Edinson Cavani welcomed the return of fans back to the Premier League with a brilliant 40-yard lobbed goal, but Manchester United were unable to mark the occasion with a victory as relegated Fulham came back to draw at Old Trafford
Aside from a handful of games at a lucky few clubs in December, supporters have been absent from top-flight league football since 9 March 2020.
No supporters have seen a goal at Old Trafford since Scott McTominay’s inspired second in United’s Manchester derby win over City the day before.
There were only 10,000 present to see Cavani’s inspired effort, but what a noise they made as the Uruguayan strode onto a long ball downfield from David de Gea, which VAR felt touched Bruno Fernandes on the way through, before lifting the ball over Alphonso Areola with a perfectly executed finish that floated into the net.
For a long time it looked like being the winner, until Joe Bryan was allowed to ghost in at the far post unchallenged to convert Bobby Decordova-Reid’s deep cross from the right.
De Gea’s uncertain future
After Alisson’s amazing winner for Liverpool on Sunday, there was genuine debate around whether De Gea made another telling contribution by a goalkeeper to his team’s offensive effort.
TV replays indicated Fernandes failed to get a touch as he attempted to flick De Gea’s pass through to Cavani. But if that was correct, Cavani should have been ruled offside by VAR.
De Gea’s selection was interesting in itself.
The Spain keeper has lost his place to Dean Henderson in recent weeks, but Henderson was at fault for at least one of Liverpool’s four goals in their win over United six days previously, so it was not completely clear whether De Gea had got his place back or was being granted a farewell appearance after 10 years of largely outstanding service.
Both scenarios have their complications. For Henderson, another season as back up is unlikely to appeal given his England aspirations, whilst De Gea is one of the Premier League’s highest-paid players. Finding a club to match that salary, let alone pay a transfer fee, is not going to be easy.
Until Bryan’s goal, De Gea did not have much to do against the top-flight’s second-worst attack. He did make saves to deny Ademola Lookman and Fabio Carvalho and had little chance of keeping Bryan’s equaliser out.
Green and gold
In contrast to protests that caused the first meeting with Liverpool earlier this month to the called off and extreme measures, including beds being transported into the stadium for players to sleep on, being implemented to ensure the second one went ahead, this match was completed in relative peace.
There were still a lot of police and a helicopter circled above the stadium before the game. But those who chose to wear the green and gold anti-Glazer colours almost exclusively restricted themselves to regular chanting against the club’s American owners.
A mooted 51st-minute protest to press the case for the ’50+1′ German ownership model clashed with a dangerous free-kick for the hosts – both fizzled out.
For United staff and Solskjaer, who had appealed for calm in the build-up, it was doubtless a relief.
After the match, Solskjaer spoke on a microphone just prior to a walk round the pitch, in which Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo paraded a Palestine flag, to declare United “were not where he wanted them to be” but hoped to bring the Europa League trophy back to England next week.
The loss of McTominay to what appeared to be an injury midway through the second half will be a worry before the meeting with Villarreal in Gdansk on 26 May, as will the paltry nine league wins on home soil this season.
Tonight, though, was all about the fans – and despite the result, they seemed happy just to be here.
Manchester United complete their Premier League campaign at Wolves on Sunday, 23 May (16:00 BST) before facing Villarreal in the Europa League final in Gdansk on Wednesday, 26 May (20:00 BST).
Fulham’s last game as a top-flight club for at least 12 months is against Newcastle at Craven Cottage, also on 23 May (16:00 BST).
Man Utd’s leaky defence at home – the stats
- Manchester United have dropped 10 points from winning positions at Old Trafford this season – their highest ever such total at home in a Premier League season.
- Fulham picked up a point from a losing position versus United at Old Trafford for only the second time in Premier League history, also doing so in February 2014 – a game in which current manager Scott Parker played for the visitors.
- United are unbeaten in their last 13 Premier League games against Fulham (W10 D3), since losing 3-0 in December 2009.
- United have conceded 28 home goals in the Premier League this season – they last conceded more at Old Trafford in a single league campaign back in 1962-63 (38).
- Fulham have conceded more Premier League goals against United than they have versus any other side in the competition (68).
- Cavani becomes only the third Man Utd player to reach 10+ goals in a single Premier League season while aged 33 or over at the start of that campaign, after Teddy Sheringham in 2000-01 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016-17.
- Cavani is the 25th different player to score 10+ goals in a single Premier League season for Man Utd – more than any other team in the competition’s history (Arsenal 24 players).
- 1de Gea
- 23ShawBooked at 89mins
- 39McTominaySubstituted forRashfordat 62′minutes
- 11GreenwoodSubstituted forDialloat 83′minutes
- 18Bruno FernandesBooked at 19mins
- 7CavaniSubstituted forvan de Beekat 87′minutes
- 34van de Beek
- 1AreolaBooked at 90mins
- 18LeminaBooked at 51mins
- 29Zambo Anguissa
- 21ReedSubstituted forAndersenat 32′minutes
- 14De Cordova-Reid
- 19LookmanBooked at 87minsSubstituted forTeteat 89′minutes
- 48CarvalhoSubstituted forLoftus-Cheekat 63′minutes
Match ends, Manchester United 1, Fulham 1.
Second Half ends, Manchester United 1, Fulham 1.
Alphonse Areola (Fulham) is shown the yellow card.
Amad (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Joe Bryan (Fulham).
Attempt blocked. Joe Bryan (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ivan Cavaleiro.
Foul by Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United).
Bobby De Cordova-Reid (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Luke Shaw (Manchester United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Luke Shaw (Manchester United).
Kenny Tete (Fulham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Fulham. Kenny Tete replaces Ademola Lookman.
Substitution, Manchester United. Donny van de Beek replaces Edinson Cavani.
Ademola Lookman (Fulham) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ademola Lookman (Fulham).
Substitution, Manchester United. Amad replaces Mason Greenwood.
Attempt saved. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Paul Pogba.
Foul by Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United).
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.