Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Friday August 20 2010
Could there be a more attractive first home game of the season than a visit from Manchester United? We think not!
Our new boss, Mark Hughes, will be looking forward to welcoming one of his former clubs to his new abode and in front of a capacity crowd on the banks of the Thames.
Can Fulham repeat their endeavours of last season and emerge victors, time will tell!
Ahead of the clash, Mark Hughes has spoken out about the goalkeeping situation whereby he feels Arsenal have been less than sporting in trying to unsettle his first choice keeper, Mark Schwarzer, remarking,
"There wasn't an improved offer from Arsenal - it was exactly the same one that was put forward in May.'
'The situation hasn't moved on. There's been contact but no improved offer."
'I don't know if Arsenal are trying to disrupt him. There are many things clubs, players and agents do to unsettle players. Mark is aware of the interest of Arsenal. That knowledge is distracting and disruptive."
Will he pick Schwarzer on Sunday or is it now nailed-on that Stockdale will start?
Mark Hughes welcomes one of his former clubs to Craven Cottage this Sunday keen to secure his first win of the new season. The squad has been boosted by the signing of Moussa Dembele this week and it`ll be interesting to see if he`s given his chance for the off or has to be content with a place on the bench. A noticeable absentee will be the long-term injury victims Andrew Johnson and Philippe Senderos and we suspect that Jonathan Greening may well have other things on his mind like a prospective switch to Blackburn Rovers.
After a decent performance up at the Reebok Stadium we expect David Stockdale to keep his place irrespective of what is happening on the Mark Schwarzer front. Stephen Kelly deputised for Paul Konchesky last week with the full back struggling with an ankle injury, dependent on his availability Hughes may have to make a straight choice between the two this weekend.
We reckon Hughes will go for the following starting eleven:-
Stockdale, Pantsil, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky (or Kelly), Etuhu, Murphy, Gera, Davies, Zamora and Duff
We`re not even sure that the Belgian international, signed in midweek, will start. But it`s not often Fulham splash £5 million on a player so you can understand why we`re so keen to catch a glimpse of what he`s all about!
Manchester United arrive in our part of London without the long term injured trio of Rio Ferdinand, Anderson and Owen Hargreaves. There are also doubts about the fitness of Patrice Evra who picked up a knock against Newcastle on Monday night. Apart from those four, we believe Sir Alex Ferguson`s biggest problem surrounds which eleven of his talented squad to start with. What a lovely problem to have although we suspect that Chris Smalling, a recent acquisition from our good selves, will have to be content with a place on the bench.
Age hasn`t diminished his qualities and the man who famously said "No thanks" to Fabio Capello on the eve of our doomed World Cup campaign in South Africa has already taken two man-of-the-match awards in the two competitive games he`s featured in this season. We suspect that Sir Alex will ration his appearances this season as he seeks to preserve those ageing legs, would it be too much to hope that Scholes sits this one out?
Manchester United have the edge when it comes to head-to-head battles having beaten us 10 times in our last 12 games in all competitions. United are also on a 5 game Premier League winning streak.
Mark Hughes is also seeking to end a personal run of defeats against United a run which saw him lose all three games against United whilst in charge of their chief rivals, City!
Last season though Fulham strolled to a comfortable 3-0 victory against United on an afternoon to remember!
Peter Walton is your official in charge hoping to be ably assisted by his two assistants -Dave Bryan and Andy Newbold, whilst Lee Probert is the man waving the boards about in the technical area.
Manchester United are always formidable opposition. They`ve started the season well and are scoring freely. Already they`ve stuck three past Chelsea (in the Community Shield) and the past Newcastle (in the Premier League). They`ve a strong squad to choose from and will be looking for revenge after we turned them over last season on our patch. There are no arguments from me that this will be anything other than a monumental task for our lads and I reckon we`ll have done well if we can sneak a draw out of this one. 1-1 I`ll go for!
Next up for Fulham is a Carling Cup fixture against Port Vale and the return to Craven Cottage of Mickey Adams who once held the post of manager of our club.
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Date:Friday August 20 2010
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