If there was ever a definition of Fulhamish, then Alejandro Garnacho’s first goal for Manchester United provided it at Craven Cottage this afternoon. Eight days after Marco Silva’s side were denied a point at Manchester City by Erling Haaland’s controversial stoppage-time penalty, United’s teenage winger produced an individual winner reminiscent of Cristiano Ronaldo fifteen years ago to condemn the Cottagers to another cruel defeat. The newly-promoted side, shorn of five starts due to injury and suspensions, dominated the second half as Dan James came off the bench to equalise against one of his old clubs, but were punished in the dying embers of what became an end-to-end encounter.

Any suspicion that those destined for the World Cup would ease off proved misplaced. Joao Palhinha threw himself into tackles with relish, comprehensively winning the midfield battle, whilst Tom Cairney went past the ninety minute mark – getting better the longer the game went on. Fulham’s captain was caught in possession by Casemiro for the goal that gave Eric ten Haag’s men the lead – Christian Eriksen poking home from close range after Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial that cut the hosts open – but supplied the leveller with a peerless pass that meant James couldn’t miss after excellent approach play from the wily Willian.

Fulham were then the dominant force. David de Gea, the denier of a fairytale for Roy Hodgson’s men in Hamburg twelve years ago, was once again in inspired form. Having already demonstrated his agility to keep out a Tim Ream header and repel Carlos Vinicius’ shot on the spin, the Spanish goalkeeper just about kept out an overhead kick from Palhinha. The former Sporting midfielder – such a hit since moving to SW6 – then spurned a glorious opportunity to head Fulham in front from a clever Andreas Pereira free-kick and the hosts would ultimately pay for missing their chances. You suspect the absent Aleksandar Mitrovic would have had a field day.

Fulham had made a purposeful start with both Antonee Robinson and Willian tying Tyrell Malacia in knots along the left flank. But the hosts lacked a penalty area presence with Mitrovic resting his injured foot as Serbia sweat on his availability for their first group group against Brazil. Carlos Vinicius eventually enjoyed an engaging battle with Victor Lindelof, preferred to Harry Maguire at the heart of the Red Devils’ defence, but – bar a deflected drive that de Gea kept out with his knees – barely threatened in the first period. Just as the Whites were building up a head of steam, Casemiro crunched into a tackle with Cairney on the halfway and the visitors surged up field. Eriksen played a pass out to the left and kept running – untracked – to turn home a cross from Bruno Fernandes.

Willian shot wildly over after cutting inside and, on the other flank, Harry Wilson posed problems for Luke Shaw. He forced a fine stop from de Gea at close quarters after a perceptive Pereira pass but had strayed fractionally offside. The United keeper fisted away a powerful strike shortly afterwards and it was the visitors who had the better of the chances as the first half drew to a close. Martial, already denied by a brave Leno stop, headed wastefully over from a searching Shaw centre and Eriksen somehow stabbed wide having been picked out by Fernandes right on the stroke of half time.

The away side could have doubled their lead just after the interval but Leno made himself big to deny Anthony Elanga, with Ream and Robinson thwarting Rashford’s attempts to force home the follow-up. Fulham gradually upped the tempo with de Gea denying Vinicius and Ream in swift succession, but a leveller arrived almost as soon as James was summoned from the bench. Willian and Cairney exploited the fact that Malacia was well up field and the midfielder’s ball from the byline was rammed through de Gea by James for his first Fulham goal.

The home side had the better of the play in an enthralling finale, although they survived one massive let when substitute Scott McTominay headed over the bar when he seemed easier to score with a header from Shaw’s cross. The heartbreak was still to come. Eighteen year-old Garnacho’s direct running had posed a real problem for Bobby Decordova-Reid and with Fulham’s midfield still organising after Josh Onomah’s arrival, he took the chance to take on all comers when the ball reached him on the left. The winger cut inside and stroked low finish into Leno’s far corner to steal the headlines – and all three points.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Decordova-Reid, A. Robinson, Diop, Ream; Palhinha, Cairney (Onomah 90+2); Wilson (James 59), Willian, Pereira; Vinicius. Subs (not used): Rodak, Mbabu, Duffy, Adarabioyo, Chalobah, Harris, Sekularac.

BOOKED: Decordova-Reid.

GOAL: James (61).

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): de Gea, Shaw, Lindelöf, Martínez, Malacia, Elanga (McTominay 55), Casemiro, Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Martial (Garnacho 72). Subs (not used): Dúbravka, Zidane Iqbal, Maguire, Fred, van der Beek, Bishop.

BOOKED: Martial.

GOALS: Eriksen (14), Garnacho (90+3).

REFEREE: Paul Tierney.