Fulham punish poor United
Manchester United squandered the chance to put pressure on Chelsea as they lost 3-0 at Fulham.
Last Updated: 19/12/09 5:28pm
Manchester United squandered the chance to put pressure on Chelsea at the top of the table as they were undone by a fantastic Fulham performance at Craven Cottage.
Roy Hodgson's men have been in fine form of late and they produced a devastating blend of attacking quality and defensive organisation to overcome the reigning Premier League champions 3-0.
Sir Alex Ferguson was once again forced to field a makeshift back four but it was a mistake by seasoned midfielder Paul Scholes which led to the opening goal as Danny Murphy won possession before drilling a low shot past Tomasz Kuszczak.
Bobby Zamora crashed home a second from close range in the opening minute of the second half before setting up Damien Duff for a third in the 75th minute.
With Jonny Evans, John O'Shea, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Wes Brown in the treatment room, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Ritchie De Laet were asked to form a flimsy three-man rearguard for United.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen started in attack but the latter was anonymous and even when Dimitar Berbatov stepped off the bench in the second half they were toothless.
The result has strengthened Fulham's reputation as the scourge of the big four - earned last season - and registered their second successive victory against United.
In March they beat Sir Alex Ferguson's side for the first time in 45 years but this triumph was more comprehensive in every aspect.
As early as the 17th minute Fulham looked capable of emulating last season's heroics against the Red Devils thanks to a wonderful move started by Clint Dempsey.
The American floated in a long pass to Zamora who expertly chested the ball down into the path of Zoltan Gera but the Hungarian directed his shot too close to goalkeeper Kuszczak when he had the goal at his mercy.
Duff should have produced a better conclusion to one run into the box but Fulham only had to wait until the 22nd minute to storm into the lead when they capitalised on an error by Scholes.
Fletcher passed to Scholes but the former England midfielder was too slow in reacting, allowing Murphy to snatch the ball from his feet and fire a 30-yard effort into the net.
Zamora should have made it 2-0 but nodded Gera's precision cross wide from six yards out after doing the hard work in outjumping Fletcher.
Quick thinking from Patrice Evra and Rooney created a half-chance for Anderson but Fulham reacted so rapidly to the threat that by the time he pulled the trigger he was blocked by a wall of white shirts.
United's problems deepened a minute into the second half when their patched-up defence was unpicked once more as Fulham extended their lead.
Duff supplied the cross to the far post where Dempsey was able to deflect the ball into the path of Zamora who rifled home from close range.
In desperate need of inspiration, a lacklustre United brought on Berbatov for Darron Gibson and switched to a three-pronged strike force.
Needing a third goal to kill-off United, who were showing tentative signs of a fightback, Duff obliged in the 75th minute.
The visitors failed to clear their lines, allowing the brilliant Zamora to set up Duff who smashed the ball home from 15 yards out.
Delirious Fulham fans chanted "we want four, we want four" and Zamora would have given it to them had Kuszczak not made a superb late save.
|Fulham||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||2|
|3||Shots off Target||12|