Alejandro Garnacho was the hero as Manchester United recorded a 2-1 victory over Fulham in their final Premier League fixture before the World Cup. The Argentinian teenager came off the bench to net a last-gasp winning goal, after Christian Eriksen’s first-half opener was cancelled out by a Dan James equaliser midway through the second.
Ten Hag made six changes to the side that beat Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup on Thursday, with David de Gea, Lisandro Martínez, Luke Shaw, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Anthony Elanga all returning to the starting lineup. Anthony Martial was given another opportunity to lead the line, with Cristiano Ronaldo omitted from the matchday squad.
The first half was an even affair, in which United were content to let their hosts have the lion’s share of possession. Fulham played on the front foot, and veteran winger Willian caused particular problems for Tyrell Malacia deputising at right-back. However, it was United that finished the first half in front, having nicked the game’s opening goal inside 15 minutes.
It came from a fluid counter-attack, triggered when Casemiro nicked possession from Tom Cairney in the centre circle. Christian Eriksen offloaded to Marcus Rashford, who found Bruno Fernandes drifting to the left of Fulham’s penalty area. His low first-time pass was angled across the six-yard box and towards the far post, where Eriksen was left with a simple finish for 1-0.
From there, United were content to sit back and soak up pressure, looking for openings on the break. Eriksen should’ve had a second on the stroke of halftime, when a smart Elanga backheel bought Fernandes the space to pick a low cross to the edge of the area. An unmarked Eriksen shot first time, but screwed a simple finish wide of Bernd Leno’s post.
The second half began with another good United chance — which was again the work of Fernandes’s imagination. His fine pass from wide-left sent Elanga scampering through, though the young winger fired straight at Leno. Martial followed up on the rebound, though Leno deflected the Frenchman’s effort behind for a corner.
Fulham responded with two chances of their own: Carlos Vinícius fired a powerful shot straight at de Gea from close range, moments before United’s keeper was again called into action to tip a powerful Tim Ream header over the top. It proved the cue for ten Hag to tighten things up, with Elanga quickly withdrawn for Scott McTominay.
However, within six minutes of McTominay’s introduction, Fulham drew level. It came from a swift counter of their own, after United right-back Malacia was caught high on the right. Willian sprung into the space behind the Dutchman and offloaded to Cairney, whose low cross was tapped home by former United forward Dan James. Suddenly United were ruing their missed chances.
Fulham’s tails were up, and they surged forward in search of a winner. They almost found one when Ream knocked a corner down for João Palhinha, though de Gea’s sharp reflexes stopped his overhead kick from rocketing into the roof of the net. Ten Hag threw on Alejandro Garnacho in place of a quiet Martial in an attempt to turn the tide. It was to prove a smart substitution.
Garnacho was involved in United’s next good chance, offloading to the overlapping Luke Shaw down the left. Shaw’s looping cross was met by an unmarked McTominay, though his header sailed clean over the crossbar.
Just when it seemed United were running out of time, they came up with a winner. In the very last minute of stoppage time, Garnacho picked up possession out on the left, played a one-two with Eriksen, and surged towards the Fulham goal, slotting calmly past Leno to seal the victory.
Having largely failed to control the game, United were more than a little fortunate, but ten Hag will be a lot happier heading into the World Cup break.