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  • Julian Taylor at Old Trafford

Ill-disciplined Fulham poised for inquest after nine-man FA Cup capitulation at Old Trafford



Manchester United 3 Fulham 1


Julian Taylor at Old Trafford


This was quite the Sunday ‘Silva Service’ with a difference. Reduced to nine men – and reduced to a squabbling, ill-disciplined rabble.


Nothing from the opening 45 minutes during this FA Cup quarter-final hinted at the explosions which were to follow, as Fulham’s staggering act of self-harm ignited controversy across Old Trafford.


An 18 minute spell where the Whites, who came to the north west, high on hope, imploded in spectacular fashion. Detonated at the altar of unforeseen loose discipline and indeed, a brief form of madness.

Manchester United ran out 3-1 winners in the end, booking their semi-final spot at Wembley – but how the west Londoners, who went ahead four minutes after the break from Aleksandar Mitrovic, self-lacerated themselves.


Mitrovic, Willian and manager Marco Silva all saw red cards from referee Chris Kavanagh as the mood quickly darkened.


Approximately forty seconds between the cards issued, firm conviction of the collective tantrum from the Cottagers. The fact that the loss of place was out of general squad character, makes the sense of this defeat to an underwhelming United all the more odd.


Most controversially, Mitrovic appeared to shove the whistler in heated protest at the spot kick award, where Willian handled which, frankly, was a stick-on for United, making his reaction all the more mystifying, and reminiscent of Paolo di Canio’s similar actions once upon a time for West Ham.


Now, Fulham’s popular Serbian striker is facing a significant ban from action once the relevant assessments have taken place. The events sparked a meltdown from the visitors. Coaches entering the pitch during a melee, Silva dismissed for his antics from the touchline, with Willian, inevitably, also leaving the pitch due to his hand ball.


Confident Cottagers


If Fulham book ended their day unquestionably out of control, it was a bitter climax considering how they had minimised United’s threat for long spells, even appearing composed and confident. Joao Palhinha and Antonee Robinson were particularly impressive. Mitrovic pounced to score via a corner by Andreas Pereira, which gave rise to expectations that the Whites’ positive league campaign was going to be further gilded by an appearance at Wembley next month.


However, Bruno Fernandes converted the penalty for United in the 75th minute, with Marcel Sabitzer turning the ball in from a few yards out five minutes later. With Fulham fast disappearing into rancour, their cup dreams waning, Fernandes adding a second goal – United’s third – in injury time, only served to rub salt in both Silva’s and the travelling supports’ wounds.


In hindsight, Silva was more circumspect than on the touchline, conveying his anger towards Kavanagh.


He said: “We should control emotions of the game but you have to understand the business. In that moment, I got the red card before the (penalty) award. I was out of my area and that was why I had the red card. I have to accept it and control that situation.


“Mitrovic should control the emotions of a game, even if it goes against us. I have spoken with Mitro. He pushed the referee and he is in so a bad way.


Pressure


“I hope the people who decides on this takes the penalty situation into account. We should have had a penalty early on when Luke Shaw pushed Mitro. It is a lot of pressure playing Man United, but we were the best team for 70 minutes. So it is hard for us to accept these kinds of decisions. Sometimes the referee feels this kind of pressure.”

“My position is to be in front of the players and of course I should not be sent off,” he explained. “I have to protect them and they understand. But I was out of my technical area. I said something I don’t remember (to the referee) what but it wasn’t anything to get a red card.”


The mood of frustration given Fulham’s display for much of the game was not lost on the head coach.


“The feeling from everybody was really tough,” added Silva. “We showed what we were capable of for 75 minutes. It is so much more difficult with nine (men). I was the first one to say to them that I should have been there (in the dug out) but not in the stand.”


United boss, Erik ten Hag, meanwhile, admitted it was tough for his team – but was eventually pleased with the outcome. He also, wisely, refused to be drawn on Fulham’s total loss of direction.


“I don’t think too far ahead, but we have had a massive run from Christmas on, with a lot of wins,” he said. “You can see the progress of the team and their character. Today was an example of it. We are in the position we want to be.”


Cottagers: Leno, tete, Reed, Mitrovic, Ream, De Cordova-Reid, Pereira, Willian, Palhinha, Diop, Robinson

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