Man United sweat on fitness of key quartet ahead of Fulham clash

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Anthony Martial, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are among the players that could be absent for Manchester United against Fulham.

The trio will be assessed on Friday, as will centre-back Eric Bailly after Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal. Luke Shaw is hoping to return after missing that match with a knock and Ashley Young is back from suspension.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku will be hoping to return to the starting line-up after being dropped to the bench against the Gunners, but Victor Lindelof (groin) and Alexis Sanchez (hamstring) are out.

Provisional squad: De Gea, Romero, Grant, Darmian, Dalot, Valencia, Smalling, Bailly, Jones, Rojo, Shaw, Young, Matic, Pereira, Herrera, Pogba, Fellaini, Fred, McTominay, Mata, Lingard, Martial, Rashford, Lukaku

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Jose Mourinho says Fred will only play more when Man United are 'stronger defensively'

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Fred has completed his signing to Manchester United

Jose Mourinho does not feel he can turn to summer signing Fred until Manchester United find a way to defend.

Much was expected of the 25-year-old after he became the club’s fourth most expensive signing of all time in a £52 million deal from Shakhtar Donetsk.

But Fred has struggled at Old Trafford to date and was not even included in Mourinho’s injury-hit squad for Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal.

“You know, step by step,” Mourinho said of Fred’s adaptation. “You have also other players in other clubs that needed their time and you have some of them that play even less than what Fred is playing.

“I think Fred when the team is defensively stronger and doesn’t need in midfield people that are more worried in giving some balance to the team than being involved in creation and attacking dynamic, the day we are stronger defensively I think the horizons for Fred change completely.”

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Manchester United v Arsenal talking points as stoppable force met a movable object

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Jose Mourinho

Manchester United and Arsenal played out a rip-roaring draw as Jose Mourinho’s men twice responded to freakish goals and secured a share of the spoils against Unai Emery’s side.

Anthony Martial levelled shortly after David De Gea’s uncharacteristic mistake saw Shkodran Mustafi open the scoring in the first half at Old Trafford, where Jesse Lingard secured a 2-2 draw just 75 seconds after a Marcos Rojo own goal put Arsenal back into the lead.

It was a frantic, and at times feisty, encounter at Old Trafford, which saw Emery’s Arsenal rack up a 20th unbeaten game in all competitions as another winless league match leaves United off the pace in the top-four hunt.

We take a look at some of the talking points from the game. 

STOPPABLE FORCE MEETS A MOVABLE OBJECT 

Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Arsenal tackles Marcus Rashford of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal FC

For all their pressing and Marcus Rashford’s brave start to the game, United never looked like they were threatening the Arsenal goal. Anthony Martial showed glimpses of brilliance but failed to provide the necessary penetration. Lingard looked to create something from the right and was a thorn for Hector Bellerin but lacked that final decisive pass which rendered most of his efforts useless. 

At the other end of the pitch, Aaron Ramsey started out well and reminded Arsenal why letting him go would be a bad idea. Alex Iwobi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could have done a lot better, given the state of the United defence. 

And somehow, the players on the frontline were the best on the night for both the teams. Three of the four goals that were scored on the night were a product of shambolic defending. 

COMEDY OF ERRORS AT BOTH ENDS 

Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal scores his team's second goal as he is challenged by Marcos Rojo of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal FC

David De Gea – who has not looked the same since the World Cup – is the one to be blamed for Arsenal’s first goal. The header from Mustafi should have been a routine save for the Spaniard but he ended up punching it into his own net. 

United equalised immediately through Martial but how the Frenchman was allowed to score with 10 Arsenal players in a span of about 10 yards in front of goal is something that needs explanation. 

For Arsenal’s second, Rojo lunged into an untimed tackle which resulted in an own-goal, not a sight you’d expect in a game between two top-tier teams. 

United’s second was also a result of defensive mishap as Rob Holding failed to deal with the long ball played to Romelu Lukaku and Lingard jumped onto the loose ball to slot it past Bernd Leno. 

UNITED’S NEW POSTER DUO: RASHFORD AND MARTIAL 

Manchester United's French striker Anthony Martial celebrates scoring their first goal to equalise 1-1 during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Arsenal

The hosts could churn out a few positives from the dismal show on Wednesday night. To start with, youngster Diogo Dalot showed promise and bettered his counterpart Sead Kolasinac in every department. 

A rejuvenated frontline led by a highly motivated Rashford in front of a confident Martial was another bright spot for Jose Mourinho. 

Rashford’s promising performance followed a resounding display against Southampton over the weekend, with the Englishman playing a key role in drawing United level after the Red Devils were down by two goals. 

Voted as United’s player of the month in October, Martial has strung together a series of impressive performances. His absence clearly affected the Red Devils’ chances against Southampton and the decision to name him only as a substitute on Saturday was baffling.  

Building a team around the duo is something Mourinho should consider, given how poorly Paul Pogba has fared in his system. 

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