Unpredictable Prem #13

Manchester United 1 – 3  Fulham

Saturday 15th October 2003

Line-ups:

Manchester United

Howard

G. Neville

Ferdinand

Silvestre (Fortune 45)

O’ Shea

Ronaldo (Scholes 69)

Djemba-Djemba (Bellion 80)

Butt

Giggs

Forlan

Van Nistelrooy

Fulham

Van Der Sar

Volz

Goma

Knight

Bonnissel (Djetou 74)

Malbranque

Pembridge  (Inamoto 32)

Clark

Legwinski

Boa Morte (Hayles 86)

Saha

Manchester United’s, and indeed Sir Alex Ferguson’s, elite reign at the top of English football now seems even more impressive than it was at the time, given the unpredictable nature of the Premier League winners over recent seasons. To establish that level of consistency and dominance, over such an extended period of time, is undoubtedly the greatest managerial feat of all time – but it meant that they were the biggest scalp in world football. Many teams have beaten Manchester United over the years, but some defeats were far more embarrassing than others. One such defeat was a 3-1 home loss to Chris Coleman’s lowly Fulham in 2003.

With Sir Alex watching from the stands, the game was an opportunity for Fulham to showcase United’s recently highlighted defensive frailties without the tactical intervention of the Scotsman directly. Evidently, it was never a classic United back four, but nobody expected Lee Clark to open the scoring for Fulham after just three minutes. A mistake form Mikael Silvestre was latched on to by Steed Malbranque, who crossed well onto the foot of Clark, who swept the ball home to open the scoring in shocking fashion.

The visitors then set about ensuring that nobody saw this defeat as a fluke. Soon after, they saw two attempts to widen the scoring blocked by the crossbar and Tim Howard respectively, before Diego Forlan restored some order on the verge of half-time. The Uruguayan was sent through on goal with just seconds to go, before slamming the ball across Edwin Van Der Sar to equalise.

Despite what you would imagine to be a terrifying half-time team-talk from Sir Alex, who actually missed Forlan’s goal due to the fact he was on his way to the dressing room, United did little in terms of improving when the second half begun. The game was simply taken away from them by Fulham. Another defensive error, this time by Rio Ferdinand, was capitalised upon by Malbranque when after the ball drifted over the English international defender’s head, the Fulham star finished immaculately. Yet again, United were staring at the face of defeat. Though United did show glimpses of promise, it was the Londoners who deservedly scored the final goal of the game. With just 11 minutes to play, Junichi Inamoto fittingly sealed a spectacular win with a spectacular finish, firing a left-foot shot from six yards to give Fulham their first Old Trafford victory since 1963.

Dan




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