Some highlights – off the top of my head – from this fixture over the years. February 2007: Cristiano Ronaldo scores a ludicrous late solo goal to secure a vital win en route to the title. March 2009: Wayne Rooney punches the corner flag on his way to the tunnel having been sent off in a 2-0 defeat. February 2014: Darren Bent starts hammering the nail into the coffin of the David Moyes era with a 95th-minute equaliser to make it 2-2. Any more for any more?
Pre-match reading: Our Manchester correspondent runs the rule over Ten Hag’s tenure so far
Is there a more jarring sight in football than a team fielding two left-backs? Other than that, Ten Hag’s team looks a good one: guile and know-how in midfield, pace and versatility up front. What looks good on paper doesn’t always play well in practice, though – especially for United.
Marco Silva gives Tom Cairney his first Premier League start of the season, a sign, perhaps, that he intends to get at United with probing possession rather than anything more direct. Andreas Pereira, on the mark against United’s neighbours last weekend, starts against his former club.
Fulham: Leno, Decordova-Reid, Ream, Diop, Robinson, Palhinha, Cairney, Andreas, Wilson, Vinicius, Willian.
Subs: Rodák, Tosin, Duffy, Chalobah, James, Onomah, Mbabu, Harris, Sekularac
Man United: De Gea, Lindelof, Martinez, Malacia, Shaw, Fernandes, Eriksen, Casemiro, Elanga, Martial, Rashford.
Subs: Bishop, Dubravka, Maguire, Fred, McTominay, Van de Beek, Iqbal, Garnacho
It was all going so well. Manchester United’s toothless loss to Aston Villa last weekend brought an end to an nine-game unbeaten that featured seven wins, six clean sheets and one remarkable period of totaalvoetbal with Harry Maguire up front.
Meek defeat at Villa Park a week ago may have given a snapshot of a team without a clue, but the truth is that Erik ten Hag’s tenure so far has for the large part been quietly impressive. Context is everything, and United’s current position of fifth looks far better when you consider that the club remains badly burdened by unremarkable talents and ageing egotists (and that’s just the boardroom!).
A win on the banks of the Thames would see Ten Hag’s men enter the not-quite-half-term break three points off the Champions League spots with a game in hand: not bad at all.
Marco Silva’s Fulham, meanwhile, will climb to within a point of United with a win today. They have been the division’s surprise package, and not many would be too shocked by a home win today for a side who like to give the heavyweights a proper game: Fulham went toe to toe with Liverpool on the opening day and would have two more points were it not for last-gasp goals from Arsenal and Manchester City.
They’ll have to do it without their talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic, who is out with a foot injury, though Booby Decordova-Reid returns from suspension. For United, Bruno Fernandes is back while Cristiano Ronaldo and Antony are doubts.