Manchester United go into the game at Craven Cottage four points ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the table and smarting after their first home league defeat of the season to bitter rivals Liverpool. Sir Alex Ferguson intimated after the defeat that they need to show the character of champions and bounce back straight away to winning form, form that has seen them win five and lose only one of their last six league games. One of those wins was a 3-0 home win against Fulham last month.
On the other hand, Fulham go into the game on the back of their first away win of the season at Bolton yet their form overall has been patchy. From their last six league games they have taken seven points – won 2, lost 3 and drawn 1.Those defeats both came at home to teams they expected to beat, Hull and Blackburn, and were sandwiched in between a 4-0 defeat at home to United in the FA Cup.
Manchester United go into the game with injury doubts to Gary Neville, though he is expected to be in the squad after training all week after his groin injury. The Scot Darren Fletcher has recovered from a virus and is also in contention for a place in the squad. Right back Rafael Da Silva is out as is Wes Brown with an ankle injury.
After his red card against Liverpool Nemanja Vidic is suspended so Johnny Evans or John O’Shea could partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence. Otherwise, United have the pick of the rest of the squad, with Rooney and Berbatov are expected to start up front.
Fulham are expected to name Diomansy Kamara on the bench despite him scoring against Bolton last week. The Senegal international said on the club’s website that he is only 70% fit so it is unlikely he’ll be risked after eight months out through injury. In fact it is thought boss Roy Hodgson will start with just Andrew Johnson upfront in a defensive 4-5-1 formation in the wake of two heavy defeats against the visitors. Fulham have no injury concerns or suspensions for the game, which is a 25,000 sell out.
Past form in this fixture suggests it will be tighter than the FA cup meeting a few weeks ago, a game which United strolled to a 4-0 victory. Fulham’s home form against the top teams has been impressive, with a draw against Chelsea and a win against Arsenal.
History though isn’t on Fulham’s side. They haven’t beaten the Red Devils in 11 games at Craven Cottage; the last victory was in September 1964. Fulham are pushing for a place in next season’s Europa League and a win would see them move up to 7th if West Ham loses at Blackburn.
United on the other hand know history is on their side and will be hoping they win and Chelsea slip up on the other side of London against Tottenham to open up a 7 point lead before Liverpool play Aston Villa on Sunday.