Manchester United face Fulham in the Emirates FA Cup quarter final at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon. Erik ten Hag’s side will play their second quarter final of the season days after reaching their third quarter final in the UEFA Europa League, where they will face Sevilla over two legs next month. This match against Fulham is the final match for United prior to the international break, then the season will continue with United playing nine matches in April – another busy month.
Should United beat Fulham and earn a semi final place in the FA Cup this season, the match against Chelsea at Old Trafford in the Premier League would be postponed as that is the weekend the semi finals will be played at Wembley, so United would need to find the time to reschedule that match, plus the one against Brighton and Hove Albion that should have been played this weekend. Should United go all the way in both competitions, they will have a busy period ahead.
United and Fulham have already met at Craven Cottage in the Premier League this season, just prior to the FIFA World Cup where United won 2-1 with Alejandro Garnacho scoring the winner in in the last minute of added time. United will face Fulham again at Old Trafford on the final day of the Premier League season. The draw for the semi final of the FA Cup should be done prior to this match commencing, providing extra time is not needed between Brighton and Grimsby Town.
Predicted Manchester United Starting XI – 4-3-3
Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw;
Fernandes, McTominay, Sabitzer;
Pellistri, Weghorst, Rashford
Goalkeeper: De Gea
David De Gea has been a positive for United for the majority of the season. He will want to help guide United to more trophies this season after already helping the club lift the Carabao Cup this season. United have earned a UEFA Europa League quarter final next month and will be seeking to reach the semi final of the Emirates FA Cup by beating Fulham. I cannot see Jack Butland or Tom Heaton playing in goal this weekend if De Gea is fit to do so.
Granted, De Gea will need to keep fresh but having not been selected to represent Spain during the international break, he will get a fortnight off to rest and recover ahead of the next busy period for United which will see them play nine matches in April and beating Fulham will postpone another Premier League match which will need to be placed into the calendar just like the clash with Brighton and Hove Albion that should have been played this weekend.
United will probably need to rotate in the coming month or so but not now. Solidifying their place in the Premier League will need to be done as a minimum this season with the priority being to lift the Emirates FA Cup and the UEFA Europa League, seeking a cup treble in Erik ten Hag’s first season, which would really upset the ABUs. However, lifting either of them would be a positive alongside the Carabao Cup and show that United are on their way to coming back.
Defenders: Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw
United’s defence has done well this season but there is a bigger test ahead of them which will result in the likes of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire getting more minutes during the remainder of the season. That said, it is Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez who are the preferred central defensive partnership at United this season with the Frenchman and the Argentinian complimenting themselves. Another strong purchase in the summer could solve the defence.
I think Varane, who was rested for the Real Betis victory will start against Fulham with Martinez parenting him once again. The Argentinian came off in the last 15 minutes on Thursday, giving him a bit more time to recover for Sunday’s match. He will be happy with the number of fixtures he has been playing this season though, as will Varane. They hold the keys for United getting into the semi finals of the Emirates FA Cup this season and I think United will do that.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka should start as the right-back against Fulham as for much of the season he has been a positive impact. That said, against Betis, he was not his usual self, which could have been caused by fatigue. Diogo Dalot is a positive player but since his latest return from injury, he’s not been the same player. Luke Shaw, who was rested against Betis to start against Fulham. He has had a great season and will be seeking to make it even better. This defence is United’s best.
Midfield: Fernandes, McTominay, Sabitzer
United’s midfield will face a blow for the next four domestic fixtures with Casemiro suspended after his red card against Southampton last weekend. It will be something that United will have to deal with though. Against Fulham, United could revert to a midfield three in a 4-3-3 formation as Bruno Fernandes has been playing as a central midfielder more recently which could be to counteract the absence of Casemiro. United still have a few options so it is up to Ten Hag.
Fernandes should keep his place as he’s not going to get much rest having been selected for Portugal during the international break with compatriot Diogo Dalot. Fernandes has been off the boil in the last few matches, which could be down to United’s busy fixture schedule and the fact he’s played in all but two matches thus far. Scott McTominay could also start, playing as the defensive minded midfielder – a role in which he has played many times before.
Marcel Sabitzer made his return after missing two matches due to a knock against Real Betis on Thursday evening, coming off the bench. He could start in this match to aid Fernandes in the attacking midfield role as he has an eye for a goal and enjoys playing further forward. United could change their formation at times during the match too. Fred is also an option but he’s largely been an impact substitute this season and could prove something extra against Fulham.
Forwards: Pellistri, Weghorst, Rashford
Facundo Pellistri should start for United against Fulham after playing well against Real Betis. Antony is likely to miss out this match and with Jadon Sancho in poor form, playing the young Uruguayan would be a much better option as he has done well when called upon this season. He made his first start for the club on Thursday evening and seemed to be lively on the attack, doing well on the right flank. United could rotate him for the remainder of the season, which would work.
Wout Weghorst will continue to play as the striker in this team whilst Anthony Martial is still recovering from his current injury before the next one comes. Despite the criticism and the lack of goals scored, he has been a largely positive player for United since making his loan move from Fulham, well Besiktas where he had been loaned to last summer. He has two goals to his name so far and three assists, so is on the right track – he will be seeking to score again though.
Marcus Rashford is the player to beat this season after he scored his 27th goal of the season on Thursday evening. Granted, he was off the pace for much of the match but in the 55th minute, se stepped up and scored a brilliant goal for United to settle the tie giving United a four-goal cushion in their eventual 5-1 aggregate victory. Rashford will be tired but also determined to succeed for United this season in what has been his best season yet for the Old Trafford club.
Substitutes: Heaton; Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia, Dalot; Fred, Mainoo; Sancho, Elanga
Ten Hag will be able to name nine players on the bench against Fulham, three short of what he could have named in the UEFA Europa League – although he only had ten players on the bench because of illness and injury. I would expect Tom Heaton to remain on the bench as the reserve goalkeeper against Fulham with De Gea expected to start once again for United. I cannot see another goalkeeper coming in at this stage of the season, unless there is an injury.
In the defence, United have the best depth going into this match. Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Tyrell Malacia and Diogo Dalot should all be available for United. The defence is not the worst that it has been for United post-Sir Alex Ferguson but there is room for improvement. In the midfield, Fred and Kobbie Mainoo could be called on to make an impact if needed which would be good for the pair of them if it happens. United are literally at bare bones in this area now.
In the attack, United could have just Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga on the bench with the likelihood that Antony and Anthony Martial both miss this match, which really cuts down the attacking options for Ten Hag. That said, the players that start the match should be good enough to find the victory for United and Sancho could get a chance to show his ability once again and Elanga could finally start to show some promise, which would be good to see.
Written by John Walker