Rooney strike puts United clear at top of table

Manchester United 1 Fulham 0

Manchester United scrambled to victory against Fulham at Old Trafford to open up a three-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Wayne Rooney's 28th goal of the season proved enough for the hosts.

Sir Alex Ferguson was clearly not impressed though and his side were nearly made to pay the ultimate price for their profligacy when Michael Carrick bundled Danny Murphy over in the box a minute from time but 27-year-old referee Michael Oliver waved away the penalty claims.

Having witnessed title rivals Manchester City drop points at Stoke on Saturday, Ferguson had gone for the jugular with his team selection.

Five offensive players and two naturally overlapping full-backs was a ploy designed to push Fulham onto the back foot, and so it did as Rooney and Ryan Giggs threatened the visitors' goal.

Fulham eventually emerged from their shells though and started to exploit the gaps being offered.

Mousa Dembele drove one effort wide after being invited to run at the United defence, then Clint Dempsey had a go.

The American is much more dangerous and as he set his curling shot for the corner, Fulham's 320-strong travelling support were ready to celebrate.

It was too good to be true though for a team that had only beaten United once away from home since 1959, and David De Gea made an acrobatic save.

From that moment on, the Red Devils exerted their customary pressure.

Their play was not fluent though. A long-range Danny Welbeck shot and a penalty appeal for handball against Stephen Kelly was the best they could muster until Rooney struck.

Even that was a touch odd.

Rooney ducked under Ashley Young's cross when he seemed better placed to convert than Jonny Evans behind him. John Arne Riise should have cleared but it seemed the Norwegian was surprised by Rooney's move and he failed to control, allowing Evans to slide in. The Northern Irishman had the presence of mind to find Rooney instead of going for goal himself from an acute angle.

From that moment, Fulham were doomed as Rooney rattled home his 11th goal in nine games.

If there is one player who has been as influential as the England striker since the turn of the year, it is Antonio Valencia.

Not even a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury has affected his form and he came close to bagging a brilliant second goal just after the interval.

Setting off on a charge from deep inside his own half, Valencia exchanged passes with Rooney on halfway before squaring to Ryan Giggs and running onto the veteran Welshman's chipped return. Now Valencia was bearing down on the Fulham goal but Mark Schwarzer stayed strong and made the save

Yet for all the simplicity of that effort, United found chances hard to come by against Fulham's disciplined defending.

Javier Hernandez was introduced to give the visitors a different problem to solve but United's next opportunity was quite a while coming, and when it did, Giggs dragged it wide.

Having spoken in such glowing terms about Rio Ferdinand in the build-up, the veteran defender's exit 20 minutes from time was a worry given his long-standing back problems.

United should have made light of his departure by grabbing a second soon afterwards but Schwarzer produced a fine save to repel Young's volley, then kept out the follow-up too before Brede Hangeland prevented Giggs from converting.

In replacing Rooney with Paul Scholes, United seemed to be insuring themselves against unexpected disasters against a hitherto non-existent attacking threat.

But it was the veteran midfielder who put his own team under pressure with a pretty awful tackle on Dempsey that was fortunate to escape sanction beyond a simple free-kick.

Normally content to watch proceedings from the dug-out, Ferguson was clearly agitated and unimpressed by his side's performance.

The Scot really would have been furious had Oliver awarded a penalty for Carrick's tackle from behind on Murphy in the final minute, which TV replays showed he had every right to do.

Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice