Manchester – Manchester United were held to a 1-1 home draw by relegated Fulham in their penultimate Premier League match of the season after visiting defender Joe Bryan cancelled out a stunning Edinson Cavani opener today.
United stretched their winless league run to three games after home defeats by Leicester City and Liverpool but were already assured of a top-four finish, prompting manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to leave striker Marcus Rashford on the bench.
Cavani netted with a sublime lob from 40 metres in the 15th minute to delight 10,000 home fans at Old Trafford who returned to the stadium for the first time in 14 months as the British government eased Covid-19 lockdown measures.
But United wasted a string of chances to add to their tally and were punished in the 76th minute as Bryan got on the end of Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s cross and headed it past goalkeeper David De Gea at the far post.
Solskjaer conceded United had fallen short in the Premier League but expressed hope he would pick up his maiden silverware as the club’s manager when they face Villarreal in the Europa League final on May 26.
“It’s so great to have you back supporting the team, it’s been a long year for everyone,” the Norwegian said in a public address to the fans as his players headed for the tunnel.
“It’s been great working with these boys. We know we are not where we want to be in the league but hopefully we can bring a trophy back in about 10 days.”
United midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who captained the side in the absence of injured centre back Harry Maguire, was also delighted with the fans’ return.
“It was really good,” the Portuguese playmaker told the BBC. “We know how important fans are to football so it was really nice to have them back. We didn’t give them what we wanted with the victory.”
United’s Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo applauded fans after the match while holding a Palestinian flag, in an apparent show of support for the Palestinian people amid the most serious hostilities in years between Israel and Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza.
The game got off to an electrifying start as Cavani took a De Gea punt into his stride and beat Fulham keeper Alphonse Areola with a perfectly weighed effort.
Fernandes went close for United three times with long-range efforts while Ademola Lookman and Fabio Carvalho missed gilt-edged chances at the other end before Bryan struck against the run of play.
The result left United second on 71 points from 37 games while Fulham stayed 18th on 28 as they managed only their second draw alongside seven defeats in the last nine league games.
United visit Wolverhampton Wanderers in their final league match of the season on Sunday while Fulham are at home to Newcastle United. ― Reuters