Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Man United 2 - 2 Fulham: Moyes men sink to a new depth

Vital points thrown away as David Moyes watches his side collapse yet again

Disgusted: Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj and Michael Carrick cannot believe the Red Devils have flopped again

Of all the wretchedness heaped upon David Moyes thus far this season, his players appear determined to find new and ever-more imaginative ways in which to invite humiliation upon their beleaguered manager.

It is certainly the one thing the defending champions can be relied upon to do as they lurch from incompetence to triumph and back again.

Where to start with this latest carnival of the bizarre at Old Trafford? Having finally found a way past the proverbial parked bus of the Fulham side, leading until the 78th minute, United then conspired to throw victory away against the Premier League's bottom-placed team.

Moyes' players seem to have forgotten what it was they used to do in this stadium, that quaint old business of winning matches against inferior opposition.

The stalwarts of the last great Sir Alex Ferguson team are looking like curious old relics in a museum chronicling fine historical deeds.

Nemanja Vidic announced the end of his United career earlier in the week and looked like he had begun it yesterday afternoon. It was Vidic who played a lead role in the sequence of errors that culminated in the substitute Darren Bent's equaliser, four minutes into injury-time.

Yet, Vidic's fading form is just one more fissure in the avalanche of collapsing standards at United. They battered at Fulham's door for the majority of the game and then, just as it looked like they had saved it, that they were United again, that team that refuses to accept defeat, there was the familiar regression.

United expended a great deal in reeling in Fulham's lead, given to them on 19 minutes by Steve Sidwell (below, right), that once they led the game 2-1, they assumed that the natural order of things had been restored. Except that the natural order no longer seems to exist.

It was a strange – with hindsight, brave – team that Rene Meulensteen selected, picked like a rebuke to his older players. Scott Parker, Bent, Damien Duff and Brede Hangeland were all on the bench. Ryan Tunnicliffe, signed from United last month, was given his debut.

Moyes had a much better hand to play with Juan Mata, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney in the side and a strong bench including Antonio Valencia, Adnan Januzaj and Javier Hernandez. What could possibly go wrong?

This being United, in 2014, you hardly have to answer that. A Fulham team that Gary Neville said was not even set-up to win in the game went in at half-time leading 1-0, having had the two best chances of the match by that point.

United dominated with 75 per cent possession, never more so than after Sidwell's goal on 19 minutes, but time and again they resorted to the cross from the right from Rafael da Silva which was the one thing Fulham knew they could defend against.

Sidwell has been in good goalscoring form of late, although his goal was a gift from United's midfield. Lewis Holtby, who was lively, spotted the Englishman run away from Darren Fletcher and behind Vidic. The ball over the top was on the money and Sidwell guided it past David De Gea first time.

In the second half, the challenge to United was to find a way past the 11 Fulham players between them and utter humiliation. It took them until the 78th minute, through three substitutions and a record number of crosses, the final count was 81, before the resistance of Fulham was broken.

United's first goal came from Mata's shot from the right that was tidied up at the back post by Van Persie with his right foot.

Once Fulham had seen their dream shattered, so the second goal followed within 80 seconds. Parker, on as a substitute, shut down Carrick's shot but the deflection off the Fulham midfielder took the ball in.

Moyes described the defending for the second Fulham goal as "diabolical".

Carrick felt he was fouled as Sidwell broke past him in injury-time. He found Richardson, whose shot was parried by De Gea, and Bent nodded in the loose ball.

This time last season United were nine points clear at the top of the table, but last season must feel a very long time ago at Old Trafford.

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