Friday 1 February 2013 12:51

Fulham and Manchester United do battle for the second time in eight days when the Reds visit Craven Cottage in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday (5.30pm).

After going down 4-1 at Old Trafford in the FA Cup with Budweiser last week, the Whites will be looking for an improved performance against a side who we tend to cause problems on home soil.

Aside from last season’s disappointing display where we lost 5-0 – with a certain Dimitar Berbatov grabbing a goal – Fulham have proven to be a troublesome foe to United in SW6. The three previous seasons saw us nab seven points from home ties against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

With confidence instilled in the side again following our crucial midweek triumph over West Ham United, another upset against the 19-time champions would be most welcome.

The opposition

United go into Saturday’s late game seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table, and they will extend it even further if they get a result at the Cottage, with nearest challengers Manchester City not in action until Sunday.

The Reds capitalised on City dropping points - when they could only draw with Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday – by beating Southampton at Old Trafford the following day. They had to labour to the victory, though, coming from behind to defeat the Saints 2-1.

United’s defending has been called into question on occasion this season and it was a similar story after just three minutes on Wednesday. Michael Carrick sold goalkeeper David De Gea short with his backpass, allowing Jay Rodriguez to nip ahead of the Spaniard to give the visitors the lead.

The defensive frailties of the side have not proved overly costly for the Reds this season, though, thanks largely to their potency going forward. The same was true against Southampton as just five minutes later they were level when Wayne Rooney slotted home after collecting Shinji Kagawa’s pass.

And on 27 minutes United were ahead. Robin van Persie’s free-kick was nodded down by Patrice Evra for Rooney to grab his second of the game. Southampton came to life in the second half and pressed hard for the elusive equaliser, but United held on to continue their charge towards the Premier League title.

Last time out

Manchester United 4-1 Fulham 26.01.2013

We go back just one week for the last time these sides met, although it’s an encounter that Whites fans would rather forget.

For the second time in two matches – the other also in Manchester – Martin Jol’s men found themselves behind with mere minutes on the clock. This time, Ryan Giggs just about got enough power on his penalty to beat Mark Schwarzer who got a touch to the ball. Aaron Hughes had given the spot-kick away for a handball under pressure from former Fulham man Chris Smalling.

The Whites held their own for the rest of the half, though, as we kept possession well and almost drew level through a decent Sascha Riether strike. We even had a muted shout for a penalty in stoppage time, however, things soon turned sour in the second period.

Quick-fire goals from Rooney and Javier Hernandez put the home side firmly in control of the tie, before the Mexican scored his second of the game and United’s fourth to add some gloss to the scoreline.

Hughes responded on 76 minutes with a fine header from Giorgos Karagounis’ corner having escaped his marker Rooney but, on the whole, it was a largely forgettable day at Old Trafford for the travelling fans who made the trip.

Players to watch

Wayne Rooney: An obvious choice, but Rooney is enjoying fantastic form at the moment and, with nine goals in as many games, will need shackling if Fulham are to stop United scoring on Saturday. The England man has found the back of the net 15 times this season for club and country, many of which have proven to be match-winners.

Shinji Kagawa: The Japan international began the season strongly – including scoring the second goal against Fulham back in August – before injury disrupted his progress. Now back in first-team action, the midfielder is looking to establish himself in the United midfield. Scored 14 goals for Borussia Dortmund last season.

Robin van Persie: Rested in the cup game against the Whites, Van Persie will expect to start at Craven Cottage as he looks to add to the 18 league goals he has already scored in the 2012/13 campaign. Fulham kept him quiet on both occasions he faced us last season and it will need another monumental effort from Brede Hangeland et al to do the same on Saturday.

The magic numbers

1 Manchester United have lost just one of their last 11 Premier League away games (W8 D2 L1), but have kept just two clean sheets in that run.

3 Dimitar Berbatov has scored in three of the four previous occasions he has played in this fixture, while a Manchester United player.

4 Wayne Rooney has scored four goals in his last four Premier League appearances against Fulham.

5 Manchester United have won five and lost none of their last six Barclays Premier League matches against Fulham.

6 Six of Dimitar Berbatov's eight Premier League goals for Fulham have come before half-time.

7 Damien Duff has seven assists this season - only three players in the Premier League have more.

10 Fulham have gone 10 games without keeping a clean sheet, while United have scored in each of their last 12 fixtures, both the longest current runs of their kind in the Premier League.

27 United’s total of 27 comeback points this season has only been bettered by one team in PL history (Newcastle United with 34 in 2001/02)

48 The Bulgarian scored 48 goals in 108 Premier League games for Manchester United before moving to Fulham in the summer and was on the scoresheet the last time the Red Devils played at Craven Cottage.