A place in the FA Cup semi-finals will be on the line when Manchester United and Fulham meet at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The dreaded international break is upon us. But club football will dish out several eye-catching fixtures before then. The FA Cup quarter-finals are underway, with Manchester City and Burnley facing off on Saturday. And Manchester United and Fulham will round up the action on Sunday when they clash at Old Trafford.
Manchester United reached the FA Cup quarter-finals after clinching three successive 3-1 wins in as many rounds. Everton, Reading, and West Ham United were their victims. On the other hand, Fulham played an extra fixture after having to go through a fourth-round replay against Sunderland. And the Cottagers have beaten Hull City and Leeds United along the way.
Manchester United’s recent results are a cause for concern, with the Red Devils failing to win two of their last four games. But they returned to winning ways by beating Real Betis in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday. Meanwhile, Fulham’s form has also petered out, with Marco Silva’s men losing their last two matches. And the Portuguese manager needs his team to bounce back soon.
Manchester United and Fulham have already cashed once this season, with Erik ten Hag’s charges eking out a 2-1 win over the Cottagers. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
🗣️ "We did really well without Casemiro against Arsenal, and against Leeds."
Erik ten Hag is confident in the team despite missing Casemiro through a four-match suspension ❌ pic.twitter.com/C2UkQaqTYm
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 17, 2023
Erik ten Hag has new roster issues hampering his preparations ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final this weekend. Against Fulham on Sunday, the Manchester United manager might be bereft of the services of seven first-team players.
Casemiro is the most notable absentee, with the Brazilian international beginning his four-match suspension. Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Alejandro Garnacho (ankle), and Anthony Martial (hip) also remain on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Scott McTominay (knock) and Antony (illness) might also miss the game due to minor issues.
David de Gea picks himself between the sticks, with Manchester United lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of him. Erik ten Hag shuffled his pack slightly on Thursday but will bring back a few regulars. These include defensive mainstays Diogo Dalot, Luke Shaw, and Raphael Varane. And the trio will join Lisandro Martinez in the defensive unit.
Casemiro’s absence will force ten Hag to be clever with his team selection. And the fit-again Marcel Sabitzer should reprise a defensive role, with Fred pairing up with him in the double pivot. The two players will look to keep former Manchester United playmaker Andreas Pereira quiet on Sunday.
Bruno Fernandes will be the creative supremo for Manchester United as he looks to wreak havoc from a free role. Meanwhile, Antony and Garnacho’s absence means Jadon Sancho should start on the right flank, with Marcus Rashford and Wout Weghorst completing the offensive unit.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Fred, Sabitzer; Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Weghorst
Unlike his counterpart in the Manchester United dugout, Marco Silva has greeted positive updates on the team news front ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. The Fulham manager will be without just three first-team players on Sunday.
The good news is that Joao Palhinha will be available after serving his suspension. The in-demand Portuguese international’s return comes as a big boost for Silva. The Fulham manager will also see Cedric Soares, Tom Cairney, and Willian returning to action.
But Layvin Kurzawa (knee), Shane Duffy (knock), and Neeskens Kebano (Achilles) remain on the sidelines. Meanwhile, Marek Rodak should get a chance to impress between the sticks. And Fulham will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Manchester United on Sunday.
💬 On Sunday: "We will keep playing with high ambition. We want to play in the Semi-Finals and we want to improve on our last two games."#MUNFUL pic.twitter.com/yJK7knmF5f
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) March 17, 2023
The backline might not see any surprises, with Kenny Tete and Antonee Robinson being the two full-backs. Silva will give the duo the license to charge forward and express themselves. And Issa Diop and Tim Ream will likely be the two centre-backs.
Palhinha will make Fulham more solid in the middle of the park, adding a layer of protection in front of the defensive unit. The Portuguese international will link up with Harrison Reed in the double pivot. And Andreas Pereira will be the creative workhorse for the visitors.
Manor Solomon has been one of the most in-form players in England. And the Israeli attacker will be the biggest threat to Manchester United with his directness. The fit-again Willian should start on the right flank, with Aleksandar Mitrovic, searching for his first FA Cup goal, spearheading the attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete, Diop, Ream, Robinson; Palhinha, Reed; Willian, Pereira, Solomon; Mitrovic
- After losing their first two FA Cup ties against Fulham in 1905 and 1908, Manchester United have progressed from each of their last eight against them. This is their first meeting in the competition since a 4-1 win in January 2013. The Cottagers are winless in their last 15 meetings with Manchester United in all competitions (D3 L12). They have only won one of their last 25 away games against the Red Devils (3-1 in October 2003).
- Manchester United have scored in their last 25 home games against Fulham across all competitions, netting 63 goals in total. The last Fulham goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet against them at Old Trafford was Tony Macedo in April 1963.
- No team has reached the FA Cup semi-finals more than Manchester United (30, level with Arsenal). However, the Red Devils have lost five of their last eight quarter-final ties, most recently against Leicester City in 2020/21.
- Fulham have lost their last three FA Cup quarter-final ties, with this their first since 2009/10. They last reached the semi-finals of the competition in 2001/02, beating West Bromwich Albion in that year’s Last Eight.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in 16 FA Cup home games (W14 D2) since losing 2-1 against Arsenal at this stage of the competition in 2014/15. But one of those two draws did result in a penalty shootout defeat (against Middlesbrough in February 2022).
Player to Watch
Casemiro’s absence has come as a big blow for Manchester United. And Erik ten Hag needs urgent solutions in the next four domestic games, with the Brazilian international leaving a gaping hole in the midfield. That brings Marcel Sabitzer into the picture.
The Austrian international is a versatile midfielder who can reprise various roles in the middle of the park. And while Sabitzer might not primarily be a holding midfielder, he can do an efficient job for Manchester United. And the 29-year-old will look to rise to the occasion for the Red Devils this weekend.
Manchester United 3-1 Fulham
Manchester United and Fulham have produced some eye-catching match-ups this season. And the two teams will combine to create another riveting fixture as they vie for a place in the FA Cup semi-finals. Fulham, in particular, will look to pounce on Casemiro’s absence due to suspension.
But Marcel Sabitzer will make his mark after suffering from teething problems in the first few minutes. That will set Manchester United up for a commanding display as the minutes wear on. And The Hard Tackle predicts another 3-1 win in the FA Cup. That means Fulham’s record of not eliminating more than one Premier League club in a single FA Cup campaign will continue.
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