Manchester United eased to a comfortable victory at Craven Cottage to pile more misery on Fulham. Owen Hargreaves, Ji-Sung Park and an own goal from Simon Davies gave Sir Alex Ferguson’s side the win as moved to within a single point of Arsenal at the top of the table.
United looked comfortable throughout the first-half, could have fallen behind were it not for a fine fingertip save from former Fulham goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to deny Danny Murphy. Five minutes later, the visitors were in front. Owen Hargreaves took responsibility when United were given a free kick right on the edge of the box and the England midfielder curled his first goal for the club brilliantly beyond Antti Niemi.
Conceding an early goal would have been the last thing Roy Hodgson wanted. His beleaguered side struggled for impetus and to shackle the defending champions. It was no surprise when they doubled their lead just before half time. Paul Scholes offered an overlap down the right and his floated cross was headed in off the underside of the bar by Park Ji-Sung. The second half was largely a non-event with United happy to stroke the ball around at half pace and Fulham unable to put the away side under significant pressure.
Ferguson’s side still opened up Fulham again for a third on 72 minutes, although Simon Davies was unfortunate to turn John O’Shea’s cross past his own goalkeeper after he had tried to track the United full back all the way into the Fulham box. The Welsh winger did get an opportunity to make some sort of amends in the closing stages when van der Sar flapped at a cross, but Davies’ drive was blocked away to safety. For the champions, this was a sixth victory in eight league games and it applies real pressure on Arsenal at a crucial point in the season. For Hodgson, it just has to be on the next one.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Stalteri, Konchesky, Hughes, Hangeland; Bullard, Murphy (Smertin 64), Volz (Kamara 90), Davies; McBride, Johnson (Nevland 90). Subs (not used): Keller, Bocanegra.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): van der Sar; Evra, Ferdinand, Brown, O’Shea; Nani (Anderson 75), Scholes, Hargreaves, Park Ji-Sung; Tevez (Ronaldo 69), Saha (Rooney 69). Subs (not used): Kuszczak, Pique.
GOALS: Hargreaves (15), Park Ji-Sung (44), Davies (o.g. 72).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirral).