Evening all. It's not a bad way to end Saturday's Premier League action is it - Fulham
vs. Manchester United
- two teams that need a victory for very different reasons.
Before we get into the reasons behind that statement, the team news from Craven Cottage has just arrived with us. Hold your hats...
FULHAM: Schwarzer; Reither, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Karagounis, Baird, Duff, Dejagah, Ruiz; Rodallega
So, with former Man United striker Dimitar Berbatov sidelined through injury, Hugo Rodallega is the man given the task of leading the Fulham attack. Swiss centre-back Philippe Senderos has also returned to the defence, while the experienced Georgios Karagounis is included in midfield.
MAN UNITED: De Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Jones, Evra; Valenica, Carrick, Cleverley, Nani; Rooney, Van Persie
Well that is rather positive from Sir Alex Ferguson
. Nani, Antonio Valencia and Tom Cleverley are all named in the midfield, while Wayne Rooney
partners Robin van Persie up front. Meanwhile, in defence, Phil Jones will play alongside Rio Ferdinand at centre-back.
Actually, there's a bit of confusion over the United starting lineup. We are now hearing that it may be Jonny Evans and not Jones in the United defence. Will clear that up as soon as possible.
Okay, there is still an air of uncertainty surrounding it, but it looks as though Evans has been given the nod instead of Jones. I guess we will know for sure when they trot out at the start of the match!
Staying with United, a win today would see them open up a 10-point lead at the top of the table. It may only last 24 hours, what with Manchester City taking on Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow afternoon, but it would still put some pressure on their rivals to pick up maximum points.
What's more, no side have won more matches on the road in the Premier League this season than United. From 12 outings, they've won eight and drawn a further two. Their two away defeats were suffered at Everton and Norwich City.
Let's just veer away from this match for a couple of minutes and bring you the results from the 3pm starts in the Premier League. There's been some late drama...
Arsenal 1-0 Stoke, Everton 3-3 Aston Villa, Newcastle 3-2 Chelsea, Reading 2-1 Sunderland, West Ham 1-0 Swansea and Wigan 2-2 Southampton.
To find out who grabbed the late goals, read all the match reports here
. There will also be reports from Championship matches and encounters throughout Europe.
All of those results mean that Fulham start this fixture seven points clear of the relegation zone. That shows just how important a win would be for the Whites tonight. It would be some real breathing space between themselves and any danger.
One United player that isn't expecting an easy ride is Wayne Rooney, despite the fact that it was a comfortable win in the FA Cup seven days ago.
"The Cup game was quite comfortable," said the 27-year-old forward.
"But at home, Fulham are a different team. They have got players who can take the ball between the lines because the pitch is not as big and then they can create chances.
"They are down near the bottom so they will be fighting to get one or three points."
Talking of Rooney, he has kept his place, while Danny Welbeck has dropped down to the bench. Here are who has been selected as substitutes for both teams.
Fulham: Etheridge, Petric, Frimpong, Emanuelson, Davies, Kacaniklic, Hughes
Man United: Anderson, Giggs, Smalling, Chicharito, Welbeck, Kagawa, Amos
From a Fulham point of view, it will be interesting to see how Urby Emmanuelson performs if he gets on. The Dutch international joined the Whites on a loan basis from AC Milan on deadline day. He comes with a reputation as a player who possess a dangerous left foot.
Here's some of what Sir Alex Ferguson
has had to say before this match.
"There is a long way to go and a lot can happen. We're not certainties. Nobody is in this league. It's an unremitting league and if you make mistakes, you get punished."
Meanwhile, his opposite number Martin Jol
"We knew that we had to play Man United on Saturday - every point against them is a bonus but we needed that win against West Ham."
Right, the players are are in the tunnel. Not long now until we are off and running. The travelling United faithful are in fine voice behind the goal. It's a big night for their team, as well as Fulham.
We are off and underway at Craven Cottage...
By the way, just to keep you in the loop, it is in fact Evans and not Jones playing alongside Ferdinand in the United defence. Not sure if Jones is injured because he has not been included in the squad at all. Evans himself has just returned from a hamstring problem.
Early attack for Fulham as Hugo Rodallega races clear of the United defence. Having got his head up, he tried to pick out Ashkan Dejagah inside the area, but his pass was blocked by a sliding Ferdinand. Positive signs for Fulham though.
OFF THE BAR! How are Man United not in front? A headed effort from Nani is well saved by Mark Schwarzer, but the rebound finds Patrice Evra, who surely must score from six yards out. He scuffs his effort though and the ball cannons to safety off the crossbar.
SAVE! For all the criticism he receives, David de Gea's shot stopping ability has never been questioned. He showed again how good he is in that area just now by tipping over a dipping effort from former Liverpool full-back Jon Arne Riise.
OFF THE POST! What a start we've had at the Cottage. It's Fulham's turn to strike the woodwork as a slick break away ends with Bryan Ruiz curling the ball without the outside of left boot against the post. Brilliant effort from the Costa Rican, who deserved more.
OFF THE BAR! What an earth is going on here?! Fulham hit the bar, but it's their own bar! Brede Hangeland is the culprit, whose blushes are spared when his mistimed header rebounds to safety off the frame of the goal.
CHANCE! Back up the other end Dejagah has another sight of goal, but he scuffs his effort from the edge of the area wide of the target. This is like a game of basketball at the moment!
OFF THE POST! Unbelievable. The woodwork has been hit on four occasions now. It's Rooney who is the unlucky one this time, seeing his low shot after some neat football with Robin van Persie kissing the base of the post on its way wide. Surely there will be a goal in this one soon.
Anybody remember Reading vs. Man United earlier in the season? It ended 4-3, with all the goals being scored in the first half. This match has been exactly like that, but without the goals obviously. The amount of chances and openings that have been created so far is incredible.
The game has settled down a little for now, which is a positive for my typing hands! It's United who are seeing more of the ball, but at the moment Fulham look strong defensively. Of course, with the likes of Van Persie and Rooney on the pitch, that could all change in a matter of seconds.
OFF THE POST! Guess what? Wayne Rooney has hit the post again! This is getting silly now. It's neat build up play from United that involves Nani and Cleverley, before Rooney curls the ball against the upright from the edge of the penalty box.
Bit of a strange one. We've just had close up of Rafael da Silva's boots and they appear to belong to his twin Fabio, who is on loan with Queens Park Rangers from United - prompting this from the Daily Mirror's
"Raphael is wearing his brother Fabio's boots. Hopefully he didn't also pick up the wrong lunchbox this morning - he hates Fab's sarnies."
It's United that are enjoying more of the possession, but the door is being slammed shut in their face at the moment. And as we've seen, if the defence is breached, the woodwork is more than willing to come Fulham's rescue!
LIGHTS OUT! 50p for the meter anyone? Craven Cottage has been drenched in darkness as the floodlights all go out. Let's hope that gets sorted quickly!
Right then, the players are heading off the pitch while the problem gets resolved. It's still dark inside Craven Cottage. The pessimist in me feels that it isn't looking good for any football being played any time soon.
But then what do I know? The lights seem to be slowly coming back on. Not sure whether they will take half-time early and add three minutes on to the second half or not. Seems a bit silly to come out, play three minutes, then head back down the tunnel for a 15-minute break but we shall see.
No, it looks as though we will carry on from where we left off. The players are slowly filtering back on to the pitch...
GAME ON! We are back underway with a United corner that is eventually cleared by the Fulham defence.
We've got a minimum of one minute of stoppage time to be played...
HALF-TIME: Fulham 0-0 Man United
Well that half had everything. Chances, rebounds of the woodwork on five occasions and a floodflight failure. What more can you ask for? In between all that United were probably the better of the two sides, but as it stands, they head into the break level at 0-0.
Of course, the happiest team so far will probably be Manchester City. If it stays like this, a victory over Liverpool tomorrow would see them close the gap on leaders United to five points. I'd be amazed if it stays 0-0 after a first half like that, but you never know. It's a funny old game and all that!
What will probably worry Fulham is the options that United have on the bench. There is the goalscoring instincts of Javier Hernandez, as well as Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa. If the visitors haven't scored by the hour mark, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a couple or maybe all three of those players come on.
A quick look at the statistics before the players head back onto the pitch - United have had 52% of the possession and eight attempts at goal. Meanwhile, hosting Fulham have had four shots, one of which has been on target.
SUBSTITUTION: Bit of a blow for Fulham as Hangeland has picked up an injury and has been replaced by Aaron Hughes, who quite frankly had a nightmare Old Trafford last week. Meanwhile, the second half is off and running...
SAVE! First attempt of the half for United as Valencia switches the play from right to left for Nani, who in turn dinks in a cross from the edge of the area. Van Persie leaps highest, but he cannot get enough power on the ball and Schwarzer holds with ease.
Infostrada Sports on Twitter: "Robin van Persie can become the sixth player to score 20 goals in an Premier League season for Manchester United after Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov & Dwight Yorke."
CHANCE! Ferdinand has just tried to be too clever when bringing the ball out from the back for United and is robbed by Karagounis. The veteran Greek midfielder then moves forward, but his shot is poor and flies well wide of the target. Still, it should give Fulham some confidence.
It's been a much slower start to the second half, but in fairness to the players, they couldn't have kept going at the same pace that they did in the first half. They'd have all been knackered by now! United are the dominant force, but Fulham do look dangerous on the break.
SAVE! And there is proof that Fulham are still a threat. It's Chris Baird that has the shot from distance, but De Gea gets down early and holds the ball with ease.
Baird shows that he is also useful in defence for Fulham as he sprints back to block a shot from Nani that looked to be heading for the net. That was a quick move by United that involved Van Persie and Rooney before Baird's goal-saving intervention.
BOOKING! And to round off an eventful few minutes for Baird, he receives the first booking of the match for tripping up Valencia, who was in full flight.
SUBSTITUTION: That was Valencia's last involvement in what another disappointing performance from the United winger. He is replaced by Javier Hernandez, who scored two against Fulham in the FA Cup last weekend.
SUBSTITUTION: It's now Fulham's turn to make an alteration as Karagounis is hooked and Emmanuelson comes on for his Fulham debut. Can he become an instant hero with the home faithful? We shall see...
SAVE! It's a decent stop from De Gea, who gets down quickly to his right to push clear a grass-cutting shot from Fulham full-back Sascha Riether. The home side are beginning to exert some pressure on United now. It's going to be an entertaining ending to this fixture.
SUBSTITUTION: Ferguson has turned to veteran Ryan Giggs to try and win this match for United. He has replaced Tom Cleverley, who had a largely quiet outing.
Here's a stat from ESPN
: "The last time Manchester United were involved in a 0-0 draw was 97 games ago, against Newcastle in April 2011."
Will they be today? It's looking increasingly likely.
Fulham 0-1 Man United (Rooney)
And they won't be involved in a 0-0 draw tonight, all thanks to Wayne Rooney. It's a brilliant finish from the United striker, who has moved out to the left following the introduction of Hernandez. He moved into the Fulham area and simply guided the ball into far corner and beyond Schwarzer with a pass-like finish. That's a big goal for United.
SUBSTITUTION: Martin Jol
reacts to seeing his side fall behind by throwing on striker Petric in place of Dejagah.
CHANCE! Bad, bad miss from Van Persie, who could have wrapped up the points for United. Nani picked him out all alone with a headed pass eight yards from goal, but he went for the spectacular and volleyed the ball well over the crossbar. United wouldn't have wanted another player on that chance either.
SUBSTITUTION: Another switch for United and Nani's match is over. However, it's not a defensive replacement because striker Danny Welbeck will enter the action. You'd have to imagine that he will play wide on the right, but even so, it's a positive move.
Fulham are beginning to push more men forward in search of an equaliser. They've actually made the United defence look nervy, but as yet, they've had no success. It also means that there will be more gaps for United to move into when they go forward.
Fulham have three minutes of stoppage time to salvage something from this game...
OFF THE LINE! Unbelievable. Van Persie has scored so many goals for United this season and now he is back on the line saving them! The Dutchman is standing on the post to knock clear Senderos's looping header. Then, up the other end, Hernandez is denied when one-on-one with Schwarzer.
Fulham have a free kick 20 yards from goal. This will be the last kick...
FULL TIME: Fulham 0-1 Man United
As you've probably guessed, that free kick from Rodallega struck the wall and the final whistle was blown. United have held on to what could prove to be a very crucial three points. Credit to Fulham because they made their visitors sweat, particularly in the closing stages.
That's all we have time from Craven Cottage - thanks for joining us. Be sure to look out for analysis of this match, which will be with you shortly.