Preview: Fulham v United

Complacency. The amour-propre that comes so inevitably with easy success; the original sin of man. Yet, it it surely with conceit in mind that Sir Alex Ferguson dispatches his men south this Saturday – Manchester United seeking a 10 point lead in the Premier League and a second successive victory over Fulham.

After all, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men dispatched the Cottagers from the FA Cup last weekend with such ease that the lack of a double-figure score was not only disappointing, but criminally wasteful. And yet victory in west London will hand Ferguson’s side a 10 point lead ahead of Manchester City’s clash with Liverpool on Sunday.

It appears to be easy, so easy.

There is plenty of confidence in the Old Trafford camp, yes, but can Ferguson ensure that his side does not lapse into the dogmatic lethargy that enveloped the Reds’ against Southampton at Old Trafford in midweek?

While publicly the Scot blamed the pitch for United’s performance on Wednesday, there is little doubt that behind the scenes Ferguson will have impressed on his men the need for concentration with the title now in reach.

“Wednesday was important for us and we really dug in defensively,” said Sir Alex on Friday.

“We blocked shots and cleared headers. I was impressed with that but we were a bit lucky to win the game. The first half, we could have been five up at half-time, but a one-goal lead isn’t enough.

“We just make it hard for our fans and that’s the sadistic nature of our team. Some games this season we’ve got into comfortable positions and not driven nails into it. It is frustrating because they are capable of that.

“It could go to goal difference. That’s the issue and at the moment we’re only two goals better off than Manchester City and that can be overturned in one game and we’ve had opportunities to be better.”

Meanwhile, Martin Jol’s men have gained some confidence from victory over West Ham United in midweek despite the chastening experience at Old Trafford last Saturday. Three goals and an eight point margin over the bottom three leaves Jol’s side facing up, and not down, with 14 games to go.

“Fulham got a fantastic result midweek and we hope we can navigate this trip – every result is important,” said Ferguson.

“Fulham’s home record is very good and has been for a few years. They’re one of the few clubs that get full houses every year. I don’t think the pitch is as tight as people make out – the size is good but it’s the tightness around it that make it feel small. There’s always a good atmosphere and that’s important.”

Fulham v Manchester United - Premier League, Craven Cottage - 2 February 2013, 5.30pmFerguson’s squad travels south in good health, with defender Jonny Evans added to the match party after the Irishman recovered from injury. Only Ashley Young remains on the sidelines from Ferguson’s first team, with the former Aston Villa winger having featured just 16 times this season.

Meanwhile, defender Rio Ferdinand returns to the side. The veteran replaced Chris Smalling during a difficult second half against Southampton on Wednesday night as United struggled to a 2-1 victory.

“We’re quite healthy in terms of the players available,” Sir Alex adds.

“Young’s the one that’s still not available. Hopefully Jonny trains today, which would give us another defender. That’s good news. I’ll make one or two changes tomorrow. Rio Ferdinand will play. Definitely.”

Elsewhere, Ferguson is likely to recall Tom Cleverley alongside Michael Carrick in midfield, while Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa and Nani fight it out for two places in the United midfield. Javier Hernández missed Wednesday’s match with a hip injury, but could make the bench on Saturday.

Ferguson will enjoy holding plenty of options against Jol’s side in London. After all, while Fulham proffered the meekest of opponents at Old Trafford a week ago, the Cottagers boast a strong home record in recent seasons.

“At home, Fulham are a different team,” said striker Wayne Rooney.

“It’s always a difficult game there. It’s a smaller pitch and a compact stadium. That suits them. They’ve got players who can take the ball between the lines because the pitch isn’t as big and then create chances. They are down near the bottom so they will be fighting to get one or three points. We will need to make sure we are at our best to beat them.”

Meanwhile, the hosts will be without ex-Reds Kieran Richardson and Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian pulled a hamstring in midweek, while Simon Davies, Karim Frei and Mahamadou Diarra are also out. AC Milan loanee Urby Emanuelson could make his Fulham début.

And whatever the selection Fulham can hardly perform worse than at Old Trafford in the Cup, where luck and United’s poor judgement in front of goal saved Jol from a record defeat.

“It was still 1-0 at half-time so we were still in it, but we came out and they scored two early goals and the game was finished,” admits the Dutchman.

“Luckily enough, they only scored a fourth goal because it could have been one of those days when they scored six or seven. But it’s a one-off game. For us the most important thing is the league.”

Yet, history points United’s way – even if Fulham did beat an under-strength Reds at Craven Cottage in 2009. United has won six and drawn one of the past seven matches against Fulham in all competitions despite that loss, while the west London side has secured just one victory in the past 23 meetings between these sides.

And should the game run to form then that 10 point lead is United’s at least until Sunday. If complacency doesn’t kick in first that is.

Match details
Fulham v Manchester United – Premier League, Craven Cottage – 2 February 2013, 5.30pm

Possible teams
Fulham (4-5-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Ruiz, Sidwell, Frimpong, Karagounis, Duff; Rodallega. Subs from: Etheridge, Baird, Hughes, Davies, Dejagah, Petric, Somogyi, Kasami, Kacaniklic, Emanuelson

United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidić, Evra; Cleverley, Carrick; Valencia, Rooney, Kagawa; van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Jones, Smalling, Büttner, Scholes, Giggs, Anderson, Nani, Welbeck, Hernández

Match officials
Referee: Kevin Friend
Assistants: S Ledger, S Burt
Fourth official: M Oliver

Form
Fulham: DDWLLW
United: DWWDWW

Head to Head
Last 10: United 8, Fulham 1, Draw 1
Overall: United 47, Fulham 14, Draw 18

Stats

  • Fulham celebrated a fine week, in which owner Mohammed Al Fayed wrote off the club’s debts and Martin Jol guided his team to victory over West Ham United ;
  • Former Red Dimitar Berbatov scored against the Hammers – his seventh goal in the Premier League this season from 48 shots with 58.3% on target;
  • Berbatov has completed a pass in the opposition half 492 times this season – the 17th highest overall in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index and the second highest by a striker;
  • Hugo Rodallega has struggled for Premier League goals this season, with his strike against West Ham just his second from 39 efforts at goal;
  • At the other end of the pitch Mark Schwarzer has been the joint third busiest goalkeeper in the Premier League this season, making 126 saves, and averaging one every 16 minutes;
  • Wayne Rooney scored his sixth and seventh Premier League goals of the season against Southampton, which have come at a rate of one every seven shots – with 67.3 per cent of his shots on target;
  • Rooney has also contributed seven assists this season, and is the fifth-ranked striker in the Index for passes completed in the opposition half;
  • Patrice Evra is enjoying one of his finest season’s for United and he has completed 462 passes in the opposition half this season, with only Leighton Baines completing more among league’s defenders.

Prediction
1-2

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Comments

  1. Clive says

    Yes that’s the team Ed – the team that can win us the champions league in my opinion! Has the perfect balance. Of course Fergie won’t play it though! Cleverley needs to be starting all games…

    I pray to god that welbeck doesn’t start again

  2. Damian Garside says

    It could not be better: the possibility of a 10 point lead if we win and City lose– since Liverpool have much respect to regain after recent disasters. With just 13 games to go, that is a very tall order. They pulled back a deficit of 8 points last season, if it rises to 10 that may be too much for them.

    On the other hand, if it is narrowed to 4pts by the end of business on Sunday, it will be criminal, and possibly lead to a complete shift in momentum.

    Hope Our guys can do the math and see that this is a golden opportunity. And that Pool aren’t under strict instructions to lose at th Etihad.

    And yes, Superbowl tomorrow evening. 6-0. I do hope so, Chris Culliver’s homophobic rant, and. colleagues here from Baltimore notwithstanding.

  3. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadffs says

    berbatovs injured, so this might be a tough game

    eds team is almost right, though obviously bellendcia has no business playing

  4. Sidsidney says

    de Gea
    Rafael
    Ferdinand
    Evans
    Evra
    Valencia
    Carrick
    Cleverley
    Nani
    Rooney
    van Persie
    Bench: Amos, Smalling, Anderson, Giggs, Welbeck, Hernandez.

  5. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadffs says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Nani playing, but why Valencia?

    he shouldnt be playing

    and him playing means nani shouldnt cause nanis shit on the left

    more shite from the wings today, so relying on the big two again

  6. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    I’m just glad that Sir Alex didn’t react to the ease of the 4-1, FA Cup victory by deciding that this was a game to start Scholes and/or Giggs. Expect to see one good half containing 30-35 minutes of quality football, one, possibly two goals, and two or three wasted opportunities. The other half will suck, as United find that they cannot keep possession.

  7. Minus The Bear says

    Fergie’s been banging on about complacency again so I think he knows in his heart of hearts that playing Giggs and Scholes is like playing russian roulette.

    “Last year we lost to Blackburn Rovers at home. You could quite easily say that cost us the league.”

    Although that was less United’s complacency more to do with the fucking shit midfield that Fergie chose…

  8. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    FFS… quality outfit, Fulham… pay your fuckin electric Al-Fayed.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  9. sheesh says

    sidney said:
    Class though, Sheesh, his feet, pace, movement, he’s just an idiot

    This is what is so annoying. He could be our most dangerous player but he continues to frustrate. He has so much ability.

  10. AnantaxAnantax says

    Our passing isslick at times.but so ehow we dont look shatp…

    I have no confidence currently that a goal is coming…..hope I am wrong..

  11. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    sidney said:
    I can’t stream the second half because my computer is a motherfucker, so I need updates

    Much the same as the first half so far mate, we need that goal and I think we’ll one on for the 3 points!

  12. sheesh says

    Van Persie should have been more selfish and taken the shot on.
    Typical 2nd half performance where we stop doing what we were doing well in first half.
    Edit. Thank fuck.

  13. AnantaxAnantax says

    Are we EVER going to hit full gear this season?

    I am happy to get The result, but hanging on like that against Fulham should be above us surely….

  14. Damian Garside says

    If City lose tomorrow, it’s hard not to think of Wayne’s goal as the one that absolutely crucial and decisive in putting in an unassailable position. The pressure on City will be huge tomorrow.

  15. bman says

    Yep, Rooney coming into form is the best thing that could happen for us going into the deep end of the season. I get the impression from the last few games that Fergie has been trying to strengthen our defending; we’ve been shipping fewer goals (but worrying still shipping goals) but also scoring fewer goals. But that’s probably a necessary change that has to happen before we get back in the Champions League again — Real would probably tear us apart if we played the way we played for the first half of the season.

    I think we ought to strongly consider playing Rooney and Welbeck on the flanks in a 4-2-3-1 style set up; it’s not ideal but our specialist wingers are just not performing well enough to start them in big games. That gives us the opportunity to play either Kagawa or Pea with RVP in the middle.

  16. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    uncleknobheadffs said:
    evans was fucking great again,

    have that bri

    Tbf he played well today and I’m not afraid to admit it. Unfortunately he’ll have his ‘Nani’ moments!

  17. marlon says

    Since the 4-3 vs. Newcastle we’ve scored 12 and conceded 3 in our last 6 league games. We’ve also started to counter effectively. Great timing before the Madrid game. van Persie looks like he might need a bit of a rest though.

  18. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Interesting match in that didn’t follow either of United’s two usual match scenarios. I was particularly impressed with Evans. The wing play was awful: no end product from Nani, who now seems to have stopped defending as well, and not one useful cross from Valencia. I wonder if he is finding the no. 7 shirt a burden too heavy to bear. In the midfield, Carrick was okay, but Cleverley lived up to the poor assessment my non-United supporting friends have of him: “he only passes backward and sideways”. He did nothing for the attack today. Thank goodness for Rooney.

  19. Damian Garside says

    Just some permutations: if City win v Liverpool the gap is 7pts. They will feel it will be a stretch, but they did overtake the 8pt gap last season.

    If they draw, or lose (yes!!) the gap is more than 8pts, and psychologically this could be a killer: they may see it as a bridge (i.e. a point or two points to far): it’s one thing putting on a burst to narrow a gap, it’s another when your opponent is so far ahead you can barely see him.

    And! One of these games is away to us. So let’s scenario it:

    Best case: Liverpool win and we win. The lead is 13 points with just 12 games left. We would probably need to win just 7 of these to be sure of winning the league: short of the most ridiculous shooting ourselves in the foot team selection, it’s a cakewalk. If City draw v Pool and us, that’s 9 pts in 12 games. 8 wins from 12 should do it.

    Worst case scenario: even if City win both games, 9 wins from the other 12 games remaining for us could well do it. 

    If we keep performing at our current level and City at theirs we should end up on 95 pts and them on 83/84

    I know Fergie loves the adrenaline rush of a last-second final game triumph, but speaking for myself, this time round I would like a cakewalk.

  20. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Commenter said:
    If we keep performing at our current level and City at theirs we should end up on 95 pts and them on 83/84

    I believe that after each five-match segment of the season has finished, United had won four of the five matches. I know that after 20 matches (just over half a season), United had won 16 for a winning percentage of 80%, while City had won only 12 for a winning percentage of 60%, which meant that if United continued to win four of every five matches until the end of the season, City could only surpass them if they won all of their remaining matches. Five games later, United have added four more wins (plus a draw) to maintain their 80% winning percentage, and, if City drop points tomorrow, their winning percentage will remain at exactly 60%, which means that they would require a meltdown on the part of United to win the league. Unfortunately, United are capable of just such a meltdown, but I am beginning to believe that having RvP cover for Rooney’s quiet spells and vice versa means that United will win number 20 this season.

  21. AnantaxAnantax says

    Commenter said:
    Just some permutations: if City win v Liverpool the gap is 7pts. They will feel it will be a stretch, but they did overtake the 8pt gap last season.

    If they draw, or lose (yes!!) the gap is more than 8pts, and psychologically this could be a killer: they may see it as a bridge (i.e. a point or two points to far): it’s one thing putting on a burst to narrow a gap, it’s another when your opponent is so far ahead you can barely see him.

    And! One of these games is away to us. So let’s scenario it:

    Best case: Liverpool win and we win. The lead is 13 points with just 12 games left. We would probably need to win just 7 of these to be sure of winning the league: short of the most ridiculous shooting ourselves in the foot team selection, it’s a cakewalk. If City draw v Pool and us, that’s 9 pts in 12 games. 8 wins from 12 should do it.

    Worst case scenario: even if City win both games, 9 wins from the other 12 games remaining for us could well do it. 

    If we keep performing at our current level and City at theirs we should end up on 95 pts and them on 83/84

    I know Fergie loves the adrenaline rush of a last-second final game triumph, but speaking for myself, this time round I would like a cakewalk.

    Not sure I am that rosy. Didnt We had an 8 points gap last season with 6 to play. I thought then,” how can we possibly lose 50% of our remaining games?”
    Then we proceeded to lose vs Wigan, lost a multiple goal load vs Everton then lost vs City.

    Lets win vs Everton first..then I will breathe a bit better…

  22. Damian Garside says

    The bottom line for City is that they have to beat Liverpool AND beat us to win the league, otherwise they will have to win all their other games and hope for a horrible meltdown from us. Lose to us at OT and it’s a bit mission impossible for them.

  23. Damian Garside says

    If we win the league by 10pts or so, playing the kind of football we have, the way is clear for AF to write a book  “Winning by Default” 

    Just a bit worried that by pointing out how difficult it could be for City to catch us this time round I might lose my status as “worst United pessimist”. So let me try to sour the happy prospects a little. Just think ” team selection”: imagine there are 8 games to go and we are 15pts ahead: CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT THE ARCH-TINKERER WILL GET UP TO? What’s the bet we shall see teams composed of ball boys and veterans of the 68 European Cup win lining up, with… of course.. members of the Glazer family in central midfield.

  24. marlon says

    Everton match will be a big one, psychologically, for both Manchester sides. 4-4 last season and 1-0 first game of this season, city will look at this (especially with Madrid 3 days later) as one of the games where we could drop points and winning it would be a big confidence boost for us.
    Can’t see Liverpool giving City any problems today

  25. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    han said:
    great double act
    wonder which one of you is the mouth and which the arsehole

    One thing’s for certain – you’re the cock and not the bollocks

  26. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    han said:
    i thought the gang of 4 had been outlawed
    still, if that’s how many it takes to hound me out…

    Why do you keep taking the bait?

    This whole “let’s chase Han out”, has grown well old… if it’s supposed to be a joke, it’s not very funny… and if it’s not a joke, then it’s just fuckin shite!

  27. han says

    Pikey McScum said:
    One thing’s for certain – you’re the cock and not the bollocks

    fucking muppet
    take ur pick
    fozzy, miss piggy or kermit

    safety in numbers twat features
    grow a pair of your own scumsack instead of jumping on fuckheads and fatfucks

  28. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    han said:
    fucking muppet
    take ur pick
    fozzy, miss piggy or kermit

    safety in numbers twat features
    grow a pair of your own scumsack instead of jumping on fuckheads and fatfucks

    lol, you’re not serious are you?

    Fuck sake mate, you must be fairly new to the Rant business model if you don’t know when you’re having the piss ripped out of you.

    But if you want to take personal offense then be my guest.

    Just don’t forget your coat when you leave – either “fuckheads” or “fatfucks” will order a taxi…

  29. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Pikey McScum said:
    lol, you’re not serious are you?

    Fuck sake mate, you must be fairly new to the Rant business model if you don’t know when you’re having the piss ripped out of you.

    But if you want to take personal offense then be my guest.

    Just don’t forget your coat when you leave – either “fuckheads” or “fatfucks” will order a taxi…

    He’s right though… your last 3 posts were pissy, cheap shots… and you’ve got nothing to do with it… as stupid and pointless as it is, it’s Hormone and Knobheads thing… wtf… you got nothing else to say?

  30. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    He’s right though… your last 3 posts were pissy, cheap shots… and you’ve got nothing to do with it… as stupid and pointless as it is, it’s Hormone and Knobheads thing… wtf… you got nothing else to say?

    Well fuck me, when did you become the Moral Police? You’ve spouted ad nauseum about the openness of these forums, that people are entitled to state their views and those who come here should generally expect to be the subject of a bit of verbal abuse (all of these points seem to come to the fore when someone disagrees/takes issue with you I should add). I should know, I’ve been the subject of a fair bit of ribbing over the last few years. But I didn’t piss and moan about it, or take the moral high ground, or cry bully when I got a bit of stick – I fucking got on with it, accepted the Rant forums for what they were and have enjoyed it enough to stick with it thus far, depite its various permutations and the majority of the old crew jumping ship because of the stagnation/lack of banter etc.

    If you have an issue with something I post, if it bores/upsets/irks you then simply do what I do for the majority of yours and several others here – ignore it.

  31. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Pikey McScum said:
    Well fuck me, when did you become the Moral Police? You’ve spouted ad nauseum about the openness of these forums, that people are entitled to state their views and those who come here should generally expect to be the subject of a bit of verbal abuse (all of these points seem to come to the fore when someone disagrees/takes issue with you I should add). I should know, I’ve been the subject of a fair bit of ribbing over the last few years. But I didn’t piss and moan about it, or take the moral high ground, or cry bully when I got a bit of stick – I fucking got on with it, accepted the Rant forums for what they were and have enjoyed it enough to stick with it thus far, depite its various permutations and the majority of the old crew jumping ship because of the stagnation/lack of banter etc.

    If you have an issue with something I post, if it bores/upsets/irks you then simply do what I do for the majority of yours and several others here – ignore it.

    Stick???

    You call the shit Han is getting “stick”, or “banter”???… sorry, I must have missed the funny bit… you want to explain it to me?

    And you’re right… it’s got nothing to do with me… but I least I’ve not got my nose stuck up Knobby/Caps arse crack, hoping they’ll notice me, and invite me to play.

  32. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Stick???
    You call the shit Han is getting “stick”, or “banter”???… sorry, I must have missed the funny bit… you want to explain it to me?
    And you’re right… it’s got nothing to do with me… but I least I’ve not got my nose stuck up Knobby/Caps arse crack, hoping they’ll notice me, and invite me to play.

    Alf, seriously, jump off your high horse for a bit and ask the doctor if your funny bone was removed without your will. If you don’t find any of this funny, don’t get involved – simple.
    Or else fuck off, mind your own business and stick to your own path of self-righteousness on which you somehow have the right to insult people on this forum with even more bile and nasty comments than Han has ever gotten should they be foolish enough to disagre or upset you.
    Again, it’s not my problem if he can’t handle it – he can fuck right off along with you for all I care.
    I happen to quite like the craic with Cap and Knobby (sadly, they seem to be the only remaining few capable of this sadly) so I’ll carry on if you don’t mind.
    Thanks for your input, now run along

    “Fuck that… there’s something about him, gets on my wick… weasly little cunt, needs a good slap”

  33. Pikey McScumPikey McScum says

    Your old man humour is lost on me…
    Tell me this, does Han let you tickle his balls when you’re sucking him off?

    “Fuck that… there’s something about him, gets on my wick… weasly little cunt, needs a good slap”

  34. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Alf, do you think hans is being bullied..if you do, you are a massive yank shitcunt

    If Han is so bollockless and can’t take it he should shut his cunt and not mess with the big boys.

    Disparaging as that sounds I’ve never bleated about abuse and neither has Bri, red, fatty et al..ffs, the old rant was built on it.. If he can’t take it he should, and to paraphrase you, stop being such a “pissy little bitch” and keep his cunt shut and post elsewhere..ffs, what a victim if that’s what he feels is happening.

    And no ones has cunted anyone on here more than you. It’s part of the rant dna…well..was it seems.

    Seriously..ffs.

  35. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Don’t talk shit… there’s banter, there’s stick and there’s piss taking… all of it meant to be about havin a laugh… the thread about “should Han leave Rant”, was funny for about 5 minutes… this is a flame war between Han and Knobby… they’ve been bitching about Berbatov for months… none of my business, and I don’t give a fuck… but you go on Mate, and you tell me what the fuck is so funny about keeping it up… “Han out, Han out”… unless I’m mistaken, he doesn’t see the funny side either… and if he doesn’t think it’s funny, then why the fuck do you even want to ride him??? unless you’re just being a cunt for the sake of it.
    And “mess with the big boys”??? Are you serious???
    FFS is right!

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  36. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Don’t talk shit… there’s banter, there’s stick and there’s piss taking… all of it meant to be about havin a laugh… the thread about “should Han leave Rant”, was funny for about 5 minutes… this is a flame war between Han and Knobby… they’ve been bitching about Berbatov for months… none of my business, and I don’t give a fuck… but you go on Mate, and you tell me what the fuck is so funny about keeping it up… “Han out, Han out”… unless I’m mistaken, he doesn’t see the funny side either… and if he doesn’t think it’s funny, then why the fuck do you even want to ride him??? unless you’re just being a cunt for the sake of it.

    And “mess with the big boys”??? Are you serious???

    FFS is right!

    Lol..big boys..you’ve certainly lost your sense of humour if you’ve not picked up on the irony of that one too..

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