Aleksandar Mitrovic may face lengthy ban after Man Utd FA Cup meltdown

Manchester United V Fulham: Pictures

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Overwhelmed by red mist and eventually by the number of red shirts, Fulham’s hopes of FA Cup glory disappeared in smoke and fury against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. From having control of the tie, 1-0 up with 16 minutes of normal time remaining, Marco Silva’s men imploded with no other word seeming appropriate for four-and-a-half minutes of second-half madness which started with the award of a penalty via VAR for a handball from Willian.

In the headless passage of play which followed Fulham went from leading to 2-1 down and more importantly from 11 men to nine man as three red cards were given, their manager Marco Silva followed Willian and Aleksandar Mitrovic down the tunnel. With the odds, the numbers and the atmosphere inside this stadium overwhelming, United added a third, Bruno Fernandes in the final minute of stoppage time.

This was some implosion as Fulham’s first semi-final appearance in 21 years was ripped from their grasp. Willian was rightly sent off for handling Jadon Sancho’s goal-bound shot on the line to prevent an equaliser which Fernandes despatched instead from the spot.

Shortly before when referee Chris Kavanagh was urged to have a look on the pitchside monitor, he was confronted first verbally by Silva and then both verbally and physically by Fulham’s goalscorer Mitrovic. Silva had been a ticking time bomb all afternoon, the Portuguese arguing with the fourth official about every decision from the moment he felt Mitrovic should have had a penalty in the opening minutes when pushed by Luke Shaw

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Yet of the three it was the Serbian striker whose actions were inexcusable. In an age when grassroots referees are facing unprecedented threats, the FA will no doubt be urged to investigate the possibility of throwing more than a three-match ban at the Fulham man.

After Fernandes had sent Bernd Leno the wrong way to level, Sabitzer turned in Luke Shaw’s squared ball after the full-back’s overlapping run was picked by Sancho. The Austria international’s heel finish flew in with neither Leno, nor you suspect the United midfielder, knowing too much about it.

With the cauldron bubbling Fernandes added a third in the dying seconds lashing in from the right side to book United’s spot at Wembley alongside Brighton. The Seagulls and Sheffield United stand in the way of both Manchester clubs making a final against each other for the first time in the competition’s history.

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Pep Guardiola’s men will be long odds on to keep their side of the bargain against Championship opposition but if United are to make the dream date they are going to have to play better than this. For much of this game Fulham were in control and United disconnected, weary-looking and ragged.

Once again they had David de Gea to thank for keeping them in the tie saving brilliantly from Antonee Robinson, Willian and later Mitrovic in the second half. The second of those, diving full length to get fingertips on Willian’s curling shot and turning it around the post, showed once again he has few peers as a reactive shot-stopper.

Mitrovic had turned in from a corner after Issa Diop had flicked the ball into his path. Yet the Serbian’s most telling intervention was his exit. One down but level might have been manageable but two down and behind proved impossible and for that they only have themselves to blame.

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