Fulham 1-2 Manchester United: Alejandro Garnacho's dramatic late winner secures victory for Red Devils
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Alejandro Garnacho rescued Manchester United at Craven Cottage on Sunday afternoon with a last-minute goal that secured a 2-1 victory in the final Premier League game before the World Cup.
After it looked as if Erik ten Hag's men were heading into break in the season with just a point in this encounter, the 18-year-old superstar, and supersub, turned it into three with a sublime finish in the dying embers.
The goal showed quality and composure that you don't see from many teenagers in the Premier League, sliding the ball past the exposed Bernd Leno expertly after showcasing his blistering pace to get onto the end of Christian Eriksen's return pass.
In what was a tightly competed fixture, a moment of magic was exactly what the doctor ordered for Ten Hag's men.
It was Daniel James, a former United player, who helped the hosts get on level terms mid-way through the second half, however, scoring his first goal in black and white.
A mix up between Bruno Fernandes and Tyrell Malacia gave Willian the chance to start a blistering counter-attack which ended up with James tapping home a pinpoint cross from Tom Cairney.
That came after a rather dominant first-half performance that could've seen United sail away from Marco Silva's side.
Eriksen popped up with his first goal since moving to Old Trafford in what was a well-worked move from the visitors. The ball was won in the centre of the park by Casemiro before Anthony Martial released Bruno Fernandes on the left side of attack.
The Portuguese's low cross was fired home by the sliding Eriksen, but he could've doubled his - and United's - tally in the last moments of the half.
It was, again, Fernandes who turned provider for the Dane. A sweet low cross, this time from the right, landed at the feet of the midfielder but he could only direct his effort wide of the left-hand post.
Another chance came to United's striker on the afternoon. Martial was starting his first Premier League game of the season after injury concerns have kept him largely out of action for Ten Hag's side.
The Frenchman found himself in front of goal after some impressive link-up play with Fernandes, however he could not direct his shot around Bernd Leno in the Fulham net.
Consistency across 90 minutes has been hard to come by for United in recent years, and whilst they seem to be turning a corner under the new management, those concerns are still apparent.
When the teams came back out for the second half, it looked as if The Reds had dropped a level, and Fulham were the ones who picked it up.
Willian was causing problems for Malacia, who was acting as an impromptu right-back in Diogo Dalot's absence. Both Andreas Pereira and James were also threatening their former side before the James' equaliser burst United's bubble.
However, there seemed to be a feeling of inevitability once Ten Hag decided to bring on his not-so-secret weapon in Garnacho. It might've been one less than two weeks ago, but the last 10 days have been extraordinary for the young Argentine.
He scored his first goal for the club against Real Sociedad in the Europa League and then assisted twice coming from the bench against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup on Thursday evening. His Premier League account opening seemed like a matter of time.
Minutes after coming onto the pitch, we saw an opening exploited by the teenager on the left-flank. He drove into the box and looked like he was fouled by Bobby Reid as their legs tangled, but VAR denied the claims.
You could forgive Garnacho (considering he was born in 2004) for not realising that his upcoming moment was a similar situation which saw Cristiano Ronaldo, his idol, become a hero at the club.
His late winner at Craven Cottage in 2007 helped The Reds win the league for the first time in three years. That scoreline also ended 2-1 to the visitors.
However, the youngster certainly celebrated like his 37-year-old teammate, ripping his shirt off and sliding to his knees in front of the away supporters before his teammates could surround him in jubilation.
The Reds ended their pre-World Cup run on a positive note, with their next Premier League fixture coming two days after Christmas day.
Ten Hag's delight with Garnacho
The United manager has been handling the 18-year-old prodigy very well this season. His limited game-time at the beginning of the season was due to a lack of discipline - something that Ten Hag values highly within his team.
Garnacho was then rewarded for his improved behaviour behind-the-scenes with appearances, and he's not letting them go to waste.
It could become more difficult for the Dutchman to contain the excitement around the young Argentine, even he could not hide his appreciation for the young star after the match.
"Fantastic," Ten Hag replied when asked by the BBC about the impact from the youngster in the victory. "He shows the mentality [and] has the impact and belief. Twice in four days. He is great, I like his belief and he is great [to] work with, a real pleasure."
When queried on Garnacho's self-belief, the manager added: "It is a big skill he has, don't over act on it but that is what you need at the top to perform under stress."