Fulham 0-1 Manchester United: Player ratings

by Dan on February 3, 2013

There was plenty to be positive about at Craven Cottage last night as Fulham put the poor display at Old Trafford behind them and attacked the league leaders with gusto. While the Whites rode their luck defensively on occasions, Bryan Ruiz might have scored twice on another day and Hugo Rodallega delivered a performance full of energy and endeavour up front in the absence of Dimitar Berbatov. Credit too must be given to the work of Giorgos Karagounis and Chris Baird in midfield, while the outstanding Sascha Riether had another storming game from right back.

Schwarzer: The big Australian kept Fulham in the contest on several occasions. He made a brilliant reaction save from Nani to prevent United taking the lead as a corner caused chaos in the six-yard box and his positioning proved perfect enough to pluck efforts out of the air from van Persie and Hernandez in the second half. He had little chance of stopping a sublime finish from Rooney that ultimately proved decisive, but this was a far more assured performance than some we’ve seen this season. 7

Riether: We’ll soon be running out of superlatives for the German. Arguably Fulham’s finest right back since Steve Finnan (and that’s some accolade as he’s only been at Craven Cottage for six months), Riether delivered another performance brimming with both energy and desire. He handled Nani expertly, miraculously cleared off the line from Rooney and reserved his most telling impact for the final third, surging forward to provide vital width down the right. 8

Riise: Since his recall to the side, John Arne Riise seems to have rediscovered some of the zest that accompanied that upturn in form this time last year. The Norwegian seems destined not to score for Fulham, with David De Gea producing a stunning save to claw away a dipping 30-yarder – and he kept an admittedly below-par Antonio Valencia largely quiet. There wasn’t as much raiding forward as we’ve come to expect from Riise, although he was understandably more focused on keeping the league leaders at bay. 7

Hangeland: The Norwegian was Fulham’s most composed defender in the 45 minutes he was on the pitch, making Robin van Persie something of a peripheral figure. Apart from almost heading a curling corner into his own net, Hangeland barely put a foot wrong and produced one superb sliding tackle just as it appeared as though Valencia was about to stroll through the Fulham defence. This was a return to the commanding form we’ve seen too little of this season – and we can only hope that the Achilles injury won’t keep him out for too long. 7

Senderos: It was such a shame that Senderos misjudged that hopeful ball from Patrice Evra that led to United’s winner as this was probably one of his best performances in a white shirt. Picked ahead of Aaron Hughes again, his aerial ability and physical presence came to the fore as the visitors switched to a more direct approach later in the second period. He was doubly unfortunate as a injury-time header seemed destined for the far corner until van Persie intervened. 6

Karagounis: The Greek warhorse has carried Fulham’s midfield during a rather bleak winter and his gusto and desire typified this battling performance once again. Although he might be more of a playmaker than a ball-winner, Karagounis went toe-to-toe with Cleverley and Carrick and throw a spanner into the heart of United’s engine room. While he might not be able to last ninety minutes now given the Premier League’s intensity, he’s been a real find and was slightly unlucky to drag a second half shot wide from twenty yards after another determined run. 7

Baird: Such is the madness of the modern football that, on Thursday, Chris Baird appeared to be close to the exit door and on Saturday he was preparing to take on the leaders at the heart of Fulham’s midfield. As usual, the boy from Ballymena didn’t let anyone down, although he operated a little deeper than Steve Sidwell at times. This was an understated and yet calm performance but Baird nearly surprised De Gea when a second half daisycutter almost crept inside the Spaniard’s near post. 7

Dejagah: Recalled to the side to offer pace down the flanks, Dejagah’s running frightened the United defence at times, especially during a frenetic start. He linked well with Hugo Rodallega in the early stages – racing onto the Colombian’s pass before having a shot blocked – and an untimely airshot spoiled another dangerous run. While his ball control and decision making still need improving, this was the Iranian’s best performance in a Fulham shirt and hinted at more to come. 7

Duff: In previous years when United have had a fright or more at the Cottage, Damien Duff has been to the fore. This time he was fairly quiet, while marshalled by the excellent Rafael De Silva, who actually forced the Irish winger to do plenty of defensive work. Duff stuck to his task diligently but his impact on proceedings was largely limited to set-piece deliveries and the odd dribble down the left flank. Still a tireless worker who remains an integral part of Jol’s side as he approaches his 34th birthday. 6

Ruiz: People will see what they want to see in this performance from Bryan Ruiz. Those who feel the Costa Rican wants too much time on the ball and doesn’t deliver enough will point to some poor decision making and how he surrendered possession too easily at times, but I think that’s a little unfair on the one man who looked likely to unlock the United defence. He saw a low shot cannon back off the far post and had another effort bundled off the line and kept running all evening. The simple fact is that Fulham look a far better side with him involved. 7

Rodallega: The Colombian followed up a fine display against West Ham with an evening of eager running and surprising levels of aerial supremacy against both Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand. While he snatched at the few opportunities that came his way – the best chance was a difficult volley that went wide in the first half – Rodallega held the ball up superbly and brought his team-mates into play in a manner that meant Fulham created far more chances than many expected yesterday. It was earnest rather than excellent, but pleasing nonetheless. 7

Substitutes:

Hughes: Dropped after the Old Trafford shambles (for which he was hardly the only one to blame), Aaron Hughes replaced the injured Hangeland at half time and struggled at times after United went to a 4-3-3 with the arrival of Javier Hernandez. It looked as though Fulham might have held out for a point until Senderos missed his header and Hughes backed off the onrushing Rooney, allowing the England striker to come inside onto his right foot. 6

Emmanuelson: An encouraging cameo from our latest loanee, who slotted into central midfield as if he’d been operating there all his life. Used the ball smartly and sent over a couple of dangerous crosses and when he carried the ball at speed, it looked as if he might be able to raise the tempo of Fulham’s attacks. Given that he’d had just a single training session with his new team-mates, this was an impressive start. 6

Petric: Sent on to try and sniff out an equaliser, the Croatian – who looked Fulham’s most likely source of a goal in August – spent most of his ten minutes on the field scrapping for the ball on the edge of the box. His frustration mirrored Fulham’s but in a frantic finale, the hosts’ just couldn’t deliver the kind of service on which Petric thrives. 6

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