Fulham 1 Manchester U 2

 
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 8:05 am    Post subject: Fulham 1 Manchester U 2  Reply with quote   

February 26, 2007

AS if he was speaking from the smog of an Amsterdam cafe rather than the heat of a title battle, Edwin van der Sar summed up Manchester United’s sense of calm.


Asked about the battering he had received from his former club Fulham, the big Dutch keeper shrugged his shoulders and said ‘s**t happens’.

What he meant was s**t may happen — but United were always going to win.

The Premiership leaders were out-fought, out-foxed and out-played by Fulham for 88 minutes.

Yet everyone in the ground simply knew they were going to conjure up something special.

It was thanks to a flash of pure genius from Cristiano Ronaldo, whose magnificent solo winner snatched a smash-and-grab victory to open up a nine-point lead on Chelsea.

Had Stanley Matthews listened to acid house music, he would have played like Ronaldo — a man who dribbles a football as if he was on Ecstasy.

Yet this victory was just as much down to a classy display from skipper Ryan Giggs and two wonderful saves from Van der Sar.

The Dutchman’s mix-up with Nemanja Vidic gifted Brian McBride the opener.

But Van der Sar made amends by twice denying Simon Davies to leave Alex Ferguson celebrating as if his ninth title was already won.

Van der Sar admitted: “Sometimes we didn’t look our usual selves at the back but s**t happens. Sometimes you have a good game but I made a mistake with the first goal and then saved one or two.

“These are the games that decide if you are going to be champions or let Chelsea back in the game.

“The goal a few minutes before time was exactly what we needed on a tough afternoon. We could easily have been 2-1 down and then it would have been hard.

“But we kept going and it came down to Cristiano with his incredible run and goal.

“We’ve got individual quality and if you perform as a team, that extra quality comes up trumps sooner or later.

“A nine-point lead is nice. Chelsea have a game in hand but they have to win it. The more points you can get between us and them is good.

“Chelsea will have been focused on the Carling Cup final but I know for sure they will have watched this game. It’s a statement to them that we are determined not to let things slip.

“It was not good judgment to come out for Fulham’s goal but it was good that I could redeem myself with a couple of saves.”

Fulham boss Chris Coleman was banging his head with frustration after a dominant display earned his side a big fat zero.

But he was quick to point out the significance of his former Wales team-mate Giggs, who shinned an equaliser from Wayne Rooney’s artful centre and later drove on United from central midfield.

Coleman said: “Ronaldo is a world-class player but they’ve got world-class players all through the team.

“Giggsy has been a bit under-rated over the past couple of years but you can play him anywhere.

“You can play him centre mid, striker, left wing, right wing — he is one of the best wingers this game has ever seen.

“He may have lost half a yard over a 10-yard burst but he still gets into the right places because he’s thinking quicker. He’s got a great football brain.

“I remember Giggsy when he turned up in the Wales squad for the first time — he was about 11 I think. He looked about 11 anyway. It’s 15 years ago now — he’s world class.

“Edwin was superb for them, too. It reminded me of Peter Schmeichel a while back.

“You got one-on-ones with Schmeichel and rarely did people score. Edwin is in that type of form.

“A great keeper can win you a title and Chelsea have had problems with injuries in that position this season.”

Another Welshman, Davies, was the star of the show and might have had a hat-trick. But Fulham striker Tomasz Radzinski went even closer when he headed Michael Brown’s cross against the bar.

Davies said: “Van der Sar pulled off a terrific save for the first one.

“With the second one, if I didn’t hit it so well it would perhaps have gone in the corner.

“United have been resilient and then they’ve broke away and scored. From the way they celebrated you could tell how much it meant to them and how much pressure they were under.”

But Davies, like boss Coleman, insisted Fulham should have had a last-minute penalty for a challenge by Van der Sar on sub Heidar Helguson.

He said: “The keeper took out Heidar so it’s a great shout for a penalty.

“The ref had a lot of bodies between himself and the ball. We thought it was a definite penalty but it’s a brave one to give in the circumstances.”

Coleman added: “I don’t know the reason we did not get a penalty. The ref has no excuses as it was right in front of him.”

Ferguson’s childlike glee at the final whistle evoked memories of his celebrations of Steve Bruce’s late winner against Sheffield Wednesday which virtually secured his first title in 1993.

The Scot said: “It wasn’t quite a Steve Bruce moment. I did get quite carried away then but I’m too old for that now.

“It was a very significant result, particularly scoring so late on. It was the most difficult game we’ve had all season.

“To say it was smash and grab is putting it mildly.

“You are always waiting for a match when you don’t play well but dig out something, get a result and tell yourselves ‘That’s a warning’.

“This is our most difficult game all season — but we won’t play this badly again. Fulham were terrific but we ended up winning.”

Giggs added: “I’ve been fortunate enough to win the league a few times and you have to earn it.

“There will be ups and downs where you’ll be dropping points and it’s how you come back. You have to have the character in the dressing room.

“This team has potential. We are creating goals and scoring goals and playing attractive football like Manchester United teams have done in the past.

“But you can’t judge teams until they’ve won things. Not one trophy but a lot of trophies over several years.”

It almost seemed as though Fulham were desperate to keep the title in their own London SW6 postal district.

And Coleman admits his friendly rival, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, will not be happy.

Coleman said: “Jose might have sent me a case of wine but I think he’ll be letting my tyres down now!”

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