The Red Devils extended their away-winning spree to 6 games as they sailed past Fulham 3-0 to give them a much-needed berth in the top four. Anthony Martial and his French compatriot Paul Pogba were on song as United got the necessary momentum for the upcoming Champions League clash against PSG.
A 19th placed side to face before an important Champions League clash against the French giants, Fulham were indeed the best United could ask for, and they proved it be so indeed. In the end, they didn’t feel the need to toil much and got themselves up and away pretty easily which is just what they wanted ahead of the all important clash against PSG
Whoever may be the opponent, Solskjaer’s one eye was always going to be on that mid-week clash against a Neymar-less PSG. Keeping that in mind, Solskjaer employed an unusual looking setup against the West London-based club.
As many as six changes were made from the side that beat Leicester last weekend. Notable exclusions were Marcus Rashford and Victor Lindelof missing out due to niggles which made United call on Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial to fulfill the attacking duties.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones returned to the XI on the back of their impressing showing during the home tie against Fulham in December. Juan Mata played alongside Martial and Lukaku to support the attack. Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera took the midfield responsibilities.
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It was a clear statement that even after losing some key players to injury, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side still has ability to call on the services of players who can jump onto the field whenever needed and prove that they’re ready to do what it takes. None of the starters looked like they lacked game time which was the case earlier in a game against Reading.
Things were even-stevens in the initial minutes before the Frenchmen Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba combined to start the assault on the opposition. Martial slipped the ball through for Pogba on the left and Paul Pogba, given the form that he is in, finished precisely on his wrong foot to score from an almost 10-15 degree angle.
Just when the things looked bleak for Fulham, Anthony Martial provided testimony to why is he regarded so highly all over the world through a remarkable run from the half-line and a rocketed-finish to give a 2-0 lead just before 23 minutes.
Things went downhill for the hosts from there on. Shoulders dropped down and it seemed like they wanted to get to halftime as soon as possible.
65 minutes into the game, another error from the defender Le Marchand gifted a penalty to United. Marchand barged into Mata just at the edge of the box. Paul Pogba gleefully found the bottom corner to make it effortlessly 3-0 for the visitors.
Claudio Ranieri’s side faced a drubbing at home and not for the first time this season. United carry a lot of positives and learnings as well which could prove significant in the upcoming weeks.
An overjoyed Paul Pogba talked to the press about the result. He was quoted as saying,
“It feels great. That’s what we wanted since Ole came: the top four. We’re there and we want to stay there. We have big games coming up, so it won’t be easy.
But we put in a good performance as a team. When we need three points, we get three points. But these big games coming up will determine where we end up. I feel great, the team feels good.”
Since Solskjaer took the office, United have gained 25 out of the 27 possible points from 9 games. That’s quite the job satisfaction you want I guess!
Solskjaer was asked about the changes he brought and the risks behind employing this setup. He said,
“If you don’t risk, you don’t win, and it’s a squad game. You have to trust the players and I didn’t have any worries. Yes, the first ten minutes we were put under pressure, but after the first goal we were a different class.”
“I was happiest with the second half, we took the tempo down and controlled the ball, which is different to what we did against Leicester, and that’s another step in the right direction.” He added.
Everything seems to fall in place after the Norwegian took charge. Every question arising in a game has been answered perfectly the game after. Just the perfect 50 days for Solskjaer to strengthen his bid for the permanent job at the Old Trafford and perfect for United as well, as they barge into what could be their make or break phase in the season.