Manchester United snuck past Fulham 1-0 in Saturday’s early kick-off with a late Bruno Fernandes goal sparing the Red Devils’ blushes and easing pressure on Erik ten Hag.
Man Utd thought they had managed an early goal to settle the nerves at Craven Cottage, but Scott McTominay’s tap-in was controversially ruled out for an offside from Harry Maguire in the build-up. The remainder of the first half lacked quality, both sides huffing and puffing but failing to seriously create any promising goalscoring opportunities.
It appeared Man Utd were set to fall short again after an underwhelming second half display, but Fernandes’ stoppage-time winner from the edge of the area gave the visitors a slightly fortuitous three points in west London.
How the game unfolded
Ten Hag was in need of an almighty reaction from his players after successive 3-0 defeats and that’s exactly what the Dutchman thought he was in for. Man Utd were a little unfortunate not to take an early lead, Maguire adjudged to be interfering with play from an offside position despite not touching the ball prior to McTominay’s eighth-minute tap-in from a free-kick.
A positive, albeit scrappy, start from Man Utd didn’t result in any clear-cut opportunities, with Fulham edging their way into the game as the half progressed and the visitors faded. Diogo Dalot did well to deny Harry Wilson at the far post after a tempting cross just before the half-hour mark, but it was a tepid first half of little goalmouth action.
Fernandes’ tame curled effort from the edge of the area was the best United could muster, with Wilson and Alex Iwobi spurning promising counter-attacks at the other end with wayward shots. For Ten Hag, it was an eighth straight game his side had failed to take a lead into half-time.
An unchanged United side created the first opening of a second half that surely had to be better than the first, Alejandro Garnacho’s deflected effort held well by Bernd Leno. As the game became more stretched, both sides looked deadly on the counter-attack, Wilson stinging the palms of Andre Onana with a long-range effort on the hour mark.
Just moments later, Joao Palhinha, who had been superb throughout, had his powerful strike rebuffed by the Man Utd goalkeeper as Fulham turned up the heat. Calvin Bassey and Rodrigo Muniz both couldn’t guide headers on target from set-pieces, with the latter coming closest to testing Onana.
With time running out for Man Utd, substitute Facundo Pellistri’s soft effort forced Leno into a comfortable save, with Fernandes’ fierce long-range free-kick a tougher test for the Fulham goalkeeper.
It looked as if a pretty turgid affair would end in a goalless draw, but Man Utd captain Fernandes came up with a crucial winner to ease pressure on Ten Hag. The Portuguese curled an effort beyond Leno from the edge of the area, with the German only able to push the ball further towards his bottom corner.
It was far from vintage, with United looking poor once more, but Fernandes came up with the goods in the dying embers to offer the visitors some much-needed respite.
Man Utd player ratings (4-2-3-1)
GK: Andre Onana – 7/10 – Made some strong saves when called upon, rebuffing several powerful efforts in the second half.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 7/10 – Coped with Willian well in one-v-one situations and was typically solid in the challenge.
CB: Harry Maguire – 8/10 – Took a knock to the head early on and was slightly unlucky to be ruled offside for Man Utd’s disallowed opener. Performed well against Fulham’s lively attackers, making several crucial interventions.
CB: Jonny Evans – 6/10 – Solid enough but not tested too often by Fulham’s strikers.
LB: Diogo Dalot – 6/10 – An impressive intervention to deny Wilson in the first half. Several wayward long-range shots and picked up a yellow for a lunge on Wilson late on.
CM: Christian Eriksen – 4/10 – Really poor by his lofty standards, surrendering possession far too easily. Couldn’t get the game by the scruff of the neck like he did against Kobenhavn.
CM: Scott McTominay – 6/10 – Made plenty of positive runs deep into Fulham’s off, moving beyond Rasmus Hojlund on occasion. His influence waned as the game wore on.
RM: Antony – 3/10 – Having mastered the power of invisibility, Antony put it to use against Fulham. £85m…wow.
AM: Bruno Fernandes – 8/10 – Easily United’s best player in attack or defence, looking the most dangerous for Ten Hag’s side. Popped up with a crucial winner which was taken well. Game-changer.
LM: Alejandro Garnacho – 6/10 – Lively but a little petulant at times. Not as memorable as his game-winning performance at Craven Cottage last season.
ST: Rasmus Hojlund – 5/10 – Completely and utterly isolated throughout. Needs better service if he’s going to have a fruitful debut season with United.
SUB: Facundo Pellistri (63′ for Antony) – 6/10
SUB: Mason Mount (79′ for Eriksen) – 6/10
SUB: Anthony Martial (79′ for Hojlund) – 6/10
SUB: Raphael Varane (90′ for Garnacho) – N/A
Subs not used: Altay Bayindir (GK), Sergio Reguilon, Kobbiee Mainoo, Sofyan Amrabat, Hannibal.
Erik ten Hag – 5/10 – Needed a bit of magic from his captain to save the day, but it was another underwhelming outing from his Man Utd side.