As expected, the league game against Fulham proved to be of a far more difficult nature than the FA Cup walkover the previous weak.
The fact that Manchester United dominated possession and created numerous chances belies the truth that Fulham looked incredibly dangerous at times, especially from corners. Several goal line clearances kept United alive and the defence was back to looking rather shaky. Every other part of the team played quite well, but failure to beat Fulham’s offside trap and some great goalkeeping kept them out.
The fact that it took a defensive error for United to score the only goal should tell its own story. It was that kind of game. Rooney still took his goal well, but he was fortunate to have received the ball at all. From there, United should have been capable of pressing on and killing it off, but Hernandez floundered in front of goal and RVP was somewhat absent in the closing stages. Some decent saves from De Gea and inaccuracy from Fulham insured the three points, but this was just another in a succession of nervy finishes from United in the last while.
Everton at home, a game that was such a major stumbling block last season, is up next. The failure to really test them too much in the Goodison Park fixture on the first weekend of the season was regretful, but United should be aiming to prove that they have come on in leaps and bounds since then. After that, Real.
Elsewhere, a really bad stumbling block for Chelsea falling away to a Newcastle side that has been struggling big time. While attempts to paint United as rolling unstoppably towards the title at this early stage are ridiculous, it might be so absurd to suggest that Chelsea are incapable of catching up, barring a hugh swing in fortunes.
Spurs maintain pace at the top, and it took a Bale scorcher to do that. I suspect he might be off in the summer, and Tottenham will be keen to make as much money as they can from him.
Man City, finally shorn of the tumour that is Mario Balotelli, should have been more than capable of celebrating the transfer with a home win over Liverpool, but darn if they didn’t maintain their usual lackadaisical attitude. Two great pieces of build-up kept them in the game, with Aguero’s goal a truly excellent finish. But Liverpool could have taken them with a bit more composure, and just like the Arsenal game last week, showed that they cannot hold a lead against a top team. Still, that nine point gap is a yawning chasm for City, which they need to start reducing very soon.
QPR scrapped yet another draw but can’t get off the foot of the table. All of the new signing may yet prove to be a total waste of time, and Redknapp’s boys have Championship level written all over them.
On the international side of things, I should hope that a whole raft of debuts will be handed out against Poland, but I suspect that the inclusion of all the new faces might be just a sop to the critics and their role will be very limited. I believe Trap’s reign might be up within a month if the Sweden/Austria fixtures go as expected, so I just want to see the guy give as many new players a chance with the team as he can. Ad for the match itself, it’s a friendly, so the result is utterly immaterial. In point of fact, I’m almost more interested in the numbers the FAI have managed to get into the Aviva.