Cottagers thrash sorry Red Devils

Manchester United’s Premier League title bid suffered a humiliating

setback with a 3-0 thrashing at Fulham, who were inspired by Bobby

Zamora.

Danny Murphy opened the scoring from 30 yards after

capitalising on a blunder by Paul Scholes and Zamora continued his

rich vein of form with the second a minute after the interval.

It was Zamora’s fifth goal in four games and a player who was

the target of jeers from his own fans just three weeks ago heard

his name chanted as he left the pitch to a standing ovation.

The former West Ham marksman – a menace all afternoon – had

helped complete the rout of the champions by setting up the third

for Damien Duff in the 76th minute.

Just as worrying for an abysmal United side as their second

Premier League defeat in three games was the knowledge they were

overwhelmed in every department.

Lacking in imagination and confidence, their crippling injury

list has clearly caught up with them as they missed the chance to

draw level with Chelsea at the top of the table and suffered a

fifth loss of the season.

Nemanja Vidic’s failure to recover from a calf strain forced

Sir Alex Ferguson to once again field a makeshift defence, which

was repeatedly exposed by Fulham.

With Jonny Evans, John O’Shea, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand

and Wes Brown in the treatment room, Michael Carrick, Darren

Fletcher and Ritchie De Laet were asked to form a flimsy three-man

rearguard.

Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen started in attack but the

latter was anonymous and even when Dimitar Berbatov stepped off the

bench in the second half they were toothless.

The result has strengthened Fulham’s reputation as the

scourge of the big four – earnt last season – and registered their

second successive victory against United.

In March they beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s side for the first

time in 45 years by the same scoreline but this triumph was more

comprehensive in every aspect.

As early as the 17th minute Fulham looked capable of

emulating last season’s heroics against the Red Devils thanks to a

wonderful move started by Clint Dempsey.

The American floated in a long pass to Zamora who expertly

chested the ball down into the path of Zoltan Gera but the

Hungarian directed his shot too close to goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak

when he had the goal at his mercy.

Duff should have produced a better conclusion to one run into

the box but Fulham only had to wait until the 22nd minute to storm

into the lead when they capitalised on an error by Scholes.

Fletcher passed to Scholes but the former England midfielder

was too slow in reacting, allowing Murphy to snatch the ball from

his feet and fire a 30-yard effort into the net.

Zamora should have made it 2-0 but nodded Gera’s precision

cross wide from six yards out after doing the hard work in

outjumping Fletcher.

Quick thinking from Evra and Rooney created a half-chance for

Anderson but Fulham reacted so rapidly to the threat that by the

time he pulled the trigger he was blocked by a wall of white

shirts.

United’s problems deepened a minute into the second half when

their patched-up defence was unpicked once more as Fulham extended

their lead.

Duff supplied the cross to the far post where Dempsey was

able to deflect the ball into the path of Zamora who rifled home

from close range.

In desperate need of inspiration, a lacklustre United brought

on Berbatov for Gibson and switched to a three-pronged strikeforce.

Needing a third goal to kill-off United, who were showing

tentative signs of a fightback, Duff obliged in the 75th minute.

The visitors failed to clear their lines, allowing the

brilliant Zamora to set-up Duff who smashed the ball home from 15

yards out.

Delirious Fulham fans chanted “we want four, we want four”

and Zamora would have given it to them had Kuszczak not made a

superb late save.