After the draw at Anfield, Leicester beating Chelsea and Man City edging out Villa, three points away to Craven Cottage was crucial. If not, United would no longer be leading at the top. It started off horribly as Ademola Lookman struck past De Gea as United’s shape was haphazardly open. A fumble from Areola allowed Cavani to put in the equaliser. Overall, it was a tightly contested game, which should have been expected in a team that had lost only once in their 7. The game stayed this way and in the end, it took the flick of Pogba’s left foot to put United ahead and it stayed that way until the end.
Two Halves, Two Pauls
Since Man Utd’s last league loss, Pogba has managed to play himself into form. Culpable of the lost points in that game, the rumors were swirling that his time was up at Old Trafford. Whether it has been from the left or in the middle, he has performed admirably when asked. The first half however, we saw play that shown prior to the last international break. He was ill-disciplined in his movement, his passing was not progressive, he slowed down play with too many touches and on occasion, was guilty of losing it very easily. He let Lookman go for the goal, even if the gap between the CBs was far too big. Fulham made it very difficult with a staunch structure but being the most talented of the midfield options, the onus is on Pogba to prove those strokes into the front line to break it. The second half however, he stepped up. Not just the majestic goal, which he caressed out the sky to shift onto his weaker foot. As a last resort, he arrowed a beautiful strike into Areola’s right hand corner to put United in the lead. His work in the middle was excellent, winning the ball back on several occasions, pushing the team forward with great passes and sometimes being the one to force the final ball. A lovely cross into the middle for Bruno Fernandes should have been put away, even if he was offside. If he managed to put away that chance against Liverpool, it would have been three away games in a row the Frenchman came up with the goods to grab United three points. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be but the goal tonight means United remain top of the league
Fatigue is capable of taking victim of even the best and most talented of people. Simple tasks that are routine can become even too much on certain occasions where it is hard to fathom how such sloppiness has set in. It seems to add credence to Man Utd’s desire to give competition to the right back, Wan Bissaka, who only came in last summer. With Dalot out on loan with Milan, Fosu Mensah leaving for Leverkusen and Williams finding the season hard going, it leaves ex-Palace man without an able deputy to step in and take some pressure off his legs, whilst also applying some pressure mentally. Even on his better days, his unorthodox co-ordination, whereby it seems like he is contorting his legs to perform natural kicking stances, is hard to stomach. On nights like tonight, where the tiredness was as vivid as can be, it was horrendous to watch. The opening minutes were characterised by his sloppy play, a seemingly simple pass straight to a Fulham player when it seemed impossible. For a player lauded for his defensive contribution, his defensive awareness, particularly spatially, is criminal. Far too often, he has been flummoxed by simple 1-2s or by players making runs in behind him. Even his capability of holding a good defensive line was shown up today as he was the one who kept Lookman onside but more basic errors were made beforehand so it can be forgiven a little more. In these games though, the need for a better technician in the build up on our right hand side, a side that is often left barren for us, becomes more and more apparent the more sides begin to work out that Wan Bissaka can become a liability once the Red Devils get the football. The games against Everton and Leicester, where Tuanzebe and Lindelof deputised on the right side respectively, the side were able to diversify the side in which they play down rather than the exclusive left hand build up we often see. It might be so that the £50 million transfer might have to be used depending on the type of opposition we come up against.