Any joy at Fulham reaching their first FA Cup quarter-final for thirteen years was swiftly snuffed out when Alan Shearer paired the Whites with Manchester United. A trip to Old Trafford might not be as daunting as during the Sir Alex Ferguson years but Fulham have never beaten the Red Devils in the world’s oldest Cup competition and, since reaching the last eight, Marco Silva’s side have suffered two demoralising derby defeats.

Not that those setbacks should sour a superb first season back at the highest level. Fulham are flying, having attacked the Premier League with relish under Silva’s watchful eye, and are on course to match at least their third-highest league finish in the club’s history. To be safely clear of an almighty scrap for survival that saw Steve Parish press the panic button with Crystal Palace in twelfth when there are still eleven games left is a remarkable achievement for Fulham, who have bounced between the top two tiers of English football with depressingly dependable monotony in recent years.

Silva certainly remains as characteristically ambitious as ever, asserting during his press conference on Friday that he believed his side were not only capable of winning at Old Trafford but going on and lifting the club’s first piece of silverware. The Portuguese head coach has utterly transformed the mood around both Motspur Park and Craven Cottage since succeeding Scott Parker and built on the success of his first season when an immediate return to the top flight was secured in such style. His happiness in the white half of SW6 means he won’t be tempted by the smouldering wreck that is Tottenham Hotspur, even if Antonio Conte sounded like he was preparing for his own sacking at St. Mary’s yesterday.

Fulham are an entirely different outfit with Joao Palhinha in central midfield and Silva’s compatriot returns to the engine room after missing those two defeats by Brentford and Arsenal through suspension. An international break follows this fixture so Silva could easily field his strongest side, even if there is some argument about the composition of his best eleven following the fabulous form of Manor Solomon. Both Willian and Tom Cairney, who has quietly added quality from the bench this term, are fit to feature but the worry will be at the other end of the pitch, where the Whites have shipped six goals in two games with some desperate defending.

Manchester United have bounced back impressively from the shocking seven-goal shellacking at Anfield. Eric ten Haag is expected to make five changes following the Red Devils’ progress past Real Betis in the Europa League, but the Dutchman will be eager to ‘go for it all’ in the words of Facundo Pellistri, who finally made his first senior start for the Reds in Spain on Thursday night. A domestic Cup double is on after ten Haag’s side beat Newcastle to win the League Cup at Wembley last month – and United start as strong favourites this afternoon.

Whatever side United field with be formidable even without the bite of Casemiro in the middle of the park and the electricity offered by Alejandro Garnacho, who has already broken Fulham hearts once already this term at Craven Cottage. The hosts could also be missing Anthony Martial and Antony de Santos alongside long-term absentees Donny van de Beek and Christian Eriksen. Could this be a chance for Fulham to spring a surprise? Possibly, but the Whites will still need to produce a performance for the ages.

MY FULHAM XI (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete, A. Robinson, Diop, Ream; Palhinha, Reed; Willian, Solomon, Pereira; Mitrovic. Subs: Leno, Cedric Soares, Adarabioyo, Lukic, Cairney, Harris, Decordova-Reid, Wilson, Vinicius.