Fulham 1 Manchester United 2
Manchester United returned to the top of the Premier League table with a tense but deserved 2-1 win away to Fulham.
It was a familiar story for the Reds on our travels as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men came from behind to win yet again.
Ademola Lookman gave Fulham the lead in the early stages, before Edinson Cavani’s effort pulled us level before the break and Paul Pogba’s sensational strike wrapped things up in the second period.
The hosts produced a period of concerted pressure at the end but United stayed resolute and head back to Manchester with all three points.
It was the hosts who started the game off on the front foot, with Lookman firing a shot on target inside the first two minutes.
David De Gea saved that effort comfortably, but could do nothing to stop the youngster’s well-placed finish a few minutes later. The striker was played in, courtesy of an excellent through pass from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, and Lookman took a moment to compose himself before calmly slotting the ball into the back of the net.
Our frustrating start continued when Fred was denied a penalty soon after. Replays seemed to show Ruben Loftus-Cheek knocked Fred off balance in the box, but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on and the subsequent VAR check didn’t result in the award of a spot-kick.
After a slow opening, the Reds began to take a hold of proceedings and looked dangerous in possession as we zipped the ball from side to side. That momentum resulted in Bruno Fernandes smashing a shot against the post just after 20 minutes, when he unleashed one from outside the box.
Moments later and United were back on level terms. Again, Bruno was at the heart of it, this time popping up on the left wing and centring the ball into the box, where the Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola spilled it into the path of an eagerly waiting Cavani. The Uruguayan thumped the ball past his former Paris Saint-Germain team-mate from close range and levelled the game up.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men continued on the front foot after our equaliser, with Fernandes forcing Areola into a full-length save, while Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire may have felt disappointed that their respective headers inside the box failed to hit the target.
As we entered the final 10 minutes of the half, Fernandes fired a free-kick high over the crossbar, while Martial nodded over after he did well to connect with Luke Shaw’s in-swinging cross.
As for Fulham, their best opportunity late on came when Ivan Cavaleiro powered into the box, but his touch was too strong and the ball rolled harmlessly behind from a corner.
Mason Greenwood did have one last effort in first-half injury-time but it was snuffed out by some well-organised Fulham defending.
After ending the first half on the front foot, it was Fulham who started stronger after the break. Harrison Reed fired one over following the interval, before Lookman’s curled shot forced De Gea into a smart save around 53 minutes.
United did look dangerous as well, with Maguire’s header from a corner fizzing just wide, while Luke Shaw’s driven shot was deflected off target.
Much like the first half, the Reds grew in ascendancy after 15 minutes, with Martial and Fernandes having good headed opportunities ruled out for offside.
However, Solskjaer's men were struggling to find a chance from close range against Fulham’s well-organised backline, and it took a moment of magic to put us ahead on 65 minutes.
Pogba picked up the ball on the corner of the box and cut inside on his weaker left foot before curling in a wonderful effort that gave Areola no chance in the home goal. Expect to see that one in our Goal-of-the-Month shortlist in a few weeks and perhaps even in the Goal-of-the-Season award at the end of the campaign.
Cavani then came close to adding another goal with his strong header, but a sprawling save from Areola denied our no.7 from grabbing a brace.
With 15 minutes remaining, De Gea was called into action when he made an excellent save to deny Loftus-Cheek, after the on-loan Chelsea man hit a driven shot on target.
In the final 10 minutes Fulham put United under increasing pressure and, after a speculative Fred volley at the other end, Loftus-Cheek blazed another chance over on 82 minutes.
The hosts sent in several dangerous crosses in the last knockings as they introduced the dangerous Aleksandar Mitrovic from the bench.
Fulham created two opportunities in injury time but blocks from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Eric Bailly diverted the respective efforts of Lookman and Mitrovic wide.
Martin Atkinson’s full-time whistle went soon after, meaning United move back to English football's summit above Manchester City and Leicester City and equal our club record run of 17 consecutive Premier League away games without defeat.
Fulham: Areola; Tete, Aina (Mitrovic 83), Andersen (c), Adarabioyo, Bryan; Reed, Anguissa (Lemina 79); Loftus-Cheek, Cavaleiro (Kamara 71), Lookman.
Substitutes not used: Rodak, Odoi, Hector, Ream, Onomah, Kebano.
Goal: Lookman 5.
Booked: Anguissa, Bryan, Aina.
United: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, Pogba; Greenwood (Rashford 85), Fernandes (Matic 90+4), Martial (McTominay 85); Cavani.
Substitutes not used: Henderson, Telles, Tuanzebe, Mata, James, van de Beek.
Goals: Cavani 21, Pogba 65.
Highlights: Fulham 1 United 2
Goals from Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba gave the Reds victory at Fulham in January…
“Oh, they're massive [wins], they are. You know, when you count the points at the end of the season, you look back and say that was a tight game and this was a tight game. It gives so much confidence and a morale boost as well to get three points instead of a draw. Easily towards the end it could have been [a draw], because they've created chances, David [De Gea]’s made a fantastic save with his feet but we should have finished the game off before then.”
Check out Ole's quotes in full here.
Ole: We're mentally robust
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MAN OF THE MATCH
Unsurprisingly, after his match-winning contribution at Craven Cottage, Paul Pogba was voted our Man of the Match.
Check the full breakdown of the votes in our Official App here.