Fulham exit the FA Cup in disgrace after five minutes of madness against Manchester United

Mitrovic was sent off after shoving referee Christopher Kavanagh (Getty Images)

like Manchester United I moved a step closer to three times the cup, Fulham They mustered a less than welcome triplet of their own. On a ground with a statue of the UN Holy Trinity, Fulham instead had its unholy trinity. On a day when they excelled by 70 minutes, they instead went out FA cup in disgrace The rarity of three red cards between kickers, and at a time when Fulham were still top, irrevocably altered the quarter-final and enabled United to overturn the tie. Bruno Fernandes and Marcel Sabtheiser scored in quick succession with the Portuguese adding in injury time to third as Fulham, like Barcelona and Manchester City before them, led at Old Trafford and then lost.

But not in such exceptional circumstances. Because if Fulham loses a chance to come close to the first major trophy in their 144-year history, they will lose their heads too. Just William Whom the dismissed trio could deserve any sympathy for: he blocked Jadon Sancho’s shot on the line with his hand in what was an outstanding defence. But the manager Marco Silva And the highest scorer Alexander Mitrović He saw red for their encounter with referee Christopher Kavanagh. Even then, Silva’s game plan was great, superbly executed and Mitrović put in a fantastic display. Now fines and bans lure in after each side fails.

With Fulham finishing with nine men and no manager, this became a formality. United, who were mediocre against 11 men, progressed to the semi-finals with Brighton. Their season could end with the Manchester derby at Wembley. As it stands, their unbeaten run at Old Trafford stretches to 23 matches, but while this was a 20th win at the time, it has long looked like one of the worst performances since Real Sociedad’s triumph in September.

Then Fulham got caught on the counter-attack. Sancho was released by Anthony, who caught Bernd Leno and fired. The indefatigable Willian had sprinted back from United’s half, somehow made his way back to the goal line and endeavored to clear the ball wide of the goal. He pointed to his chest. In the age of VAR, it didn’t matter.

Referee Kavanagh was sent to the screen. Before he could even watch the replay, Silva had made enough of a protest at him to get him released. When he saw this, the unsuspecting Willian was given the same punishment. Mitrović burst into charge, his actions or words earning him a third assignment within several minutes. At the end of the match, Fernandez calmly missed the resulting penalty kick.

    (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Fulham thrived when they played 4-2-3-1. Reduced to a 4-3-1 formation, they barely held out a minute. Through Luke Shaw, Sabitzer met it with a backhand kick to score his first goal for United. Old Trafford was elated, leaving Fulham to lament what could have been.

They looked fresher, perhaps unsurprisingly since it was their third game in March and United’s sixth. In a bright start, Issa Diop got a slanting header and Willian fired a wide shot. As they began the second half with similar speed, David De Gea deflected Anthony Robinson’s rebounding shot and Willian drove past the post. This time the reward came. While Wout Weghorst performed ineffectively, he performed no. 9 They came in a white shirt.

Mitrović had not scored since January 3 but a solid, purposeful performance yielded the first goal in 10 matches. He converted from close range after a good corner routine. Andreas Pereira, who played better than he often did in a United shirt, took it, Diop met a flick and Mitrović fired home.

    (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

United’s inability to deal with Mitrović was pointed out earlier. Harry Maguire, who started back-to-back matches for the first time since August, was booked for wrestling to the ground: he knocked the centre-back out in the semi-finals long before more memorable displays emerged from his lack of discipline. After scoring a goal, Mitrović met another Pereira corner with a header which De Gea headed wide superbly, and seconds later, he headed wide.

At that point, it seemed as if there might not be a need for a second target. United were hardly threatening, with Leno blocking only the kind of shots he should have saved. And it looked like the costly task was Casemiro’s task against Southampton last week as Harrison Reid and Joao Balenha, both back from suspension, dominated the midfield.

But Ten Hag has made a string of scoring substitutions this season and while he appeared to lack options off the bench, he conjured up another. Anthony came on for Scott McTominay, with Sancho moving to the left flank on the subsequent adjustment.

The shift can be attributed to a tactical change. But perhaps the emotional component played a larger role. More drained than they could have been, Silva and Mitrovic’s unnecessary antics left Fulham in disarray as Sabitzer scored. Fernandez dug in the third 96th minute. Thus both clubs will be playing in London in five weeks, but while United take over as Wembley manager, Fulham will be stuck at Craven Cottage.

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