Fulham v Man Utd: Preview


It’s Fulham today and United would look to put goals past the Cottagers and ensure the all important three points. Arsenal will be playing Villa at the same time.

So let’s get our preview in as soon as we can as we lead you up to the match.

Not much in the way of team news really, apart from Giggs missing out with a calf injury. However, iron-man Vidic is fit and it’s good to know that his limping around in the Newcastle game was nothing to be worried about — iron-man, that he is. While still on injuries, Easter Island Head is looking to return to the side soon. It’s a good thing that Evra has been relatively injury free and Silly has been out for a long time. He’s a decent squad player, but he’s also been a disaster waiting to happen. Anyway, we always respect our players, and we’ll do so to EIH too.

Meanwhile, there has been no mention of Neville picking up another injury. So I will knock on every splinter of wood in my house and keep my fingers crossed on this one. As an aside, would too much wood-knocking and finger-crossing cross out each other and jinx Neville? We’ll have to wait and see. So watch this space as we keep you updated with more on the Neviller’s anatomy.

On the team composition, we’d expect our ‘fab-four’ at the back with Nani and Ronaldo on the wings. I say Ronaldo because SAF may not take any games lightly from now on. He will play Ronaldo in Fulham, and he will play him against Lyon, in midweek. And Anderson and Carrick would play in central midfield. Scholes and Hargreaves (although I am uneasy about that combination) would play in midweek. Right, so that’s enough sticking-my-neck-out material penned for the day.

About our front two, I am not as certain. Rooney and Tevez is as good as any strike partnerships go but there is a possibility that a fit-looking (or fit-sounding?) Saha might be in the mix somewhere. SAF may have the temptation to play Rooney and Saha for this one. It’s just my hunch — betting people, mind, it’s rather unreliable, that hunch of mine.

About the pre-match banter forced on the managers (and on us) by the kind folk at Sky and Setanta, there has been some talk about SAF’s admiration for Roy Hodgson’s accumulated frequent flier miles and how his constant shifting from one club/country to another may have found favour with airline companies.

Oh well, it’s time for me to stick my neck out once more and give my all important prediction.

Prediction: 2-0 to United — Ronaldo and Rooney to score.

The frequent flier miles and finding favour with airline companies bit was made up by me, in case some of you hadn’t noticed.



  1. Taher: To be frank a basic 4-4-2 formation is somewhat antiquated in modern European football. The formation and the attack, attack, attack approach was badly exposed in the 99/00 and 00/01 seasons by Madrid and Munich respectively. Just because we have botched a number of CL campaigns playing a more cautious system does not make it the wrong choice.

    SAF first deployed a European system over a long term in 01/02. In that season it would have seen us to a CL final if it hadn’t been for a truck load of missed chances against Leverkusen. It would also have probably seen us to the finals the next year if we hadn’t had the misfortune of meeting the Madrid galactio era at their peak. After that until last season we were, simply put, not good enough to progress in Europe regardless of the formation used.

    Look at the recent finals, Milan won playing a 4-3-2-1 last year, Barca a 4-3-3 the year before. Prior to that Liverpool were torn apart in the first half of the 2005 final in a 4-4-2 and only got back into the match after switching to a 3-5-2. Porto won in 2004 playing a 4-3-1-2 as did Milan the year before. You have to go back to Madrid in 2002 to find a team that played in something resembling a 4-4-2 and even then it was probably closer to a diamond formation.

  2. 4-4-2 used to destroy European opposition back in the 70s and 80’s with the big successes of Liverpool, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa. Seven trophies in and around a decade was phenomenal and Europes best clubs were terrified of playing the grinding English sides. Somewhere down the line things changed after England was banned for several years from the competition after the Rome disaster. Europe caught up and figured out how to beat the 4-4-2. Even so, it took an additional ten years before Fergie and others figured it out. It doesn’t work anymore because it leaves us vulnerable in the midfield. We can score from it but defensively we take our chances.

    Fergie knows what he’s doing but it is not attractive to watch. The Cl is a disgraceful tournament to watch and it makes me sick to listen to those who think it is exciting. The only thing exciting is the idea of a team getting knocked out in the knockout stages. The group stage does not work and there are far too many teams and unworthy teams from tosser nations who don’t belong in the tourney.

    The tourney may have prestige but it lacks in class and drama. It’s too political and all the drama queens, poor referees and negative tactics come out of the woodwork to make it a spectacle of rubbish. Most of this garbage originates from Italy and some from Spain. The two most dominant nations in the tourney’s history. A major overhaul in the rules regulations and criteria for the tourney needs to be made by UEFA. Good luck!!! I badly want to see United win the trophy for many reasons. First off it would be great for the team, city, country and for Fergie. Finally, it would help Ronaldo win the World Player of the Year award he was robbed of because of 3 good games Ricky Kaka had in the CL. As far as I’m concerned nothing beats the long struggle, drama and suspense, not to mention the quality of the Premiere League. Now if only we could get better referees and linesmen.

  3. UCL is what we need 2 win this year.but even if we do CR7 won’t win
    WPOTY coz its an award reserved 4 Milan,Madrid,Barca and Juventus
    players.The premise of attack can still work in UCL if combined
    with due caution and based mainly on counter-attack.Andrsn and OH should
    start coz of balance of defensive and offensive attributes with a
    dash of sensible energy

  4. hey… i would like to ask for comments about Park? it seems the Asian guy is always under-rated or not talked much about, no matter how hard he works to justify himself. And if you watch the games he plays in carefully, you will realise that most footballers tend to “bully” him on the field. Even the referee wouldn’t make some calls that were really obvious. Am i wrong in saying this? your comments pls.

    MAN U to win on tues! woot~!

  5. What happened last year against AC Milan showed us all that form comes before formation if you want to win the UCL. SAF knows that very well now, and it seems that we are in much better shape this year. Injuries permitting, we’ll go all the way.
    But we want the EPL too and that’s why I pray that Arsenal eliminate AC Milan this year, otherwise they’ll only have EPL to focus on.

  6. Grognard: That is extremely harsh on the Champions League. It has its problems but it is hardly the disgrace you make it out to be. While the group stage mightn’t be the best invention in the world the tournament does produce its share of exciting football matches. The gripes about political interference in the CL are generally blown out of all proportion. As for the refereeing, it is no worse than in any other major tournament/league. I would also like to say that whilst I prefer my 4-3 matches, I can also enjoy a good bout of tactical battling and matching of wits (which is different from pitting two ten man defenses against each other).

    Tactics tend to be a cyclical thing. You argue that it is riddled with negative tactics, yet the Premiership is only coming out of a rut of 4-5-1, defensive football in the last 18 months, whilst International football is currently a fairly turgid affair. Negative tactics are not an exclusively CL issue. The problem tends to be magnified with the preponderance of matches pitting top teams against each other. Look at the league matches between the top sides in England, they often end up cancelling each other out and it ends up a challenge at to who can grind out a result better (see ourselves versus Liverpool for example).

    At any rate we faced two Italian teams last year and neither were 10 men defensive walls, they both went out there and played some good football (with varying degrees of success). It should also be noted that the finalists in 2006 were both expansive teams, with an eye on goal scoring first and foremost.

  7. JB; You are making your case by pointing to a handful of CL matches that were exciting and thrilling. Overall though the league is brought down by too many unworthy teams playing 4-5-1 at home trying to scrape a point in the first round. The first round is the big culprit and it has to go. As for Italian sides, they do open up a bit once you get out of the group stage. Still they play the game like chess, slow and oh so plodding. Nothing against chess, I just don’t like it on the pitch.

    As for the Prem, it’s not perfect either. Too many teams and too many teams playing 4-5-1 or 4-6-0 even at home. The good news is that good teams like United still find ways to break clubs like that down most of the time. Breaking down a quality side like Porto or Lyon when they play 4-5-1 can really be dull though.

    What I would like to see is fewer teams in both. The Prem would be absolute Utopia if it wen down to 18 teams and 34 games while the CL needs to go back to a strictly home and away knockout formula that awards points for goals both away and home. I don’t mind a great 0-0 or 1-0 classic but too many of the games resemble watching bland white bread go stale on the kitchen table. I want to see the offensive explosion shown from the 70’s style of Total Football exhibited by clubs from Holland and Germany. Lots of goals and a lot of unpredictability. The game was fast, skillful and the tactics were positive. Above all their weren’t as much theatrics and drama queens ruining the games. All teams, even the poor ones felt an obligation to try to score and above all, entertain. Back then Germany, Holland and England ruled the roost because they were the only nations that could consistently supply attacking and talented teams to the tourney. Spain and Italy struggled because of their dull, slow and negative approach to the game. Between 1970 and 1985 German teams won 4 CL’s, Dutch won 4 and England won 7. Yes Aston Villa and Notts Forest weren’t exciting to watch but they still represented a league that played a positive brand of football. Sometimes one can learn from the past. If only. I know, I know, I’m dreaming.

  8. [Grognard]
    Well, then, by that logic, Chelsea-Liverpool matches must be outlawed for the good of the world. I see nothing awe inspiring with the kind of fare they dish out.

    Reducing the league to 18? Maybe you could then remove Derby and Fulham. But you will still have the likes of Middlesbrough, Bolton, Sunderland (who at the moment are awful) to contend with. And the games between the big four (Arsenal-United aside) are always played against the back drop of caution, fear and respect for the other side.

    It is the same when Real Madrid play Milan. The best sides always show caution against worthy opposition. But the CL has proved to be a better competition, because of the quality of players on offer. Nevermind the dire displays in the knockout rounds. It’s proved to be UEFA’s crown jewel without doubt.

  9. The higher the competition the more stifling the coaching and tactics become. The CL is infested with Rafa types. Chess players who get a high on moving pawns around the board or toy soldiers on a map board. The problem is that they are not fans of the game. They destroy it with negativity and logical choices designed to not just neutralize the opponent but in turn their own teams. Rafa is the king of this kind of shite and that is why he does well in the CL. SORRY MATE BUT THAT’S NOT FOOTBALL! Go back to the days of Beckenbauer, Muller, Cruyff, Neeskens, Keegan and Rummenigge. The game was more wide open and a 1-0 game quite often felt like 4-3 game. Sure there would be poor defensive matches then too, but not like today. Back then 4-3-3 was the norm and the three up front were true forwards, not one striker up the middle and two wingers/midfielders playing wide and slightly in front of the central midfielders.

    As for the Prem, two less crappy teams would go a long way to improve the quality of the league. Less games means more importance per match also. Personally I would love the Prem to be like Scotland, with only 12 teams. But that won’t happen ever. I just want to see the game go back to what it was. More open and more entertaining instead of 15 guys clogging up the midfield.

  10. Highly unlikely that you would see a better league with 2 less teams. The stakes are just too high and teams are afraid to lose. It’s these situations where I feel the Spanish League is a lot more technical and any team can beat any other — and not by clogging the midfield. There are many situations where you see lower rung teams play the better ones off the park. Case in point, Atletico Madrid (the perennial underachievers) just outplayed barca off the park with a 4-2 win.

  11. I’m sorry Grognard but what you refer to is a natural development of the game. You may not like it, I may not like it, but there is nothing you can do about. The increased money in the game, the superior organisation of teams and improved physicality of players has all come together to encourage an increasingly defensive style of play. Changing the CL to a solely knock out format doesn’t do anything to impact on the key contributing factors in this shift. I also disagree with this notion that the CL is infested with negative managers. The CL has no bigger problem with turgid managers than any major domestic league or international competition has.

    As for the PL issue, you argue that reducing the league to 18 teams increases the importance of each match. Fair point, but since the stakes are even higher, will that in turn not cause the strugglers to become even more desperate to avoid defeat and exacerbate the problem. I fail to see how the SPL is an appealing advert for a 12 team league and that isn’t even taking into account the logistical disaster zone that is the split league format.

  12. JB; The money involved in the CL now makes teams and their managers very negative. Getting a positive result like 0-0 draw means they live to play another day. 25 or 30 years ago lesser teams were just happy to compete. They never played with delusions of grandeur and although there was an occasional upset, they played to win by trying to outscore their opponent. Today they play not to give up goals and if they are lucky to get to the knockout round then they play the same way and hope for a shootout. It makes for awful football.

    Still, I do disagree with you. The game has evolved and we cannot go back. That is why retro, nostalgia etc is such a craze in pop culture. Because many people like me don’t like the present status quo. In order to make the games better and not what you refer to in your last post, we need to reward the scoring of goals by offering incentives to do so. I would be so brave as to offer an extra point for every goal over 2 and subtract points to both clubs for goalless draws. Yes it’s radical and it’s just ideas I am throwing out there but the game is somewhat broken. It is too dependant on finances and antiquated rules that reward defense over offense. The game should do whatever to promote goal scoring and more open play with less fouling, diving, acting and gamesmanship designed to infuriate the fans.

  13. You are right that the money involved in the CL can make managers defensive in the group stages. However as I said earlier it isn’t a CL exclusive issue. The Premiership has the exact same problem in that regards, so it is a bit unfair to hammer the CL for it.

    As for the changes in the points scoring for goals, it’s a nice idea in theory, but not one I would go for. I am not a big fan of fiddling with sports basic rules to try and make it more exciting, it makes the whole thing seem hollower to me. I am a big Formula One fan but I hate the constant twiddling about with rules in an effort to make the sport more appealing.

    If it isn’t a sweeping generalization, may it be a case of a culture clash? Europeans always have seemed more content with low scoring in sporting activities in comparison to North Americans. I like plenty of goals, but if loads of games were ending up 3-2, 4-3 etc, it would lessen the appeal for me and cheapen the value of the ‘real’ classic games.

  14. The money and the prestige with winning in the CL is immense. That at to the pressure to win or move forward at all costs. This creates caution and negativity. Yes other leagues have it but football and it’s governing powers need to correct the problem, especially in it’s largest and most prestigious international tournaments like the CL, World Cup, and European Championships. In South America where the money is not as big the problem is not as widespread. They still try to score goals over there. The last Copa for example was a goal feast.

    I too like and appreciate a good and tense low scoring battle. But not if it is so stifling and negative that you can see it go on forever without a goal. In North America the game of pro hockey was suffering from the very same negative problems I have been mentioning. For 12 years the game was getting faster, bigger but harder to score and many of the talented players were no longer able show off their skills because of the increased physicality as well as the defensive systems in place, especially one designed to stop fast flowing breakouts known as the Neutral Zone Trap. Add to this goaltender equipment that was so large that it took away space for players to shoot at goal. Over the last three years the NHL and hockey in general have worked hard to get rid of a lot of these negative influences in the game. Rule changes in penalties, equipment restrictions and style of play have been introduced and they have helped, but more is still needed. Football needs a lot of fixing up to. Give the game back to the Messi’s, Ronaldo’s, Ronaldinho’s and Riquelme’s, and not the Rafa’s, Terry’s and bottom feeder managers who will set up 10 men in their box to defend at all costs. The game is riddled with cowardice. I say this as a North American and so your comment on culture clash is very valid. But what or who is to say that North American demands for bravery and an offensive approach to sports is wrong. I’d rather watch a World Cup final like 1966, 1970, 1974 and 1986 rather than 1990, 1994 and 2006, Need I mention the problem with the history of the European Cup and all its 1-0 finals. Free the game up again so that it’s beauty flourishes.

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