Fulham boss Marco Silva challenged Rodrigo Muniz to make the forward position his own after he scored in a 3-1 win at Ipswich to send them through to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 2004.
The Premier League opposition proved too strong for the Championship high-flyers with Harry Wilson, Muniz and Tom Cairney on target at Portman Road before substitute Elkan Baggott pulled one back late on.
It was the performance of Brazil striker Muniz which caught the eye after his movement helped create Wilson’s ninth-minute opener from Bobby Decordova-Reid’s pass before the 22-year-old fired home in the 50th minute from Andreas Pereira’s cross.
Muniz endured a difficult 2022-23 campaign on loan at Middlesbrough but after scoring his first Fulham goal since January of last year, Silva talked up his chances of starting Saturday’s clash with Manchester United.
“He is always a candidate and he had a very good pre-season,” Silva said.
“Unfortunately in the moment he was showing his quality, showing how he was growing, even if last season was tough for him, he had a muscle injury and it stop a little bit his development in the pre-season.
“He came back and had a very good game against Tottenham in the first Carabao Cup match we have and he is taking his chances. So, he is always a candidate like the others, like Raul (Jimenez) and Carlos Vinicius.
“They are fighting for the position, we don’t have a number one, two or three. It is for me to decide for each game regarding the strategy and what I want from the game. It is up to them to show the quality they have and to show they are able to play.
“Rodrigo did really well. Let’s see what is going to be my decision for the next match.”
Fulham’s passage into the last-eight was clinched when Cairney’s low effort went through Christian Walton in the 77th-minute.
While Silva was frustrated with Baggott’s headed consolation, he praised the application of his side.
He added: “Yes very good performance. Credit to the players, congratulations to them.
“It is true we did eight changes in our XI and even we probably needed more because we are going to play an early kick-off on Saturday, but in some positions it was impossible to do it.
“If I had the chance, I would do even more (changes), but the main thing for me is we kept our structure, we kept the same way. All the players know the way we want to play and we were really serious in the way we approach the game.”
Ipswich boss Kieran McKenna was able to take plenty of positives from only their second defeat of the campaign.
“It was a tough game, no doubt about that, but I think a game and a night we will be much stronger for,” he said.
“It was always going to be a massive challenge irrespective of how the game went or which team we picked.
“To concede an early goal against a really good Fulham team it was always going to be a really tough game, but I’m pleased with how we stuck at it.
“I am pleased we kept trying until the last minute, we tried to stick to our football and there is big positives to take.”