RVP scores in nervy United win
Dembele-inspired Fulham come close to pulling off an upset
Last Updated: 25/08/12 6:53pm
Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa celebrate during Manchester United's 3-2 win over Fulham
Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa scored their first goals for Manchester United in a nervy 3-2 victory over Fulham at Old Trafford.
Summer signings Van Persie and Kagawa were on target in the first half after United recovered from conceding an early goal, only to then be left hanging on in the closing stages as Moussa Dembele inspired Fulham's comeback.
Fulham silenced Old Trafford after just three minutes when Damien Duff turned home a well-worked free-kick after Michael Carrick's defensive frailties had been exposed.
But United were level by the 10th minute when Van Persie marked his first start since his move from Arsenal by sweeping home Patrice Evra's cross in stunning fashion.
The Red Devils started to pick up the tempo and went ahead on 35 minutes when another new signing Kagawa scored his first goal for the club after Tom Cleverley's shot had been spilled by Mark Schwarzer.
United took further control of the game before half-time when Rafael's impressive showing going forward was rewarded with a goal as the Brazilian full-back headed home Ashley Young's precise cross.
In between those two goals, Rafael had seen a close-range finish ruled out for offside, while Fulham came close to pulling a goal back before the break when Mladen Petric struck the crossbar after Duff's shot had been pushed out by David de Gea.
The Cottagers were gifted a route back into the game on 64 minutes when De Gea came nowhere near to punching a cross and the ball was diverted into his own net by captain Nemanja Vidic's heel.
Wayne Rooney, who had started on the bench, was stretchered off late on after suffering a gaping cut to his leg and De Gea then produced a reaction save from Bryan Ruiz in the dying moments to ensure United recorded a first win of the season.
Ferguson's brave move to drop Rooney to the bench did not have a particularly impressive start as Ruiz rolled a free-kick into Duff's path which the Irishman turned home before guest of honour Usain Bolt had even taken his seat.
Coming so soon after the first-game loss at Everton, it was a major test of character for United which they came through with flying colours.
"If Manchester United had kept their heads and kept passing it they probably could have won this 5-1 or 6-1, but credit goes to Fulham for never giving up."
Charlie Nicholas Quotes of the week
Van Persie levelled with the clinical efficiency you would expect of a Golden Boot winner. Meeting Evra's left-wing cross perfectly, the Dutchman flashed a shot wide of Schwarzer before turning to receive the acclaim of his team-mates.
From that point on it was a case of when, rather than if, the hosts would gain the initiative.
As Kagawa prompted and cajoled, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia both went close.
But when Van Persie's corner was half-cleared to Cleverley, Schwarzer could only turn the midfielder's shot into the path of Kagawa, who - profiting from Sascha Riether's failure to get out of the six-yard box quickly - swept home from close range.
Restored to the starting line-up following his Olympic campaign with Brazil, Rafael provided additional defensive security.
Man Utd 3-2 Fulham - Nicholas
He also had a goal correctly ruled out for offside before nodding home Young's chip to the far post just before the break.
Yet, for all United's attacking endeavours, there remain serious flaws at the back amid a massive injury list.
Once again pressed into service as an emergency centre-half, Carrick came far too close to turning the ball into his own net for comfort.
And when United conceded a second, it was almost laughable as De Gea came to punch Matthew Briggs' cross, got nowhere near it and the ball eventually bounced off Vidic and rolled in.
De Gea redeemed himself with two brilliant saves to deny the excellent Dembele as Rooney was introduced for Kagawa.And then, on Fulham's last attack, De Gea denied Ruiz, who had been set up by Dembele after Rooney had been stretchered off.
|Manchester United||Team Statistics||Fulham|
|3||1st Half Goals||1|
|7||Shots on Target||6|
|9||Shots off Target||3|
|69.4||1st Half Poss.||30.6|
|52.1||2nd Half Poss.||47.9|
Barclays Premier League
|16||West Bromwich Albion||16||15|
|17||West Ham United||16||14|
Man Utd v Fulham
Aaron Hughes has been encouraged by Fulham's start to the season and is confident they can enjoy a good campaign.
Rising star Shinji Kagawa has called for Manchester United to show more belief in order to make the best of his talents.
Are Van Persie and Rooney rivals for a first-team place? We were at Old Trafford to take a look.