Fulham-Manchester United Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- Rene Meulensteen will be looking to lift Fulham off 'rock bottom' when they travel to his former club Manchester United on Sunday.
Meulensteen's Fulham have fallen to the foot of the Premier League since the former United assistant coach replaced Martin Jol as manager, and the Cottagers were given a further set-back with a 1-0 extra-time defeat to Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Tuesday evening.
Despite the perilous position of the London club, Meulensteen is looking forward to going back to his former stomping ground and remains confident of helping Fulham to safety in the remaining 14 games of the season.
"It will be brilliant going back to Old Trafford," said the under-pressure Meulensteen. "It has been such a special club for me and still is. I've got a lot of friends there and I will enjoy every moment of it.
"People keep saying about pressure, but this is a challenge and life throws challenges your way. You have to rise up to the challenge and it's not one I will walk away from. I'm in a privileged position to be in a job like this and the fact things have gone against us means we have to work hard to turn it around. We need to stay positive and I can't fault the effort from the players on the training pitch."
David Moyes' Manchester United suffered yet another disappointing defeat last weekend (a 2-1 loss to Stoke City) and find themselves seven points outside of the Champions League places with time running out to catch fourth-placed Liverpool. The reigning Premier League champions' season went from bad to worse on Thursday when it was revealed that centre-back Nemanja Vidic will be leaving the club in the summer.
However, Sunday's game offers Moyes the opportunity to use his top attacking quartet of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata together for the first time, and assistant player-coach Ryan Giggs believes that the addition of Mata is a major statement of intent from Moyes' United.
"By signing Juan, it's a message of intent really that we are able to go and get great players like that and there are many more to come hopefully," said Giggs. "The players are just like the fans. When they see a quality player come through the door, it gives them that excitement and you feel it around training. It gives everybody a lift.
"He has fitted in well. Obviously, we've played against him for the last three years and know the quality he has got. He's fitted in straight away and speaks really good English - better English than most of the lads!"
Manchester United have injury doubts over Phil Jones (concussion), Jonny Evans (calf), Rio Ferdinand (knee), Marouane Fellaini (wrist) and Nani (hamstring), while Fulham have concerns over the fitness of Kieran Richardson (ankle), Sascha Riether (calf), John Arne Riise (hamstring) and Nathan Etheridge (hip).
United scored three times in the first 22 minutes as they beat Fulham 3-1 when these teams met at Craven Cottage in November. Antonio Valencia, Van Persie and Rooney bagged the goals.
The Red Devils have won seven in a row over Fulham in all competitions, out-scoring their opponents 19-4 in that run.
The Cottagers' last eight visits to Old Trafford in the league have all ended in defeat. They have managed to score in just three of those losses, with a combined score of 24-5.
Updated February 7, 2014