Match Preview: Fulham Vs Manchester United
Fulham’s Craven Cottage is never a particularly easy place to go. In eight games at home this season the Cottagers have lost just twice and have won five so this will not be an easy fixture by any means for Sir Alex’s men.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson is a very tactically aware manager and breaking them down won’t be easy. Brede Hangeland is a top-class centre-half and in my opinion probably the best in is position outside of the top-four clubs in the Premier League. However, his partner in the heart of the Fulham defence, usually Aaron Hughes or John Pantsil, is less talented and may prove easier to crack. Their full-backs are steady, if nothing particularly special, although Paul Konchesky (left-back) is capable of hitting the odd thunderbolt and likes to get forward and support Damien Duff on the left-wing.
One man who may be a danger is striker Bobby Zamora. I know what you’re thinking and it is probably along the lines of ‘Bobby Zamora?? Do me a favour!’ but he has hit some scoring form at the moment and he is actually a better player than most give him credit for. His link up play is pretty good, he acts as a decent target man and gets in the right places to score goals. Up until recently the only thing missing were the goals but he has now scored in the last three games and looks like he may have found his confidence again. Aside from Zamora, midfielder Clint Dempsey is a quality player and has a touch of class in his play. Dempsey has five league goals to his name this season, not bad for a midfielder, and is a very hard working player – as are most of Fulham’s playing staff.
United’s injury concerns have got no better over the last week and Gary Neville (groin), Johnny Evans (calf), Wes Brown (hamstring) and John O’Shea (thigh) are all ruled out. Owen Hargreaves’ knee problem is apparently improving but I doubt he’ll play any part against Fulham. It would be great to see Hargreaves back in action after such a long spell on the sidelines (August 2008 was the last time he played) but in all honesty it looks pretty unlikely we’ll see him in action before January. The likes of Ryan Giggs (hamstring), Rio Ferdinand (calf), Edwin van der Sar (knee) and Nani (ankle) are all listed as doubtful but hopefully a couple of those players will pull through.
The bookies have United as heavy favourites to win at Craven Cottage and I’m inclined to agree with them. During the week the Cottagers faced Swiss side Basle in the Europa League and had to put in quite a shift to secure victory and ensure they made it through to the knock-out stages. In contrast United enjoyed what can only be described as a ‘stroll in the park’ against and under strength Wolves side so the United squad should head into this fresher and better prepared than Fulham. An early goal for United could make all the difference as it will force Fulham to throw more men forward and I expect Fergie’s men to take all three points back to Old Trafford with them.
Written by Gareth Freeman, a sports writer promoting Irish racing and Cheltenham 2010.