Sky Sports predicted United would finish the season 4th, suffering from losing Ruud’s goals, and with some logic, paying over the odds for Carrick would damage our season. They also predicted United would open the season with a 2-2 draw against Fulham, saying it would be a “frustrating afternoon” for us. When Saha opened the scoring on 7 minutes, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how wrong they were. 4 goals later from the boys in red, and United hold top spot in the league on the opening weekend of the Premiership, a place they are going to work hard to defend.
If anyone needed to get a goal today, it was Saha. It is Ferguson’s faith in him that contributed to Ruud’s decision to move, and therefore it was imperative Louis repaid this faith. He knocked the ball on to Giggs, who returned it with an inch perfect cross, which Saha effortlessly nodded in to the back of the net. 1-0. 8 minutes later, a cross to Rooney was put in to the back of the net by Fulham’s defender Pearce. 2-0. Just a minute later, Saha’s volley was saved, momentarily, only for Rooney to find the back of the net. 3-0. 3 minutes later, more great play by Rooney set up Ronaldo, who rifled the ball in to the back of the net, deafening any weak attempts of booing from the Fulham crowd. 4-0. 20 minutes played, and United, easily four goals in front. Their movement on and off the ball was brilliant, chances coming from all directions, with players queuing up to score. Paul Scholes had a great strike denied by the woodwork, which after rebounding off the keeper, came painfully close to crossing the line.
A few minutes before half time, a weak Helguson shot was cruelly deflected off Rio, rising over Van Der Sar’s head and dipping just under the bar, sparking chants of “5-4, we’re going to win 5-4” from the otherwise silent Fulham fans.
After the break, Giggs would be justified in feeling hard done by. Michael Brown lunged at and stamped on Giggs, but for some reason, only received a yellow. If the referee had view of the incident, which clearly he did because a card came out, there should have been no option other than sending the player off. It’s occasions like this which make the latest 3 match ban of Rooney even more laughable, and equally frustrating. Not long after, as Giggs searched to find another goal with a cross in the box, the ball was blocked by the hand of Rosenior. No penalty.
Park and Ole came on with half an hour to play, and added new life in to the United attack. Solskjaer, whose appearance called for a massive cheer from the fans, and several chants, was good going forward, and got himself in to several good positions.
Wes Brown, who had moved to right back at the start of the second half, filling the place of Gary Neville, had several runs down the right flank, linking up well with Ronaldo. It reminded me of being at Old Trafford several years ago, when the inexperienced Brown was encouraged by the crowd all game as he ran up and down that wing (with little to show for it!). Ronaldo fed the ball to Brown, who slotted it straight to the feet of Rooney, who put away his second of the game. 5-1.
Saha and Ronaldo both had a great chance each, which on any other day, would have been painful to see go wide. The chances came thick and fast, right up until the final whistle, with Ronaldo and Rooney finding the energy from somewhere to continue to charge at Fulham’s box. 5-1 was a rather flattering final score to Fulham, who had been completely overpowered by United from start to finish.
There were several high points to take from the game, aside from the great scoreline. Patrice Evra, who had generally been considered as a bit of a flop in his few months at United, played out of his skin. He made several brilliant challenges, and looked extremely competent throughout the game, which is great assurance as we wait for Heinze to return. Before the season kicked off, Giggs stressed the importance of a team effort in terms of scoring goals this season. United certainly did that today.
Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It is just one game, and who knows what’s going to happen midweek. But the important thing here is that we’ve got off to the ideal start. With no Scholes and Rooney for the next three games, we need as much working in our favour as possible. I think the confidence boost the lads will have got today will be helpful for the games without two of our most creative and dangerous players.
Top of the league for now, and something to shut people up with. Long may it continue.
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