Manchester United steam-rolled past Fulham to book their place in the Fifth round of the F.A Cup following a fine 4-1 victory against Fulham. Goals from Hernandez (2), Rooney and Giggs (pen) ensured United safely progressed.
Giggs is still tearing you apart
Simply outstanding today from the 39-year-old Welshman. Giggs was involved in everything good that Manchester United did this evening. Deployed on the left, where he has been exceptional over the Christmas period, he was a revelation and rolled back the years.
Giggs opened the scoring with a cool penalty after just two minutes following an Aaron Hughes handball. Penalties have been a hotly debated topic of late with Wayne Rooney’s poor record brought into the spotlight after anther fluffed penalty in the 1-0 victory against West Ham. Giggs set United on the winning trail, dispatching clinically.
United’s record appearance holder also supplied the pass for the fourth goal with a perfectly weighted ball which Hernandez finished for his second goal of the game. Giggs was by far United’s brightest attacking threat and was my pick to be named Man of the Match.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for Giggs when you consider the reaction from many United fans after the Norwich defeat earlier in the season. Interestingly, the inclusion of Giggs in the starting eleven is no longer met with trepidation but with anticipation after a sparkling festive period for the man who time forgot.
United’s defence has been maligned and criticised this season after shipping goals left, right and centre. Along the way, we have kept just four league clean sheets all season and have shipped three goals to Newcastle, Reading and Tottenham Hotspur.
Over the festive period, United managed back-to-back clean sheets following successive shut-outs against West Brom and Wigan and things have been steadily on the up, cumulating in probably United’s best defensive performance of the season against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
Today, with Jonny “Lionel” Evans injured and Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand rested, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were selected at the heart of United’s defence, and they were excellent against a very poor Fulham side. Both got stuck into former United sweetheart Dimitar Berbatov (more on him later) and when Fulham did look to be threatening, both were up to the challenge.
Jones and Smalling are regarded as the future centre back pairing for both club and country, so it was very pleasing to see them perform so well. Unfortunately, United were unable to keep a clean sheet today with Aaron Hughes nodding home from a corner.
You have to feel a bit sorry for David De Gea. After being criticised for Tottenham’s equaliser on Sunday, De Gea had literally nothing to do today but still no clean sheet to show for it. It seems the young Spaniard just can’t win.
Pre-match, all the talk was of the impending return of former United player and cult-hero Dimitar Berbatov. While the 31-year-old didn’t get on the scoresheet today, there were brief moments of magic from Dimitar.
There was little undertones of Berbasex. A gorgeous control and touch in the first-half demonstrated the fantastic technical ability Berbatov has. For those who have watched Fulham regularly this season, the Bulgarian has been a class above his teammates, and he was head and shoulders above any of Fulham’s other outfield players.
A special mention goes to Mark Schwarzer. The experienced Aussie had a great performance and without him in such good form, the score could have been embarrassing for Fulham. There was one particular save to deny Wayne Rooney in the first half which was outstanding.
There are few players in United squads who polarise opinion as much as Luis Nani. As I have stated before, the hatred towards Nani baffles me. On his day, he is by far the most devastating winger at the club. Admittedly, of late his day hasn’t exactly been often. However Nani, like Van Persie and Rooney, has the ability to produce a moment of sheer magic to change games which should be celebrated.
Today, I thought Nani was superb. He managed to find plenty of space from the right and although his end product was left wanting at times, he did manage to get an assist. It was certainly a more than acceptable performance considering that this was only Nani’s second start since a lengthy lay-off. With our wide players often blowing hot and cold, Nani could be vital with the Madrid game under three weeks away.
While Nani can be frustrating, he can produce that spark required to win games and he is certainly looking better than Antonio Valencia, whose stock is falling at an alarming pace. He seems to have lost a yard of pace and seems to be a player devout of confidence.
What the Portuguese international does is take on his man, something Valencia doesn’t do these days. He stretches the play and tests the keeper and doesn’t just wait for Rafael to show up to do something, *cough* Valencia *cough*.
Forgive me if I am mistaken but isn’t the F.A Cup meant to be about shock results, upsets and giant killings? It was a shame to see a shambolic performance from Fulham today who lacked any sort of ambition or attacking intent. David De Gea’s first real action was to pick the ball out of his net and aside from that, there was no threat from a toothless side.
The final score, was 4-1 and that was with a stonewall penalty denied, a goal wrongly disallowed and an inspired Mark Schwarzer performance. In truth, it could have been a cricket score.