Fulham Focus – Optimism scarce as Cottagers head to Old Trafford

Old Trafford has arguably provided Fulham with its’ finest moment as a club since its’ arrival in the Premier League back in 2001. There will be many Cottagers fans who will remember the day in October 2003 when Chris Coleman’s men, already flying high in the league and being inspired by the goals of Louis Saha, played their illustrious hosts off the pitch with strikes from Lee Clark, Steed Malbranque and Junichi Inamoto giving the West London club a famous 3-1 victory.

That was the last time Fulham managed to get a result of any kind at Old Trafford and indeed, as Martin Jol’s 2012/13 vintage prepare to take the field at the home of the Premier League leaders in their FA Cup fourth round tie on Saturday evening, the travelling supporters are unlikely to expect a surprise of any kind.

The truth is that had Fulham been in good form the chances of an upset would have been extremely low given their perennial struggles on the road. Considering the run Jol’s men have been on of late, one would expect the contingent of travelling Fulham supporters to be of very low optimism indeed.

The manager has called upon Dimitar Berbatov to score a hat-trick at the home of his former club and rediscover the form that had the Premier Leaguer lauding at not only his feet, but the club’s for pulling off such a transfer coup. However surely not even a wonder performance from the mercurial Bulgarian will be enough to save the Cottagers from coming away from Manchester with a defeat.

Simply, facing the strongest attack in England (though Sir Alex Ferguson may choose to rest Robin Van Persie), Fulham’s porous defence, which has kept only one clean sheet in their past 18 matches in both league and cup, will simply concede too many chances to the home side, leaving goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who himself has been in rather shaky form of late, with a thankless task.

It is of course unfortunate that the draw has brought Fulham to Old Trafford. Martin Jol had targeted a good FA Cup run this year, even more so as he looks to arrest his side’s alarming slide down the league.

However, perhaps the Dutchman would be wise to view the tie as a win-win situation. Namely, if Fulham were to somehow prise a victory, then what momentum that would give for the coming games ahead? However, if his side come away with a defeat, Jol can at least point to having no more distractions in his bid to stabilise Fulham’s Premier League position.

The under-pressure 57-year-old was further hit this week by the news that long-time targets Vasilis Torosidis and Yann M’Vila have made moves to Roma and Rubin Kazan respectively and with time running out before the transfer window closes, Jol will be more aware than anyone that new additions are needed to freshen up this Fulham squad, win or lose at Old Trafford, and rather quickly.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Fulham v West Ham

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