It`s back to West London for the second time in a week for United. With Queens Park Rangers having been comfortably beaten on Sunday, we take a little trip down to the river to face Fulham at Craven Cottage this evening. Sir Alex Ferguson will be keen to take all three points to ensure the pressure is kept up on our table-topping neighbours, Manchester City
The fixture, tonight, provides our young defender, Chris Smalling, with the opportunity to return to the club where he first made a breakthrough into Premier League football.
Smalling, now established in the United starting eleven, had this to say about his impending return,
“I see my time there as a big two years.”
“My first year was about finding my feet and the second about showcasing what I can do.”
“Without Roy Hodgson giving me my chance, I wouldn`t be here so it is a time I look back upon fondly.”
“It`ll be nice to go back and see a few of the players at the Cottage.”
But no gifts Chris, this is a serious game and we need all three points mate!
Fulham Team News:
Martin Jol`s biggest decision will be whether to recall the fit-again striker Bobby Zamora. The England international has missed the last two fixtures, the match at Swansea through not being required and the home fixture, against Bolton, with an injury.
Definitely missing will be the steadying influence their keeper Mark Schwarzer provides, out with a spinal injury Schwarzer will be replaced by an England squad keeper, David Stockdale.
Likely also to miss out through injury are Grygera, and Steve Sidwell.
Player to watch: Bryan Ruiz
Tuning into the football coverage last weekend, I saw this lad score a cracking goal. Apparently, he cost something like £10 million but has yet to show his full potential, but the glimpses I saw suggest he could be trouble.
United Team News:
Manchester United travels to West London with an injury list that will test the depth of the squad. Definitely out are Darren Fletcher, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Michael Owen, Nemanja Vidic and Rafael da Silva.
Javier Hernandez made a surprise comeback, off the bench, at Loftus Road, but Sir Alex will, and should, stick with a front duo of Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck.
Ashley Young, after making a decent start to the season, has seen his place taken by Antonio Valencia and that may well be the case tonight.
Tonight United could line up as follows:-
De Gea, Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Smalling, Nani, Carrick, Giggs, Valencia, Rooney and Welbeck
Player to watch: Jonny Evans
Although he`s never scored a goal for United, Jonny Evans came remarkably close to breaking his duck at Loftus Road. Could Craven Cottage, just before Christmas, be the place he does break that duck.
Match Facts & Stats
Looking through the record books, we find that Craven Cottage hasn`t been a particularly happy hunting ground in the last three seasons with United failing to pick up a win. A repeat of that will not be tolerated this evening with the fight to catch and overhaul City our priority.
I`m going to fly in the face of the statistic already discussed and go for a clear United win. It may not be as comfortable as Sunday, at Loftus Road, but we`ll emerge winners, possibly by the odd goal in three.
We return to Old Trafford for our next fixtures with a games against Blackburn and Wigan