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
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
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
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
United’s problems deepened a minute into the second half when
their patched-up defence was unpicked once more as Fulham extended
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
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.