Liverpool’s recent seven-game winning streak left both the Red Devils and Newcastle United looking over their shoulders in the race for Champions League football.
But Jurgen Klopp’s side could only draw 1-1 with Aston Villa last weekend, leaving Erik ten Hag’s team on the brink of a top-four finish.
Needing only a point from their final two matches to get over the line, United thumped Chelsea 4-1 on Thursday night to qualify for Europe’s foremost competition in style.
It was quite the performance from United, particularly in attack. Granted, Chelsea are in miserable form and have been one of the worst teams in the division in recent weeks.
But United were utterly dominant at Old Trafford, scoring four times, registering 18 shots and recording an expected goals figure of 5.1 – their highest in any single match this term.
Ten Hag’s side can now relax this weekend. They will still want to win the match, of course, but United have already achieved their primary objective for the season.
Four points clear of Liverpool, the Red Devils will be back in the Champions League in 2023/24.
Ten Hag is a demanding coach and he will not want to see standards slip even though United have nothing meaningful left to play for.
We should not expect an absence of intensity from the home team, then, but everyone associated with the club will be glad they have already secured a top-four berth ahead of this final-day clash with Fulham.
Manchester United vs Fulham betting tips
Manchester United can end the 2022/23 campaign on a high when they take on Fulham at Old Trafford.
Manchester United to win and both teams to score – 7/4 (bet365)
There is no doubt that Manchester United’s home form has been integral to their top-four finish.
The season began with what was seen at the time as a shock 2-1 defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford. United have not lost a Premier League game in front of their own fans since then.
In all competitions they have been defeated just twice on home soil, with Real Sociedad triumphing in the group phase of the Europa League.
Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Barcelona have all come unstuck at Old Trafford, which has become a fortress once more.
The supporters are fully behind the team again, something that was not the case for most of last season. For that Ten Hag deserves a huge amount of credit.
United have been extremely solid at Old Trafford, conceding only nine goals in their 18 league encounters to date.
That is the best such record in the division, but the fact this match has little riding on it could lead to it being more open than usual.
Meanwhile Fulham have scored at least two goals in each of their last three outings. A clean sheet could be beyond United in this one, but we reckon they will still come out on top.
Over 3.5 goals – 6/5 (bet365)
End-of-season games in which neither team has anything to play for are often entertaining affairs.
There is less need to be risk averse in such situations, with teams more inclined to go on the attack.
Fulham, in fairness, have approached every game this season with a degree of positivity. They have fared pretty well on their travels and sit sixth in the away table heading into the final weekend.
We saw that on their last trip to Old Trafford. Fulham went down 3-1 in the FA Cup quarter-finals, but they were 1-0 up when Aleksandar Mitrovic and Willian were sent off in the 72nd minute.
Mitrovic is back after a lengthy ban for pushing referee Chris Kavanagh in that match, and there is no doubt that Fulham pose more of an attacking threat with the Serbia international spearheading the attack.
Mitrovic notched a brace in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last time out, having come off the bench to score against Southampton the previous week. More broadly, Fulham have put the ball in the back of the net nine times in their last three matches.
The Cottagers are guaranteed to finish in the top half regardless of what happens on Sunday. This has been a fine season for Marco Silva’s men, who will now be looking to sign off in style.
United demonstrated their own attacking quality in midweek, so defences could come out second best here.
Bruno Fernandes to score any time – 11/2 (bet365)
Marcus Rashford is in line to return to the starting XI on Sunday after coming off the bench to score against Chelsea on Thursday.
Bruno Fernandes was also on target in that 4-1 victory and he looks like an astute pick to score this weekend too.
The Portugal international has, by his high standards, not been as effective in front of goal this season.
Fernandes is on seven Premier League goals for 2022/23 going into the Fulham game. Even in a disappointing campaign for United last term, he contributed 10.
But the former Sporting CP star is still a fantastic footballer, and at the odds available it is worth backing him to get on the scoresheet in this match.
How to watch Manchester United vs Fulham
Location: Old Trafford, Manchester, England.
Date and time: Sunday 28 May 2023, 4.30pm.
How to watch: Not being shown live in the UK.
About the author
Greg Lea is a freelance football writer from London. He predominantly covers the Premier League and has had work published by the Guardian, FourFourTwo, ESPN and others.