Your essential guide to United v Fulham
After Wednesday night's thrilling 2-2 draw against Arsenal, Manchester United have another home game on Saturday afternoon as we welcome Fulham to Old Trafford for the teams' first Premier League meeting in more than four years.
The visit of the Cottagers is the third of eight assignments for Jose Mourinho’s men during a busy December and, after three consecutive draws against Crystal Palace, Southampton and Arsenal, the Reds will be determined to return to winning ways in the league against a Fulham team currently at the foot of the table.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the 15:00 GMT kick-off…
WHAT'S THE TEAM NEWS?
The boss told the media on Friday that he is waiting on the fitness of several players including Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Chris Smalling.
“For sure we are going to play with players not at the maximum of their potential, but players that will make themselves available like Smalling and Jones did," he said in his press conference.
“Players with some difficulty will make one step forward to try to help the team.”
Meanwhile, Ashley Young is back in contention after missing the Arsenal match to serve a one-match ban for accumulating five yellow cards in the league, while Smalling could face his former club, having joined United from Fulham back in 2010. The Reds are still expected to be without the injured Victor Lindelof and Alexis Sanchez, while Jones and Luke Shaw missed the draw with Arsenal with problems sustained against Southampton last weekend.
HOW ABOUT FULHAM?
Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri reported a clean bill of health in his media briefing on Thursday. Dutch defender Tim Fosu-Mensah, who is currently on loan at Craven Cottage from the Reds, is ineligible to face his parent club as per Premier League rules. On-loan Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico, who played against United at Old Trafford in the Champions League last season, could make a seventh successive start since earning the number one jersey from Marcus Bettinelli. English defender Calum Chambers, who is on loan from Arsenal, has played the last three matches in a midfield role in the absence of Scotland international Kevin McDonald. Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has seven league goals this season and has netted once in three previous games against United for Newcastle – in a 3-3 draw in 2016.
HOW ARE FULHAM DOING?
The Cottagers have found life tough since returning to the Premier League after a five-year absence following their promotion via the play-offs last season. They currently sit bottom of the table after 15 games but are level on nine points with Burnley and Southampton, in 18th and 19th respectively, and sit just one point behind 17th-placed Huddersfield Town. The west London outfit are still searching for their first away win of the campaign, with both of their league wins this season - against Burnley in August and Southampton last month - coming at Craven Cottage. Fulham have the worst defence in the league, having conceded 36 goals so far, and equalled their top-flight record of 19 successive matches without a clean sheet following Wednesday's 1-1 home draw against Leicester City.
36 - Fulham have conceded 36 goals in their 15 Premier League games in 2018-19; only Barnsley (40 in 1997-98) have ever conceded more at this stage of a campaign in the competition. Leak. pic.twitter.com/5BU2oIfOfR— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 5 December 2018
WHO IS THEIR MANAGER?
Claudio Ranieri is the man at the helm after being appointed last month to replace Slavisa Jokanovic, who was sacked after an indifferent start to the campaign, despite guiding them to promotion. It’s the Italian’s third managerial job in English football after a four-season spell at Chelsea between 2000 and 2004 and a near two-year stint at Leicester City, where he famously won the Premier League title against all the odds in 2015/16. Saturday’s game will be the 67-year-old’s fourth match in charge. He has overseen a mixed start thus far, presiding over a 3-2 home win over Southampton in his first game before a 2-0 defeat at his old club Chelsea and the aforementioned draw against his other former employers Leicester at Craven Cottage on Wednesday night.
WHAT'S OUR RECORD AGAINST FULHAM LIKE?
The Reds first met the west London outfit on 14 January 1905 in an FA Cup tie at Bank Street, which ended in a 2-2 draw. United have a solid record against the Cottagers, winning 49 of the previous 82 meetings in all competitions, while there have been 19 draws and 14 defeats. The Reds have netted 163 goals against Fulham, conceding 90, and boast a win-percentage of 59.76 per cent.
WHEN DID WE LAST PLAY AGAINST FULHAM?
With the Cottagers having been absent from the top flight since 2013/14, Saturday’s game is the first meeting between the teams in more than four years. The Reds will take on the capital club for the first time since February 2014, when a late Darren Bent equaliser denied United all three points in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, after goals from Robin van Persie and Michael Carrick overturned Steve Sidwell’s early opener for the visitors. It completed a league double over Fulham during that season for David Moyes’s team, who won 3-1 at Craven Cottage earlier in the campaign thanks to goals from Antonio Valencia, van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
HOW HAS JOSE FARED AGAINST FULHAM AND RANIERI?
Jose Mourinho has a strong record against Fulham as a manager, winning seven, drawing one and losing just one of his nine previous matches against them. The boss also has a similar record against Ranieri, whom he replaced as Chelsea manager in the summer of 2004. Mourinho has come out on top in five of the nine previous encounters against the Italian, drawing two and losing just twice.
RANIERI'S RESPECT FOR JOSE
In his pre-match press conference on Thursday, the Fulham boss was very complimentary of his opposite number Mourinho, whom he described as
“a fantastic man” and
“a friend”. The Italian told reporters:
“He [Jose] was the first to send me a message to say ‘welcome back.’ I’ve known him for a long time, when he came to Chelsea, when he moved to Italy. He was very polite with me in every moment. He is a very great man, coach, manager, and also is very important for football."
WHO'S THE REFEREE?
Lee Probert will take charge of Saturday’s match. It’s the Wiltshire whistler’s first United game since May 2015, when he sent off Marouane Fellaini in a goalless draw at Hull City on the final day of the league season. A good omen for the Reds is that we are unbeaten in our 12 previous matches that Probert has officiated, winning nine and drawing three. The 46-year-old will be assisted by Adrian Holmes and Andy Garratt, while the fourth official will be Mike Dean.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SCORE WILL BE?
Get involved by predicting the outcome of Saturday's game. Win exclusive prizes throughout the season by playing the Match Predictor.
WHO ARE OUR RIVALS PLAYING THIS WEEKEND?
The Premier League schedule is spread across three days and gets under way with an intriguing lunchtime encounter on the south coast…
Saturday 8 December
Bournemouth v Liverpool (12:30 GMT)
Arsenal v Huddersfield Town
Burnley v Brighton
Cardiff City v Southampton
Manchester United v Fulham
West Ham United v Crystal Palace
Chelsea v Manchester City (17:30 GMT)
Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur (19:45 GMT)
Sunday 9 December
Newcastle United v Wolverhampton Wanderers (16:00 GMT)
Monday 10 December
Everton v Watford (20:00 GMT)
Matches kick off at 15:00 GMT unless stated.