There were moments, as Manchester United took apart a desperately weak Fulham rearguard, when this place was transported to better, brighter days. They’d been singing the ’10 Cantonas’ song and each of the three goals which sealed things early were in keeping with a time when they stood on the cusp of greatness.
But the crisp, clinical first-time finishes of Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaku did not send electricity through the place. The goals took United sixth but they only temporarily lifted the stadium from a muffled silence.
There were many empty seats, despite the attendance figure of 74,523, and there was late-Wenger era Emirates feel about the place. There is a listlessness: an unmistakable sense that United – 16 points behind next week’s opponents Liverpool – are adrift and must rebuild under a new manager before they can bring the joy back.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
MANCHESTER UNITED XI (4-2-3-1): De Gea 6; Dalot 6.5, Smalling 6 (Rojo 58), Jones 6, Young 8; Matic 5.5, Herrera 6; Mata 7.5, Lingard 6 (Fred 73 5.5), Rashford 7 (McTominay 84); Lukaku 6.5
Subs not used: Romero, Pogba, Pereira, Fellaini
Goals: Young 13, Mata 28, Lukaku 42, Rashford 82
FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Rico 5.5; Odoi 4.5, Mawson 6, Ream 5.5, Bryan 6; Abguissa 5.5, Seri 6; Schurrle 6 (Cisse 73), Cairney 5.5, R Sessegnon 6; Mitrovic 5 (Kamara 46)
Subs not used: Bettinelli, Kebano, Johansen, Christie
Goal: Kamara 67
Booked: Zambo, Seri
Sent off: Zambo
Referee: Lee Probert .
United maintained their momentum after the break – Lukaku driving wide after Rashford had terrorised Odoi and Ander Herrera doing the same after Rico had cleared a ball straight to United’s front line. They then conspired to concede. Herrera’s tackle on Aboubakar Kamara, who replaced an isolated and ineffective Aleksandar Mitrovic at half-time was untidy and took the forward down. Kamara stepped up and put the penalty kick to David de Gea’s left.
Any hope of recovery was gone when Fulham were harshly reduced to 10 men by Lee Probert, who dismissed Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa for a challenge on Rashford. He’d already been booked for a first half challenge on Lingard.
Then came the moment in which Rashford lit up the stadium – a jinking run at Odoi, who had given him a yard too much space, and a curled shot from the edge of the box which Rico pushed into his net.
It could have been five. Substitute Scott McTominay spurned an easy headed opportunity near the end after Diogo Dalot teed him up. So United had to settle for a winning margin which was their biggest in 13 months.