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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Coleman determined to take stand over Malbranque

Chris Coleman insists the need to make a stand against player power means Steed Malbranque will never appear for Fulham again - even though it could spell the end of his own career at Craven Cottage.

Fulham want to offload Malbranque during the transfer window in order to recoup a transfer fee but the French midfielder is determined to see out the remaining year on his contract.

The Cottagers paid £5million for the 26-year-old in 2001 and will not allow him to leave for free, forcing Coleman to announce he no longer has a future at the club.

And while Coleman understands the stakes are high and that he might ultimately pay for his stance with his job, he will not abandon his principles.

'We've said for six months this is not the best way for us or Steed,' said Coleman, who is preparing his side for tomorrow's clash with Manchester United.

'If we have a bad start and people are calling for Steed to be back in the team when he's fit and they're saying I should get the sack, I still won't pick Steed Malbranque.

'If it costs me my job then so be it. I've made a decision which I believe to be right for the club. The easiest thing for me to say would be that if I don't play Steed the fans will go bonkers, so I'll pick him.

'It's important to make this stand. We're not making an example of Steed Malbranque. Over the years the power has swung to the favour of players and agents.

'We're a club involved in that. It's nothing personal, we just need to get it sorted out.'

Coleman insists Fulham have done everything possible to accommodate Malbranque and claims to have the support of fans at the moment.

'We've invested a lot of money in Steed and he's done a good job for us and we've done a good job for him,' he said.

'What we said is if you're hell bent on leaving the club, we'll sell you in this transfer window, it's as simple as that. We get something and you get what you want. But he wasn't interested in that.

'We offered Steed a new lucrative deal, one of the best in the club's history, but he wasn't interested. We agreed to sell him and have agreed prices with other clubs.

'We agreed one price with one club and he wouldn't even talk to them. We had to slash his price with another club in order for him to get what he wanted and it still hasn't happened. We can't do any more.

'If his ambition is to play for a big club and he wants to play in Europe then he should choose his club. But the top five have not come in for him.

'What Steed wants to do is see his contract out and leave for nothing. No-one at the club is prepared to let him do that.

'Supporters will have to make their own mind up. I went to a fans' forum on Thursday and the feedback was very positive. They agreed with me and backed me 100 per cent.

'If we have a bad start or lose a few that may change. But that's not a factor in my thinking - long term planning is.'

Malbranque, who is suffering from a groin injury to cap his problems, will play no part at Old Trafford tomorrow while fellow midfielders Claus Jensen and Simon Elliott are also out.

Jensen has a groin strain but might be available for the Bolton match next Wednesday and Elliott is out for at least two more weeks with a calf problem.

Otherwise Coleman is selecting from full strength with Jimmy Bullard set to make his competitive debut for Fulham following his £2.5million switch from Wigan in June.