Premier League: Rating the Manchester United Players vs. Fulham
Manchester United's 1-0 win over Fulham sent the Red Devils 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Wayne Rooney's excellent strike snatched all three points in a testing encounter. Martin Jol's Fulham side played doggedly and with real flair—testing the visitors right until the final whistle.
This game will be remembered for floodlight failure, fine saves and four strikes against the woodwork (via ITV Sport). One or two performances from Manchester United will also live long in the memory, with certain individuals thrusting the team to victory.
Who took the main plaudits? Read on to find out.
David De Gea: 8
A fantastic performance from United's young goalkeeper. David De Gea made a fine save from John Arne Riise's thunderbolt in the early stages and managed to claim the resulting corner.
This pattern continued throughout the match. Bryan Ruiz whipped a wicked shot toward United's bottom corner—but it bounced off the post. After observing a few replays, it turned out the faintest of touch from De Gea kept the score at 0-0.
Perhaps the stopper's improved display is linked with United's committed defending. Two looping headers were destined for the back of the net—but Rafael and Robin van Persie cleared off the line. If these had entered the goal, who would receive the blame?
Four collected crosses and three great saves ensured United left Craven Cottage with the victory.
Patrice Evra: 6
Patrice Evra's decent form has been consistent of late. The Frenchman has hushed many doubters with his improved season. Even so, United's marauding full-back started too casually against Fulham. He struggled to keep up with Ashkan Dejagah in the first half and left his flank open when defending counters.
United's victory could have been far more comfortable if Evra—who has scored four goals this season—adjusted his feet and slotted home from close range in the opening 10 minutes. A terrible miss threatened to cost the league leaders vital points.
Evra's partnership with Nani offered little threat down the left. When Sir Alex Ferguson finally decided to substitute the Portuguese winger, his overall game lifted. Evra improved as the fixture rolled on and eventually made two important tackles in the latter stages.
Jonny Evans: 8
The Northern Irishman looked rusty across the first 20 minutes. He gave the ball away under little pressure and took a while to find his stride.
Jonny Evans soon blew the cobwebs away and performed magnificently in the centre of defence. He tackled with strength and powered through the threat of Hugo Rodallega. The 25-year-old moved forward with the ball—often breaking into Fulham's half with the ambition of making a pass to his supporting colleagues.
Although the arrival of Urby Emanuelson sparked Fulham into life, Evans halted the home side's offensive progress with four tackles on the edge of his box. A fantastic header from under his own bar also removed pressure in the last few minutes.
Wayne Rooney will be thankful for Evans' forward-thinking. The defender's long ball up the pitch bounced beyond Philippe Senderos and provided United's English striker with the match-winning moment.
Rio Ferdinand: 6
A mixed afternoon for United's veteran centre-back. Unlike Evans—who broke forward with ease—Rio Ferdinand's attempts to spray the ball around were misguided. He stepped out of defence and got caught out twice. Alongside this, he failed to make a tackle across the entire game.
Ferdinand's pivotal contribution came in the air. The Englishman dominated 83 percent of his aerial duels and made 18 clearances; the most across both teams. Ferdinand may have looked slow—but once he dropped deep, his influence grew.
Fulham set up to halt United's right wing. Both Rafael and Antonio Valencia were frustrated in tight spaces. The Brazilian full-back managed a couple of decent tackles—but he played like an individual who was wearing the wrong boots (via The Daily Mail).
When the 22-year-olf broke toward Fulham's area in the second half, nobody was surprised to see a left-footed shot slink into the crowd. Despite improving massively this season—and clearing a certain goal off the line—Rafael was the weak link at the back.
United's enigmatic winger played like a man who has accepted his own fate. The exit door looms—and boy, does Nani know it.
The former Sporting Lisbon man looked uncomfortable on the left wing. He often cut inside and failed to find space on his right.
Nani's speed troubled Fulham's defence on a couple of occasions, but his delivery had them giggling. None of his six crosses found a teammate. Embarrassingly, he finished the game with a pass accuracy rate of 57 percent.
Not content with stinking up the left wing, Nani continued to struggle when switched to the right. He completed one dribble and was dispossessed four times before being hauled off with five minutes to go.
Sir Alex Ferguson might have trouble shifting him at this rate.
Michael Carrick: 7
Another effective display from United's most important midfielder. Michael Carrick played too deep in the opening stages and really came into the game when he prowled the halfway line. The consistent Englishman completed five tackles—a number that was only equalled by Fulham's Sascha Riether.
Carrick's vision seems to have developed even further this campaign. He is constantly looking to spray passes forward and selected through balls carefully. Another classy display from the United ever-present.
Tom Cleverley: 4
A really disappointing day for Tom Cleverley. His terrier-like energy was unquestionable against a Fulham midfield that was prone to leaving gaps. Even so, the 23-year-old sprang about carelessly and with no impact.
Always intent on attacking, Cleverley failed to aid United's defence during Fulham's second-half onslaught. Despite producing a pass accuracy rate of 97 percent, he was rarely involved in United's progress at either end of the pitch.
Perhaps Ferguson needs to give him a break in the next fixture against Everton.
Antonio Valencia: 5
Antonio Valencia is working hard to rediscover his stunning form from last year. As previously mentioned, Fulham avidly stopped United's right side from getting into the game.
The Ecuadorean winger was often forced to backtrack. Martin Jol was wary of Valencia's ability to cut inside and did excellently to combat it. Just one of five crosses found a United body in another disappointing display from the former Wigan man.
Wayne Rooney: 9
Quite literally a match-winning performance from Wayne Rooney. His commitment and work rate was rewarded with a fine goal 10 minutes from time. He accurately slotted around Aaron Hughes and beyond Mark Schwarzer with a finish that sent United 10 points clear of their City rivals.
It would be unfair to focus solely on Rooney's goal. He buzzed between Carrick and van Persie with real appetite, linking play with creative passes that snuffed out Fulham's barrage of attacks.
When Jol's side ramped up the pressure, the versatile Englishman threw his body into the line of fire with no hesitation. A wholehearted and truly fantastic display.
Robin van Persie: 6
Somewhat ironically, van Persie's biggest contribution came in his own area. United's Dutchman headed the ball off the line with minutes left—joining Rafael on the list of last-ditched saviours.
Van Persie was otherwise quiet throughout. He managed just 25 passes—the lowest of all United's outfield players. Some decent holdup play brought Rooney into the game, but Hangeland and Senderos managed to keep the finisher quiet.
Javier Hernandez: 5 (66')
Not the best showing from United's resident super-sub. He had time and space to volley home a high ball from the edge of the box—but failed to make contact in a hilarious mishap.
The Mexican's movement allowed van Persie to drop deep and help out in defensive areas.
Ryan Giggs: 5 (75')
Brought on to give Cleverley a break. His only real contribution was a poor clearance that prolonged pressure.
Danny Welbeck: N/A (84')
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All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored.