Man United thrash Fulham to maintain second spot

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Ryan Giggs continued his remarkable record of having scored in every English Premier League season as Manchester United ran out comfortable 5-0 winners over Fulham on Wednesday.

Danny Welbeck, Nani, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov were also on target as the title holders made sure they went into Christmas still two points behind Manchester City, who had won 3-0 at home to Stoke City earlier on.

Giggs’ first league goal of the season was also the 19,999th goal in English Premier League history, with Marc Albrighton going on to net the 20,000th for Aston Villa against Arsenal. Patrice Evra wore the captain’s armband for United on a night when Rio Ferdinand was left out and replaced at centre back by Phil Jones.

France defender Evra knew his performance would be under intense scrutiny following the ban imposed on Liverpool’s Luis Suarez on Tuesday – but the 30-year-old could hardly have had an easier night.

Fulham were outplayed in the first 45 minutes and found themselves three down, although the fourth and fifth were not scored until the match was almost over.

Sir Alex Ferguson made other alterations to the side that had won comfortably at Queens Park Rangers on Sunday with Anders Lindegaard preferred in goal to David de Gea and Giggs drafted into the midfield.

Fulham manager Martin Jol, who was close to becoming Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Old Trafford a few seasons ago, opted to start without Bobby Zamora despite the forward’s recovery from injury.

Jones was hurt within seconds of the kick-off as Clint Dempsey’s arm caught him on the head as they challenged for a high ball and he needed lengthy treatment.

Welbeck then gave United the lead in the fifth minute with a smart finish across David Stockdale, the Fulham goalkeeper, from close range.

The plaudits also belonged to Nani for a run down the left wing that started on the halfway line and ended with a lay back just before he ran out of pitch, although quite why no defender intervened at any point remains unclear.

Stockdale was behind an effort on the turn from Rooney as Fulham continued to look shaky at the back and it was not long before another move down the left, this time involving Evra, carved the home defence apart again.

Fulham survived that scare and suddenly there was a chance for Bryan Ruiz at the other end but Jones put a foot in at the last moment to prevent the Costa Rican from testing Lindegaard from six yards.

Jones was substituted straight away however, with Ashley Young coming on in midfield and Chris Smalling switching to the centre of defence.

Another goal was coming and Nani claimed it in the 28th minute, glancing in a header from Giggs’ right wing cross as the Fulham defence once again failed to react. On half-time Giggs made it 3-0 and United were cruising.

Zamora came on for Dempsey for the final five minutes only to see Rooney let fly from distance with a swerving effort that gave Stockdale no chance for his 18th goal of the season, which was also his fourth in three games.

Berbatov, who had come on for Welbeck, made it 5-0 in stoppage time with a cheeky back-heel from Antonio Valencia’s pass.

English Premier League results:

Aston Villa 1 Arsenal 2
Everton 1 Swansea 0
Fulham 0 Manchester Utd 5
Manchester City 3 Stoke 0
Newcastle 2 West Brom 3
QPR 2 Sunderland 3
Wigan 0 Liverpool 0

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