After a relatively easy win against Newcastle on Monday, the Devils face a potentially tricky opposition, who in the recent past has had their number, especially at the Cottage. Fulham, under new manager Mark Hughes, managed an honorable draw against Bolton, and would be looking to build on that result when they entertain Manchester United this weekend. Fulham’s recent success has been built on a great home record, and the Cottagers have always brought out their ‘A’ game against top quality opposition.
Fulham were dealt a major blow even before the season began, as Roy Hodgson decided to jump ships to Liverpool. The much loved Fulham boss would surely be missed, but Mark Hughes has quickly started transforming the team in his own way. Living under the shadows of the more illustrious London clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs, Fulham are in fact the oldest professional football team in London. However, the biggest challenge currently facing Hughes would be to hold on to his top players, especially the likes of Mark Schwarzer, Bobby Zamora and Clint Dempsey. The Australian Schwarzer is the most likely to leave, with Arsenal showing concrete interest in his services.
On the brighter side, the Cottagers pipped League rivals Birmingham to the signing of the 23-year-old Moussa Dembele. Mark Hughes hopes the arrival of Belgian international striker Moussa Dembele will not conclude Fulham’s spending this summer. Also, Simon Davies has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the London club till 2013. Fulham can draw inspiration from their last two encounters with United at the Cottage, where they comfortably outplayed their more fancied opposition.
United have work to do, especially in the case of their talisman “Wayne Rooney”. The England striker looked well below par against Newcastle, and probably would take another two-three matches before we can see the best of him. However, the Bulgarian Berbatov stepped up against the Toons and had one of his brighter games, which also saw him scoring the opener. Apart from Valencia, who looked astonishingly out of sorts, the game against Magppies was a decent work out for everybody involved.
United boss Sir Alex hasn’t named an unchanged side in over two years, but he might be tempted to do so. However Carrick and Park could seem themselves playing this one. United’s worst defeat and probably the worst performance of last season was in the corresponding fixture, though one must not forget that the Devils were down to bare bones at the back, with Fletcher and Carrick playing in the heart of defense. Another fact of note is Sir Alex’s record against his former players; the wily Scot is yet to lose one in such encounters, although Steve Bruce came tantalizingly close last season.
The match is delicately balanced, with Fulham’s recent exploits in the fixture keeping them abreast with United’s undoubted quality. But past counts for nothing on the football pitch; it is the performance on the day that matters. There is little pressure on each side so early on in the season – a recipe for free flowing attacking football and assured entertainment.
Key Match Facts: Head to head United vs Fulham Since 2000-
Fulham Played 21 Won 03 Drew 3 Lost 15 Score 23:47 Goals per game1.10
United Played 21 Won 15 Drew 3 Lost 03 Score 47:23 Goals per game 2.24
TheHardTackle’s Player to Watch out for: Dimitar Berbatov
The Bulgarian was in his elements during his side’s comfortable 3-0 victory at home against Newcastle. Playing with a smile on his face and without the burden of the huge price tag, Berbatov shone like a real gem on the field. Could we possibly see the best of Dimitar?
TheHardTackle’s Prediction: Fulham 1-2 Man Utd
The Red Devils would like to break the hoodoo, but Fulham would would give stiff resistance. With an irresistable force facing an immovable object, something has got to give.