Turning our attention to Saturday’s game now and the visit of the champions will certainly prove a tough test for a Fulham test still basking in the Basel afterglow. My old friend from university, Tom McLarty, a Manchester United fan, was kind enough to answer a few questions as we previewed the game.
United returned to winning ways last night against Wolves. Is the confidence returning to the side and fans now?
Beating an understrength Wolves is not exactly a shock, so to say it’s a confidence boost is perhaps overstated. Nonetheless it’s obviously nice to get back to winning ways. Another win at the weekend against a tricky Fulham side is needed though, as we need to keep pressure up on Chelsea.
How much of a worry have a few early-season defeats been?
Obviously United are not used to losing four times in the first few months of the season, but I agree with Arsene Wenger that the team that wins the league will finish with one of the lowest winning totals in the Premiership’s history. “The big four” are not as invincible against the other teams this year, as shown by Villa beating United, Chelsea and Liverpool. So, we may well have four defeats but are still only three points off the top, so I am not too concerned. The emergence of Villa Spurs and Man City mean there are fewer “home bankers” so any team can lose to anyone.
Have you been happy with Ferguson’s dealings in the transfer market?
That should probably be lack of transfer activity! Valencia is not going to be the next Ronaldo but he has been improving with every game. Owen was an astute signing, being a free, but I was expecting us to spend more of the Ronaldo money I must say. Think we may buy a player or two in January, but it won’t be a headline grabber, much like Evra and Vidic weren’t when we signed them. Getting Hargreaves back soon hopefully will be like a new signing too. Think we need another midfielder (the Belgian Defour has been linked and I rate him very highly in the few Standard Liege matches I’ve seen) and I really think we need a new keeper because van der Sar won’t last for ever and I don’t trust the other two. Think Hugo Lloris would be perfect.
Is it annoying to continually hear so-called ‘experts’ harping on about how United miss Cristiano Ronaldo?
They are bound to go on about it. Losing such a player was always going to be used as the reason behind any lack of success. We definitely miss him because he could change a game with one piece of magic and I don’t think we have anybody who can do that at the moment, though Rooney does seem to relish taking up that challenge this year.
The Glazer takeover caused plenty of headlines and predictions of a split in the fanbase. Has this happened? What are your thoughts on the ownership situation?
I think that they have been OK. They have let Fergie get on with the football side of things and we have spent money in the transfer market in the last few years. They are far less disruptive than the Americans in Liverpool but not as popular as Lerner at Villa. However, recent stories that our transfer funds will be limited are a concern as when you have just received 80million and make millions through tv, merchandise and tickets, you would expect funds to be available. January will tell us a lot.
United look as though they may be short of defenders with Vidic and Brown likely to be missing on Saturday. Is this is a worry or should they have too much for Fulham?
Having seven proven defenders out injured would cripple any team. I think losing just once in this spell shows that we have great strength in depth. Having said that, having Carrick and Fletcher in defence is hardly perfect as they are not natural defenders and it also means we have to play non-first teamers in midfield too. For the weekend, without being disrespectful, the Fulham frontline is not as daunting as that of Villa, so I expect our defence to cope.
What do you think of Fulham? Any players you particularly fear?
I think Roy Hodgson has done a quite brilliant job. You were all but relegated when he joined, but he kept you up and got you into Europe last season! Fulham are a tricky team to assess as you’re not in the top echelon of teams but you are too good to be labelled mid-table also rans too. I think you’re similar to Everton (even if they are having a poor season by their high standards) in that on your day you can beat a “big four” side then disappoint against a weaker team the next. As I mentioned your forwards do not strike fear into many defences but you are very solid at the back which is why your home record is so good. Hangeland gets all the plaudits, but Schwarzer has been excellent since he joined you as has Duff (who Hodgson seems to have revitalised).
Finally, a prediction for the game on Saturday …
A tough game: United to win 1-0, first half goal for Berbatov (he’s due one) with United holding on for last few minutes.
We’d like to thank Tom for taking the time to answer our questions.