Rooney goal secures nervy victory for United; Red Devils thank lucky stars as Fulham are denied last-gasp penalty
Manchester United moved three points clear at the top of the Premier League after a narrow victory over Fulham at Old Trafford.
Wayne Rooney scored the only goal but the Red Devils were thankful to referee Michael Oliver, who failed to award a penalty to the visitors late on when Danny Murphy was upended by Michael Carrick.
It was a scrappy performance from Sir Alex Ferguson’s side on a night when the tempo of their play was uncharacteristically slow.
Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young were all off-key as Fulham succeeded in disrupting the flow of the champion’s game with a resolute rearguard action.
Martin Jol’s men offered little in the way of an attacking threat as offensive players such as Moussa Dembele, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Clint Dempsy were all forced to curb their attacking instincts for the sake of the Dutchman‘s gameplan.
Indeed, they stifled United for the majority of the game, and to such an extent that they may well have claimed an unlikely point had referee Oliver correctly awarded a penalty against Carrick.
However for Manchester United, it is not performances that are of the utmost importance at this stage of the season. Most essential is that three points are recorded, and United may look back on this game come the season’s end and view it is a sizeable step towards a record 20th league title.
Of course, it was a weekend when their grip on the Premier League trophy tightened before they’d even kicked a ball as Peter Crouch’s wonder goal helped Stoke City hold Manchester City to a 1-1 draw at the Brittania.
Elsewhere, Arsenal maintained their impressive sequence of results with a routine 3-0 victory over a beleaguered Aston Villa side. That result made it seven Premier League wins in a row for the Gunners, their best run since 2007.
Chelsea and Tottenham played out a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge in a game that Spurs dominated, keeping the visitor’s five-point advantage over their London rivals intact.
At Anfield, Kenny Dalglish’s plight worsened as Liverpool were beaten 2-1 by lowly Wigan, leaving them eight points behind Newcastle in sixth place, who claimed an impressive 3-1 victory against West Brom at the Hawthorns.