Two sides seeking to move up the Premier League table face off today as Fulham play Manchester United at the Craven Cottage.
Fulham are currently 13th and the Old Trafford club eighth, and neither Martin Jol nor David Moyes will be pleased with their sides’ topsy-turvy start to the campaign. Jol in particular finds himself coming under intense scrutiny and criticism after a 4-3 loss at Leicester City in midweek, and a positive result against the Red Devils is more a necessity than a bonus.
For Moyes, the boo-boys will have gone rather quiet after a run of six consecutive games without defeat; a 3-2 comeback win over Stoke City at Old Trafford was very reminiscent of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, and a more routine 4-0 win over Norwich City in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup has manager Moyes hoping that his side have finally turned the corner.
“We’ve started to pull together one or two half-decent results, and hopefully that starts to build a bit of momentum,” Moyes explained in a pre-match press conference.
Well perhaps fortunately for them then, history seems to favour United in this fixture as they have won all six of the last six games against today’s opponents, scoring 16 and conceding only three. Fulham last beat United four years ago, when they actually recorded 2-0 and 3-0 wins over the Red Devils, both at home.
The Cottagers' home form is not exactly encouraging either, with only one win and four goals in four attempts in the league. In fact, their 4-1 at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace was the first and only game in which they scored more than one goal.
Despite United’s unbeaten run however, they have won two and lost two of their four away games this season, scoring seven and conceding seven. This does really have all the makings of a tight, intriguing affair.
The team news sees neither manager overly concerned with injuries, with David Moyes in particular having only to cope without Danny Welbeck and Darren Fletcher.
The Scotsman was glad to welcome his trusted central defence pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand against Norwich in midweek, and suggested that both would likely play a part in today’s fixture.
He also talked up the chances of “El Chicharito” Javier Hernandez getting more and more into the first team picture at United, so expect to see him perhaps play a major role in this crunch tie as well.
The hosts may be a little more concerned, as they are sweating over the fitness of Norwegian centre-back Brede Hangeland. Martin Jol is also more likely than not to be without Matthew Briggs and former Wigan forward Hugo Rodallega.
The pressure is on both managers to climb higher up the table, and although the Red Devils cannot go higher than seventh this weekend they will still eye this fixture as a golden opportunity to keep their upward momentum going. So who will leave the Craven Cottage with all three points?
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