Meulensteen taking tips from Fergie
Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen hopes a pep talk from Sir Alex Ferguson can help him convince his squad they have the quality to stay in the Premier League.
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The Cottagers slipped to the bottom of the table after they were beaten 3-0 at home by Southampton on Saturday, but have the chance to record a much-needed win against League One outfit Sheffield United in their FA Cup fourth-round replay on Tuesday night.
Meulensteen was part of Ferguson's coaching staff at Manchester United which helped deliver three Premier League titles as well as the 2008 Champions League crown.
The Dutchman -- who took charge at Fulham following Martin Jol's departure in December -- remains in regular contact with Ferguson and intends to use some of those pointers from his former boss in the battles ahead over the run-in.
“I have spoken to him like I do, on and off. Sometimes he rings me and sometimes I ring him. He is always a phone call away,'' said Meulensteen, who will not be able to use deadline day signings Kostas Mitroglou, Johnny Heitinga or Lewis Holtby in Tuesday's cup replay.
“I have always felt that whenever we stared into adversity or disappointment, I have always found him remarkably strong in those moments. You could never spot any doubt in his words or behaviour, that always transferred back to the players and I want to do exactly the same [at Fulham].''
Meulensteen added: “It is making sure that the messages you are going to send out to the team are clear, that there is no doubt, that this is what we are going to do and these are the reasons why. I have to be the one who adapts the most in this job because I came from an environment [at United] where we have always been able to dominate, that was my task [there] -- how can we dominate the opposition and find our extra man?
“I have pushed certain elements [of that] into this squad, to which they have responded really well. But, sometimes I have to say, 'hold on, Rene, you're not in the same environment'. You have to look at the squad and make sure they feel comfortable with what they are doing. That is how you come to a solution which will help us.''
Meulensteen feels it is now a very different part of his man-management skills set which must come into play and would rank survival “higher than any other prize'' he has ever won.
He added: “At the very top you find the highest quality, and quality players, you don't have to motivate them. You have to trust them and you can. Here it is more that you need to be much more constructive, more repetitive. Players at the top, half a word is enough and you don't have to say it again. They understand, here it is more you need to make sure.''
Despite Fulham being bottom, they are still just four points from safety. Meulensteen, though, feels it could take another 6 wins to be sure of survival.
“From the 14 games, we will probably have to win half of them -- maybe six games would be enough, five wins and a couple of draws,'' he said. “We know we will be in a tough run coming up, the players are aware of that, but we will take it head on. All the ingredients are there for us to stay up and now it is up to us to make sure that happens.''
Meulensteen feels he has “100 percent” support from owner Shahid Khan and is not about to “lose any sleep” over reports recently-appointed technical director Alan Curbishley was being lined up to replace him should results continue to nosedive.
The Fulham manager will again utilise his squad against the Blades, but nevertheless has a fifth-round place very much in his sights.
“We know that nothing positive, nothing good comes out of losing a game,'' Meulensteen said. “We are Fulham, a Premier League club and we want to progress.''