Manchester United beat Fulham in a tightly contested Premier League fixture on Wednesday at Craven Cottage. After falling behind, United rallied back thanks to Cavani and Pogba to register another comeback win. The game was quite nervy and tense and United fans should probably schedule a doctor’s appointment because watching this team is not good for their health.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer made a few changes to the lineup that faced Liverpool over the weekend. De Gea was the goalkeeper with Maguire, and Bailly playing as the center backs. Wan-Bissaka and Shaw were the fullbacks behind Pogba and Fred. The attack comprised of Bruno, Greenwood, Martial, and Cavani. The substitutes included Rashford, Telles, Matic, van de Beek, and McTominay.
United failed to find a foothold in the opening minutes as the hosts dominated the game pegging United back. United’s fullbacks were sloppy in possession and the midfield was unable to hold onto the ball and build a move. Cavani attempted a hopeful volley from inside the 16-yard box but the scuffed attempt didn’t do much for United. Fulham took the lead early when Lookman broke free from Pogba and scored past de Gea. An early setback was something all too familiar for United who had only managed to keep 2 clean sheets away from home all season. Some questionable refereeing in the game as Loftus Cheek fouled Fred in the box but VAR failed to intervene. United were struggling to play the ball into the final third as the forwards were offering no options to the midfield.
Bruno Fernandes came agonizingly close in the 21st minute when his shot hit the post. However, moments later the Red Devils found the equalizer. Areola spilled Bruno’s curling cross into the path of Edinson Cavani. The veteran graciously accepted and fired the ball into the net to restore parity in the game. Cavani’s goal was a catalyst for the visitors as they began dominating possession and building chances. Maguire had a fantastic chance off a corner but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The second half began a bit nervously for United Loftus Cheek pressured Luke Shaw immensely. The Chelsea loanee’s pass found Lookman whose powerful shot was right at de Gea much to the relief of United fans. In the 65th minute, Areola denied Martial’s headed attempt on target as United grew more and more threatening. The threat from United soon manifested into a go-ahead goal courtesy of Paul Pogba. The midfielder picked up the ball on the right wing and jogged to the edge of the box before unleashing an unbelievable strike into the far corner.
The job was far from done as Fulham looked to find an equalizer right after. United had an excellent chance to make it 3-1 to end the game but Areola’s diving save off a Cavani header kept the game close. Fulham almost made United pay as Loftus Cheek’s shot was saved by de Gea and the resulting cross flashed across the face of goal. The Fulham forward had another chance shortly after but blazed over from 15 yards out.
In the 86th minute, McTominay and Rashford came on to replace Martial and Greenwood. The final few minutes were nervy and frantic as Fulham were pitched in the opposition half. Furthermore, United’s old habit of not building a goal cushion was giving them unnecessary stress. Eric Bailly’s block flew just outside the post as the stage was set for a nerve-wracking finale to the game. Gladly, United defended well and clawed their way back to the top of the league.
Manchester United continued their title charge with a gritty and laborious win over Fulham. However, one has to wonder how long we can continue like this. Too many times, we do the same thing over and over expecting a different result, which is insane. Our fullbacks often play too wide outside and the quality of crosses is just not there. Furthermore, the forwards are not moving well enough thereby isolating themselves from the midfield. Anthony Martial is the only player who makes good recovery runs but his trademark stuttering run and cutback is now predictable and ineffective. Despite his excellent season last year, Mason Greenwood is struggling on the right despite being a great striker. The arrival of Amad Diallo might give Greenwood the chance to play more centrally.
The holding midfielders need to be more composed on the attack. We gave the ball away too much and invite pressure, allowing teams to find spaces and expose our mediocre defense. While Maguire is great at heading the ball defensively, how has he managed to not score in so many games despite all his chances? Wan-Bissaka also struggled today on defense as well as attack. Maybe some competition in the wing-back position might bring the best out of Wan-Bissaka. United could have benefited from playing Telles and Matic from the start today for rotations. This was also an opportunity to give van de Beek some game time, maybe he will feature over the weekend. United play Liverpool again, this time in the FA Cup before hosting strugglers Sheffield United.