Manchester United are poor role models

Champions of England, Champions of Europe, they may be, but decent role models for the next generation of youngsters? Not on your nelly. On Saturday we had the full repertoire of everything you teach children not to do: Sulk; Cheat; Shout and scream when things don’t go their way; Moan, Whinge; and then hit the nearest available object when you get told off. It was truly pathetic.

Cristiano Ronaldo spent most of the match ranting at anyone in earshot, whether it was referee Phil Dowd, his own players, the opposition; Paul Scholes blatantly cheated and, thankfully, paid the price; Patrice Evra also cheated by pretending to get fouled and, thankfully again, got booked for simulation.

…And then you had good old Wayne Rooney who, it’s worth pointing out, is not a kid any more. He is a married 23-year-old man. His displays of petulance can no longer be dismissed as teenage frustrations. So what did he do? Well, after getting annoyed that the Fulham midfielders were tying him in knots, he hauled Olivier Dacourt to the ground by his shirt and shorts. Yellow card.

Not content with that. He then throws the ball back towards the referee after Ryan Giggs takes a freekick too early. Nothing wrong with that, surely? Not in theory, but it was launched with the venom and velocity of an exocet missile. Yellow card number two and down the tunnel you go.

Only he didn’t. After stopping to hurl abuse he then punched the corner flag. It was absolutely laughable. I was only pleased my sons weren’t there to witness it. Attempts to tell them that they shouldn’t throw strops when things don’t go their way is rather undermined when this is exactly how the best team in the world behaves. Time to grow up, eh?

Player Rankings: Fulham v Manchester United

Here’s how I scored the lads for yesterday’s momentous victory against United.

Schwarzer – 8/10
Kept United at bay with a string of excellent stops in the second half. Demonstrated he truly is world class, if we needed any reminding.

Paintsil – 7/10
A great display – and wonderful to see the big smile back on his face during the customary lap of honour.

Hughes – 7/10
A huge relief to see him in the line-up, there having been doubts whether he would be fit, and was his usual reliable self.

Hangleand – 8/10
One word: awesome. I don’t rate our chances of hanging on to him in the summer but he is, without doubt, one of the best defenders to ever pull on a Fulham shirt.

Konchesky – 7/10
As strong and as solid as ever. Didn’t give United much room to move down the right flank.

Dempsey – 7/10
Strong, committed, fearless.

Murphy – 8/10
What a season he is having! With the departure of Bullard, Murphy is free to pull all the strings in midfield and is clearly relishing the opportunity. A fantastic display.

Etuhu – 7/10
Getting better with each game and his understanding with Murphy is improving all the time.

Davies – 7/10
A typical Davies-esque performance: full of running and energy, topped off with some superb passes and a fierce shot which VDS did very well to stop.

Zamora – 7/10
Only the cheating hands of Scholes prevented him from getting a very well deserved goal. Was a constant thorn in United’s side…all he needs now are some more goals.

Johnson – 7/10
The man never stops running! Caused United’s back four all sorts of problems and combined well with Gera for the second goal.

Dacourt – 6/10
Came on late but gave a solid performance

Gera – 7/10
A masterstroke by Hodgson, as it turned out. You will struggle to see a better taken goal. Excellent stuff.

Kamara – 6/10
Not much time to make an impression but ran his heart out for the cause.

Fulham teach petulant Manchester United a lesson

I waited for it  from the first minute. After 15 minutes it still hadn’t arrived. By half-time there was no sign of it showing up. Twenty minutes later there were a few hints that it was on its way, but the Manchester United goal never came.

They came close, though. Had it not been for a miraculous double save from Mark Schwarzer they would have equalised, heads could have gone down and we may have found ourselves vulnerable. But the fact was we totally outplayed the visitors in the first half and offered stubborn resistance in the second.

We were totally up for the fight from the start and really carried the game to United who looked, it has to be said, pretty bereft of ideas. Whereas Anderson and Tevez tortured us in the cup game a couple of weeks back, Berbatov and Ronaldo looked disinterested. There was no bite from United; no fire in the belly.

However, the game really turned in our favour when Scholes patted Zamora’s goal bound header away with both hands in true volleyball style. Danny Murphy – now firmly installed as a Fulham legend – hammered the ball into the roof of the net and belief clearly swept through the team.

The next 20 minutes were fantastic. With United down to 10-men following the dismissal of Scholes, we tore apart their midfield and peppered their goal with shots. Were it not for the brilliance of Edwin Van der Sar, we could have been three or four goals to the good by the time Phil Dowd blew for half-time.

The second half was a slightly different story. With Wayne Rooney replacing the ineffectual Berbatov, it started to look more like the United of old, but we displayed a fantastic amount of self belief. Hangeland patrolled his line like a sliver back gorilla – going for anything that appeared threatening in any way, while Hughes, Konchesky and Paintsil defended like tigers alongside him.

Even when United breached the back four, they found Schwarzer was in no mood for charity, saving a good header from Ronaldo, before pulling off point blank saves from both Park and Rooney. It was fantastic stuff.

Then Roy Hodgson sent on Gera and his exquisite flick and bicycle kick put the game beyond United’s reach. It really was a stunning effort. If Rooney – who was hilariously dismissed at the end for yet another display of petulance – had pulled off something similar they would have been replaying it endlessly on Match of the Day.

In short, then, this was a thoroughly deserved victory…and I enjoyed every minute of it.

We are at a crossroads

It’s wheel out the cliche time. We are truly at a crossroads in our season. in 10th spot with 34 points on the board by early March – 15 more than at the same point last year – we could be challenging for a European spot…or fending off relegation again.

As ludicrous as it might sound, we are only six points away from the bottom three. That’s just two wins. Not a lot, eh? If we lose at the Reebok on Saturday we will fall out of the top 10 and with Manchester United in town again the following week it looks like points will be pretty hard to come by.

We have also got to play Liverpool at home and Chelsea away. Do we really want to be going to the Bridge desperately needing the points? I hope to hell we’re not in that position but cracks are certainly starting to appear.

What I found even more dissappointing about last night’s result was the fact that Blackburn could have had three or four more had it not been for the oustanding Schwarzer. A stable, settled team has worked well this year but when someone’s missing – ie Hughes last night – our lack of depth is emphasised.

We have had a great season so far but our fortunes could be decided on whether Roy has enough fit and able bodies to cope with the final two months.

Fulham blow chance to climb table

Oh dear. A missed opportunity to climb to eighth in the league and, more importantly, put some space between ourselves and the rest of the chasing pack. Unfortunately – or fortunately, bearing in mind what happened – work commitments prevented me from attending, although I did get all the way up to the ground (six hour round-trip) back in January for the first scheduled visit of Blackburn. I will have a better idea of our performance after watching the highlights but for now I just feel very sad that we’ve let such a golden opportunity slip through our fingers.

Player rankings: Fulham v Manchester United

Here’s how I scored the lads during yesterday’s demolition…

Schwarzer – 5/10
Probably a bit unfair as he wasn’t afforded much protection, but yesterday was an occasion when we badly needed some of his Emirates-esque brilliance.

Konchesky – 4/10
Very weak. Just what was he thinking in the lead-up to United’s opener? Keeping your back turned against an unmarked Tevez is footballing suicide.

Hughes – 5/10
An okay performance, nothing more. There are limits to what your centre backs can achieve when the midfield doesn’t do anything to stop attackers marauding forward.

Hangeland – 6/10
A few stray passes indicated the pressure exerted by United was testing our Norwegian giant to his limits. Not a day he will look back on with relish.

Pantsil – 7/10
Put in a very good shift. Looked – as Rich over at CravenCottageNewsround pointed out – like he truly cared. Was too exhausted to do his customary lap of honour – either that or didn’t feel it was appropriate.

Davies – 6/10
Plenty of effort but a number of passes went astray and lashed one of our only half chances way over the bar in the first half.

Dempsey – 7/10
A fully committed, energetic, strong performance from our Clint. The wrestling match with Rooney in the second half a prime example of his work rate.

Etuhu – 4/10
After looking so commanding against Arsenal last weekend, he simply looked overawed yesterday. Standing off players – particularly Tevez for his second – and just not strong enough in the tackle. A poor performance.

Murphy – 5/10
The effort was there but he allowed the midfield to be completely over-run.

Johnson – 5/10
Didn’t get much of a sniff to be honest. His alert toe poke caught out Van der Sar in the opening exchanges but Vidic managed to hook it off the line.

Zamora – 5/10
Didn’t make – or wasn’t allowed to make – much of a contribution. Spent the vast majority of his time complaining to the ref that he had been fouled, or that he was the innocent victim in every challenge.

Dacourt – 3/10
Oh dear. Let’s hope he’s just not match fit.

Kamara – 5/10
Ran around a lot, pointed a lot, but little else of note.

Gera – 3/10
Gifted United their fourth. Sadly, this was his only contribution.

Man of the match: Clint Dempsey. For sheet effort and determination.

Manchester United teach Fulham a lesson

What can you say about that? According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word ‘contest’ means: a formal match in which two or more people/teams compete and attempt to win. Yesterday’s match didn’t even come close to that definition.

It was more of a footballing masterclass by an unbelievably powerful Manchester United side, that played the entire second half without Rio Ferdinand and didn’t even think it was necessary to bring Berbatov or Ronaldo to London.

They were right. This was about as one-sided as a game could be. Aside from some early forays into the opposing half in the opening 20 minutes – which could have seen Andy Johnson on the score sheet had Vidic not cleared his toe poke off the line – Fulham spent the entire game beating off a marauding red army.

a-rare-sight-us-in-their-half1Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney, ably assisted by the energetic Anderson, simply tore us apart in midfield and consistently tormented our back four. It was surely only a matter of time before our defences were breached…and this came after 20 minutes.

An unmarked Tevez stole in on the back post behind Paul Konchesky and nodded in from close range. A short while later he was allowed to meander through the midfield without being challenged – Dickson Etuhu opting to just watch and marvel at him – and unleash a thunderbolt that gave Mark Schwarzer no chance.

United were now totally in control. Rooney had the ball in the net but it was (thankfully) discounted due to a very dubious offside decision, and then came painfully close to scoring when he hit the post from a few yards out.

The second half started as the first had ended with us totally on the back foot. We huffed and puffed in midfield – Murphy and Dempsey were particularly active – but we simply gave the ball away too many times.

Rooney finally got on the scoresheet with a curving shot from outside the area before Zoltan Gera, who had replaced Bobby Zamora, hit a sloppy cross field ball in his own half which was intercepted by Park who ran through for number four.

It was painful to watch. We didn’t play that badly, but the gulf in class was incredible. It will take something special to stop this side from picking up every trophy going. They are, quite simply, awesome.

It's all over