This was one of the most bizarre games I have seen in the years I have followed Fulham. Manchester United dominated possession totally but few would begrudge Fulham their draw; Fulham only had 3 chances but should have scored from all of them, not just the two they did; United threw in cross after cross, over 60, but Fulham dealt with all of them. Just when it looked like United would win, Darren Bent grabbed a last gasp equaliser.
Rene Meulensteen gambled with his team selection, dropping 2 skippers Brede Hangeland and Scott Parker as well as Clint Dempsey. He must have felt that the senior pros do not last more than a hour, when the majority of goals have been conceded, so he needed more youthful legs. So in came Tunnicliffe in midfield and, most bizarre of all, 18 year old midfielder Tankovic up front. It looked like a 4-6 formation.
Two of Fulham ‘s heroes on the day fashioned the first goal. Lewis Holtby’s clever cross found Steve Sidwell, who attacked the box and clipped the ball home first time. Thereafter it was backs to the wall but, just before half time, Tankovic broke, passed to Richardson who only had to clip it over de Gea, but his chip cleared the bar. It was massively disappointing but for the first time this season we counterattacked with pace and precision.
In the second half we seemed to weather the onslaught but, as so often happens, when United scored their equaliser through Van Persie, they immediately added a second. Poor brave Fulham would have nothing for a fighting performance but – lo and behold – at the end from another stirring challenge and run from Sidwell, Bent headed home from close in. Bent is not that popular with the fans but he does get onto the end of things.
The point gained will be marvellous for morale. It poses the intriguing problem whether Rene will go for the same team against Liverpool this Wednesday. To defend so deep is maybe to play into the hands of Suarez and Sturridge, a lethal strike force, but it would be harsh to drop too many given the guts of their performance.
I was sad Dennis Turner could not have seen this game. He would recall a similar game in the sixties, when Fulham were similarly defending throughout the game, but Graham Leggat scored twice for us on the break. I just hope this game kick-starts one of these 60s revivals which began with a sequence of wins.