Manchester United beat Fulham 2-1 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League on Wednesday evening. Ademola Lookman scored the opening goal in the fifth minute as United saw themselves on the back foot from the start of the match. However, it took 16 minutes for United to get back into the match with Bruno Fernandes launching a ferocious shot on goal, hitting the inside of the post only for Fred to keep the attack in play. Edinson Cavani was the equaliser for United, scoring his fifth goal of the season for his club. Paul Pogba scored what turned into the winner for United, with a sublime finish which was good to see.
Fulham started well, getting a shot on goal in the third minute of the match after Aaron Wan-Bissaka lost possession of the ball with Ademola Lookman wasting no time driving at Harry Maguire, hitting the ball from 22-yards which was straight at David De Gea. Two minutes later through, Fulham were a goal to the good through Lookman. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was given too much room in midfield, he then clipped a good ball over Eric Bailly, which found Lookman, who was in space and looked offside, but wasn’t. He sprinted with the ball and fired a clever shot into the bottom corner, beating De Gea this time.
Fulham then had a penalty appeal in the tenth minute with was not given after Ruben Loftus-Cheek took a tumble after a challenge from Fred. Martin Atkinson waved it away as he saw nothing to award a penalty for. In the same minute, Paul Pogba was booked with him late on a challenge with Lookman. Zambo Anguissa was booked two minutes later. United started to find their feet and in the 18th minute Luke Shaw sent the ball into the middle from deep, seeking to find Edinson Cavani but the ball was flicked out for a corner. Shaw then looked to go short to find Anthony Martial but Fulham cleared the danger.
United found an equaliser in the 21st minute of the match with Cavani scoring his fifth goal of the season. Bruno Fernandes played a part in the goal, pulling into space and smacking a swerving effort, which hit the inside of the post. Fred then kept the attack alive, finding Fernandes back on the left. His cross was dangerous and Alphonse Areola lost possession of the ball with Cavani prodding home from close-range. He did not get the assist but Fernandes showed his quality, something that United would be lost without as it nears a year since he was signed, making his 50th appearance for the club this evening.
Fernandes seemed to be in the mood to carry United against Fulham, which was a good sign. United had another chance in the 29th minute with Wan-Bissaka doing a lot of attacking on the right. He looped the ball towards the back post with Anthony Martial rising with Kenny Tete but the Fulham player did enough to deflect the ball away for a corner. A minute later, Fulham left Maguire free in the box with Fernandes’ corner reaching the captain. He should have scored from 10-yards out but his woeful header was wide of the target, which was a shame for United, who could have put themselves ahead for the first time in this match.
Towards the end of the half, Fulham tried to get ahead again with Ivan Cavaliero in space 10-yards from the goal. His first touch was poor which ended with the ball running out of play. Lookman was a danger in the United area, especially on the break. A combination of Pogba and Fred managed to take him down 35-yards from the goal with Pogba already on a yellow and needing to watch himself in this match, or see red. Perhaps he needed to be replaced, instead of costing United heavily, which could well be the case. Shaw was looking good for United at the end of the half, making things happen but with United not taking their chances.
Fulham started the second half much like the first – aiming to get another early goal. Lookman was one the run in and around Pogba, coming out with the ball. Harrison Reed was fed the ball from 22-yards, taking on the strike but it was off target. United had a change three minutes later through Maguire. However, Fulham did enough to deny the captain from scoring. It was a 50/50 game at this point with both teams looking to find a goal to put them ahead. United were blocked in the 55th minute after Fernandes tried his luck from 22-yards out, which was a shame. United had plenty of chances and needed to try harder.
In the 65th minute of the match, United put themselves 2-1 up in the game, still needing to do more to seal the victory though. Pogba scored from his left-foot from 22-yards, scoring another big goal for United. Fulham were defending deeply and United were finding pockets of space outside the area. Pogba moved in from the right and packed a real punch with his finish, which beat the defence and Areola, hitting the back of the net. It was some good play from the Frenchman, who needs to be doing things like this a lot more often. United then forced a save three minutes later after Fernandes sent a wicked ball into Cavani, who tried to nod it in.
It was a nervy ending of the match for United with Fulham pressing to pressure United, having a fair few shots, which caused United some problems. Solskjaer made a double substitution in the 85th minute of the match with Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford replacing Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial. United tried to secure their win, but a third goal was not coming. Fulham continued to find something, that was not coming, but they did get close to scoring again. Solskjaer made a third substitution in added time, bringing on Nemanja Matic for Fernandes with the match ending minutes later.
United have returned to the top of the Premier League once again this season, which will be something the squad and the manager will be proud of. United are now two points clear of Manchester City, who have a game in hand at this stage of the season and Leicester City, who have played as many times as United. Liverpool sit six points behind United, having a game in hand themselves, which gives United a slight cushion from the reigning champions. At this stage though, the advantage lies with City, who will be seeking to find a way to get back to the top of the league once again this season.
Goals: Ademola Lookman 5′; Edinson Cavani 21′, Paul Pogba 65′
Assists: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa 5′
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, Pogba; Greenwood (Rashford 85′), Fernandes (Matic 90+5′), Cavani; Martial (McTominay 85′)
Substitutes Not Used: Henderson; Telles, Tuanzebe; Mata, James, Van de Beek
Bookings: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa 12′, Joe Bryan 62′, Ola Aina 69′; Paul Pogba 10′
Written by John Walker