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!

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