Manchester United reach FA Cup semi-finals after Fulham self destruct

Red Devils will face Brighton in last-four after 3-1 victory at Old Trafford as Cottagers finish game with nine men

Marcel Sabitzer celebrates after scoring Manchester United's second goal in their FA Cup quarter=final win over Fulham at Old Trafford on March 19, 2023. Getty
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Manchester United are through to the FA Cup semi-finals after securing a 3-1 victory over Fulham at Old Trafford on Sunday.

But it was a far from convincing performance from Erik ten Hag's side who were a goal down and being outplayed by their opponents until Fulham's Willian blocked a goal-bound Jadon Sancho shot with his arm in the 72nd minute.

The Brazilian was then sent-off after a VAR review – as was Fulham manager Marco Silva who tried to intervene as referee Chris Kavanagh was heading to the pitchside monitor – and a penalty awarded.

Fulham goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic was then also shown a red card for arguing and pushing the referee as Fulham pressed the self-destruct button in spectacular fashion.

United midfielder Bruno Fernandes kept his cool to level from the spot before Marcel Sabitzer made it 2-1 minutes later. Fernandes scored again deep into injury-time to seal a last-four clash against Brighton.

It was a very harsh scoreline on Fulham, who were made to pay dearly for five minutes of madness.

Let's talk about all the game and not just one moment,” said Silva after the match, “Until the penalty moment and the red cards we were clearly the best team on the pitch.

“We were the best team on the pitch, clearly. For me it was a decision the VAR can take. What is difficult to understand is why the two moments in the box in the first half one of them is a clear penalty and nobody checks, nobody sees.”

The absence of the suspended Casemiro and Fred – among the substitutes as Scott McTominay and Marcel Sabitzer started – told, as perhaps did United's relentless schedule across four fronts this season as the hosts laboured against a Fulham side showing plenty of bite with Joao Palhinha back from a ban.

Early pressure saw David De Gea push Issa Diop's looping header over, while Mitrovic wanted a penalty – and United defenders a yellow for diving – when he tangled with Lisandro Martinez in the box.

In between, Willian fired narrowly wide and Tim Ream sent in a cross which would have only needed a slight touch to find the net.

United did not come to life until the final 15 minutes of the half after Marcus Rashford switched to the left and Sancho the right, but Leno foiled both Rashford and Sabitzer, while Wout Weghorst's shot was deflected wide by Ream in stoppage time.

The second half saw Fulham retake the initiative. Antonee Robinson's curling shot was tipped over by De Gea, forcing the first of three corners which culminated in Mitrovic firing home after Diop flicked on Andreas Pereira's delivery.

Fernandes fired wide from a Rashford cross before Ten Hag sent on Antony for McTominay, and the Brazilian was key to the Fulham meltdown that followed.

Fulham had been full value for the lead that Mitrovic gave them five minutes into the second half, but the wheels came off with around 20 minutes left as manager Silva, Willian and Mitrovic all saw red.

It came after a Fulham corner became a United attack, with Antony racing down the right and squaring for Sancho. He rounded Bernd Leno but saw his shot blocked on the line by Willian's hand.

Referee Kavanagh signalled for a corner but was sent to the monitor by VAR Neil Swarbrick, and paused to send off Silva for dissent before he had even reached the screen.

The inevitable penalty decision and a red for Willian then came, but Fulham's total loss of discipline was seen as Mitrovic raged at Kavanagh to earn his own early shower.

Bruno Fernandes sent Leno the wrong way from the penalty spot and two minutes later United led as Marcel Sabitzer flicked home Luke Shaw's low cross for his first United goal.

Fernandes then lashed in United's third in stoppage time as nine-man Fulham were overrun.

“Massive win,” said Sabitzer. “We wanted to go back to Wembley, we did it. 1-0 down it was hard and tough but we came back and won it.

“We were concentrated, focused until the end. I think it was a deserved win. We came back and that's the important thing.”

Updated: March 19, 2023, 8:09 PM