Manchester United will face Brighton in the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley next month. The Reds came from behind to beat Fulham 3-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday, largely thanks to a second half minute of madness in which Willian, Aleksandar Mitrović and their manager Marco Silva were all shown red cards. Bruno Fernandes took advantage to score either side of Marcel Sabitzer’s first goal in a United shirt.
Erik ten Hag made four changes to the side that won away in Spain on Thursday, with Sabitzer, Luke Shaw, Scott McTominay and Jadon Sancho all given the nod; Tyrell Malacia, Fred and Facundo Pellistri dropped to the bench, while Casemiro began his four-match domestic suspension.
It was a poor first half performance from United, who were scrappy with the ball and sluggish without it. Fulham found it far too easy to play out from the back, and their full-backs Kenny Tete and Antonee Robinson flew forward and slung dangerous crosses into the box for Mitrović.
Through a happy mixture of desperate defending and good fortune, Fulham struggled to convert their territorial superiority into clear-cut chances. As the first half wore on, the game became increasingly slipshod in midfield, and a series of sloppy giveaways at both ends were lucky not to be punished.
United’s best chance came from a corner which Bernd Leno punched away with Scott McTominay lurking. A few minutes later, Bruno Fernandes—whose passing had been especially wayward—inadvertently drilled a pass against Marcel Sabitzer’s heels; it popped up nicely for the Austrian on the edge of the box, though his snapshot was parried to safety.
Fulham made a bright start to the second half, with David de Gea soon diving full-stretch to his left to prevent Willian fizzing a low shot inside his far post. However, the Spaniard’s heroics proved all in vain, as Mitrović broke the deadlock from the following corner, stabbing an Issa Diop flick home from close range.
Ten Hag responded with an aggressive substitution, introducing Antony in place of a largely anonymous McTominay. But still Fulham looked the more threatening side, and only another brilliant De Gea save, clawing a looping Mitrović header from under the crossbar, prevented the visitors from doubling their lead.
Fulham looked like seeing out a comfortable win until the final 20 minutes, when a single passage of play flipped the game on its head. Antony surged down the right and squared for Sancho, who rounded the keeper and prodded towards goal, only to have his shot blocked on the line by Willian.
The referee was dispatched to the VAR screen, and flashed a red card at Fulham manager Marco Silva for his interference. The Fulham boss knew what was coming: Willian had clearly handled on the line, and he was soon sent off too. But making matters even worse for the visitors, an incensed Mitrović accosted referee Chris Kavanagh, and was sent off too. One minute, three red cards, and a United penalty. Despite the hot tempers, Bruno Fernandes kept his cool, and slotted past Leno for 1-1.
The nine men of Fulham couldn’t stem the United tide, and it took only two minutes before United took the lead. Shaw overlapped down the left and squared for Sabitzer, who flicked a delicate finish home from point-blank range. From there, it was plain sailing for United, who added a third in the final minute of stoppage time, when Fernandes lashed a powerful shot past Leno from the edge of the box.
Truth be told, Fulham’s spectacular implosion masked what was mostly a poor performance from United. Even so, they’re through into the FA Cup’s final four, and will face Brighton at Wembley in their semifinal in just over a month’s time. Manchester City take on Sheffield United in the other tie.