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Pogba strikes to put United back on top after scare

Fulham 1 Manchester United 2

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Fulham goalscorer Ademola Lookman battles for possession with Fred of Manchester United at Craven Cottage. Photo: Getty Images

Fulham goalscorer Ademola Lookman battles for possession with Fred of Manchester United at Craven Cottage. Photo: Getty Images

Fulham goalscorer Ademola Lookman battles for possession with Fred of Manchester United at Craven Cottage. Photo: Getty Images

The comeback continues. Once again Manchester United fell behind, once again they found the goals to win and once again they are back on top of the Premier League. It is not just United who appear back, but Paul Pogba also.

'Pog-back', in fact, to revive that cheesy marketing phrase that was coined when he signed for a then-world record fee in 2016.

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Fulham's Ademola Lookman scores an early opener for his side. Photo: Getty Images

Fulham's Ademola Lookman scores an early opener for his side. Photo: Getty Images

Fulham's Ademola Lookman scores an early opener for his side. Photo: Getty Images

 

Twice in a week Pogba has scored stunning goals to win tricky away games as United showed the mettle to suggest that they might just be in the Premier League title race for the long haul. Like Pogba, they might not be about to flatter to deceive.

With three teams claiming the leadership of the league within 24 hours it is going to be tight, but United now have a two-point advantage even if Manchester City have played a game fewer. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side have also extended their unbeaten run away from home to 17 matches and this was not the only one in which they have fallen behind before rallying.

Pogba may want to quit United and his future may lie elsewhere, but it would be some legacy if he helped drive them towards reclaiming the title for the first time in eight years. He certainly seems like a man on a mission and it was his desire to win the ball back as much as his goal that was so impressive.

Fulham, meanwhile, provided more compelling evidence that they have enough to stay in this division.

As the rain finally relented, news of City's late, controversial win over Aston Villa, which took them to the top of the league for the first time this season, filtered through.

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Manchester United's Edinson Cavani celebrates scoring his equaliser with Paul Pogba. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United's Edinson Cavani celebrates scoring his equaliser with Paul Pogba. Photo: Reuters

Manchester United's Edinson Cavani celebrates scoring his equaliser with Paul Pogba. Photo: Reuters

 

Of course United would have expected the result, which sent them down to third place, but they suffered a greater surprise as they fell behind within five minutes.

Impressive

Fulham moved the ball well, kept possession and there was little pressure as Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa threaded a pass through to Ademola Lookman.

Pogba let him go, wrongly believing the forward was offside, and the increasingly impressive Lookman had the time and space to steady himself and drive the ball across David De Gea and into the corner of the net.

It got worse for Pogba as he brought down Ola Aina and was booked, while Harry Maguire shouted at referee Martin Atkinson that United should have had a penalty for Ruben Loftus-Cheek's rash challenge on Fred. Maguire appeared to have a strong case.

United pressed. After Luke Shaw worked his way down the left, Fred found Bruno Fernandes, who had cleverly pulled away from the Fulham defenders, and he cracked a shot against the base of the post from 22 yards.

United quickly regained the ball, with Fernandes pulling wide and crossing low across the six-yard area. Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was at fault as he spilt it into the path of Edinson Cavani, who drew United level. Soon afterwards, Fernandes was involved again with a dipping shot that Areola pushed away.

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Fulham manager Scott Parker does his best to keep calm. Photo: Reuters

Fulham manager Scott Parker does his best to keep calm. Photo: Reuters

Fulham manager Scott Parker does his best to keep calm. Photo: Reuters

 

After such a strong start Fulham were pinned back. United went close again when they turned the ball over for Aaron Wan-Bissaka to cross, with Anthony Martial's header deflected narrowly wide.

Fulham finally steadied themselves and worked the ball back up the pitch.

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Anguissa was again involved as he picked out Ivan Cavaleiro, who had a run at goal and the chance to shoot but his touch let him down and the ball ran out of play.

United kept pushing, maintaining their tempo. Fernandes was almost playing up alongside Cavani while Pogba and Fred were dominant behind him, despite Anguissa's best efforts. Fulham reverted to a back five in their attempt to hold on.

It felt like a long time for Fulham to hold on and half-time came as a relief and a rallying point, with Cavaleiro sending in the first shot after the restart after Lookman had again done well.

Twice Loftus-Cheek broke down the right, with his first cross causing panic and his second a pullback to Lookman, who shot straight at De Gea.

United continued to hunt down their opponents with Pogba dispossessing Cavaleiro as the rain returned, before shots from Fernandes and Shaw were blocked and Maguire headed over.

The game continued to largely be played in the Fulham half as, time and again, United won the ball back closer and closer to the Fulham goal before they finally struck the killer blow.

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Manchester United's Luke Shaw and Fulhams Ruben Loftus-Cheek battle for the ball. Photo: PA

Manchester United's Luke Shaw and Fulhams Ruben Loftus-Cheek battle for the ball. Photo: PA

Manchester United's Luke Shaw and Fulhams Ruben Loftus-Cheek battle for the ball. Photo: PA

 

Pogba's influence had grown and when he reclaimed possession wide on the right, deftly bringing it down in the swirling wind, he cut inside, shaped to shoot and struck a superb, fierce cross-shot to beat Areola. United went close to sealing it when Cavani met a cross only for Areola to excel and push his header away.

Would United pay for that miss? Fulham are a fine team now under Scott Parker and Lookman and Loftus-Cheek combined, with the latter put through only for De Gea to save with his right leg. Another chance emerged when Shaw cut out a cross only for the ball to drop to Loftus-Cheek, who shot wildly over.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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