Fulham vs. Manchester United: Final score 1-3, Red Devils only need to play one half

Clive Rose

The first 22 minutes of this game were awful from Fulham. So awful that Manchester United didn't bother to play the remaining 78 and won easily anyway.

Manchester United only needed to put together one half of decent football on Saturday, thanks to Fulham's inability to mount a serious challenge. The visitors scored three early goals at Craven Cottage, checked out for the most part, then coasted to a 3-1 win.

Fulham have struggled defensively all season and were absolutely horrific at the back during the game's opening half-hour. Though there were concerns about offside on all three of Manchester United's early goals, they were all marginal at best, with the Cottagers failing to properly execute the offside trap they were trying to pull off.

Antonio Valencia scored the opener off a run into the box from Wayne Rooney, who completely lost Philippe Senderos. He drew multiple defenders towards him on the left side of the box and baited a couple more to run all the way to the goal line. That left Valencia unmarked and able to tap in Rooney's square ball in the 9th minute.

Scott Parker helped Fulham hit back with a through ball to Dimitar Berbatov, creating an excellent scoring opportunity in the box, but Berbatov waited too long to shoot and had the ball picked off him by Rafael. Two minutes later, United extended their lead through Robin van Persie, who smashed a shot into the roof of the net from 12 yards after Adnan Januzaj won the ball off Parker and played him in on goal.

The game was more or less put away two minutes later, when van Persie beat the offside trap and squared for Rooney to finish from close range.

At halftime, David Moyes surprised everyone by making three changes, bringing on Chris Smalling, Marouane Fellaini and Shinji Kagawa for Jonny Evans, Tom Cleverley and Rafael.

Fulham couldn't get much going until Alexander Kacaniklic entered the game in the 61st minute, but he made a big impact right away and was the home side's most effective player for the game's final half-hour. He scored to make things interesting in the 65th minute, hitting a shot that deflected off Rooney, giving David De Gea no chance to make a save.

Moyes' decision to make three halftime subs almost backfired when Phil Jones picked up a knock not long after the goal, but he was able to continue. Fulham generated a few more scoring chances -- Darren Bent's strike of the crossbar in the 84th minute the most notable -- but they were never able to mount a serious comeback.

Fulham: Stekelenburg, Richardson, Senderos, Amorebieta, Riether, Parker (Bent 83'), Sidwell, Kasami, Ruiz (Taarabt 74'), Dejahah (Kaciniclic 61'), Berbatov

Goals: Kacaniklic (65')

Manchester United: De Gea, Evra, Evans (Fellaini 46'), Vidic, Rafael (Smalling 46'), Jones, Cleverley (Kagawa 46'), Januzaj, Rooney, Valencia, van Persie

Goals: Valencia (9'), van Persie (20'), Rooney (22')

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