FULHAM VS MANCHESTER UNITED
02.11.2013

United travelled to fifteenth placed Fulham who appear to be slipping into a relegation dogfight that new owner Shahid Khan surely didn’t envisage when he took over from Michael Jackson fan al-Fayed.  

PERSONNEL

In: De Gea, Evans, Evra, Valencia, van Persie and Rooney.
Out: Lindegaard, Rafael,Ferdinand, Buttner, Zaha, Young and Hernandez.

KEY POINTS

  • Fulham’s abysmal defending in the first half, particularly the first 30 minutes as they tried (badly) to play the offside trap gifted United an unassailable lead.
  • Rooney and van Persie’s partnership appears to be developing well.
  • The forced substitutions at half time slowed United down but also the subs were unable to resist the inevitable Fulham improvement.
  • Rooney dropping deep as a result of the changes lost the impetus going forward and that connection with van Persie.
  • Kagawa and Januzaj swapping sides and moving across the line were interesting to note.

FIRST HALF

1ST HALF United’s first half formation

This first twenty five minutes was amazing to watch; easy, 3-0 up.  

1-0:- an example of poor defending from Fulham as three players followed Jones into the six yard box, three on one why? This was preceded by the central defenders not aligning and thus playing a poor offside trap.

POOR DEFENDING FROM FULHAM ON UTD FIRST GOAL

2-0:- Januzaj was allowed to run unchallenged from within the Fulham half towards the goal after a slip from Parker. He played in van Persie who was on the shoulder of Senderos, similar to the first goal.

SPACE FOR UTD FIRST HALF

3-0:- another poor offside trap as Rooney scored United’s third as he became the player to score the most goals against Fulham in the Premier League.

Fulham’s offside trap was not working and there was an abundance of space in the midfield due to Fulham’s deep defence with their fullbacks playing very narrow as part of a flat 4-4-2 formation.

PLAYING ON THE SHOULDER

Up front there was no pressure on United’s defence, to be expected from a forward line of Ruiz and Berbatov; Fulham’s only real threat came from corners.

United were playing well and two main players were Rooney who looked like he was enjoying himself as he played flicks and made plenty of smart runs. The lad ran tings! The other player was Valencia who pressed on the right and was closing down at every opportunity, as were all United players were in fairness.

Fulham discarded the 4-4-2 shape as Berbatov stayed on his own as Ruiz came deep, it wasn’t just that, Dejagah also came inward. United were no longer as dominant yet i the play went past Berbatov then Fulham looked lost.

SECOND HALF

2ND HALF United’s second half shape

Big changes. Rafael, Evans and Cleverley all came off due to injuries for Kagawa, Smalling and Fellaini. This changed United’s play somewhat with Valencia moving to right back but playing very high as the heat map graphic below indicates.  

ACTION AREA FIRST HALF

Januzaj and Kagawa came inside from each wings as Rooney came central and dropped in what appeared to be a solution to help the playing style similarity of the Jones and Fellaini combination.

Rooney dropped further and further back as Sidwell pushed on, this made a difference. Fulham’s slight improvement was helped by United who’d lost that pace and tenacity in closing players down which we saw in the first half; the offshoot of this was that Fulham scored following a deflection off Rooney. This summed up how deep he and the rest of the team were playing with van Persie in particular not involved as much as a result.

ROONEY DROPPING DEEP BEFORE FULHAM GOAL

CONCLUSION

This was a good performance, the first half more so than the second. In the first United attacked and they exploited the spaces and the poor defending by Fulham. It is fair to say that the injuries forced Moyes’ hand and as a result slowed the pace of the game down.

Fellaini sat alongside Jones but found himself high up the pitch on occasion. He still appears a mechanical player in that there’s no fluidity or spark about him…yet. Kagawa did not play well either and Smalling moving centrally was a better fit than going right back. Valencia played well both as a winger and a full back, offering runs from deep in the second half but it was his first half performance which stood out as he drove the play on. It has been said before but his connection with Rafael is pleasing. It was surprising though, given the recent talk of Rooney (Mark 2) playing well, to see him in midfield dropping back to help that space which Kacaniklic began to exploit; selfless play of Rooney of old?

There was no doubt that the substitutions were to the detriment of United’s play.

Fulham suffered from their forward line being too similar in approach. We know about Berbatov and Ruiz was more ineffectual dropping into midfield and becoming a passenger.

This was a step in the right direction and it was great to see how devastating Rooney and van Persie combined.