Qatar break revives Manchester United squad ahead of Fulham tie

Fulham hope to break 50-year victory hoodoo at Old Trafford, but re-energised Red Devils will be tough to beat in hunt for silverware

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2013, 5:34am


Nemanja Vidic believes Manchester United have benefited from their warm-weather training in Qatar as they prepare to face Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round tonight.

United departed for the Middle East on Sunday, following a 1-1 draw with Tottenham that saw their lead at the top of the Premier League cut to five points.

After the frustration of conceding a late equaliser at White Hart Lane, United captain Vidic, 31, believes this week's sunshine break has revitalised the squad as they head into the second half of the season.

"It's been excellent since we've been here," Vidic said. "The weather has been nice and the facilities have also been fantastic.

"Working in the sun has been a nice change, especially with the weather in Manchester at this time of year. We were here three years ago and on both occasions we have had great trips."

Having beaten West Ham 1-0 in a third-round replay at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson's team earned a tie against the Cottagers at Old Trafford as they look for a first FA Cup triumph since 2004.

That final victory over Millwall saw United win the cup for the fifth time since Ferguson took charge in 1986.

But the Scot has regularly expressed his frustration at their failure to win it since, with long-serving players such as Rio Ferdinand, who was serving a drugs ban nine years ago, Wayne Rooney, Vidic and Patrice Evra never having won the competition.

Like Vidic, Welsh midfielder Ryan Giggs, 39, also feels that the break in Qatar will aid United's pursuit of silverware in the months ahead.

"It's been really enjoyable - the weather has been good, the facilities are excellent and it's been good to be in the sun," Giggs said.

"We hope it will benefit us over the season as the training has been great and the lads have had some downtime relaxing on the beach and watching the golf at the Qatar Masters, which was enjoyable."

The only downside of the trip was a report that Rooney, who has only just returned from three weeks out with a knee injury, had limped out of training with what seemed to be a thigh problem that may make him doubtful to face Martin Jol's team.

United will certainly rate their chances against the Cottagers, having won 20 of their last 21 home games against Fulham, stretching back to 1963.

Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov will be facing his old club, although Jol was quick to insist his side could not just rely on the Bulgarian striker.

"I don't want to put pressure on him," Jol said. "Of course, if he was playing for Man United it would be a bit easier for him, but he is not playing for them any more, he plays for us.

"Hopefully he will do something nice, but for me it is important that he works for the team. We would love to go to the next round, even though we are playing against United."

Jol has been pleased with Berbatov since his arrival from United earlier in the season. He added: "He is a good professional, he is a bit within himself and is not someone who is noisy and talks a lot, but as an example he tries to be a leader."

In today's early kick-off, Premier League champions Manchester City visit Stoke. Stoke were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea in their last home game, but they boast an excellent home record against City, who have not won at the Britannia Stadium on their last six visits.