Preview: United v Fulham

August 24, 2012 Tags: , Matches 73 comments

Less than a week into the season and already there’s pressure on United to win at Old Trafford this Saturday. With Fulham in town Sir Alex Ferguson’s men will smell the scent of victory, but after defeat to Everton on Monday few points will be counted until just after five this Saturday. There’s no doubt Ferguson’s team will be hurting from the loss at Goodison Park; the question now is whether United can get the balance right to beat an in-form Fulham at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

Surely it’ll be different during the opening home match of the season supporters will contend – no matter how well Martin Jol’s side played in hammering Norwich City last weekend. It has to be. After all, there are fine margins between winning and losing a Premier League title, as Ferguson and his players know to their grave cost. Three points behind after the opening game of the season, the emphasis is not only on a United victory this weekend, but a comfortable one at that.

Yet, Monday’s loss to Everton has posed plenty of questions, with a redistribution of some personnel likely in Ferguson’s team. Indeed, new signing Robin van Persie should make his full debut for the club after coming on as a late substitute at Goodison, while Ferguson has some tricky decisions to make in both midfield and defence.

The question of balance is a delicate one. Last Monday United struggled at the back – with two midfielders joining Nemanja Vidić and Patrice Evra in the back-four. The Reds also failed to turn possession into chances and opportunities into goals at the other end. For all United’s attacking resources, woeful performances by Wayne Rooney and Nani, in particular, did not help the cause in just the third defeat at Goodison Park in the past decade.

Despite this, few will expect anything other than a United victory during the opening home match of the season, no matter how well Martin Jol’s side played in hammering Norwich City last weekend.

This is an assertion that will be tested by United’s continuing problems in the back four, with Ferguson set to call on Michael Carrick in the heart of defence once again in the heart of defence, although the 70-year-old manager has suggested that left-back Patrice Evra is in the mix for the role. Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are all out, while Jonny Evans should make the bench.

Central defender Evans joins the match-day party after overcoming an ankle injury aggrevated during United’s 4-4 draw with Everton last season. Yet, with no pre-season behind the 24-year-old defender Ferguson will be taking a large gamble if he selects the Northern Irishman.

“I need to call Bruce and Pallister!” joked Ferguson at his regular Friday press conference.

“Phil Jones started training yesterday but tomorrow is too soon for him. It’s pretty much the same as Monday night injury-wise. Alex [Büttner] will be involved tomorrow because he gives that back-up. Evra could actually play centre-back. He has done in the past. But I don’t think Alex will start tomorrow, I think he’ll be on the bench.”

Manchester United v Fulham, Old Trafford, Premier League, 25 August 2012Meanwhile, in attack Ferguson has a plethora of resources, with van Persie an option after the Reds failed to score on Monday despite dominating possession. On the night Rooney and Nani struggled to make any mark, although only the latter is likely to lose his place, with Ashley Young standing by to come into Ferguson’s side. Danny Welbeck may also be relegated to the bench after starting against Everton, although summer acqusition Shinji Kagawa should retain his place after impressing on his full debut for the club.

Indeed, midfielder-turned-defender Carrick says that a quartet of new signings this summer – van Persie, Kagawa, Nick Powell and Alexander Büttner – has boosted morale at Old Trafford despite the loss to Everton last week.

“When you see top players come through the door it gives everyone a big lift,” Carrick told United’s official website.

“It puts everyone in a positive mood because it means the team is moving forward, but you also know you’ve got to play well to stay in the team and that helps keep the standards high. It’s up to us to learn the strengths of the new players and for them to fit in to our system and I’m sure we’ll get better as the season goes on.

“At this stage though it’s about picking up points and we need to start doing that. Monday night was a bit of a setback, but since then we’ve just tried to stay focused and concentrate on the next game. We knew it was going to be a hard match, that wasn’t something that surprised us. It’s [defeat] happened early on in the season, a lot earlier than we hoped for and expected, so it’s important we now get a run of wins together and build up some momentum.”

Building that momentum will be no easy task against Martin Jol’s Fulham, with the Cottagers beating Norwich City 5-0 on the opening day of the season. Confidence is high in the camp despite star forward Clint Dempsey being excluded from the match-day party.

Fulham has made an official complaint to the FA about Liverpool’s intervention in Dempsey’s future, with the American believed to have asked for a move north despite no official bid having been made by the Merseysiders. It is a saga that has disrupted Fulham’s preparations for the new campaign, with Dempsey a key part of a side that finished ninth in the Premier League last season.

Jol will also be without injured trio Kerim Frei, Phillipe Senderos, and Simon Davies for the trip north. Zdenek Grygera returns to the west Londoners’ squad.

“It is not only about the Norwich’s of this world, it is also about Chelsea and Manchester United” insists Jol.

“Clint always played a good part in those games. He was always on the end of things. There are always players in football who want to move. But they keep quiet. I always hope for players to keep a low profile and wait for what will happen. This was different.

“For us it would have been better if Liverpool had followed up with a formal bid. But they didn’t, and as of now there is no formal bid on the table. It has made the situation very difficult for us. Clint’s head was turned, that is the problem. In the next couple of weeks, if it stays like now, the status quo, hopefully he will change his thoughts about us.”

Ferguson, though, will be wary of Fulham’s firepower despite Dempsey’s absence this weekend. After all, new Croatian signing Mladen Petrić scored twice against Norwich, while Damien Duff, Bryan Ruiz and Moussa Dembélé could provide goals from midfield.

“I went to see Fulham on Saturday, they played very well,” adds Ferguson

“The club has grown tremendously since Roy [Hodgson] got them to the Europa League final. The place is buzzing, full house every week, good atmosphere, their home record is terrific and they’ve got a lot of experienced players – six players over 30. It won’t be an easy game, we’re at home, we have to make an impact quickly after losing Monday night and we expect that.”

Yet, few expect anything other than a United victory, especially at Old Trafford. Ferguson’s side hasn’t lost an opening home game since Everton score three in 1992, while United has won the last nine league and cup games against Fulham at Old Trafford, scoring 23 goals in the process. The Cottagers, meanwhile, have taken the points just once in 50 years – a 3-1 victory in 2003.

Despite Fulham’s comfortable win over the Canaries, and the Reds’ loss to Everton on match-day one, Old Trafford’s faithful demand nothing less than the full three points. As it always is with the Reds.

Match Details
Manchester United v Fulham – Premier League, Old Trafford – Saturday 25 August 2012, 3pm

Possible Teams
United (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Rafael, Carrick, Vidic, Evra; Cleverley, Scholes; Young, Rooney, Kagawa; Van Persie. Subs from: Lindegaard, Wooton, Büttner, Powell, Nani, Giggs, Anderson, Valencia, Welbeck, Berbatov, Macheda, Hernández

Fulham: (4-5-1): Schwartzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Duff, Dembele, Sidwell, Diarra, Ruiz; Petrić. Subs from: Etheridge, Somogyi, Stockdale, Baird, Kelly, Briggs, Grygera, Kacaniklic, Halliche, Kasami, Bangna, Rodallega, Trotta

Referee: K Friend
Assistants: M Mullarkey, J Flynn
Fourth Official: P Gibbs

United: L
Fulham: W

Last 10: United – 7 | Fulham – 2 | Draw – 1
Overall: United – 45 | Fulham – 13 | Draw – 16


  • Despite United’s loss to Everton on Monday there were some bright points from the game, with David de Gea putting in a great performance with seven saves in total;
  • Paul Scholes and new signing Shiji Kagawa also shone in midfield – each appears in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index’s top five for passes completed in the opponent’s half from the first round of games with 56 and 50 passes respectively;
  • Kagawa also covered more ground than any other player for United with 6.11 miles, ahead of the evergreen Paul Scholes with 5.68 miles;
  • Overall United completed 324 passes in Everton’s half during the game, a number bettered only by neighbours Manchester City in the opening fixtures;
  • Passing didn’t translate into goals though, with the Reds making ha 18 shots at goal – the second highest of any team in the opening weekend;
  • Fulham fans will be delighted with a 5-0 win against Norwich in the first match of the season, with new signing Petrić contributing a brace and Alex Kacaniklic also getting on the scoresheet;
  • Fulham boss Jol has completed some inspired business in the transfer market – Kacaniklic covered the most ground for the Cottagers with 6.2 miles and put in the third highest registered top speed in the Premier League with 23.05 miles per hour;
  • Fulham also covered the fourth highest amount of ground in the EA Index as team en route to 61.73 miles in total.



Sam - August 24, 2012 Reply

Would put Carrick in midfield for Scholes, don’t think Scholes is up for playing two games within a week and Carrick would at least sure-up the midfield a little bit. Would play Scott Wooton at centre-back, yes he lacks experience and is young, however with him, Vidic and Carrick at least there’s some solid platform to work on for United. Rafael returning at right back would be good, as then there would be a back four consisting of players who are actually meant to be defenders.

Ben Hulston - August 25, 2012 Reply

Valencia for Young, Carrick in for Scholes, Wooton for Carrick at CB.

Got to deep end Wooton IMO.

Chongo - August 25, 2012 Reply

Carrick of course will be playing. Jonny Boy might be in as well. Life sucks. SAF have you ever thought of signing Serena Williams to take the place of these two.

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

Teams will go at us because we have no defence, but if the forwards turn up and we score early then we’ll piss it no worries

joshua - August 25, 2012 Reply

SAF consider Refeal at right back plz

Stevie D - August 25, 2012 Reply

Would like to see Carrick in midfield this week, give young Wooton a chance.
Personally, I would like to see Rooney dropped after last week’s performance. We won’t rely on him as much this season as much as last year, so this is the perfect opportunity for Fergie to give him a kick up the backside and let him know what he needs to get his act together.

Rafa, Wooton, Vidic, Evra,
Tony V, Carrick, Clevs, Young,
Kagawa, RVP.

Prediction: 3-1

Stevie D - August 25, 2012 Reply

Ah…..3-1 at half time that is…..

baloo - August 25, 2012 Reply

Ben Hulston said:

Got to deep end Wooton IMO.

I’m sorry, but I’m snickering at that comment

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

Rooney dropped, Van Persie starts


sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

XI: De Gea; Rafael, Carrick, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Cleverley, Anderson, Kagawa, Young; van Persie
Subs: Lindegaard, Evans, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Welbeck, Hernandez.
442 then, no Nani at all. Good.

Pikey McScum - August 25, 2012 Reply

Any good streaming links?

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

Anderson in for Scholes, interesting.

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

madredmonkey said:
Anderson in for Scholes, interesting.

He played 90 minutes against Everton

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

sidney said:
He played 90 minutes against Everton

A tired Scholes is still better.

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

No Nani, after his performance at Everton, got to be happy with that.

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

Fuck off, shit defending, they were asleep… soft as fuck that

madmax - August 25, 2012 Reply

Great start

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

Duff wriggles free from Young

Jesus christ

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply


Robbo - August 25, 2012 Reply

now thats hilarious 1-0 down already

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

Valencia put a ball in with his left

Don’t think I’ve ever seen that

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

RVP 1-1 yes

madmax - August 25, 2012 Reply

Brilliant way to start his count

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

Class finish

Are you watching Rooney you fat useless cunt

Ben Hulston - August 25, 2012 Reply

Got to be clear to Rooney – he’s playing for his place now, no fucking half hearted bollocks

Go all big bollocks, I want the best players here – Ok, best player in the hole in Bundesliga, and the best striker in England now play for United. NOW show your class.

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

Ben Hulston said:
Got to be clear to Rooney – he’s playing for his place now, no fucking half hearted bollocks

Go all big bollocks, I want the best players here – Ok, best player in the hole in Bundesliga, and the best striker in England now play for United. NOW show your class.

Very true, will do him good.

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

Scholes like hit from Clev

madmax - August 25, 2012 Reply

If only Young had passed to Persie

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

kagawa 2-1

madmax - August 25, 2012 Reply

Rafael 3-1. This is great to watch

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

Rafael 3-1

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

The forwards have got their shit together

Kagawa is class

Ben Hulston - August 25, 2012 Reply

Rooney and Nani have a hell of a lot to think about, that’s for sure. They did fuck all on Monday. Today, the team has turned it on.

Interesting to see if / when they get a chance to respond

Bill - August 25, 2012 Reply

I agree, you wanted players – you get em – in your position!!!! Rooney’s best when he something to prove.

marlon - August 25, 2012 Reply

Good response. Midfield still missing Carrick though.
Cool stat – last time we were 3-1 up at HT we won 8-2…

madmax - August 25, 2012 Reply

Rafael is getting skinned too easily

Damian Garside - August 25, 2012 Reply

Fergie showed real guts dropping Rooney and Nani and suddenly there is chemistry working!

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

vidic og ffs.

DamnedUnited - August 25, 2012 Reply

Nice to see everything is normal in Fergie and Phelan-land. Cross, cross, cross like headless chickens and bypass Kagawa.

And someone tell Cleverley that there are two players in front of him. All see sees is the wingers and Evra.

bman - August 25, 2012 Reply

We could do a lot worse than signing Dembele.

Dean - August 25, 2012 Reply

Too true… fantastic player at a good price.

bman - August 25, 2012 Reply

Anderson looks a lot leaner these days.

madredmonkey - August 25, 2012 Reply

Rooney with a bad injury.ffs.

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

The game really went to shit when Rooney and Welbeck came on, and Kagawa went off

Awful injury for Rooney but it’s probably a good thing that he’s out for a bit

sidney - August 25, 2012 Reply

The atmosphere was fucking dire n all

Minilev - August 25, 2012 Reply

RELIEF! My heart was in my mouth for De Gea’s last save before the whistle. United continue to fail to see out games easily. On a positive note, a much improved performance today. Good incisive passing and movement (especially in the first half). Shinji looked class again and what a goal from RVP – yeah his best days are behind him :). At least we can all look forward to the next game now and enjoy the rest of the bank holiday weekend with a massive smile on our faces!

Fred - August 25, 2012 Reply

Good attacking performance on the whole..btw anyone know when fletch is back?

DamnedUnited - August 25, 2012 Reply

3 penalties in 3 games for Chelsea? TROLOLOLOL

marlon - August 25, 2012 Reply

Commenter said:
Nice to see everything is normal in Fergie and Phelan-land. Cross, cross, cross like headless chickens and bypass Kagawa.

And someone tell Cleverley that there are two players in front of him. All see sees is the wingers and Evra.

Only 5 of 37 crosses completed – two were assists though. Cleverley and Anderson combined passed the ball to Kagawa 10 times in the match. We completed 556 passes total.

Mop Head - August 25, 2012 Reply

we finally get the type of player we’ve been crying out for, than more or less bypass him during the 1st 2 matches, still plenty of time to sort it out though, but rather sooner than later

Denton Davey - August 25, 2012 Reply

Sidney @ 3:10: “Valencia put a ball in with his left….Don’t think I’ve ever seen that”

He did it twice today. TWICE ! Now SAF can play AV7 on the left and Nani on the right.

Calvino - August 25, 2012 Reply

I have come to a few conclusions: 1. Unless somebody tells that Rafael lad that he is in the team FIRST to defend then we will forever remain vulnerable every time he is in the starting eleven. This afternoon he showed exactly how NOT to play right back in a team that has no holding midfielder.

2. Anderson’s brain is shot to pieces now. Dannii used to give him so much grief about his lack of positional sense; today he gave the biggest exhibition of it all. When we were defending he rarely ever knew what positions to take up and the ball fizzed past and round him time and again. He did not understand if he should stay or he should go forward between him and Cleverly. It was pathetic. I was watching this match AFTER the Swansea game and once more it is so clear how totally un-coached we are as a football team.

3. For spending money on Ashley Young sir Alex should just retire gracefully. At a period when we were crying out for defensive minded midfielders or another proper left-footer he spent money on this lad is mind boggling to be honest with you.

4. Plus side is that when we have the defenders back fit we will play better as Carrick is moved into midfield. Rooney’s injury is a blessing as van Persie will play more matches and so will Kagawa – our scouser is fat and overweight and has been frankly rubbish when he was on the field. Not sure we will miss him. There is no fire in his belly any more.

5. Why is Welbeck pushed to the flanks when he is on the pitch? What on earth possesses Mike Phelan and all those beside Sir Alex? I do not understand it at all. Finally, why was Nani not given a place on the bench when Scholes was there? That is outrageous!

Joey Deacon - August 26, 2012 Reply


Anantax - August 26, 2012 Reply

Thought we were great moving forward. We do favor spreading it wide, but there were a few really good passes down the middle which just didnt work.

Defense was worrisome, but hopefully with Evans and Jones back we’ll just improve from there.

I personally dont quite understand the substitutions. Young, whose main contribution was putting in 1 good cross for the day, I can understand. Anderson, sure. Why sub Kagawa?

Anyways, good, if nervy win. We needed that.

Anantax - August 26, 2012 Reply

Btw I thought Dembele was very impressive last night. We should buy!

RobDiablo - August 26, 2012 Reply

Offensively, United had a very good first half, and they started brightly in the second, but that only lasted about five minutes and got even worse with the departure of Kagawa. United need to figure out that possession – pace = faffing.

Gabagool - August 26, 2012 Reply

Couple of things out of this game for me…
RVP and Kagawa must be in our starting lineup.
Rooney is unfit/uninterested, shame about the injury though.
Our defence is fragile as feck.
We need to sign Dembele, he is class.

Herbie Simms - August 26, 2012 Reply

I agree with Calvino. We need a right fullback, I’ve said that long before the season started. And yes, Young was a waste of money. We need quality in the midfield, thats why Berbatov and now Van Persie does not get the service up front. No quality in midfield has made Berbatov look bad! Selling Berbatov is not the problem. I read again today thet Kaka has been offered to United and Chelsea.
Chelsea don’t need Kaka, look at the great job that Hazard is doing and than they have Oscar for backup. We need these kind of quality players in our midfield. We’ve got seven days to find this player, SAF needs to step up to the plate and do the right thing. There are rumours that Nani and Anderson maybe sold and the money used to buy a midfielder. Something is going on but its all hush hush at the moment.

squigs - August 26, 2012 Reply

I actually thought overall Rafael was not that bad, not always 100% defensively but neither were any of the back 4 and he was excellent going forward. Seems a case of people criticising him more for the sake of criticising him

Pikey McScum - August 26, 2012 Reply

^^^ Agreed; on the other side Evra is applauded for his attacking instincts

Rafael is a cracking player and our RB for the long term so cut the lad some slack

19 and Counting - August 26, 2012 Reply

Rafael is good going forward but comical when trying to defend, kind of an important part of his job.

I agree we need RVP and Kagawa and AV in our starting 11 but I think SAF will tinker every week. Too many attackers and a definite imbalance in the team – its so obvious. I hope he will still move a few players on before the window closes.

Damian Garside - August 26, 2012 Reply

Just perversely wondering, after reading your astute post, whether the team/squad aren’t unbalanced precisely because of AF’s overriding need to tinker? The current imbalance makes no rational sense.

Ben Hulston - August 26, 2012 Reply

United have always used their fullbacks to provide an overlap and width.

Why you are all going bonkers about Raphael is beyond me – give the lad 2 more years and he will be total quality. Positional sense takes time to develop, and fullback is such a complex role now that you simply need experience.

Kagawa will settle in and will start getting involved more and more. I think once we clock onto the fact we don’t always need to spread it wide to create chances, we’ll see him being used more, and crucially Kagawa making the decisions about when to play it wide, and when to play through the middle.

Finally – Cal, Nani didn’t get a spot on the bench because he didn’t deserve one. His performance against Everton wasn’t just bad, or very bad, or diabolical – it was an insult to the fans, to Fergie and his team mates. Everything he touched turned to shit.

Alfonso Bedoya - August 26, 2012 Reply

To be fair, Cal has a point… until we’ve got a proper centre back pairing, and not this makeshift emergency pair, our fullbacks need to show a bit more discipline… they could afford to be more adventurous if we had 2 of Viidic/Rio/Smalling/Evans in place and fighting fit… but right now, our defence needs a bit more protection, especially from crosses.

“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.”

marlon - August 26, 2012 Reply

Problems with balance all over the pitch because Carrick’s not in midfield. Evans on the bench yesterday so hopefully back for the next game though. Cleverley has done an impressive job in CM but he is always looking to go forward as were Anderson and Scholes. Need one player who can sit. I like the ‘double pivot’ idea Germany used in the Euros, but requires both CMs to be able to defend competently. We only have one who can defend.

Rafael will be better with a proper CB next to him. We will break up play with Carrick in CM – we have averaged the fewest interceptions in the league so far – less than half the numbers our closest rivals have.

Twisted Blood - August 26, 2012 Reply

Man, Iknow there are some kinks to work out but I love the formation: 4-2-1-3 a forward diamond with Kagawa at the base and one of Rooney or RVP at the tip. Tony V and one of Nani or Young on the left and watch the goals come.

It woud be nice to see how this would work with a real central defense and a settle CM of Carrick and TC23.

Denton Davey - August 26, 2012 Reply

Overall, the first two results weren’t all-that-bad – one loss and one win. Three points – one less than the awesome defending champions.

Six points less than CSKALondon who have been dodgy – but lucky, so far.

I reckon that it’s a long season – “more of a marathon than a sprint” – and that to win it TheLads will need 90/114 points.

It could be worse – ALL the central defenders could be injured !

On the bright side, SAF has gone back to the future with the Cleverley/Anderson combination in the middle – which one will make way for the return of Michael Carrick ?

For a glass-half-full-kinda-guy like me, it’s not been doom or gloom. Of course, it’s not been a bunch of roses but it’s a long, long season which isn’t won in August.

Anantax - August 26, 2012 Reply

Rafael might very well turn out to be quality in 2 years time..but in the Fulham game his defending was quite poor (although going forward is good)

United can wait for players to develop ONLY if you’re decent already in your job. If you’re still poor you should be loaned out.

Calvino - August 27, 2012 Reply

People have gotten stuff twisted here cos of my point on Rafael. I have written it many times that I like the Brazilian a lot. I love his aggression when defending and his desire to tackle and hard – a bit like Wes Brown in his pomp. What I was annoyed with on saturday was that he was so pumped up to go and attack and forgot to mind the shop. And each time he was isolated by the Fulham winger he lost his footing and was beaten too easily.

Like Alf pointed out our back line is not settled cos of the injuries so after we took a 3-1 lead he needed to stop those runs upfield really. Where was he when the cross came in for that comical own goal? Also, we have no sitting midfielder so full backs really need to be canny or have proper engines to recover their positions when they go forward or else we will be punished. These were the things that cost us valuable points against Everton and then the league last year. Not a pop at the kid.

BiscuitBarrell - August 27, 2012 Reply

Anantax said:
Rafael might very well turn out to be quality in 2 years time..but in the Fulham game his defending was quite poor (although going forward is good)
United can wait for players to develop ONLY if you’re decent already in your job. If you’re still poor you should be loaned out.

Just visualise an image of us in the CL, with him lined up against Ronaldo/Alba/Hazard/Mata/Silva/Anyone else. It doesn’t bear thinking about. In fact there are a bunch in the Prem that will tear him a new one – Bale being one. He spent more time on his arse on Saturday than he did on his feet. Going forward he looks good – but it’s not enough.

Ben Hulston - August 27, 2012 Reply

Once we have a proper partnership of centre backs and the positional genius of Carrick back in the centre of the park, we will be fine. I am utterly convinced we will be fine, and especially Raphael. As I’ve harped on for what feels like years on here, Carrick drops into the space left behind by fullbacks when they go so we don’t get countered down that wing. Tom Cleverley / Anderson don’t have that about their game just yet (if they’ll get it at all), Scholes never really did that and doesn’t have the legs any more.

Once Carrick is back in midfield, all will settle down again.

sidney - August 27, 2012 Reply

Yeah, back to being just alright in midfield

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