Meulensteen ready to keep the faith
Published 07/02/2014 | 16:57
Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen will return to Old Trafford on Sunday looking to play the attacking football he has been told to keep faith in by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Meulensteen worked closely with the Scot during the latter years of his time at Manchester United but departed in the summer when David Moyes was appointed as the Red Devils' new manager.
Since then Meulensteen has had a short, ill-fated spell in charge of Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala before being brought in by then-Fulham boss Martin Jol to help turn the Cottagers' season around.
He soon replaced Jol as manager at Craven Cottage and will go back to United with Ferguson's backing.
When asked how helpful it was to have Ferguson on the end of the phone, Meulensteen replied: "Very. Sir Alex Ferguson knows what I'm capable of.
"He is the first man to reassure me and say 'stick to your beliefs, you are capable of doing it', and that is what I'm doing.
"We will speak to each other about different things. We will chit-chat about other things, he has asked me but there is nothing in particular."
Fulham sit bottom of the Barclays Premier League, four points from safety and go into the clash at Old Trafford having lost 1-0 at home to Sky Bet League One side Sheffield United in their FA Cup fourth-round replay on Tuesday night.
Meulensteen feels his players have shown the desire to bounce back from the defeat and start to move towards safety.
"We all realise that it was not a good performance," he said.
"It is not the first time a Premier League side has stumbled over a Championship, League One or League Two team, that is what the FA Cup is for and where the charm comes from.
"We have to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and that is what we have done in the last couple of days and making sure we are in the best possible way to travel to Old Trafford on Sunday."
Despite their current troubles, Meulensteen insists he still has the full backing of club owner Shahid Khan, who he talks to on a regular basis.
"We keep in good dialogue," he said of his relationship with Khan. "He gives me his full support and we make sure we remain focused and optimistic, there are still a lot of games and points to play for and that is what I intend to do.
"I'm fully aware we need to get results."
January signings Johnny Heitinga and club-record acquisition Kostas Mitroglou could both make their Fulham debuts, while fellow new recruit Lewis Holtby is likely to come back into the side.
The Tottenham loanee was ineligible for the FA Cup defeat but Meulensteen has been very impressed with the Germany midfielder's effect on his squad.
"He is an absolutely class player," he added.
"He has lifted the whole place with his energy, he has such a bright personality and breathes his football. He has a great knowledge of the game and he has just been a very positive factor coming in."