Lee Clark scotched rumours of a summer exit from Craven Cottage as he scored twice in two minutes to inspire Fulham to a thumping victory over Sheffield United this afternoon.

The former Sunderland midfielder had been left out of Karl-Heinz Rielde’s first matchday squad after voicing his disappointment at the sacking of Paul Bracewell, but he returned to set up Andy Melville’s late leveller at Tranmere last week and scored twice in two minutes as the Whites thrashed a poor Blades side, who played much of the second half a man down after Shaun Murphy’s sending off.

The home side were in complete command from the off – enjoying Riedle’s removal of the defensive-mindset imposed by Bracewell. The Cottagers dominated the first half but only had a twelfth-minute strike from Terry Phelan to show for their persistent peppering of the United goal. The veteran Irish defender showed a clinical side in front of goal firing emphatically past Simon Tracey after taking the ball off the toes of Geoff Horsfield, who had worked a clever one-two with strike partner Barry Hayles.

Clark gave the hosts the breathing space their adventurous football merited just after the hour – although Tracey was unlucky to be completely wrong-footed by a hefty deflection. The former England under-21 international then gave the Blades keeper absolutely no chance when he lashed home his second of the afternoon shortly afterwards – underlining his importance to a Fulham side who have underachieved this season.

Melville scored for the second week in a row heading home a corner from Eddie Lewis with eighteen minutes to go. United barely put up much of a fight until Murphy took matters rather too literally, seeing red four minutes after the break for a second foul on Horsfield. The Blades lost their discipline, picking up four more bookings, as Clark, Horsfield and Hayles cut them to pieces in the second half.

FULHAM (4-4-2): Taylor; Finnan (Uhlenbeek 77), Phelan (Trollope 81), Melville, Coleman; Hayward, Clark, Goldbaek, Lewis (Peschisolido 77); Horsfield, Hayles. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Morgan.

GOALS: Phelan (12), Clark (61, 63), Melville (72).

SHEFFIELD UNITED (4-5-1): Tracey; Kozluk, Quinn, Murphy, Sandford; Wilson (Gysbrechts 50), Brown, Ford, Woodhouse, Devlin; M. Bent (D’Jaffo 73). Subs (not used): Duke, Woodward, Ribeiro.

BOOKED: Murphy, Sandford, Ford, Quinn, Gysbrechts.

REFEREE: Mark Warren (West Midlands).