This was not an auspicious opening day. Fulham felt the full force of a post-World Cup backlash from Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney as they were hammered at Old Trafford. Just for good measure, former Fulham favourite Louis Saha got the scoring underway.
Chris Coleman would have stressed the need for his side to keep things tight with Manchester United looking to make a flying start to the new campaign. It did not go well. Saha put the hosts in front after just seven minutes, stealing between Ian Pearce and Liam Rosenior to head home his third goal against Fulham in two years.
Pearce was at least more proactive in trying to prevent Rooney from converted a Saha cross but his only managed to turn a clearance past Antti Niemi to double the Red Devils’ lead. The visiting defence was all over the place and, although Saha was denied by a good save from Niemi, Rooney had the simplest of tasks to guide home a rebound from close range to make it three just after the quarter an hour mark. The England forward then turned provider for Ronaldo, who powered home a half-volley three minutes later. That red card in Gelsenkirchen certainly seems to have been forgotten. Somehow, Fulham limited any further damage before half-time with Rosenior scrambling a Giggs corner off the line and Paul Scholes smashing a powerful drive against the base of the post.
Heidar Helguson five minutes before the break when his shot looped off Rio Ferdinand and over the helpless Edwin van der Sar. Coleman once said that Michael Brown had been signed to add a bit of bite to his midfield, but the tackle the former Tottenham man made on Giggs was more of an assault. Brown was extremely lucky to remain on the field following his cowardly two-footed lunge – having only been booked. Giggs was soon cautioned for carrying out some personal retribution.
United made it four just after the hour. Ronaldo was instrumental, carrying the ball deep into Fulham territory, and feeding the rampaging Wes Brown. The full back’s precise pull back was perfect for Rooney to rifle his second of the afternoon into the bottom corner. Mercifully, for the visitors, United took their foot off the gas in the closing stages and there was no further scoring. Coleman has a lot of work to do.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): van der Sar; G. Neville (Silvestre 45), Ferdinand, Brown, Evra; Ronaldo, O’Shea, Scholes, Giggs (Park 60); Rooney, Saha (Solskjaer 61). Subs (not used): Kuszczak, Fletcher.
GOALS: Saha (7), Pearce (o.g. 15) Rooney (16, 64), Ronaldo (19).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Quedrue, Christanval, Pearce; Brown (Radzinski 61), Diop, Bullard, Boa Morte; John (McBride 64), Helguson. Subs (not used): Crossley, Volz, Bocanegra.
GOAL: Helguson (40).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).