Manchester United vs. Fulham: 6 Things We Learned
Coming off the back of a disappointing defeat at the hands of Everton on Monday, a positive result was needed for the Red Devils.
An early Damien Duff strike and a Nemanja Vidic own goal had United fans biting their fingernails at certain points in the game, but goals from new signings Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa, as well as from Brazilian full-back Rafael, were enough to secure a valuable first win of the season for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.
Here are six things we learned from the early-season encounter.
Nani Pays the Penalty for Poor Goodison Performance
In what seems to have been a reaction to his poor performance at Goodison Park on Monday, United's mercurial winger Nani was completely left out of the match-day squad to face Fulham on Saturday.
To suggest that this implies that Fergie is considering selling the Portuguese enigma would perhaps be a tad premature, but nevertheless, with the Scotsman desperate to regain domestic dominance, it seems that one poor game from one of his players may be enough to see him wield the axe (as Wayne Rooney was unfortunate enough to discover).
With Ashley Young's impressive performance on the left flank, and Antonio Valencia and Rafael combining well on the right, Nani may have to wait awhile before he is able to regain his place in the team.
United Must Defend Better from Set Pieces
Two games in, two goals conceded from set pieces.
Granted, Monday night's goal-scorer Marouane Fellaini is as close to unstoppable as a footballer can get, but the first of this week's cringe-inducing moments for the Old Trafford faithful was purely down to some particularly sloppy defending and a lack of concentration.
Once Michael Carrick can resume his midfield duties, United fans will breathe a huge sigh of relief, because there have been times in both fixtures when they've seen their team cut to ribbons.
After an impressive display at Everton from keeper David de Gea, his blunder to allow Fulham's second suggested he still has a long way to go before he can reach the level of recent greats Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar.
He will also need to improve his communication with captain Nemanja Vidic if the United back-line are to function effectively.
The New Robin, Same as the Old Robin
Did you ever doubt him?
Robin van Persie's Old Trafford career got off to a dream start only 10 minutes in against Fulham, as a typical van Persie volley found its way into the top corner of Mark Schwarzer's net.
Perhaps going down 1-0 wasn't such a bad thing after all, as the Dutchman's goal not only sparked delirious joy around the Theatre of Dreams, but simultaneous relief as well.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who still finds it odd seeing van Persie in a United shirt, but if he can keep scoring goals like the one today, the feeling is likely to dissipate quickly.
He will hope to add to his tally in next weekend's clash with Southampton.
Moussa Dembele Is a Beast
At times, Fulham's Moussa Dembele made the spine of the United team look brittle and flimsy.
His devastating combination of power and trickery gave Anderson and Tom Cleverley nightmares, perhaps revealing the lack of an out-and-out defensive midfielder in the Red Devils' squad.
Sir Alex has been strongly linked with a move for the Belgian midfielder this summer, and on the back of his showing on Saturday, it might not have been such a rash purchase (via Daily Mail).
If Martin Jol can keep him at the London club for the season, a top-10 finish is by no means out of the realm of possibility.
Where Does Rooney Fit In?
It is perhaps worrying for Wayne Rooney that his team played its best football against Fulham with him on the bench.
With van Persie and Shinji Kagawa leading a 4-1-1 formation, United looked potent in attack, but when Rooney and Danny Welbeck arrived on the scene with less than half an hour remaining, the chances began to dry up.
His horrific injury suffered in stoppage time will surely see an important decision delayed for a few weeks.
But when the English striker returns to action, exactly where in a cluttered United team he'll play remains to be seen.
Manchester United Like to Make Their Fans Sweat
Having been strolling to a seemingly inevitable victory, not for the first time, sloppy defending allowed United's opposition back into what should have been a comfortable win.
This is becoming a notable trait for Sir Alex's team, and one that is sure to frustrate the portion of fans with a weak constitution.
If the Red Devils must improve in one aspect, it's in being able to kill off teams sooner rather than later.
As noted before, the impending return of central defender Jonny Evans will help, but if this is any indication of how United's season is to go, we're in for a very bumpy ride indeed.