My guess is that Danny Welbeck will give way to Robin van Persie in the starting lineup after his underwhelming performance against Everton last week.
That’s right. Champions League-bound Fulham, currently sitting 2nd in the league with a game in hand, travel to Old Trafford to face relegation-battling Manchester United.
What’s that you say? We’re only one game into the season? DOES IT LOOK LIKE I CARE?? MWAHAHAHAHA. Haha. Ha. Haaa……..
Ok now that I got that out of my system, let’s jump back to reality.
Before I get into it, I was honored to be asked for my opinion at two major Manchester United blogs, Can They Score and Old Trafford Faithful. I’ve linked my interviews there.
State of Fulham:
After a 5-0 dismantling of Norwich City to kick off the brand new season, Fulham are getting a dose of the Premier League’s best in Manchester United. The first game showed Fulham won’t be without goals, despite losing most of their goal production from last season fell victim to old age (known in some languages as “QPR”), somewhat silly wage offers (occasionally referred to as “Reading”), or a jerk manager promising the world only to not deliver (see: “Liverpool”). Mladen Petric proved he has the complete package as a target man, complete with ball skills and technical ability (batteries not included), most of which the big Russian who occupied that position previously didn’t. This should allow Petric to be consistent throughout the season with his goalscoring, something again which Pogrebnyak was not after his original burst of Premier League goals.
The injury report for the club is the same as last week. Unfortunately Kerim Frei won’t be available again, as this is a game I believe in which he would flourish and will be sorely missed. Senderos is also once again unavailable. Obviously Clint Dempsey is still suffering from Red Is My Favorite Color All Of A Sudden Syndrome and is currently still too sick with that to play.
Obviously, any points whatsoever would be a smashing success, and I think it’s certainly possible as the players will be brimming with confidence from last week. However, I don’t think it will turn out the way we hope because…
State of Manchester United:
…Manchester United lost last week. And the WORST possible time to face United is after a loss. There are many things Sir Alex Ferguson is known for, but losing two weeks in a row is not one of them. And that’s why I’m pessimistic as hell heading into this match. Maybe I’m being a little too much of a downer, but that alone makes me nervous.
It seems nobody is really panicking in Manchester after the loss, but it certainly makes them wonder when the club couldn’t score in their opening match. Danny Welbeck was underwhelming, and Robbie van Persie was as well, but the Dutchman was used incorrectly on the wing, and hopefully they’ll do the same in this match, rendering him wildly ineffective.
The defense is in a bit of disarray due to a few injuries, including the long-term absence of Chris Smalling, so Patrice Evra will most likely slide into the center of the defense, and United will probably slot Alex Buttner directly into the lineup after securing his services just a few days ago.
Fulham will win if:
They play defensive and succeed at it. I know many will disagree with me here, as I’ve seen multiple previews calling for Fulham to throw everything they’ve got at United. I disagree completely. Fulham becoming an all-out attack club will expose them far too easily, as they’re not enough of a possession club to possess the opponent out of the game against a top team like United. My scenario for Fulham to pull off the upset hinges on the first 15-20 minutes of the match. If they can sit back and weather the attack from United without conceeding a goal, the chances to frustrate the opponent skyrocket, and that’s when Fulham can pounce. I see Fulham winning IF they sit back, defend successfully for the first 15-20 minutes, then turn on the heat and grab a goal just before halftime. That will produce a winning scenario. If United manage to get on the scoresheet in the first 15 minutes or so, Fulham could be in for a long day.
Mahamadou Diarra will be key in the midfield and a lot will hinge on his ability to shut down Kagawa. Keep an eye on that matchup, because Kagawa scares me. Fellaini showed last week why a rock-solid midfield is important against United.
Food for thought:
Martin Jol has never beaten United in Premier League play, and has lost his last 6 matches against them.
Fulham have scored goals in only 2 of their last 9 matches at Manchester United. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney has scored 4 goals in his last 3 matches against Fulham.
Fulham have never started a top-flight season with 2 straight wins.
The last time United lost their first two league matches in a season: 1992-1993 against Sheffield United and Everton. They won the league that season.
Lineup-wise, I expect to see the exact same lineup Fulham used against Norwich, because it worked. I would have tipped Kerim Frei to replace Alex Kacaniklic but Frei is still injured so look for Kaca to grab another start. Steve Sidwell will get his time, but I believe Jol will want to ride the hot squad if he can. Also, adding Sidwell means Ruiz will have to move to the wing, and I think Jol has realized Ruiz works best in the middle behind the striker and in front of Dembele.
A 2-0 United win is what I’m thinking. Too much history against Fulham for them to overcome in this one, and again, I don’t see a scenario where SAF loses two in a row to start the season.