Manchester United could have a depleted defence when Fulham visit Old Trafford on Sunday (4pm), after both Jonny Evans and Phil Jones went off injured in their previous outing against Stoke City. René Meulensteen, meanwhile, will likely recall a number of familiar faces to his starting line-up after resting several players in midweek.
Since Fulham and United last met, the Reds have won only half of their Barclays Premier League matches. It’s form which sees them occupy seventh position in the table, seven points off the fourth and final UEFA Champions League spot, and 15 behind current pacesetters Arsenal.
Having defeated the Whites at Craven Cottage at the start of November, United built on the victory by seeing off Arsenal at home, but a bleak run of four matches thereafter curtailed their process. A last-minute equaliser meant they only drew at Cardiff City, with a draw the best they could muster in their subsequent match against Tottenham Hotspur, too. Those stalemates were followed up by consecutive 1-0 home defeats by Everton and Newcastle United to condemn United to a points tally of two gained from a possible 12.
A productive four game winning run then ensued as they put Aston Villa, West Ham United, Hull City and Norwich City to the sword, although they were brought back down to earth on New Year’s Day when Spurs became the latest side to leave Old Trafford with three points. Victories over Welsh sides Cardiff and Swansea City then sandwiched a 3-1 defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, while they also lost their most recent outing when Charlie Adam’s winning goal earned Stoke City a 2-1 victory.
The defeat at the Britannia saw Juan Mata, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney all named in the starting line-up for the first time. The arrival of Mata from Chelsea was met with great delight by United fans as Moyes’ men aim to finish the season in positive fashion.
Fulham 1-3 Manchester United 02.11.2013
A second-half strike from Alexander Kačaniklić proved to be just a consolation for Fulham as three goals in less than 15 minutes from United had already done the damage in SW6.
The Whites had the first chance of the game when Pajtim Kasami was denied by David De Gea, but the hosts fell behind with just nine minutes on the clock. Rooney found space all too easily in the penalty area and waited for the opportune moment to feed the arriving Antonio Valencia who made no mistake with his finish.
Scott Parker almost created an excellent equalising chance when his perfectly weighted through-pass looked to send Dimitar Berbatov in on goal, only for Rafael to make an excellent last-second challenge to knock the ball out for a corner.
Martin Jol’s men were two down after 20 minutes when the defence again lost its shape, allowing Van Persie to gallop into space before crashing an effort beyond his Netherlands international teammate Maarten Stekelenburg.
The Dutch striker then turned from scorer to provider two minutes later when he worked space in the box and played the ball across the face to Rooney, who couldn’t miss from a yard out.
Kasami and United substitute Marouane Fellaini each went close to grabbing the game’s fourth goal, but it was Kačaniklić who reduced the deficit when his driven effort fizzed wickedly off Rooney to leave De Gea with no chance whatsoever.
Fulham almost set up a tense finale when Darren Bent saw his header hit the bar but, in the end, the Whites were made to pay for a disappointing quarter of an hour early on.
Juan Mata: One of the surprise transfers of the year, not just because Chelsea decided to sell him, but also that they were willing to let him join a rival team. Juan Mata won the Blues’ Player of the Season award two terms on the spin, and had been a regular in the side prior to Jose Mourinho’s return. The World Cup and European Championship winner already has two assists to his name from his two games played in red, and the prospect of him gelling with Rooney and van Persie is a frightening thought.
David De Gea: A man who always seems to have a decent game against Fulham, we first faced David De Gea in the UEFA Europa League Final in 2010 when he was aged just 19. Having been on the end of his fair share of – often unjust – criticism in his early United days, the Spaniard is now demonstrating what he’s capable of with a string of consistently solid displays between the sticks. His agility and capability pulling off remarkable saves is matched by few in the league.
Wayne Rooney: Another individual who enjoys featuring against us, Wayne Rooney has scored 12 times against the Whites, a figure he’s also reached against Arsenal, Aston Villa and Portsmouth. After a spell on the sidelines with a groin injury, the England forward has featured in their last two matches to hand Moyes a timely boost. Capable of creating something out of nothing, fans across the country will be hoping Rooney enjoys a prosperous run-in ahead of the World Cup, although if he could start after Sunday, that would be ideal.
6 - Robin van Persie has six goals and two assists in his last seven Premier League appearances.
21 - Should Fulham win or lose they will have gone 21 Premier League games without a draw. Only one side (Bolton Wanderers - 28 games in Mar-Dec 2011) have gone on a longer run in Premier League history without a draw.
3 - Fulham’s last three Premier League games have been 0-0 at half-time but they have lost all three, conceding seven goals in the process.
13 - Juan Mata has delivered 13 crosses (including corners) for Manchester United but only one of those has found a teammate.
5 - Wayne Rooney has scored in five of United’s last six games against Fulham (all competitions).
7 - Fulham have scored seven goals from corners this season, only Manchester City have scored more.
5 - United have kept five clean sheets in their last six home league games against Fulham.
11 - Manchester United have gone 11 Premier League games without a draw currently (W6 L5).