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Hoodoo of Craven Cottage

Two wins out of two, six goals scored and only one conceded post the black, dark and gloomy night of Basel. The first performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers was very good as we banged in 4 goals, breaking out of the 1 goal trend of the matches prior to that. However, the lunchtime kickoff against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road was slated to be a tougher match for the Red Devils and we came through it with a much-needed clean sheet and dominating performance in the final third with the abundance of chances created. The United fans who were closer to the field really added to the atmosphere and it is always nice to see the fans having a blast. Pre-game my thoughts drifted back to the meetings of the 90s when most often than not, United had to slog it out for a win there. We were made to work hard this time too but perhaps not as hard as an uncharacteristic solo run and shot by Michael Carrick finished off the encounter. QPR couldn’t manage a goal to test our nerves at the end so we saw the match out and picked up 3 points smilingly.

Now the test gets tougher as we face Fulham in another old school stadium called the Craven Cottage. Last season United lost a lead twice to draw 2-2. We have not won there in the Premier League since 1st of March 2008 and since the 7th of March 2009 in all competitions when we trashed them 4-0 in the FA Cup. The past results suggest that it will be far from a walk in the park for the Red Devils as United continue their recovery from a blip and a wobble. The past 2 performances suggest that United are steadily making progress in the right direction and the form, energy and hunger is returning to the side. There is more zip in United’s play now and greater movement akin to the performances of early season. Inevitably, there will be changes in the Manchester United first eleven on Wednesday as Sir Alex will use his experience to rotate the team to cope with the testing festive period that will start on Wednesday.

As I had finished off my last paragraph on the note that Sir Alex will rotate his side, I will point out that perhaps the continuity of first eleven against QPR had something to do with a smooth and solid performance as United fielded the same first eleven in consecutive matches in a long time. That is what happened in the start of the season and the results corresponded. It is difficult in modern-day football for a big club like Manchester United who are involved in different competitions and playing every three days to constantly play with the same first eleven week in, week out but the least we can hope for especially now when the centre of defence and midfield are slightly bare due to injuries is that Sir Alex refrains from changing too much in those areas.

Rio Ferdinand has been fit and touchwood to that as his experience has been vital. Jonny Evans is growing in confidence but it has only been two games for the Ulsterman so I would reserve my opinion on him for a later time when presumably he would have played more matches in a row with greater consistency I hope. I do have to compliment Evans though on his performance as it has been as good as I have seen him play in a long time and he did deserve a goal. Carrick is in the right kind of form at the right time and his accomplice, Phil Jones is turning back the clock with an old school style box to box midfield performance which is outdated in today’s context. However, the young Englishman has to be careful on his raids so as not to leave his partner outnumbered in centre midfield especially when they face opponents that play with 3 central midfielders. I do suspect though that Ryan Giggs might step in this Wednesday as United opt for greater experience rather than youthful exuberance against a tougher opponent at a ground that is somewhat a hoodoo ground for United.

Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov’s return would give United a timely boost. Sir Alex sprang a surprise on all on Sunday when the Mexican was named on the bench but I suppose Sir Alex will be careful so as not to throw him back into the fray too soon. He will take his time and ease Hernandez back in at his own time. The Mexican also known as Chicharito to all and sundry is perhaps finding the stop-start nature of his second season a little difficult to contend with as he hasn’t quite hit the heights of last season. Moreover, I feel defenders are more aware of the Hernandez’s off-the-ball running as they constantly catch him offside and the same applies to the referee’s assistants who might be a little quick on the flag to catch the Mexican offside. Hernandez has been caught offside the most number of times in the Premier League this season with 28 offside calls against him. However, no matter what anyone does, everyone knows that all it takes is for a chance or an offside call to go our way and the Mexican would, most of the time at least, be on hand to punish the opponents.

Let us not get ahead of ourselves now. Let’s take it a game at a time and matches at this time of the year come with their own hidden dangers even if it is at Old Trafford. We can be sure that there will be a great atmosphere awaiting us at Craven Cottage with the United fans on top of their voices and feeling confident but the players on the pitch would have to work hard and keep up the good work for us to continue the run we are on. We might need to win ugly too but all that matters are the 3 points. I want to be celebrating another trophy triumph in the month of my birthday, May as no trophies are handed out now, Manchester City.

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One Response to “Hoodoo of Craven Cottage”

  1. PLT says:

    I reckon the reds will win tonight. Although we’ve had problems at Fulham in previous years I think that the team understand the importance of this game in the overall title race and any slips could prove pivotal come May. United to win 2-1.

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