THE FOUR-CE IS WITH JOSE’S BOYS AT LAST
THE leap of faith required to believe a top-four finish remains in reach for Manchester United has seemed a chasm at times this season, but it looked a little bit less daunting last night after this victory. his squad decisions remains the one to keep club-record signing Paul Pogba on the bench – a gamble which loads the pressure on his shoulders whenever his side are struggling in a match.
It took United just 13 minutes of pressure to crack Fulham, Young curling a fine shot inside Sergio Rico’s far post after advancing in from the left flank.
The second arrived just before the half-hour mark with Mata capping a fine flowing move, Phil Jones stealing the ball inside his own half and initiating a sweeping move through Young, Lukaku and Rashford again down the left wing.
Rashford’s pull-back to the edge of the area was met perfectly by Mata, whose left-foot shot curled away from the dive of Rico.
The goal was the Spaniard’s 50th in the Premier League and on a day of half centuries he was to bring up his 50th assist before the break, laying a neat cutback on a plate for Lukaku to clip home.
Fulham boss Claudio Ranieri made two changes at the break, hooking Aleksandr Mitrovic and Tom Cairney for Aboubakar Kamara and Luciano Vietto. While it added a little snap to their forward movement it was a questionable decision which brought the breakthrough – Herrera adjudged to have felled Kamara inside the area even though replays showed the United midfielder got plenty of the ball.
Kamara scored from the spot. But any hopes of a Fulham revival were flattened within a minute after they went down to 10 men when Andre-Frank Anguissa received a second yellow card for upending Rashford.
The United striker then capped a fine individual display by blasting home a blistering shot from the left corner of the area.
Ranieri lamented: “In the first half it was 11 lambs against 11 wolves. The wolves ate the lambs.
“The second half was much better, we played with more intensity. But I have to consider if that was because Manchester United were winning 3-0 or we made a good performance.’’
MAN UTD ........... 4 FULHAM ............ 1