Alejandro Garnacho came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner for Manchester United in a 2-1 win over Fulham on Sunday evening in what was the last Premier League fixture before the World Cup commences.
The visitors took the lead early on through Christian Eriksen, who poked home to score his first goal for his new club on his 250th Premier League appearance. Former United man Daniel James came off the bench to make an instant impact with an equaliser in the second half, but it was Garnacho who stole the headlines with his first-ever Premier League goal.
Fulham will rightfully feel disheartened after putting in a pretty good showing over the course of the ninety. It is fair to say that United were far from their best and a draw would have been a fairer reflection of the performance.
It was Casemiro’s tackle that allowed the Red Devils to score the opener. The Brazilian took the ball as Fulham tried to play out and gave it to Anthony Martial who slipped in Bruno Fernandes on the left-hand side, and it was a cute cross along the ground from him to find Eriksen on the back-post who simply could not miss. It was a tidy goal that saw all three of the midfielders play a big part in the 14th minute.
Martial squandered a chance with his head and Eriksen glanced one wide inside the area towards the end of the half, and the away team really ought to have put the game to bed with those chances. Fulham were definitely getting some joy down Tyrell Malacia’s side, with the Dutchman operating in an unorthodox right-back spot with Diogo Dalot suspended, but Marco Silva’s side looked toothless at the best of times in the first-half.
The Reds were made to pay for their missed chances in the 61st minute when James scored against his former team. The Welshman had just come on in place of fellow countryman Harry Wilson, and it only took the 25-year-old a matter of minutes to make an impact that- ironically enough- he seemed to lack for much of his Old Trafford career. Tom Cairney played the ball low and hard across the box, and James could not miss from close range as David De Gea stood helpless.
Fulham began to have a growing control of the game against the odds. Whilst not creating much, the Cottagers retained possession well and snuffed out any possible United openings.
It was one lapse in concentration and energy that allowed United to get the winner. Garnacho darted forward on the left wing before playing it sideways to Eriksen. It looked like the Danish international had played the ball too heavily to complete the one-two, but Garnacho showed great acceleration to get ahead of a couple of defenders and poke the ball beyond the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. The goal scorer held up his shirt to the travelling away fans in what were ecstatic celebrations.
Final Score: Fulham 1-2 Manchester United (James 61’) (Eriksen 14’, Garnacho 90+2)
Man of the match
De Gea kept his team in the game with a host of saves, some being standard, some being good, but it is difficult to overlook Garnacho given his obvious contribution.
The Argentine sparked some life into an underwhelming side following his introduction around seventy minutes in. He had the Fulham defenders on their toes and managed to bring his fellow players further up the field as United looked for a winner.
If United were to win the game, it felt like it would have to have been through Garnacho’s involvement. To come off the bench at 18-years-old and win a Premier League game for Manchester United is something very few could do, so the Man of the Match award has to be his for this one.
The bigger picture
A draw could have been glossed over, but it was hugely important that United won that game against Fulham. The result breeds positivity heading into the World Cup break and allows the players to build on something when club football properly returns. Also, the manner in which the game was won is a cherry on top for any fan.
It is clear that the club have a golden prospect in Garnacho. Following claims from Fernandes and Ten Hag that his attitude was not up to scratch in pre-season, it seems that the manager is handling him very well at the moment. He is feeding him into the side well; starting every game is not what he needs at 18 unless the manager truly thinks he is ready, and today was an example of how he can grow, get experience and make an impact.
Jadon Sancho could learn a thing or two from young Garnacho at the moment.
What is next?
Next up for Ten Hag and United are friendly fixtures during the World Cup. The Reds who are not part of the footballing carnival will be facing Cadiz CF at the Nuevo Mirandilla in Cadiz, Spain. That one kicks off at 19:00 (BST) on Wednesday 7th December and will be televised on MUTV.
Then it is Real Betis at 17:00 (BST) on Saturday 10th December. The match will take place at the Benito Villamarin in Sevilla, Spain. Like the other friendly, it will be televised on MUTV.