IT was the exactly the sort of moment Manchester United once paid a world-record transfer fee for.
Whether Paul Pogba might have produced more of them over the past four and half years is an argument for another time.
Because Pogba is full of it right now, sensing the Premier League title and determined to play a leading role.
On a filthy old night by the Thames, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comeback specialists pulled off a turnaround victory for the seventh time on the road this season, it was Pogba who had the imagination and talent to settle another tight encounter.
There is no doubting that United’s men possess enough resolve to claim their first title in eight years.
And with Pogba in this mood they have the quality too.
He scored a volleyed winner at Burnley last week – the only time United had not gone behind before a Premier League away win this season.
But this peach of a goal, conjured out of the leaden heavens, was one of his very best.
Wrestling top spot back from Manchester City, who in turn had taken it from Leicester earlier in the evening, United are enjoying this extraordinary twisting title race.
The leadership is being shared around like a classroom hamster this season, City becoming the eighth different club to top the pile.
But halfway through their campaign, United are two points clear, and even though Pep Guardiola’s City have a game in hand, United show no signs of falling away.
United might not have looked like champions as they bored the pants off a record Sky TV audience in Sunday’s ditchwater draw with Liverpool.
Yet that result meant they arrived at Craven Cottage unbeaten away in the Premier League for a year and a day.
They faced a Fulham side locked in the relegation zone, yet difficult to beat of late – five straight draws for Scott Parker’s side, before his ten men suffered a late defeat by Chelsea on Saturday.
Solskjaer benched Marcus Rashford, starting Mason Greenwood on the right and Cavani in the centre, restoring Eric Bailly to central defence.
The rain was falling sideways off the Thames, Craven Cottage’s half-built Riverside Stand offering scant protection.
So this was another test of United’s mettle – ain’t they all? – and they were caught flat-footed within four minutes, yet again starting an away match like stroppy teenagers facing an early alarm call.
Andre-Frank Anguissa, Fulham’s best player this season, provided the pass and Ademola Lookman almost hesitated, perhaps believing he was offside, before he drilled past David De Gea and into the far corner.
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Lookman had been moved from the wing to centre-forward by Parker and the switch paid early dividends.
Yet United have fallen behind often enough to avoid panic and they soon had a penalty shout – shouted for long and hard by Harry Maguire and the vocal United contingent in the stands.
But both ref Martin Atkinson and VAR Kevin Friend were unmoved and Pogba was booked for halting a Fulham breakaway.
Then came the Bruno Fernandes show – a five-minute spell in which the elusive Portuguese pocket man teed up United’s equaliser and might have had two goals for himself.
First Fernandes turned and thumped a shot against the post from a Fred pass.
Then Fernandes found space on the left, and crossed low for keeper Alphonse Areola to make a butter-fingered spill, allowing Cavani to pounce and poke home.
After that, another cute Fernandes swivel and a shot which a plunging Areola pushed round the post.
He is a fox outside the box, a cunning space invader and a sure-fire contender for Footballer of the Year honours.
It felt as if United were about to seize complete control and when Aaron Wan-Bissaka picked out Anthony Martial at the back stick, the Frenchman’s header was deflected behind, Maguire nodding wide from the resulting corner.
But Fulham weathered it and after the break Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has been enduring a frustrating loan spell from Chelsea, showed his class to create a couple of openings – the second of which brought a De Gea save from Anguissa.
United had been quiet until Pogba’s moment on 65 minutes – an attempted clearance from Ivan Cavaleiro got caught in a gust and dropped to the Frenchman’s feet but that was the only element of fortune.
The rest was sheer class as Pogba, minded by three Fulham players, looked up, eyed the far corner and found it with a gorgeous curling effort combining power and accuracy.
Cavani almost killed it off within a minute, his header forcing a fine point-blank save from Areola – but Loftus-Cheek then asked a decent save of De Gea before he ballooned over when he ought to have hit the target.
Fulham’s attempt to beat relegation faces critical tests at Brighton and West Brom in their next two league matches.
For United, the sights could not be any higher. Just imagine how good they might be if they could start games properly.
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