Thursday, December 22, 2011

The View - Fulham vs Manchester United

This was my first visit to Craven Cottage. Waiting outside the ground and looking at the stadium itself, you get the vibe of just how old the stadium is (since 1896). Fulham’s fans waiting in small numbers as their players, unlike at other bigger clubs, arrived to the stadium separately in different mini-vans; all of whom gladly took pictures with the fans and signed autographs, living up to the “family spirit” that Fulham Football Club is recognized for having. The arrival of Manchester United’s team bus however, provoked both sets of supporters to crowd up the entire entry to the stadium. Whereas everyone was trying to get an up-close glimpse of the players, as well as creating havoc, I had ran into Pete Boyle (the man behind the majority of United’s chants) and took a picture with him; unlike Mark Bright who refused to take a picture with me – as he later told me via Twitter that he had “an important phone call”. (Ha! “celebs”)

The Christmas spirit could be felt everywhere. Popular Christmas songs were being played in and around the stadium as I took my seat amongst the United away fans, while admiring the oldness of Craven Cottage. I went to the game on my own, so I ended up randomly talking to a bunch of other United supporters who were all incredibly friendly. As I walked down to the first row of the away fans section to watch the United players warm-up, two things happened which I feel proud of (one, much more than the other): firstly, and more importantly, I feel privileged and lucky enough to be able to say that I shook Sir Bobby Charlton’s hand (while ridiculously asking him to “shake” – don’t blame me I was star struck - also forgot to call him "Sir"!) and secondly I was able to get both United Keepers, Anders Lindergaard and David De Gea to wave to the camera (click here for the video). Lindergaard in particular seemed really sociable, as he kept conversing with fans who would ask him things while he warmed up!

United’s record at Fulham in recent seasons has been poor (1 point out of a possible 9), so I was expecting a tough game initially. But that didn’t happen thankfully. The game got underway and United’s fans were rocking; as were the team. An explosive start was made with Nani, bursting down the left wing before pulling the ball across for Danny Welbeck to side foot it into the back of the net with only 4 minutes played. Fulham looked hopeless as United piled on the pressure. Ryan Giggs, in particular, was outstanding yet again. Chants of “Giggs, Giggs is going to Amsterdam” and “He shags who he wants” kept going around the United fans as the Welsh legend proved once again, that despite his age and off-field problems, he is still the best player on the pitch when called upon. He provided the assist for United’s second goal when his short corner was whipped into the box for Nani to score with an uncharacteristic header. Giggs kept rolling back the years when he scored United’s third, when he was provided with a pass from the right flank by Nani, which he converted, via a massiave deflection, over Fulham’s goalkeeper David Stockdale. Giggs has now kept up with his record of being the only player to ever score in every Premier League season since its inception in 1992-93. The first half was incredibly one-sided and some of the Football on display was breathtaking. Movement down the wings, combined with a determination to win the ball back – there could only be one winner. Lindergaard was barely called into action and was often seen lurking up high towards the middle of the pitch and discussing with Patrice Evra while waiting for Fulham to conjure up something.

Half-time arrived. The wind was now blowing stronger than ever and a call for some beers was justified – as the chants carried on around the refreshment outlets and even in the toilets.

The second half was a different story as Fulham came into it with more aggression and determination. They looked much better. A few opportunities were squandered or brilliantly saved by United’s keeper, particularly down the troublesome left flank, which has become a source of most of United’s conceded goals. But that’s all it was. Pressure. Few chances. Nothing more. For every Fulham attack, United would counter-attack effectively to create chances. Like Jones, who got injured during the first half, Ashley Young also got injured and was taken off – thus pushing Valencia to right-back alongside Nani on the same flank. That created quite a few problems for Fulham as their pace was difficult to deal with. Valencia in particular has looked like his former self with another outstanding performance. Meanwhile, the Anti-Suarez, Anti-racism and of course, the Amsterdam chants, starting ringing in full throttle. This made the atmosphere all the more fun. As the second half went on, the result was never in doubt. Easily keeping possession of the ball, it was only a matter of when the referee would blow the whistle, however with 3 minutes left to play, Wayne Rooney blasted a shot from outside the box which made it 4-0. When was the last time Rooney did something like that? An absolute beauty! It was about time Rooney decided to have a go from outside the box! A couple of minutes later another sweeping move, deep into injury-time, was finished classily with a Berbatov back-heel to make it 5-0. Fulham’s biggest home defeat against Manchester United.

This was probably United’s best performance of the season so far. Especially during the first half. The control was fully in United’s hands. Apart from the obvious performers Giggs, Nani, Rooney, Welbeck and so on, credit has to be given to the defenders as well who also looked a class apart. Smalling was absolutely immense at the back. Evans looked good as well! A sign of things to come? Let’s hope so. Either way, it was a great victory with an even better least in the United end.

1 comment:

  1. I have always found it odd that people who think passive aggressively ignoring a person is making a point to them. The only point it makes to anyone is your inability to articulate your point of view because deep down you know you can’t win. It’s better to assert yourself and tell the person you are moving on without them and why, rather than leave a lasting impression of cowardness on your part in a person’s mind by avoiding them.