United v Fulham: Scholes The Fading Magician
United, as expected, moved five points clear at the top of the table with a win over Fulham yesterday night. The game was as comfortable as it gets in the Premier League as the visitors virtually capitulated as soon as the first goal went in.
And the aforementioned first goal will be the highlight of the evening for Paul Scholes even though his effort that totally deceived Mark Schwarzer is not even close to being his most spectacular contribution of the night. To put it simply, Scholes was magical throughout the 90 minutes, demonstrating once again that when given time and space he can still destroy teams.
He's not at his best when the going gets rough these days but his footballing brain is as sharp as ever and he relished the prospect of orchestrating the performance of his in-form teammates. As mentioned before, Schwarzer made a right mess of his 10th minute shot which was a sweetly struck effort nevertheless and from that moment on, United were never going to relinquish their advantage.
Scholes, cooperating seamlessly with the quietly excellent Carrick sprayed delightfull passes left, right and centre, always finding a man in a red shirt even if he was 50 yards away. His casual lob to O'Shea before the second, clinching goal was marvellous - the only explanation as to why Aaron Hughes did not clear the ball when he had the chance being that he was still in awe of Scholes' pass when O'Shea flicked the ball towards Berbatov who tapped it home with relish.
Cristiano Ronaldo is still not at his best but Fulham had no answer to him anyway and even the less than sparkling performances of Park and Tevez did not hinder United unduly. The Champions produced a slick, confident performance, never getting out of second gear. Vidic was commanding again and the defence ensured that Van der Sar might as well have looked up the latest news in the evening papers because no shots attempted by Fulham players hit the target.
Fergie could afford to take off Berbatov with 30 minutes to go and though the Bulgarian terrorised Fulham the men in white weren't entirely relieved to see him go as Wayne Rooney replaced him who is no less a threat than his lanky colleague. Old Trafford was expectant as Rooney came on among thunderous applause and he did not disappoint, turning in Park's mis-hit shot with his first touch of the night to put the icing on the cake.