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West Ham United
9 February 2014
• Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: K. Friend
• Attendance: 74966
R. van Persie 78'
M. Carrick 80'
S. Sidwell 19'
D. Bent 90'+
FULL-TIME: Manchester United 2-2 Fulham. What a remarkable turn of events in the last minute that is, to leave David Moyes and his side absolutely shellshocked. Steve Sidwell's early goal gave the visitors a shock lead which they resolutely held onto for the majority of the game but quickfire goals from first Robin Van Persie and then Michael Carrick looked to have given United a crucial win, only to see Bent pop up with a goal in the dying seconds after Richardson's shot was saved. The result means Fulham close to four points from safety while United are now nine points off a Champions League place. Incredible.
90' + 4'
Goal Darren Bent
GOAL! Unbelievable scenes at Old Trafford as Fulham grab an unlikely equaliser to snatch a point at the death courtesy of Bent. Richardson was played in down the left and despite seeing his shot parried by De Gea, it fell perfectly for Bent to stoop and head into the gaping net. Incredible.
90' + 4'
Van Persie almost cashes in on some slack goalkeeping from Stekelenburg as his pass to Heitinga misses the central defender but the striker's chip goes just over the crossbar.
90' + 2'
Mata goes close to a third, collecting a pass from Van Persie and digging a shot out which just wide of the far post with Stekelenburg beaten all ends up.
Fulham are trying to up the ante slightly but United are nearly home and hosed now with what would be a crucial three points of their own. Meulensteen looks dejected on the touchline.
A cleverly-worked short corner almost yields a third for United as Mata and Januzaj combine to release Evra in the area. He provides yet another cut-back into the area and, after the ball diverts off Chris Smalling, it lands at the feet of Hernandez, but the Mexican can only flick the ball over.
United close to a third as Januzaj latches onto a cut-back from Evra but fires the ball straight at his own team-mate, with Van Persie getting in the path of the shot.
United just looking keep possession right now, whilst maintaining the tempo which has seen them come from behind. The 74 crosses United have posted is a Premier League record since the Opta stats began, incidentally.
Cole does come on after a couple of minutes of madness but United are almost 3-1 up as a cross fizzed into the near post has to be cleared ahead of Hernandez, who was set to tap the ball home.
William Kvist Jörgensen
Goal Michael Carrick
GOAL! It has turned around in the blink of an eye as Manchester United take the lead through Carrick. Januzaj is the architect once again, clipping the ball back and as Fulham got deeper, the midfield man found room on the edge of the area to curl a strike home aided by a deflection off substitute Scott Parker.
Assist Juan Mata
Goal Robin van Persie
GOAL! Fulham's brave resistance is finally broken as United level the scores. Januzaj's ball in is hit by Mata and is bravely blocked in the six-yard-box but it is eventually worked back to the Spaniard who lashes across goal for Van Persie to prod home at the far post.
Fulham briefly threaten to break away but are dispossessed on the halfway line after Holtby and Bent had linked up.
Carrick lines one up from range but, in keeping with the pattern of play, his strike deflects away off Van Persie as Fulham prepare to bring on another new signing and another former United youth prospect in Larnell Cole.
Januzaj earns a corner for his side after some tricky wing play but Rooney's subsequent set piece is cleared with relative ease before United come knocking again.
Holtby is down and receiving treatment after colliding with Vidic but is fit to continue and help his side onto what would be a pivotal win.
Rooney works some space for a shot just outside the area but drags it wide of the target. Moyes shuffles his pack once more and brings on Javier Hernandez and Antonio Valencia for Ashley Young and Rafael respectively. All hands to the pump for United now.
Rafael wastes a glorious opportunity to supply his strikers as his cross from the right goes straight into the side netting, with audible groans around Old Trafford.
Januzaj produces a superb cross to the far post to find Young once more but his header back across goal cannot find Van Persie and Fulham clear.
United just cannot break down this Fulham rearguard, with Rooney the latest to be foiled after being unable to get sufficient purchase on Young's knockdown.
Januzaj does indeed come on, replacing Fletcher which means Rooney will revert to a central midfield role, with Mata pushed up in support of Van Persie. The youngster tries to whip a cross in first time but it is gathered by Stekelenburg.
Januzaj is being readied as United's young messiah prepares to enter the fray and try to save his side from what would possible be the worst defeat of the lot in a harrowing season for the reigning champions.
United have strong appeals for a penalty turned down as Burn gets away with what appeared to be handball as Van Persie nodded the ball down in his attempts to get past the young defender. Fulham are holding out resolutely here but that was a real let-off.
Rafael is adjudged to be offside from Young's searching crossfield pass which the Brazilian heads onto goal, but Stekelenburg is there to save regardless.
WHAT A SAVE: Stekelenburg has just single-handedly, quite literally, kept United at bay by clawing out Rooney's effort. Evra escapes and heads to the byline but his pull-back is parried by the keeper to Mata, who digs out a pass to Rooney, but his goalbound effort is somehow pushed away by the Dutchman to preserve his side's lead.
Ryan Tunnicliffe, against his former employers, marauds his way past Evra before laying the ball on for Sidwell but the goalscorer's attempt is wayward. United respond as Mata rakes a pass over the top of the Fulham defence towards Rooney but he is forced wide and skews his shot over the bar as a result.
United have now attempted 51 crosses this afternoon and Van Persie almost heads one of them in, but there was too much pace on the ball from Evra. Moments later the Dutchman is played in by Young but his powerful strike flashes across goal, evading everyone in the process.
Adnan Januzaj is pacing up and down the touchline, could the Belgian be coming on soon to rescue his side from despair? Meanwhile, De Gea's attempted pass to Vidic goes out of play for a throw-in as United's first-half struggles continue.
Fulham kick off and the second half is up and running at Old Trafford. The visitors have made a change during the interval, with Darren Bent coming on for Tankovic.
HALF-TIME: Manchester United 0-1 Fulham A quite astonishing scenario is on the cards here as bottom-of-the-table lead the reigning champions Manchester United at the break. Sidwell's goal, completely against the run of play, separates the sides after volleying home on the stretch from Holtby's exquisite pass with United unable to break down a stubborn defence. Van Persie squandered the best opportunity by volleying way over from close range.
45' + 1'
Fulham nearly catch their hosts on the counter once again as Richardson bursts clear of Vidic but his cross for Holtby is smashed away from danger by Rooney.
Evra misses the latest chance, making a mess of a header from yet another ball in from a wide position, with the ball hitting his shoulder and falling nicely for Stekelenburg to claim.
Another cross from the left is dealt with by the resilient Fulham defence as United fail to find an answer to Sidwell's early strike. It has been a truly remarkable game so far.
Mata looks like the player who can conjure something for United's profligate attacking ranks, with the Spaniard curling a ball in which Fletcher narrowly misses on the run.
How on earth this game remains 1-0 is anyone's guess. Carrick is first thwarted by a superb Stekelenburg save before Van Persie controls, checks and then unleashes a powerful effort which is somehow deflected away for a corner.
Kieran Richardson has just wasted a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 after a lightning counter attack from the visitors. The left sider actually cleared a United corner and made up the ground to get up in support of Muamer Tankovic after he had sped clear. The Swede laid it onto the hurtling Richardson but he somehow contrived to scoop the ball over the crossbar, what a let-off for United.
United continue to probe but continue to find Fulham players in their faces, with Van Persie the latest to be frustrated after good defending from a host of bodies inside the area.
The latest cross from a wide area is snuffed out by the excellent Burn once again before Stekelenburg claims Evra's dinked ball in.
Mata shows lovely invention to nutmeg Burn before Darren Fletcher stands a ball up to the far post for Van Persie, but the Dutchman's header is cleared off the line.
Rafael sends in a couple of teasing centres with Young forcing Stekelenburg into a smart stop at his near post before Carrick catches a volley perfectly only to see his strike flash wide of the upright.
There's a theme beginning to emerge here. Yet again Young is afforded time and space on the far side and whips a ball in but Burn is there once more to stoop and head clear.
That Van Persie miss epitomises United's frustrating opening quarter in this game, with plenty of crosses from out wide but precious little quality in the area to finish them off to this point.
SITTER: Van Persie has somehow blazed over the crossbar from a matter of yards and it seems to be going all wrong yet again for United. Rafael's cross is perfectly placed for the Dutchman to attack the ball but his volley sails over the bar.
Ashley Young whips in a cross to the back post but Burn is up to clear again in what has been a commanding performance thus far from the towering central defender.
Assist Lewis Holtby
Goal Steve Sidwell
GOAL! Fulham have taken the lead out of nowhere as Steve Sidwell hands the visitors a potentially priceless advantage. Lewis Holtby picks out his midfield peer's run off of Wayne Rooney with Sidwell sliding home on the volley to stun Old Trafford into silence.
Patrice Evra and Ashley Young combine nicely on the left wing, resulting in the latter clipping a cross towards the back post but John Arne Riise is on hand to hack away for a corner.
Rafael wastes a presentable opening having made inroads down the right, but his cross is over-hit and sails out of play for a goal-kick to Fulham.
Wayne Rooney curls a ball around the Fulham defence in an attempt to find Van Persie's run but his countryman Stekelenburg is out quickly to thwart the striker smartly.
Fulham are showing adventure to come out and play on the counter but are indebted to a superb last-gasp challenge from Riether, who slides in to deny Robin Van Persie.
Steve Sidwell almost profits from David De Gea's decision to go wide for Vidic's backpass but the Serb stumbles and is lucky to hold onto the ball under pressure with the goal gaping in the Spaniard's absence.
Ashley Young sprints away with Sascha Riether nowhere to be seen on the right but his cross is headed away for another corner on the other side by the imposing figure of Burn.
United suddenly spring into life and earn a corner when Rafael's delivery from out wide ricochets off John Arne Riise and out of play but Fulham clear with the minimum of fuss.
Fulham have settled well in the early stages despite an early hiccup as young defender Dan Burn nearly misplaced his header back to Maarten Stekelenburg.
Manchester United kick us off and we are underway at Old Trafford.
There will be a minute's silence to mark the 56th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster as everyone inside Old Trafford pays their respects.
Defeats like the one at Stoke City last weekend are the reason they find themselves 10 points off Liverpool in the Champions League places and seven behind Spurs. The 2-1 loss at the Britannia Stadium was their eighth of the season already; they haven't lost as many of their opening 24 games of a season for 24 years. They simply cannot add a ninth to that tally this afternoon if they harbour ambition of snaring fourth.
Finishing fourth, and securing the Champions League football that comes with it, is looking more and more like a mission impossible for Moyes too, particularly given Liverpool's crushing 5-1 win over Arsenal yesterday and the early result from today as Spurs beat Everton 1-0.
Captain Nemanja Vidic's announcement he will leave the club at the season's end has done little to stem the tide of woe that currently engulfs United's season and serves to highlight the transitional phase the club are in just now.
It's hardly a foregone conclusion regarding a trip to United nowadays, however, with Moyes' side continuing to flounder having lost five of their last eight matches across all competitions.
If he cannot stage an upturn in the club's fortunes soon, he could yet be replaced before the end of the season by Curbishley and, after conceding the Cottagers had "hit rock bottom" in Tuesday's FA Cup fourth-round replay defeat to Sheffield United, a trip to Old Trafford, where they have won just once and lost the other 11 in their 12 visits there in the Premier League era, will prove a stern test of their survival credentials.
The appointment of Alan Curbishley just prior to the festive period as a technical director was the club's plan to aid Meulensteen in his vision for the club but it has proven more of a burden than anything else, with his shadow looming over the Dutchman with every bad result the Cottagers are subjected to.
For Meulensteen, of course, today represents a return to the club he made his name at under Sir Alex Ferguson but his inaugural managerial role is proving a troublesome one, with Fulham's plight leaving them cut adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table.
Fulham: Stekelenburg; Riether, Heitinga, Burn, Riise; Sidwell, Kvist; Tunnicliffe, Holtby, Richardson; Tankovic. Substitutes: Stockdale, Hangeland, Kacaniklic, Duff, Cole, Parker, Bent.
Here are the teams in full, starting with the hosts. Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fletcher; Mata, Rooney, Young; Van Persie. Substitutes: Lindegaard, Ferdinand, Giggs, Valencia, Kagawa, Januzaj, Hernandez.
David Moyes makes three changes to the United side, with Rafael, Nemanja Vidic and Darren Fletcher coming in for Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Tom Cleverley while Rene Meulensteen also rings the changes by making four alterations. Jonny Heitinga and William Kvist make their debuts but club-record signing Konstantinos Mitroglou is not yet fit.
Good afternoon and welcome to the live commentary of Manchester United's clash with Fulham as the hosts look to haul themselves back into the race for fourth spot, while the visiting Cottagers are desperate for a win after moving five points adrift of safety following the weekend results.
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