With Arsenal scoring a late winner against Hull City and Chelsea in the comfortable beating West Ham on Saturday a victory against Fulham on Sunday is a must.
Earlier this season at Craven Cottage Manchester United lost to Fulham 3-0. The result left me flat; I hadn’t felt so low like I did after the defeat a long long time. I can take losses (obviously prefer not to lose) if we lose to the better team on the day but this defeat was virtually secured from the first whistle.
We were of course in the mist of our injury nightmare which left Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher playing centre back and right back respectively. Not only was our defence weakened but the loss of Fletcher and Carrick (probably our first choice centre midfield partnership in a 4-4-2 formation) dented the rhythm and therefore the attacking play of our team. If I remember correctly Carrick actually had a decent game?
Fulham are a very good team, I think this will be a tougher fixture than the AC Milan game. I thought AC Milan struggled to cope with the pace and tempo United played for the full ninety minutes. Fulham however are accustomed to the speed of Premier League, so the tempo of the game will be less of an advantage for United. I still feel we should play a high tempo though, due to the Europa League Fulham are playing a higher number of games than they are use to. Fulham have played 11 games (compared to United’s 9) since the 30th January so their smaller squad may perhaps be feeling the strain of the additional workload..?
A small note for Roy Hodgson. I think he is doing a brilliant job, possible manager of the season..? For the size of club and resources available, Fulham are probably punching higher than their weight. Hodgson somehow steered Fulham away from relegation in the 2007/08 season and then lead them to Europa League qualification by finishing 7th the following season. Hodgson is a quality manager and also seems a likeable bloke.
After the superb performance against AC Milan, are we likely to make changes to the formation/team? I hope so to be honest. At home, I always prefer United to play a 4-4-2 formation, especially against what is considered a smaller club. I hope United play a 4-4-2 formation, I think the Fulham defence can be a tough to crack. Fulham have only conceded 8 goals in their last 11 games which include the 3 goals conceded against Juventus.
However, 57 goals have been scored in the previous 17 League games between the two clubs. If United keep a clean sheet it will be the first time this season they have kept a clean sheet for three consecutive games. I think that is an incredible statistic for United and for a team that will go top of League with a victory.
There is no need to rest Wayne Rooney for this match as we have no mid-week fixture, I fully expect Rooney to start and hopefully partner Dimitar Berbatov up front.
I think Carrick will replace Scholes in centre midfield. Scholes has played the last two games and will require a rest at this stage of his career. Fletcher will partner Carrick.
On the flanks Nani, Park and Valencia are the options. Feel Nani will definitely start; he should be fresh after recently being suspended. Perhaps Valencia deserves a rest. He has played a lot of football this season, a similar amount to Rooney. Park has been in excellent form over the last month, alongside Rooney our best player in recent games. I’d start with Park on the left and Nani on the right.
Evra, Ferdinand and Vidic start. Hopefully Rio and Vidic are starting to find their match sharpness/fitness. Gary Neville was impressive against AC Milan, he was substituted early so I can see him starting on Sunday. Edwin in goal.
Match Prediction: I can see nothing more than a United victory, I really can’t see Fulham winning their third consecutive game against us. I’m going to plump for a 3-0 victory, a goal for Rooney, a goal for Berbatov and a goal for Nani.
What do you think?