61 min: Fulham camping deep. Bruno is looking for the pass, while Pogba also lurks with intent but there’s numbers to get through. Loftus-Cheeks sets off on a jaunt again and it’s Cavani who robs him.
59 min: Loftus-Cheek on another of his runs, but his pass is read by neither Lookman nor Cavaleiro. He’s been an increasing danger to United.
57 min: It’s a pair of tense benches. Scott E still talking incessantly and there’s the odd squawk in a Scandi/Manc accent from United’s boss.
56 min: Bruno header, great save from Areola but also offside. Bruno again looks very unhappy. It was a fine cross from Pogba that set up that passage of play.
54 min: Bruno shoots, but his shot is blocked. His face is like thunder when Adarabioyo gets in his way. Then Greenwood’s cross is headed out by Andersen, and then Shaw’s volley goalwards is blocked by Andersen.
52 min: Suddenly, Loftus-Cheek escapes down the flank. He does so twice in fact. The first time, the ball flies across goal, with no takers. Then he plays in Lookman who shoots straight at De Gea.
51 min: Cavani working back like a Trojan. Bruno gets a ball through the gap and Martial is again casual with his shot. A pass inside might have been the better part of valour. From the resultant corner Harry Maguire climbs highest but Ola Aina does just enough to put him off.
49 min: Martial and Fred fail to break through the Fulham wall. Then Martial reads a Shaw run that never comes. Martial looks to the heavens but should be blaming himself in truth.
47 min: Pogba is slow on the uptake in sweeping up a headed clearance from Bailly. Lookman steals in and Reed whacks a shot wide. The ball fell for him and glory was seen, and soon lost.
46 min: Away we go again. As in the opening minutes of the first half, Fulham press up, clearly on Scott E’s instructions.
A big 45 minutes coming up for both teams here…Ole seems quite smiley as he comes out. Scott Parker makes his way across the field in his dapper jacket, his quiff unshaken by the wind.
Fatsani has his say: “I am not a soothsayer nor a prophet but I will easily join the bandwagon of those taking Man United as serious title contenders if they successfully negotiate the Parker’s Parked Bus and get a result tonight. They tend to struggle against such!”
Peter Kingsnorth has an observation to make and also a prediction. “Pogba looks like a walking red card, already on a booking and almost catches a Fulham player with a high boot. But with Ole needing him to break down the Fulham defence, he if subs him it may cost united the game..”
Here’s why United really need to win this one.
Half-time: Fulham 1-1 Manchester United
Two minutes of time added on tick on without too much incident. They go in at level pegging. Lookman’s goal was well taken, and had United rocking but once Bruno Fernandes got into the game the visitors took hold. Cavani’s goal was slotted in after a mistake from Areola. Fulham have been ragged at times while still not allowing United to get into too much of a flow.
45 min: Greenwood chases down the ball, down his lonely furrow down the right, but can’t prevent a goal kick.
43 min: Wan-Bissaka gallops to the byline and bombs a cross into the back post that has Fulham scrabbling. From the opposite flank, Martial heads over. Fulham conceding territory and chances.
42 min: Lookman wins a free kick for Fulham. It’s not very well worked and the ball eventually makes its way back to De Gea.
41 min: United haven’t been great, as has been their pattern a little bit of late. It is their quality that has carried them this far.
39 min: United’s momentum has abated a little, though they nearly stole a goal when Areola failed to notice that Bruno had sneaked up behind him.
37 min: Fulham chance…Zambo Anguissa beats a couple of men, then passes the ball through to Cavaleiro who, well, takes a very heavy touch. A real waste.
36 min: Bruno Fernandoes and Tete clash and the Fulham player looks to be in pain. He gets up, and rather quicker than would be expected.
34 min: Fernandes is fouled and United have a free-kick on the left-hand edge of the area. Few questions over who will take it. He spots the ball Ronaldo-style and hoofs it over in the style of Neil Jenkins.
32 min: Lovely spinning pass from Bruno to Shaw but the full back can’t get the ball across. Mason Greenwood has been quiet on the flank. Cavani is the centre forward and perhaps cramping his style.
31 min: Scott Parker chewing wildly and asking a question of the assistant referee. Another draw isn’t a great deal of use to his team.
29 min: The Cavani goal owed much to Areola’s fumble of a Bruno’s cross. Wan-Bissaka sorties forward and Martial heads the ball off Tete’s head. From the corner, Maguire climbs highest and misses. Fulham had gone to sleep. That counts as a miss.
27 min: Something of a lull. United are sitting a little back and looking for the long pass rather than pushing forward en masse.
25 min: United supplying Bruno the ball all the time, and he is demanding it too. Pogba is very much in a supporting role. These days, and when he’s in this mood, everyone is in a supporting role to Bruno.
24 min: Fulham now looking much more nervous than before. Bruno Fernandes has got their number at the moment.
22 min: Ole himself would have approved of that goal, a real poacher’s goal. Fernandes though is now in the mood. His crashing shot is well saved by Areola. United smell blood.
Goal! Fulham 1-1 Manchester United (Cavani, 21)
21 min: Fulham take their time over a throw-in. Shaw begins a United move and gets almost to the byline and he releases Fernandes, whose shot cracks off the post. United recycle the ball. A cross from the left rebounds to Cavani and United are level!
19 min: Martial and Shaw having a row now? United are very tetchy. Bruno and Pogba both fail in their attempts to play defence-splitting passes.
17 min: Scott Parker is very vocal on the sidelines. His Fulham team concede a soft corner which doesn’t amuse him. United try to be too clever and make a mess of it. Soon enough, they are back in defence and try to build up an attack.
15 min: More Bruno rage as Luke Shaw fails to read his pass.
14 min: Fred’s ball is skewed by an exasperated Fernandes. Cavani is making a nuisance of himself in chasing shadows. It is going to take something to unpick this lock.
12 min: All of the action in Fulham’s half but they look comfortable. Bruno Fernandes has been an absentee, suffering with a severe lack of space.
11 min: Pogba’s down. And it looks like an ankle problem before he’s resurrected. He took a rap but it looks to be an impact injury.
10 min: United penalty claim as Fred falls. Fulham break and Pogba is booked for a cynical foul. Both were correct decisions.
9 min: Loftus-Cheek, back defending, stops a Shaw cross in the left-hand corner.
8 min: This is a test for Manchester United, who really don’t like to play against a massed defence. Fulham have retreated into their shell already and will probably use Lookman as their outlet.
Goal! Fulham 1-0 Manchester United (Lookman, 5)
Long ball out to Lookman who surges through. He’s onside, played there by Wan-Bissaka, and scores. Great finish. And a big shock. Scott Parker punches the air in delight!
4 min: The television coverage has allowed a decent earful of the benches and their exhortations to the players. Fulham’s crew and bringing the ruckus. United have two sniffs, first Greenwood and then Cavani.
2 min: It’s cagey but Fulham have pushed up from the start. Wan-Bissaka comes under some pressure with the ball on the edge of his box. Fulham then press hard once more, and Lookman gets space to shoot. It’s a low skidder and David de Gea is happy to claim it with his body behind the ball.
OK, we are go at the Cottage…Scott Parker and Ole exchange pleasantries to the sound of Insomnia by Faithless.
Richard Hirst has been in touch. “Venturing into the land of inappropriate comparisons, I feel this game is the perfect follow up to the inauguration. Quiet and moderate Biden/Fulham about to repudiate narcissistic and self-entitled Trump United. It will be good to feel that we are playing our part in knocking them off their ……. perch. Not that I think we will, anymore than the red half of the USA will accept Biden, but in both cases one can dream.”
Richard may not be a Manchester United fan.
Here’s where Ole Gunnar Solskjær earns his corn by urging his men to great things on what looks a stinking night. The rather antsy buildup music that visitors to Craven Cottage are used to hearing is blaring out to the empty stands. So, here come the teams.
Manchester City have won 2-0 against Aston Villa, though had to work hard. They are top of the league and thus United must win to leapfrog City and Leicester City.
The teams again.
Fulham: Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Tete, Reed, Zambo Anguissa, Bryan; Loftus-Cheek, Cavaleiro, Lookman
Subs: Rodák, Hector, Odoi, Kebano, Mitrović, Ream, Lemina, Onomah, Kamara
Manchester United: de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, Fred; Greenwood, Fernandes, Martial; Cavani
Subs: Henderson, Mata, Rashford, James, Telles, Matić, van de Beek, Tuanzebe, McTominay
Jonathan Wilson has plotted a path to glory for United.
Ole’s been bullish in pre-match.
For Fulham, Bobby Decordova-Reid makes way for Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Joe Bryan steps in for Antonee Robinson.
For Manchester United, Eric Bailly replaces Lindelöf at the heart of the defence. Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood replace Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay, with Paul Pogba, who played off the flank at Anfield, is playing in midfield.
Should Manchester City – currently playing Aston Villa at the Etihad – win then United will have to climb over both them and Leicester to top the table. Scott Murray has the latest from that.
Johnny Haynes. Ole’s Army makes its way down to what will be a brass monkey’s night out on the banks of the Thames. Manchester United need to win to leapfrog Leicester as Brendan’s boys have a better goal difference. They come up against a home team who have improved their performance level while won since November – against Leicester – but only lost twice, with creditable defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City bookending six straight draws. It’s still far from impossible that Scott E Parker’s Fulham pull themselves out of the mire if they find out how to win matches. United’s performances at Burnley and Liverpool were not exactly scintillating but grinding along seems as a good a policy as any this season. Last time Fulham were in the Premier League they lost 7-1 on aggregate to United, losing 3-0 at home in February 2019 to two goals from Paul Pogba – including a penalty – and one from Anthony Martial. Johnny Haynes.
Kick-off at 8.15 pm, join me.