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Match Reports

Have we hit the bottom yet?

By the end of it, the only surprising thing was that some could still find this abysmal showing surprising. If today is to be the end of the belaguered side we have witnessed for the last six months, then sure enough United delivered in a cruel, yet not uncharecteristic given this season’s standards, way.

Having toiled away for 75 minutes against a side that started today bottom of the league and that had failed to avoid defeat in their last four games, United looked to have rescued some dignity when Robin Van Persie and Michael Carrick put them in front with 10 minutes remaining, before Darren Bent clinched a late equaliser – it’s becoming something of a habit this season.

Perhaps, perverse and probably incredibly debatable thought it might sound, it’s good that United did not escape with the whole three points, for it wouldn’t have solved anything and it would have simply sugarcoated another tragically dire performance, while getting us all giddy ahead of Wednesday.

United, let’s get things right, would have struggled to finish in the top four anyway and not simply for the point gap, given that the Reds currently play worse football than Spurs and Everton and, though it pains us to say it, much, much worse than Liverpool and today simply confirmed all this side’s limits and, more worryingly, of its coaching staff.

Set out with the usual 4-4-2 masqueraded by 4-2-3-1, United started with the usual mixture of sideways passing and aimless crosses – 46 in 46 first half minutes – without concluding anything at all apart from infuriating the fans – including those in the singing section, presumably – who had to witness the horror of Steve Sidwell sliding in the opener with 19 minutes gone.

For all David Moyes’ fault, of which there aplenty, the United manager can’t be blamed for Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher not tracking the Fulham midfielder and allowing him the simplest of finishes.

Moyes, however, can and perhaps should be blamed for the pedestrian football United served up yet again, with Ashley Young and Rafael seemingly tasked with hitting as many crosses in the box as possible, while Juan Mata was yet again confined onto the wing, exactly the position from which a creative player like him is at his most effective.

Moyes’ reluctance to ditch the 4-4-2 which so prominently features into his heart and mind is now resembling a man who receives the latest smartphone but insists on carrying his turntable with him when going for a walk, for, you know, it was so useful and fashionable in the 1980s.

In truth, compared to the other shambles that had unfolded this season, United at least showed some sort of urgency, with Maarten Stekelenburg denying Ashley Young, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney in quick succession between the first and second half, while Kieran Richardson almost put Fulham two up, while rampaging through United’s non-existent midfield.

Adnan Januzaj, Antonio Valencia and Javier Hernandez replaced Fletcher, Young and Rafael, thus allowing Moyes to continue his “Valencia at right-back” experiment, while Januzaj injected some much-needed momentum into the team and, before anybody inside Old Trafford had the time to grasp the events that were unfolding before their eyes, United were 2-1 up, after Van Persie had tucked away Mata’s delightful touch and Carrick had found the top corner.

Moyes celebrated wildly, the celebration of a man who must by now know that his job is seriously under threat, before Bent condemned United to another horrible afternoon.

But, hey, it’s the norm these days.