Fulham 2 Manchester United 0: Fergie furious as Scholes and Rooney see red

22 March 2009 12:56
Sir Alex Ferguson shuffled from the crime scene, looking like an elderly man bemused by the sudden disappearance of all he holds dear. In just eight days, the heart of his team of multi-million-pound footballers has been stolen from in front of his disbelieving eyes.

On a second successive afternoon of abject misery for the Scot, Manchester United

finished with nine players on the pitch and a crisis on their hands. If Sir Alex had been enraged when Liverpool sacked their Old Trafford citadel last weekend, his mood on the return north last night can be only imagined.

Just a fortnight ago, United had embarrassed Fulham

in a 4-0 FA Cup victory. Yesterday, they played like drowning men, and Ferguson must take his share of the blame.

Laughing Gera: Zoltan Gera (right) hooks home the second goal

He gambled with a team selection that demoted Wayne Rooney to a seaton the bench in the sunshine that bathed this fashionably elegantquarter of south west London with a warmth that never permeated thedemeanour of United's manager yesterday.

Ferguson could feel only the cold breath of Liverpool on his neck.According to well-informed sources, Ferguson has vented much of hisfury in recent days in the direction of Rooney at United's trainingground at Carrington.

 Fulham v Man United: How the game unfolded



Portsmouth 2 Everton 1

Blackburn 1 West Ham 1

Stoke 1 Middlesbrough 0

Tottenham 1 Chelsea 0

West Brom 1 Bolton 1

Newcastle 1 Arsenal 3

But if the striker was not deemed necessary to stop the rot set inby that defeat against Liverpool, he must truly have offended hismanager.

Ferguson, summoning all his years of experience, opted to dropEngland's premier forward along with Carlos Tevez, Michael Carrick andAnderson. Before the interval, he had realised the folly of his plan.

Bang to rights: Paul Scholes sees red for this hand-ball

Dimitar Berbatov was a listless, ineffectual lone target man, and athalf-time, when no one in a United shirt escaped Ferguson's wrath,Rooney was instructed to replace the Bulgarian.

Perhaps in the days ahead, Ferguson will reflect that this had beenno occasion to put the family silver at risk on such a reckless call.

Who would you want in a backs-to-the- wall battle? Rooney'sbelligerence, and renowned allegiance to United? Or Berbatov, adilettante of a striker whose neat touches complement a team in theascendancy?

Sadly for Ferguson, by the time Rooney's call came, the red mist wasonly a short time away. He was summoned only after United were alreadyone goal, and one man down.

Paul Scholes was correctly shown a red card by referee Phil Dowdafter he used two hands to prevent a close-range header from BobbyZamora finding the net in the 17th minute. As soon as he had flappedthe ball to safety, Scholes dropped on to his haunches.

His faraway look told its own story. He knew a red card wasinevitable and, when it came, he walked disconsolately to the dressingroom.

Seeing red: Rooney is dismissed

Fulham captain Danny Murphy, cool-as-you-like, sent Unitedgoalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, in the wrong direction from the penaltyspot with his fourth Premier League goal against the champions.

Van der Sar, who played for Fulham until Ferguson paid £2million tosolve an ongoing problem with filling his goalkeeper's jersey, had tobe at his best to prevent United from falling deeper in arrears.

Only after the arrival of Rooney did United at last look capable ofmounting a threat. But then Fulham's previously unemployed goalkeeper,Mark Schwarzer, showed his full repertoire.

He made a stunning double-save, from Ji-Sung Park, and Rooney, whopounced on the rebound, and for an encore made an accomplished savefrom a flashing header by Cristiano Ronaldo.

In truth, Ronaldo spent too much of the afternoon in his mode ofpantomime clown, falling to the ground seeking sympathy for perceivedaggrievances only to be mocked by Fulham's fans sensing what they hadfeared to be a wake was becoming a party down by the riverside.

Rooney - obviously frustrated at being left out - showed us bothsides of his mercurial temperament. On the ball, he was hard tocontain; but as the clock ran down, so did his patience.

Frustration: Cristiano Ronaldo sees another chance go begging

He was booked in the 81st minute for a foul on substitute OlivierDacourt - and six minutes later Rooney over-reacted to Dowd's whistleby hurling the ball, with child-like petulance, down the field.

Dowd raised a yellow card, then instantly turned it to red. AsRooney left the field, eyes blazing wild, he smashed a corner flag thatduly bounced around like a speed ball in gymnasium. He vanished to acacophony of boos and laughter.

One minute earlier, Zoltan Gera, who had been on the field barelyfive minutes, scored Fulham's second with a delightful volley after anexquisite first touch.

At the final whistle, Fulham's players revelled in victory, a rewardfor a performance that had been bright and busy in the first half, andstoic after the interval.

It will be little consolation to Ferguson to hear that his Fulhamcounterpart Roy Hodgson believes his side had beaten this year'schampions.

'United are such a good team with so many good players, I stillthink they are favourites for the championship this year,' saidHodgson. 'But the last two defeats have given the teams chasing themthat little bit more hope.'

And down on the field, Ferguson, in eight short days, had aged withworry as his football team could not respond to a crisis for the secondtime of asking.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Schwarzer;Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy (Dacourt 67min),Etuhu, Dempsey (Gera 81); Johnson, Zamora (Kamara 77).

Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Stoor, Kallio. Booked: Pantsil, Dempsey.

MAN UTD(4-4-2): Van der Sar; O'Shea (Tevez 70), Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs, Park; Ronaldo, Berbatov (Rooney 46).

Subs (not used): Foster, Neville, Anderson, Carrick, F Da Silva.

Booked: Evans, Evra, Ronaldo, Rooney.

Sent off: Scholes (18min), Rooney (89).

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

 Fulham v Man United: How the game unfolded



Portsmouth 2 Everton 1

Blackburn 1 West Ham 1

Stoke 1 Middlesbrough 0

Tottenham 1 Chelsea 0

West Brom 1 Bolton 1

Newcastle 1 Arsenal 3


Source: Daily_Mail

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