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Ratings: Cavani and Pogba send United to the Premier League summit in Fulham victory; Shaw, Fred, Fernandes and Maguire played well too

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.

Manchester United

1 David De Gea

Unlucky not to keep a clean sheet, which United have had many of this month. Was beaten well by Lookman and it was a sublime finish.

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29 Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Played a good attacking game, doing what he needed to defensively. It was a nervy ending for United though, with Fulham seeking an equaliser to frustrate United.

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3 Eric Bailly

Played a good game for United. Good to see him play again after missing out against Liverpool. Did what he needed to do against the Premier League strugglers.

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5 Harry Maguire

Could have scored on more than one occasion from set pieces in the box. His first header was woeful and off target though. Led United well and pushed them to win the match returning to the top if the Premier League table.

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23 Luke Shaw

Was one of United's best performers against Fulham. Played a lot of attacking play and played some good balls into attacking positions. Good to see him fit and finding one form after the challenge of both Williams and Telles.

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17 Fred

Played a good game and kept the attack alive before United equalised after Fernandes hit the post. It was a busy game for him and it was good to see him get the chance to show his ability once more.

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6 Paul Pogba

Gave away the ball too easily and was booked in the tenth minute of the match, and pushing his luck at times. That was all forgotten when he buried the ball into the back of the net in the 65th minute. I feel that he does need to become better with his passing though as United lost a lot of the ball because of him, not just in this match either.

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11 Mason Greenwood

Played well at times ass United attacked Fulham from behind. Played a good game and did what he needed to do. It is a shame he did not score or assist, which will help him develop. He was replaced by Rashford in the 85th minute of the match.

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18 Bruno Fernandes

Played well against Fulham and perhaps started the attack which saw United equalise. His effort hit the inside of the post with the attack being kept alive and Cavani ending up scoring the equaliser. Not his best match but far from his worst on his 50th appearance for the club. He was replaced by Matic deep into added time.

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21 Edinson Cavani

Man of the Match for me. Phenomenal performance from the Uruguayan. Scored the equaliser for United in the 21st minute and had a lot of input in the match for United. His positioning, his ability and his finishing are all great for United.

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9 Anthony Martial

Had a few chances against Fulham, but failed to take advantage of them. Good to see him play again but he should be doing a lot better against teams like this. He was replaced by McTominay in the 85th minute of the match.

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Substitutes

39 Scott McTominay

Replaced Martial 85'. Came on with five minutes left to stock up the United midfield to defend against a resurgent Fulham. Did what he needed to do.

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10 Marcus Rashford

Replaced Greenwood 85'. Came on late in the game with United 2-1 up and facing an onslaught from Fulham. Made some attacking plays and had a good chance. Did what he needed to do.

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31 Nemanja Matic

Replaced Matic 90+5'. Came on at the death to help deal with Fulham's advances. Was not on the pitch long enough to rate in all fairness.

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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

Confirmed XI: Martial, Cavani, Greenwood and Fernandes lead the line against Fulham; Rashford and Van de Beek on the bench

Manchester United will be back in Premier League action this evening as they travel to London to face Fulham at Craven Cottage. United drew 0-0 with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday and at the time of writing still top the Premier League table – although that could change with Leicester City playing on Tuesday evening and Manchester City playing in an earlier kick off on Wednesday. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be happy with what he has seen from his team in recent weeks, although I am sure he will be looking back at the clubs chances against Liverpool on Sunday with a win close to happening.

United will need to continue winning in the Premier League to keep chase on their rivals this season with Liverpool, Leicester and City all being close to United and the fact that Tottenham Hotspur and Everton will be seeking to get themselves in the mix this season, which will either work form them or fail. United will need to keep their heads, continue to rotate the teams regularly and keep their freshness ahead of future matches. United will be back in Emirates FA Cup action this weekend, taking on Liverpool at Old Trafford in the domestic cup competition, which might see Solskjaer’s side prevail over their rivals once more.

Manchester United:

De Gea;

Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw;

Fred, Pogba;

Greenwood, Fernandes, Cavani;

Martial

Substitutes:

Henderson; Telles, Tuanzebe; Mata, James, Matic, Van de Beek, McTominay; Rashford

Fulham:

Areola;

Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo;

Tete, Loftus-Cheek, Zambo Anguissa, Reed, Bryan;

Cavaleiro, Lookman

Substitutes:

Rodak; Hector, Odoi, Ream; Kebano, Lemina, Onomah; Mitrovic, Kamara

United and Fulham have played 28 times in the history of the Premier League. United have won 20 of the meetings, drawing five and losing three. United have scored a total of 65 goals, winning two penalties and scoring one of them. Fulham have scored 29 goals, winning two penalties and scoring both of them. United have kept 11 cleans sheets with Fulham keeping two. In terms of discipline, United have been shown 39 yellow cards with two red cards being shown. Fulham have been shown 34 yellow cards with one red card. After the 0-0 draw with Liverpool, which kept United top of the league on Sunday, winning this is important.

United and Fulham last met in the 2018/19 season. In the match at Craven Cottage, played on the 9 February 2019, almost two years ago, it was a 3-0 victory for United with Paul Pogba opening the scoring in the 14th minute, assisted by Anthony Martial, who scored his own goal nine minutes later, assisted by Phil Jones. Pogba then sealed the victory with a 65th minute penalty. At Old Trafford, in a match played on the 8 December 2018, it was a 4-1 victory for United with goals scored by Ashley Young (13′), Juan Mata (28′), Romelu Lukaku (42′) and Marcus Rashford (82′). Fulham scored a consolation through Aboubakar Kamara.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW