If only Manchester United could play Fulham every week, people might start to take it more seriously. The joke before the kick-off at Old Trafford was that Liverpool United had done a favor when they won in Bournemouth so brilliantly because the goal difference in the fight for eighth place might be important.
Enter the Premier League Premier Club with a performance that proves the table is not lying. Suddenly United are no longer over Bournemouth, but in sixth place. Although Everton will not play until Monday, José Mourinho will be giving everything he can right now.
"We've been unbeaten in four league games," said the supposedly happy one earlier, which was one way to illustrate the fact that United had not won before the Bonfire Night. "In the first half we were good at all levels," said the manager. "We played the way I want, we were a compact unit that gave Fulham no chances."
Fulham was so friendly that United scored the goal difference with their biggest win of the season. Although there is still a clear difference to the top five, Mourinho and his players are at least in the right place to reach the Champions League.
On the sidelines of European positions, that sounds a lot better than in the middle of the table, although next Sunday's test will be in Anfield. The fighters of Claudio Ranieri were far too dominated. The Italian was reduced from an early stage to the sideline with a resigned look and a prolonged right hand to show his players the direction in which they should play. Only with Aleksandar Mitrovic plowing a lonely furrow in front of the field, it never happened, and Fulham looked beaten from the first moment Ashley Young opened the scoresheet.
The United captain seemed to hit a cross when he hit the ball on the left, but when he defeated Denis Odoi to find room in the area, he saw the gate and found Sergio Rico's top corner with a right-handed spin.
Juan Mata scored next and made a virtuoso win after Marcus Rashford deflected the ball off the goal line. Romelu Lukaku was criticized at the beginning of the week because he had not done much except try to score goals. Therefore, he should be proud of the pass that played Rashford behind the Fulham defense. Rashford then became aware of finding Mata in the back of the box, and when he hit Rico's dive the contest was almost over.
The Fulham fans certainly seemed to believe that. "They are nothing special, we lose every week," it said of the tour guide.
Rico made a good stop to stop a thundering free-kick from Rashford before United took the lead just before the break with a triangular pass that Mourinho had clearly liked. Jesse Lingard found Mata, whose first ball was neatly stowed on Lukaku's 6-yard line.
Fulham showed a little more life after Ranieri made two half-time changes, although André Schürrle had the best chance of an open play after a poor final whistle from Diogo Dalot and the winger overtook his shot. It summed up Fulham's afternoon when less than two minutes after Aboubakar Kamara pulled back a penalty from the penalty spot, a ten-man foul had fallen on substitute Ander Herrera when Rashford of André-Frank Zambo gave Anguissa a second yellow.
Any hope of United scoring a cricket score was denied when Rico made it to Rashford and then Lukaku Retter, though the goalkeeper was beaten at his close post when Rashford scored a daring fourth place from the angle of the area.
Would not Fred have tried a risky pass in injury time before a straightforward pass? United would have scored five in the league for the first time since his retirement from Sir Alex Ferguson.
In the end, Fulham was not quite as binding, but it was close. "It's pretty easy," said Ranieri with his usual conciseness. "If we play as in the first half, we will dismount. Play like in the second and we can survive. "
Sign up for The Fiver.