While Manchester United might not have been at their best on Sunday afternoon, Erik ten Hag’s side did enter the World Cup’s festive break with a last-gasp 2-1 victory against Fulham.
Heading into the half-time break with a 1-0 lead following Christian Eriksen’s opener in the 14th minute, the former Premier League champions faced a real second-half struggle at Craven Cottage.
Although ex-United winger Daniel James might have bagged a deserved equalizer for the Cottagers just after the hour mark, it was ten Hag’s new attacking starlet who stole all of the headlines in west London.
Watching 18-year-old sensation Alejandro Garnacho produce a moment of individual brilliance with virtually the last kick of the game, United still find themselves firmly battling it out in the top-four chase.
Heading into the five-week break with a much-needed victory away from Old Trafford, we have taken a look at the main talking points.
United show their resolve
Managing to find some immediate revenge against Aston Villa earlier in the week thanks to a 4-2 victory on EFL Cup duties, ten Hag had made it clear that he was calling on his side to enter the break with another statement.
Although the Red Devils might have once again left it late on Sunday afternoon, the former Ajax boss was right to praise the resolve that his squad showed in the capital.
Despite getting hit with a downbeat 3-1 loss away at Villa Park last weekend, United have proven that was just a minor blip.
Breezing their way to the knockout stage of this year’s Europa League, it is no secret that fans around Old Trafford are demanding a much-needed Champions League return.
With the likes of Chelsea enduring what has been a downbeat run of form over recent weeks, ten Hag’s men have now won five of their previous six appearances across all competitions.
Although the Reds might still be seeking some stability at the back, they will return to action next month knowing that they have the ability to clinch a top-four finish.
More injury-time heartbreak for Fulham
Left hugely frustrated at the Etihad last weekend as they eventually fell to a controversial 2-1 loss against the defending champions, Fulham couldn’t have asked for a tougher way to enter the World Cup break.
Now suffering back-to-back injury-time defeats against the two Manchester giants, Marco Silva’s men must find a way to take the positives away from their heartbreak.
Although the Premier League returners might have been without attacking talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic on Sunday afternoon, the one-time Everton boss saw his side put in another eye-catching display here.
Just seconds away from taking what would have been a deserved point on home soil, Fulham should find the mood around Craven Cottage at a continued high heading into the break.
While many might have felt that the Cottagers could be destined for an immediate Championship return, Silva’s side find themselves sitting ninth in the table and continuing to gain plenty of plaudits.
Already putting 19 points on the board before returning to action on Boxing Day, Fulham will simply be looking to carry on from where they left off.
Garnacho is ready to play a key role
Only making his Premier League debut back in August, Alejandro Garnacho has only continued on what has been a remarkable rise since breaking into ten Hag’s first-team plans.
Announcing himself on the European stage on November 3rd after bagging the winner in United’s 1-0 victory away at Real Sociedad, Garnacho once again showed his blossoming talents here.
Producing a wonderful solo strike on Sunday afternoon with practically the last kick of the game, the Argentina youth star has certainly offered the Reds a new dimension.
With the 18-year-old’s stock at a red-hot high after really bursting onto the scene at Old Trafford, it is no surprise that United are desperate to sign their latest attacking starlet down to a new long-term deal.
With some speculation over the past week that Barcelona are keeping tabs on Garnacho over a potential swoop next year, Italian transfer guru Fabrizio Romano has suggested that both parties are in advanced discussions.
Fulham: Leno, Reid, Diop, Ream, Robinson, Palhinha, Cairney, Wilson, Pereira, Willian, Vinicius
Subs: James, Onomah
Manchester United: De Gea, Malacia, Lindelof, Martinez, Shaw, Eriksen, Casemiro, Elanga, Fernandes, Rashford, Martial
Subs: McTominay, Garnacho
Goals: Fulham: James (61′) – Manchester United: Eriksen (14′), Garnacho (90+3′)
Yellow Cards: Fulham: Reid – Manchester United: Garnacho (90+3′)
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Paul Tierney