Wayne Rooney's second-half goal won a well-contested match and gave Manchester United a 10-point lead at the top
A surprisingly good match, given last week's one-sided Cup thumping. Fulham were well organised, survived the loss of Hangeland at half-time impressively well and kept Van Persie all-but silent throughout. United's best spell was the second part of the first half, when a goal seemed inevitable but somehow evaded them. That was never the case in the second half, and their goal didn't come from any clever pass-and-moving, but from a hopeful punt that came good, and some very stylish and opportunistic forward play by Rooney. Fulham had several chances to score themselves, largely from set-pieces or outside the penalty area, but 'twas not to be. Still, the lights went out for a bit, and that's always fun, innit?
It's been a joy. 'Night.
90+5 min: And his shot goes straight into the wall, bounces towards the half-way line, and the referee blows his whistle. It's all over!
90+4 min: Rodallega stands over it…
90+4 min: Fulham have a free-kick, central, five yards outside United's penalty area. This is the last chance. They have to score here.
90+3 min: United have wasted the best part of a minute, with Rooney getting booked for kicking the ball away, retro style.
90+2 min: United belt the ball down the other end, and suddenly Hernández is clear! But he takes the ball too close to the keeper, can't get his shot away cleanly, and Hughes clears.
90+2 min: Van Persie heads off the line! Duff sends in the corner, Senderos heads it goalwards and with the keeper beaten Van Persie rescues his team. Probably the best thing he's done tonight.
90+1 min: We're in the first of three minutes' stoppage time. Fulham are pushing for an equaliser, and Emanuelson's 18-yard shot has just been deflected over the bar.
90 min: An encouraging defeat, this, for Fulham. Solidity, which is important, and some promise from Emanuelson since he's come on. Some good moments in attack, but Rodallega has run around a lot but not done a great deal on the ball.
88 min: Fulham have both the ball and several players in the attacking third, but the push for an equaliser ends with Ruiz cannoning a shot into Rooney.
86 min: Evra bursts into the area, Senderos sticks an arm in his way and the Frenchman goes down, demanding a penalty. He doesn't get one.
84 min: Nani is taken off, and Welbeck is brought on.
83 min: Terrible miss by Van Persie! Rooney crosses to Nani wide of the right post, heads across to Van Persie and the Dutchman volleys way over the bar. Fortunately for his ego, he was offside.
82 min: Substitution for Fulham: Dejagah comes off, and Petric comes on.
81 min: What follows is Fulham's best two minutes of the match, which ends with Ferdinand clearing a tasty cross over his bar as Rodallega waited to pounce. And from the corner Rodallega heads a good chance over the bar.
A moment of class from Wayne Rooney! Rafael hoofs the ball out of defence, Senderos is left out of position when Van Persie pulls out of the header, and the ball bounces perfectly into the path of Rooney, who runs into the left side of the penalty area, opens his body and curls the ball into the far corner.
78 min: Fulham win a free-kick in a good position, and give players urgently discuss what they might do with it. They look a disorganised rabble, making up key set-piece tactics as they go along. Is it just an act? Have they a cunning plan? Not really – it's worked to Baird, whose shot flies high and wide.
77 min: Rafael clears off the line! The corner is flicked on to Ruiz, who heads towards the far post, where Rafael deals with the danger.
76 min: A lovely cross from Emanuelson, promisingly. Only Evans attacks it, though, and Fulham are lucky to get a corner.
75 min: A lovely ball from Carrick finds Van Persie in the penalty area, but without an angle to shoot. He tries to hook the ball back to Hernández, but hits Hughes's chest.
75 min: United take off Cleverley, and bring on Ryan Giggs.
73 min: Rooney passes towards Hernández in the penalty area; Hughes's attempted clearance is hopelessly miscued and loops into the air, and the small legume has just enough time to swivel and shoot. He swivels and misses.
73 min: Chance for Fulham! Ruiz gets the ball on the left, and Dejagah really goes for the header, out-desiring Evra but sending the ball wide.
71 min: And with that Riether heads upfield and slams a shot from 18 yards that De Gea is totally unable to hold, and quite lucky to see bounce to safety.
70 min: A front line of Rooney-Hernández-Van Persie takes on a rearguard of Riether-Hughes-Senderos-Riise. On the face of it, it doesn't really seem fair. Yet, 20 minutes to go and still no goal.
69 min: Fulham have brought off Karagounis, and brought on Emanuelson.
67 min: Van Persie touches the ball to Rooney, who traps it, and the Dutchman shoots on target, but not very dangerously, and Schwarzer saves. "Has Billionaire Al Fayed not been feeding the electricity meter at the Cottage?" wonders Simon McMahon. "He's performed quite a feat to turn Fulham into a team of plucky underdogs that neutrals root for, don't you think?" Well indeed. How does a club with limited ambitions and non-wild transfer spend get £200m in debt over a decade in the cash-rich Premier League? How?
65 min: Baird wins the game's first booking, just clipping Valencia's heels as the winger raced towards the penalty area. It's the United player's last action of the match, as he's replaced by Hernández.
64 min: Van Persie is played through, wide on the left. He waits for Rooney to arrive, then waits a bit more, then a little bit more, before laying the ball into Nani's path, and his shot is deflected over the bar.
63 min: A shot! From Chris Baird! Fulham win the ball on the left wing and work it across the penalty area, until Dejagah touches back into Baird's path. His shot is low and quite hard, but never going to beat De Gea unless he had a Taibi moment.
62 min: I don't understand why ESPN's commentary team keep telling me what a wonderful game this is, and what incredible tempo it's being played at. I'm not sure whether to believe my ears or my eyes. I'm going with the eyes.
59 min: This is strangely flat, currently. Clearly Fulham would be happy with a point, but how bad would it be for United? I guess we'll see how desperate they are to win this, in due course. At the moment they're struggling to disrupt a well organised side.
56 min: Ferdinand does one of his continental-style strolls from defence, unaccountably surrenders the ball on the half-way line and Karagounis carries the ball into the big hole where a centre-back should have been but shoots wide from 20 yards.
53 min: Fulham win a free-kick in their own half, which Riise chips up to Rodallega on the edge of United's penalty area. There's no other white shirt within 10 yards of him, and he duly flicks the ball straight to a defender.
52 min: United have started the second half quite strongly, though they have yet to really threaten Fulham's goal. They are resolutely hogging possession.
49 min: The first chance of the second half falls to United, but Van Persie can't get any power on his header and Schwarzer claims quite comfortably.
48 min: Fulham work the ball well to Dejagah on the right wing. He shapes to cross, then spins in the other direction, then shapes to cross, then turns in the other direction, then shapes to cross, and a defender gets bored and just takes the ball away.
46 min: I'm informed by ESPN that Hangeland has "a knock".
46 min: United get the second half under way, and it starts with bad news for Fulham, who have had to take off Brede Hangeland and bring on Aaron Hughes instead.
A first half that started superbly, but had fallen pretty flat before the floodlight failure gave everyone something to remember. Significant improvement required both from United – who had 62% of possession, two thirds of the shots and failed to score – and from Fulham – who are extremely unlikely to hold out if the match continues in the vein of the last half-hour – and from the electricians.
45+2 min: And that's yer lot for now. Goalless, but not entirely joyless.
45+1 min: We're only going to have one minute of stoppage time, and then the players can get back to their dressing-rooms (again).
43 min: Nothing comes of it, but the ball is eventually worked back to Van Persie, whose 20-yard shot is low and hard but quite easily saved.
Play will be restarted by Robin van Persie, taking a corner for United from the right wing.
The players are coming back out, in dribs and drabs.
Shouldn't they just stay off for 15 minutes, and then play a 48-minute second half with two lots of stoppage time?
Or some of them anyway. The players will be back out shortly, I'm sure.
The players are going off. No sign of light. More news as I get it.
45 min: The players remain on the pitch, but are milling about near the dug-outs in the gloom. Does the clock remain ticking here? Because the fourth official should raise his board any moment now…
42 min: United were about to take a corner, when the floodlights suddenly went off. The scoreboard and the advertising hoardings remain illuminated, the pitch not at all. "Which is less impressive, Nani's crossing or his hairdo? His crossing is pretty poor but I find his hairdo extremely off-putting. Maybe you should try to describe it," suggests JR. Why, thank you. OK, his hair is like a simple No2 buzz-cut at the end of which the hairdresser has taken the little No2 thing off and, leaving a 5mm border at the hairline, done a very short indeed back and sides.
40 min: Fulham just won a free-kick in United's half. Within six seconds of it being taken, the ball was in Schwarzer's hands.
38 min: I don't know where Fulham's ambition has gone. Having started pretty brightly, they now have Rodallega playing on his own in attack and are lumping hopeful balls out of defence for him to run onto.
35 min: Nani skips to the byline but, with Rooney and Van Persie awaiting a cross, he loops the ball straight out of play.
32 min: A lovely move that, involving Evra, Nani and Cleverley, who had the ball on the penalty spot, laid it back to Rooney at the edge of the area, and his curling shot slapped the post.
31 min: Evra is spending quite a long time receiving treatment for a very innocuous-looking head injury, in which Ruiz's shoulder was also involved.
29 min: What happened to the thrilling game of the first 15 minutes? It's but a memory now. The second 15 minutes hasn't been up to much, when it comes to goalmouth incident.
26 min: Nani is playing quite centrally, and was just very nearly found by a lovely Carrick pass, but the Portuguese failed to control the ball with an outstretched toe.
24 min: And nothing continues to happen. Ruiz nearly prompted something to happen by attempting to weave between a couple of opponents just outside his own penalty area, and was lucky that one of them took away his legs, rather than the ball.
22 min: It couldn't last. Neither team has put a convincing move together in the last few minutes, though United are showing the greater class.
19 min: Rooney passes to Van Persie, who lays it back into the Englishman's path, and the shot rumbles across goal and narrowly wide.
19 min: Quite a lot has happened in this game already. This is promising.
18 min: Fulham's free-kick from deep is unconvincingly cleared, and Dejagah picks up the ball and slaps his shot wide of goal from 20 yards. A few moments earlier at the other end, Nani's flick had presented the ball to Rooney, whose run into the penalty area was blocked by Hangeland. He wanted a penalty, but wasn't given one.
15 min: United run down the other end where the ball is worked to Nani in the penalty area, but Hangeland's diving tackle robs him of the ball at the last second. From the corner, Hangeland's headed "clearance" comes off the back of his head and hits the bar.
15 min: Dejagah leads a counter-attack, running from the right-back position into the centre of midfield before passing to the supporting Riise. He brings it towards the penalty area and passes to Ruiz, who takes one touch and hits a left-foot shot against the meat of the post.
12 min: Riise blunderbuss! The full-back's left-foot volley from 30 yards is arrowing towards the top corner until De Gea's flying fingertips intervene.
11 min: The ball falls kindly to Rooney on the edge of the penalty area, but his shot hits only Tom Cleverley. "Nice to see United play with two out-and-out wingers today," writes Justin Kavanagh. "I grew up in the prehistoric age of Coppell and Hill: Coppell was a university graduate, who went on to a fine career in management, while Hill is best remembered for waiting in his tennis whites for Eamon Dunphy to show up for a 7am game of tennis in Only a Game? If the rumours of Nani's gold statue of himself are true, I the smart winger/brainless winger tradition is alive and well. And then there's Damien Duff…"
9 min: Fulham fail to clear, and the ball is worked back into the area where Evra's low shot is saved.
8 min: Impossible miss for United! They win a second corner in quick succession, and from this one the ball flies goalwards off Hangeland's shoulder, is saved and falls to Evra, five yards out, who hits the bar! The ball falls to Rooney, whose improvised over-the-shoulder volley is cleared off the line!
6 min: Another good opportunity for Fulham, Ruiz nipping in front of Evans and taking the ball into the penalty area, only for Evans to nibble the ball off his toes while the forward dallied.
4 min: Chance for Fulham! Rodallega is played into acres of space on the right side of the penalty area by a simple chipped pass by Ruiz. He taps the ball to the onrushing Dejagah, whose first-time shot is blocked.
3 min: I take that back. They're striking a perfect balance between pushing forward and sitting back. They even won a throw-in in United's half, just then.
2 min: I'm pleased to report that Fulham appear to be keeping their eye on the ball, but worryingly they also seem to be sitting back.
1 min: Kevin Friend blows his whistle, and Fulham get the game under way.
The players are out, the anthem has been played, the hands have been shaked and the warm-ups have been warmed up. This is going to happen, and soon.
The players are in the tunnel, or what would be a tunnel if there were a tunnel, which there isn't. They're standing about outside, is what I'm saying.
ESPN's tactical analysis has impressed many of you. "Could they instead just tell us 'avoid conceding goals and score more than your opponent'?" asks Bruce Cooper.
I saw this on Fulham's website, and it looked handy. So I took it. Is that allowed?
And here at last is official confirmation of the teams. Nemanja Vidic isn't injured, incidentally – he's just putting his feet up somewhere. Steve Sidwell is injured, as is Berbatov as previously mentioned.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Duff, Karagounis, Baird, Dejagah, Ruiz, Rodallega. Subs: Etheridge, Petric, Frimpong, Hughes, Emanuelson, Davies, Kacaniklic.
Man Utd: De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Cleverley, Carrick, Nani, Rooney, Van Persie. Subs: Amos, Anderson, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez, Welbeck, Kagawa.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
In a clever video montage, ESPN have just told us how to beat Manchester United. And here are their big tips:
1) Don't take your eye off the ball
2) Watch out for the strikers
3) Don't sit back
4) Don't push forward
5) Don't panic
Sage advice, that. I particularly like the "watch out for strikers" one – hadn't thought of that.
With the Press Association being really weird recently by telling us all about teams ages before they real the full teams, this is what Twitter is saying today's line-ups look like:
Fulham: Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise; Duff, Baird, Karagounis, Dejagh; Ruiz, Rodallega.
Man Utd: De Gea; Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Nani; Rooney, Van Persie.
I'm told that United have made six changes to the side that beat Southampton at Old Trafford in midweek: in come Nani, Rio Ferdinand, Antonio Valencia, Rafael, Tom Cleverley and Jonny Evans. Only one of Fulham's deadline-day arrivals, Urby Emmanuelson, even makes the bench.
True, the last time they came here they won 5-0 (a certain Dimitar Berbatov getting the last), but before that Manchester United drew 2-2 at Fulham in 2010-11, lost 3-0 in 2009-10 and lost 2-0 in 2008-09. Fulham know how to beat United (though not as well as United know how to beat Fulham, inevitably – the leaders have won five of the last six and drawn the other, and shrugged the Cottagers aside in a 4-1 home FA Cup tonking just a week ago).
Annoyingly, Dimitar Berbatov is out with a hamstring injury, which prevents me and indeed everyone else banging on about him all the time, which we had all planned to do. Ashley Young is also injured, though to the best of my knowledge nobody was intending to bang on about him.
The two sides have met 76 times. If the season runs from mid-August until mid-May, there are nine active months in the year, so you'd expect there to have been between eight and nine Fulham v United matches in each calendar month, counting August and May as one month. Even allowing for the fact it's a couple of days shorter than the rest, February is still statistically underperforming – they've only played six times in the second month of the calendar year, with United winning five and not losing any at all. You'd also expect them to have played between two and three times on each day of the month, but in fact United and Fulham have never played on the second day of any month in the entire history of all time. How about that!
I can't blame Fulham for being uninspired in February. It's a rubbish month, the worst of them all. Here's a song about how bad it is (actually it's a song about 10 sailors drowning in a horrible wintry sea, but also a bit about how bad February is in general, I think).
With second-placed City not playing until tomorrow, United will go 10 points clear if they win here. That's a lot of points. That's a great big pile o'points right there.
Simon will be here from 5pm.
In the meantime here's some match pointers:
• Fulham have lost six of their seven meetings with United in all competitions since beating them 3-0 at Craven Cottage in December 2009
• United have lost one of their past 11 away games in the Premier League but have kept only one clean sheet in that sequence
• Damien Duff has seven assists this season, his best since he managed nine for Chelsea in 2003-04
• United have recovered 27 points after falling behind, only Newcastle with 34 points in 2001-02 have made more successful comebacks in the Premier League era
• Fulham have gone 10 games without keeping a clean sheet, the longest current run in the division