Manchester United hosted Fulham at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup today.
Erik ten Hag made a few changes to his starting XI from the last game against Real Betis.
Luke Shaw started ahead of Tyrell Malacia, who was relegated to a place on the bench. In Casemiro’s absence, Ten Hag started Scott McTominay.
Marcel Sabitzer was given the nod ahead of Fred. Jadon Sancho came in for Facundo Pellistri.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s 3-1 quarter-final FA Cup win against Fulham.
Lisandro Martinez United’s best first-half performer by far
During an opening 45 minutes in which the Red Devils were poor by their own high standards, Lisandro Martinez stood head and shoulders above everyone else.
If there were any doubts as to how the World Cup winner would fare without Varane and in a partnership with Harry Maguire, those reservations were put to bed after the first half.
Martinez was the only United player who gave a good account of themselves during the first period of the game.
Ten Hag’s men lacked intensity, drive and any attacking impetus and as a result, barely laid a glove on the Cottagers.
Martinez’s technical ability and especially his ridiculous passing range were on full display.
Out of the 39 passes he attempted, 34 were successful – a pass accuracy of 87%. The 25-year-old successfully pinged two long balls which found Rashford and set the Englishman on his way.
Defensively, the United defender was solid and had an answer for whatever question Fulham’s attackers posed.
He won three out of four of the ground duels he delved into. The United number six made two immense tackles and as many interceptions.
There is no doubt that Martinez was the leader of the backline and if his display was anything to go by, he led superbly by example.
Heading into the break, Ten Hag would have been disappointed with so many of his players’ wanting performances but the United boss would have been satisfied with Martinez.
(First-half stats obtained from Sofascore)
Second-half madness sends United to the semi-finals
With United a goal down and in search of an equaliser, Antony ran through on the counter-attack before finding Sancho with a well-executed pass.
Sancho rounded off Bernd Leno but could not find the back of the net as the ball hit Willian on the hand.
From the ensuing VAR review. Willian was judged to have committed an offence. The Reds were given a penalty and Willian was given his marching orders.
A furious Marco Silva was also shown red for his antics on the touchline.
Silva was up in arms over the VAR check as he insisted it was not a penalty nor was it a red card.
In a 15-second sequence, Chris Kavanagh also dished out a red card to an infuriated Mitrovic, who barged the referee.
Putting his hands on the referee left the match official no choice but to end Mtirovic’s time on the pitch.
Bruno Fernandes scored from the ensuing penalty to bring the 20-time English champions level.
A second from Sabitzer ensured United went through to the semis, where they will face Brighton. Fernandes grabbed a third late into the game with Fulham all but finished.
Still plenty of work to be done on the pitch
Despite United coming back, it would be hard not to concede that there was an element of luck and good fortune.
Fulham’s capitulation gave the team an avenue back into the game.
However, it must be pointed out just how alarming the drop-off in performance and intensity levels were.
For large sections of the game, Fulham were the better side and on the balance of things, would feel unlucky to have been knocked out in such a ruthless fashion.
The game showed why United are still not the finished article and that at any time, the team is capable of producing howlers.
More work still needs to be done for the team to achieve consistency across the board.
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