Manchester United vs Fulham. The FA Cup Quarter-Final.
Match report as Manchester United progress to an FA Cup semi-final against Brighton following Fulham's self-inflicted capitulation at Old Trafford; red cards for Willian and Aleksandar Mitrovic, plus Marco Silva, before Bruno Fernandes (2) and Marcel Sabitzer win it for Man Utd
Monday 20 March 2023 06:12, UK
Manchester United are into the semi-finals of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win as Fulham imploded following three quickfire red cards on a dramatic day at Old Trafford.
Marco Silva's side had appeared to be in control of the quarter-final following Aleksandar Mitrovic's goal early in the second half but Willian's handball sparked an astonishing turnaround that saw coach Silva and Mitrovic red carded as well as the Brazilian.
Bruno Fernandes levelled the tie from the penalty spot and Marcel Sabitzer's clever finish from close range completed the reversal of fortunes to leave Fulham's remaining nine men bereft. Fernandes added late gloss to the scoreline with an emphatic finish and it is Erik ten Hag's team that will face Brighton at Wembley next month.
Man Utd: De Gea (8), Wan-Bissaka (6), Martinez (7), Maguire (5), Shaw (7), McTominay (5), Sabitzer (7), Fernandes (8), Sancho (6), Rashford (6), Weghorst (5).
Subs: Antony (7), Fred (n/a).
Fulham: Leno (7), Tete (7), Diop (7), Ream (7), Robinson (7), Palhinha (9), Reed (7), Andreas (7), De Cordova-Reid (7), Mitrovic (3), Willian (5).
Subs: James (n/a), Solomon (n/a), Soares (n/a), Cairney (n/a).
Player of the match: Joao Palhinha.
For much of the afternoon, Fulham were the more impressive side, with United's six-month unbeaten run in front of their own fans at risk. It was a deserved lead for the away side when Mitrovic turned the ball into the net from Issa Diop's flick early in the second half.
Without the suspended Casemiro in midfield, United struggled to gain control. It was Joao Palhinha, back in the Fulham midfield following a suspension of his own, who was the dominant figure in the middle of the pitch. And then, the game flipped.
Erik ten Hag made four changes to the Manchester United team that beat Real Betis on Thursday night. Luke Shaw returned in place of Tyrell Malacia. The suspended Casemiro made way for Scott McTominay. Marcel Sabitzer and Jadon Sancho came in for Fred and Facundo Pellistri, who both dropped to the bench.
Fulham boss Marco Silva made three changes to his team. Issa Diop came in for Tosin Adarabioyo at the back, Joao Palhinha returned from suspension in place of Sasa Lukic and Willian was back with Manor Solomon named among the substitutes.
United countered at pace and with Jadon Sancho having rounded Bernd Leno, Willian opted to block the ball near the line with his hand. It was spotted following a VAR review and if there was sympathy for the player there was none for the actions of his team-mate.
Mitrovic aggressively shoved referee Chris Kavanagh and left the official with no option but to send him from the field. Ten players would have been tough. Nine made it impossible and when Fernandes converted his spot-kick the momentum was unstoppable.
Sabitzer still deserves some kudos for the finish that put United in front, however. Luke Shaw's centre was delightfully turned in by the midfielder and Fulham knew it was over. Fernandes' second of the game made it look straightforward. But this was a crazy game.
"Until the penalty and red card, we were clearly the best team on the pitch," Silva told ITV. "We respect Manchester United but it was clear we were the best team on the pitch."
Asked about the decisions, he added: "What is difficult to understand is why the two moments in their box in the first half where one of them is a clear penalty on Mitrovic - why did no-one check?"
On his own red card, he said: "If you ask me if I did something I am happy with, of course not. But if you ask me if that should be a red card, I have big doubts. I would like to know what the referee is going to write about what I said to him."
"I have lost a bit of confidence watching United now," former Manchester United captain Roy Keane told ITV.
"A month or two ago, I was thinking they are up for it. But the last couple of games I have seen some habits come back.
"It is fine to play in moments every now and again but right now it feels like their DNA. They have slipped into some really bad habits.
"They turned up today expecting to win the match as they have quality players. But if they turn up with that attitude for the semi-final, Brighton will beat them.
"United need a kick up the backside."
Fulham are back in action after the international break with a trip to Bournemouth on Saturday April 1, while Manchester United resume their schedule the following day in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Ten Hag's team travel to Newcastle for Super Sunday in the 4.30pm kick-off at St James' Park.