New boys steer United beyond Fulham
© AFP

Sir Alex Ferguson's brave decision to drop Wayne Rooney from his starting line-up paid off as new boys Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa scored in Manchester United's come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Fulham.

Rooney paid the price for a below-par performance in the defeat at Everton on Monday, and while it is viewed as a reminder from Ferguson that standards have to be higher, the respective performances of Van Persie and Kagawa were such that Rooney cannot be guaranteed a recall at Southampton next week.

Not that he is certain to be fit anyhow, after sustaining a nasty gash in stoppage time after being trodden on by Hugo Rodallega - an incident which left United to play out the game with ten men.

Ferguson is more concerned about points, which were collected as the first-half response of Van Persie, Kagawa and Rafael to Damien Duff's second-minute effort proved enough despite a Nemanja Vidic own goal.

There was never any suggestion Rooney would be left out for the long term. However, as he made his way to the home dressing room after witnessing a powerful first-half display from the hosts, in which Ferguson's two big signings both opened their United accounts, Rooney must have had a worry or two.

United bounce back
For in addition to their goals, Van Persie and Kagawa in particular caught the eye with how easily they fitted into the system. Kagawa excelled in the hole behind the main striker - his movement, speed and passing keeping Fulham on the back foot.

Not that Ferguson's brave move had a particularly impressive start as Bryan Ruiz rolled a free-kick into Duff's path which the Irishman turned home before guest of honour Usain Bolt had even taken his seat.

Coming so soon after that loss at Everton, it was a major test of character for United, which they came through with flying colours. Van Persie levelled with the clinical efficiency you would expect of a Golden Boot winner.

Meeting Patrice Evra's left-wing cross perfectly, the Dutchman flashed a shot wide of Mark Schwarzer before turning to receive the acclaim of his team-mates. From that point on it was a case of when, rather than if, the hosts would gain the initiative.

As Kagawa prompted and cajoled, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia both went close. But when Van Persie's corner was half-cleared to Tom Cleverley, Schwarzer could only turn the midfielder's shot into the path of Kagawa, who - profiting from Sascha Riether's failure to get out of the six-yard box quickly - swept home from close range.

Rafael makes it three
Restored to the starting line-up following his Olympic campaign with Brazil, Rafael provided additional defensive security. He also had a goal correctly ruled out for offside before nodding home Young's chip to the far post just before the break.

Yet, for all United's attacking endeavours, there remain serious flaws at the back amid a massive injury list. Once again pressed into service as an emergency centre-half, Michael Carrick came far too close to turning the ball into his own net for comfort.

And when United conceded a second, it was almost laughable as David de Gea came to punch Matthew Briggs' cross, got nowhere near it and the ball eventually bounced off Vidic and rolled in.

De Gea redeemed himself with two brilliant saves to deny the excellent Moussa Dembele as Rooney was introduced for Kagawa. And then, on Fulham's last attack, De Gea denied Ruiz, who had been set up by Dembele.