MAN UNITED 2, FULHAM 1
Manchester United battled from behind to beat Fulham and confirm a third-place finish in the Premier League.
And the Reds prepare for next week’s final of the Emirates FA Cup on the back of a run of four straight wins to finish their league campaign.
Goals from Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes earned the Reds victory after Fulham right back Kenny Tette had silenced United supporters when he put the Cottagers ahead.
And much of United’s success this season has been built on an impressive home record as this was their 30th match unbeaten at Old Trafford in all competitions – 26 wins and four draws.
The Reds are unbeaten on their home patch for almost 10 months since they were humbled at home by Brighton on the opening day of the season.
After that loss and the heavy defeat at Brentford in their opening away game, it has been a remarkable turnabout in the fortunes under Erik ten Hag.
The Dutchman reflected on a successful season, but admitted there is still much to do.
He said: “We are going in the right direction, but we are not there and where we want to be.
“I see potential in this team and in individual players. We have made progress which is compliments to the players and staff.
“You have to have a strategy and then it is down to hard work.”
Ten Hag also warned of the need to invest if United are to progress further.
He continued: “The club knows if it wants to play in the top four and compete for trophies in this league, you have to invest or you do not have a chance.
“All the clubs around us made huge investments in January. We didn’t but we did it, and I am proud of my players.”Embed from Getty Images
Ten Hag was unhappy with the start his side made as they fell behind.
He also praised David De Gea for the penalty save which prevented United falling 2-0 behind.
“It was a great save at the right moment in the game. It would have been difficult to win had we fallen two behind.”
Ten Hag again reiterated his wish for the out-of-contract De Gea to remain at Old Trafford.
“We want him to stay, and he wants to stay. I hope we can work something out,” he said.
Fulham manager Marco Silva was disappointed to lose three times to the Reds.
He said: “It was the same old story, we didn’t deserve to lose.
“The three games were different. It the two others, we were better than today, though we had our moments and took positives from the game.”
Silva also reflected on a successful first season back in the Premier League as they finished 10th.
He explained: “There is no doubt it has been a fantastic season as people expected us to go down and we were favourites to go down.
“To finish top half has been a brilliant season. More important than the position was the way we did it. We did it in our style and that makes me proud.”
Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire started as ten Hag made six changes to the side that beat Chelsea 4-1 on Thursday.
Rashford scored from off the bench against the Blues while Maguire made his first Premier League start since the 2-0 win at Nottingham Forest on April 16.
Alejandro Garnacho was also in from the start along with Tyrell Malacia, Fred and Diogo Dalot.
There was just one change to the Fulham side that drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace last time out as Sasa Lukic started while Daniel James was on the bench after recovering from a hamstring issue.
Rashford forced the first save of the game from Bernd Leno as his 30-yard free kick was spectacularly tipped to safety by the German keeper.
But it was the Cottagers who snatched a 19th minute lead through right back Tete.
Willian’s corner to the near post was met by Tete who headed home unopposed for the Dutch international’s first goal of the season.
And it looked to have got worse for United when they conceded a penalty six minutes later for Casemiro’s trip on Tom Cairney.
But David De Gea saved the day with a brilliant save low to his left to turn away Aleksandar Mitrovic’s spot kick.
The penalty miss lifted United and their fans as they subjected the Fulham defence to wave after wave of attacks.
Garnacho twice went close, the second effort striking the crossbar after a neat passing move while Rashford also fired narrowly wide and Casemiro’s angled effort was well blocked by Leno.
United were level six minutes before the breakthrough from Sancho.
Fred burst through on goal and, as he was tackled by Tete, the ball broke free for Sancho to slot home from eight yards for his seventh goal of the season.
Rashford fired wide from six yards, a great chance to put the Reds ahead soon after the restart.
They finally took the lead for the first time in the 55th minute when Fred’s fine through ball released Fernandes who dinked the ball over the advancing Leno for his 13th goal of the season.
United made a triple change mid-half as Fred, Casemiro and Garnacho were replaced by Cristian Eriksen, Scott McTominay and Anthony Martial.
Rashford was denied by Leno’s block before he was substituted with 13 minutes left to be replaced by Wout Weghors
Fulham were determined to take something from the game as Cairney fired just over substitute Carlos Vinicius forced a decent low save from De Gea who also denied Manor Solomon, another sub, with a smart save low to his right.
United’s fifth and final change with seven minutes left saw Fernandes make way for Facundo Pellistri.
The Reds ought to have scored a third in the last minute when Sancho crossed to the far post for Weghorst who shot wide, a head in the hands moment as a first Premier League goal continues to elude him.
Weghorst’s wastefulness didn’t matter as the Reds had already secured the points as thoughts now turn to the FA Cup final and Saturday’s clash against neighbours Manchester City.