Monday, June 17, 2024

Manchester United 2-1 Fulham: Talking points as United come back from behind to clinch third place

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Manchester United beat Fulham at Old Trafford on the final day of the Premier League season, courtesy of goals from Jadon Sancho (39′) and Bruno Fernandes (55′) after Kenny Tete open the scoring for the visitors (19′). It could’ve ended differently, though, had Fulham striker managed to beat David De Gea from the spot in the 26th minute after Casemiro brough Tom Cairney down inside the box.

It was certainly an interesting contest, even though it bore very little competitive importance for one side, and none whatsoever for the other.

The game by numbers

The balance of power on the pitch in this game was such that it can be said with some dose of reality that the one-goal difference in faviour of the hosts represents its true reflection. Erik ten Hag’s men dominated possession but not by much – 54%. On the other hand, they played much more concretely and took a total of 21 shots, 10 on target, while the Cottagers hit just three within the frame of the goal out of a total of 10.

United attempted more passes than their opponents (493-425), with the same percentage of accuracy by both teams (84%). They also committed more fouls (14-10) and took five corners, while Fulham had four.

As has been said, Mitrovic could’ve doubled Fulham’s lead before Sancho’s equalizer came, but at the other end, Alejandro Garnacho smashed a close range effort against the crossbar and Bernd Leno in the Fulham goal made several fine saves, especially from a well-taken free-kick from Marcus Rashford in the 10th minute. Just as the 90 minutes expired, Wout Weghorst missed a close-range sitter to settle the outcome beyond doubt.

Fulham’s opener came from a nicely worked corner, as Tete took advantage of several United defenders tussling with Mitrovic inside the six yards to make his run towards the near post and head in from there. Fernandes and Fred were just about as important for United’s equalizer as Sancho the scorer, as Fernandes sent Fred running into the box and Brazilian midfielder wriggled his way between the Fulham defenders before the ball got away from him, only to come to Sancho unmarked at six yards.

Fred and Fernandes combined again for the winning goal, but this time it was Fred who produced a spectacular pass for Fernandes to run in behind and chip the ball over the onrushing Leno. Still, Marco Silva will want to take several additional looks at this situation, and probably demand an explanation from his players as to why Fernandes wasn’t tracked at all, never mind tracked properly.

The woes of Mitrovic

Old Trafford continues to generate bad memories for Mitrovic. The Serbia international was sent off for an angry outburst at the officials when these teams met at this venue in the semifinals of the FA Cup and subsequently received an eight-match ban. It was almost a poetic chance for the 28-year-old to settle the bill when he lined up to take that penalty, but his shot seemed unconvincing and proved relatively easy for De Gea to save.

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With the scoreline reading 0-1 at that point, a second goal for the visitors would surely have made things far more difficult for United. But instead of that, Mitrovic has now become the first player in the history of the Premier League to fail to score from the spot four times in a single campaign.

It’s easy, of course, to speak from this side of the hill, but surely it made sense for manager Marco Silva to change his designated penalty taker after three misses.

Table rankings

With no chance whatsoever to enter the title race for a long time, it was important for United to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. Their victory over Chelsea earlier in the week had already put their place in UEFA’s elite club competition beyond doubt, and this victory was merely important to see Newcastle’s challenge off and finish third.

As for Fulham, they were 10th before the game and after, and it no outcome would’ve made any difference for them in that aspect. Like every other club at this point, the Cottagers will now reflect on the season gone and probably find that they are fairly happy with the way it has gone. No Europe in the end, but also no relegation worries at all, and that’s a fine achievement for the first season back in the English top flight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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