Old Trafford, Manchester
February, 09, 2014; 16:00 BST
Manchester United host Fulham at Old Trafford tomorrow as the Red Devils look to get back to winning ways in the Premier League. The London club has won only once at Old Trafford and that was back in 2003 when Lee Clark, Steed Malbranque and Junichi Inamoto scored for the away side in a 3-1 win. But we have already seen a lot of unwanted records been broken by David Moyes and his men this season, hence their must be caution while interpreting these statistics.
Manchester United are currently seventh in the league table 16 points behind new league leaders Chelsea and 10 points behind Liverpool in fourth spot. They are already virtually out of the title race and will now have to outperform Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton in order retain their place in the Champions League, which is perhaps the minimal expectation from a club of United’s stature even during a transitional phase.
David Moyes’ men are coming into this game on the back of a 2-1 defeat against Stoke City in their last game as Charlie Adam scored a sensational winner. It was United’s eight defeats in the league this season and their sixth loss in their last eight matches in all competitions. The home side will be desperate to turn things around against Fulham as they look to get their season back on track.
Fulham on the other hand are at the bottom of the Premier League and are on a four-match losing streak in the league currently. There are a lot of speculations regarding the future of Rene Meulensteen at Craven Cottage and will return to his former club in this game under tremendous pressure to turn things around for the away side.
Team news and tactics
David Moyes has had to contain with a lot of injuries recently, especially to his defence. Jonny Evans and Nani remain unavailable for this game, while Marouane Fellaini has suffered a set-back in his recovery from his wrist injury. The former Everton man has picked up a groin injury in training and will remain out for another week.
There are also doubts about the availability of Rio Ferdinand, who last started in a Premier League match back in November last year, although Moyes has stated that Phil Jones could be back for this game. Nemanja Vidic, who announced his departure from Old Trafford at the end of this season, is also back from suspension and will provide a major boost in the center of the defence for David Moyes.
Moyes is expected to make four changes to the side he used against Stoke City in their last game. Vidic will move back into the center of the defence and he is likely to be partnered by Chris Smalling. Rafael will start at the right back role with Evra retaining his place on the left. Darren Fletcher is also expected to move back into the starting line-up after featuring on the bench against Stoke City. He will partner Michael Carrick in the pivot ahead of the defence.
There is expected to be only one change in attack with Adnan Januzaj returning to starting eleven as Ashley Young drops to the bench. This could be the first time Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Januzaj start together for Manchester United and a lot is expected from this quadrate.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): De Gea (GK); Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Carrick, Fletcher; Mata, Rooney, Januzaj; van Persie
Rene Meulensteen doesn’t have too many injury concerns at the moment. John Arne Riise, Matthew Briggs and Neil Etheridge are still missing out from the first team action. The former Liverpool left back is close to regaining full fitness, and could be available in their next game against Liverpool. There were also some concerns regarding the fitness of Kieran Richardson and Sascha Riether, but the duo is expected to recover in the time and feature in this game.
Fulham are expected to make only two changes to the side that was fielded in the 0-3 defeat against Southampton. Clint Dempsey is expected to replace Damien Duff on the left wing while new signing Kostas Mitroglou leads in the attack upfront. This means Darren Bent will drop back to the bench.
It will be interesting to see the tactics used by Rene Meulensteen in this game. He changed his side’s formation from a conventional 4-2-3-1 to a more defensive 4-3-3 against Southampton at home. But at Old Trafford he could probably change to a 4-5-1 formation and use Dempsey, Mitroglou and Holtby on the counter-attack.
The partnership of Sidwell, Parker and Kvist is yet to flourish and Fulham often lacked creativity in the midfield against Southampton. Pajtim Kasami of course provides a good option for Meulensteen from the bench, but he would need his new signings to deliver soon in order to maintain his side’s hope of avoiding relegation this season.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg (GK); Riether, Burn, Hangeland, Richardson; Sidwell, Kvist, Parker; Holtby, Mitroglou, Dempsey
- Manchester United have won their last 11 league and cup games against Fulham at Old Trafford, scoring 30 goals.
- United have kept five clean sheets in their last six home league games against Fulham.
- David Moyes’ side have only dropped four points from winning positions, the best record in the division.
- Fulham have lost 13 of their last 16 league games, including the last four.
- Under Rene Meulensteen, Fulham have conceded 29 goals in 11 games, five more than they did in 13 games under Martin Jol this season.
Player to watch-out for
Robin van Persie (Manchester United)
Juan Mata might have grabbed all the headlines at Old Trafford recently, but the return of the Dutch international from injury was an equally important event for the Red Devils. The 30-year-old has had a stop-start season as he has faced a lot of injury concerns. But despite this, the former Arsenal striker has already scored nine goals in his 12 starts in the league so far and if he can maintain his fitness as we head towards the penultimate stage of the season, Manchester United will have a wonderful opportunity to turn around their campaign.
Manchester United 2-0 Fulham
Manchester United are in desperate need of points in this game, especially with Everton and Tottenham facing each other on the same day. Fulham have been in poor form off late and it is hard to see them putting up any real test for the home side. It should be a comfortable win for David Moyes’ men with a two goal advantage.