Barthez? Pas de Problem!

Tuesday 28 August 2001

Fulham may have lost at Old Trafford, but Louis Saha did his very best to prove that Ruud van Nistelroy is not the only Premiership striker capable of scoring 25 goals this season. We caught up with a philosophical Louis the morning after the night before...

Q: Were you nervous before the game?

LS: A little. But it was a good kind of pressure because it was a hard game against maybe the best team in Europe. It was very exciting, but once the game started you forgot who you were playing and just got on with the game.

Q: What was the atmosphere like before the game in the dressing room?

LS: No different to any other game. We were relaxed but everyone was very focussed too. Everyone was concentrating on being better than last season because we were up against top quality players. But we also wanted to keep the same spirit as last season.

Q: Have you ever played in front of 67,000 before?

LS: The biggest crowd I played in front of was at Newcastle, and it is not as big as Old Trafford, so I think Sunday was the biggest.

Q: When you first came out on to the pitch, were you aware of the crowd or is your mind solely on the game?

LS: It hit you at first, and you have to appreciate being at such a great stadium with such a good atmosphere. But after that, you only concentrate on the game because if you think outside of that, it affects the way you play.

Q: What did the Manager say to you all before you went out on to the pitch?

LS: He told us to keep playing the way we always have, not to be scared and not to have too much respect for Manchester United. He told us how hard we had worked in pre-season and that we had nothing to be afraid of.

Q: And then within minutes of the kick off, you'd scored against Barthez and we were a goal up...

LS: It was very quick! And a great start for Fulham, but maybe it wasn't the best time to score. When you have players like they have and you score early, it can sometimes act as a good wake-up for them, and they've still got the whole game to come back.

Q: Could you believe the scenario - a goal up, away at Old Trafford in our first Premiership game?

LS: Anything can happen in football, which is why 67,000 people came to the game. If everyone thought that we would automatically lose, they wouldn't come and watch the game - they would stay at home and watch on TV. Everyone knew it would be an exciting game.

Q: How did it feel for you personally to beat Barthez?

LS: It was great - he's is probably the best keeper in the world...after van de Sar! It was very special because I remember playing against him when Metz played Monaco and he saved five or six good opportunities that I had. Until Sunday I had never scored against him so it was special - I was quite happy!

Q: What did you think of the referee's decision against Steve Finnan that allowed Beckham to equalise?

LS: It was a bad decision. Steve was not at fault at all, but these things can happen. It was our job to manage this, to be stronger and just to accept it.

Q: What did Jean say to you at half time?

LS: He told us to keep doing the same things as we had been already. To keep concentrating on the football and not to worry about the referee's decisions. We could not control them but we could control the chances that we missed in the first half, and I think he was a little disappointed about that. We could have been three goals up at half time which would have made things very hard for them.

Q: And then within a couple of minutes of the start of the second half you'd scored again...

LS: The ball came in on my left side so I brought it on to my right because I thought it would create a better chance. Barthez is a tricky goalkeeper because he opened his left side to try and make me shoot straight. But I shot the other side and he did not anticipate that.

Q: And what happened after that to allow United to win?

LS: The same as the first half. We started very well, and once again scored maybe a little too early. Maybe if we had scored after about 70 minutes it would have been easier to concentrate of defending the lead. But with strikers like Van Nistelroy and Cole you can not do that for the whole second half.

Q: Not many teams last season could boast scoring twice at Old Trafford, let alone being in the lead twice. With this in mind it must have been a big disappointment in the dressing room after the game...

LS: It was a big disappointment. It is very hard to score goals there. But for us the key to it was the first half. Maybe we played too many long balls and did too much running, and didn't keep possession for long enough. And that is why we were a little bit tired in the second half.

Q: What did Jean have to say to you all after the game?

LS: He was disappointed like everyone else. But the dressing room was quite happy because it is really important this season that we keep playing in our style. We did that and I think we scared a lot of teams. We showed good spirit and that is the key for the future.