Goalscorers: Lee Clark 3, Diego Forlan 45, Steed Malbranque 66, Junichi Inamoto 79
Manchester United: Tim Howard, Gary Neville, Mikael Silvestre (Quinton Fortune 45), Rio Ferdinand, John O’Shea, Eric Djemba-Djemba (David Bellion 80), Nicky Butt, Cristiano Ronaldo (Paul Scholes 69), Ryan Giggs, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Diego Forlan
Fulham: Edwin van der Sar, Moritz Volz, Jerome Bonnnissel (Martin Djetou 74), Zat Knight, Alain Goma, Lee Clark, Mark Pembridge (Junichi Inamoto 32), Sylvain Legwinski, Steed Malbranque, Louis Saha, Luis Boa Morte (Barry Hayles 86)
Referee: Mike Riley, Attendance: 67,727
Manchester United would have gone top of the Premier League table in October 2003 but they were given a rude awakening by Fulham at Old Trafford. They were on a high following a midweek UEFA Champions League success against Rangers but Chris Coleman’s team had other ideas.
Fulham took control very early on and got the lead through a defensive mistake. Mikael Silvestre conceded possession and the lively Steed Malbranque steered a low cross into the box. The experienced Lee Clark was at the right place at the right time to convert at the near post.
It was no fluke. The Cottagers’ showed no fear for the occasion and they could have extended their lead before half-time. American stopper Tim Howard had to deny the in-form Louis Saha, who would become a Manchester United player three months later. Then, Mark Pembridge, a deadline day signing from Everton smashed an effort against the crossbar.
There was little Sir Alex Ferguson could do to influence matters. He was confined to the directors’ box. An earlier misconduct incident in the season at Newcastle United meant he was serving a touchline ban. His side did find their feet and slightly undeservedly, equalised right on the stroke of half-time. Diego Forlan’s fine finish across the bows of Edwin van der Sar levelled the scores. It was the much-maligned Uruguayan’s first goal of the season.
If Ferguson was dishing out the “hairdryer” treatment during the 15-minute pause, the players were not listening. Fulham kept plugging away and they never lost belief in their abilities to pull off a shock result. Midway through the second half, they got their lead back. An opportunist strike from Malbranque saw Fulham on their way to a first victory at Old Trafford in over 30 years. The Frenchman punished a slack header from Rio Ferdinand.
United were reeling and although they responded with a John O’Shea header that whistled wide of Van der Sar’s goal, it was Fulham who deservedly struck again in the 79th minute. Popular midfielder Junichi Inamoto produced a spectacular finish from six-yards out to send Fulham fans into delirium.
This moved them upto fifth in the table and they had a fine season, despite losing Saha to Manchester United in the January transfer window. A ninth-place finish was an excellent reward in Coleman’s first full season in club management. Manchester United did spend Christmas on top of the table but ended a disappointing third and 12 points behind unbeaten Arsenal.