Barclays Premier League Under-21s
Fulham vs. Manchester United
Venue: Craven Cottage
Date: Tuesday, 28 April 2015
Kick-off: 19:00 BST
It was double trouble for Manchester United’s U21s as a brace apiece for Robin van Persie and Joe Rothwell secured an emphatic 4-1 victory away at Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Leading 3-0 at half-time, United had the game wrapped up inside the first 45 minutes, as Van Persie also hit the post and bar, on his way to 80 minutes of football before being replaced, in order to boost his match fitness.
As United kicked off their intent was there for all to see, winning a corner inside the opening minute.
The corner ended up with Sean Goss, whose cross looking for Van Persie was cut out, but only as far as Liam Grimshaw, whose first time effort was deflected over the bar.
Liam Donnelly intercepted Rothwell’s through ball as Van Persie looked to race onto the end of it, before Andreas Pereira fooled the Fulham defence and cut back onto his left foot, but his weaker foot effort was comfortably held by Magnus Norman.
The front three then combined for the opening goal, as Adnan Januzaj and Pereira’s one-two saw the latter play in Van Persie, who, in trademark fashion, calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner (Vine).
The Fulham defence was breached once more less than 10 minutes later, as Rothwell beat the offside trap after being threaded through by Januzaj, before sliding the ball past Norman (Vine).
A sublime ball over the top from the right from Januzaj beat the Fulham defence as Van Persie stretchered to meet the ball first time, and as the ball struck his left foot on the full, it also struck the post after beating Norman, as Fulham survived.
A rare Fulham attack was cut out by Tyler Blackett and the ball fell to Adetayo Edun, but he fired over rashly from the edge of the penalty area.
Rothwell then bagged his second of the game, seemingly calling for the ball as Pereira allowed Januzaj’s pass back to the edge of the Fulham area to run through to Rothwell, which left United’s number seven with the task to finish it off, and he duly obliged to do so, stroking the ball past Norman, to give United an emphatic half-time lead (Vine).
Into the second half and Van Persie, looking to follow in Rothwell’s footsteps by bagging a second, saw a shot blocked.
The home side’s first real chance of the night fell to their left-back, as Jordan Evans ran at United’s defence, before firing a shot well wide when he perhaps should have drilled a low cross across goal.
Evans really was looking more adventurous than in the first half, as his cross to the back post hit the arm of Andy Kellett, but the referee deemed it unintentional, before another mazy run was ended by a tackle from Donald Love.
Again Evans venturing forward found room to cross, and as Tom Thorpe cleared, the ball fell to Josh Smile, but his shot went high into the stands.
Januzaj played in the overlapping Kellett, and the full-back pulled the ball back for Van Persie, but his right foot effort deflected off the sliding Jonathan Buatu and struck the bar, as the Dutchman was thwarted by the woodwork once more.
Substitute Lucas De La Torre found Noe Baba with a cross, but the latter’s effort forced a fine right-handed save by Anders Lindegaard.
Donnelly showed why he is a centre-halve, playing a one-two with another substitute, Stephen Humphrys, before lashing a wild shot well wide of the target.
Rothwell was involved in the final goal of the night, assisting Van Persie with a delightful through ball, as the number nine chipped the ball over Norman with his weaker right foot (Vine).
Ryheem Sheckleford was booked for a foul on Januzaj before Goss was withdrawn with an injury, as Fulham grabbed a consolation in stoppage time as their two subs combined, with De La Torre’s cross headed home by Humphrys.
Ange-Freddy Plumain saw a shot saved behind by Lindegaard, as the full-time whistle blew in West London.
United have just one clean sheet in their last 16 games which will be something for Warren Joyce to address, but four good goals and an excellent overall performance will outweigh any negative aspects.
Arguably the most comfortable first half of the season was followed up by a professional job in the second.
Southampton at home awaits next Monday, as United kept the title in their own hands with just three games remaining.
Manchester United: Lindegaard; Love, Thorpe, Blackett, Kellett; Rothwell, Grimshaw, Goss; Januzaj, Van Persie, A. Pereira.
Subs: Weir, O’Hara, Fletcher, Willock, El Fitouri
Manager: Warren Joyce
Fulham: Norman; Sheckleford, Buatu Mananga, Donnelly, Evans; Baba, Edun; Mesca, Smile, Plumain; Redford.
Subs: Rodak, De La torre, Humphrys, Elworthy.