Manchester United — Fulham (Premier League)
Sunday Fulham travel to Old Trafford in dire need of a positive result. News flash: so do the hosts! This is it for both sides, no more time to fail. Their goals and circumstances may be different but they need every single point to achieve them. There is still room for redemption but it must start now.
Entering week 25 Manchester United is in 7th place with 40 points, 4 and 5 behind Everton and Spurs respectively that will go head-to-head this Sunday. A week and a half ago, with the Mata effect, the Red Devils made a proper performance at Old Trafford and beat Cardiff City. Six minutes on, Van Persie in the pitch, they score. It was the dawn of a new era, clearing up the locker-room and getting all the top players back in action. Or so it seemed. Last Saturday the visit to Britannia did not met the expectations. The Potters have been a tough nut to crack at home, so no shame there. But it certainly breaks the momentum they need to gather for a successful turn-around. With the title way above their league, so to speak, it’s time they concentrate their efforts in the remaining 14 fixtures. It’s closing the gap to those fighting for the 4th spot United needs to worry about. David Moyes immediate challenge is to rally and motivate his men to fight for 4th when they are used to be number one.
Rio Ferdinand, Nani, Fellaini and Jonny Evans continue unavailable. Phil Jones suffered a mild concussion that forced him out against Stoke but should be in contention.
Probable line-up: De Gea — Rafael, Jones, Vidic, Evra — Carrick, Cleverly — Januzaj, Rooney, Mata — Van Persie.
The polls this days say Rene Meulensteen, a former Manchester United staff member for 11 years and Ferguson’s favourite, is the next Premier League manager to get sacked. Fulham are last with 19 points and risk losing touch with the rest of the bottom squads if they don’t start picking up some points. New Year’s Day was Fulham’s last League win, after that 4 straight losses piled up and 11 goals conceded. And just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse they’ve managed to be sent off the FA Cup by Sheffield United.
The Cottagers made quite an investment in the January transfer window, a last desperate attempt to avoid relegation. Meulensteen will now have to find a way to settle all the new signings in so they can start to make a difference. Like, right now. Jonnhy Heiting, the veteran Dutch defender, joins from Everton. Lewis Holtby, that saw his space at Tottenham tighten with Sherwood, will be on-lone for the rest of the season. Another midfielder, William Kvist, leaves the Bundesliga Craven Cottage. Dimitar Berbatov’s move to Monaco allowed a final attempt to secure Konstatinos Mitroglou from Olympiacos. The Greek will be especially interesting to watch, assuming he’ll be fielded at Old Trafford. Last season he landed 20 hits in all competitions and this time around he already has 17 to his name, helping his former team to the top of the Greek League and the knock-out stages of the Champions League. So, clearly, this was a great transfer window to Fulham. Could it be too much too late? Let’s hope not.
To lighten up Meulensteen’s burden both Kieran Richardson and Sasha Riether are back in action. Matthew Briggs and Ethridge are their only casualties.
Probable line-up: Stekelenburg — Riether, Hangeland, Heiting, Riise — Parker, Kvist, Sidwell — Dejagah, Bent, Holtby.
If there was ever a time to visit Old Trafford and expect a good result it is this season. But for the struggling Cottagers that may still prove too hard of a challenge. Watching how all the new-comers might fit in Meulensteen’s scheme will certainly be curious to follow. As for David Moyes is time to put the Mata-Rooney-Januzaj-Persie on the road and show us a glimpse of the scary Red Devils.