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Craven a win
As the season nears the midway point Manchester United looks to stay on top of the standings Wednesday at Craven Cottage against Fulham.
It’s a desperate game for both sides as Fulham are only four points back of Burnley and Premier League salvation.
United on the other hand has Manchester City nipping at their heels just two points back with a game in hand on the Red Devils.
With an all-important FA Cup tie, this weekend against Liverpool Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has some tough lineup decisions to make.
Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, and Brandon William remain out with long-term injuries.
Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Eric Bailly, and Alex Telles will be pushing for a return after missing the team’s 0-0 draw at Anfield.
It’ll be interesting to see how Solskjaer handles the suspension risks for his side.
Captain Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes, and Luke Shaw are all one caution away from an automatic ban.
Given how valuable they are we’ll see how much playing time they get.
For Scott Parker’s side, they seem to be getting healthier.
Tom Cairney, Mario Lemina, and Terence Kongolo remain sidelined with long-term injuries.
The good news is Aleksandar Mitrovic is available along with Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Full-Back Antonee Robinson is out through suspension along with top goal scorer Bobby Decordova-Reid.
13 is the magic number Man United will be aiming to get to on Wednesday.
A win or draw would stretch their unbeaten to 13 straight Premier League fixtures.
It would also extend their unbeaten run against Fulham to 13 games in all competitions.
In United’s last 12 games against the Cottagers, they’ve outscored them 33-9.
It’s been awhile
Wednesday’s contest features a team that’s struggled to win against another that can’t seem to lose in league play.
Fulham hasn’t won a Premier League fixture since a 2-1 win over Leicester City on November 30.
Man United hasn’t lost a Premier League game since losing 1-0 to Arsenal on November 1.
Speaking of a long time the Cottagers haven’t won at Craven Cottage against Man United since 2009.
Fulham may be in the relegation zone at the moment but they’ve still shown they can compete.
Nine of their last ten EPL games ended in a draw (five) or were decided by a single goal (three losses and one win).
No Room for error
Now that United’s gotten themselves in a strong position in the league how will their approach change?
Last Sunday they seemed cautious, afraid to lose the lead they’d built at the top of the standings.
Their monumental rise to the top has conversely been the result of playing a very open and fearless brand of football.
A brand where Solskjaer’s side attacks in numbers was a risky strategy that’s changed the whole complexion of their season.
That approach has allowed the likes of Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba, and Bruno Fernandes to flourish in attack.
For Fulham, they may be better off playing a more reckloose style given their position in the table.
With nearly half the season over they need to make up the four-point gap separating them from a spot in the top-flight next season.
Given the shot-stopping ability of Alphonse Areola (64 saves this season), it might not hurt them to take a few more chances now and again.
They have been better of late having gone unbeaten in five of their last six Premier League games.
Wednesday’s game at Craven Cottage goes at 8:15 pm. (JSL).