Manchester United will aim to consolidate their place atop the Premier League table when they take on Fulham at Craven Cottage on Wednesday
The 2020/21 Premier League season is reaching its halfway mark this week, as Gameweek 19 comes to a close over the next few days. Table toppers Manchester United will be in action on Wednesday night at Craven Cottage, where they will be locking horns with Fulham.
Fulham have been quite impressive after a difficult start to the season, even though wins have come at a premium for them. Indeed, the Cottagers have managed to grab all three points in just two of their 17 Premier League outings so far, but Scott Parker has forged a resolute team that has taken points off Liverpool, Southampton and Tottenham, losing just one of their last seven games.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have made giant strides under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2020/21, having established themselves as possible contenders in the title race. Ahead of the midweek games, the Red Devils sit firmly atop the Premier League table, but come into their latest match having been disappointed by the goalless draw at Liverpool last weekend.
Manchester United were 3-0 victors the last time they locked horns with Fulham at Craven Cottage in the Premier League, with Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial on target for them. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Scott Parker has a couple of fresh roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. On Wednesday, the Fulham manager is set to be bereft of the services of four first-team players due to injuries or suspension.
There is some good news as well, though, with Aleksandar Mitrovic available after regaining fitness following his recovery from a hamstring injury. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also at Parker’s disposal after missing last weekend’s game against parent club Chelsea due to the terms of his loan deal with Fulham.
Terence Kongolo (thigh) and captain Tom Cairney (knee), though, remain on the sidelines due to their respective injuries. In addition, Antonee Robinson, who was sent off against Chelsea, and Bobby Decordova-Reid are unavailable due to their respective suspensions.
Reid’s absence should be mitigated by the return of Loftus-Cheek, who will be tasked with pushing Fulham forward from the middle of the park. In the left wing-back slot, Joe Bryan is certain to replace the suspended Robinson while on the opposite flank, Kenny Tete ought to keep hold of his spot.
Tete and Bryan will provide the width for Fulham whenever they press forward on the transitions, but will majorly be pinned back to create a 5-4-1 formation during the defensive phases, with the objective being to deny Manchester United of any space. The remainder of the defensive unit will comprise of Ola Aina, Joachim Andersen and Tosin Adarabioyo, with Alphonse Areola taking his place in goal.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Harrison Reed will be stationed in the middle of the park along with Loftus-Cheek, with the duo spending more time behind the ball than on it, looking to keep a check on Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. Upfront, Mitrovic could miss out, with Ivan Cavaleiro and Ademola Lookman forming the strike partnership again.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Tete, Loftus-Cheek, Zambo Anguissa, Reed, Bryan; Lookman, Cavaleiro
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not have any pressing squad issues to contend with ahead of the trip to the capital to take on Fulham. At Craven Cottage on Wednesday, the Manchester United manager will be without a few first-team players, but none that are really in contention for a place in the starting lineup.
Solskjaer should make a few rotations against Fulham on Wednesday, as he looks to keep his troops fresh amid a fixture pile-up while also having one eye on another big game versus Liverpool, this time in the FA Cup at the weekend. The shape of the team, though, is unlikely to change much.
David de Gea ought to keep hold of his place between the sticks, with Dean Henderson likely to start against Liverpool. The defence, though, should see a couple of changes, with Alex Telles and Eric Bailly likely to be recalled, with Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw being given a breather after a job well done at Anfield.
Bailly starts at the heart of the Manchester United defence alongside captain Harry Maguire, while Telles will be handed a rare start in the left-back slot. On the right flank, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is unchallenged and will continue his run in the starting lineup.
Up ahead in midfield, Fred and Scott McTominay will be rested keeping the Liverpool game in mind, meaning Nemanja Matic will be back in the side. The Serb, while primarily being the holding midfielder for Manchester United, will also look to use his nimble footwork to good effect, pushing the Red Devils forward against Fulham while setting a quick tempo to the game.
Paul Pogba, who has been in fine touch lately, will partner Matic in the double pivot, with Bruno Fernandes once again reprising the no. 10 role. Pogba and Fernandes will pull the strings for United from midfield, with Marcus Rashford, likely to return to the left-wing after leading the line for Manchester United against Liverpool, also joining in the build-up play.
Rashford’s return to the left-wing means that one of Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani misses out, with the latter likely to get the nod as the central striker against Fulham. The final spot in the side will likely be handed to Mason Greenwood, who will aim to be direct with his runs in the final third.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Telles; Pogba, Matic; Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani
1. Manchester United to win @ 1.55
1. Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 2.75
- Fulham have only managed to grab two points from the last 11 Premier League meetings (D2 L9) against Manchester United. In fact, the Red Devils have won each of the last four top-flight games at Craven Cottage by an aggregate score of 12-1.
- Manchester United are currently unbeaten in 11 Premier League matches since losing to Arsenal on 1 November. Fulham, on the other hand, are without a win in seven league games.
- Fulham have scored just three Premier League goals in their past 11 hours and two minutes of action. In fact, the Cottagers are in danger of failing to score in four successive home league games for the first time since August 1969.
- Manchester United boast the only unbeaten Premier League away record this term, winning seven games and drawing twice. They need one more victory on the road to equal their total of eight from the 2019/20 season.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League fixtures against promoted opposition, scoring 25 goals in the process.
Player to Watch
2020 was the year of Marcus Rashford, both on and off the pitch. Embracing responsibility to do a lot of good in the charitable sense, the English international also stepped up his game while turning out for Manchester United. That has continued to be the case in the ongoing season as well, but the 23-year-old has also frustrated in equal measure lately.
There is no denying the fact that Rashford has been chipping in with some important goals, but he does need to become more clinical in front of goal if Manchester United are to become serious contenders for the Premier League title, especially with Anthony Martial blowing hot and cold.
After all, there is only so much that Bruno Fernandes can do, as was evidenced by his struggles in the game against Liverpool. With games coming thick and fast, Rashford will have to step up a notch further, especially with Fulham likely to have the outlook of over-crowding Fernandes.
Fulham 0-1 Manchester United
A couple of months ago, Manchester United would have been the clear favourites to grab all three points in this fixture. Fulham, though, are one of the most resolute teams in the Premier League at present, having regularly punched above their weight, especially when holding the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton to crucial draws.
Manchester United, though, know that they cannot afford to slip up, considering they could drop down to third on the Premier League table depending on the result in the game between Aston Villa and Manchester City. In the end, though, the Red Devils’ form and outlook on the road means they should have the goods to grab all three points.
Expect Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford to combine for the critical match-winning goal after their respective poor showings against Liverpool. The Hard Tackle predicts a closely-contested affair to ensue at Craven Cottage, with Manchester United retaining their spot atop the table with a 1-0 win.