A lethargic start from United meant they were on their heels against a high-energy Fulham side. An early counterattack almost put the home side ahead in a typical Claudio Ranieri move.
Against the run of play though on the 14th minute, Paul Pogba blasted the opener from an awkward angle, shifting the pressure onto Fulham.
Just under 10 minutes later and, picking up the ball in his own half, Martial employed his speed to punish Fulham’s lack of defensive organisation, carrying the ball into a dangerous position and placing the ball beyond the keeper.
Comfortably heading into half-time with the two-goal lead, United extended it to three after a Pogba penalty that doubled the Frenchman’s tally and put the game to bed as well as putting the pressure on Chelsea in their upcoming tie against City.
Pogba spearheading United’s resurgence
One shot. One goal. Very difficult angle. When most would have squared the ball to Lukaku, Pogba only had the back of the net in his mind when he netted his 10th of the season to open up United’s account.
Part of Pogba’s importance is his ability to create. Topping United’s charts for advancing play this season, Pogba has been the side’s most creative player and the goal illustrated his ability to make something from nothing.
Under Solskjær, Pogba is beginning to look like the player that United paid around £90 million for.
Pogba has 12 goals now this season. Ten of them in the league. His best goalscoring campaign in club football. #mufc
— Samuel Luckhurst (@samuelluckhurst) February 9, 2019
Juan Mata was brought to the ground on the 65th minute and Pogba stepped up to put the goal well beyond Fulham’s Sergio Rico, making it seven goals for the Frenchman in Solskjær’s 11th match in-charge.
Moving forward, Pogba is going to be an imperative member of the squad, particularly in their upcoming difficult run of fixtures where the side will take on Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Liverpool in February.
Paul Pogba in the Premier League under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:
🅰️🅰️ vs. Cardiff
⚽️⚽️ vs. Huddersfield
⚽️⚽️🅰️ vs. Bournemouth
✖️ vs. Newcastle
🅰️ vs. Spurs
⚽️ vs. Brighton
⚽️ vs. Burnley
🅰️ vs. Leicester
⚽️⚽️ vs. Fulham
Just one game without making an impact. pic.twitter.com/4ZBONskauS
— Coral (@Coral) February 9, 2019
Martial vindicating contract extension
Getting his name on the assist list for Pogba’s goal, Anthony Martial then added his name to the scoresheet for United’s second goal, a fantastic solo effect that began in his own half.
United’s left side was the source of most of their attacks under Mourinho and that pattern was present against Fulham in their latest league outing. Between Luke Shaw, Martial and Pogba, it’s a part of the pitch that’s free-flowing and fluid when on form.
Anthony Martial has now been directly involved in 50 Premier League goals:
⚽️ 33 goals
🅰️ 17 assists
Untouchable in full flow. pic.twitter.com/65OUM9o2pA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 9, 2019
In a statement of intent from both United’s board and Solskjær, with Marouane Fellaini looking set to leave, Martial put pen to paper and made his future at United certain.
A part of the group of the group of young players that former manager José Mourinho said “lacked maturity”, he has come into his own under new management.
As reported by Sky Sports, the new contract will run until 2024 and will see the French international earning around £250,000 per week.
Anthony Martial’s game by numbers vs. Fulham:
2 shots on target
2 chances created
2 aerial duels won
2 fouls won
Denis Odoi will not sleep for a week. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/6kPQMktpDX
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 9, 2019
United’s away form under Ole
Fresh from winning the Manager of the Month award, Solskjær has won all five of his ties on the road, including the crucial three-points against both Tottenham and Arsenal.
This victory against Fulham has extended Solskjær’s run to six out of six and in doing so, has broken another record. United haven’t managed the feat since May 2009.
Heading into this match, the Norwegian coach told Sky Sports that he had been tasked with lifting the mood of the downtrodden camp after things turned sour in Mourinho’s final moments at the club.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 9, 2019
“It’s not about making a case for me to stay,” he said, “Of course Manchester United is the place to be, everyone wants to be here and would love it.”
“It’s not just about putting smiles on faces, but that is a big part of it. Making sure you come into training looking forward to the next day and enjoy what you’re doing. That’s what we’re trying to do at the moment.”
It’s clear that he’s managed to do that. The relationships between players seem at an all-time-high and this is reflected in their ability to travel and make an impact away from the home comforts of Old Trafford.
A bright start for Ranieri’s men
This loss has left Fulham even deeper in the relegation zone. Sitting seven points adrift of safety, the Cottagers need to start picking up points and have the chance to do so in their upcoming ties with West Ham and Southampton.
Although it won’t be easy, under the tutelage of Claudio Ranieri whose miracle season with Leicester City in 2015/16, the home side showed flashes of what they were capable of.
It started out bright at Craven Cottage with Ranieir’s men managing four shots (albeit off target) within the first six minutes.
In a classic display of Ranieri-ball, reminiscent to his Leicester success, an early counterattack could have given them an early lead.
Ryan Babel’s energetic start seemed to cause United problems in defence but a frustrating performance from Aleksandar Mitrović limited their attacking impact.
Fulham’s move to a back four
Rainieri’s preference of playing with three at the back had repercussions in both the attacking and defensive phase. With the added defender, Ranieri re-jigged his midfield to absorb United’s newfound attacking prowess.
Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 initially looked smart with Fulham’s midfield overrunning United’s until the away side netted early on.
Mitrović has been key to Fulham’s success but looked overwhelmed playing up top on his own. Without the more immediate support of André Schürrle and Babel, the depleted front-line struggled to break United down.
Choosing to experiment with the team against a side on such a formidable run wasn’t the smartest move from the Fulham boss and might hint at a deeper problem of his ongoing struggle to reinvent the side.
The Italian has expected a sharp shift from the style that Fulham had spent the last three years learning and so far, despite the promising start, has largely failed to imprint his tactical ideas.