Manchester United 5 Fulham 1

Last updated : 06 October 2006 By Footymad Previewer
Four goals in 12 exhilarating first-half minutes blew Fulham away and sent a tornado-like warning to the rest of the Premiership that Manchester United's title ambitions remain as fierce as ever.

The eye of that tornado was undoubtedly Wayne Rooney.

The England star scored two of United's five goals and played his part in two more as the Reds tore Fulham apart.

Rooney linked superbly with Louis Saha in United's attack and some of his interplay with Cristiano Ronaldo left that infamous World Cup incident firmly in the past.

United opened the scoring in the seventh minute when Rooney found Ryan Giggs hovering on the left and his superb cross from the byline was headed home by Saha from six yards on the near post.

The Reds were 2-0 up after quarter of an hour.

Giggs started the move with a neat drag back to find Rooney on the edge of the Fulham penalty area.

Faced with a wall of defenders, Rooney tapped the ball leftwards to Ronaldo and he fed Saha wide on the left.

Saha drilled in a vicious cross-shot and, as Rooney slid in at the near post, the ball came off Fulham defender Ian Pearce and went beyond goalkeeper Antti Niemi and into the net.

Within a minute, it was 3-0.

Gary Neville delivered the perfect cross from the right to the far post where Saha connected with the ball.

Niemi did well to keep out the Frenchman's close-range effort, but the ball rebounded to Rooney who stroked it home right-footed from eight yards out.

Rooney turned goalmaker three minutes later.

His raking cross from the left found Ronaldo ghosting in on the blind side of the Fulham defence at the far post to side-foot home his right-footed shot from six yards.

Saha and Giggs came close to scoring, while Paul Scholes, playing his first Premiership game since last December, was unlucky not to score on the half hour.

Having collected a pass from Ronaldo, he hit a blistering low 30-yard shot which cannoned back off the foot of a post on to Niemi, who just managed to recover to stop the ball crossing the line.

Fulham, who had to content themselves with long-range efforts from new signing Jimmy Bullard and Papa Bouba Diop, pulled a goal back five minutes before the break.

Heidar Helguson sent Bullard racing away down the right and, as he cut into the box, he rolled the ball back to the Icelander.

Helguson fired a shot in from the edge of the area which took a wicked deflection off Rio Ferdinand's chest before spinning over the head of United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar and into the roof of the net.  The goal was however credited to the Icelandic international.

The second half was never going to be the massacre that the first had been, but United added a fifth goal in the 63rd minute.

The move began with Patrice Evra on the left and Ronaldo helped the ball onto Wes Brown overlapping down the right.

Brown cut the ball back for Rooney, who scored with a crisp low right-foot shot from 12 yards out.

Ronaldo should have added to his tally seven minutes later when sent clear by Rooney's excellent throughball, but the Portuguese winger fired his shot wide from 12 yards with only Niemi to beat.