Premier League

February 2, 2013



0 - 1

Manchester United

Premier League

17:30 +00:00, February 2, 2013

Craven Cottage, England

Rooney turns spotlight on rivals

#INSERT type:image caption: Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez celebrate the former's winning goal END#

Wayne Rooney's solitary goal turned the spotlight on Manchester United's Barclays Premier League title rivals after they beat Fulham in a Craven Cottage match interrupted by floodlight failure.

Rooney's 10th goal in as many games, 11 minutes from time, sent United 10 points clear of Manchester City, who entertain Liverpool on Sunday, and a massive 16 ahead of third-placed Chelsea.

And it all came after a whirlwind opening was halted by a break in play just before half-time when the stadium was plunged into darkness.

Prior to that, United had struck the woodwork on three occasions, while Fulham had hit the post once.

But instead of a goal deluge, there was just Rooney's single strike - a cool finish from Jonny Evans' long ball downfield.

United stated their intent by selecting two orthodox wide men and attacking from the first whistle.

With Fulham, even minus former Red Devils striker Dimitar Berbatov, far more of a threat than they were when the sides met in the FA Cup seven days ago, it made for a rip-roaring opening in which both keepers excelled.

A mad penalty box scramble after nine minutes proved to be a sign of things to come.

Robin van Persie's corner started it, bouncing off Brede Hangeland and towards his own goal, forcing Mark Schwarzer into the first of a series of excellent saves.

Patrice Evra reacted quickest but could only scoop the ball against the bar before Sascha Riether cleared Rooney's shot off the line.

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

Within seconds, John Arne Riise tested De Gea with a dipping effort that was tipped over.

De Gea got nowhere near a Bryan Ruiz shot that thudded against a post before play switched to the other end, where Hangeland, after denying Nani with a superb last-ditch tackle, turned Van Persie's corner on to 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 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 that it is almost a surprise when he has a quiet game.

This one went on around him after the restart, a failure to get any power behind a header from Nani's cross his only real opportunity.

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 Riether's shot to Bryan Ruiz, but the Fulham forward was unable to get any purchase on his volley.

For a while, it appeared Fulham might claim a major scalp, and Rafael 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, and when Fulham failed to get a touch to Evans' long kick downfield, the England man picked his spot and, in front of England manager Roy Hodgson, calmly found the bottom corner.

Van Persie cleared Philippe Senderos' injury-time header off the line in a grandstand Fulham finish, but the leaders held on.

Scoring Summary

Fulham Manchester United
 Wayne Rooney (79')