Friday, 20 February 2009

Manchester United 3 - 0 Fulham

Yep - that's right - an away game. I'll put my cards on the table early and repeat that I am primarily a Man United fan, so this game had more than a little interest for me. Bizarrely I also became one of the prawn sandwich brigade for this fixture as I was fortunate enough to be a guest of one of United's primary sponsors.
This entailed being greeted by one of the biggest glasses of champagne I've ever had and the chance to mingle with ex-players - notably Denis Irwin and Andy Ritchie. I'd seen both of these play for Oldham Athletic in the late eighties and early nineties, so this was a particular delight for me. Denis Irwin in particular came across as one of the nicest, most down to earth people ever. maybe I was a little star struck.
Anyway after a three course meal we took to our cushioned seats, on the half way line obviously, to watch a competitive match of football. Only it seems that no-one told Woy Hodgson. I must admit to be slightly worried about Woy's pre-game press conference as it gave the impression that he'd already written off the game at Old Trafford and was willing to rest people in order to get three points against West Brom on Sunday. Unfortunately, this was the case.
A 4-5-1 formation can be quite effective away from home, but not if you concede within 15 minutes, which Fulham did thanks to a rare Mark Schwarzer blunder. There are several plaudits for Paul Scholes' volley direct from a corner, but Schwarzer should have had it. In fact the defence should have marked Scholes as the ball had gone directly to him from the previous corner 30 seconds before.
After that Fulham huffed and puffed but made absolutely no dent on Man United's ridiculous clean sheet record. One dangerous Johnny Paintsil cross from which Bobby Zamora had a header tipped over and another Zamora shot poked wide are probably the only two times that Fulham managed to get into United's box during the whole game.
United's second on the 30 minute mark could again have been prevented by Schwarzer, although Rooney's goal with his first touch after coming on as a sub on the hour mark was mainly undefendable.
Woy's approach to this game was exemplified by two substitutions that came on the pitch. I'd never heard of them. They weren't even in the squad list at the back of the programme. Robert Milson and Wayne Brown both made their first team debuts at Old Trafford, although they didn't really get enough time to make an impression. Some might say that it is good man management from Woy to give them a taste of the big time, but tell that to the fans who made the 400 mile round trip to watch their team capitulate.

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