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Beers, goals and songs. A fun afternoon in West London

1121173-17703558-640-360It was an afternoon of fun, beers were joyfully consumed, classic songs were belted out with gusto and United seemed to slightly regain the swagger of yesteryear. It was, in other words, the sort of afternoon that had proved all too rare so far this season.

Except that United’s leisurely stroll along the Thames could have been even better had Moyes’ men capitalised on a formidable start that had them three goals up within 24 minutes, rather than sit back and negotiate the second half with all the intensity of an 18-year-old waking up stranded on a park bench after a monumental night out.

Still, if there’s one lesson that we’ve learnt so far this season is that we can’t afford to be too picky and the three points will do just fine, particularly considering that the Special One and his troops fell to an unexpected 2-0 defeat at Newcastle earlier today, which means United, while still eight, are only three points behind Chelsea.

But enough of tables, results and what not. United arrived at Craven Cottage on the back of an unbeaten run in London (or Landan, as the natives tend to call it) stretching all the way back May 2011 when they had lost at the Emirates, but without the mercurial Michael Carrick.

Carrick’s absence meant the odd couple that are Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones were again given the nod in midfield after playing against Norwich on Tuesday, while Nemanja Vidic partenered Jonny Evans at centre-back, with Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie tasked with providing goals and creativity.

Rooney and RVP wasted no time in doing just that, as they set up United’s opener after only eight minutes. Van Persie’s pass found Rooney, who seemed to take all the time in the world before setting up Antonio Valencia for the simplest of finishes, as the Ecuadorian netted his second goal of the season – that’s right, Tony has not only scored a goal this season, but he’s done so more than once.

12 minutes later United were at it again. Adnan Januzaj nicked the ball off 1950s-haircut enthusiast Scott Parker, before playing a delightful ball through for Robin Van Persie who dispatched it into the roof of the net with consummate ease, as United enjoyed the luxury that is hitting teams on the break for the first time since a 4-1 shellacking of Swansea on the opening day of the season.

With Fulham’s rearguard about as tight as a NSA’s computer under that has fallen into WikiLeaks’ hands, United trebled their advantage two minutes later as Van Persie eluded the offside trap yet again, before presenting Rooney with an open goal chance the United number 10 could not miss.

So far this season the focus has been on the partnership between Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, but today Van Persie and Rooney proved that they’re as good as any other striking duo in the league, while Antonio Valencia continued to resemble a player on his way back to form and Adnan Januzaj, while not as eye-catching as in other games, produced another fine performance.

3-0 up after 24 minutes, United looked in cruise control and would have been in the second half, bar for the three half-time substitutions David Moyes was forced to make as Rafael and Jonny Evans picked up knocks and were replaced by Chris Smalling and Shinji Kagawa, while Marouane Fellaini came on for Tom Cleverley, who seemed to suffer from blurred vision.

The chances of retaining possession with as agricultural a midfield combination as Jones and Fellaini were pretty much close to nil and so it proved as Fulham, despite their diabolical defending, were allowed back into the game when Rooney deflected a Alex Kacaniklic’s shot beyond De Gea to give the home fans something to shout about.

Yet, despite a sloppy second half performance and a couple of casual clearances, United looked comfortable, although perhaps not as comfortable as they should have been, but they secured back-to-back win in the Premier League for the first time this season and are now unbeaten in seven games in all competitions.

Not that the away end worried, mind, busy as they were filling the crisp early November’s air in West London with an array of songs which sent out a message loud and clear: United aren’t back yet, but they’re not as far behind as many would like to think.