How Fulham can exploit key Manchester United weakness in FA Cup quarter-final showdown
Just when Fulham were accused of relying on one goalscorer, he stopped scoring and his team-mates started.
The Cottagers were heavily dependent on Aleksandar Mitrovic as they mounted their push for Europe in the first half of the season. But the Serbian has gone nine games without a goal, a run stretching back more than two months and spanning 746 minutes of football.
While Mitrovic has been struggling, other players have 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 Manchester United defence still vulnerable after conceding seven goals at Anfield two weeks ago.
Wingers Manor Solomon and Willian have both struck important goals in recent weeks for Marco Silva’s side to help Fulham in their unlikely push for Europe under Marco Silva. Solomon, in particular, has been in scintillating form, scoring in five successive matches until Sunday’s 3-0 defeat by Arsenal.
Mitrovic will be confident he can get joy in an aerial battle with United centre-back Lisandro Martinez, but it might be in wide areas where Fulham can enjoy most success. Full-backs Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw endured a torrid afternoon in the 7-0 loss against Liverpool and exploiting space on the break should suit Solomon and Willian perfectly.
Joao Palhinha also chipped in with a goal in the win over Leeds in the previous round, and he returns from suspension in the FA Cup.
His availability is a boost for Fulham, who badly missed the midfielder against Arsenal and are bidding to reach their first semi-final since their run 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 believes his new team can cause an upset.
“I’ll have mixed emotions,” said Pereira. “It’s a difficult game, but I’m happy to play against them. It will be my first time back and feeling that atmosphere. I’ve never been there as a visitor, so it will be something new.
“They have a lot of confidence. They’re playing really well, but sometimes when you’re that confident it’s not good as well. 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’m feeling at home here and it’s been great so far. When I first 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 the way he wanted to play.
“He was very ambitious and I really liked that. When we were five games into the season, we realised we could do something great with the team and it has been amazing.”