Manchester United 3 Fulham 0: Five-star Scholes hits title warning

19 February 2009 08:14
The Barclays Premier League trophy was paraded through the Old Trafford directors' lounge at half-time last night and even as we sit here in mid-February, it did not seem premature. [LNB]Sir Alex Ferguson might now think his side are engaged in a two-horse race for the title with Liverpool[LNB], but a five-point lead that was secured with yet another five-star performance would suggest otherwise. [LNB]The champions of England, Europe and the world are looking unstoppable, and not just because they have extended their record to 14 consecutive clean sheets in the League. [LNB][LNB] The pathfinder: Paul Scholes drills home the first United goal, as Rio Ferdinand looks on, and paves the way for another powerful statement of title intent[LNB] [LNB] It is not even the manner in which Paul Scholes scores from corners with 25-yard volleys or the sight of Wayne Rooney scoring with his first touch on his return from injury. [LNB]It is not even the addition of Dimitar Berbatov to an attack that conquered the planet in 2008. [LNB]It is the fact that Ferguson can make seven changes to his side and still make mincemeat of the opposition. [LNB]Last night the transition was as seamless as the football was fluent. Wonderful stuff. [LNB]This was embarrassing for a Fulham[LNB]side that must have listened a little too intently to manager Roy Hodgson's gushing appraisal of United on the eve of this match. [LNB]The visitors collapsed the moment Scholes struck, deflated seemingly as much by the very obvious flaws of the goalkeeper as the sheer brilliance of his executioner. [LNB] Scholes celebrates his goal at Old Trafford[LNB]One can only imagine what Ferguson now has in mind for Scholes. Another call for a knighthood? Or perhaps an extension to his contract? [LNB]If he considers Ryan Giggs worthy of such an honour, he is unlikely to begrudge Scholes such recognition when he too has been so outstanding and loyal a servant, as well as a scorer of spectacular goals. [LNB]This was another demonstration of his remarkable repertoire. A player who cannot only dictate the tempo and direction of a game but can also meet a corner with a strike so sweet it even had his manager drooling. [LNB]'He practises that routine every day,' said Ferguson. 'He even tries to hit me sometimes.' [LNB] Edwin van der Sar: Another clean sheet[LNB]Devoted followers of Scholes will remember how he did something similar at Bradford and at Aston Villa[LNB], proving beyond doubt that luck does not even begin to come into it. [LNB]All those years on the training pitch clearly count, but nothing like as much as the genius the little ginger midfielder was born with. [LNB]Here, again, was a reason why he was once the most revered English midfielder in the Premier League. [LNB]Even if keeper Mark Schwarzer winces when he watches a repeat of the ball striking his body before spinning across the line, the ferocious fashion in which Scholes converted Michael Carrick's perfectly- weighted delivery will impress him. It was an absolute screamer. [LNB]Beforehand, Ferguson gave Fulham half a chance. [LNB]'When you look at it, the outcome is a no-brainer,' Ferguson said in the same programme notes that included a dismissal of Chelsea[LNB]as a title threat. [LNB]'Except that football doesn't work that way.' Only it does when it comes to this Manchester United [LNB]side. [LNB]The goal from Scholes would have been enough, so masterful have United become in winning matches 1-0. But it came after 12 minutes and there was clearly an appetite for more. [LNB]While Bobby Zamora threatened briefly with a header that bounced wide of Edwin van der Sar's right-hand post, United could have scored on three or four occasions before Berbatov increased their advantage in the 30th minute. [LNB] Dimitar Berbatov scores United's second goal as the champions moved five points clear at the top[LNB]Breaking through the Fulham defence was proving ludicrously easy, not least because of the crisis of confidence that Schwarzer appeared to be enduring. [LNB]Had it not been for a goal-line clearance from Aaron Hughes, Berbatov would have struck after the goalkeeper knocked a cross from Cristiano Ronaldo against John Pantsil. [LNB]MATCH FACTS MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): Van der Sar 6; O'Shea 7 (Evans 62min, 6), Ferdinand 7, Vidic 7, Evra 7; Ronaldo 7, Carrick 7 (Gibson 69, 6), Scholes 8, Park 6; Berbatov 7 (Rooney 61, 7), Tevez 7. Booked: Park.[LNB]FULHAM (4-1-4-1): Schwarzer 4; Pantsil 5 (Dacourt 67, 5), Hangeland 5, Hughes 5, Kallio 5; Baird 6; Gera 5 (Brown 86), Murphy 6 (Milsom 80), Davies 6; Dempsey 5; Zamora 5. Booked: Pantsil. [LNB]Man of the match: Paul Scholes. Referee: Andre Marriner. [LNB] Schwarzer then went some way to redeeming himself when he denied Ronaldo with a fine save, and was spared by the assistant referee when Carlos Tevez was penalised for being offside prior to burying his shot in the back of the net. [LNB]In then failing to pounce on a ball from John O'Shea in the mistaken belief that Hughes was going to clear, however, Schwarzer again suffered something of a nightmare. [LNB] Berbatov celebrates as United go 2-0 up [LNB]If the initial chip from Scholes was excellent, the pass from O'Shea really should have been dealt with. [LNB]But the breakdown in communication suddenly presented Berbatov with an expected opportunity and the striker was only too glad to punish them for their incompetence.[LNB]Berbatov then had a goal disallowed, but it mattered not. The second half became an exercise in conserving energy and an opportunity for Rooney to test that troublesome hamstring. [LNB] Three and easy: Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring United's third goal with his first touch [LNB]That he scored with his first touch in the 63rd minute, meeting a viciously-struck ball from Ji-sung Park with a close-range finish at the far post, merely underlined United's incredible strength. [LNB]'Hopefully with the squad we've got we can cope with any injuries,' said Ferguson. [LNB]It would seem so.[LNB] [LNB] Manchester United 3 Fulham 0: All the action as it happened[LNB]1,302 minutes and counting! But what else could Edwin have done with his time?[LNB]100 days to land the Quintuple - the long road facing United in their quest for glory[LNB]MARTIN SAMUEL: How many Liverpool players are good enough for United's team?[LNB]MANCHESTER UNITED FC NEWS FROM ACROSS THE NET[LNB][LNB] Sir Alex Ferguson watched Manchester United move five points clear of their great rivals Liverpool[LNB] [LNB] [LNB]  

Source: Daily_Mail