Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba celebrate the latter's goal against Fulham

Fulham 0 Manchester United 3

Saturday 09 February 2019 14:30

A double from Paul Pogba, either side of a brilliant Anthony Martial goal, propelled Manchester United into the Premier League’s top four, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side ran out 3-0 winners against Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Solskjaer made six changes to the side that beat Leicester last Sunday; three in defence - Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling came in for Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly - and three in attack, with Juan Mata, Anthony Martial and Romelu Lukaku replacing Jesse Lingard, Alexis and Marcus Rashford.
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United struggled for possession in the opening ten minutes and were living dangerously at times. Andre Shurrle in particular caused problems early on, spearheading a Fulham counter that nearly saw the Reds go behind inside five minutes. The German’s deep cross found Luciano Vietto but the Argentine fired his volley wide from eight yards.

On his return to the starting line-up, Martial looked dangerous whenever he was on the ball and running at defenders. Our no.11 tried to play Paul Pogba in a couple of times when it looked like a better option to shoot. But his persistence paid off; his weighted pass perfectly timed for Pogba to run on to and emphatically fire a left-footed, first time shot past Sergio Rico to give United the lead inside the opening quarter of an hour. 
The Reds’ second shot on target brought our second goal of the afternoon and unsurprisingly it came through Martial. Reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner at the Cottage in February 2007, the 23-year-old picked up the ball inside his own half and had the Fulham defenders back pedalling with his driving run. Riding Odoi’s challenge, a deft touch set him up to finish coolly past Rico.

It could have been 3-0 just before half-time, but Phil Jones’ long-range effort was tipped over by the Fulham stopper.
At the other end, captain for the day David De Gea did well to get down to save an low driven effort by Calum Chambers. Smalling and Jones, starting together for the first time in the league since our last outing against Fulham at Old Trafford in December, did well to limit Fulham’s opportunities.

Admittedly, Aleksander Mitrovic and former Liverpool winger Ryan Babel had decent opportunities to get a goal back for the home side, with the latter hitting the post when arguably he should have scored. But by that point, Pogba had scored his second and United’s third goal of the afternoon with a clinical penalty.

The build-up to the spot-kick featured Lukaku turning well just inside Fulham’s half, leaving two defenders in his wake. His pass found Mata, whose touch deceived Le Marchand and the Cottagers defender brought the Spaniard down. Paul Tierney pointed to the spot and his namesake duly obliged in putting the ball away, low to the keeper’s right, after his usual penalty prelude. Pogba continues to enjoy playing under Solskjaer; the Frenchman has been directly involved in 13 goals in his last nine Premier League appearances, scoring eight and setting up five.
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Alexis nearly grabbed a fourth goal for United shortly after replacing Martial but his effort, after astutely anticipating a header between the Fulham centre-back, was saved.

Mitrovic's frustration at being unable to beat De Gea led to him - and the Spanish goalkeeper - being booked after a clash in the closing moments but that unlikely caution couldn't take the gloss off a second consecutive clean sheet for the Reds' no.1.

This comfortable 3-0 away win and that prized return to the top four, which will last at least until Chelsea visit Manchester City on Sunday, will send the Reds into Tuesday's Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain in confident mood.


United: De Gea (c); Dalot, Jones, Smalling, Shaw; Herrera (Bailly 85), Matic, Pogba (McTominay 74); Mata, Lukaku, Martial (Sanchez 69).

Subs not used: Romero, Young, Rashford, Lingard.

Booked: Matic 43, De Gea 90.

Scorers: Pogba 14, 65; Martial 23.

Fulham: Rico, Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream, Bryan (Sessegnon 80), Chambers, Seri, Schürrle (Christie 53), Vietto, Babel (Cairney 77), Mitrovic.

Subs not used: Kebano, Ayité, Zambo Anguissa, Fabri.

Booked: Bryan 25, Chambers 38, Mitrovic 90.

Referee: Paul Tierney.