Reds face tricky Fulham tie

Manchester United faces a stern test at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night, but this time it is a midfielder that Sir Alex Ferguson is lacking. Two seasons ago United’s December fixture at Fulham ended in a disastrous 3-0 defeat after Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher were forced into emergency roles in United’s back four. There is no such task facing Carrick and co. on Wednesday, but Ferguson is instead without a plethora of key central midfield players for the trip south.

In the second of a London double-header this week, United aims to keep pace with rivals Manchester City at the head of the Premier League. Ferguson’s side briefly led the title race on Sunday and will return to first place in the unlikely event that the Blues slip to defeat against Stoke City, and United win at Craven Cottage. And while Ferguson will include fit-again Javier Hernández and Dimitar Berbatov in his squad, key players Anderson, Fletcher, Tom Cleverley and Nemanja Vidić miss the trip.

United won comfortably at Loftus Road on Saturday, and with Fulham’s form mixed in recent week’s Ferguson’s men will be confident of securing a first Premier League victory at the Cottage since March 2008. Indeed, Ferguson may well select an unchanged side for the fixture. But it is the heavy defeat two years ago, in which Wayne Rooney saw red and United shipped three, that Carrick remembers vividly.

“I remember the game two years ago, though not that well!” says the Geordie midfielder, who has returned to form in recent weeks.

“It was just one of those situations: we had no defenders left so me and Fletch played at centre-half. “I’d played there for two or three matches before that and we’d won, but that was probably one game too many. It wasn’t a great day for us.

“Fulham have had an up-and-down time this season, but they beat QPR 6-0 at their place and have had some other good results. We know they’re a strong team: they’re well organised and Craven Cottage is a tough place to visit, but it’s a good, old-fashioned football ground and we look forward to going there.”

Fulham versus Manchester United, Premier League, Craven Cottage, Wednesday 21 December 2011, 8pm.Carrick will again provide the fulcrum around which Ferguson will build his central midfield. The Geordie has suffered intermittent form over the past two years, including two traumatising losses to Barcelona in the Champions League. But the 30-year-old’s revival in recent weeks has provided some confidence at a time of severely depleted midfield resources.

While United is slowly coming through the rash of injuries in recent weeks, Ferguson has once again included youngsters Larnell Cole, Ezikiel Fryers and Ben Amos in the party. Federico Macheda also traveled south with the squad, although is still likely to leave on loan after the Christmas programme. Paul Pogba was seemingly left in Manchester despite encouraging words this week about the Frenchman’s future at Old Trafford.

Patrice Evra will again captain United, having been vindicated late Tuesday night, when the Football Association handed down at eight-match ban to Luis Suarez for using abusive and racist language in United’s fixture with Liverpool in September. With the weight now off his shoulders United fans will hope for better performances from the 30-year-old, whose form has dipped in recent months.

Meanwhile, former Fulham player Chris Smalling, who has impressed since a £12 million transfer to Old Trafford in 2010, returns to his old stomping ground, grateful for the break received in professional football. Four years ago Smalling was with semi-pro Mainstone United in the Isthmian League, before transferring to Fulham.

“I see my time there as a big two years,” Smalling told ManUtd.com.

“My first year was about finding my feet and the second was about showcasing what I can do. Without Roy Hodgson giving me my chance there I wouldn’t be here so it’s a time I look upon fondly. It’ll be nice to go back and see a few of the players and play back at the Cottage.

“The players always look forward to this time of year with plenty of games. We’re used to the demands and it’s a big opportunity to pick up a lot of points – we want to get maximum points. Christmas can be a hindrance on some and can sometimes make or break you in terms of kicking on, but this is a period where we really need to kick on and show everybody we mean business.”

Meanwhile, Fulham manager Martin Jol welcomes back Bobby Zamora after the striker missed the win over Bolton Wanderers last weekend with injury. However, former Red Simon Davies will miss the game, as will Steve Sidwell, Zdenek Grygera and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Jol’s side has scored just 18 goals in 16 league matches this season – six in one match – highlighting the Zamora’s importance.

Despite dropping out of the Champions League, and the Reds intermittent form since defeat to City in September, United’s 39 points from 16 matches is five better that at the same point last season. Ferguson’s side has won three additional games and scored more goals to boot. Few will bet against United adding to the tally on Wednesday.

Match Facts
Fulham versus Manchester United, Premier League, Craven Cottage, Wednesday 21 December 2011, 8pm.

Likely Line-ups
Fulham (4-4-2): Stockdale; Baird, Hangeland, Senderos, JA Riise; Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Dembele; Zamora, Ruiz. Subs from: Etheridge, Kelly, Hughes, Gecov, Duff, Frei, Sa, Johnson, Briggs, Somogyi, Kasami.

United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra; Nani, Jones, Carrick, Young; Rooney; Welbeck. Subs from: Lindegaard, Fryers, Park, Pogba, Valencia, Cole, Diouf, Giggs, Macheda, Berbatov.

Form
Fulham: DLWLDW
United: DLWLWW

Performance stats

  • Rooney and Carrick were on target as United beat QPR 2-0 on Sunday at Loftus Road. Rooney’s strike was his 12th goal of the season, a return from 66 efforts at goal;
  • Meanwhile, Carrick’s goal was his first of the Premier League season, and came from an all-action performance in which the midfielder covered more ground than any other United player with 5.78 miles;
  • Despite United’s upturn in results, Ferguson’s side now has only two two players in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index‘ top twenty – Rooney and Nani;
  • Despite criticisms that he is no longer the player he once was, Rio Ferdinand has done more than any other United player defensively with 57 across tackles, blocks, interceptions and clearances. That’s one every 17 minutes 59 seconds;
  • Carrick is the next United player in the ranks for most frequent defensive contributions with one every 18 minutes 38 seconds;
  • Clint Dempsey and Bryan Ruiz scored within two minutes of each other to seal a 2-0 win over Bolton in Fulham’s last Premier League outing;
  • Fulham out-ran Bolton with 62.18 miles to 61.48 in the game, with striker Bryain Ruiz covering the most ground with 6.4 miles followed by fellow scorer Demsey with 6.24 miles;
  • The pair were rewarded for a goal and an assist each in that game by moving up in the Index. Ruiz climbed 47 places and Dempsey 30;
  • Dempsey’s goal was his fifth in the Premier League from 59 shots at goal, the fourth highest shots total of any player at one every 29 minutes 12 seconds.

Officials
Referee: Mark Halsey (Welwyn Garden City)
Assistants: R Ganfield, D C Richards
Fourth Official: P Walton

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Comments

  1. Nsc says

    Looking forward to a intense, electrifying encounter where we know attacking threats are prodigious at the cottage…. Hopefully can improve on last years draw and perform like champions.

  2. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    sidney said:
    He might rest Carrick and/or Jones
    I’d go with the same team, and rest players against Wigan,
    Agree.

    MANCHESTER IS MY HEAVEN- SIR MATT BUSBY

  3. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    Ryan Giggs returns for Manchester United, with Rio Ferdinand ruled out with a knock, so Phil Jones reverts to a defensive role. Anders Lindegaard starts in goal with David de Gea on the bench.

  4. han says

    not that it matters, but it would be nice to get the 20,000th premier league goal
    especially since the 1st premier league goal was scored against us by sheff utd way back in ’92

  5. Violent Banana says

    Lovely stuff from United – they can’t deal with Welbeck’s and Rooney’s movement, and Nani’s decision making has been superb

  6. sheesh says

    madredmonkey said:
    why are we suddenly scoring whats changed can anyone put there finger on it?

    Midfielders have been performing. Carrick, in particular.

  7. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    sheesh said:
    Midfielders have been performing. Carrick, in particular.

    Yep… having the ball, and using it well from the middle, means the forwards are getting decent service and can STAY forward.

  8. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    sheesh said:
    Midfielders have been performing. Carrick, in particular.

    true but whats got carrick playing well, because we are always slagging him off.

  9. sheesh says

    madredmonkey said:
    true but whats got carrick playing well, because we are always slagging him off.

    Maybe with all the injuries we’ve had, Fergie challenged Carrick to sort himself out.
    How bad is the Jones injury?

  10. han says

    sheesh said:
    Maybe with all the injuries we’ve had, Fergie challenged Carrick to sort himself out.

    or shoved the hairdryer so far up his arse, that he was blowing speech bubbles for a week

  11. Violent Banana says

    Terrific win, great performance – thought this would be a lot tougher for us.

    Another 2 injuries to our squad…but just about coping. Would be interesting to see how City fare if they ever face a similar situation

  12. han says

    Commenter said:
    Terrific win, great performance – thought this would be a lot tougher for us.

    Another 2 injuries to our squad…but just about coping. Would be interesting to see how City fare if they ever face a similar situation

    they will just go and spend their millions on 2 replacements for every position

  13. captainhormonecaptainhormone says

    looking forward to see if saf comes out and sticks the boot into the dippers

    hope so…evra needs some comeback as it has been a disgraceful, yet dignified, silence from OT thus far.

  14. Sidsidney says

    Class away win

    The away form is brilliant

    But without Jones to ballsy up the midfield, I worry about the future… and the City game in the Cup

  15. madredmonkeymadredmonkey says

    May i wish everyone a Merry Christmas, see ya boxing day, Han take it easy, dont shag the christmas turkey, you family may not like the tasty mayo on it, lol.

  16. brianofnazarethbrianofnazareth says

    madredmonkey said:
    May i wish everyone a Merry Christmas, see ya boxing day, Han take it easy, dont shag the christmas turkey, you family may not like the tasty mayo on it, lol.

    LOL

    Happy crimbo you bunch of complete cunts.

  17. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    sheesh said:
    Jones out for 6 weeks with fractured cheekbone according to Daily Mirror twitter.

    Can’t he just wear one of those Phantom of the Opera masks?

  18. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    since when is rooney allowed to shoot from distance anymore

    there was a perfectly good pass back to our defenders on and instead he scores a goal

    disgrace, I bet taggart was livid

    • Damian Garside says

      Yes, 5-0 is a terrible scorline when you are trying to grind out an away win. Taggart will realise that United playing like this is making it fat too easy for us — and if City stay only 2 points ahead, and we slip ahead of them, he won’t be able to think that it was all down to his masterplan.

      Expect Park and Gibson in CMF for our next crucial game as taggart gets ready to reveal his true genius to the world.

  19. reddread says

    captainhormone said:
    looking forward to see if saf comes out and sticks the boot into the dippers
    hope so…evra needs some comeback as it has been a disgraceful, yet dignified, silence from OT thus far.

    United did what the FA requested and didn’t discuss it throughout the process, mate, unlike the fucking dippers. Evra knows he was supported. We don’t need to spread it all over the press like Liverpool and King Kunt Kenny (henceforth known as KKK) have done. Utter, utter cunts. If our lads had worn shirts like they did tonight it would have been embarrassing enough even in our position of supporting the wronged man. For them to do it is nothing short of mind boggling.
    Saf will weigh up the options before he says owt, if he says owt. I’d like to see him act like they are beneath him, which they clearly are, of course, and not discuss it at all. See what KKK thinks of that, the pathetic piece of shit.

    “The longbow beats the crossbow, my idiotic friend”

    LUHG

  20. Herbie Simms says

    I would like to wish all of you fine gentleman a Merry United Christmas. My wish for the new year is to kick ass against Manchester City. Hopefully, we can win the league again so SAF can finally retire. Iam just tired of SAF and his way of thinking. But somehow, we keep on winning with such a mediocore team. Is DeGea turning out to be a waste of money? How about Ashley Young? Valencia should have started the season as our first choice right winger.

  21. Just1n says

    Great result. Welbeck was excellent. Berbatov should be sold with the form and play Welbeck and Chicco show. We can free up the wage bill. I was at Craven Cottage for this game. Enjoyed it.

  22. says

    Just1n said:
    Great result. Welbeck was excellent. Berbatov should be sold with the form and play Welbeck and Chicco show. We can free up the wage bill. I was at Craven Cottage for this game. Enjoyed it.

    nice one – great little stadium this one – my favourite in Lnd

  23. Just1n says

    danniitronix said:
    nice one – great little stadium this one – my favourite in Lnd

    Yep. I really enjoyed it. Gonna try and see another game in the new year but it will most likely not be Utd. Will be around London and try for whatever game is available.

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