sport news Manchester United 2-1 Fulham: Red Devils clinch third place in the Premier ... trends now
It's a year since Erik ten Hag watched Manchester United’s final game of the season from the stands at Selhurst Park as his new team staggered over the line with a defeat at Crystal Palace.
It felt as though so much work needed to be done. Interim manager Ralf Rangnick described it as the equivalent of ‘major heart surgery’ and that didn’t feel like an exaggeration.
Twelve months on, and Ten Hag deserves great credit for how he has turned this club around: in the way he has rebuilt the squad and transformed the mood around Old Trafford.
Victory over Fulham confirmed that United have finished third in the Premier League, having already secured their place in next season’s Champions League by beating Chelsea here on Thursday.
Ten Hag already has the Carabao Cup in the bag and he can add the FA Cup if United beat Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday. He has exceeded expectations by some distance.
Manchester United won to finish third in the Premier League after beating Fulham on the final day of the season
Bruno Fernandes (left) scored what would turn out to be the winning goal in the second-half against Fulham at Old Trafford
It's a year to the day that Erik ten Hag (right) watched from the stands in defeat to Crystal Palace after he was appointed the club's new boss
The Dutchman won’t be satisfied, of course. He knows this is only the start and the rebuild will continue. Some United players were making their last appearances for United at Old Trafford with Harry Maguire surely one of them.
David de Gea could be another if the Spanish goalkeeper cannot agree terms over a new contract before he becomes a free agent on June 30.
Ten Hag hopes De Gea will stay. If he doesn’t, the 32-year-old said goodbye by making his first penalty save here for nearly eight years.
De Gea has many qualities but penalties aren’t high on the list. His save from Aleksandar Mitrovic here was only the eighth of a United career spanning 12 years. He has let in 42.
It meant another afternoon to forget at Old Trafford for Mitrovic who was sent off along with Willian and manager Marco Silva in the space of a minute in an FA Cup quarter-final in March as Fulham gave up a one-goal lead.
It was notable that as soon as the Serbian was booked for tangling with Tyrell Malacia in the 79th minute, Silva substituted his No.9.
This has been an excellent season for Fulham too, though, and Silva also deserves great credit for guiding the club to 10th place.
Fulham also led in this game thanks to Kenny Tete’s first-half header, but goals from Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes sent United into the Cup Final on a high.
Fulham initially led through Kenny Tete's goal that saw him beat David de Gea at the near-post following a Fulham corner
United could have been two down but for David de Gea (blue top) saving Aleksandar Mitrovic's first-half penalty
Only five of their starting line-up were guaranteed to start at Wembley, and there was some positive news about the two players who were injured in Thursday’s win over Chelsea.
MAN UTD (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Malacia; Casemiro (McTominay 67), Fred (Eriksen 67);