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Manchester United 3-1 Fulham: Three red cards in FA Cup implosion as hosts reach semi-finals


Manchester United reached the FA Cup semi-finals in surreal circumstances, coming from behind to stun a Fulham side who had two players and manager Marco Silva sent off.

Fulham had one of their worst days of the season last weekend when they lost 3-0 to league leaders Arsenal. But faced with a United side missing a suspended Casemiro, they started brilliantly at Old Trafford. How they would fall in a moment of madness in the second half.

Willian started so well, playing on the left but weaving through midfield and linking play for Fulham. They were by far the better team in the first half, and that was largely down to Joao Palhinha’s return after his two-match suspension.

In Palhinha’s absence, they lost to Brentford and Arsenal. But he allowed midfield partner Harrison Reed – hampered by an early hamstring injury but who eventually recovered – to bomb. Fulham had energy and vitality and came close to scoring a goal when veteran centre-back Tim Ream found himself on the left flank and ran through the corridor of uncertainty. He bypassed everyone. A glorious chance.

Antonee Robinson was dismal last weekend against Arsenal but crossed well for Aleksandar Mitrovic, who stayed in the air but headed towards him. Then Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno smothered Marcus Rashford and then parried Marcel Sabitzer’s bubbly effort.

Fulham started the second half as they had finished the first. Five minutes into the restart – by then Willian had twice tested David De Gea – Silva’s side were ahead when Mitrovic stabbed in a corner. This ended a nine-match drought dating back to January 3. Fulham fans who had made the long journey to Old Trafford dreamed of a first FA Cup semi-final since 2002.

United were hanging on – perhaps a sign that their remarkable number of appearances this season had caught up with them. De Gea collected Mitrovic’s header for a miraculous save. This kept United in the cup tie. And then they left, at the other end.

Antony countered, square for Jadon Sancho – and Sancho rounded Leno and only had to stick him in the net. Willian blocked on the line, but was it with his hand or his thigh? It was hard to say, but referee Chris Kavanagh consulted VAR and awarded a kick.

Willian had to leave, due to his proximity to goal. Kavanagh duly expelled him. Then all hell broke loose. Mitrovic appeared to push Kavanagh, giving the official no choice but to send off the brash Serb as well. Fulham were down to just nine men.

Manager Silva’s own emotions seemed to get the better of him and his admonitions also earned him a red. Fulham had lost it; their lead, their composure and the match. Silva spent the rest of the game pacing the tunnel, as his team’s hulk lost its lead and lost the game.

Bruno Fernandes kicked in the penalty to equalize at 1-1. Then Luke Shaw reached the goal line and crossed for Marcel Sabitzer to heel deftly into the net for his first United goal. Two in two minutes, and with 13 minutes to go it was already fair to conclude that Fulham were a beaten team.

It was a great disgrace to their fans that their big day ended in such disgraceful circumstances, and it got worse rather than better when substitute Fred handed the ball to Fernandes, who deflected into the corner deep in time additional.

Ten Hag’s side are the only remaining team in Europe’s top five leagues still in contention for a treble. Either Arsenal or Manchester City will of course make sure they don’t win all four competitions, but they could at least add the FA Cup and Europa League to the EFL Cup they won last month.

The United Plow. Fulham pushed him ridiculously. It was class that got them to that first FA Cup quarter-final since 2010. It was sheer stupidity that stopped them going any further.

Sports standard

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