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Preview: Fulham host United at Craven Cottage

For the first time this season there’s a gathering sense of momentum about Manchester United under new manager David Moyes. Three wins in a row, including a 4-0 battering over Norwich in the Capital One Cup, will grant the squad the confidence boost it’s been crying out for. While performances may be average, Moyes is trying different tactics in search of finding what works best.

Craven Cottage is not a ground you look forward to visiting. In the past five seasons Fulham have taken eight points off United, so we should be wary tomorrow evening. Positioned fourteenth in the table, their fans are not the happiest at the moment. On a balanced note they’ve beat a tactically mis-managed Stoke City, a hapless Crystal Palace, lost to an exciting Southampton side and gone out of the cup after a 4-3 defeat against Leicester. So, going into today’s fixture, they’re back to square one whereas we’re hoping to continue our winning streak.

Martin Jol’s side are struggling to find form but you could say the same about United. Lets not get over excited about three wins, but we have to start somewhere. It’s certainly a building point; I just hope we don’t allow it to collapse again. The capture of Adnan Januzaj has given the club a boost. The 18-year-old only broke through a few weeks back from the under-21s and people are already expecting Premier League starts against the likes of Fulham, away from home.

A stroll through Twitter would suggest that the fans are not in the slightest happy with Jol. After two years in the job, some are calling for his head. Listening to Cottage Talk (see, I did research), they feel Fulham are light years away from securing a qualification place in the Europa League. Under Roy Hodgson in 2010 they reached the final but were beaten by Atletico Madrid. They have not reached such heights since which is hardly surprising.

Sitting in the K Stand last week for the 3-2 win over Stoke, I sensed real pressure on Moyes from the fans. It’s been built up in these early stages of his reign as United boss, but it has cooled a bit after three consecutive wins. It is a transitional period after all.

It’s only the beginning of November and people are already writing us off. Arsenal are eight points ahead of us in first place but I don’t think have the squad to pull it off, right up to May. Chelsea are two adrift of the Gunners and could may will be a good shout but despite being just two points ahead of us, City are still considered title considers. It’s early yet but it’s funny how the media operates sometimes.

“We’ll take one game at a time and try to start getting a bit closer to the top end,” said Moyes during his press conference on Friday.

“It’s a gap we have to try to work to get closer to. That’s the plan but there’s a long way to go. We’ve started to put together one or two half decent results and hopefully that starts to build a bit of momentum.

“We’ve been a little bit up and down at the start of the season, winning one, losing one, so we’re hoping to get a bit more consistency and then our form follows with that.”

Up front, Moyes has no shortage of options. Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez have all scored in recent matches. The Mexican is pushing hard to get more starts under his belt this season, scoring three in two games – although Danny Welbeck is another in the background, returning from injury.

In midfield Michael Carrick is the first name on the team sheet. The rest is like a constant rotation which is down to our new manager being undecided, perhaps dissatisfied, with his options. Marouane Fellaini is still off the pace but he has to play sometime. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to who plays out wide because I’m all for starting Shinji Kagawa as long as it’s central and not on the left.

The main change I expect to see in defence is Rafael Da Silva replacing Chris Smalling at right back. The Brazilian offers more up the wing and is quick to get back and defend. Jonny Evans and Phil Jones have been paired a lot recently and I am beginning to think it’s our best combination at centre back regardless of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic returning from injury.

“We will make changes,” added Moyes. “They’re all first-team players in the squad and in their own right could all be playing every week.

“I think both (Vidic and Ferdinand) are very close to full fitness. They showed that in midweek when playing Premier League opposition. They both played for 90 minutes so I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be ready to be selected or involved.

“Van Persie has been fine. He’s trained well and worked quite well this week so hopefully he will be okay. Welbeck has had a bit of fluid on his knee. He’s trained for a few days this week, but won’t travel to Fulham this weekend.”

Team

United (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Evans, Evra; Januzaj, Carrick, Fellaini, Nani; Rooney, van Persie.

Head-to-Head

Fulham 14, Draw 18, United 48.

Officials

Referee: Lee Probert
Assistants: L Betts, R Ganfield
Fourth Official: A Taylor

Match fact via WhoScored

Manchester United have won their last 6 matches against Fulham in all competitions.

More Stories Adnan Januzaj David Moyes Fulham Manchester United Martin Jol

One response to “Preview: Fulham host United at Craven Cottage”

  1. jimmymac62 says:

    Thanks for the balanced perspective of your article. I don’t see United successfully defending the title this season; in fact it will probably take 3 seasons and 6 transfer windows before Moyes has a squad he is able to challenge with. I don’t have a problem with that, its a new era, you expect a bit of turmoil and a transitional phase, United certainly aren’t immune from that, though you’d be forgiven for thinking so from many of the responses to some of the performances so far. There are far too many spoilt and immature ‘fans’ overreacting to a situation that needs a lot of work and careful management if Moyes is to avoid potentially losing the respect and trust of his squad and it breaking up in an uncontrollable manner. We can’t afford to lose our best players and be left with the likes of Young and Anderson.

    I read somewhere that there are 13 players in the last 2 years of their contracts, that is a hell of a lot of work in itself, with a lot of decisions to be made that will affect the make up and shape of the squad and impact on future transfer budgets and the quality of players he can potentially bring in to the club.

    There are many players at United who would not get into the City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs or even Southampton squads at the moment, some of them are first team regulars.

    There is hope in a very promising group of Under 21 and Academy players and integrating the best of them into the first team squad and keeping the rest happy to bide their time is another challenging task that lies ahead for Moyes. Most of them won’t be ready soon enough though and its clear that Moyes needs 5 or 6 new additions to the squad.

    I wonder, had Moyes and Woodward succeeded in bringing in their top transfer targets in the summer, whether Fellaini would be at United today; a moot point perhaps but £27.5m is a very large dent in the budget. January is traditionally seen as a bad time to do business; the best players are cup tied or have been bought in the preceding summer and clubs are less likely to be open to sell when the season is under way and many others cynically inflate their valuations. Moyes needs signings and whilst he won’t want to be seen as desperate but, imho, United should be prepared to pay a premium to secure their targets. No more last minute deals for mediocre players though!

    Whatever you’re feelings about Moyes its time to get behind him and support whichever team he puts out until he can create a better one.