’s pull-back from the byline. Even so, a change was sorely needed to freshen up United’s attack, and