Mullers' Cup Preview

Wednesday 3 March 2004

Last Saturday's draw was certainly a very good result for Fulham, especially when you consider the fact that they could have been a goal down inside the opening 30 seconds.

It would have been an awful start had Louis Saha scored in those opening moments but it's not the first time that's happened this season - it was the same story against Bolton, West Ham and Portsmouth. Quite justifiably, Edwin van der Sar went absolutely crackers after seeing that shot flash wide of the post.

When Saha eventually scored, I honestly thought United were going to push on and win the game. But you've got to give credit to Fulham because they came out in the second half and played very well.

It was strange game made all the more strange by Sir Alex's team selection. My first thoughts when I saw the line-up were that Ferguson had given Fulham a chance. Playing Roy Keane at the back just went to show where Ferguson thought United were weakest. With Keane away from the midfield area, where his leadership is so important, Fulham were given a good opportunity to get hold of the game.

Of course, it's possible that Ferguson had one eye on the FA Cup match when selecting his team. He knew that Saha wasn't going to be able to play in the Cup so he decided to give van Nistelrooy a rest - a prime example of using rotation to suit your fixtures.

The reaction that Saha got from the Fulham fans was pretty much inevitable. Every player who leaves a Club in his prime can expect some stick upon his return. I remember not wanting to leave Fulham in 1964 and when Tottenham played Fulham two weeks later, I got booed from start to finish. My wife had to literally leave the ground because she got so upset.

Once Saha heard about Manchester United's interest he couldn't wait to leave. So no one could possibly expect the Fulham fans to react any differently after the way he left the Club - if I got it when I didn't want to leave, what chance did he have? That sort of thing just goes with the territory.

Saha almost had the final say when he went down in the area after knocking the ball past Edwin van der Sar. The referee didn't point to the spot, which turned out to be a controversial decision. My belief is that if there is bodily contact in the area and intent is shown, it's a penalty. Everybody who had a good view in the ground would have seen Edwin van der Sar's chest catch Louis Saha.

Sir Alex was understandably disappointed because that result almost certainly killed off their chances of winning the Championship. Nine points is a lot to give away to a team like Arsenal, I know United have come back to win the League before but I can't see that happening this season.

They have a lot of ground to make up in the Premiership, a very difficult match against Porto in the Champions League so their best chance of winning a trophy this season is going to be in the FA Cup.

Fulham will need to be extremely careful in the opening few minutes of Saturday's game. I think United will throw everything at them and if the Whites are as slack as they were in the opening seconds at Loftus Road, they could be beaten. However, the longer the game goes without a goal, the better Fulham's chances will be.

The United supporters didn't sound like a happy bunch on the radio last Saturday and Ferguson won't be a happy manager being nine points behind Arsenal. Fulham have taken four points off United this season, so on top of everything else the home side will be looking for revenge. They will pick their best side, and will be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Edwin van der Sar.

The most important thing from Fulham's point of view is not to concede any early goals and take the wind out of United's sails before they can get going.

All the Best,
Mullers.