Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba helped Manchester United notch up their 10th win under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as they beat Fulham 3-0 on Saturday.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had made six changes to his side from last week’s 1-0 win over Leicester City, perhaps with one eye on the upcoming UEFA Champions League clash against PSG. And, Manchester United were slow off the blocks, with Fulham taking the game to them as well.
The Cottagers could have taken a two-goal lead by the fourth minute itself, only to see Luciano Vietto shoot wide twice. But, the visitors soon found their feet after stuttering early on, going on to grab the lead through Paul Pogba, whose fiercely driven shot caught Sergio Rico stranded in his goal.
Ten minutes later, Manchester United had doubled their advantage through Anthony Martial, who embarked on a scintillating run from inside his own half before slotting the ball into the back of the net. The resurgent Red Devils subsequently had a number of chances to add to their lead, but the first half ended 2-0.
Post the break, United continued to pile on the pressure, as they looked to put the result beyond any doubt. The breakthrough finally came in the 63rd minute as after being found inside the Fulham box at the end of a superb dribble by Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata was brought down by Maxime Le Marchand.
Pogba stepped up to take the resulting penalty, which he converted emphatically to round off the comfortable 3-0 win. The result saw United rack up their tenth under the tutelage of Solksjaer, who has amassed more points in his reign than Jose Mourinho had this season before his sacking.
Manchester United have now moved up to fourth on the Premier League table, although Chelsea have the chance to reclaim the spot when they lock horns with Manchester City on Sunday. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Solskjaer’s men following another resounding performance.
David de Gea: 7/10
A quiet afternoon at work for the Manchester United skipper for the day, who only had three regulation saves to make against Fulham. In fact, the only moment of concern for de Gea was when he was left grimacing in pain after clattering with Aleksandar Mitrovic. Would have been glad to have kept his sixth clean sheet of the league campaign.
Diogo Dalot: 7/10
With Ashley Young rested, Dalot got the opportunity to impress Solskjaer in a rare start. Troubled initially by the pace of Ryan Babel and the double onslaught provided by Joe Bryan, the Portuguese settled in quickly to produce an impressive defensive showing. Going forward, he was a constant outlet, although he still needs to impress his decision making.
Phil Jones: 8/10
The celebratory mood continued for Jones in the wake of his contract renewal on Friday, as after a few hairy moments early on, the Englishman was nothing short of colossal. Mitrovic had no way past him, with the player covering up ground well.
Jones also won the ball before releasing Martial for his side’s second goal. Almost scored with a left-footed thunderbolt as well in what was all in all a solid showing. Could have won a place in the starting lineup to face PSG.
Chris Smalling: 7/10
Returning to the starting lineup after nearly two months, having finally recovered from injury, Smalling did suffer a few hiccups early on, with Luciano Vietto troubling him in the early exchanges.
But, once the English international found his feet, there was no way past him. Was in for some praise from his gaffer after the game and will now look to become a regular once again.
Luke Shaw: 6/10
It was a rather subdued performance by Shaw, judging by his recent standards. While he was solid for the most part, the full-back was caught out of position at times.
But, it was in the final third where he was not quite at his best on the day, although in fairness, he did not really need to. In effect, he is likely to have preserved himself for the European tie.
Ander Herrera: 8/10
Another top notch performance from Manchester United’s Mr. Reliable, who was in his elements on both ends of the pitch. Crucial in affecting Vietto’s concentration in the early chance afforded to him. The Spaniard also helped set up Pogba’s first goal, starting the move for it.
In fact, on Saturday, no Manchester United player had made more passes (57) or more recoveries (9) than Herrera while he was on the pitch. Just so crucial to anything that Solskjaer wants to achieve this season.
Nemanja Matic: 8/10
As the game started, it looked like Matic was not quite there. But, he soon ended up composing himself, winning the second balls while driving his side forward. Took a hit on his knee from Andre Schurrle, which looked quite concerning. Ideally, he should have been taken off when Martial was, his workload could soon be affecting him.
Paul Pogba: 10/10
Paul Pogba in the Premier League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:
🅰️🅰️ vs. Cardiff
⚽️⚽️ vs. Huddersfield
⚽️⚽️🅰️ vs. Bournemouth
✖️ vs. Newcastle
🅰️ vs. Spurs
⚽️ vs. Brighton
⚽️ vs. Burnley
🅰️ vs. Leicester
⚽️⚽️ vs. Fulham
Just one game without making an impact. pic.twitter.com/4ZBONskauS
— Coral (@Coral) February 9, 2019
The Manchester United talisman, Pogba is well and truly a fan favourite once again, and for good reason. In the nine Premier League games under Solskjaer, the Frenchman has had a direct involvement in a goal in all but one game – that being against Newcastle United last month.
In all, Pogba has eight goals and five assists during this period – the most of any player in the top five European leagues – a truly wondrous tally for a midfielder. Two of the goals came against Fulham, the first of which was a fine, powerful finish. Calm as you like on the penalty. Ran the game throughout. What a turnaround it has been for the World Cup winner.
Juan Mata: 7/10
As is typically the case with him, Mata was tidy and precise with his passing. His trademark one-touch passing opened up space quite well, but the Spaniard moved the ball slowly at times, a tendency that he needs to curb. Won the penalty that Pogba converted. A pass accuracy of 95.6% in the final third is truly exemplary.
Romelu Lukaku: 6/10
There were some positive moments on show from Lukaku. But, all in all, this was an opportunity missed for the big Belgian, when he needed to show Solskjaer why he should receive as much game time as Rashford does, if not more.
The run before Mata won the penalty was quite promising, and he also looked quite dangerous when he moved towards the left flank, with his crosses proving to be quite dangerous. But, he needs to move the ball quickly, while the first touch also leaves much to be desired. A lot of work still to be put in.
Anthony Martial: 9/10
Back into the starting lineup after regaining full fitness, Martial was delightful on Sunday. The French forward produced some neat touches, with his exchanges with Pogba being quite splendid. Embarked on a fantastic run before finishing calmly to score his ninth league goal of the season.
Denis Odoi was left gasping for breath all through the match, with his runs leaving the Fulham defender back-pedalling constantly. Also set up Pogba’s first with a perfectly weighted ball. Almost unstoppable when he is in such a mood.
Anthony Martial has now been directly involved in 50 Premier League goals:
⚽️ 33 goals
🅰️ 17 assists
Untouchable in full flow. pic.twitter.com/65OUM9o2pA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 9, 2019
Alexis Sanchez: 6/10
On for Martial, Sanchez looked quite dangerous in the 20 minutes he spent on the pitch. Came close to scoring as well, only to be denied by Sergio Rico. Almost assisted a goal for Scott McTominay as well. But, the Chilean was quite sloppy while passing, which remains a concern.
Scott McTominay: 6/10
Quite a promising display from the young Scot, who looked dangerous while playing the ball long. Neat and tidy on the ball otherwise.
Eric Bailly: N/A
On the pitch for the final five minutes, Bailly helped see the game out.