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26 January 2013
• Old Trafford, Manchester
Referee: M. Clattenburg
• Attendance: 72596
R. Giggs 3'
W. Rooney 50'
J. Hernández 52', 66'
A. Hughes 77'
When all is said and done, United go through 4-1 winners. I've been Tim Poole and you've been a great audience. That'll be all from me until next time; cheerio, folks!
The tone was set early on when Aaron Hughes handled in his own area, conceding a penalty that man of the match Giggs converted with aplomb. From thereon in, United left first gear only when they really needed to, running away with it in the end despite conceding a late consolation.
Martin Jol will be wondering if there was ever any chance of winning at Old Trafford and the Cottagers overall will have to wait yet another year after losing their 10th consecutive game at the stadium.
Sir Alex Ferguson's men were a cut above their mid-table opponents today and, even though league position doesn't always matter in cup competitions, today it was certainly telling.
And it's all over here at Old Trafford. Nani fired in a late shot before the referee blew his whistle but the final score remained unchanged. 4-1 to Manchester United it finishes.
There will be TWO minuted of added time.
Many fans have left already and the rest are sitting quietly in anticipation of the full-time whistle. After all, the overall result has been evident for some time.
Dejagah's deflected shot forces a corner for the visitors late on.
So it'll be back to the drawing board for Jol's side after today and their focus will turn to how to arrest a worrying slide down the Premier League table. For the hosts, this has conversely been the perfect response to last week's draw at Tottenham.
Ryan Giggs is voted man of the match and rightly so. The Welsh midfielder was at the heart of United's efforts for 70 minutes and opened the scoring with his accurate penalty. All at the age of 39, too.
The home side wonder into the opposition penalty area once again but the danger is stopped with a straightforward clearance.
United SCORE... but it is ruled out for a foul. Rooney was unmarked and placed the ball into the bottom corner but Chicharito was adjudged to have brought down a Fulham defender in the build-up, although the decision was far from clear cut.
Rodallega fires over for the visitors.
There are twenty-three men on the field and each one of them appears content to knock the ball around without conviction in an attempt to pass the time. Credit to the visitors for pulling a goal back but this tie was decided a long time ago.
The fact that they now won't get a clean sheet perhaps takes the spark off United's display somewhat, but the visitors have still been far from involved for the majority of the 90 minutes.
GOAL! A turn up for the books as Hughes - the man who set Fulham on the wrong foot by giving away the penalty - converts a great near-post header from a corner to pull one back for the away side.
Chicharito fires a shot over from range but the signs are there that the Mexican smells blood and wants his hat-trick.
It's been a routine yet productive day at the office for Sir Alex's side today. Not a single United player has put a foot wrong, but they have hardly faced any pressure.
And it's a double change for the hosts as Kagawa replaces Anderson and Valencia comes on for Giggs.
The visitors make a change as Ashkan Dejagah comes on for Ruiz.
And it remains the home side who are doing all the attacking. The possession stats are overwhelmingly in the hosts' favour and it is no understatement to suggest we may still see two or three more goals for the league leaders.
GOAL! It's 4-0 as Chicharito grabs his second thanks to a good turn and a fortunately deflected finish. If the visitors aren't careful, this may turn into a cricket score.
The home side - barr a momentous Fulham fightback - will also have extended their unbeaten domestic run to 14 games with today's win. It will also be 11 games unbeaten in all competitions for the Red Devils.
Any United fans who have made their way to Old Trafford today have been rewarded with a convincing performance from their side. They haven't seen fireworks and they have by no means seen an even contest. But they can take an abundance of positive signs from their team's resolve out there today.
Jol also makes a change for his side as Duff comes off and Hugo Rodallega comes on with hopes of getting his side into this cup tie.
One playmaker replaces another as Carrick makes way for veteran Paul Scholes.
The hosts have won the FA Cup a record 11 times. The last time they lifted the trophy was back in 2004, however. Can Sir Alex's side go all the way again this season? On this evidence, very few sides would trouble them.
The visitors have the ball back and are being allowed all the space in the world to thread passes together. The home players are now simply conserving their energy.
Prior to today, the away side had only won two in 13. Today that record just gets worse. It's been an abject display lacking any imagination so far, though the players perhaps can't be blamed for an evident gulf in class.
Well, you sensed United were holding back and they've proved those suspicions emphatically. First Rooney showed his quality with a finely-taken goal, before Chicharito finished off a solid team move and yet another defeat at Old Trafford is on the cards for the visitors.
GOAL! Schwarzer's practice at half-time may have helped the Australian's confidence but it hasn't helped him stop United in full steam. The ball finds its way into the box with too much ease and Chicharito is there to tap in from close range. 3-0.
GOAL! Rooney makes it two for United and it seems to be game over for the visitors. Anderson plays a fantastic through ball to split the Cottagers' defence and Rooney twists and turns before unleashing a fine finish.
With Nani's future the subject of constant speculation, his mediocre showing today will do his standing at Old Trafford no favours. Always at the beginning of a move, the Portuguese winger is forever missing an end product.
CHANCE! Fulham aren't the only side that have upped the ante as United come close through Rooney, only for Hughes to make a vital block - going some way to making up for his earlier handball.
The away side have come racing out of the blocks and Berbatov has come close to opening his account against his old side. The Bulgarian picks the ball up on the edge of the area but his shot rebounds off a defender, before the hosts take the ball straight up the other end and Nani fires wide. Surprise, surprise.
Ruiz and Berbatov kick us off as Fulham resume the action for the second 45. The visitors have made one change with Karagounis coming on for Baird.
Schwarzer has stayed out on the pitch during half-time practicing saves and also perhaps staying warm.
It's a case of 'easy does it' for the hosts, however, as any potential trouble could be very easily countered by a substitutes bench that looks capable of taking on this Fulham side all by itself (yes, even seven v 11). Join us for the second half shortly, where the away side will have to make a go of it for it not to be more of the same.
United have been largely in control but the visitors have looked as though they could pose a threat if they committed themselves more.
HALF-TIME! 'Glory, glory, Man United' rings out as the players head in for the half-time break. It's been an uneventful half but Ryan Giggs' early penalty set the tone for the rest of the 45.
45' + 1'
Fulham have won a corner, though, their first of the half.
One minute of time added on. Debatable between that and none really.
In fairness to Nani, he has tried and tried this half, and his work rate has been evident. But nothing has come of his efforts and here he fires yet another cross straight into Riise.
Nani wonders into the penalty area but is lazy in his convictions and has a shot-cum-cross blocked by defenders with ease.
Berbatov is brought down by a strong challenge but Clattenburg deems the tackle firm yet fair.
First Nani and then Giggs deliver crosses into the Fulham box but possession is squandered and the visitors advance up the other end of the field.
A second goal would all but kill this game off for the home side, but they don't seem in a terrible hurry to get it. Meanwhile, Berbatov and Ruiz attempt to create something in the opposition half and the ball does creep into the United box, only to be collected safely by De Gea.
Slow build-up play from the visitors and their string of possession comes to an end as Kacaniklic is very easily shoved off the ball in the United half.
The visitors work hard to win a throw-in in their own half - such is the level of pressing the home players are exerting.
If one key performer so far had to be chosen man of the half, it would have to be the veteran Giggs, who not only calmly slotted his side ahead but has been involved in most of the home side's other chances as well.
Breaking news: Fulham have a shot. And in fact, it is quite a dangerous one as Sascha Riether drills a low finish across the face of goal.
Straight up the other end, the ball is played into the box and Rooney taps a neat finish near post, only for Schwarzer to again deny him and send the ball out for a corner.
Carrick is caught in possession but the visitors fail to capitalise on a situation where four of their players were attacking the United defence.
Giggs sends a cross into the box which is blocked, allowing the away side to hit United on the break. Brian Ruiz is given offside, however, and the move comes to an end.
Let's not forget that United still have Van Persie, Kagawa, Valencia, Welbeck and Scholes still on the bench. Things already look ominous for the visitors even without them.
No one can blame the away side for their timid approach, though. After all, none of the current XI were present when they last won here ten years ago.
Stat attack: the home side have had five shots on goal. The visitors? You guessed it: they've had none.
Nani fires from range but Schwarzer is equal to the shot. The Australian has made a few saves already and very nearly kept Giggs' penalty out. A minute later, however, Schwarzer is not called into action as Nani again curls his shot wide from inside the area.
Old Trafford is quiet. But not due to a stunning Fulham comeback or a boring game. The hosts simply look so in control that there is nothing much to get excited about.
Not much noise made but there could very easily have been a second penalty for the home side as Damien Duff handles in his own area. Mark Clattenburg waves the appeals away, however, before Rooney is denied by a reflex save from Schwarzer.
Jones whips a ball in across goal but it floats out harmlessly wide for a goal kick.
The home side are spraying passes around nicely, finding space at every opportunity. They are looking especially effective out wide as Fulham's narrow approach sees their players focus on crowding the middle of the park.
Riise chases the ball down the left-hand side, keeping it in to retain possession for his side. The Norwegian left-back had reportedly fallen out with his manager, subsequently missing several games. Riise has started today, however, and is no stranger to putting in a shift at Old Trafford.
The game is being played solely in midfield at the moment and but for Giggs' penalty, we would have a very even contest on our hands. How Jol must rue Aaron Hughes' early handball that gave away United's spot kick.
Kacaniklic intercepts the ball in his own half after a sequence of accurate passes from Carrick, Anderson and goalscorer Giggs.
Breaking news: Fulham have the ball in the United half. It's the first time it's happened in recent memory but we are yet to see anything of note from the visitors. The home side are very happy to stand off them at the minute.
Rooney fires a tame shot wide and his manager looks pleased to see the ball roll off as opposed to squirming with anguish. United seemingly happy to keep things as they are.
It has been a wretched start for Fulham so far but they are just starting to put together their first real selection of passes. All the hosts so far and, though it's only been six minutes, they deserve their lead.
Penalty GoalRyan Giggs
GOAL! United have started like a steam train here and win a penalty within minutes of kick-off, 39-year-old Ryan Giggs proceeding to place it into the bottom corner despite Schwarzer getting a hand on the spot kick.
And our cup tie gets underway as we kick off at Old Trafford!
So changes in abundance for both sides as Sir Alex and Jol look to keep their teams fresh enough to attack both the league and cup. There is no doubting, however, that both teams still have strong line-ups out there and will surely be raring to seal progression into the next round. All the action for you here very soon.
While the Fulham subs are Senderos, Petric, Karagounis, Briggs, Rodallega, Dejagah and Etheridge.
And the visitors' full starting XI for you: Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Duff, Sidwell, Baird, Kacaniklic; Ruiz; Berbatov.
Meanwhile, a strong United bench consists of Ferdinand, Valencia, Lindegaard, Welbeck, van Persie, Scholes and Kagawa.
Manchester United's full team today is: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Smalling, Evra; Nani, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs; Rooney, Chicharito.
And what a HUGE upset indeed it would be. The Red Devils are simply on fire at the moment and are, to put it plainly, scoring for fun. One of Sir Alex's shrewdest signings in recent history - and that's saying something at £24m - Robin van Persie has led Manchester United's constant blitz sessions with 18 goals so far this term, though he only makes the bench today.
But then again, this is exactly what the cup is all about. Many say the tournament has lost it's magic but I couldn't agree less. We've already seen one side defy all the odds in the Capital One Cup this season, with League Two Bradford reaching the final, where they will play Swansea in February. So who fancies another huge upset today?
What a task looms for Martin Jol's Fulham side today. The last time the Cottagers won at Old Trafford was way back in 2003 and United have blown them away since, winning nine home games in a row against Fulham sides led by five different managers including Jol. United, of course, have had just the one Sir Alex Ferguson in all that time.
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE! play-by-play commentary of Manchester United against Fulham in the fourth round of the FA Cup - the oldest domestic knockout tournament in world football. I'm Tim Poole and I'll be guiding you through today's action, so kick back and relax - the weekend is here and so is the the magic of the cup.
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