Sat, Feb 28, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Fulham targets Man United as champs feel heat

REUTERS , LONDON

Fulham will contribute big-time to one of the worst weeks in Alex Ferguson's long reign at Manchester United if they complete a premier league double over the troubled champions at Loftus Road today.

The fact that it is French striker Louis Saha's return to his old club following an acrimonious transfer merely adds piquancy to a fixture with new significance following United's European defeat by Porto.

A Fulham victory would also boost the London club's confidence for their FA Cup quarterfinal at Old Trafford on March 6.

United could be looking at the end of two roads, retaining the title and progressing in the Champions League, if they lose to Fulham, who upset them 3-1 in October.

League leaders Arsenal pulled seven points clear of their arch-rivals last weekend when the champions were held 1-1 at home by relegation candidates Leeds United.

United's defensive frailties in the absence of suspended Rio Ferdinand and injured Mikael Silvestre were further exposed by Porto who beat them 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League first knockout round tie.

To make matters worse, United will be without England right back Gary Neville, a stand-in central defender on Wednesday, who is suspended.

United captain Roy Keane, sent off against Porto, could drop back to bolster the defense such are the problems facing Ferguson, whose decision not to sign a defender in the January transfer window looks increasingly like a serious error.

Fulham's fans will be looking forward to giving a hot reception to Saha, a favorite who angered them with his switch of allegiance when they were strong contenders for England's fourth Champions League berth.

The London club are now ninth, six points behind fourth-placed Newcastle United following a slump in which they have taken only one point from three premier league games.

United can mask their defensive problems if Saha and Ruud van Nistelrooy, who have scored 34 goals between this season, are on song but they failed to sparkle in Oporto.

Saha was substituted and has now gone two games without scoring after finding the net three times in his first two matches for the club and earning his first France cap, which also yielded a goal.

This story has been viewed 2920 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top