United build on lead with win over Fulham

Last updated 09:58 03/02/2013
Wayne Rooney
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WINNER: Wayne Rooney sends the only goal of the game through to secure United's lead atop the Premier League.

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Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney lit up Craven Cottage after a floodlight-failure delay by clinching a 1-0 victory over Fulham that sent the leaders provisionally 10 points clear in the Premier League title race.

Rooney latched onto Jonny Evans' long ball and went through the Fulham defence before curling the ball into the bottom corner in the 79th minute.

It was Rooney's 10th goal in as many games, and the double-digit lead it secured over Manchester City will stay intact if the champions lose to Liverpool.

"It's a good position, we are pleased," United manager Alex Ferguson said.

"When you look at our performance tonight, players were prepared to put their bodies on the line ... the first half we hit the woodwork three times and we deserved to win."

The match looked in jeopardy in the 42nd minute when the floodlights went out at Fulham. The referee led the teams back down the tunnel before the lights came back and the match was resumed around 10 minutes later.

Prior to that, United had struck the woodwork three times, and Fulham once.

United defender Patrice Evra first hit the crossbar after 10 minutes before Sascha Riether cleared Wayne Rooney's shot off the line.

United maintained the pressure but Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer came to his team's rescue again with another fine stop to prevent Evra's effort flying in.

John Arne Riise then tested United goalkeeper David De Gea with a dipping effort that was tipped over.

De Gea got nowhere near a shot from Bryan Ruiz that thudded against a post before play switched down to the other end where Brede Hangeland, after denying Nani with a superb last-ditch tackle, turned Robin van Persie's corner onto the bar.

Only then did a breathless contest slow in intensity, although a brilliant move involving Nani and Tom Cleverley created another opportunity for Rooney, which he stroked against a post.

Nani was certainly making an impression on only his fourth match back after two months out with a hamstring injury, only for his momentum to be halted as the stadium was plunged into darkness.

The players did return to complete the opening period, although Van Persie's shot, gathered at the second attempt by Schwarzer, was the only incident of note.

So brilliant has Van Persie been for United this season it is a disappointment when he has a quiet game.

This one went on around him after the re-start, a failure to get any power behind a header from Nani's cross his only opportunity of note.

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Indeed, the floodlight incident seemed to take the zip out of the entire contest, with neither side coming close to matching the thrills they had produced before the impromptu break in proceedings.

Van Persie did somehow wriggle his way down the by-line before setting up Nani, only for Chris Baird to block.

De Gea endured another uncomfortable moment when he could only parry Sascha Riether's shot to Ruiz, but the Fulham forward was unable to get any strength on his volley.

For a while it appeared Fulham might claim a major scalp.

Rafael da Silva cleared off the line from Ruiz after Jonny Evans had been forced to head away from underneath his own bar.

Rooney had other ideas, though, with the England forward picking his spot after a pass from Evans and calmly finding the bottom corner.

Van Persie might have added a second only to volley over from close range, although the striker was required at the other end to clear Philippe Senderos' stoppage-time header off the line.

- AP

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