FULHAM PREVIEW- 100 UP FOR THE THEATRE OF DREAMS AS UNITED LOOK TO AVENGE CRAVEN COTTAGE NIGHTMARE
By Dan Salisbury-Jones.
Fulham have the unenvied trip to Old Trafford this weekend, facing a United side brimming with confidence off the back of their monumental 7-2 aggregate victory over AC Milan in the Champions League.
United will also be out for revenge, after getting trounced at Craven Cottage back in December. Red’s fans will remember only too well the damage inflicted on United’s then stumbling defence of their crown , with ex Liverpool man Danny Murphy opening the scoring in a 3-0 defeat.
The main difference between the 3-0 defeat and tomorrow’s fixture is at the back for United as they now have recognised centre backs available, and even better their first choice centre backs in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The pair have looked rock solid since finally both being available for selection at the same time.
Captain Gary Neville should once again feature after impressing midweek with a vintage display in keeping Ronaldinho quiet whilst setting up United’s opening goal with a pin point cross to Wayne Rooney.
Further up the pitch, Sir Alex Ferguson has an abundance of talent to choose from with Michael Carrick returning from his suspension in Europe midweek, and a certain striker who is terrorising defences right across Europe from Manchester to Milan. He was missing last weekend in the game against Wolves and there was a clear void left by Wayne Rooney’s absence, United still managed to earn a professional victory over the men from the Black Country and with Rooney’s inclusion tomorrow Fulham may well be a little concerned about their chances.
Sir Alex Ferguson also talked about the progress of the sidelined Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves. The later of the two was meant to make his comeback in the Mini-Derby for the reserves on Thursday night, however Sir Alex revealed he had gone to see a specialist instead and should be fine to play in the next reserve game against Burnley on Thursday night. There was even better news from the obviously buoyant manager as he announced Ryan Giggs will return to face Liverpool in the crunch game next Sunday.
As for tomorrow’s opponents, Fulham could welcome back American Clint Dempsey to their starting line up after he came on as a substitute in Turin on Thursday night where the Cottager’s lost 3-1 to the mighty Juventus in the Europa League.
The visitors have kicked on since the beginning of February with a fine run of results, in fact before Thursday’s defeat Fulham had been unbeaten since losing to Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa on January the 30th.
United should be wary of the threat posed by an in form Bobby Zamora, who’s pace could open up the Red’s defence on the break. United will be hoping Fulham will likely be without Danny Murphy, a man with a nasty habit of scoring against Sir Alex’s side. That is subject to him having a late fitness test on a persistent groin strain he picked up against Sunderland.
Without perhaps the hype of David Beckham’s return, The Old Trafford faithful will welcome back ex red Jonathon Greening who should be included in Roy Hodgson’s plans. Chris Smalling will get a taste of his future home but probably only from the bench with Hughes and Hangeland holding on to their places in the centre of defence.
It will be a testing afternoon for the Red’s with no room for dropping points as we move toward the business end to the season. The pressure is on after Chelsea impressively downed West Ham 4-1 today putting them back on top by a point in this most unpredictable of seasons.
United will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Old Trafford, if your going tomorrow you should expect to see banners depicting the history of the stadium throughout the North Stand tunnel, you should also expect to receive a replica of the program from the inaugural match against Liverpool dated February the 19th 1910.
For those not attending, the match will be shown live on Sky Sports. Kick off is at 1:30.
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