Spirited Fulham gave Man United a fright but Pogba's stunner seals the deal
Fulham (1) 1 Lookman 5
Manchester United (1) 2 Cavani 21, Pogba 65
Fulham gave themselves the massive lift of an early lead but ultimately fell to an assured United heading back to the top of the table.
Ademola Lookman’s fifth minute strike raised hopes of an upset but the visitors had too much in their armoury, and far too much time to recover, as Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba pulled the strings in midfield.
Edinson Cavani equalised in the first half and Pogba scored a stunning second to maintain the visitors’ uncanny knack of winning from losing positions on the road this season – where they have now won eight of their 10 fixtures.
Even with a win, the Whites would not have escaped the bottom three, but at least the recent revival in mood should not be damaged by a second successive home defeat to one of the Premier League’s elite.
Indeed, they came close to snatching a point when sub Abou Kamara put Ruben Loftus-Cheek into space and it needed David De Gea to be alert to keep out the midfielder’s low strike with his feet.
The on-loan Chelsea man also blazed over when well placed during the final knockings, while Aleksandar Mitrovic came off the bench to send a deflected header agonisingly wide of an upright.
The Whites only enjoyed 38 per cent possession throughout, but got off to a dream start, with Lookman drifting onto a lovely weighted pass from Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa before drilling low past De Gea.
The winger had already tested United’s keeper from distance in a confident start by the home side.
But United are a side brimming with belief right now and they were soon controlling the tempo and creating chances.
And moments after Fernandes had swivelled onto a Fred pass to sweep a low left foot shot against the far post, the visitors were level through Edinson Cavani – the Uruguayan firing home after Alphonse Areola had fumbled a left-wing cross from Fernandes.
With United increasingly in control, the Whites found themselves defending deep and in need of a few attacks of their own to give themselves a chance of avoiding the inevitable.
They at least managed that at the start of the second half, with Harrison Reed firing over and Kenny Tete and Loftus-Cheek combining to give Lookman an opening.
But it always seemed a matter of time before united would take the lead and the moment arrived with a beauty from Pogba, who drifted towards the right edge of the penalty area and unleashed a perfect shot across Areola into the far corner.
The Fulham keeper kept out a Cavani header soon after to keep Fulham alive but United held firm to secure their fifth straight win at the Cottage.
The Whites are without a win now in 13 meetings with the Old Trafford outfit, but context is everything, because as preparations for this match went, it could hardly have been more taxing.
Fulham have had to endure 10 days that included extra-time in the FA Cup, an extra away fixture imposed on them at 48 hours’ notice and half a west London derby with 10 men.
Talk about a challenge.
Few would have expected a first win in 11 years against the table toppers, who were last undone when Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff netted in a 3-0 win.
But Scott Parker will have been pleased to see the spirit still there in abundance and the fright they gave United towards the end. There is still much heart and hope in this side.
Fulham: Areola – Aina (Mitrovic 83), Andersen, Adarabioyo – Tete, Reed, Auguissa (Lemina 79), Bryan – Loftus-Cheek, Lookman - Cavaleiro (Kamara 71). Subs not used: Hector, Odoi, Kebano, Rodak, Ream, Onomah