Craven Cottage, London
November 2 2013, 17:00 GMT
Martin Jol’s Fulham welcome the defending League champions in a game that has all the makings of an early season humdinger. While Fulham are struggling in the bottom half of the table, Moyes’ United have been abject to a certain extent. Nevertheless, United are unbeaten in six games in all competitions since the catastrophic home defeat at the hands of the Baggies. On the other hand, the Cottagers succumbed to a defeat in the midweek Capital One Cup game against Leicester City and were knocked out. With both teams desperate for the right result it sets the game up for a mouth-watering battle. Can United close the gap at the top, or will Fulham finally kick start their season with this massive scalp?
Team News and Tactical Brief
A much changed side in midweek emphasized Jol’s priority is definitely the league encounter against United. Their predicament mandates that Fulham must start picking up points if they harbor ambitions of perhaps ending the season in the top half. The Cottagers have United, Liverpool and Tottenham lined up in the fixture list in their next five games. Ergo, they could find themselves embroiled in the relegation dog fight come the festive period. But Fulham have one possible advantage, the presence of goal scorers and potential match winners. Dimitar Berbatov & Darren Bent are proven Premier League strikers whereas Bryan Ruiz, Taarabt and Kazami have the flair to unlock defenses. Jol’s problem so far has been the inability to find the right balance for his Fulham outfit. The West London outfit was thoroughly impressive in their wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke City but the home defeat against Cardiff was a real bad result. Also, Southampton completely and thoroughly outplayed the Cottagers in their last league encounter and the Fulham manager was left with a lot to ponder upon.
On the injury front Hugo Rodallega looks likely to be out for this weekend after having limped off in the midweek game. Brede Hangeland could return to the starting lineup and that should give a huge boost to the entire squad and the fan base. Fulham have a good enough squad to stay clear off any relegation fears, Steve Sidwell and Parker are good, solid central midfielders and against United’s hitherto crumbling midfield could cause damage. All eyes will surely be on the Bulgarian maverick Berbatov as he prepares to face his former side and prove a point or two. Fulham at home are a difficult proposition for the best of sides, if Martin Jol can set up his side to press and harry this United side from the start, maybe there are enough chinks in the Old Trafford club’s armor that could be exploited.
Possible Fulham Starting Lineup(4-4-1-1): Stekelenburg; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Richardson; Ruiz, Sidwell, Parker, Kasami ; Berbatov ; Bent
The beleaguered and much criticized Moyes seems to be settling down in the hot seat and an impressive away showing at the Cottage would put to rest many fears. United’s second string were too good for the Canaries in the midweek COC encounter as the Red Devils were comfortable winners. Javier Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj were the stand out performers while Jones and Cleverley acquitted themselves well in the midfield. Now Moyes will welcome back the big guns for the league encounter: DeGea, RVP, Evra and Carrick are sure to be in the match day reckoning. Also pushing for the starting berths would be the likes of Rooney, Welbeck, Nani and Kagawa; ergo Moyes has a real selection dilemma for the four attacking positions in the team. In midfield Carrick plus one is the theme and Moyes could choose from anyone of Cleverley, Fellaini or Jones. Fellaini needs games to gain some confidence after an underwhelming start to life as a Manchester United player and could start this one alongside the omnipresent Carrick. In defense Rafael should keep his Right Back spot while Evra will surely be back on the left. Jonny Evans could partner Nemanja Vidic in the heart of defense, especially if Moyes looks to play Jones as a Central midfielder.
On the injury front, there are aren’t any new casualties, on the contrary Darren Fletcher could be back to first team reckoning in couple of weeks’ time.
United have struggled against sides that have pressed them and not given them anytime on the ball. However, Fulham’s aren’t known to defend from the front especially if Darren Bent and Dimitar Berbatov start upfront. All eyes could yet again be on the youngster Januzaj after another breathtaking performance that displayed maturity beyond years. Wayne Rooney, Hernandez and Van Persie all scored against Stoke in the last league match and would be itching to get on the score sheet again. If Moyes’ side can impose themselves on the game early on, something they haven’t recently, United could flourish and come out on top.
Possible Man United Starting Lineup(4-4-1-1): DeGea; Rafael, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Cleverley, Januzaj; Rooney; Van Persie
- Fulham last defeated Manchester United at home in December 2009.
Player to watch for
Adnan Januzaj (Man United)
It’s not unconceivable by any stretch of the imagination that Moyes might play spoilsport and not even start the teenage sensation. However, such has been the impact of the kid that at the moment everything positive for the Manchester side stems from his magical feet. Januzaj is a rare talent and if called into action this weekend could settle the contest in United’s favor.
Fulham 0-2 Manchester United
United seem to have turned a corner while Fulham are yet to convince. Furthermore Moyes’ United need to continue winning games if they want to stay in touch with the early season pace setters.
Blast from the Past