Cristiano Ronaldo News

Monday, August 21, 2006

Report: United 5 Fulham 1

20/08/2006 14:17, Report by Ben Hibbs

United went top of the Premiership table on Sunday after Fulham were blown away by the Reds’ attacking potency in a breathtaking 5-1 win at Old Trafford.

A United and Premiership record crowd of 75,115 watched as the Reds, inspired by Rooney, Scholes and, in particular, Ronaldo, sent a message out to the rest of the league: United will be a force to be reckoned with this season.

Doubts about the team’s ability to get goals following Ruud van Nistelrooy’s departure to Real Madrid were called seriously into question as United’s slick, incisive and relentless attacking play tore into Fulham’s defence. Admittedly, the Cottagers, who won only once on the road last season, will not be United’s sternest test this term. But it was as good a start as Sir Alex Ferguson could have hoped for.

Predictably, Ronaldo’s every touch was met with boos from the away fans, but the welcome afforded to him by the home supporters leaves no doubt that the opinions of him that matter are favourable.

Up front Sir Alex went with what is likely to be his first-choice partnership of Wayne Rooney and Louis Saha, the results of which bore fruit after just eight minutes of the match. Ronaldo found Rooney on the right wing and his searching cross-field pass was flicked on by Saha to Ryan Giggs on the left. The Welshman fired the ball back into the box and Saha met it with a glancing header past Antti Niemi.

It sparked the Reds into a scintillating spell. In the next 11 minutes United went 4-0 up. After 14 minutes Ronaldo slid a pass out to Saha and the Frenchman curled in a dangerous low cross. Rooney challenged for the ball, but in trying to block the United striker, Fulham defender Ian Pearce turned the ball into his own net.

The bombardment continued. Gary Neville took advantage of Fulham’s sleeping defence and crossed the ball deep for Saha. His acrobatic volley was palmed away by Niemi, but Rooney followed up the rebound to make it 3-0. Rooney then turned provider, crossing deep from the left, wonderfully picking out Ronaldo’s run to the far post. The 21-year-old winger met the ball as it hit the ground and smashed a half volley into the roof of the net.

United’s football showed no sign of summer rust. Scholes orchestrated from the middle, Ronaldo terrorised from both flanks and through centre, Rooney took up any and every unoccupied spot, and Saha’s pace, power and aerial strength frightened the life out of Fulham’s back three.

The Reds have lost only three season openers under Sir Alex and are unbeaten at Old Trafford on the first day of the campaign in the Premiership. That record had all but been preserved in 20 minutes of dazzlingly forward play. Inevitably United’s tempo dropped. But Fulham still looked as though they needed something out of the ordinary to make any mark on the game, and they got it five minutes before half time. Heider Helguson struck a speculative left-footed shot from the edge of the box, which cannoned off Rio Ferdinand’s head and looped over Edwin van der Sar’s despairing reach.

The second half started on a sour note when Fulham midfielder Michael Brown should have been sent off five minutes after the restart. When Giggs slid in to keep the ball in play on the left, Brown went in two-footed on the Welsh winger. Somehow, Brown only received a yellow card. In retaliation – purely out of frustration that Brown was not shown a red card – Giggs clattered the Fulham man the next time he had the ball, which saw him also enter the book. Incidents such as Brown’s challenge wrangle more so when Rooney faces a three-match ban for a challenge significantly less serious.

But United soon returned to the free-flowing football that had gleaned such impressive results in the opening 45 minutes. The Reds introduced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ji-sung Park to refresh the team’s attacking options, but it was the usual suspects of Ronaldo and Rooney that brought about United’s fifth and final goal.

Ronaldo received the ball on the right from Scholes and threaded a neat pass between Fulham’s right-back and centre-half for Wes Brown to run onto. The United defender, moved to right-back after Neville was replaced by Mikael Silvestre at half time, intelligently located Rooney’s withdrawn position on the edge of the box and pulled the ball back. The United forward side-footed the ball home from 15 yards to complete the rout.

Ronaldo could have made it six after Rooney put him clean through with 20 minutes remaining, but the Portuguese winger fired his shot wide and the score remained a still very much impressive 5-1. Aside from the goals, United were solid in defence apart from the unavoidable blip for Fulham’s goal. And with Michael Carrick to return, and possibly another signing to arrive, the season promises much.

Team Line-ups
United: Van der Sar, Neville (c) (Silvestre, 46), Ferdinand, Brown, Evra, Ronaldo, O’Shea, Scholes, Giggs (Park, 61), Rooney, Saha (Solskjaer, 61).Subs not used: Kuszczak, Fletcher.
Fulham: Niemi, Pearce, Christanval, Queudrue, Rosenior, Diop, Brown (Radzinksi, 61), Bullard, Boa Morte (c), Helguson, John.Subs not used: Crossley (GK), Volz, Bocanegra, McBride.
Attendance: 75, 115 (United and Premiership record)
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