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Preview: Manchester United to put pressure on Chelsea by beating Fulham and moving into the top four?

Fulham -v- Manchester United

Premier League

Craven Cottage, London

Saturday 9 February 2019; KO 12:30 GMT

Referee: Paul Tierney

Manchester United will travel to London again this weekend to face Fulham at Craven Cottage in the Premier League. In the last meeting this season, United beat Fulham 4-1 at Old Trafford, which was Jose Mourinho’s penultimate Premier League match in charge of United before he was sacked. United have a great record against Fulham, playing 73 times, winning 50, drawing 19 and losing just 14 times. The last defeat to Fulham was back in 2009, a year United lost twice at Craven Cottage (over two seasons).

Fulham currently sits 19th in the Premier League table, amassing just 17 points in 25 matches, which is poor and could only mean one thing, a likely relegation back to the Championship if they do not start playing a good brand of football which sees them winning matches. United rose to fifth in the league after their 1-0 victory over Leicester City last weekend and providing they beat Fulham in the first Premier League match this weekend, they will topple Chelsea to reach fourth.

However, Chelsea faces Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, so if they beat the Premier League leaders, they would force United back into fifth place. City will need to keep the pressure on Liverpool this weekend, which is Bournemouth beat Liverpool, or make them drop points, could see City put some daylight between them and Liverpool, meaning that goal difference is not the only factor splitting them, if they beat Chelsea, of course.

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Pre-Match Opinion: Confidence still on a high after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Marcus Rashford win Premier League awards for January

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Marcus Rashford have been named the manager and player of the month for January 2019 by the Premier League. It was the first time a United manager had won the award for over six years and eight years since a United manager and a player won the awards in the same month. Imagine having the likes of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, and Jose Mourinho in the management role and not winning an award such as this, which Solskjaer has won not even two months into his career.

The confidence has risen massively since Mourinho was sacked and that is mostly to do with Solskjaer and the fact that he and coaches, Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick, and Kieran McKenna have started to rebrand United back into the attacking football team we all knew was still in there, somewhere. After ten matches, Solskjaer has won nine and drawn just once, which shows how good this team of players is. However, this month, they will be tested to see just how far they can go.

The next few weeks are going to be difficult for Solskjaer and his United team, facing Fulham away from home on Saturday, of which they have won their last four visits, the hosting Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening (12/2), then visiting Stamford Bridge for the second time this season to fight for a place in the sixth round of the Emirates FA Cup with Chelsea (18/2), before a home Premier League clash with the bitter ones, Liverpool (24/2). It won’t be easy.

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Form: United are the team that, based on form, will be the major winners heading into this game at Craven Cottage

Manchester United: WDWWWW

Leicester City 1-0 W, Burnley 2-2 D, Arsenal 3-1 W, Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 W, Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 W, Reading 2-0 W

Solskjaer has done well at United during his two months at the club this season. Ten games, nine wins and one draw. United have gone from 11 points outside the top four under Mourinho to just two points behind Chelsea in fourth place in the Premier League, which could see United rise again this weekend. United and undefeated under Solskjaer and have one draw in the last six matches, the rest are victories. It is going to be a tough month though.

Fulham: LWLLLL

Crystal Palace 2-0 L, Brighton and Hove Albion 4-2 W, Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 L, Burnley 2-1 L, Oldham Athletic 2-1 L, Arsenal 4-1 L

It looks like Fulham are to be on their way out of the Premier League once again this season. 17 points in 25 games, which is poor. It leaves the club seven points from safety and that is just to the 17th position in the league. Losing against United with be another big blow to their season, one which even Claudio Ranieri will not be able to save. Their promotion from the Championship saw them come up with class, something which seems to have been lost along the way. One win in the last six matches. Poor.

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Team News: Victor Lindelof rested against of Fulham clash? Marcos Rojo nearing return; Antonio Valencia suffers a setback

Solskjaer has confirmed that Marcos Rojo has been training all week but according to the media, he has not travelled to London on Friday afternoon. Victor Lindelof seems to have been rested for this game with the Swedish international not seen by the media either. Antonio Valencia will also miss this game due to a setback, although it seems that he may not be in the plans of Solskjaer at this stage of the season with Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot preferred ahead of the veteran. Speaking about this, Solskjaer said:

“Rojo has been training for a few days, so he’s back in training. But we’ve lost Antonio and Matteo through niggles for a couple of weeks. We’re still not bad. We’ve got 20-21 players training every day, so that’s good.

“Antonio has been training hard, really hard, and then he got a setback. So, hopefully, in a couple of weeks, he’ll be back with us. He’s been a fantastic servant at the club, he’s captain for a reason and, hopefully, we can get him back on the pitch. It was hard when he broke down because he would have travelled this weekend.”

Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri will have both Cyrus Christie and Andre Schurrle available for the clash with United this weekend. On-loan United player, Tim Fosu-Mensah will not be able to play against his parent club, not that he has featured much under Ranieri this season anyway. Also, Marcus Bettinelli and Alfie Mawson are both long-term absentees. January signings Lazar Markovic and Havard Nordtveit are both nor fit enough to face United, but who knows whether this is a game by the manager?

Predicted Starting XI: Rashford must start against Fulham, despite the fact he will likely play against PSG, Chelsea, and Liverpool too

Marcus Rashford is the best option to face Fulham as the starting striker this weekend. Romelu Lukaku just does not seem to be anywhere near reaching form at this stage of the season, which is worrying. Rashford will relish playing for United, no matter who the opposition is. Lukaku will need to find his form, which has been lacking for nearly the entire season, despite him scoring goals and creating assists here and there.

Match Prediction: Manchester United to put pressure on Chelsea, moving into fourth this weekend

I can see United winning this match. If they won the reverse fixture 4-1 under Mourinho, with the attacking football being a better brand under Solskjaer, this United side should humiliate the strugglers. However, any team is capable of getting a shock result on the day. United was not at their best against Leicester City but scored the only goal of the game to take all three points. That will need to be much different against this Fulham side, who need points to avoid the inevitable, relegation.

Fulham 0-3 Manchester United

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