Fulham and Manchester United meet in the FA Cup for the fifth time in 14 years when the two sides face off at Old Trafford on Saturday (5.30pm) – with the Whites searching for a first win over United in the competition since 1908.
Both sides needed replays to overcome the opposition in the Third Round. Fulham eventually defeating npower Championship side Blackpool after a gruelling 210 minutes of football, while the Reds disposed of West Ham United 1-0 in Manchester after a last-gasp Robin van Persie goal in the initial game snatched a 2-2 draw.
Saturday’s encounter will be Dimitar Berbatov’s first game back at Old Trafford since his summer move, and he should be guaranteed a decent reception from the home supporters after scoring more than 50 goals during his time at the club.
Manchester United are still competing on three fronts in the 2012/13 season as they look to repeat the success of their infamous treble-winning campaign of 1999.
Following the disappointment of squandering the title last year to neighbours City, they currently hold a strong five-point lead over their local rivals at the top of the Barclays Premier League. However, United fans won’t be getting carried away as they need no reminding that they were eight points clear with just six games to go last season.
After topping Group H in the UEFA Champions League, the Reds found themselves drawn against arguably the strongest team to finish second in the Group Stages – Real Madrid. In what is potentially the tie of the Second Round between two of the favourites in the competition, the intriguing subplot is the return of Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford for the first time since making his world-record move to Spain.
With goals flowing through the team, it could be another trophy-laden campaign for United – although Fulham will be hoping that, come full-time on Saturday, they will only be competing for two trophies, rather than three.
Last time out
Manchester United 3-2 Fulham 25.08.2012
We ran Saturday’s hosts incredibly close in our second Premier League game of the campaign, as we put the United goal under siege in the closing stages, only for David De Gea to deny us a valuable point.
The Whites made a fantastic start to proceedings when Damien Duff put us ahead with less than three minutes on the clock. After Mladen Petrić had been fouled on the edge of the area, Bryan Ruiz cut the subsequent free-kick back to Duff who tucked the ball in at the near post.
The lead didn’t last long, though, with Van Persie’s superb strike seven minutes later levelling matters, before Shinji Kagawa and Rafael put the Reds firmly in control of the match heading into half-time.
Fulham reduced the deficit, though, shortly after the hour mark when Nemanja Vidic put into his own net from Matthew Briggs’ cross. Both sides had chances thereafter but it was the Whites who came closest to grabbing the decisive sixth goal, with De Gea saving brilliantly from Mousa Dembélé on two occasions, before keeping out Ruiz’s goalbound header in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
Players to watch
Robin van Persie: The Premier League’s top scorer was only on the bench for his side’s two Third Round matches against West Ham, although his introduction at Upton Park was crucial as his stoppage time strike earned United a Replay. The Netherlands international has an impressive 24 goals to his name already this season for club and country in just 31 appearances.
Michael Carrick: The central midfielder – who actually filled in as a defender against the Whites back in August – is enjoying some of the finest form of his career. Now 31-years-old, Carrick has been an integral part of United’s success so far this season, with his range of passing matched by few in the league.
Wayne Rooney: The 78-cap England international is a world beater on his day and he’ll be keen to add to his season total of nine goals for Manchester United on Saturday. Dangerous from all over the pitch, the explosive forward scored home and away for the Reds against Fulham in the 2011/12 campaign.