In the end, the home side took the three points, and Fulham left with nothing to show for the promising showing at the Championship-hopeful Red Devils.
Except they brought confidence back with them, and now every outlet is singing the praises of a side that once again came into the season completely under the radar.
This club should be glowing with the knowledge that two matches into the season, if it weren’t for one horrific 10 minutes at Old Trafford where the idea of defense completely evaded them, the Whites would be heading into the final week of the transfer window with six points including a win away against Manchester United. Imagine that!
While in the end it wasn’t to be, it’s still nothing but a cause for excitement for fans, and going forward we should expect nothing but what we saw from Fulham in the second half to continue.
Moussa Dembele – for the second time the argument could be made that Dembele was the best player on the pitch for Fulham. He was 49/50 passing (98%), giving him a grand total of 4 incomplete passes in two matches. He also completed 9 dribbles, more than the entire Manchester United club who had 8. If you really want to see how impressive he was, just search “Dembele” on Twitter. All you get are fans of top teams tweeting “we should sign Dembele tomorrow” and while the immediate reaction is “piss off!” it still feels kind of good to know that Fulham have a player that is now on the minds of every top club fans as the transfer window comes to a close.
Damien Duff – despite the fact he made a few key mistakes on defense, he can’t be expected to be a terribly consistent contributor in that regard, and outside his few blunders at the back Duff’s work rate caused him to be a nuisance to United for much of the match. He didn’t fall off and disappear in the second half like Duff sometimes does, and his trickery in the opening minutes was a touch of brilliance. That opening goal was gold from Jol, with Petric and Hangeland lurking at the far post, catching most of the attention from United’s defense, and Ruiz simply zipped it to Duff who caught everyone off guard. Duff’s been great for two matches now, including both games’ opening goals, and I’m glad to see he still has a lot left in the tank.
The away form – something that’s getting a lot less attention in the build-up to this season and even the build-up to the United match is Fulham’s awful previous away form. It’s great to see that it’s getting less attention, because that means it’s becoming a thing of the past, and this match proved that. No longer do the Whites lay down and die on the road like they used to under Mark Hughes and Roy Hodgson, and hopefully this bright showing will prove that fans don’t have to worry about seeing the worst of the worst when traveling to support the club.
The bad –
The defending for a 10 minute stretch at the end of the first half – There was a point, and every Fulham fan remembers when, where United had Fulham so far on their heels that you could just imagine one poke and we’d fall backwards off the cliff. That moment would have been Rafael’s goal had his first effort counted, and Fulham could have been 4-1 down, but the linesman kept it one less, and gave the Cottagers a chance. If it weren’t for this awful showing, Fulham could have definitely had a chance of winning match, as they won the second half and if not for David de Gea, could have drawn the match even with this disastrous portion.
Bryan Ruiz – he wasn’t terrible, and showed some creativity, but for the most part he had a tough time dealing with the United center mids and center backs. Often finding himself dispossessed, Ruiz was one of the reasons United dominated possession at the end of the first half. He also missed a wonderful chance to equalize towards the end of the match, although some will say it’s not exactly his fault considering the fracas that had occurred and how fast it developed. Overall, Ruiz will need to improve if Fulham are to beat any top sides this season.
Man of the Match –
For Fulham, no question Moussa Dembele was the man to focus on. Unfortunately that may prove costly for Fulham, as he admitted after the match he wants to play for a top side, and while no bids have yet been made for him, it could just be a matter of time as this transfer window closes. More on that later, though.
Manager’s reaction –
On a tale of two halves:
“We scored an early goal, which is exactly what you want going to Manchester United. We played with two central midfield players next to each other. Old Trafford is a bit different to playing at home to Norwich but I still feel that in the second half, to win here 1-0. It was better than what I thought in the first half. In the second half, we did exactly what we did in pre-season. I was happy that we showed everyone that can play our football like we did in the second half.”
“In the first half we didn’t deserve anything. If you see the way we played in the first half it was 3-1 you would be probably worried there’d be more. We came out in the second half, scored a goal and should have scored an equaliser. It was almost like last year where we could have had a point. I was happy with the second half. We were too rigid in the first half. We matched them in midfield in the second half. I think it was too totally different halves. We played at a lower tempo.