Despite their current supremacy, their abundance of exquisite footballers and their unwavering determination to succeed on all fronts, Manchester United may find an FA Cup sixth round trip to Craven Cottage a difficult challenge to overcome tomorrow.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s thoroughbreds continue to vanquish their opposition week after week, playing with a swagger and style as well as with grit and strength of mind, but rarely does a team visit Fulham and find it easy. Just ask Arsenal and Chelsea, two teams who have both suffered as a result of magnificent home performances from Roy Hodgson’s men this season.
Even the very best succumb to defeat at some point, and Fulham could well be the team that end United’s remarkable run of fantastic results. The last time the Old Trafford club lost was back in November against Arsenal at The Emirates, and until their 2-1 win over Blackburn two weeks ago that match was also the last league fixture in which they conceded a goal.
Combined with their consistent ability to score goals from out of nowhere, that is why Manchester United are currently champions of England, Europe and the World.
Statistics favour Fulham as well though, and that is why they will believe they have such a good chance of knocking United out of the Cup tomorrow. They have won 8 of their 13 games at home in the league this season, a record only bettered by the two Manchester clubs, and their goals tally at Craven Cottage can only be beaten by the top three and Man City. Fulham don’t concede many at home either – just 10 in those 13 league games – and once again only the top three can better that record, along with, remarkably, Tottenham.
For a team just poking their head into the top half of the table, Fulham’s home record is extraordinary, and they will be hoping their Cottage confidence will help them to a famous victory tomorrow evening.
Another factor that could work in Fulham’s favour is that Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to rest many of his stars, with Wednesday’s Champions League second leg with Inter Milan in mind. The likes of Berbatov, Rooney, Ronaldo, Ferdinand and Carrick may not feature, handing Fulham’s less celebrated individuals a greater chance to shine. Brede Hangeland, Danny Murphy and Andy Johnson will relish the spotlight.
Manchester United are no doubt favourites for tomorrow’s FA Cup showdown at Craven Cottage, and rightly so such is their imperious form of late, but don’t bank against Fulham causing an upset on home turf – they’re not bad at the Cottage you know.