Talking points from United v Fulham
Manchester United ensured a third-placed finish in the Premier League with an enjoyable 2-1 win over Fulham in the final game of the season at Old Trafford.
The Cottagers shocked us with an early headed opener from Kenny Tete and missed the chance to extend their lead when David De Gea kept out Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty.
Jadon Sancho equalised from close range before half-time and Bruno Fernandes completed the turnaround 10 minutes into the second period, when he latched onto Fred’s brilliant through-ball, as Erik ten Hag’s men maintained our winning momentum ahead of next weekend’s Emirates FA Cup final.
Here are the key talking points from the game that brought the curtain down on the 2022/23 league season…
HOME SWEET HOME
The come-from-behind win was United’s 27th in all competitions at home this season, equalling a club record set in 2002/03, something Ten Hag was happy to admit was a motivation for him and his team before kick-off. It also made it 30 games unbeaten at Old Trafford, which has been a fortress, with the Reds’ only league reverse coming on the opening day against Brighton & Hove Albion. Sunday’s victory was our third over Fulham this term (which we also achieved against them 10 years ago) and extended our unbeaten run against the Cottagers to 17 games.
THIRD PLACE SECURED
United knew third place would be guaranteed if we at least matched Newcastle United’s result against Chelsea. In the end, the Magpies’ 1-1 draw was academic as we kept matters in our own hands by bagging the three points at Old Trafford. It’s a satisfying return for Ten Hag in his first season and attentions now turn to Wembley and the chance to make it an even more successful campaign by completing the club’s first-ever domestic cup double.
GARNACHO AND FRED STAKE A CLAIM
Before kick-off, Ten Hag stated Alejandro Garnacho had a chance to take advantage of being handed a start – his first for the Reds since February. And the young Argentinian certainly seemed determined to grasp his opportunity: he constantly caused Tete problems down the left with his trickery and pace, and wasn’t afraid to shoot – including one first-half curler that struck the crossbar. Fred also impressed with typical midfield industry and his pass for Fernandes’s goal was delicious. We don’t know whether Ten Hag already has his starting XI for the Emirates FA Cup final in mind, but Garnacho and Fred, who were replaced alongside Casemiro after 66 minutes, will hope to have given the boss food for thought.
United fans now have three long months to wait before competitive United football returns to the Theatre of Dreams but those attending the final league game at least had an open and absorbing game to enjoy and remember going into the summer. The Reds had numerous chances to add to our two goals, with Bernd Leno making saves from Marcus Rashford, Garnacho, Casemiro and Diogo Dalot. The visitors, safe in mid-table, may have been forgiven for being on the beach already but they more than played their part in an engrossing encounter, and the result could have been different had Mitrovic converted his penalty. Even after United went ahead, they continued to threaten on the counter-attack, with Antonee Robinson looking particularly lively and both Mitrovic and Vinicius going close. In the end, it was something of a party atmosphere at a sun-drenched Old Trafford as United’s 61st game of the season ended in happy fashion and Ten Hag addressed the fans with a rousing speech on the pitch at full-time.
DAVE SAVES – A SPOT-KICK
For all the plaudits De Gea has earned during his United career and in picking up the Premier League’s Golden Glove this term, it’s fair to say he’s not necessarily been renowned for his penalty-saving prowess. However, our no.1 did superbly to get down low to his left and palm away Mitrovic’s penalty to prevent Fulham going two goals up. It was the Spaniard’s first penalty save since he denied Watford’s Ismaila Sarr in November 2021, while Mitrovic missed from 12 yards for the fourth time this season.
SANCHO ENDING ON A HIGH
Our no.25 hasn’t always found it easy in 2022/23 but he’s undoubtedly finishing the campaign strongly. Playing on the right, this was the wide forward’s fourth straight start and he’s looked increasingly confident over those outings. It was great to see a smile on the 23-year-old’s face after he poked home United’s first-half equaliser – his seventh goal of the season – and Reds fans everywhere will be looking forward to seeing how he progresses next term.
SEEING OFF THE NEWCOMERS
The result ensured United won all six of our Premier League games against this season’s promoted sides – Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest. Some of those have been hard-fought: Casemiro’s goal was all that separated us from Bournemouth earlier this month and it took a last-minute Garnacho goal to clinch the reverse fixture against Fulham in November. The last time we achieved this feat was in 2011/12. Meanwhile, according to Opta, the victory means we’ve only lost our final Premier League game in one of the 10 campaigns in which we've contested the FA Cup final that season (W7, D2).
ANTONY TO RETURN?
Not so much a talking point from the game as one from the matchday that fans will no doubt be discussing on the way home, as Ten Hag revealed before kick-off that Antony’s injury isn’t as bad as first feared and the winger could be in contention to return for the first all-Manchester cup final. The Brazilian was in attendance at Old Trafford to cheer his team-mates on and we all have fingers crossed he’ll be in contention.