Football

Manchester United vs Fulham: Preview

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Manchester United welcome Fulham to Old Trafford on Saturday in the 26th game week of the Premier League 2023-24 season.

Manchester United are on a brilliant run of form these last few games, which has massively boosted their chances of getting into the top four. Their form since Christmas has drastically improved as compared to before Christmas, and Erik ten Hag has now finally found a settled XI, albeit with a couple of players missing. The Red Devils were last in action against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road last weekend, where they won 2-1 thanks to a brace from Rasmus Højlund. All three goals in the game were scored in the first 15 minutes, although there was a catena of chances throughout the game. It was an open and end-to-end game, and United triumphed but not before missing plenty of chances to put the game to bed. Some inspired goalkeeping from Luton Town’s Thomas Kaminski restricted the Red Devils to only two goals, but they should have gotten at least a couple more, with the attackers guilty of not putting away easy chances.

Marco Silva’s Fulham side are having a decent season all by themselves, and look set to finish comfortably away from the relegation zone. They will hope to fight for a place inside the top half of the table, to make it two consecutive top 10 finishes for the first time since the 2011-12 season. The Cottagers were last in action against, Unai Emery‘s Aston Villa at home, losing 2-1 with Ollie Watkins scoring a brace for the visitors to put them 2-0 up, before Rodrigo Muniz netted for the hosts. Muniz scored just past the hour mark, setting up a thrilling finale, but Fulham were unable to find the leveler, despite coming close on a few occasions. It was a disheartening loss for Silva’s men, as their failure to get going from the first whistle cost them. They had themselves to blame for the opening Villa goal as a loose throw-in by Fulham was punished by the hosts.  While it was just Fulham’s fifth home loss of the campaign, it is their away form that has invited more scrutiny. The Londoners rank second from bottom in away games, winning just one in 12 games and losing 7. They have conceded 26 goals in that period away from home, and are better only than relegation candidates Sheffield United who have just two less points than the Cottagers away from home.

Fulham’s away form and poor defensive shape will definitely be of interest to the Red Devils on Saturday, who are on a winning streak at the moment. United have won 7 of their last 9 games in all competitions, losing just one, and have won their last 5 games in all competitions. They were also the victors when these two sides last met in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage, with United captain Bruno Fernandes scoring a late winner for the then visitors in a 1-0 win. It was a scrappy win for the Mancunians, but they look the stronger of the two on paper this time around and it will be an interesting watch on Saturday.

WHEN AND WHERE?

Date: Saturday, 24th February 2024.
Venue: Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, UK.
Time: 3.00 pm GMT.

MATCH OFFICIALS

Referee: Michael Oliver.
Assistants: Stuart Burt, Dan Cook.
Fourth official: Craig Pawson.
VAR: Rob Jones.
Assistant VAR: Steve Meredith.

TEAM NEWS

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The Red Devils suffered a fresh injury blow last week as Luke Shaw was substituted off just before the half-time at Luton. The club confirmed on Thursday that the Englishman is set to be on the sidelines for several months due to a muscle injury and it is unknown whether he will play again this season. Long-term absentees include Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez, Anthony Martial and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, with the latter set to remain out for at least a few more weeks having picked up an injury in training. Much has been made of Mason Mount’s return, with the midfielder slated for a January return, but he has not featured yet and is said to be close to a return.

In more exciting news for the United fans, 16-year-old left-back Harry Amass was spotted training with the first team and could be in line for a surprise debut with Shaw and Malacia both out. It remains to see if the youngster is given a chance by Erik ten Hag.

Fulham will travel to Manchester without midfield juggernaut Joao Palhinha, who has been key for the visitors this season. He will undergo a two-match ban after accumulating 10 yellow cards in the league. Striker Raul Jimenez is also set to miss out on with a thigh injury and will be out till April. Kenny Tete and on-loan striker Armando Broja are doubts ahead of the game and will face late fitness tests. 

KEY PLAYERS

Rodrigo Muniz

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The Brazilian forward was very much a squad player at the beginning of the season, struggling to even make the bench at times. When he did make the bench he was often an unused substitute with Marco Silva having other in front of Muniz in the pecking order. However, the 22-year-old has undoubtedly worked hard this season to win over the manager’s trust and injuries to a few teammates helped the young striker get a prolonged run in the team. Muniz has struck gold in his last three league appearances, netting 4 times, including a brace in a 3-1 win over Bournemouth. He will be the dangerman for Fulham on Saturday and one to watch out for.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Man United predicted XI vs Fulham: Andre Onana; Diogo Dalot, Jonny Evans, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof; Casemiro, Kobbie Mainoo; Anthony, Bruno Fernandes, Alejandro Garnacho; Marcus Rashford.

Fulham predicted XI vs Man United: Bernd Leno; Antonee Robinson, Tim Ream, Issa Diop, Timothy Castagne; Tom Cairney, Sasa Lukic; Bobby Decordova-Reid, Andreas Pereira, Willian; Rodrigo Muniz.

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