One-dimensional United pay price against Fulham

The Red Devils racked up a record number of crosses and shots but were still unable to beat the league's bottom side thanks to some uninspirational play and questionable tactics
Teng Kiat

When Steve Sidwell knocked in the first goal at Old Trafford, it felt as though it had been coming. When Darren Bent snatched the equaliser for Fulham right at the death, most Manchester United supporters probably laughed at the eventuality of it all. I know I did.

There was a time when most football fans knew that a one-goal deficit was nothing but mere encouragement for a United team to get back into the game. Not anymore.

On Monday morning, the Red Devils struggled to beat the league's bottom side, who had won two of their last 10 games in all competitions. They arrived on the back of a FA Cup replay exit to Sheffield United, who sit fourth from bottom in England's third tier.

I backed David Moyes earlier on this season after their victory over Arsenal. Instead of kicking on from there, the team have stumbled, falling down more often than not to their current position of seventh.

The Scot has not helped himself with questionable tactics on many occasions this season. Against Fulham, his only words to his charges pre-match appeared to be "cross the ball". They took heed and the Theatre of Dreams witnessed enough high balls to have had their fill for the rest of their lives.

A staggering 81 crosses were pumped in to the box, the most by any team in a single game since the beginning of the 2006/07 season and 32 more than their previous highest tally this campaign. Only 18 found a United shirt. The rest were cleared by any of the 10 Fulham players camped in the box.

Against a team expected to sit back and had a two-metre-tall centre-back in Dan Burn, with Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney both not particularly proficient headers, it was a strange instruction from Moyes. The quality was not there either. Only one of Ashley Young's 15, Rooney's 12 and Rafael's 10 crosses were accurate. In contrast, Adnan Januzaj found his team-mates five times after coming on in the 62nd minute.

The insistence on using the flanks when all the wingers bar Januzaj have been poor this season continues to baffle, as is the decision to use the youngster and Shinji Kagawa sparingly of late. Along with Juan Mata, the three are the most unpredictable and creative players at Moyes's disposal. Instead of sticking with a traditional 4-4-2, why not ditch it and go narrow like Chelsea have done?
The sloppy defending for both goals is another area of concern, with the players having to shoulder more of the blame for this. The lapses in concentration were shocking to see, though unfortunately they have become a more common sight this season. Nemanja Vidic was arguably most culpable in both instances and proved the move to let him go was right.

Remarkably, and commendably, the home crowd stuck by their side when boos would have chorused out at most grounds. I am also of the opinion that it is still early days for Moyes and that he should have the summer transfer window and the next season to make his mark. It is clear the squad needs an overhaul and he should be allowed to bring in his own players and make the team his own.

But it is increasingly getting harder to remain patient with Moyes. The erratic tactics, the "we-played-well" post-match claims despite everything suggesting otherwise, the increasingly prevalent notion that he is clueless at the moment; if it continues for the rest of the season, Moyes will find the goodwill dwindling in no time. That would only make his job tougher than the mountain of a task it already is.