ESPN Soccernet - Correspondents - Fulham
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Posted by Phil Mison on 03/25/2012

Playing at Old Trafford be it early in the season, mid-week, under lights or in the depths of winter usually results in one thing. Three points for the Reds. Can it be any different this year?

You have to say unlikely on the basis of our last two performances. Had we appeared so disjointed, lacklustre and bereft of ideas last August you would have cut the boys plenty of slack and reserved judgement while Jol remodelled the side in his vision. For the Villa and Swansea games, coming after two thirds of the season, one might legitimately ask, 'where's the progress?' In both games we barely managed a shot while playing like a bunch of strangers. Villa was bad enough, though we nearly escaped with a point. Against Swansea the closest we got to them all afternoon was the pre-match handshake.

We were utterly outclassed on the day. And the last side to do that to us on our own patch are Monday's match up, United again, the 5-0 victors in December in a game we had lost inside 30 minutes. One quirk of the fixture list down the years means we've never had to go to Old Trafford in the run-in desperate for a result. Just as well. Blackpool almost pulled it off on the final day of last season, Holloway's plucky band attacked from first to last before going down valiantly 4-2. Shortly into the 2nd half they led 2-1. Not bad when you consider United only gave up two points at home all season on their way to the title. Were we to pull out a similar show I'd be more than happy to take a defeat with honour.

Let's just not have the sort of timid, gutless performance we put on there last season, the template for which we have reproduced all across our league campaign on the road so far. Two skin of the teeth away wins at bottom three sides Wigan and QPR is simply not good enough for the quality of players we have on our books. Basic errors in our game will be seized upon Monday night no question. This summer could well see a changing of the guard in SW6 and one or two in white shirts may find this is their last competitive clash with United. Players have no time for our mood swings and fan talk truculence - to them it's a job of work. But out of personal pride the one thing they are all keen to do is match themselves against the best. Well, here's the ultimate test. And that goes for the manager too. Mentally we have to be ultra strong, impeccably prepared and tactically adroit. No half measures allowed.

No club has dominated the English scene like Sir Alex's Manchester United. For the last two seasons I've heard repeated criticism of the current side. Certainly the European campaign this season was uncharacterstically inglorious. Yet they took the title last May, and what's the betting it is Citeh who blink first this year over the run-in? The Reds will certainly be fired up for Fulham to regain top spot.

Would you have sat our first team down with tapes of the Bilbao games this week? As we are some way short of the Basque skills for ball retention and pass and move, I think I would rather have reverted to hypnotism in the run up to Monday night. Personally, I'm certainly not getting my hopes up. In fact, away games with United is the one fixture I try to blank out. So as Monday night sees me normally in the West End for readings at the Phoenix Theatre Arts Club, that's were I am headed. (ulterior motives here as I am in the throes of trying to get my first play staged). I shall of course be moving out into the Charing Cross Road traffic at 10 daring to dream as I tune in the radio...Looking forward to hearing from you all over the week.

Here's to the most improbable of results in this topsy turvey season. Well, if Wigan can do it at Anfield...?

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COYW! Twitter@fulhamphil


Posted by eswell gandiwa on 03/25/2012

its three more points for united and the gap is increasing

Posted by Nate on 03/26/2012

I don't see it. I want to be with you, Phil. I want to dream. But I just don't see it. This is what separates Man Yoo from the other top clubs...they don't lose games like this. They defend well, they take their opportunities. I'd love to see us try to make a game of it, but with our current form and the lineups old Martin is flinging out there, I just hope we keep it close. Have fun at the theatre. If your play needs inspiration for a bloody and hopeless ending, I recommend last week's Swansea match as inspiration.

Posted by Jessica on 03/26/2012

Enjoy your evening. I'll be watching form work: one eye on the match and the other making sure my boss isn't around. Here's to hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. COYW!

Posted by Jessica on 03/26/2012

Maybe one day we'll be able to not play our best and get the necessary (non) calls and still get the three points. One day...

Posted by Drago on 03/26/2012

I have to say, the way Fulham approached the game made me very happy. They were clearly up for the fight, and although United had a lot of possession, Fulham responded well in both halves. I think a draw would've been fair, as it was really just one lapse by us, not something Man U created.

Jol finally got selection and tactics right. Hughes was back in the starting eleven and, as a result, the defense was steady. You can see Diarra is starting to come into his own. Murphy and Ruiz showed that they can be perhaps more effective off the bench. If Fulham played like this away every week, we'd have a lot more than 2 wins.

Posted by Danny on 03/27/2012

I dont know about you Phil, but for me the man of the match for Fulham was clearly Danny Murphy. He looked as he did in his liverpool days, making a killer run that should have earned us a penalty. However, it is obvious that he cannot play that well for an entire game, so why dosent Jol just start Diarra and bring on Murphy at halftime. Same thing goes for Duff and Ruiz/Frei. All three players have one good half in them, but not an entire game. Nevertheless, in my opinion this was our best away performance of the year, save Chelsea.


Posted by Vital_Teddy_KGB on 03/29/2012

There is no justice to be had at Old Trafford. Oh, well.

That said, I decent performance from the lads. If nothing else comes from it, surely Martin Jol has to acknowledge that Hughes/Hangeland is the best central defensive pairing. Hughes was man-of-the-match for me. Barring injury, surely we've seen the last of Senderos as a starter, right?

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