Barclays Premier League Under-21s
Manchester United vs Fulham
Venue: Leigh Sports Village
Date: Monday, 2 February 2015
Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Failing to capitalise on last week’s victory over Liverpool, a possession statistic that was dominated by United wasn’t enough to produce the goals needed to win the game.
An early Nick Powell goal gave United the lead but strikes from Tom Richards and Australian international Adam Taggart after the break secured the win for Peter Grant’s side.
The first action of the game came via the opening goal.
Fulham’s attempt to play the ball out from the back backfired as Josh Smile’s pass was intercepted by James Weir, and the late replacement for Jesse Lingard slotted in Powell, who expertly finished with the outside of his foot.
Weir was involved again with a ball over the top that had to be headed clear by goalkeeper Magnus Norman and Josh Harrop attempted a dinked effort from range that the back-pedalling keeper just managed to deal with.
Rafael’s bursting run from the back led to him finding Ashley Fletcher on his full debut at this level, but the number nine’s shot was blocked.
Norman held an Andreas Pereira dipping free-kick from distance before smothering Reece James’ near post corner behind for another.
James then received the ball from Pereira, shifting past Smile onto his favoured left foot, but unleashing a shot well wide.
A rare chance for the visitors occurred when Joel Pereira’s poor clearance fell to Mesca, but the midfielder’s shot went wide without troubling the relieved goalkeeper.
Powell’s near post shot went wide, as did Saidy Janko’s wild effort after cutting in from the left, as United went in at half-time with the lead.
The hosts started the second half like a house on fire.
Powell’s spectacular overhead kick was held; Tyler Blackett’s header from Pereira’s corner produced a fine save from Norman before Tom Thorpe fired over the rebound from close range.
Pereira’s run led to a shot falling just past the bar before another shot was held moments later.
Despite the clear dominance of United throughout the whole game, Fulham were back on level terms.
Mesca’s low cross from the left found Richards, who had peeled off to the penalty spot, and his first time strike found the back of the net.
Pereira’s pass found Weir, but he couldn’t replicate what Richards did at the other end, as his first time effort was tame and held with ease by Norman.
The growth in the visitors’ performance was there to see, and they took the lead just after the hour mark.
Richards this time turned provider, as his through ball found Taggart, who beat the offside trap, outmuscled Thorpe and slid the ball under Pereira.
The same combination combined with a neat one-two, with Richards’ left foot shot being held.
Rafael’s cross was put behind for a corner by Noe Baba, as he nicked in ahead of Powell, but the resulting corner was dealt with by the resilient Fulham backline.
Janko won a corner as the game headed into stoppage time and the ball was cleared only as far as Rafael, but the right-back’s left footed effort fell wide of the post, as a half-hearted penalty appeal from Powell for an alleged push from Liam Donnelly a minute later was waved away.
Fulham saw the game out to give themselves what looked like being an unlikely victory at the break, but their clinical nature was the difference between the two sides, as the Red Devils squandered many chances, particularly in the first half.
A smash-and-grab from the London side would be an understatement, but it is Fulham who return home with all three points, whilst United will look to respond against their opponents’ local rivals Chelsea next week.
Manchester United: J. Pereira; Rafael, Thorpe, Blackett, Janko; Harrop (Willock 72), James, A. Pereira, Weir; Powell, A. Fletcher (Grimshaw 79).
Subs: Grimshaw, O’Hara, C. Evans, Willock, Love.
Manager: Warren Joyce
Fulham: Norman; Voser, Baba, Buatu, Evans; Della Verde (Donnelly 53), Smile; Richards, Mesca, Plumain; Taggart.
Subs: Barnes, Donnelly, Humphrys, Edun, De la Torre.