Fulham 0 Man Utd 1: Bruno Fernandes scores late winner to hand Red Devils much-needed win after dismal recent form
Bruno Fernandes netted a late winner for Manchester United as they edged past Fulham to pick up a much-needed three points on the road.
United headed into the game at Craven Cottage under a cloud after the 3-0 midweek Carabao Cup defeat at home against Newcastle United.
They were quiet for long periods of the game on Saturday but a moment of brilliance from skipper Fernandes handed manager Erik ten Hag – who is the favourite in the Premier League sack race – a valuable three points.
Minute-by-minute report: Can Erik ten Hag and Manchester United turn things around after back-to-back losses? Join Tim de Lisle.
A few minutes ago Scott McTominay presented Fernandes with the match award and gave him a hug. When they spoke to TNT, McTominay gave a little insight into the United players’ thinking. He said they’d been fired up by a banner in the away section that said “Play like you mean it”.
He certainly did that himself. And so did Harry Maguire, who was injured in the first 40 seconds of the match, yet somehow was still there, shepherding the ball out, in the 93rd minute. His head may have been sore, but it still rose to deal with half a dozen corners.
McTominay and Maguire: the men Ten Hag tried to sell. Of those he has signed, only Christian Eriksen (fitfully), André Onana (reliably, now) and dear old Jonny Evans (manfully) are playing well, though Mason Mount may just have begun the journey back to being a proper creative midfielder.
GOAL DISALLOWED! Fulham 0-0 Man United
14 min United get forward down the right and Willian does well to track back. He’s one of three players here who could play for the Over-35s. The other two are centre-backs, Jonny Evans (also 35) and Tim Ream, who is 36.
58 min Chance for Fulham! You know how people have been running through United’s midfield all season? The latest man to do that is Harry Wilson, picking up a misplaced chip from Eriksen. He slips in Willian, who should shoot. He prefers to try a pull-back and United get it clear. Willian then gets another opening and shoots wide. United are relying, yet again, on their opponents’ profligacy.
Jonathan Liew’s match report has landed, and it will be well worth reading. Thanks for your company, correspondence and frustration with VAR, and apologies for not getting through all the mail.
In the 3pm games, there have already been goals for Brentford and Everton, though somehow Bournemouth haven’t managed one at the Etihad. Do follow those dramas with John Brewin, but don’t deny yourself a look at Liew. His opening paragraph is a peach.
“You may have missed it,” says John Foster, “but there was a protest by Fulham fans during the game about the massive ticket price increases that have been a feature of Shahid Khan’s chairmanship. Home fans held up yellow cards in the 18th minute to reflect the average 18% rise in season-ticket prices this year. At a time when household budgets everywhere are squeezed, longstanding fans, and would-be new fans, are being priced out for the sake of short-term profits. Keep up the good work etc.”
Thanks, that’s kind, because I did miss this. Apologies to John and to Matt Morrissey, who made the same point during the game, in slightly fewer words: “Come on mate!”
United go sixth!
Had they lost, United might have slid down a snake to 12th in the table. Thanks to Fernandes and Pellistri, they shin up a ladder from eighth to sixth.
They have 18 points from 11 games – won six, lost five – which is enough to nudge them ahead of Newcastle and Brighton (both on 17 points from ten) for now. United’s goal difference is still an embarrassment – minus four. Still, for the sixth time out of seven this season, they’ve done just enough to see off a team below them in the table. Fulham remain 14th for the moment, behind Palace on goal difference.
Pellistri won’t grab the headlines, but he really did seize the moment.
United did finish strongly
United were the lesser team for most of the second half, but they got their act together when it counted. They were better with their subs on – Mason Mount had some deft touches after secretly improving against Newcastle, and Facundo Pellistri’s persistence paid off. But the headlines will belong to Bruno Fernandes.
Fulham are left ruing their wastefulness They had 18 shots and only two of them were on target.
The player of the match is Bruno Fernandes. After 89 minutes, it would have been Alex Iwobi.
Half an hour ago, our resident Fulham fan wrote this. “‘Fulham well on top’,” said Richard Hirst, quoting me with a snort. “More shots, more corners – we all know how this is going to end!” Visionary.
FULL TIME! Fulham 0-1 Man United (Fernandes 90)
United’s captain gets their manager off the hook!
90+7 min United get into the box but nothing comes of it.
90+4 min Fulham, more urgent now, get into the box. Maguire sees the ball out with some strength – of body, at this moment, and of mind, to be still on the field, 93 minutes after he was looking dazed.
90+3 min We’re having five added minutes, which will now stretch to six or seven.
89 min Wilson takes the free kick and it’s another tribute to Bobby Zamora. It’s Wilson’s final kick of the match as he gives way to Tom Cairney. Raul Jimenez is on too.
87 min United come again, Fulham clear and Palhinha breaks away down the right. Fernandes brings him down without, as far as I can see, getting the booking that would bring him a suspension.
Dalot then cuts down Wilson and he does see yellow. That was about halfway to red.
85 min Garnacho draws another foul, from Harry Wilson, and the ref produces another yellow card. The pendulum has swung again: for the past few minutes, United have actually been quite good.
84 min Chances for United! Fernandes hits the free kick well and draws a save from Leno, low to his left. United keep the attack going and Dalot’s cross finds Martial, whose scissor kick goes just wide.
82 min Garnacho sets off on a run and it’s his best moment of the match. He beats three players and draws a foul from a fourth, Iwobi, who goes into the book.
78 min Chance! Dalot, who got United’s last winner, blasts from the edge of the box, but it’s not his best.
77 min Fulham made another substitution then – Willian off, Sasa Lukic on. The latest man down is McTominay, maybe winded.
Muniz goes off in tears
74 min Oh dear. Muniz goes down again and he seems to be weeping. He’s at least able to walk off. Carlos Vinicius replaces him, not Raul Jimenez.
74 min At one end, Hojlund almost gets away on the break, but can’t sort his feet out as Castagne keeps pace with him. At the other, Iwobi shoots wide.
73 min It’s end-to-end now. Iwobi’s cross is a teaser, but Wan-Bissaka does well to head it away.
71 min A shot from United! Pellistri latches onto Eriksen’s cross, comes in from the right, shoots with his left … straight at Leno.
It’s becoming one-sided
70 min Since half-time, Fulham have had seven shots to United’s one.
68 min Muniz goes down and needs some treatment. He’s able to continue, as is Maguire for now. Maguire has played well but he probably needs to come off.
67 min Palhinha goes into the book for a foul on Fernandes in the centre circle. That may be harsh. Garnacho joins him, more straightforwardly, for tripping Wilson.
64 min The first sub! Antony goes off, to a smattering of boos, which are surely not protests from United fans. He was lucky to last an hour. Facundo Pellistri takes over on the right wing.
65 min Another chance! Muniz gets a header in from near the penalty spot, and it’s not bad. Another save for Onana’s collection.
62 min Fulham are well on top now. A scramble in the United box, a lunge from Maguire, yet another corner. Chance! To Calvin Bassey, whose shot is cleared off the line by Dalot.
61 min As Maguire comes back on, Fulham fancy their chances. Onana makes a good save, then another.
Maguire going off?
55 min The ref spots that Maguire is looking dazed again.
55 min A quiet game is getting even quieter.
“As a Brit living in the US,” says Ben Walls, “I was a fan of video review, but what they do in the US that you don’t hear in football is ;’inconclusive, ruling on the field stands’. What about capping VAR at 30 seconds? If you can’t see an obvious error in the first 30 seconds to overturn the referee’s decision, then the ruling on the field stands.”
50 min Robinson, on the overlap, has a tussle with Wan-Bissaka that is wholehearted, with skill and grit on both sides. The way things are going, it may make the highlights.
50 min Maguire heads clear and Pereira can’t do anything with the loose ball. Then United break, promisingly: Dalot to Fernandes to Garnacho, whose cross brings a corner. Does anything come of it? It does not.
49 min Garnacho gets it wrong now, giving away a free kick 35 yards out.
47 min Chance! Garnacho dances in from the left and hits his shot sweetly but straight at Leno.
46 min No changes for Fulham either. The second half gets off to a scrappy start, with only Iwobi looking likely to create anything.
No changes for United at half-time
As London Calling rings out around the Cottage, Erik ten Hag sticks with the same XI for now. His faith in Antony runs deep.
“ETH can’t seem to catch a break ATM,” says Tom Britten. “But when Rashford was in a sticky patch in previous seasons United played better without him. That they have little on the bench today despite bringing in Hojlund in the summer says it all, really. Anthony just isn’t working, and Mount was an underwhelming answer to our midfield who I’ve already written off. A hot mess.
“Very much enjoy your newsletter.” Thanks! It’s an exercise in masochism at the moment, but then that is a central part of being a football fan.
“Remember those heady days when we could celebrate a goal?” says Phil Hilton. “Not any more. Yet another 4 minute exercise in subjective stupidity. VAR is a nonsense. It has simply added another layer of refereeing for the media to debate ad nauseam. Sack it off. And while we are at it, sack offside off. What does it matter where players are standing?”
That would certainly shake things up, but surely offside itself is not the problem. It’s nervous officials thinking you can take four minutes and still diagnose a clear and obvious error.
Half-time mailbag. “Good morning from Pittsburgh!” says Eric Peterson. “If United fans want a distraction from the shambles that their on-field squad has become, I wonder about their thoughts on a cherished alternate universe of mine. What if Todd Boehly’s pursuit of Chelsea had fallen through, and he had then decided to set his sights on ManU? Inquiring minds wanna know.” Well, they might have sold Antony to Chelsea.
HALF-TIME! Fulham 0-0 Man United
45+5 min There’s just time for Antony to make another mess, giving the ball away after crisp passes from Garnacho and McTominay. And then the whistle goes.
The scoreline is frustrating but not misleading. United have been too tentative, McTominay apart. Fulham have been marginally the better team, breaking well, winning 5-2 on corners and 8-5 on shots. But not one of those eight shots has been on target. It’s a mid-table match and it’s been all too middling.
Hang on, the VAR is checking for offside against Maguire, who didn’t play the ball (but did try to). It was a well-worked free kick: Christian Eriksen chipped it over the crowd to Alejandro Garnacho, who crossed crisply to the onrushing McTominay. He thumped the ball home and celebrated what he thought was his fourth goal in a few weeks…
45+4 min Maguire finishes the half as he started it, clashing with Muniz and ending up on the deck. He seems to be OK.
45+3 min The latest corner finds a Fulham head, Muniz, but he heads over the bar. United get up the other end, only for Fernandes to fluff his cross from the left.
45+2 min More corners for Fulham.
45+1 min The first of five added minutes. Maguire’s injury took two, the VAR another four, so I’m not sure about the ref’s arithmetic.
45 min Maguire heads it away for a throw-in, then Evans clears. Still Fulham come again. Willian leaves Antony for dead, as so many people do, and shoots with some venom, but wide of the far post.
45 min A corner for Fulham, and then another.
43 min United’s pressing has been “half-hearted”, Jermaine Jenas reckons. And until today it was the only thing Erik ten Hag had had to shout about.
42 min McTominay, defending for once, puts in a heavy challenge in which the ref sees no wrong, much to Fulham’s chagrin.
40 min Fernandes, always one of United’s better players even when out of form, makes a nice run in the inside-right zone. The ball ends up inviting Dalot to take a shot from distance. He too pinpoints Row Z.
39 min Chance! Garnacho donates the ball to Alex Iwobi, who bursts forward and blasts a shot into Row Z. That’s Zamora.
37 min The sun has come out! And Fulham have a free kick 40 yards out. Maguire heads the resulting chip away.
“If it takes 3 and a half minutes to make a VAR ruling, surely that is good evidence that there’s doubt and the onfield decision should stand?” says Adam Roberts. “The drawing of lines is a nonsense and unnecessarily time-consuming; VAR officials are qualified referees. Freeze the action, let them look at the screen and make a decision based on that.”
34 min More joy for McTominay in his role as United’s entire forward line. He picks the ball up from Garnacho, spins and lays it back to Fernandes, whose elegant shot is held by Leno.
30 min United are hovering upfield, but not threatening. When Fulham counter, there’s more of an air of purpose. But now United have another free kick in the same place as before.
28 min A moment of redemption for Dalot, who made two blunders against Newcastle. He has to time his slide perfectly to deny Wilson as Willian’s cross swings in, and he does.
27 min McTominay gets another shot in, from Garnacho’s cross. It’s on target but not too testing for Leno, and Garacho was offside anyway.
26 min Now Fulham find some joy down the right. Dalot drifts into midfield, leaving Eriksen at left-back. Wilson waltzes past him as easily as you might expect and plays the ball square, but nobody is doing a McTominay to get on the end of it.
“As a fan of Liverpool and their high line, I generally like that kind of offside call,” says Joe Pearson. “But this one seemed a little harsh. And believe me, I have no love for United.”
21 min Garnacho’s poor touch allows Fulham to launch a counter. Paulinha does well to find Willian, who is well policed by Wan-Bissaka but still wins a corner. Nothing comes of it and United get forward again.
16 min Antony, United’s weakest link, is at it again. His near-namesake Antonee Robinson leaves him on the floor and charges down the left wing, only to overhit his cross.
16 min The first legitimate shot of the game comes from Willian, wiggling his way into the box from the left wing. It’s blocked by someone and though it falls nicely for Harry Wilson, he is offside. He shoots anyway and Onana makes a good save that won’t count.
12 min All that took four minutes.
GOAL!! Fulham 0-1 Man United (McTominay 8)
That man again!
7 min Bruno Fernandes wins a free kick as his compatriot Paulinha pulls him down…
6 min Fulham are in white shorts and black shorts, United in red but no black – white socks as well as shorts. The cameras find Marcus Rashford, watching in a hoodie.
5 min Fulham get a touch in the box as a throw-in finds Harry Wilson, but he can’t control the ball and it trickles through to André Onana.
4 min Maguire did look dazed, but he’s back on the field now.
The crowd listen to the bugle in immaculate silence. As the noise resumes, a piece of history is made: Rebecca Welch is the first woman to act as the fourth official in the Premier League.
The teams line up on the centre circle as two soldiers bring out wreaths for Remembrance Sunday. A Chelsea pensioner is there too, and a bugler is playing the Last Post.
An interesting angle from Duncan Edwards. “If Varane gets the start today but then isn’t fit for midweek in the Champions League,” he argues, “Ten Hag would take massive stick for that decision. I believe he’s putting the team ahead of his own need for a win. The team he’s picked will beat Fulham.”
What would you do if you were Erik ten Hag? I tried to answer that question yesterday for United Writing, the Substack site I started with the great Rob Smyth. Suggestions include having a stern word with Bruno Fernandes. You can be the captain or the complainer in chief, not both.
“Where to begin?” wonders Jeremy Boyce. “I’ll come clean straight away, I’m Leeds in my blood and so nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing Man U in difficulty, 1974 being a particularly notable vintage. With one notable exception it has mostly been downhill all the way for them since Sir Matt manager-wise. The scattergun recruitment isn’t just restricted to the players. There’s a thing in recruitment called ‘company fit’ and clearly very few of the managers have satisfied that requirement. But it’s not easy inheriting a staff and customer base that is still glorying in and pining for your predecessor. Ask Cloughie.
“Actually, the stats are in Ten Hag’s favour. Fergie was the sixth permanent manager after Sir Matt, and it is the same for Ten Hag. Lord Ferg found himself under intense pressure at one point early on and facing questions like those about Ten Hag, about his future – the rest is history. Watch out for a Cup run this year? All he needs is the immediate arrival of a group of five super-talented youngsters via the academy and he’s safe.
“In my ideal world it will end in another ’74 vintage, and we will miss out on the opportunity to beat them for a while as we pass each other on the up-down escalators.”
“The use of ‘suicide note’ seems a bit strong from Jim White there,” says Tim Brock, “with the prevalence of male suicide and the increased focus on mental health. P45 maybe.” That’s a very fair point.
“Absence of Varane seems odd if he is fit though. Maybe Erik ten Hag doesn’t trust a Varane/Maguire or Varane/Evans partnership.” It’s certainly a head-scratcher.
There are two crumbs of comfort for United fans. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is starting again after looking sharp on his return from injury at half-time the other night. And the teenage prodigy Kobbie Mainoo is back on the bench after three months out with injury – though he will be competing for minutes with three other midfielders in Amrabat, Mason Mount and Hannibal Mejbri. And that bench is short of forwards – just Anthony Martial and Facundo Pellistri.
Teams in full
Fulham did well in their last outing, securing a point at Brighton, but Marco Silva opts to change a drawing team. Raul Jimenez, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Harrison Reed are all demoted to the bench. In come Rodrigo Muniz, Harry Wilson, and Andreas Pereira to face his old club.
Fulham (probable 4-2-3-1) Leno; Castagne, Bassey, Ream (capt), Robinson; Wilson, Palhinha; Iwobi, Pereira, Willian; Muniz.
Subs: Rodak, De Fougerolles, Ballo-Toure, Reed, Cairney, De Cordova-Reid, Lukic, Vinicius, Jimenez.
Man Utd (even more probable 4-2-3-1) Onana; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Evans, Dalot; McTominay, Eriksen; Antony, Fernandes (capt), Garnacho; Hojlund.
Subs: Bayindir, Varane, Reguilon, Amrabat, Mount, Mainoo, Mejbri, Pellistri, Martial.
Referee John Brooks.
The algorithms have spoken. Opta’s prediction machine reckons two results are equally probable: a home win and the draw, both on 29 per cent. A United win is 42 per cent. So it’s the most likely result, without being more likely than not. Have the algorithms discovered nuance?
The first email of the day arrives. “As they say, it’s the hope that kills you,” says Richard Hirst. “Fulham’s best chance to beat United since, well, last season, but the chances are, as against Chelsea, that we’ll play them back into some sort of form. For a football supporter, especially a Fulham supporter, hope and despair are forever intertwined.”
They are. And perhaps United fans know a bit about that too. Those 20 years of plenty now feel as if they were a thousand years ago.
Ten Hag under fire for his selection
This is from a Telegraph sportswriter and lifelong United fan.
Team in brief: Man United
Erik ten Hag recalls Aaron Wan-Bissaka, drops Sofyan Amrabat and Sergio Reguilon, brings back Jonny Evans, keeps Rapha Varane on the bench, switches Diogo Dalot to left-back, decides that Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen will do as the pivot and retains Antony, who has been United’s worst player this season. Which is saying something.
Team at a glance: Fulham
Marcus Rashford ruled out
He’s taken a few heavy knocks this season.
Morning everyone and welcome to the first Premier League match of the weekend. Could it also be the last of Erik ten Hag’s career?
Conceivably. In the Sack Race, he is now way ahead of every other PL manager bar Paul Heckingbottom. Yes, even the bosses of Burnley, Luton and Bournemouth are sitting more comfortably than the manager of Manchester United. If ten Hag’s team lose today, it will be their third defeat in a week. If they lose badly today – 3-0, say – the board may wield the axe while there’s still some faint hope flickering in the Champions League.
The good news for United is that after being embarrassed by two big clubs, they face a smaller one today. Against teams outside the top seven, they’ve been wobbly but effective: played six, won five, lost one. They had three tussles with Fulham last season and won the lot. At Craven Cottage a year ago, they found the sort of last-gasp winner (from Alejandro Garnacho) that has brought them some consolation this season. Their only wins in London since then have come in knock-outs – the Carabao Cup final and the FA Cup semi, when they squeezed past Brighton on penalties. On trips to London in the league, they’ve been feeble: played six, drawn two, lost four.
Fulham’s own form has been patchy, a notch worse than last season. At home they’ve beaten only promoted sides (Luton and Sheffield United). The other two home games have been against their neighbours, in mid-table as well on the map. Fulham lost 3-0 to Brentford and 2-0 to Chelsea.
That should make United firm favourites today. As it is, Marco Silva will surely be telling his squad that they’re there for the taking. If Fulham win by two goals, they will leap from 14th to eighth and overtake United, who could quite plausibly plummet to 12th today. All it would take, on top of that two-goal defeat, is success for Palace at Burnley and for Wolves at Sheffield United, plus any result you like in Brentford’s game against West Ham. How are the mighty falling.
Kick-off is at 12.30pm GMT and I’ll be back soon with the team sheets. It will be fascinating to see which players Erik ten Hag trusts to get him out of a tight corner.