The week that saves Fulham’s season?
A home game against Fulham was supposed to be the perfect tonic for Manchester United and David Moyes this weekend. The West London club has won just one away game in all competitions since the middle of October and looked utterly dreadful in recent weeks, shipping an eye-watering amount of goals.
February 10th, 2014
So obviously, it figures that Rene Meulensteen’s side turned up for the showpiece fixture on Sunday afternoon in front of the world’s television cameras and left with a deserved 2-2 draw. The result heaps more pressure on the new manager at Old Trafford and leaves some fans of the London side pondering why the team has struggled to show the same levels of commitment and fight at other occasions this season; especially in the crunch games against other sides near the bottom of the table.
Fulham weren’t perfect at the back; otherwise they would have kept a clean sheet. However, there was an evident desire to repel the champions for as long as possible. The hosts’ style of attacking play suited the towering centre-halves. United whipped in a record-breaking 81 crosses and all but 18 failed to find their intended targets. Dan Burn and Johnny Heitinga drew plaudits but there were a number of fine performers in the rear-guard action.
Kieran Richardson, Steve Sidwell and new boys William Kvist and Lewis Holtby were constantly busy and harried the United midfield throughout the game. Debutant Ryan Tunnicliffe, tasked with making his Premier League debut at the home of his former club, didn’t look overawed even if he will want to see more of the ball in future appearances.
The signs were good, especially when you consider Meulensteen was lambasted for his decision to do so much overhauling of the attacking players in the squad during January and marginally little with the defence.
The performance was promising; with a number of players showing they are more than ready for a dogfight to avoid relegation.
And Darren Bent did what he does best; popping up at the right moment to score a crucial goal. The England striker played the entire second half but was mostly a bystander to a match that predominantly took place around Fulham’s penalty area. Thankfully for Rene, he was sharp enough to react to David De Gea’s parried save and head in his fourth goal at Old Trafford in the Premier League.
The goal, the game, the display and the result could just be the spark that the Cottagers need to retain their Premier League status. Liverpool are visitors to Craven Cottage on Wednesday evening. There isn’t time for the promising feeling to leave the Fulham squad between now and then. They’ll be confident of another surprising result and with a wave of positivity in the crowd, it might just happen.
Two, or even four points that no-one gave them a chance of claiming will help prove that Fulham aren’t as dead and buried as people expected. Fulham have been in the top flight since 2001, the longest current stay in the division once you ignore the seven teams to have played in every Premier League season. This could be the week that sees Meulensteen, Ray Wilkins and their players turn around their season and extend their stay in the Barclays Premier League by another 12 months at least. Two big results against Manchester United and Liverpool can give them the confidence to amass the points they need to stay up.