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Last Updated: Monday, 3 December 2007, 21:51 GMT
Man Utd 2-0 Fulham
By Chris Bevan

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after putting Man Utd ahead
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to help Manchester United see off Fulham and move second, closing the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal to three points.

Carlos Tevez went close twice before Ronaldo netted with a superb volley after Steve Davis failed to clear.

Fulham threatened with two Danny Murphy efforts but Ronaldo headed home John O'Shea's cross to seal United's win.

Ronaldo also felt he should have had a penalty but instead he was booked for diving after tumbling over Antti Niemi.

Lawrie Sanchez's side have not won an away league game since September 2006 and never seriously looked like ending that awful run here.

However, despite the ease of United's victory, they were strangely out of sorts for long periods and their lack of cohesion in the final third will be a concern for boss Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson must be grateful that Ronaldo is in such sublime form - the Portuguese winger has now notched 13 goals this season and scored in each of his last five games.

But the rest of United's strikeforce, including the returning Wayne Rooney, were unable to capitalise on their side's bright start.

United's first chance came and went when Anderson's inswinging cross was just too long for Tevez, who failed to direct his header.

And Fulham keeper Niemi made his first save of what was to be a busy night when he kept out a stinging shot from the Argentine soon after.

Such was the pressure on the visitors' defence a goal looked inevitable and it duly arrived in the 10th minute.

Davis only succeeded in heading a Ryan Giggs corner back into the danger zone and Nemanja Vidic headed on for Ronaldo to find the top corner with a sublime volley.

Tevez was unlucky not to extend that lead when he met another Giggs cross but saw his shot hit Niemi, who knew little about it.

But from then on Ferguson's men seemed to lose their way, and they were almost punished.

First Murphy forced a fine save from Edwin van der Sar after a neat build-up and then, from the resulting corner, the former Liverpool midfielder curled his shot inches wide.

Referee Rob Styles books Cristiano Ronaldo for diving
Referee Rob Styles booked Cristiano Ronaldo for diving

That should have been a wake-up call for United but Fulham continued to come forward and could have been level at the break if Shefki Kuqi had done better with Simon Davies' cross.

It took Ronaldo's second goal to lift United out of their lethargy, and it was another clinical finish.

Substitute John O'Shea curled in a cross from the left and Ronaldo leapt above Dejan Stefanovic to head home.

That was the cue for United to belatedly rediscover their free-flowing football from earlier in the game.

But further goals failed to materialise, with Rooney screwing his shot wide after being fed by Giggs and Louis Saha being denied by another fine Niemi save.

Ronaldo was undoubtedly the star of the show but he was unable to finish the game with a flourish - his final act of note seeing him harshly booked after he raced on to a Giggs pass and fell as he tried to hurdle Niemi.

Niemi immediately gestured that there had been no contact and referee Rob Styles showed Ronaldo a yellow card.

  • Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson on Ronaldo's booking:
    "There is no question Niemi conned the referee. His action forced the referee to book Cristiano.

    "Why would he go down? He was on a hat-trick, he had gone round the keeper and he was brought down. It was a ridiculous decision.

    "There is this perceived idea of Cristiano that he is going to dive. It is quite unfair because he is nothing like that now.

    "He is more mature and a magnificent footballer. He was one on one and he could not get out of the way."

  • Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez:
    "Antti was trying to tell the referee he had not touched Ronaldo - and he hadn't.

    "Maybe if Ronaldo had dragged his feet, he would have got a penalty but he didn't, he sprawled over him. Is that a penalty or not? I don't know.

    "But if he had gone straight over the top, he probably would have scored."

    Man Utd: Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand (Carrick 75), Vidic, Evra (O'Shea 46), Ronaldo, Hargreaves, Anderson, Giggs, Tevez, Rooney (Saha 71).
    Subs Not Used: Kuszczak, Fletcher.

    Booked: Vidic, Ronaldo.

    Goals: Ronaldo 10, 58.

    Fulham: Niemi, Omozusi, Hughes, Stefanovic, Konchesky, Davies, Davis, Murphy, Bouazza (Ki-Hyeon 71), Dempsey (Healy 64), Kuqi.
    Subs Not Used: Warner, Bocanegra, Baird.

    Booked: Davies.

    Att: 75,055

    Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).

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