34 minutes: Another dangerous Willian cross is headed by United’s centre-half. My kingdom for the Serbian target. Then Robinson races down the same flank to win a corner – Malacia clearly on target here – which is hung up for a blistering volley which Willian fires high and wide.
33 minutes: Willian, Fulham’s best striker to date, wriggles down the left again and fires a cross that Martinez heads clear. As Rashford leaves the field, Reid is booked for stopping him in his tracks.
30 minutes: Eriksen picks out Rashford on the left, who pushes the ball into the box, where a hole has opened up in the Fulham defence. Martial, realizing he’s on goal, takes a shot that goes through Len’s legs, but loses enough of a step in the process for the keeper to run back and prevent him from crossing the line.
29 minutes: Wilson tries his luck again, cutting in from the right and curling one from 20 yards which De Gea beats with two fists. This is good fun.
26 minutes: Pereira turns brilliantly from Martinez on the edge of the box and slips the ball in behind the United defense for Wilson, who stretches to divert it towards goal. De Gea makes an instinctive save before the flag goes up against Wilson – narrowly.
23 minutes: The match settled into the pattern of Fulham patiently testing and United wanting to break through after the break. Palhinha breaks up United’s counterattack with a brilliant tackle on Elanga, who breaks away from the right.
20 minutes: Willian was involved again, this time cutting in from the left and attempting a long-range curler. It flies well wide. United go to the other side of the pitch and Fernandes’ magnificent deep cross leaves Rashford alone at the back post. It gets to an awkward height for Rashford, who finishes – but he was offside.
19 minutes: Pereira picks up the ball on the edge of the penalty area and passes it to Willian, who runs into it. He hits the fence but can’t find the white shirt.
18 minutes: Casemiro tries from his own half. It’s not even close to the mark. Not the type of intervention it was bought for.
Casemiro catches Cairney in possession on halfway and in a flash, Martial charges forward, feeds Fernandes down the inside left and the Portuguese squares across the box for Eriksen to tap in for the goal. Casemiro started it with an inconspicuous intervention for which he was bought.
13 minutes: Rashford channels Ronaldinho, tries to beat Decordov-Reid with an elastic. It doesn’t really turn out – but good fun.
11 minutes: Fulham turn the screw. Willian races forward but can’t quite get Vinicius into the box, before Robinson flies in a cross at the back post that Shaw clears.
9 minutes: United’s first significant attack comes when Shaw deflects the ball down the line for Rashford, who advances into space and lays Martial. He has a look at the goal for a second, but he tries to break through two defenders and is crumpled.
7 minutes: Fulham wants to attack from the left. After a nice change of play by Wilson, Palhinha wrestles Malacia to the ground but his floating cross goes wide for a shot on goal.
5 minutes: Palhinha caught Eriksen on the ball, which sparked a clever Fulham attack that ended with Vinicius’ low drive forcing De Gea into a characteristic save with his feet.
3 minutes: Robinson gallops down the left side and is fairly brought down by the honest Elanga, who was diligently tracking.
1 minute: Casemiro ends a period of sloppy play by routing the ball to Malacia, who starts at right-back to offend all our aesthetic sensibilities.
After a minute of silence for Remembrance Sunday, we are ready to go. United kicks off.
If we include the matches from Old Trafford, we’d have Fulham’s Inamoto-inspired dethroning of the champions in October 2003, wouldn’t we? Meanwhile, in the real world, the teams are out there.
Alex Ross invests: “I’ll bet Fulham 3-0 Man U at the Cottage in December 2009. Roy Hodgson’s Fulham are three days away from a delirious and snowy 3-2 win away at Basel, confirming our place in the Europa League knock-outs. Bobby Zamora and Zoltan Gera they were unplayable. It was my birthday.”
“What about Van Nistelrooy’s sensational solo goal?” Edward Taylor asks. I mean, it was at Old Trafford, so it’s not strictly the same schedule, but I’ll give it to you anyway. Was it the smallest Van Nistelrooyish goal ever scored by Van Nistelrooy? And has a soccer player ever run across the field, leaving defenders in his wake, at such a hilariously slow speed?
Some of the most important moments – off the top of my head – from this meeting over the years. February 2007: Cristiano Ronaldo scores a ridiculous late solo goal to secure a vital victory en route to the title. March 2009: Wayne Rooney kicks the corner flag on his way to the tunnel after being sent off in a 2-0 defeat. February 2014: Darren Bent begins to put the nail in the coffin of the David Moyes era with a 95th minute equalizer to make it 2-2. More for more?
Pre-match reading: Our Manchester correspondent checks Ten Hag’s tenure so far
Is there a more painful scene in football than a team with two left backs? Other than that, Ten Hague’s squad looks good: cunning and knowledge in midfield, speed and versatility up front. However, what looks good on paper doesn’t always work well in practice – especially for United.
Marco Silva gives it to Tom Cairney his first start of the season in the Premier League, perhaps a sign that he intends to get to United through probing possession rather than something more direct. Andreas Pereira, against United’s neighbors last weekend, starts against his former club.
Fulham: Leno, Decordova-Reid, Ream, Diop, Robinson, Palhinha, Cairney, Andreas, Wilson, Vinicius, Willian.
Replacements: Rodák, Tosin, Duffy, Chalobah, James, Onomah, Mbabu, Harris, Šekularac
Manchester United: De Gea, Lindelof, Martinez, Malacia, Shaw, Fernandes, Eriksen, Casemiro, Elanga, Martial, Rashford.
Substitutes: Bishop, Dubravka, Maguire, Fred, McTominay, Van de Beek, Iqbal, Garnacho
Everything was going so well. Manchester United’s toothless defeat at Aston Villa last weekend brought to an end a nine-game unbeaten run that had seen seven wins, six clean sheets and an outstanding spell totalalvoetbal with Harry Maguire up front.
A slight defeat at Villa Park a week ago he might have painted a picture of a clueless squad, but the truth is that Erik ten Hag’s tenure so far has largely been quietly impressive. Context is everything, and United’s current fifth position looks far better when you consider that the club remains heavily laden with lackluster talent and aging egotists (and that’s just the boardroom!).
Victory on the banks of the Thames would see Ten Hague’s men go into the half-time break three points off a Champions League spot with a game in hand: not bad at all.
Meanwhile, Marco Silva’s Fulham, today, with a win, they will climb to within a point of United. They were the surprise package of the division, and few would have been too shocked by today’s home win for a side that likes to give the heavyweights a real game: Fulham played Liverpool on the first day and would have been two points clear had it not been for last-gasp goals from Arsenal and Manchester City .
He will have to do it without their talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is sidelined with a foot injury, although Booby Decordova-Reid returns from suspension. Bruno Fernandes is back for United, while Cristiano Ronaldo and Antony are uncertain.