It’s one thing to lose to a football club that has so many world class players and a manager that has such a massive CV. It’s another thing for Fulham to lose the way they did tonight.
In the first half alone, Claudio Ranieri’s emphasis of an organized defense resulted in his strongest downfall. There was no pressing whatsoever, no attempts at tackling the ball away from the Manchester United attacking players and not a single Fulham defender wanting to put in a good hard shift. It all turned to crap as soon as Tim Ream was selected at center back and Denis Odoi at fullback. Both have been proven beyond enough that none are capable at playing any of those positions at Premier League level and that fact was proven correct once again tonight.
Manchester United’s fullbacks might as well have been Dani Alves and Marcelo out there, but this was youngster Diogo Dalot and Ashley Young out there. In United’s first goal, Young and Odoi might as well have had a staring contest down the left hand flank. When the former tried to get into the penalty area, he was trying to do so by putting the ball through the latter’s legs. Unfortunately, Odoi slipped on the wet pitch and Young was able to gather the ball in the area and put in a curling effort past Sergio Rico in the 12th minute of play. It was a bad omen because Manchester United have struggled all season in getting off to strong starts.
Surely enough, United’s second goal came when Romelu Lukaku found a streaking Marcus Rashford heading towards goal while being ignorantly played onside by Ream. From there, Rashford picked a simple pass deep inside the penalty area towards center to find a streaking Juan Mata and was able to put it through the wickets of Alfie Mawson and Rico to make it 2-0. The rout was truly on. Surely enough, United made it three with a training ground corner kick attempt led to Mata easily finding a struggling Lukaku point blank for him to tap it home.
You may wonder if Fulham even do anything with the ball at his feet, but besides a flimsy shot towards David de Gea outside the box by Aleksander Mitrovic, they did absolutely nothing. With just two shots in the first half, Fulham only generated 0.04 expected goals. It was by far, their worst performance in that department all season.
If anything, it might as well have been hiding both players from further embarrassment as both Mitrovic and Tom Cairney were substituted at halftime. Bluntly, it was no where near their fault as the entire game plan was taken to the woodshed by United by minute one and other players should be given more blame to their performance tonight. André Schürrle might have returned from injury, but he time and again was either invisible or wasteful. Ryan Sessegnon needs better support around him because he just will not be able to make his runs in the penalty area on his own. Lastly, Jean Michael Seri’s prime is being wasted completely by an absolute struggle for how well he can fit into any system Fulham can use.
To their credit, Fulham played much better in the second half as Aboubakar Kamara was his usual clumsy, adventurous and bull-in-a-china-shop self. Fulham were finally able to have more time with the ball at their feet as Sessegnon, Schürrle and substitute Luciano Vietto started to finally come into the game. Surely enough, the striker was taken down by Ander Herrera in the penalty area and gave Fulham a shot at the spot. Unlike two seasons ago, Fulham capitalized by Kamara and cut the lead to 3-1.
Sadly, their optimism was short lived as Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Marcus Rashford got into a wrestling match that was almost all of Rashford’s doing. But that was not what referee Lee Probert saw something differently, and already with a yellow card, Anguissa was given a second one and was sent off. Anguissa deservedly demanded an explanation as to what he did wrong, but the United players and Probert wanted none of it.
From there, Fulham’s endeavor was gone and United were able to coast through the rest of the game. To add insult to injury, Rashford blasted a shot past Rico on his near post after Odoi once again decided not to challenge him and make it 4-1. United really should have had five or six more through Mata, Herrera or Lukaku, but Jose Mourinho wasn’t all too mad about it. If anything, he couldn’t have been more happy seeing his team do well without playing his worst enemy Paul Pogba.
It was a simple win for the home side and Claudio Ranieri seriously needs to rethink his tactics. Fulham can not just be sitting so far back and expecting the ball to come to them with ease. And like Slavisa Jokanovic, their attack was non-existent up until United didn’t give a darn anymore. Until all that changes, Fulham will struggle to get themselves out of relegation. Fortunately, West Ham, Newcastle, a struggling Wolves and Huddersfield are next on the agenda before 2018 comes to a close. At minimum, Fulham have to double their win count before that slate of fixtures is over. Here’s to a better performance.