Jack Stroudley looks ahead to Fulham’s FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
March certainly hasn’t been a month to remember for Fulham. Dismal performances against Brentford and Arsenal have resulted in Fulham dropping to ninth with European hopes looking very slim. That being said, if someone offered us midtable safety and an FA Cup quarter-final at the start of the season, it’s safe to say everyone would’ve taken it.
However, Fulham have an opportunity to get to their first FA Cup semi-final in 21 years, but a trip to Manchester United stands in their way. While the odds are against us, the chances have been boosted by certain factors in the past week. So what are those factors and how do we cause the upset and secure a place in the final four?
Manchester United need no introduction. Since the World Cup, they have found a new level under Ten Haag and have only dropped points in three league games since Qatar, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Casemiro being pivotal to the way that they have played. That being said, two of the games that Manchester United have dropped points in have come in March with a 7-0 defeat to Liverpool and a 0-0 draw with Southampton.
As well as this, the big news is that Casemiro is suspended for our trip to Old Trafford, meaning that the midfield will most likely be Fred and Scott McTominay and while that’s still not to be sniffed at, Casemiro is a massive miss. The Brazilian midfielder has featured in 37 games for Manchester United this season with the Red Devils only losing four of those. They have lost three out of the seven games without him, and their goals conceded goes from 0.95 per game to 1.7 per game when he’s missing.
How do we prepare?
On top of the news that Casemiro is out, Fulham are further boosted by the returns of Willian, Tom Cairney and most importantly Joao Palhinha. Fulham have lacked in most departments over the last two games and a big part of that is struggling to fill the gap that Joao Palhinha fills. Now he is back, we can begin to go back to our usual selves. This is how I’d line up.
This feels like a no-brainer to me, Palhinha obviously speaks for himself. His partner has to be Harrison Reed, while I don’t think Lukic is a bad player he doesn’t know England enough yet and Reed has formed a formidable partnership with Palhinha.
Willian would offer more pace and technical ability than De Cordova-Reid on the right in a game where Fulham may struggle for chances and rely on our ability to counter attack. The final change is bringing Issa Diop back in for Tosin. Tosin wasn’t particularly great against Arsenal and Diop has come on leaps and bounds over the course of the season.
The final verdict
I haven’t been very confident with Fulham over the last few weeks and while we play one of England’s best clubs on Sunday I have a real sense of belief. We’ve already gone toe-to-toe once with Manchester United this season and fell short to a last-minute Garnacho winner.
The mixture of Palhinha and Willian returning, Casemiro being suspended and Manchester United dropping points in their last two league games could brew a perfect storm for Fulham. If Manchester United did win nobody would be shocked but I think we win… in extra time.