Fulham self-destruct after THREE red cards at Old Trafford

In the only top-flight clash in the quarterfinals of the Premier League, Marco Silva’s Fulham travelled to Old Trafford – where they’d face a Manchester United side that has already lifted silverware this season. Michael Thomas wasn’t able to pick a clear winner in his preview to this fixture – and the game certainly didn’t disappoint at the Theatre of Dreams.

MUN: De Gea; Shaw, Martinez, Maguire, Wan-Bissaka; Sabitzer, McTominay; Rashford, Fernandes, Sancho; Weghorst

FUL: Leno; Robinson, Ream, Diop, Tete; Palhinha, Reed; Willian, Pereira, Decordova-Reid; Mitrovic

The visitors started strongly in Manchester, with a combination of sloppy passing from United and a high press from Fulham keeping the hosts pinned into their own half for much of the opening ten minutes. Erik Ten Hag’s side could have taken the lead with less than fifteen minutes on the clock as Marcus Rashford played in Wout Weghorst – but despite Bruno Fernandes’ run in behind to create space for the Dutchman, his strike rolled into the arms of Bernd Leno who saved comfortably.

Both teams had great chances before the break, but neither Tete’s curling long-range effort nor Scott McTominay’s strike found the back of the net – meaning it was goalless at the break. Fulham had been the better side, though they weren’t able to find the finishing touch; in part due to an out-of-form Aleksandar Mitrovic who hadn’t scored since January 3rd.

Fulham sought to rectify that as they re-emerged from the tunnel, and Antonee Robinson fired a shot at David De Gea shortly after the break – but the Spaniard was able to tip it over the post. United’s keeper was called into action once again, as Andreas Pereira’s corner sailed over everyone in the box before eventually finding Willian, though the Brazilian’s curling shot was denied by De Gea.

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Despite his heroics, De Gea could do nothing about Mitrovic’s effort in the 50th minute, as the Serbian striker fired home from a corner, having picked up the ball on the edge of the six-yard box before powering it into the back of the net to give the Cottagers a deserved lead at Old Trafford.

Chaos ensued in the 70th minute though, as Wout Weghorst won possession from a Fulham corner and sent Antony surging up the pitch. The Brazilian played in Sancho in the middle of the park, who worked his way past Leno – but a clearance off the line by Willian denied the winger an equaliser… or had it?

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Relentless appeals from the United players followed, as they thought Willian had handled the ball on the line – and Chris Kavanagh headed to the pitchside monitor to get a closer look. Marco Silva picked up the first red card of the match for his behaviour towards the ref, and the penalty was awarded – but not before Willian was dismissed for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Sounds crazy enough, right? Wrong. Having exchanged words with the referee, Aleksandar Mitrovic then decided to shove the official before attempting to go in for a headbutt – leaving Chris Kavanagh with no option but to dismiss the Serbian too! Fulham were down to nine men on the field, and their manager had been shown red too, all within three minutes. Chaos.

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To make things worse for the visitors, Bruno Fernandes equalised from the spot – finding the bottom right corner while sending Leno the wrong way in the process. That goal was almost immediately followed by a strike from Marcel Sabitzer, who flicked the ball over Leno having received it from Luke Shaw in the box. Fulham had completely blown it, despite being the better team in the first half by a country mile.

A few chances for United came to nothing, until Bruno Fernandes’ strike in the 96th minute sealed victory for Erik Ten Hag’s side. Having received a through ball from Fred, the Portuguese midfielder worked his way through a switched-off Fulham defence before launching a shot into the top corner. What an end to an absolutely incredulous game!

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Manchester United will face Brighton in the semifinals of the FA Cup – that game will be held under the famous Wembley Arch in April. While it’s unlikely to be as eventful as this clash, it’s a chance for United to secure a place in their second final of the season. Should Roberto De Zerbi’s Brighton progress, they’ll play in their first FA Cup Final for a whopping forty years.

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