RED DEV­ILS GO FOURTH

■ Pogba, Mar­tial help United blank Ful­ham

Deccan Chronicle - - Games -

Lon­don, Feb. 9: Manch­ester United swept into fourth place in the Pre­mier League as An­thony Mar­tial’s sub­lime strike in­spired their 3-0 win over strug­gling Ful­ham on Satur­day.

Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer’s side took the lead through Paul Pogba’s clin­i­cal fin­ish early in the first half at Craven Cot­tage.

But it was Mar­tial who stole the show as the winger raced over half the length of the pitch be­fore fin­ish­ing em­phat­i­cally to dou­ble United’s lead be­fore half-time.

That swag­ger­ing solo ef­fort was fol­lowed by the in­flu­en­tial Pogba’s sec­ond-half penalty as United moved into fourth place, one point above Chelsea, who face Manch­ester City on Sun­day.

Win­ners of six con­sec­u­tive away games in all com­pe­ti­tions for the first time since May 2009, United are firmly in the hunt for a top four fin­ish after trail­ing 11 points be­hind those places on the day Jose Mour­inho was sacked in De­cem­ber.

They have won 10 of 11 matches in all com­pe­ti­tions since Sol­sk­jaer re­placed Mour­inho as in­terim boss.

United re­main un­beaten un­der their for­mer striker Sol­sk­jaer, who has lifted the gloom from the un­la­mented Mour­inho’s di­vi­sive reign and put him­self in con­tention to land the job on a per­ma­nent ba­sis.

United’s stroll by the banks of the River Thames was the per­fect prepa­ra­tion for their Cham­pi­ons League last 16 first leg against Paris Saint Ger­main at Old Traf­ford on Tues­day.

Ful­ham are sec­ond bot­tom hav­ing lost five of their last six league games and face a daunt­ing task to avoid rel­e­ga­tion.

With United’s clash against PSG on his mind, Sol­sk­jaer made six changes, leav­ing out Mar­cus Rash­ford, Jesse Lin­gard and Vic­tor Lin­de­lof.

Those switches left United look­ing un­cer­tain in the open­ing mo­ments and Lu­ciano Vi­etto reached An­dre Schur­rle’s cross,

only to scuff his half-vol­ley wide when he should have hit the tar­get.

Schur­rle fired over from closerange after Alexsan­dar Mitro­vic har­ried Chris Smalling into an­other mis­take mo­ments later.

But on a blus­tery af­ter­noon, United had ri­den their luck and were about to blow Ful­ham away.

They took the lead with a su­perbly con­structed goal that ex­posed the Pre­mier League’s leaki­est de­fence in the 14th minute.

An­der Her­rera deftly evaded a slid­ing lunge from Jean-Michael Serri and picked out Mar­tial on the edge of the Ful­ham area.

Mar­tial’s per­fectly-weighted pass caught Ful­ham flat-footed and Pogba took Ser­gio Rico by sur­prise with a fierce strike from a tight an­gle that flashed past the Ful­ham keeper at his near post.

It was Pogba’s sev­enth goal since Sol­sk­jaer took charge, un­der­lin­ing how the France star has come out of his shell fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of his neme­sis Mour­inho.

— AP

Manch­ester United’s Paul Pogba in ac­tion against Ful­ham in their English Pre­mier League match at the Craven Cot­tage Sta­dium in Lon­don on Satur­day.

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