Moyes targets leap up table as United hit form
Fulham 1 Manchester United 3
At one point, after scoring three goals from well created chances inside the opening 22 minutes, it looked as though Manchester United were poised to make a telling statement of intent.
Instead, the combination of the need to preserve minds and bodies ahead of the Champions League trip to face Real Sociedad and Fulham's improved second-half showing ensured this was simply a satisfactory afternoon's work for David Moyes and his team.
That, though, was welcomed by the manager, who has already endured more frustration than he would like during a difficult start to his United career. On this occasion he was able to savour a much more comfortable performance from his side, illuminated by exciting first-half performances from Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, and United's first back-to-back league wins of the season.
Early goals from Antonio Valencia, Van Persie and Rooney laid the foundation and while Alex Kacaniklic pulled one back for the home side midway through the second half, Fulham never really threatened a full recovery.
"We knew we would have to pick up points and I was always confident that would happen," said Moyes. "It was an important victory, and hopefully we will just carry on and keep the momentum going. Our job is to climb the league table. We want to be nearer the top and I have no doubt that by the end of the season we will.
"Where we are just now I don't think is really that important, except that you don't want to let the teams get too far away from you. We've got to make sure they don't. We have to keep building on recent performances."
With Chelsea having lost at Newcastle earlier in the day, this was a chance for Moyes's side to state their case, which they did convincingly.
Moyes had talked up the qualities of Rooney and Van Persie as a partnership before the game and the pair combined fluently for United's ninth-minute opening goal, with the Dutchman releasing his team-mate beyond Fulham centre-back Philippe Senderos. Rooney raced into the area, paused while waiting for support, and then squared for Valencia, who scored his first league goal of the campaign.
Fulham were convinced they had grounds for complaint about the 20th-minute second goal. Scott Parker appeared to be fouled by Adnan Januzaj and Van Persie got the benefit of a borderline offside call when he collected the United's youngster's pass. There was nothing wrong with Van Persie's excellent finish that flew into the roof of the net, though.
Two minutes later, the game was effectively over with Van Persie cast in the role of provider, again getting in behind Fulham's high defensive line and making his way to the byline before squaring for Rooney, who emulated Valencia's earlier routine finish.
"There were real signs of great combination between them, and they made the goals for each other," said Moyes of his front two. "It was great they both got on the scoresheet."
Tom Cleverley, Jonny Evans and Rafael were all replaced because of injuries at half-time, but Moyes expects all three to recover in time for midweek.
Fulham deservedly reduced the arrears when Kacaniklic cut in from the left and beat David De Gea, but they failed to close the gap further and Martin Jol was forced to face a third successive defeat. "I used to say have no fear, Martin is here," said Jol. "Sometimes I think it's better that the fans are on my back (rather) than the players' backs. You could see how well we played in the second half."