Friday 8 February 2019

Match preview: Fulham v Man Utd

United make their first trip to Fulham's Craven Cottage since 2013 knowing that victory would lift Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side into fourth spot.
Claudio Ranieri's struggling Cottagers are in need of the points for totally different reasons, sitting seven shy of safety in 19th after a difficult first season back in the Premier League.

United come into this one having won nine out of ten under the temporary tutelage of the affable Norwegian - a turnaround sufficient to earn Ole the Manager of the Month award for January. In a double, Marcus Rashford was voted the Premier League's best player in the first month of 2019. Heady days indeed.

Solskjaer has certainly restored smiles - and the best of form - to United players who were so down at heel under Jose Mourinho. The return of Mike Phelan has been equally inspired. We've got our club back!

With the hurdles of PSG, Chelsea and Liverpool looming large in the rear view mirror, there are likely to be changes for the visitors. That could see the likes of out of favour Fred and Romelu Lukaku restored to the XI.

Fulham's Andre Schurrle and Cyrus Christie have overcome injuries but Timothy Fosu-Mensah is ineligible against his parent club.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who has recovered from an ankle injury, could make the bench, as could new signings Lazar Markovic and Havard Nordtveit who may make their debuts. 
Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian will be sidelined for a while longer but long term absentee Marcos Rojo is back in training.There are no fresh injury concerns for United, who this week confirmed new deals for Ashley Young and Phil Jones.
Ole Solskjaer and Mike Phelan have given us plenty to smile about.

On potentially moving into the Champions League places, Solskjaer said: " That's one of the goals we've set and if we do so we want to stay there and improve on that.
"It's been fantastic the last two months so consistency now is the key word - we keep on improving, keep on winning games, but in a better way than say the last one, where we held on.
"It was good enough but we shouldn't just be happy with just good enough, we want to improve in games like this."

The reverse fixture provided Mourinho with rare respite in what turned out to be his penultimate league game in charge back in December. The fixture at Old Trafford ended 4-1 in United's favour but proved to be only a stay of execution for Jose who was sacked a week later.
Fulham have improved since then but remain in desperate trouble, conceding 55 goals - more than anyone in Europe's 40 leading top divisions - and in danger of being cut completely adrift in the frantic battle to avoid relegation. In the last 15 years, only two of the nine Premier League teams with 17 points or fewer at this stage have escaped relegation. Fulham are lovely little west London club, but things certainly look bleak for the Cottagers.

 Form guide: Fulham L L L L W L Man Utd W W W W D W
Match odds: Fulham 9/2 Draw 16/5 Man Utd 4/7 (Paddy Power)
Referee: Paul Tierney (Wigan)

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