Manchester United returned to the top of the Premier League table with a hard-fought win away at struggling Fulham on Wednesday. Having gone behind early on, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side battled back courtesy of goals from Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba, picking up three points to move two clear of second-placed Manchester City.
Fulham were quicker out of the blocks than United, and broke the deadlock inside five minutes. André-Franck Zambo-Anguissa picked a fine pass over the top of a disorganised United defence, with Eric Bailly out of position and Aaron Wan-Bissaka playing Ademola Lookman onside. Clean through, the young forward made no mistake, calmly slotting past David de Gea for 1-0.
United soon seized control of the game, dominating the ball against a side happy to sit back and soak up pressure. Despite their well-documented struggles against deep defences, Solskjær’s side looked bright in possession, and hit back midway through the first half.
Seconds after hitting the post from the edge of the area, Bruno Fernandes exchanged possession with Fred out on the left, and delivered a vicious low cross into the six-yard box. Fulham keeper Alphonse Areola could only spill the ball into the path of Cavani, who stabbed home at the first opportunity.
United almost took the lead within moments. Fernandes again found a pocket of space on the edge of the Fulham box, though his well-placed effort was pushed away by a diving Areola. Just short of the half-hour, a fine Wan-Bissaka cross found Anthony Martial at the back post, but his header was well blocked by Kenny Tete.
Having offered nothing in attack for the remainder of the opening half, Fulham started the second with renewed vigour. Lookman might’ve done better when picked out by Ruben Loftus-Cheek on the edge of the area, though he fired a low shot straight at de Gea.
At the other end, United toiled but struggled to find a route through Fulham’s massed ranks. In the end, they didn’t have to. Five minutes past the hour, Pogba produced a moment of match-winning brilliance. Gifted some room out on the edge of the box, the Frenchman cut in off the right and curled a brilliant shot into the top corner for 2-1.
United might have killed the game off seconds later, though Areola got down to make a brilliant reflex save to deny a bullet header from Cavani. Fulham remained a threat in attack, and went close to equalising when Aboubakar Kamara threaded Loftus-Cheek through with a quarter-hour remaining. The former Chelsea man worked space for a shot, but was denied by de Gea. In stoppage time, a deflected Aleksandar Mitrović effort was deflected agonisingly wide by Bailly.
It wasn’t comfortable, but United survived to pick up the three points they needed to move back to the top of the table. However, Manchester City still have a game in hand, and would leapfrog United by a single point should they win it.