As Manchester United made a comeback at the end of the match to beat Fulham 2-1 and regain the Premier League lead on Wednesday, ending the short stay of Manchester City at the top, Paul Pogba created a moment of magic.
After 24 hours of changing at the summit, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-form team started the match third in the league. The win sent two vital points to the Red Devils and equalled the club record of 17 Premier League away games without a loss set by 1999’s triple-winning side.
After Ademola Lookman punished them for a sloppy start, United was forced to dig deep until Edinson Cavani pulled them level with a poacher’s objective later in the first half. In the second half, Pogba — back in the starting line-up in recent weeks after a spell on Solskjaer’s squad’s outskirts — placed United in front with a spectacular left-foot curling effort from outside the field.
United have now won seven games in the Premier League this season since going behind. Although United are top at the halfway point of the season, the Norwegian declined to be drawn to a title challenge.
With just eight points separating Man United from seventh-placed West Ham, the Premier League race shapes up to be a thriller. United knew they had to respond to leapfrog Leicester, who topped the table after their 2-0 victory against Chelsea the previous evening after City beat Aston Villa 2-0 earlier on Wednesday. But in the early minutes, the defensive discipline they displayed in their goalless draw against Liverpool on Sunday was missing, and they paid the price.
When Lookman sprung the offside trap, United was punished in the fifth minute, collecting a ball from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa over the corner. The forward had time to choose his spot and gave little chance to Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, hitting the ball with his right foot into the bottom corner.
In the 21st minute, the away side settled and was level by Cavani moments after Bruno Fernandes had hit the post. Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola struggled to hold a Fernandes cross from the left, spilling the ball into the Uruguayan veteran’s path, who made no mistake from close range with a left-footed finish.
As Man United began to flex their muscles without providing many clear-cut chances, the increasingly dominant Fernandes checked Areola from afar. As United again struggled to find openings, Fulham made a bright start to the second half. But Pogba broke the deadlock in the 65th minute, creating room before producing an explosive drive past a diving Areola. After failing to convert a late chance against Liverpool, the Frenchman said he was “furious.”
United faced some tense moments as the second half wore on. With Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who blasted another chance over the counter, De Gea was forced to make a smart save with his legs.
And when Aleksandar Mitrovic’s header deflected off Eric Bailly and inches wide of the post deep into time, United had their hearts in their mouths.
Fulham’s loss leaves them third from the bottom, four points off safety.