Manchester United target return to form at Fulham

Manchester United's trademark reaction to a setback in more than two decades under Alex Ferguson has been to come out with all guns blazing and the manager will expect nothing less at Fulham on Saturday.

Last week's 4-1 defeat by Liverpool after 11 consecutive Premier League wins did more than dent a few egos, it stoked the embers of a title race that appeared to have been extinguished by United's relentless pursuit of a record-equalling 18th English crown.

Guus Hiddink, whose Chelsea side are locked together with Liverpool four points behind United, believes the door has been left slightly ajar and that the tension is back in the league season.

Rafa Benitez says Liverpool must win their remaining nine games to stand a chance of overhauling the leaders but he and Hiddink are in high spirits and will take more than a passing interest in events at Craven Cottage at the weekend.

Ferguson has seen it all before but even the old master, with 10 Premier League titles on his glittering CV, says the closing weeks of a title race can be an uncomfortable experience however many times you have done it.

"You only really relish it if you end up winning," Ferguson told MUTV. "You're prepared to go through the agony as long as you end up on top.

"It can be edgy but you have to accept the challenge. Being there is the greatest thing and that's what we are striving for."

United, who have a game in hand on Liverpool and Chelsea, will try to make a big statement at Fulham and slam the door firmly back in the faces of their pursuers.

With no midweek fixture to worry about, Ferguson's troops will have had a full week to lick their wounds and will be keen to make amends, even without suspended defender Nemanja Vidic.

Earlier this month they thrashed Fulham 4-0 at Craven Cottage in the FA Cup but will be expecting more resistance this time against a side still not clear of the relegation dogfight.

Chelsea, looking to maintain their unbeaten run since Hiddink took over last month, visit Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday while a rejuvenated Liverpool host fifth-placed Aston Villa on Sunday.

Midfielder Michael Ballack believes Chelsea are ready to pounce should United falter.

"It will be difficult to catch them but if they drop points we will be there," Ballack told the club's website (

Liverpool have been boosted by the news defender Daniel Agger is ready to return after being sidelined with a back problem while Alvaro Arbeloa is also expected to be in the squad after missing the win at United.

Elsewhere, Newcastle United host fourth-placed Arsenal on Saturday with just goal difference separating the St James' Park club and the bottom three.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot