On Saturday, I was lucky enough to get a last minute invite to Craven Cottage to watch Fulham play Manchester United.

My unexpected treat came courtesy of a friend who works for a construction company who have 10 corporate tickets at Fulham. Ordinarily, he would have taken his son but, fortunately for me, the poor lad was serving the last day of a grounding as a result of a serious, undisclosed misdemeanour.

We caught the 85 bus up to Putney and immediately caught a taste of the pre-match atmosphere walking through Bishops Park when we were treated to the full repotoire of United songs from a solitary, and very inebriated, United fan. I suspect originally he may have been travelling down with some mates in a Salford hire van who miraculously ‘forgot’ him at Watford Gap services.

A lady gave us all some fancy passes and a complimentary program and we were ushered to in a semi-private lounge where we got a pre-match drink and placed our bets (3-1 United, Berbatov/Fletcher to score first, Scholes to score last, first goal 30-45 mins). Very civilised.

Shortly before kickoff, we took our seats to find we were sitting immediately behind the away dugout. After the debacle against Liverpool, Ferguson had shuffled the pack a little with Ronaldo and Berbatov up front, Giggs and Scholes in the midfield.

As United had recently destroyed Fulham not once but twice, scoring 7 goals with no reply, I was quietly confident. The United subs (Tevez, Rooney, Neville) and backroom staff took their places on the bench and the game got underway on a beautiful, warm sunny day in south west London.

Fulham immediately started with some purpose and conviction. They were chasing and hustling United and contesting every ball. Hardly surprising, but a sharp contrast with their weak, shambolic, embarrassing performance at Old Trafford recently.

One of the reasons, I love going to matches rather than watching from a barstool is that you can see everything that’s going on. For example. I was interested in watching Dimitar Berbatov. When United signed him, I confidently told a Spurs fan that his laid back attitude and his perceived casual approach simply would not be tolerated at United. God, was I wrong ? Berbatov strolled around the pitch as if he was playing in a testimonial or a pre-match friendly against non-league opposition. After 10 minutes, he looped a header over the bar which was his only meaningful contribution in 45 minutes. Well, apart from tumbling to the ground as if he’d been pole-axed when fairly tackled by Simon Davies.

As always, United had a large travelling support - after all this is a home game for the Surrey and London contingent - and the United fans occupying the entire stand to the goal away to my right, stood up throughout and sang constantly and loudly.

Fulham had the best of the opening exchanges and United’s passing was badly awry. Park needlessly gave possession away which resulted in a Fulham corner. From the corner, Bobby Zamora headed goalwards and Paul Scholes instinctively blocked his second attempt with both hands. The referee correctly awarded a penalty and dismissed Scholes. Inevitably, Scouser Danny Murphy expertly converted the penalty and 3 of my 5 bets instantly went down the drain.

United seemed rocked by this double early setback and Van der Sar was called into action to deny Fulham. United badly needed to keep possession and get some inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo. Instead, we were treated to yet another display of petulance, frustration with his colleagues at misdirected or overhit passes, frustration with defenders who dared to tackle him, frustration with the referee for not giving him decisions, frustration at more free-kicks blasted into the wall or row 36. In fact, Ronaldo’s first half performance was on a par with Berbatov.

United kept trying to get a foothold in the game and shortly before half-time Patrice Evra advanced towards the penalty area where he was tackled and he tumbled over, trying to con the referee into awarding a penalty. Play continued and Evra was booked for diving much to the Fulham fans’ delight.

Half-time approached. A stony faced Alex Ferguson, chewing gum furiously, stood up to watch the shambles. As he turned back to the dugout, I shouted ‘Get Berbatov off - he’s a bloody disgrace.’

After a quick painkilling pint, the second half got underway. Squad members, Nani and young Salford lad Eckersley passed in front of me in suits and ties. I greeted Nani and said ‘Hiya Phil’, who both fleetingly acknowledged me. Later on, I discovered that Eckersley’s first name was actually Richard and not Phil.

Thankfully, Ferguson had heeded my advice and Rooney was on for Berbatov who presumably didn’t need a shower after the effort he expended in 45 minutes. I was glad I wasn’t present in that dressing room as I could picture tea cups being smashed and the hairdryer treatment being meted out by Ferguson.

Thankfully, United came out much improved (would have been difficult to be much worse) and, despite 10 men, managed to keep possession and exerted some pressure on the Fulham goal. Even Ronaldo had miraculously stopped the incessant showboating and childish histrionics and concentrated on playing football (a not so quiet word from Ferguson ?)

Half chances came and went - United were now on top and Fulham were on the back foot. There was a staggering incident when Fulham cleared a corner to the half-way line and all 11 Fulham players remained in their own half, behind the ball, just inviting United to mount yet another attack. United’s fantastic support got more vociferous and urgent as they sensed an equaliser. Time passed and the goal didn’t come. Schwarzer pulled off an excellent double save. Carlos Tevez came on. United kept pressing. 10 minutes left. Inevitably, Rooney collected his standard booking for tugging at Dacourt’s shorts in pure frustration at being dispossessed.

Fulham weathered the storm and with 3 minutes left, United’s (and my personal) misery was complete when Zoltan Gera sealed the game by hooking in a great volley to make the score 2-0. All around, fans went absolutely wild while I sat rooted to my seat staring at the concrete floor.

Wayne Rooney’s a talented footballer and a great competitior who plays with passion and he obviously cares (c.f. Berbatov) but, after the ref ordered a free-kick to be re-taken from the correct place, Rooney picked the ball up and hurled it back. Fortunately, no-one was in the path of the missile as it could have caused serious injury. Rooney inevitably collected his second booking to leave United to finish the match with 9 men. For good measure, Rooney pummelled the corner flag on his inglorious exit.

The final whistle brought an end to the agony. United’s senior players still weren’t finished yet though - Van der Sar and Rio Ferdinand continued to hassle and harry the match officials after the final whistle. I have to say the continual petulance, arrogance and general lack of respect shown by the United players during this game was frankly embarrassing. In fact, it was a disgrace.

I was obliged to take yet more good natured stick from the Fulham fans in the bar as we watched the Ireland-Wales rugby.

Celebrity Watch: Brian Barwick (FA), Jimmy Hill (ex-Fulham, ex-MOTD)

Obligatory day tripper photos