Report and free match highlights as Alejandro Garnacho's stoppage-time winner secures a 2-1 victory for Man Utd over Fulham; Dan James had cancelled out Christian Eriksen's first-half opener with a goal against his former club; Man Utd move three points behind Tottenham
Monday 14 November 2022 06:26, UK
Manchester United teenager Alejandro Garnacho struck in the third minute of stoppage time to clinch a dramatic 2-1 victory over Fulham in the final Premier League game before the World Cup.
The Cottagers were moments from holding Erik ten Hag's side to a draw after Dan James (61) had cancelled out Christian Eriksen's first goal for Manchester United (14) with his first for the Whites against his former side, but substitute Garnacho broke their hearts.
The 18-year-old, fresh from an outstanding cameo in United's 4-2 win over Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup on Thursday, latched onto Eriksen's through-ball and clipped a composed finish beyond Bernd Leno for his first Premier League goal with just seconds remaining.
Manchester United had earlier missed a succession of chances in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese international absent again having missed their midweek game with an apparent illness, while David de Gea also made several fine stops.
But Garnacho's remarkable winner enhanced his already burgeoning reputation and ensured Manchester United will head into the six-week domestic break for the World Cup only three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham having played one game less.
Fulham: Leno (8), De Cordova-Reid (6), Diop (6), Ream (7), Robinson (7), Palhinha (8), Cairney (7), Pereira (6), Wilson (6), Willian (7), Vinicius (6).
Subs: James (8), Onomah (6).
Man Utd: De Gea (8), Malacia (6), Martinez (8), Lindelof (8), Shaw (7), Casemiro (7), Eriksen (8), Fernandes (7), Elanga (6), Rashford (6), Martial (6).
Subs: McTominay (6), Garnacho (8).
Player of the match: Joao Palhinha
Ronaldo's absence dominated the pre-match discussion, but it was that of the suspended Diogo Dalot which most affected United early on, the hosts repeatedly targeting his makeshift replacement Tyrell Malacia, who was playing out of position.
Fulham got in behind him several times, Willian on one occasion teeing up Carlos Vinicius for a low effort which was repelled by De Gea, but the final ball was too often lacking.
The visitors were more clinical, taking the lead when Casemiro robbed Tom Cairney, allowing Eriksen to start the attack and then finish it, charging forward to slide home Bruno Fernandes' deflected cross-shot having fed Anthony Martial in the build-up.
Fulham continued to probe at the other end, with Willian curling an effort wide and Harry Wilson forcing another save from De Gea, but United should have extended their lead before the break.
Martial was culpable on two occasions, first denied by Leno after latching onto Fernandes' through-ball, then heading wastefully over the bar from Luke Shaw's left-wing cross.
There was also a clear opportunity for Eriksen when Fernandes, playing his 100th Premier League game for United, picked him out with a cut-back, only for the Dane to fire just past the post.
United picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, creating chances but failing to convert them, with Anthony Elanga, Marcus Rashford and Martial once again guilty.
Fulham were emboldened by those misses and soon they were testing De Gea again at the other end, with the Spaniard, left out of his country's World Cup squad this week, saving smartly from Vinicius' swivel and shot and Tim Ream's header.
Marco Silva responded by throwing on James and the Wales international, on loan with the Cottagers having left Manchester United for Leeds a year ago, delivered the equaliser almost immediately when he dispatched Cairney's centre.
There were more Fulham opportunities to come as United struggled to regain a foothold in the game, with the impressive Joao Palhinha forcing a save from De Gea with an acrobatic effort before sending a header over the bar.
But the final word was to be Garnacho's.
The teenager had looked menacing on United's left flank having replaced Martial, at one point seeing a penalty appeal waved away after a coming together with Antonee Robinson, and he delivered the match-winning moment in brilliant style, his low finish from Eriksen's pass clinching three points for United and hinting once again at a tantalisingly bright future.
Asked what he said to Garnacho after the game, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag replied: "Well done!
"It's a massive win and Alejandro Garnacho had a big impact. He finalised and then the spotlight is always on that and that is justified because it was a great finish.
"It's what we expect from subs coming on but you have to do it and I'm really happy with his progress. We have an extra player in the squad.
"I'm happy for the academy that they have brought out a player - and the coaches, who have done good work.
"So, great, but also, I want to emphasise the way we scored that goal, all the way from the back to the front, showed composure. I think it was a massive, brilliant assist from Christian Eriksen.
"It would be weird if I said I knew [what would happen] before [sending Garnacho on]. It's a little bit the feeling that you have. You need an eye for it.
"Sometimes I'm wrong as well, but in this case I saw his improvement in the last months and you could see his potential.
"We knew it was the right point to bring him in, but you can't know that he will have such an impact before.
"This shows what real talents can do. But there is still, for him, a long way to go. He has to keep his feet on the ground.
"He has to do much more investment because he will be recognisable for everyone, so it's much more important to confirm it. Big players know that. Young players don't.
"Now, a four-week break is already a danger for him, because he now has momentum. Let's see how he comes back. We have to manage that with him but when his energy is good, I'm certain he will have an impact."
Fulham boss Marco Silva said: "Of course, it's really tough to take. Twice in seven days for us with a late goal and we lost the chance to have more points in the table.
"With the way we have been playing, it's really tough, but this one is different because I think we were the best team on the pitch.
"Our second half was even better than the first one. We created chances, we equalised the game and unfortunately we conceded a goal when we wanted to score a second.
"The way they scored their second goal was really tough to take. It's the Premier League. You switch off, and they punish you.
"The boys don't deserve it, our fans as well. The crowd was always there, helping us. It's cruel. But we have to learn from these moments."
Jamie Redknapp hailed Garnacho's match-winning contribution on Sky Sports, saying: "Garnacho has the world at his feet now. There will be a clamour in his home country given the week he's had. He missed out on the Argentina squad but he's got plenty more World Cups to look forward to.
"It was one of those 'wow' Premier League moments. It was just a fantastic piece of play, the way he picks it up and plays a one-two with Eriksen.
"You hear so many rumours about this young man for a long while, about the talent he possesses and he's just shown it on the world stage.
"It's an unbelievable goal after the two assists in midweek. How good must he be feeling right now?
"All the best players have the rascal gene. You don't want to have a team of Gary Nevilles! The greats have a bit of devilment about them. Look at Wayne Rooney.
"Sometimes, it doesn't always add up, but they do things differently. You need match-winners and that's what he is.
"If you go through the greats in history, most in history have a bit of genius and madness alongside it."
Alejandro Garnacho was not even born when Cristiano Ronaldo made his Manchester United debut but two decades later, his own thrilling breakthrough is carrying echoes of his idol's.
In the space of under two weeks, the 18-year-old has scored in the Europa League, produced two match-winning assists in the Carabao Cup, and now fired a first Premier League goal in the most dramatic circumstances possible to beat Fulham.
Erik ten Hag called him an "extra player" as he delighted at his sudden emergence at Craven Cottage and there was praise from elsewhere too. "He has the world at his feet," said Jamie Redknapp. "He has a lot of talent," added a smiling Bruno Fernandes.
Garnacho was thrown on when the game appeared to be slipping away from Manchester United, the Argentina youth international replacing Anthony Martial on 73 minutes, but his impact was immediate, his brief being to tear into makeshift right-back Bobby Decordova-Reid, who was on a yellow card, at every opportunity.
Within a couple of minutes, he had almost won a penalty off him, the Fulham man relieved to survive a VAR check, but Garnacho wasn't finished. "He has brought something to the left," said Gary Neville. Fulham couldn't get a handle on him.
Soon, he could be seen releasing Luke Shaw for a cross from which Scott McTominay should have scored, but in the end it didn't matter.
The goal arrived as the clock ticked into the final minute of stoppage time, Garnacho finding Christian Eriksen, then demonstrating a breath-taking mixture of speed and composure to first motor away from Decordova-Reid, then beat Bernd Leno from the angle.
The away end behind the goal exploded in celebration and his thrilling breakthrough suggests Garnacho will have Manchester United fans off their feet on many more times in the future. Like a young Ronaldo, all skill and swagger, he looks destined for great things.
Fulham visit Crystal Palace on Boxing Day at 3pm after the World Cup break, while Manchester United host Nottingham Forest on December 27 at 8pm.