Meulensteen must prove worth away from United comfort zone
There is a sense of irony in Rene Meulensteen foregoing the traditional pre-match press conference ahead of his first game in charge of Fulham against Tottenham Hotspur tonight.
Meulensteen, according to those who worked with him at Manchester United, certainly knew how to "talk the talk" and there were times when his readiness to discuss the club's transfer targets in his native Holland irked Alex Ferguson and his assistant Mike Phelan to the extent their exasperation was relayed to the loose-lipped first-team coach.
Yet three days into his new job as Fulham manager, having succeeded the sacked Martin Jol on Sunday, Meulensteen appears to be working on the basis that actions speak louder than words as he sets about ensuring that Craven Cottage continues to stage Premier League football next season.
Fulham, three points adrift of safety in the bottom three, need results rather than soundbites, but in a perfect world Meulensteen would want to deliver both.
The 49-year-old, like Brian Kidd, Carlos Queiroz and Steve McClaren before him, is putting his reputation on the line by choosing to step up from the United training pitch to the top job elsewhere.
Ferguson infamously questioned Kidd's credentials to go it alone following his departure for the Blackburn Rovers manager's job in 1998 – Blackburn were relegated at the end of Kidd's first season in charge – while both McClaren and Queiroz enjoyed success and failure in equal measure after taking the leap into management.
But for Ferguson's decision to retire at the end of last season, Meulensteen is unlikely to have left Old Trafford in the summer, despite his efforts to improve his contract and salary earlier this year, prior to the Scot's departure.
David Moyes offered Meulensteen the role of assistant manager – a promotion from his previous position – but with the Dutchman aware of Moyes' hands-on approach on the training field, he rejected the offer due to concerns his coaching duties would be reduced under the new regime.
With Fulham, however, Meulensteen has the opportunity to prove his worth beyond United and justify the self-confidence that led him to claim much of the credit for Cristiano Ronaldo's development at Old Trafford.
Whether he can live up to the hype with a squad of players less talented than those he worked with at United, only time will tell.
But as Kidd, Queiroz and McClaren all discovered after emerging from Ferguson's shadow, there is no comfort zone away from the protective blanket of Manchester United. (© Daily Telegraph, London)