PREMIER LEAGUE: Nani the architect as Man Utd go ten clear

Manchester United have strengthened their Premiership credentials with a comfortable 2-0 home win over Fulham this afternoon.
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Manchester United have strengthened their Premiership credentials with a comfortable 2-0 home win over Fulham this afternoon.

Portuguese winger Nani was the catalyst for the Red Devils with two assists to give Dimitar Berbatov and Antonio Valencia fairly easy finishes, allowing them to notch up their 12th win in a row at Old Trafford and extend their unbeaten run at the venue to 18.

The win enabled Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to go ten points clear of second-placed Arsenal, who meet Blackpool at Bloomfield Road tomorrow, and it would be hard to see them falling over now.

United have now won three on the trot in the league and their last six in all competitions whilst Fulham’s away misery continued as they have now saluted just once in their last 34 attempts away from Craven Cottage.

Manchester United: 2 (Dimitar Berbatov 12’, Antonio Valencia 32’)
Fulham: 0

Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Crowd: 75,339
Referee: Mark Jones
Yellow cards: MU - nil
FU - nil

United had no Wayne Rooney, who is serving a two-match ban for abusive language, but such is the luxury that Sir Alex Ferguson has he can bring in the league’s leading scorer in Dimitar Berbatov who had come off the bench in their last three outings. Ferguson made eight changes to the team that beat Chelsea in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Fulham made a bright start with loanee Gael Kakuta testing Tomasz Kuszczak in goals with an early shot just moments before Nani flashed wide from the edge of the area down the other end in a vivid start in perfect conditions at Old Trafford.

Kuszczak was forced to make a save from a Moussa Dembele in the sixth minute before Bobby Zamora found space a minute or so later but placed his shot wide of the mark as the Cottagers made their intentions clear in the opening stages.

GOAL However, United are on top of the league for a reason and struck the opener in the 12th minute when Nani made a neat run, played a give and go with Anderson, before finding Berbatov who needed no invitation to tuck away past Mark Schwarzer for his 21st league goal of the season.

Anderson should have doubled the lead in the 20th minute after Berbatov produced a dazzling run down the right before cutting back to the Brazilian but he choked his shot in what was a huge let-off for the visitors.

GOAL After a stint of play on even terms, United struck again when Patrice Evra played a long ball down the left into the path of Nani who took a touch, rounded an advancing Schwarzer and flicked a pass to the back post where Valencia was waiting to nod home from close range in the 32nd minute.

United were playing with an extremely efficient manner as they keep allowing Fulham to hold possession before picking their moments to attack and it worked perfectly as they took a 2-0 lead into the break.

Schwarzer made a poor error immediately after the re-start with a bad clearance which was pounced on by Valenica who played it across to Anderson but the Australian keeper redeemed himself with a fine save as the league leaders smelt blood.

Eidur Gudjohnsen came off the Fulham bench and almost created something out of nothing when he struck goalward just after the hour-mark but Kuzczak got a vital hand to the curling shot to maintain his clan sheet.

Minutes later Schwarzer held on to a Darron Gibson shot to keep Fulham in the match after the Irishman was found by Nani which was the only real chance prior to Bobby Zamora’s free-kick which whizzed past the corner of the post.

After that, however, United controlled play and had a few shots from range saved by Schwarzer as they put on the cruise control late in proceedings to enjoy yet another victory as they roll on toward the title.

Starting Line-Ups

Man Utd
Tomasz Kuszczak (gk) – John O’Shea, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra – Antonio Valencia (Owen 73’), Darron Gibson, Anderson (Fabio 77’), Paul Scholes, Nani (Carrick 87’) – Dimitar Berbatov

Subs - Edwin van der Sar (gk), Michael Owen (73’), Fabio (77’), Michael Carrick (87’), Wes Brown, Park Ji-sung, Javier Hernandez

Fulham
Mark Schwarzer (gk) – Chris Baird, Aaron Hughes, Brede Hangeland, Carlos Salcido – Gael Kakuta, Danny Murphy (Greening 82’), Dickson Etuhu (Gera 68’), Clint Dempsey – Bobby Zamora, Moussa Dembele (Gudjohnsen 56’)

Subs - David Stockdale (gk), Eidur Gudjohnsen (56’), Zoltan Gera (68’), Jonathan Greening (82’), Steve Sidwell, Rafik Halliche, Stephen Kelly

 
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