Fulham at Manchester United, Dec 8:
Manchester United’s Old Trafford will play host the away side, Fulham. And although Manchester United’s form has not been what they would like, they still find themselves in 8th. Fulham find themselves at the bottom of the table, and enter as serious underdogs as the 20th-ranked side. Frankly though, both sides have room for substantial improvement.
This Manchester United team is nothing like what we’re used to seeing from the Red Devils. In fact, unlike last season when United’s defense was masterful they have almost already surpassed last season’s goals allowed. The Red Devils this season have already conceded 25 goals in the first 15 games, which is close to the 28 allowed the entire season last year. That said, Mourinho has used almost everyone (seriously) this season in defense. The last game for United featured one of the first times that Bailly and Marcus Rojo have featured together this season. Although Marcus Rojo, is credited with an own goal and that they fought to a draw, I think Reds fans should look favorably on their last showing. Bailly played confidently for the first time in a United jersey — in a very long time.
There’s still a long way for this side to go to get back to return to their former glory. This last game had at least a few players with desire that we haven’t seen in a while. However, draws are no longer enough for this side, which Mourinho says will target the top four by the new year. Even new starlet Diogo Dalot seems to think that “the spirit and fight is there” and agrees that the top four is realistic. Although United have managed only a streak of draws, they have gone down early and fought back. The real determination of their likelihood of advancing towards the top will be their ability to get points. They’ve drawn against some rather poor opponents this year including Southampton and Crystal Palace. This is an opportunity for United to get three points and close the gap between them and the top four (however brief) top 5 points.
United isn’t markedly better at home than on the road. However, they still average 1.43 goals for and allowed at home. Combine that with the poor away record by Fulham and it may just be enough. One thing United fans will likes be concerned about is the fact that United allow 70% of their goals in the 2nd half of matches. Almost all of United’s matches (80%) have had more than 2.5 goals involved.
FulhamFulham were one of the surprise promotions last season after beating out Aston Villa in the Championship playoffs. Fulham shipped 46 goals last season in the Championship. Already they have conceded 36 goals with a -21 goal difference. However, the fact that got promoted alone probably added about £135 million to their balance sheet. So far this season they’ve only been able to secure 9 points through 15 matches. They will likely need a serious run of form and a lot of goals to keep them us this season. Fulham have spent a number of seasons in the Premier League and they’d love to make it last. Fulham has had some of the best seasons in the club’s history since the turn of the 21st century. Their crowning achievement was a 7th place finish in the 2009 season. They dipped back into the Championship for 4 seasons but are back! They’ve made their best attempt to show they belong with nearly £100M in transfer expenditures. So far, the results haven’t evolved quite as they would have liked. However, after this matchup there’s a string of 4 games that the Cottagers have a great chance of winning. Really, they probably need to pull off some wins in that series to have a good chance of staying up. Fulham’s away form has been far from enviable, with 6 straight defeats away from home. Mirroring this run of defeats, Fulham averages 2.5 goals conceded per match and only barely over a half goal (0.63) per game. Almost all of Fulham’s points have come at home, and with the amount of goals they concede it’s not likely they’ll come away with the full 3 points. Fulham have conceded the opening goal in 11 of their 15 matches played.
What to expect from the matchup
The neutrals expect Manchester United to win this one handily. They expect a number of goals to be scored, possibly three or four. Early reports from the Manchester United camp is that despite Bailly’s good play, both he and Martial are rumored to be absent. Fulham aren’t expected to be missing any players.
I anticipate probably 3+ goals, and while I think United will ultimately win, I’m torn on the clean sheet. Ultimately it comes down to this — both teams need points. I expect Fulham to play attacking, they aren’t expected to win so they don’t have anything to lose. United’s defense is not in a good place, so I can see Fulham sneaking a goal. United should be good enough from the attacking side to put a few past Sergio Rico though.