Van Persie and Kagawa strike gold as United labour

Manchester United 3 Fulham 2: New look attack wins admirers but Fulham make them sweat and Rooney suffers blow

Old Trafford

Watched by the double Olympic champion Usain Bolt, Manchester United were sluggish out of the blocks and almost caught on the line before recording their habitual home victory over Fulham. It was a tenth in succession against notoriously poor travellers, who nevertheless scored first and last, causing considerable anxiety among home supporters watching a defence that was again lacking Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

Further forward United's difficulty appears to be finding the best blend amid an embarrassment of riches. Hence the decision to leave out Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Nani and Paul Scholes after last Monday's defeat by Everton. Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa justified their selection by linking well and each scoring on their home debut, and Rooney's late injury, having been brought on for the last 20 minutes, means the new pair are likely to be given a further chance to develop a promising partnership.

Rooney and Welbeck joined the fray as Fulham surprisingly reduced their deficit to 3-2, having looked well beaten after conceding three times in 30 minutes of the first half. In the end it took a smart save from Bryan Ruiz by David de Gea, redeeming himself after a mistake cost that second goal, to prevent the visitors taking a point to add to the three from their 5-0 win over Norwich last weekend.

Overall, it was a game as changeable as the Manchester weather, which left Sir Alex Ferguson unsure about the balance between positives and negatives. "We were playing brilliant football and dominating after a bad start," he said. "You're talking about winning by four or five goals, then we lose a stupid goal through bad defending and that made it a game."

With the manager clearly impressed by his new Japanese midfielder Kagawa, it was difficult to see how Van Persie and Rooney would fit in without one of the trio playing out on the left. Never afraid of the difficult decision, Ferguson opted to leave last season's leading scorer in the dug-out to start with, making the £24m Van Persie the focal point of the attack with Kagawa behind him. That allowed Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young to take the wide roles, with Anderson and Tom Cleverley as the more defensive midfielders.

Once United settled, it all worked rather well. It was still a Bolt from the blue that struck Old Trafford less than three minutes into the game. The Swedish winger Alex Kacaniklic was fouled by Michael Carrick – forced to play in defence again - and as Ruiz cut the free-kick square in a classic training ground move, Damien Duff made just enough space, as his marker slipped, to drag his left-footed shot into the net. It was Fulham's first goal for six years here.

However, after only seven minutes Patrice Evra crossed from the left and the ball sat up nicely for Van Persie to swivel and hit the sort of goal that Arsenal became accustomed to.

With the Dutchman and Kagawa quickly becoming accustomed to each other's game, Fulham were under pressure from thereon in. Twice before half-time they conceded corners on the right, failed to clear them and paid a heavy penalty. In the 35th minute the ball was nodded out only as far as Cleverley. Mark Schwarzer parried his strong drive and protested in vain that Kagawa was offside as he knocked in the rebound; television replays suggested the assistant referee was correct, as he certainly was in briefly reprieving Fulham when Rafael did the same thing.

The adventurous full-back would not be denied however, and four minutes before the interval he played his part in a short corner and was then at the far post to head in Young's chip. Fulham failed to reduce the arrears just before half-time, when De Gea forced Mladen Petric's shot on to the bar.

The tempo slackened for 20 minutes in the second half until the visitors introduced Steve Sidwell for some extra midfield energy and were rewarded with a bizarre goal. Matthew Briggs, the left-back, pumped over a routine cross that United would have expected the goalkeeper to deal with, even under pressure from Petric. Instead De Gea flapped, the ball bobbling off Nemanja Vidic and into the net for an own-goal.

Rooney and Welbeck duly arrived, the former up front with Van Persie, the latter wide on the left. Rooney hit one free-kick into the defensive wall and curled another shot past the angle of bar and post before diving in bravely to block a shot by another substitute, Hugo Rodallega, and suffering a deep cut to the leg. With Ryan Giggs also on, there was no other replacement available and home crowd could not relax until the four minutes of added time were finally done.

Manchester Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Carrick, Vidic, Evra; Cleverley, Anderson (Giggs 81); Valencia, Kagawa (Rooney 68), Young (Welbeck 68); Van Persie.

Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Briggs; Duff, Dembele, Diarra (Baird 81), Kacaniklic (Sidwell 62); Ruiz; Petric (Rodallega 72).

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Kagawa (Man United)

Match rating: 7/10

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape