Fulham unravels, Manchester United takes another step to silverware
Manchester United took another step toward another trophies thanks in huge part to Fulham’s misplacing of the plot at Old Trafford in an FA Cup quarterfinal on Sunday.
Leading 1-0 with under 20 minutes to play, Fulham’s Willian used his hand to block a would-be Jadon Sancho goal. It was 2-1 to the hosts within minutes, as Fulham finished the match with nine (?!) men and a 3-1 loss.
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A penalty was confirmed by VAR review and Willian was shown a red card, leading to goal scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic shoving the referee to earn a red card of his own, and Fulham manager making it a trio by berating the fourth official
Bruno Fernandes rolled home the penalty and the 9-man Cottagers needed to somehow find extra time, which they decidedly failed to do thanks to Luke Shaw setting up a Marcel Sabitzer goal. Fernandes scored late to complete the scoring.
Having already secured the League Cup this season, Erik ten Hag’s side is also into the last-eight of the Europa League after finishing off Real Betis on Thursday.
Manchester United haven’t won the FA Cup since the 2015-16 season. Fulham, on the other hand, continues its wait to win England’s most famous trophy in a knockout competition.
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Fulham loses the plot, Man Utd gratefully accepts it
From manager to star forward, Fulham can only blame itself for an a dictionary definition of losing the plot on Sunday.
The visitors were leading 1-0 and frankly the better team at Old Trafford, as Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goal was an absolutely fitting marker of the occasion.
Manchester United was 20 minutes away from blowing a semifinal date with Brighton and a potential Manchester derby final when Fulham lost control of itself.
VAR review determined that Willian blocked Jadon Sancho’s would-be equalizer with his hand, and the behind-the-net view showed the Fulham star swatting down at the ball to stop it from going across the line. It was an undebatable penalty and got Willian sent off.
But, wait: surely Fulham manager Marco Silva was getting his men together to discuss the plan if United converted the penalty, right? He was getting them focused on the alternatives and how they were just 15-20 minutes away from extra time, that their FA Cup Final dreams were still right there for them, especially with Mitrovic capable of anything up top?
Silva was shown a red card for berating the fourth official, and the formerly notoriously combustible Mitrovic could not control his emotions with a bustle into the referee, who had no choice but to send Fulham down to nine men and no manager.
Manchester United at this stage in the Erik ten Hag project knew exactly what to do. Bruno converted his penalty as the Red Devils seized the control of the game they had wonted for so long. They read the plot word-for-word.
Manchester United vs Fulham player ratings: Stars of the Show
Bruno Fernandes: Those questioning his leadership after the Liverpool rout have seen a sincere and perhaps expected response. Dynamic, dangerous, and ready to strike at any time.
Issa Diop: That his flick cued up Mitrovic’s goal was fitting, as the center back had five recoveries and four clearances while passing at 90 percent out of the back.
Marcel Sabitzer: What a signing, and what a touch of class on the match-winning goal. The January window in the Premier League this season really shaped so many competitions, as Sabitzer, Jorginho, and Leandro Trossard found new and welcoming homes.
Aleksandar Mitrovic goal video: ‘Mitro’ pushes Diop flick past De Gea
Bruno Fernandes goal video: Penalty converted as Cottagers down to 10, er, 9 and Silva sent off, too
Marcel Sabitzer goal video: Slick back leg puts Red Devils in front
How to watch Manchester United vs Fulham live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30 pm ET, SundayOnline: ESPN+
Key storylines & star players
The fixtures continue to come thick and fast for Manchester United, who will play their 14th game since the start of February (47 days - a game every four days, on average, for a month and a half) before a brief respite in the form of the international break next week. They will, however, be without Casemiro, perhaps the most important player (and summer signing) at the club after the Brazilian picked up his second red card of 2023 in a 0-0 draw with Southampton last weekend. He featured, and starred, in the second leg against Betis, but will almost certainly give way to the Scott McTominay-Fred double pivot which often roamed the field at Old Trafford prior to his arrival. The Red Devils have lost just two of their last 26 games in all competitions (to Arsenal and Liverpool, in Premier League play).
Fulham, on the other hand, find themselves suddenly in one of their worst moments all season, having lost back-to-back games while conceding six goals to Brentford and Arsenal. Aleksandar Mitrovic hasn’t scored a goal in his last nine appearances (all competitions) after starting the season with 11 in 15. The 3-0 defeat to Arsenal snapped Manor Solomon’s run of five straight games with a goal, picking up the slack amid Mitrovic’s downturn.
Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Casemiro (suspension), Alejandro Garnacho (ankle), Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension - MORE), Anthony Martial (hip)
Fulham team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Tom Cairney (ankle), Neeskens Kebano (achilles), Layvin Kurzawa (knee)