Date: 20th December 2011 at 6:10pm
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United's new midfielder enforcer will be vital at Craven Cottage

United's new midfielder enforcer will be vital at Craven Cottage

United return to west London this week hoping to repeat Sunday’s success at QPR. Alex Ferguson must decide how much, if any, of his team to change for their second game in four days.

It’s a difficult decision seeing as they played so well against QPR and, for but a few incredible saves from the Rs ‘keeper and a little better luck, United could have won by a much more comfortable margin than 2-0.

As a match the QPR fixture was never going to set the world alight. However, a few performances really stood out and set United in good stead for the game against Martin Jol’s Fulham. Smalling, Valencia, Carrick, Evans, Nani, Rooney and Jones were all top draw. Jones and Carrick really bossed the midfield and Carrick’s goal capped a great personal performance. Jones was an inspiration and had the self-proclamied ‘best midfielder in England’, Joey Barton, in his pocket. Fate, in the shape of a ‘keeper’s foot, however, conspired to deny Jones a third goal in a row. Both should, you’d like to think, start against QPR. This would allow them the chance to evolve their ever blossoming partnership.

In goal De Gea will probably play although Fergie may opt to rest him and give Lindegaard a start with such a short turnaround inbetween games. Chris Smalling gets a chance to return to his former club and remind them of the skills they’re missing. What Fulham wouldn’t give for someone of the stature and calibre of Smalling back amongst their ranks?

Jonny Evans and Ferdinand should continue their partnership in the middle of the back four unless Ferguson feels that two games in four days is too much for an ageing Fedinand? If this is the case, with recent injuries, Valencia or Jones could drop back to right back with Smalling filling in in the middle. This is, however, unlikely as it would have big implications on the midfield.

Left back could prove an increasingly interesting selection choice for Ferguson over the coming weeks and months. Evra donned the captain’s armband against QPR and appears to have earned that role in Vidic’s absence. His performance, however, was weak at best. Far too often he was beaten down the left flank at Loftus Road and, if starting on Thursday, he must improve. Ferguson isn’t afraid of dropping big names and Evra must be careful, especially with the improving and maturing Fryers hot on his heels.

Midfield could see a few changes, although I hope not, with Young in need of game time and a return to form and Giggs, Park and Gibson, I’m sure, eager to get a run out. One player across the second bank of four who must feel pretty confident of a start is the immense Nani. Whether he starts wide left or right he will be hoping, as will United fans, to continue his rich vein of form.

Rooney seems back to his best so is a nigh on guaranteed starter at Craven Cottage. Who will partner him, though, is yet to be seen. Welbeck was taken off after about sixty minutes at QPR for a unexpectedly fit Hernandez. Welbeck needed those sixty minutes to gain some game time and, I were betting on it, would start again with Hernandez coming on from the bench. This prediction of mine, if it comes true, draws Berbatov’s time at the club ever nearer. Sad times, indeed, if this is the case.

Fulham will be tackling United without Zamora, Sidwell, Davies, Schwarzer and Grygera. Missing players of that quality should aid us no end and I predict another successful trip to west London.

Merry Christmas to everyone. Here’s hoping that Santa brings a Rooney hattrick and a couple of Man City losses!

Follow me on Twitter @Matthew_James7 and Red Flag Flying High @RFFH


8 responses to “Match Preview: Fulham vs Manchester United”

  1. Lexxy says:

    Good news that Zamora aint fit. If he plays then i wil prefer Smalling and ferdinand at the back and Rafael for right back. . . Cuz Evans cant handle big physical players, couple with Dempsey will be too much for him. But if he doesnt play Evans should partner Rio

  2. FFC says:

    Probably the worst article I have ever read. First of all Fulham have the 5th best defensive record in the Premiership, so why do we need Smalling. Also we won 2-0 against Bolton, we have the joint second highest clean sheet record in the Premiership, behind Swansea. Also Zamora is fit. I know United fans don’t go to games but this is ridiculous…..

  3. Matt James says:

    Rafael isn’t fit. I haven’t been a big Evans fan of late but his performance against QPR deserves another start. Jones can offer protection for the back four and Evans can man up a bit!

  4. FFC says:

    “What a Fulham defence, recently beaten by two Bolton goals, wouldn’t give for someone of the stature and calibre of Smalling back amongst their ranks?”

    Just thought I’d help by answering this question for you. First off Fulham beat Bolton 2-0, so you may want to check your research.

    Having conceded only 18 goals (5th in the League) our defence is fine thanks. With regards to Smalling, while he is a good player one of the reasons we gave him up is because of the depth we have at center back. Led by Brede Hangeland (he scored against you in this fixture last season) Smalling was going to have trouble keeping a starting place. With Hangeland, Hughes, Senderos and Baird all fighting for a starting place, we do not miss Smalling as much as you seem to think.

    Hope that helps.

    • Justin Mottershead says:

      Blame the editor (me) duly corrected.

    • Matt James says:

      This isn’t a wind up comment but that game highlighted what I meant re: Smalling.

      Like I said I made a massive mistake over the Bolton result but I stand by everything else.

  5. Matt says:

    I recognise the stats, gents, and apologise for my undoubted idiocy in mis-reporting the Bolton result. Total mishap on my part.

    However, with the greatest respect, I’m sure you’d welcome Smalling back, no?

    I really don’t want to turn this into a war of words but as good as the Fulham defence is the same defence that conceded two or more to Newcastle, Wolves, Stoke, Everton, Spurs, Swansea and Odense.

    I’ve a lot of time for Fulham and am genuinely sorry for any offence caused. It’s a great club with some great defenders, granted.

  6. Tomas says:

    You guys have got to read this brilliant Utd-related article >>