Manchester United Beat Nine-Man Fulham After Second Half Chaos

Aleksandar Mitrovic, Willian and manager Marco Silva were all sent off during the fracas
18:26, 19 Mar 2023

Football is a game decided by moments. The butterfly effect of a single flashpoint can often have a decisive influence on the outcome. In the case of Manchester United’s 3-1 FA Cup quarter final victory at home to Fulham, this game was turned on its head by a Willian handball. The aftermath saw a penalty given and scored while two players and a manager were sent off. Seconds later, United scored a second goal and essentially secured a semi final date at Wembley with Brighton & Hove Albion.

Andreas Pereira tried to show his former club what they’re missing early on, whipping in a cross for Issa Diop to head over. United responded in kind with a tame shot from Wout Weghorst. It was a lowkey opening that summed up a dreary first period.


The first 45 minutes was full of half-hearted half-chances. Bruno Fernandes’ cross towards Jadon Sancho was cut out by Bernd Leno. Aleksandar Mitrovic headed over from an Antonee Robinson cross. Kenny Tete sent a long-range strike wide while Scott McTominay had a shot blocked at the other end. Neither side really convinced, no chance was quite clear-cut.

Robinson called De Gea into action just after the break, forcing the Spain keeper to palm a decent strike over his crossbar. Veteran Willian then brought another top stop out of the custodian, curling a shot that De Gea acrobatically clawed away.

It turned out to be third time lucky as Fulham’s third quality chance in the opening five minutes of the half led to a goal. Mitrovic hammered a flicked-on Pereira corner into the United net. A VAR check addressed an infringement on Rashford, but despite the forward requiring treatment, nothing was given. United were behind.

United finally showed some attacking impetus once they’d gone behind. Rashford’s pullback for Fernandes saw the midfielder arc his shot just wide. With attack on his mind, Erik ten Hag swapped McTominay for Antony. The Dutch winger’s first action was to kick out at Robinson, a symbol that the frustration at this performance had extended as far as the United bench.

Mitrovic continued to threaten and once again De Gea was called upon to try and keep his side in the tie. A powerful header saw the shot-stopper soaring to push it behind. A great battle between striker and goalkeeper had gained another exciting chapter.

United’s best opportunity of the game so far came during a fast break from Antony. The ex-Ajax star squared to Jadon Sancho, who took too long to get his shot away. His hesitation allowed Willian to get between the England international and the goal. Sancho struck his shot and it looked to collide with Willian’s arm before going out of play.

A penalty was given after a long VAR check before chaos ensued. Willian was sent off for preventing a goal. Mitrovic was sent off after pushing referee Chris Kavanagh during his protests. Even after being shown the red card, the striker got in the official’s face. Fulham assistant Luis Boa Morte entered the field of play to try and keep the peace. Marco Silva was sent off himself during the fracas. It was a truly extraordinary turn of events. And they say the FA Cup doesn’t mean anything to the modern player.

Fernandes cooly scored his penalty, not reacting to the fervent pressure caused by this escalating chain of occurrences. Then, seconds later, Luke Shaw’s square ball to Marcel Sabitzer saw the midfielder roulette the ball elegantly into the net. VAR once again had to get in on the act, the ever-prevalent arm of technology gripping the throat of the game. But the goal was given. From 1-0 and 11 vs 11 to 2-1 and 11 vs 9 in a matter of minutes. “Football, bloody hell” as one particular knight of the realm once put it. Sir Alex Ferguson was in the crowd and he’ll have enjoyed this. 

Fernandes tied a bow on the victory deep into the seven minutes of added time. Substitute Fred played in the Portugal international, who swept the ball home to rubber stamp United's passage to Wembley for the second time this season.

Despite the dizzying drama and a victory worthy of celebration, United weren’t good here. Ten Hag will be acutely aware of the fact that higher standards are needed if they are to get past Brighton and reach the final. But they do say the mark of trophy winners is to triumph when your performance is at its most dismal. Make no mistake, the Red Devils were dismal for most of Sunday’s game at Old Trafford. Yet here they stand as semi finalists in a second domestic cup competition this season. They won the first, lifting the Carabao Cup last month. Can they make it two out of two?

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