A much anticipated game awaits as the Theater of Dreams welcomes back Ole Gunnar Solskjær, returning as the manager of Cardiff City. Excitement surrounds not only his return however but the debut of United’s new chosen Juan, with Mata looking to create an immediate impression following his record breaking transfer from Chelsea. Read more…
Ahead of United’s game on Sunday against Chelsea, we spoke to Ramon from “Mowing Meadows” about their season so far, José Mourinho, Manchester United’s team and the 90 minutes ahead.
Here we are, January 2014 and Chelsea are sitting comfortably in 3rd, 2 points off top. Did you expect this?
Realistically, probably not. I’m always hopeful at the start of the season so I hoped to be in a position like this (if not 3 points better off) but to be so close to the leaders in the absence of anything resembling a striker is fairly impressive. We’ve played a lot of tough games away from home during the first half of the season, so to have the reverse fixtures against the top teams predominantly at home is a good sign. This is a squad blessed in certain positions but is worryingly thin or lacking in quality in others, namely centre mids and full backs respectively, the fact we’ve managed to paper over these cracks so far is really a testament to the brilliance of individual talent and managerial quality.
Mourinho’s return to Chelsea and the Premier League was always going to be an interesting one. How important has it been and how do you think it’s affected the club?
Mourinho’s return has influenced everything that has happened so far this season, I think his arrival has been the most important factor when you consider where we are in the league. It hasn’t all been great, if you consider the aesthetics of our football compared to when Di Matteo was in charge this clearly is a team with less creative freedom but that isn’t necessarily bad if you’re successful. The ‘ostracising’ of Juan Mata whilst unpopular and virtually a crime, has not been without reason or result. In comparison to last season when we exploded out of the blocks and looked like we might be the team to waltz our way to the title before a November-December collapse, this season has been methodical in how we have accumulated points. There are many characteristics that get thrown around as to what a ‘Mourinho’ team is, but this relentless determination and drive that people often compare to a machine is definitely a feature and probably why there has been no drop off in pace in pursuit of the title.
I know that you have a small crush on Oscar, but who do you see as the main man in this current Chelsea team?
Small crush? I love the kid. It’s tough deciding who is the main man between Oscar and Hazard the pendulum always seems to shift on a game to game basis. Hazard is by far the more eye-catching and probably earns him more plaudits but Oscar is the key to how this team is set up. There have often been times when, without his presence the shape of the team almost disintegrates at times. His understanding of the game is immense for someone so young and is perhaps the biggest difference between him and all the other attacking talent the club have acquired over the past few seasons, whilst there is evident room for improvement, his decision making is near faultless. Then there’s the fact that while being slight of build, not small because you can’t really be considered small when you’re on the borderline of being 6ft tall, he is a terrier when it comes down to pressing the opposition and recovering the ball. A player that every fan would love to have playing for their team.
Your need for a striker is becoming more and more apparent, with a lot of your goals coming from midfield. Can you see someone coming in in January and if so, who?
Please God, please let someone come in January. As always the problem with January signings is their eligibility for the Champions League, so I doubt the club will splash money on someone who can’t help in that department. The obvious choice is that poor Colombian fella who got made to play for Monaco for all that money and now looks like he doesn’t want to be there. Last week I would’ve been begging the club to sign Giuseppe Rossi but his knee is dodgier than your midfield, I apologise for that. Quite frankly there aren’t many long term prospects, so here’s to another transfer window spent praying that Zlatan graces us with his presence.
It appears that, once again, Chelsea have managed to sign a player that Manchester United were interested in. What do you make of the (soon to be made official) signing of Matic?
I think in this case we can claim to be the team first interested in signing him, given the fact we sold him to Benfica for the equivalent of £3m as part of the Luiz part exchange (Yes, that deal was worth it). To be quite honest, I don’t know much about him apart from the games Benfica played against Chelsea in the Champions League and I thought Javi Garcia was the better of the two on those occasions… Please God, please be better than Javi Garcia.
Did you see Manchester United struggling this much when Sir Alex Ferguson left, and were you surprised that the club didn’t try and appoint Mourinho as his successor?
No I didn’t actually. I even offered bets to many Arsenal fans that are friends of mine that United wouldn’t slip out the top four, thankfully for me, no one took up my offer. It is strange to think one man could have had so much impact, I know there’s been problems with an ageing squad and injuries but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say United would be in the same position with Ferguson in charge. My cousin in America compared it to Phil Jackson leaving the LA Lakers who have since been pretty unsuccessful after dominating the NBA for a decade, I imagine most fear it’s going to be the same way in this case.
As for whether I’m surprised Mourinho wasn’t targeted, yes and no. He’s the best manager in the world in my opinion and it would seem outrageous that a club of United’s size not only wouldn’t want Mourinho but seemingly didn’t target any elite manager in world football but settled for David Moyes. I suppose, he too is ‘Tartan born and bred’. To be honest it is the price you have to pay when the board overlooked a manager like Mourinho for sustainability reasons which I thought they would do but quite frankly the most important thing for United Post-Ferguson was to not have a significant drop off with the team needing to be rebuilt soon. Perhaps the closest thing to a guarantee of that would’ve been Mourinho. Board will have to chalk it up as a mistake and move on with Moyes who I think they are going to have to commit to, for at least another season. A moral victory, right?
With Manchester United currently sitting 8th in the Premier League, do you see this game as less important than in previous years?
No, of course not. Any game is important by virtue that there are only 38 in a season, yes there may not be the same competition for position between the two clubs this year but it is going to be a difficult three points to get nonetheless. Chelsea need the points to keep up track with City and Arsenal, whilst United need the points to try and claw into the top four. I can’t see you repeating our, should we say ‘fortunate’ run to the Champions League trophy.
Do you see the battle for midfield as the key to Sunday’s game?
Midfield battle. Wait, do either of us have a midfield? In all seriousness, I can’t really see it being won there, it can definitely be lost if either sides midfield forget their defensive duties but both sides lack the dynamism in midfield that once dominated these games. I think United have got their hands full with Eden Hazard in the form he is in, I’m guessing Willian and Oscar will make up the trio and they haven’t been playing too badly in recent times either. It’s a shame Mata probably won’t feature seeing as he’s caused your lot plenty of problems in recent seasons
It seems that Wayne Rooney could be fit for the trip to Stamford Bridge. Other than him, who do you see as the main threat in this Manchester United side?
I saw this question asked to a Swansea fan in the build up of your game against them and the list consisted of Welbeck and Januzaj. Your strikers all have great records against us but given Van Persie’s injury and Hernandez’ form of late it is hard to find a threat comparable to Rooney. Januzaj I think is your best chance, he’s been a real star this season. Our full backs, Azpilicueta aside have struggled this season so attacking down the flanks will always reap some reward, especially if you can drag Cahill and Terry away from the middle. Of course, I have to give some credit to the form ‘dat guy’ is in (Congratulations on your reply from him by the way) but in comparison to the threat of what has arrived at the Bridge in years gone by when United have visited, I’m fairly optimistic. I’m more worried about De Gea having a cracking game.
Prediction and line-up?
Prediction – It all depends on Mourinho’s mentality, I’m hoping he takes the game to you, so I will go with 3-1.
Line up – Cech; Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic; Ramires, Lampard; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Eto’o (I could see Luiz starting instead of either Lampard or Willian though)
While I’m at I may as well have a stab at the United line up although I’m not sure if my choices are all fit:
De Gea; Rafael, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Fletcher, Carrick, Jones; Welbeck, Januzaj, Rooney.
Ahead of United’s game on Saturday against Swansea, we talked to Scott from “The Swansea Way” about their season so far, Michael Laudrup, Manchester United’s form and the 90 minutes ahead.
Let’s just get this question over with at the start. How good was it to see Wilfried Bony score that header on Sunday night?
Pretty damn good! Bony had been getting a lot of stick from a proportion of the fan base until tthe Man City game, but hopefully 3 in 2 against the Manchester clubs will silence any remaining critics. I’ve defended him from day one, and it was obvious he needed a run in the team to get up to speed.
What have you made of your season so far? How does it compare to last season?
It’s been strange. On the one hand no could argue our form’s been great since winning the League Cup last February, but on the other hand we’ve maintained a solid (ish) league position, progressed in Europe and just dumped United out of the cup. It shows how far we’ve come that I’m even saying that, and fingers crossed our league form will improve once the fixture list calms down a bit.
Who would classify as your stand out player since the start of the season?
That’s a good question. Lots of players have suffered from dips in form so far this season, but it would have to be one of Ashley Williams, Leon Britton or Jose Canas, and I’ll go for the latter as he’s really coming into his own. We signed him from Betis on a free, and it’s looking like an outstanding bit of business. He’s got great control, an eye for a pass and some engine on him – expect to see other clubs sniffing around if he maintains his current level of performance.
How has playing in Europe affected your season? What do you make of the draw for the knockout rounds?
As soon as I saw Napoli were in the draw I had a feeling we’d end up getting them. If we want to go far in the competition we’ll have to beat the big boys at some point, and it’s a great trip for the fans – even if it’s a bit if a scary one given the Napoli fans’ reputation.
As for how it’s affected our league form, I think it’s been more a case of not being able to regularly start the same eleven players as opposed to any kind of fatigue issue – although we have now played something stupid like 35 or 40 games already this season. For a club like ours, it’s a balancing act maintaining a squad big enough to compete whilst also making sure you don’t over commit financially.
Laudrup is seen by many as a fantastically talented manager. Do you expect him to stay for many years to come?
In a word; no. It seems fairly certain he’ll be off to bigger pastures in the summer and no Swansea fan would begrudge him that. I’ve heard he’s actually helping our chairman locate and recruit his successor, so I’m not worried about a lengthy transition period. We’ve a great track record of improving despite changing managers, and I fully expect that to continue.
Moving on to Manchester United. What were your first thoughts when David Moyes was appointed as the man to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson?
That it was a poison chalice. It was always going to be so hard to replace Fergie, and I’m wondering how sensible it was giving him such a lengthy contract. Whether he’ll get the time he needs to turn things around remains to be seen, and another Swansea win this weekend would extra pressure to an already tense situation.
Did you expect the Premier League champions to struggle so much this year?
Not as such, but I do think they’ve missed key players for a while – notably the absence of any world class central midfielders. Fellaini is useless unless he’s got a foil alongside him, but you look elsewhere in the squad and it’s hard to see (strikers not included here) where the quality is. That being said, any team with Rooney and Van Persie in it should be doing better than United currently are.
Looking at the game on Saturday, do you expect Swansea to approach the game as they did last Sunday?
Yep! The level of intensity was so much better against United in the FA Cup and given the confidence the squad will have drawn from that we should be able to put in another good showing. With the relegation zone creeping nearer and nearer over the last few weeks a win would go down very well indeed.
On the pitch, who do you see as the weak link in Manchester United’s team?
As mentioned, I think central midfield is the problem. I don’t think you can say there’s a weak link in particular, but it’s something they need to address and soon.
Ahead of United’s home game against Arsenal, we talked to Lee from Lady Arse about their Capital One Cup game, Robin van Persie, last year’s fixture and much more.
What are your thoughts on Arsenal’s start of the season then?
Arsenal started really well, a lot better than I think most people were expecting, Arsenal fans included. The new signings settled in quickly, even Olivier Giroud who has had a rough time in the press despite scoring three goals and creating four, and things looked really promising. Then we had the international break and the team seemed to be unduly disrupted by that which led to the defeats at Norwich and at home to Schalke. Those defeats were worrying for a number of reasons, but mostly for the attitude which Arsenal showed which has been a problem over recent seasons, turning up to certain games thinking the win was already in the bag.
Your last game ended 7-5 (vs Reading in the Capital One Cup). After such a promising start to the season defensively with Steve Bould being lauded left, right and centre, surely being 4-0 down so quickly was a bit surprising?
Unexpected, yes. Surprising? Perhaps not. Arsenal showed all of their worst traits in the first 40 minutes or so of that match, even though it was completely different personnel. The attitude was so poor and was indicative of a problem that has reared its ugly head on more than one occasion. Thankfully in the second half they showed that they do actually care about the shirt and turned it around. That was perhaps even more surprising than being 4-0 down in the first place as we have been on the wrong end of score lines like that more often than not.
On the other hand, what a comeback! When did you start thinking “We can win this”?
I put a bet on Arsenal when we were 3-0 down but at that point it was more out of hope than expectation as we were playing so poorly. When Giroud got the second and the team really started to play, that’s when I thought ‘We can do this.’ Of course, at the back of my head I was thinking we’d probably get it back to 4-4 only to concede a fifth in the last minute of injury time. It was amazing to be the team grabbing it late on.
Speaking of goals, you started the season with a new look strikeforce. Have Giroud and Podolski lived up to the expectations of the fans yet?
Giroud is a better player than the press gives him credit for. He works hard and his hold-up play is impressive and he’s powerful too. He’s been getting in all the right places and just lacked a little bit in front of goal but there are very few Arsenal fans that don’t think he can do a job for us. As for Podolski, he’s won the fans over completely with his attitude and ability. He’s been playing with a bit of an ankle-niggle for the last few weeks, which is perhaps why he hasn’t been quite as effective as he was early on.
It would be rather hard to conduct this interview without mentioning a player who left Arsenal this summer for Manchester United. What did you think of the whole Robin van Persie saga?
I can’t lie; I’ve never felt a betrayal like it in all my 33 years of watching football. We truly believed he was an Arsenal fan and that, even if he didn’t stay, he would go abroad. His statement hurt a lot of fans and him leaving to go to Manchester United could have only been worse had he went to Tottenham. Manchester United fans might not see the rivalry with Arsenal as strong as it once was, but for Arsenal fans it is still very real. Am I bitter? Totally. I’m angry about it for many reasons.
Who do you think Arsenal will miss the most over the course of the season: Robin van Persie or Alex Song?
I want to say Alex Song because I don’t want to say that we miss van Persie at all, but what club in the world wouldn’t miss a player of his calibre? After the years of injury problems he suffered that Arsenal stood by him through, he is finally fulfilling the potential Wenger always knew he had. And he’s doing that for Manchester United, it’s sickening. As for Alex Song, to be honest, he’s pretty much forgotten about. Mikel Arteta has dropped back and shows a discipline in that position which Song could never master.
This fixture last season is one that most Arsenal fans will want to forget. Can you see a repeat performance from both sides or will this year’s clash be more evenly matched?
When we turned up at Old Trafford last season, we knew we were going to get a hammering (though no Arsenal fan thought it would be so bad). We were decimated with injuries, playing practically a League Cup side. There’s no way we will see a repeat this year and it will be a far more evenly matched game.
Which of Manchester United’s weaknesses do you feel Arsene Wenger will try and exploit on Saturday?
I think we have a stronger midfield than United do, with Arteta, Cazorla and Wilshere, three small players who are all technically gifted but strong and not afraid of a tackle as well. On the flanks I think Evra is there to be got at, he’s not the player he once was and Walcott is on fire. Of course, Walcott might not even start after playing 120 minutes midweek after just returning from injury.
Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Robin van Persie seem to all be scoring for fun at the minute. Do you think that Arsenal can contain such a strikeforce?
Despite the five we conceded in the Capital One Cup, it will be a different backline at Old Trafford and Arsenal have the best defense in the League at the minute. It will be their strongest test yet, but I think we should cope.
(@neilljacko) If Wenger were to step down tomorrow who would he like to see replace him?
Honestly? I wouldn’t have a clue. I can’t imagine Arsenal without Wenger (and yes, I do remember Arsenal before him). Of course, the obvious answer would be someone like Guardiola, but I’m pretty sure Arsenal are getting Steve Bould ready to replace Wenger.
(@TomPattison) If Arsenal’s 2003 unbeaten side played Arsenal’s 1998 double winning side-who would win and why?
That’s a great question, and a tough one. Defensively the 1998 side were better and offensively the 2003/4 side wins for me. Can I say a draw? If I’m pushed for an answer, I’d have to go with the 03/04 side, purely because of the Pires/Bergkamp/Henry factor.
Predicted line-up and score line.
Sagna – Mertesacker – Vermaelen – Santos
Arteta – Wilshere – Cazorla
Walcott – Giroud – Podolski
Regarding the score line? I’m going for a 2-2 draw.
Thanks to Lee from LadyArse for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure you follow her on Twitter here: @LadyArse
Ahead of United’s away game against Chelsea, we talked to Ramon Isaac from MowingMeadows about the importance of the upcoming fixture, Eden Hazard, the John Terry saga and much more.
1st vs. 2nd. This has to be classified as a 6 pointer, don’t you think?
It’s still early in the season I think, but this could be the difference at the end. So, yes, I think this is one of those “6 pointers” more so for Manchester United as Chelsea can afford to lose and still be top of the league.
After a fine run of 8 games without a loss since that grand Falcao display in the European Super Cup, could you say that the defeat midweek against Shakhtar Donetsk was a bit of a reality check?
I’m not sure reality check is the best way to put it. I don’t think we’ve been entirely convincing in our wins although we have looked great at times, consistency for the full 90minutes has often been lacking but that’s the making of champions, right?
I might also have been pessimistic going into the game and I wasn’t all too surprised by the result, Shakhtar have built a proverbial fortress at home and our recent away record hasn’t seen much in terms of the win column.
Ever since the beginning of the season and the purchase of a great number of attacking players, Di Matteo seems to be remoulding the sturdy backbone created by his predecessors with a more fluid approach to the game. Would you agree?
Definitely. It took a little while at the beginning to become this expressive and I think it will only progress, but his decision to continuously start Mata, Oscar and Hazard is a testament to that fluid approach. I also think it has shown in how the centre backs play, Luiz and Cahill are now initiating a greater number of attacks, it’s great to watch.
Speaking of attacking players, Chelsea whisked a certain Belgian away from under Manchester United’s nose this summer. How do you feel Hazard has performed so far this season?
I feel he’s been outstanding. His start to the season was electric and there has been an excitement in he ground whenever he gets the ball. His productivity in terms of goals and assists may have slightly slowed down but his overall play has still been brilliant and I’m certain if he was playing for United, the positions in the league would be the other way round.
What are your views on the whole John Terry affair? Should he still be your captain? Has his “legendary” status at Chelsea been put in question?
I feel it has dragged on but obviously I can understand why. I think all parties could have handled it a lot better. I agreed with the judge’s ruling as there was an element of doubt but also agreed with the FA in punishing him. I’m actually surprised it wasn’t more severe. I think now is the time to go back to focusing on football but there will inevitably be an eye cast to the pre match handshake.
Regarding the captaincy I think it is perfectly fine to keep him in the position as long as the rest of the players at the squad are happy, I mean they are the people he is captaining not the fans or media.
Finally, I don’t think anything would be able to put his “legendary” status under question. In the end with the majority of sportsmen you often look back on their careers focusing on the positives and that will be the case with John Terry and Chelsea fans. He will remain our most successful captain and a mainstay of the Abramovich Era.
Many are surprised that Di Matteo, despite the Champions League win, is still Chelsea manager as he seemed more of a stop-gap between AVB and the next manager. Can you see him staying as your manager for many years?
I actually talked about this before the season started and although he’s impressed me so far this season, the answer remains no. I’d like him to be successful and stay at the club but I think Roman has other ideas and barring domestic success in the form of the league title, I think he will always be looking over his shoulder.
With John Terry serving his ban currently, do you feel that your defence is weaker without him or could his absence be beneficial to the team in the long run?
I’ve felt for some time now that John Terry individually has not been as good as his teammates but his leadership will always be missed, especially now that the likes of Drogba and Essien are gone, not to mention the likely absence of Frank Lampard. However, I think this is the best way to let David Luiz and Gary Cahill become more expressive within the team as leaders and build a partnership for the future.
With Manchester United seemingly unable to score unless the opponents do so first, can you see Di Matteo going all-out attack from the off in an attempt to get an early goal?
I think that has been his game plan in all the games so far this season. We’ve tended to look very bright at the start of games. Although I’m definitely wary of a Manchester United comeback, considering their record and our lapses in concentration.
Wayne Rooney has scored five goals in his last six appearances in all competitions against Chelsea. Having finally opened his tally vs. Stoke last week, do you see him as the main threat?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one threat with this United team. Both Rooney and Hernandez have had a good scoring record against Chelsea and Van Persie’s for Arsenal in recent times wasn’t too bad at all. I think whoever starts as the striker/s will be the main threat.
What is your predicted Chelsea line-up for this weekend?
With a fairly high degree of certainty I’m going to go with:
Ahead of United’s away tie against Southampton in their 3rd game of the season, we talked to Sean from Red and White Barmy Army about their first few games, Gastón Ramírez and of course, the upcoming clash.
After 2 games you find yourself 19th in the Premier League with 0 points? Did you expect as much?
When the fixture list came out back in June, it was a really difficult start for us with three of our first four matches against top four clubs. I didn’t expect much from the Manchester City game but I felt we deserved a point from the match. I did expect us to win against Wigan at home if I’m honest but every game in the Premier League is difficult.
You came so close to causing a massive upset in your first game of the season against Manchester City. That can only have been promising?
Absolutely. I went to the match itself at the Etihad and we performed really well in our first game back in the Premier League for seven years. The feeling when Steven Davis scored to put us 2-1 up was indescribable. We deserved a point out of the match for sure however Manchester City’s quality was the difference between the two teams.
Manchester United have looked wobbly defensively of late. Do you think Southampton will be able to use that to their advantage to grab a goal or two?
I think we can. We have strengthened our attack during the transfer and the Zambian, Emmanuel Mayuka may play a part in the game who has skill and pace. Rickie Lambert will cause the United defence some problems where his height will be key for the Saints. I’m confident we can score at least one goal in the match.
It would be a crime to do this interview without talking about Gastón Ramírez. You must be chuffed to have signed a player the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham were vying for?
I’m delighted that we’ve signed a top class player in Gastón Ramírez. I watched him on the tele whilst he was playing at the Olympics and played really well. His free-kick against UAE was the main highlight for me. I would never think that Saints would spend £12m on one player let alone £7m for Jay Rodriguez. Every Saints fan is looking forward to seeing him play and it will be interesting where he will play on the pitch, as a winger in the midfield or attack.
Other than the Uruguayan, are you pleased with Adkins’ signings during the transfer window?
I’m more than happy with the players that Southampton have made during the transfer window. It is crucial for every promoted team to strengthen especially in the Premier League and I feel we have done that. Southampton have signed some great, young English talent in Nathaniel Clyne and Jay Rodriguez as well as experience in Steven Davis from Rangers. Don’t be surprised if we make more additions in January!
What about Ferguson’s purchases? Do you feel Manchester United are stronger than last season?
What a signing Robin van Persie is for Manchester United! A terrific striker who was last season’s Premier League top scorer so United are guaranteed goals with him. Shinji Kagawa looks a great prospect where he can play in the hole to give service to the strikers. Nick Powell is a brilliant talent who scored a wonderful goal for Crewe in the League Two Play-Off final and I feel he can get goals for United. Saints almost purchased Alexander Büttner and looked a promising attacking left-back so expect him to deliver the crosses in.
I feel Manchester United are stronger than last season especially with the addition of van Persie. I expect the Red Devils to finish in the top two.
How do you think Southampton will approach the game?
Southampton will approach the game in the same way before the trip to Manchester City, without any fear. The players will take the performance from Manchester City into the match with the knowledge that they can take on the best teams in the country. Predicted line-up and score?
I think Saints will line-up in a 4-3-3 formation as we will use our attacking prowess to cause the United defence some problems. My Southampton XI would be:
Clyne Hooiveld Fonte Fox
Lallana (C) S. Davis Schneiderlin
Rodriguez Lambert Lee
My prediction: Southampton 1-2 Manchester United
Thanks to Sean from RAWBA for taking the time to answer our questions. Follow him on Twitter @SeanGL_SFC_5
Ahead of United’s second Premier League match of the season, we talked to Kyle from Fulham’s Finest about their summer business, early form and the 90 minutes ahead.
Sitting in a slightly artificial second place, how do you expect Fulham to fare at Old Trafford?
I don’t expect us to fare too well, although it definitely will be brighter than the past few times, I do think that. With United losing to Everton to open the season, the LEAST likely result possible would be two straight losses to start the year for Sir Alex Ferguson. That alone causes me to feel great fear.
I’m a very big realist, and as much as our demolition of Norwich was a ton of fun, I believe in taking one game at a time. This is still a side that may struggle at times to score goals against the top sides.
At Old Trafford, after a United loss, knowing Fulham’s away record, all things considered I’m not too optimistic about this fixture alone, but that’s not to say I’m not optimistic about Fulham’s ability to get results throughout the season against top sides.
Fulham have failed to score in their last five trips to Old Trafford, do you think they will fare any better this season?
I don’t believe in the end they’ll fare any better, although they have a better chance this year than in the past, given United’s defensive situation and Fulham’s ability to start the season strong.
Who do you expect to most successfully target our make shift defence?
If anyone’s going to score, it’s going to be Petric, can’t go wrong picking him as he’s been nothing but stellar this year in preseason and the Norwich match. More on him later. Also, don’t sleep on Moussa Dembele to put on a show for one of his biggest fans, Sir Alex.
Where do you expect your top scorer last season, Clint Dempsey, to be when the transfer window closes?
I’ve been saying all along he will be with Fulham and sold in January. I still hold to that. I could absolutely see him sold last-minute in this window, but it will probably go down to the wire if it does. Here’s why: If I’m a club, I want to take advantage of his unrest with Fulham. Here’s the perfect strategy if you’re, say, Liverpool. You know he wants to leave. Bad. So you do the following: with 3 hours left in the window, or as little time as you feel safe to get a deal done, make one bid. That’s it. Fulham have no time to negotiate, no time to make a counter offer. Fulham know they need to offload him if they can. Therefore, they’ll be forced to take your bid or wait until January. Can’t-lose situation.
Have you been pleased by Martin Jol’s purchases this summer?
I am pleased, but it’s an unfinished job. We haven’t spent a pound on transfers yet as they’ve all been free to this point, and Martin Jol has said multiple times he wants 3-5 more players before the window closes, including, according to him, two more strikers and a center mid. However, that aside, the opener against Norwich showed Jol’s shrewd dealing with the three men he has brought in. Petric is a much more complete target man than Pogrebnyak ever was with us, which gives me lots of confidence that he won’t fall off his early season success as sharply as the Pog did. Petric doesn’t rely as much on strength as the big Russian, and his ball skills should help him be a great goalscoring option throughout the season. We haven’t seen much of Rodallega yet, but what we have is promising. He was constrained in his final year at Wigan, and is still young. Finally, Riether was solid, as was the entire back line, in the opener. All-in-all it’s promising, but depth is still an issue, and one match won’t expose that. I’m confident Jol has targets and a plan, but all my anxiety won’t go away until the club officially announces a few more players.
What about Sir Alex’s purchases?
I’m a huge fan of Kagawa’s, and I think he proved that against Everton. Expect more of the same from him this season. I’m not so sure about Buttner, as he was linked with many lesser clubs (like Fulham) before going to United, so I’m interested to know what they see in him. Probably just depth. RVP is RVP, but his age does speak a little. He obviously won’t have the season he did last year just as a by-product of not being “the guy” anymore, and he needs to be up front rather than on the wing. If he accepts a lesser role and SAF puts him in a spot to succeed, he’ll produce, barring injury.
Wayne Rooney has scored 4 in his last 3 against the Cottagers, how afraid of him are you despite his off season bulge?
It’s Wayne Rooney. I’m very afraid of him. All the talk about him being not as good as he used to be is crap, in my opinion. He’ll turn it on, don’t you worry. Hopefully not against us, but yes, I’m afraid.
How will Fulham approach the game?
Fulham will approach it in the way they have in the past and they have to: defensive. A draw is a great result. They always say “fortune favors the bold” but I don’t see that applying here. Fulham need to frustrate United, then take advantage of weaknesses. Coming out all-out attack will do no good.
Predicted Line Up & Score?
Don’t see any reason to change the successful lineup. Lineup: Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Diarra, Dembele; Frei, Ruiz, Duff; Petric. Could see Kacaniklic get another start but he only was in because of Frei’s injury, so expect to see Kerim Frei back in there. Also could see Rodallega get more of a role in this match.
In preparation for today’s Premier League fixture against Wolves, I talked to Wolves blogger, Nathan, to discuss their season so far, the significance of Karl Henry’s injury and Wayne Rooney’s irresistible form, plus much more!