01/02/2013 15:30, Report by Nick Coppack
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Rooney expects stern test

Manchester United made light work of Fulham when the Cottagers visited Old Trafford last weekend, but Wayne Rooney expects this Saturday’s league clash in west London to prove more difficult.

The Reds won the FA Cup fourth round clash at a canter – thanks to goals from Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Javier Hernandez (2) – but have won just once in the last four league visits to Craven Cottage.

And while Martin Jol’s side have taken just 18 points from a possible 36 at home this season, they’ve tasted defeat by the banks of the Thames just once since the beginning of December, hinting at a recent change in fortune in front of their own fans.

“At home, Fulham are a different team,” Rooney said. “It’s always a difficult game there. It’s a smaller pitch and a compact stadium. That suits them.

“They’ve got players who can take the ball between the lines because the pitch isn’t as big and then create chances. It will be a completely different game [to the one at Old Trafford].

“They are down near the bottom so they will be fighting to get one or three points. We will need to make sure we are at our best to beat them.”

United will certainly need to improve on the second-half showing against Southampton in midweek that almost cost the Reds valuable points in the title race. The Reds not only had to come from behind after conceding an early goal, but had to endure a barrage of Saints attacks after the interval.

Sir Alex’s men dug deep to hang on, however, and now go to Craven Cottage with an opportunity to extend the lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League table to 10 points.

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Premier League