Old Trafford prepares for the first game of the season as Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United welcome Martin Jol's Fulham, with new summer signing Robin van Persie set to make his home debut for the Red Devils.
The two teams could not have had a more contrasting start to the season. United, who are expected to challenge for the title, lost 0-1 to Everton at Goodison Park in the first game and Ferguson's side and their supporters will be looking for an immediate response. Meanwhile, a new-look and exciting Fulham thrashed Norwich City 5-0 at Craven Cottage in their season opener. The Red Devils do, however, have an excellent record against the Cottagers, having won four of their last five league games, keeping clean sheets in all four victories. The last time the west London club won at Old Trafford was almost a decade ago, in 2003.
Team News and Tactics
Manchester United: United's injury problems at the back continue as Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans all remain sidelined. Against Everton, the makeshift centre back pairing of Michael Carrick and Nemanja Vidic was taken apart by the Toffees' imposing Marouane Fellaini. Ferguson may shore up his defence by moving the experienced Patrice Evra across to the centre, with new signing Alexander Buttner coming in at left-back. Rafael da Silva, who lost his place to Antonio Valencia in the last game, is also expected to return to the starting line-up to help make up a back four of regular defenders.
Evra moving to centre back will also allow Carrick to feature in his usual role in the centre of the park. The England international's absence was keenly felt at Goodison Park as the Paul Scholes-Tom Cleverley partnership struggled to provide enough cover for the back-line. Cleverley, who was impressive further up the pitch against Everton, will partner Carrick in the centre of Ferguson's new 4-2-3-1 formation.
Valencia should beat off competition from both Nani and Ashley Young for a place on the right of the attacking quartet, with Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie taking the other three spots. Rooney might start on the left to open up a central, free role to the Japanese playmaker, who was United's standout performer against Everton. Robin van Persie is expected to lead the line, especially after Ferguson's comments about the Dutchman not being properly used by his team-mates at Goodison Park. But expect these three players to exchange positions as the match progresses.
Fulham: Clint Dempsey, who was fined for refusing to play in the season opener against Norwich City, remains absent. But even if the talismanic American were available, he would struggle to make it into the starting line-up for this tie as manager Martin Jol is unlikely to change the side that beat the Canaries 5-0. Midfielder Kerim Frei and defender Philippe Senderos also remain sidelined.
Sascha Riether - on loan from Cologne - and John Arne Riise will be the full-backs, while Aaron Hughes is set to partner skipper Brede Hangeland in the centre of the defence. Former Real Madrid star Mahamadou Diarra and Moussa Dembele will be the central midfielders in Jol's 4-4-1-1 formation and the flanks will be covered by veteran Damien Duff and youngster Alexander Kacaniklic - both of whom scored against Norwich. Bryan Ruiz will play supporting striker to Mladen Petric - last game's two-goal hero and the club's new No 10.
Probable Starting Line-up:
Manchester United (4-2-3-1):De Gea; Rafael, Vidic (c), Evra, Buttner; Carrick, Cleverley; Valencia, Kagawa, Rooney; van Persie
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland (c), Riise; Duff, Diarra, Dembele, Kacaniklic; Ruiz; Petric
The kick-off is set for 3pm. Live audio commentary is available on Absolute Radio.