LONDON: Manchester United started against Fulham with Robin Van Persie leading the attack and Wayne Rooney on the bench. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said he needed to give RVP ‘game time.’ He will have plenty of that in the next four to six weeks.

Rooney appeared as a second-half substitute and suffered a gash to his right thigh which will prevent him contributing to United’s launch of their campaigns to regain both Premier and Champions League crowns as well as England’s opening of their World Cup qualifying campaign against Ukraine and Moldova next month.

The 26-year-old was carried off on a stretcher after an accidental clash with Hugo Rodallega who had been trying to charge down a shot. Ferguson said: “It was a very bad injury and that means he has to be very careful about picking up an infection.”

Van Persie, by contrast, was in celebratory mood after the game in which he marked his Old Trafford home debut with a goal after only 10 minutes, the sort of quick start which would have been appreciated by another speed specialist in the crowd, Olympic double sprint champion Usain Bolt.

The Dutchman’s goal Damien Duff’s surprised early opener and impressive attacking support Shinji Kagawa also scored. The manner in which Van Persie and Kagawa combined raised questions about how and where Rooney – when fit again – will fit into the team.

Ferguson appears intent on using Van Persie in the main strike role but providing him with much closer support, for example, than Holland did in the Euro finals campaign which was such a disappointment for the ex-Arsenal top scorer and captain.

“We normally play that anyway,” said Ferguson, “whether it is Wayne who plays in that deeper role or Danny Welbeck, who can do it. Then we have Ashley Young and Ryan Giggs who can play there. We have plenty of options that way.”

United, despite their sleepy start, deserved a 3:1 half-time advantage provided by Van Persie, Kagawa and rightback Rafael da Silva, who headed home just before the interval.

In the second half, however, United revealed the continuing danger of uncertainties in defence prompted by an ongoing injury crisis. Ferguson was unhappy with the way in which goalkeeper David David de Gea fluffed a routine cross and which led to Nemanja Vidic putting the ball into his own net.

As Ferguson said: “Our first-half performance was fantastic. It could have been five, six, anything. But we made a terrible mistake for the second goal. By then it should never been a match.”


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