Fulham v Manchester United – Match Preview

Manchester United go in search of a fourth win on the trot when they travel to Craven Cottage to take on resurgent Fulham.

The Cottagers have improved drastically over the last month and have pulled themselves away from the relegation zone after losing just two of their last Premier League seven games. Following a slow start to life on the Thames boss Martin Jol has finally got his side playing and putting points on the board. 11 points from a possible 21 in their since losing at home to Everton in mid-October represents a fantastic return and shows that the club is finally starting to make progress after a poor start to the campaign. Fulham’s early exit from the Europa League could be a blessing in disguise with their win over Bolton on Saturday their 31st game of the season so far. However you wouldn’t have guessed that as they comfortably beat the Trotters by two goals to nil. Clint Dempsey notched his eight of the season whilst big money summer signing Bryan Ruiz got his name on the score sheet for the first time. Those two have been in majestic form over the last couple of weeks with Ruiz finally starting to show the kind of form that saw Jol splash £11 million out on his services. His outstanding lobbed goal at the weekend was a joy to behold and the Cottagers will need that sort of ingenuity to beat a United side desperate to regain top spot.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were in supreme form once again on Sunday gliding past a QPR side that may as well have stayed at home with their feet up. The Red Devils barely perspired at Loftus Road running out comfortable victors with Wayne Rooney once again on the score sheet finding the net after just 52 seconds. The England strikers return to form has been a welcome for relief for Ferguson after seeing his number 10 go nine games without scoring before his brace against Wolves a fortnight ago. United have certainly been rampant since their defeat to rivals City in October winning six from a possible seven and cutting their neighbours lead at the top to only two points. They actually went top for a few hours after the 2-0 win over Rangers only for City to beat Arsenal and regain their place at the summit. However the cracks are beginning to show at the Etihad Stadium and with Ferguson now stirring the pot with his legendary mind games the scene is set for the champions to regain top spot. For that to happen they have to keep winning games although they travel to the Thames with their confidence sky-high. United have a good record at Fulham and will go into the game hoping to secure a second win in the capital in the space of four days.

Fulham 11th : 18 points

Team news: Bobby Zamora, Simon Davies, Mark Schwarzer and Steve Sidwell are all out meaning Martin Jol is likely to stick with the eleven that beat Bolton on Saturday.

Key Player: Danny Murphy

Despite being the wrong side of 30 Murphy is still Fulham’s creative hub in the heart of midfield. His range of passing and positional play always seems to land him a yard of extra space and that will come in handy against United – a team he has a knack of scoring decisive goals against.

Manchester United 2nd : 39 points 

Team news: United will be without eight first team players although Rafael, Fabio, Michael Owen and Tom Cleverely could all return after their trip to Fulham.

Key Player: Wayne Rooney

After shaking off his barren spell the England striker looks back to his best and he was simply outstanding against QPR on Sunday. Scoring after just 52 seconds showed that hunger for goals has returned and he’ll be hoping to find the net for a third successive game against Fuham.

PREDICTION

Fulham have improved tenfold in the last month and are now well clear of danger going into Christmas. That said they come up against a United side bang in form and chasing down rivals City at the top. This game could be a write off for Martin Jol’s side.

Score: 1-3

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