Man Utd 3, Fulham 2
Usain Bolt may have displayed his winning Olympic medals on the pitch before the game, but it was Manchester United new boys Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa who struck gold on it.
In a game which was truly one of two distinctive halves, United move effortlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous.
There was even a more sombre ending for the Reds when Wayne Rooney was carried off on a stretcher five minutes into injury time.
Rooney, on as a 68th minute substitute for Kagawa, suffered a nasty gash to the right knee as he tried to block a shot from Hugo Rodallega.
It left a worried United manager Sir Alex Ferguson saying: “It was a very bad gash. Wayne went to block the shot as Rodallega was following through. It was a complete accident. Wayne went straight to hospital and could be out for up to four weeks.”
Such a diagnosis would see Rooney miss England’s World Cup qualifiers in Moldova and at home to Ukraine.
In a game which ranged from the scintillating to the soporific, United’s performance tended to follow along the same path.
Going behind to a third minute goal by Damien Duff – the Irishman sweeping home Bryan Ruiz’s low free kick from the left edge of the United box from 12 yards on the near post – the Reds picked themselves up and went for the Fulham jugular.
Van Persie equalised with a magnificent goal seven minutes later when he gloriously guided Patrice Evra’s cross from the left into the far corner of the Fulham net from 12 yards.
Kagawa, United’s other home debutant, put the Reds ahead in the 35th minute.
Van Persie’s corner was headed clear by Mahamadou Diarra. The ball fell to Tom Cleverly 25 yards out and, although goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer parried the shot, Kagawa turned home the rebound from six yards.
Rafael, narrowly offside when he put the ball into the Fulham net following a crisp United move in the 37th minute, made it 3-1 four minutes later.
Fulham failed to clear van Persie’s corner. The ball eventually found its wasy to Ashley Young on the left side of the penalty area and his cross to the far post was headed in by Rafael from close range.
Fulham were denied a second goal by two superb reflex saves from United goalkeeeper David De Gea in the last minute of the first half.
The Spaniard first kept out Duff’s effort from 12 yards and then produced an even better save to divert Mladen Petric’s pointblank effort on to the underside of the bar.
The second half saw United visibly wither as Fulham imposed their style on the game.
United’s lead was reduced in the 64th minute when a mix up between De Gea and Nemanja Vidic saw Matthew Briggs’ cross from the left diverted into his own net by Vidic.
De Gea redeemed himself in the closing stages with top reflex saves to deny Mousa Dembele on two occasions, while at the other end, Schwarzer did well to tip over Rafael’s piledriver.
Fulham could have snatched an equaliser seven minutes into injury time, but De Gea was fortunate to see a weak punch from Ruiz’s glancing header land clear of a Fulham body.
Ferguson said: “It is early doors, but I was pleased with the goals from van Persie and Kagawa. Van Persie’s goal was fantastic.
“Our first half performance was brilliant and we could have had five or six goals. We made a bad mistake for Fulham’s second goal. They slowed the game down and we became nervous.”