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Rooney set to miss Cottage clash

Wayne Rooney is expected to┬ámiss Manchester United’s trip to Craven Cottage today as he’s struggling to overcome a stomach bug.

The England international felt ill at Carrington yesterday and has not travelled with his team-mates to London as United don’t want any infection to spread to other members of the squad. Should Rooney fail to recover in time to make a journey down to London today, his place will probably be taken by Mexican sensation, Javier Hernandez, who is in line to make his first competitive start for his new side.

Roy raves about Rooney

Lesser mortals would quickly run out of things to say about Wayne Rooney. Not our Roy.

Wayne Rooney is proving he is among the best in the world every week. He is scoring lots of goals in a tough league like ours. He is starring for England and is starring in the Champions League.

Anyone doing that is a player who will be talked about and someone everyone else is going to be coveting. It is no surprise people are coveting Wayne Rooney.

It is pointless for me to say Wayne Rooney is an excellent player because you could get that from the man in the pub. I just know we don’t have that kind of money.

Hodgson had words of solace for his Fulham side, who competed well, but were dealt a critical blow by the concession of the first goal so soon after half time.

We passed the ball quite well and defended well. We did all the good work yet within a minute of the second half we conceded a goal and from that moment, of course, the game was always going to be difficult for us.

It was touch and go at half time whether Hangeland could continue, it was pretty obvious he couldn’t which forced us to make yet another change in the team and what was already going to be a difficult task, trying to get a result here, became even more difficult when that change came about.

I’m a bit disappointed we conceded two late goals. It would have been nice if we could have at least got some reward for the hard word the boys put in, with a scoreline that is more respectable than 3-0, but one just has to hold up one’s hand in these occasions and say that we were, of course, beaten by a better team.

But I can’t really ask so much more of the Fulham team, I don’t think, than they gave today.

Rooney rifles United to the summit

Hands up who expected Fulham to get anything from Old Trafford yesterday? There can’t have been many. The slight alterations in Roy Hodgson’s team selection might have reflected that as he chopped and changed with Thursday’s second leg against Juventus in mind. Manchester United were kept at bay for 45 gritty minutes but scored almost as soon as the second half got underway and two late goals gave the scoreline a more convincing look.

The victory takes Sir Alex Ferguson’s side two points clear of Chelsea at the top of the table, though they have played a game more than Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Almost as importantly, Wayne Rooney looked in irresistable form again. He might have had a couple of goals in the first period, buzzing around the Fulham box with intent, and had Dimitar Berbatov not sent a simple header over the bar, Fulham would have had a mountain to climb long before the England striker opened the scoring 30 seconds in the second half.

Fulham were disciplined as ever in defence and they needed to be alert in the very early stages as a teasing run from Anton Valencia put the Whites on the back foot. Only an untimely slip in front of goal prevented Rooney from grabbing an early goal with Schwarzer prone and Aaron Hughes scrambling to try and make a tackle. Nani, warming to the task at Old Trafford after a slow start to his United career, was a threat down the left and Berbatov should have done better than guide his near post header wide.

There were plenty of desperate last-ditch blocks too. Hangeland felt the full force of a meaty Berbatov strike and Rooney appealed for a penalty against Stephen Kelly when the Irishman turned his back on a shot and the ball struck his arm. It would have been exceedingly harsh, but Ferguson’s side do normally get those at home. Rooney curled a long-ranger only fractions wide and Schwarzer denied him from close range as United were forced to go in at the break on level terms.

This was a gritty effort from Hodgson’s side who carved out a few chances of their own. The lively Clint Dempsey, starting a game for the first time since January, seized on a defensive mistake and drove over from distance whilst Danny Murphy, booed for his Liverpool connections, played a beautiful lofted ball for Bobby Zamora but the striker’s impudent first-time chip went over both Edwin van der Sar and the crossbar.

Hodgson introduced Damien Duff for the second period, but the problems were immediate at the other end of the field. Fulham never really got themselves organised and Rooney and Nani worked a one-two which allowed the Portuguese to thread a cross between three Fulham defenders, allowing Rooney to roll in a simple finish from nine yards. United pressed for the second goal, but Fulham held firm despite Schwarzer fumbling a shot from Nani, a mad moment of pinball in their penalty area and Rio Ferdinand’s volley that went just wide.

Whilst it stayed at 1-0 you felt Fulham still had a chance. Zamora will reflect on the opportunity created by a clever flick from Erik Nevland that seemed to send him through on goal, but he seemed to hesitate slightly, allowing Nemanja Vidic to slide in and make a saving tackle. Any hopes of an unlikely point disappeared as United put the game to bed in the final five minutes. Fulham had battled gallantly in midfield for much of the contest, with Chris Baird outstanding again alongside Danny Murphy, but they had no answer to the brilliant Berbatov.

The Bulgarian cheekily nutmegged Nicky Shorey and burst away from both the left-back and Baird before teeing up Rooney for his second. The former Tottenham forward got the goal his display deserved with team running out. Rooney prized open the Fulham defence with a glorious crossfield pass that found Park Ji-Sung in space. The Korean’s cross was perfect allowing Berbatov to plant a majestic header wide of Schwarzer. 3-0 might have been a little harsh given Fulham’s endeavour but it’s on to thoughts of overturning that Juventus deficit now.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-4-2): van der Sar; Neville (Fabio 87), Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic; Fletcher, Carrick, Valencia (Park 73), Nani; Berbatov, Rooney. Subs (not used): Kuszczak, Gill, Evans, Obertan, Diouf.

GOALS: Rooney (46, 84), Berbatov (89).

FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Kelly, Shorey, Hughes, Hangeland (Greening 62); Baird, Murphy, Davies (Duff 45), Gera; Dempsey (Nevland 72); Zamora. Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Dikgacoi, Okaka.

BOOKED: Murphy.

REFEREE: Mike Jones (The Wirral)