Manchester United: How They Will Line Up Against Fulham

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26:  Giorgos Karagounis of Fulham battles for the ball with Wayne Rooney of Manchester United during the FA Cup with Budweiser Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford on January 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester United, a team that is on the edge of destruction. Yet after this trip to London they may well be ahead of their billionaire rivals at City in the league.

The typical Old Trafford heroics were back in place last weekend, after the most dramatic of finales against a resolute Stoke team that tried to bully the champions into conceding more ground in the title race. That victory might well have been the most important of David Moyes' career. United fans are not a patient bunch of late, and the knives would have been out.

The journey to Fulham, on the back of an excellent result against Norwich in the League Cup, could be the starting gun to David Moyes' season. Like United, Fulham have stuttered at the start of this campaign, but have a respectable 10 points from their first nine games. United have played well during parts of matches virtually all season, without ever being able to dominate a scoreline. However, you feel sooner or later it is all just going to "click" for the team.

Manchester United's back line have not covered themselves in glory this season. David Moyes has found it hard to organise his new stock of defenders into a cohesive unit, and he has opted to look to the future to solve his problems today. It appears that the partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand is no longer first choice, and the talents of Jonny Evans and the man-machine that is Phil Jones are being pushed forward.

Jones has spent most of his United career playing everywhere except the one position many feel he should be. Evans, on the other hand, has steadily established himself in the eyes of the vast majority of Reds, with his composed performances and assured decision-making. He is very much the alpha male of the United defence now, even though it still feels like he is a young lad. Surely the club captaincy is a prize that awaits him in the future?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  Phil Jones of Manchester United is fouled by Marc Wilson of Stoke City during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Stoke City at Old Trafford on October 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

I full expect to see United's first choice full-backs of Patrice Evra and Rafael take their places in the first team on this excursion to the capital city. Evra is in the twilight of the his United career, with the vocal threat of Leighton Baines' arrival becoming ever more audible. Rafael has been restricted to only a couple of league appearances this term due to injury. Chris Smalling was preferred against the physical threat of Stoke, but the young Brazilian should get his starting place back.

With David Moyes favouring a traditional variation of United's famous 4-4-2 formation, his options become ever more limited. This is mainly down to player form than any other factor. I fully expect to see Marouane Fellaini back partnering Michael Carrick in the centre of midfield.

After Tom Cleverley failing to shine (in fact doing the complete opposite) against Stoke, and with Anderson falling off the radar again, it is left to Moyes' big summer signing to play himself into some kind of form. The "Carrick plus one" issue has been a dilemma for a few seasons now, and Moyes failed to answer this question in the last window. I have every faith in Fellaini. United is notoriously a hard club to settle in at, and he deserves patience from United supporters across the globe.

Like Fellaini, another player who has found the demands of United tough is Shinji Kagawa. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Japanese international. Moyes appears to be trusting him in that left-sided berth, giving him a couple of full matches there and allowing him to drift inside to be involved. On the other wing, I fully expect for Moyes to go with Adnan Januzaj, who is arguably the club's most in-form player at the moment.

With this midfield selection, Moyes will quickly be able to deploy several variations of his formation. He could go 4-2-3-1 with his two central midfielders sitting, or he could switch to 4-1-4-1, allowing Fellaini to play a slightly more offensive role.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29:  Javier Hernandez of Manchester United celebrates after scoring the first goal from the penalty spot during the Capital One Cup Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Norwich City at Old Trafford on October 29,
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Despite Chicharito's fantastic recent run of three goals in two games, I fully expect Moyes to play his first-choice strikers in this away fixture. Both Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney are in goalscoring form and, without doubt, suit Moyes' current leaning towards 4-4-1-1 better than any other combination.

Van Persie has had a protracted start to the current campaign. Despite scoring a very impressive eight goals in 11 matches this season, his form and overall game have been hampered by injury. You can definitely see a sharpness issue in many of the things he normally does so well. On the other hand, Wayne Rooney has been electric of late. The Moyes regime seems to suit him much more than the later days of Ferguson's time.

You would expect these two strikers to provide Fulham with their biggest test this season. If United can finally put a team to the sword, the charge towards the top of the table can begin.