Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fulham Bank on Soft Option

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fulham Bank on Soft Option

Article excerpt

Byline: LEO SPALL

SIR ALEX FERGUSON should know by now that playing his reserves against Fulham can prove costly.

But even after his Manchester United team dropped five points against them in the league this season, they are hopeful he will underestimate them again tomorrow.

A Champions League game against Porto next Tuesday with a 2-1 deficit to turn around has given Fulham grounds for optimism that their FA Cup quarterfinal will not be Ferguson's priority.

They will find out an hour before kick-off tomorrow whether to approach the tie at Old Trafford with high expectations or just hope, when the team-sheet arrives.

Fulham's assistant manager Steve Kean said: "The way the league and the first result of United's Champions League tie against Porto panned out, I'm sure there's a bit of pressure on the club.

"Hopefully, that pressure means they will prioritise and see the Champions League as more prestigious and rest some of the players with one eye on Tuesday's game.

"No disrespect to the other players there, but we would rather face those who are slightly less prolific than the players who make up the backbone."

In Fulham's 3-1 win at Old Trafford last October, Ferguson started with Eric Djemba-Djemba, Diego Forlan and only used Paul Scholes late on. For the 1-1 draw at Loftus Road last weekend, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Tim Howard and Ryan Giggs all started on the bench and Roy Keane played at centre-back.

"When you see the team-sheet you get an idea of how they're going to play and that has an impact on how we are going to play, certainly in the first half," Kean said. "It is anybody's guess who they will put out. Can they play a full-strength team for games back-to-back on Saturday and Tuesday? If they get a knock can they recover in time?"

The United players themselves seem keen enough to play, with Van Nistelrooy reportedly having a bust-up with Ferguson after being left out of last Saturday's starting XI.

Although Ferguson claimed the Dutchman needed a rest and agreed to be left out, it is understood the striker was desperate to play and let his feelings be known. …

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