5 Things We Learned: Fulham 1-3 Manchester United

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By Shane Connaughton.

1. United will be disappointed not to have gone out of sight

It made a great change to a game in that United were cruising in to a 3-0 lead after only 22 minutes, rather than having to struggle to find their feet in the game. After Wayne Rooney slotted in the third goal, you wondered how many United could notch up, however they will be disappointed not to have added to this tally with just over three quarters of the game still to play. While Man City were scoring for fun back in Manchester, United seemed to take their foot off the gas for the rest of the half and indeed much of the second. United failed to find any fluency after their early onslaught although being forced to make three substitutions at half-time was not ideal in this regard. When Alex Kacaniklic’s shot deflected past David de Gea you wondered if Fulham could set up a tense finale with a second and they almost did after a scramble in the United box. They did seem to be turning up the pressure on United but perhaps with a bit more craft could have got one back. David Moyes will feel as though his side could have added to their tally which would have sent out a clear message to the rest of the league, however looking back he will be delighted with three points which is ultimately what matters.

2. Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney turned in another great performance and had a hand in two of Manchester United’s goals, setting up the first for Antonio Valencia and grabbing United’s third from Robin van Persie’s cross. Given that United didn’t score after this speaks volumes as he was still one of the better performers. No one can direct blame at him for Fulham’s goal; Kacaniklic’s shot came off Rooney as he tried to block it. The fact that he was back there in the first place shows just how hungry he is to help out the team when they are under pressure. Rooney’s issue with being played out of his favourite forward position by Alex Ferguson is well-documented, however Rooney is not the type of centre-forward as Javier Hernandez, for example, or Torres or Aguero in that he’s happy to get back and do the dirty work rather than just holding the line up top. It’s his desire to get on the ball and be a part of it which sets him apart and you can see why he was sometimes used in United’s engine room at times given his work-rate. His physique ultimately helps him out in this regard also. It seems like we repeat ourselves each week when we talk about Wayne Rooney but given his performances I don’t think anyone can really complain.

3. Januzaj sets an example for Nani to follow

Adnan Januzaj was given his third Premier League start and dispossessed Scott Parker to set up the goal for Van Persie. While he and the rest of side seemed to allow their dominance to wane in the second half, it is his attitude that has really impressed me. By this I mean his willingness to get up off the ground when he’s been fouled or simply been the victim of a firm but fair challenge. Given his physique he’s very likely to be the subject of such tough tacklers and it’s no surprise to hear his manager come out and call for more protection for the teenager. However, this doesn’t seem to have affected him one bit and it is refreshing to see him get on with play when he’s sent to the deck. Compared this with the behaviour of Nani, who stays down after any contact, even if it is a fair challenge. This type of attitude is very frustrating to watch and must be as well for his teammates. Against Stoke last week he stayed down in their half after a fair challenge and seemed to take an age for him to get back to his feet. He should want to get up and rejoin play and help his team considering in this scenario we were a goal down in front of our home crowd. David Moyes has rotated his team quite a bit this season which is no harm considering there is usually a game every 3-4 days. However, you’d hope that for the so-called big games that he has a favoured starting eleven and on the evidence of the last few weeks, Januzaj’s name should be on the teamsheet for the visit of league-leaders Arsenal this weekend.

4. Carrick’s absence

With Michael Carrick forced to sit this one out, David Moyes started with Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley in central midfield. They probably couldn’t have imagined an easier first half and it was just as well that the three goals were scored early on. Cleverley was substituted at half time after suffering blurred vision and was replaced with Marouane Fellaini. It was slightly surprising to not see the Belgian get a start here, considering that it is game time he needs to prove himself to the United fans after a less than impressive start. It seems that the deeper midfield role is the one earmarked for him by Moyes but so far he hasn’t looked that assertive. His performance here was decent but nothing of particular note. On another day Carrick’s absence could have had a more profound effect as he brings a stability to the midfield and offers up more of a passing game than the rest of his colleagues.

5. Sometimes a win comes at a cost

As noted above Michael Carrick missed the game through injury and will probably miss the Champions League game with Real Sociedad also. David Moyes wouldn’t have expected to make three changes at half time and it looks like Tom Cleverley, Jonny Evans and Rafael will play no part. This ultimately means changes in United’s back four which has remained fairly consistent for the majority of the season. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are able deputies while Moyes will need to assess his best options in midfield for Tuesday’s game but will be hoping these injuries don’t carry themselves in to next Sunday’s showdown with Arsenal.

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