1) Rooney’s taking a penalty break
After his dismal run of penalty misses (10 career misses and two this season), Wayne Rooney finally gave in and stepped down from spot kick duty and Ryan Giggs calmly slotted in the opener after a handball by Aaron Hughes with just 72 seconds on the clock. But, as we know, Giggs won’t be able to play every game (who does apart from Rafael?) so it may be the time to give it back to Robin van Persie who started the season as our penalty taker. I was always a fan of the way van Persie struck any dead-ball, be it corners, free-kicks or pens when he was at Arsenal. Yes, he didn’t do too well against Southampton earlier in the season with that unconvincing chip down the middle, but I say we should give him another go as he can’t stop scoring at the moment. Other than van Persie or Giggs I wouldn’t be terribly confident in anyone else in the squad as Chicharito and Nani have also fired blanks from 12 yards this season.
2) Nani’s back
Talking of Nani, he showed glimpses of his capabilities against Fulham playing on his favoured right-side after coming in for an out-of-form Antonio Valencia. Both have been under pressure of late, first with the promising performances of Ashley Young this term and secondly with the acquisition of Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace. Zaha’s arrival may mean one of our wingers is on his way out and it’s up to them to prove that they can still cut it at Old Trafford. Nani took the opportunity to do so with a typically cock-sure display; taking on players at any given opportunity, shooting at will and assisting Chicharito brilliantly for his second with a delightful flick. Valencia came on which meant it was back on the left for Nani and his influence faded noticeably. However, there was enough there to ensure his place in the team for the visit of Southampton on Wednesday, and should he get a good run in the team Nani could be back for good.
3) Fergie made the right changes
When results don’t go our way, our bench is often looked at and questions are asked about why a certain player wasn’t brought on or why another was still on the pitch. When we win comfortably though, substitutions are overlooked. With the game looking secure, the manager decided to take off one of our most important players this season in Michael Carrick and replaced him with Paul Scholes. With a tough fixture list on the horizon, including a trip to Madrid, it’s imperative that Carrick is kept fresh. Meanwhile, Fergie also brought on Shinji Kagawa and Valencia; two players who have both recently admitted that they are unhappy with their contributions this season. With the team playing with their tails up, the gaffer saw fit to introduce the pair and get them in on the act. Kagawa fared better as he linked-up play well with Rooney and could have scored late on but shot off target. The Japanese international should get another run-out against Southampton after his bright cameo although Valencia will have to put serious work in to rediscover his form at the back-end of last season.
4) Qatar worked a treat
Ok, Fulham weren’t great, they looked a much better side when they travelled to Old Trafford in August where we were left hanging on. In spite of how inept our opponents were, United showed great energy and enthusiasm throughout the game and we kept pushing for more goals where we would usually rest on our laurels, sit back and run the clock down by passing the ball around in our own half. This could be down to the mid-season training camp in sunny Qatar where the players left the snow behind for a kinder climate, relaxation and a bit of team bonding. Hey, even prima donna footballers need some R&R now and again. Sir Alex said it couldn’t have come at a better time and it wouldn’t be the first time I agreed with him. The last time the squad went away on a similar trip was during the 2007/08 season and we all know how that ended. Like omens? Well here’s another, every time we’ve beaten Fulham in the FA Cup, we’ve gone on to win the competition.
5) Same old Berba
Call me what you like, but when the game was effectively won, I wanted our former number nine to get on the scoresheet. Watching him at Old Trafford again was bitter-sweet as his touch and vision was to behold and it was quite painful to see him surrounded by players of much lower quality. He looked exasperated and sulky as he wasn’t receiving the ball when and where he wanted on a pitch where his demands were often met and his motions understood. He didn’t have his best game though, still unwilling to bust a gut for his side and maybe being paired with the similar Bryan Ruiz was not such a good idea by Martin Jol. The Bulgarian looked a bit embarrassed when walking off the pitch with a somewhat patronising Patrice Evra on his shoulder and will, no doubt, be telling his teammates and himself that much more is expected when the two sides meet again next week at the Cottage.