How Fulham can exploit Manchester United’s key weakness in FA Cup quarter-final showdown
When Fulham were accused of relying on just one goalscorer, they stopped scoring and their teammates started.
The Cottagers were heavily reliant on Aleksandar Mitrovic as they mounted their push for Europe in the first half of the season. But the Serb has gone nine games without a goal, a streak dating back more than two months and spanning 746 minutes of football.
As Mitrovic struggles, other players need to come to the fore. It means Fulham travel to Old Trafford for their FA Cup quarter-final on Sunday, confident they can pose a threat against a still-vulnerable Manchester United defense after conceding seven goals at Anfield two weeks ago.
Wingers Manor Solomon and Willian have both scored important goals in recent weeks for Marco Silva’s side to help Fulham in their unlikely push to Europe under Marco Silva. Solomon, in particular, has been in scintillating form, scoring in five successive appearances until Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Arsenal.
Mitrovic will be confident he can relish an aerial battle with United centre-back Lisandro Martinez, but it could be in wide areas where Fulham can be most successful. Full-backs Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw endured a scorching afternoon in the 7-0 loss to Liverpool and exploiting space during the break should suit Solomon and Willian just fine.
Joao Palhinha also contributed with a goal in the win over Leeds in the previous round, and he is returning from FA Cup suspension.
His availability is a boost for Fulham, who missed out on midfield against Arsenal and are trying to reach their first semi-final since racing to the Europa League final in 2010. Andreas Pereira will return to Old Trafford for the first time since leaving United. for Fulham last summer, and thinks his new team can cause an upset.
“I’m going to have mixed emotions,” Pereira said. “It’s a tough match, but I’m happy to play against them. It will be the first time I come back and feel this atmosphere. I’ve never been there as a visitor, so it will be something new.
“They have a lot of confidence. They play very well, but sometimes when you’re so confident it’s not good either. We know we have to work very hard to win against them, but we will do everything and try to play the perfect game.
“I feel at home here and it’s been great so far. When I came here they told me that every year in the Premier League they would go down. The main objective was to stay in the Premier League, but I spoke with the manager and he told me what he wanted to achieve and how he wanted to play.
“He was very ambitious and I really liked that. After five games in the season we realized we could do something big with the team and it’s been amazing.