How Manchester United Will Line Up Against Fulham
Manchester United find themselves in an unusual position on Sunday. Opposition manager Rene Meulensteen knows more about the United squad than their own manager, David Moyes, having spent 10 years working with the Red Devils.
Meulensteen, who left Manchester last year when Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson, is credited with much of the success United have enjoyed over the past five years. However, his greatest strength as a hands-on coach was his downfall at the club, signalling the end of his time there. Moyes wasn't prepared to offer Meulenteen the same sort of dominant role on the training ground that Ferguson had afforded him.
So, how should Moyes line his team up against a man who knows the players' strengths and weaknesses so well?
Build Team Around Mata's Strengths
Moyes unsurprisingly stuck with his rigid 4-4-2 formation against Stoke last week, despite the arrival of Juan Mata providing the perfect opportunity to change his tactics.
The Spaniard has proven to be one of the best players in the league over the past two seasons. Now that United have him, they need to use him properly. Sticking him out on the wing limits how effective he can be and ensures he will see less of the ball.
Mata needs to be played behind the striker.
Perhaps Moyes will be more willing to adjust his formation in what should be a more comfortable game at home.
Attack, Attack, Attack
Robin van Persie has played in just two games in 2014 since being ruled out with injury at the beginning of December.
He has scored in both of them.
The Dutchman should be the first name on the teamsheet, and as he continues to gain match fitness, you would imagine the goals will keep coming.
Wayne Rooney's return from injury hasn't been quite as fruitful, but you imagine Moyes will start him regardless.
With Van Persie leading the line, Rooney and Mata should be able to slot in nicely either side of him.
Darren Fletcher has been United's only half-decent midfielder this season. While he doesn't offer pace, he brings stability to the team. He has been surprisingly reliable since his long-term absence, and while all the other midfielders are prone to poor form, Fletch has held his own.
Phil Jones could be an option to play alongside him, with Moyes confirming during Friday's press conference that he has recovered from the concussion he suffered at Stoke and might be able to play, per Simon Bajkowski of the Manchester Evening News.
With that being said, he could be needed at the back.
Michael Carrick is available to play again, although United fans will be hoping it's not in defence this week.
Defence? What Defence?
Phil Jones and Jonny Evans were both substituted during the first half against Stoke last weekend, forcing Michael Carrick to play in defence.
While Evans is still unavailable, Jones trained on Friday so might be called upon, although it's probably not worth it to risk him. Despite his stocky build, Jones is pretty fragile and the last thing United need is another long-term injury.
Nemanja Vidic will have returned from his suspension in time to greet the fans after announcing he will be leaving the club at the end of the season, per the team's official website. Ideally, he will play alongside a fit Jones or Chris Smalling, with Rafael and Patrice Evra either side of them.
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