Martin Jol is keen to see his side recover from the ‘disastrous’ loss at Southampton last weekend when Fulham face Manchester United at Craven Cottage on Saturday (3pm).
The Whites were outplayed from start to finish at St Mary’s and there was further disappointment in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday when Leicester City emerged 4-3 victors, and Jol wants to see his side find their rhythm again.
“I think if you look at the Crystal Palace game, that was positive and then, with the same team, we had a disastrous game against Southampton,” he admitted. “They were the better team, they pressurised us all over and they won 2-0.
“They did the same of course with Swansea City before that and against Man United they could have won as well, but you still would like to have a better result.
“Against Leicester, with nine different players, I think the first half was okay and the second half was excellent, but we gave the goals away because of individual mistakes, and they punished us. But overall, in the second half, I really enjoyed it; coming back from 3-1 to 3-3 and I really thought that we would go for it and then they scored so that was disappointing.
“We would rather be in the last eight [of the League Cup], as you can imagine, but now we focus on the next two games and Saturday is the first one. It’s a big game for us and if we can manage to have a good result, the world will look different.”
The Whites have struggled for consistency so far this season but, with a squad that a number of sides in the Barclays Premier League would envy, Jol expects to see the team climb the table sooner rather than later.
“We’ve got a few injuries but we’ve got a good enough team to come up with a result and at least stay in the league and get the results to get in a good position,” he said. “We are not bottom of the league – I think one or two results again, like at Crystal Palace which was a great result, then we will be back in business.
“It’s the same all over in the Premier League; if you don’t get the results, people will be critical and my boys will know that we have to come up for the fans – for them and for me as well – so they will give 100 per cent.”
United arrive in SW6 having endured – by their high standards – a slow start to the 2013/14 season, but Jol insisted that they remain a fearsome outfit.
“I think David Moyes is a terrific manager,” the Dutchman explained. “If you look at the players it’s the same players [as last season], plus Marouane Fellaini.
“They’ve got all the choices in the world on the flank, they’ve got Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney is back in business, so I think there is no problem over there. He [Moyes] needs probably a couple of weeks to get his own ideas across, like at Everton where he played his own style.
“It’s a bit different probably from Sir Alex Ferguson but I think there’s no problem there. The only thing is, you need the points, you need results, because I think they are title contenders so for them it’s probably a totally different perspective than for Fulham.”
As with every match, Jol and his backroom staff have done their research on United and Fulham will be doing all they can do exploit any weaknesses shown by their opponents.
“We looked at them, we analysed their game, we saw their results, and they struggled to score the second goal,” Jol said. “If you look at the Southampton game, they gave them the opportunity to get back into the game.
“Real Sociedad [in the UEFA Champions League] was the same – they could have lost points there. It was 1-0 and they could have come back into the game but they didn’t so it stayed 1-0. So for them it’s important to score more goals than one. But hopefully we can score a few goals and give them problems because I don’t want to focus on them all the time.
“They were on 11 points last week and we were on 10 points so that is not what you expect from a team like Man United. We saw all their games and even against Sociedad they struggled to get the second goal and if you’ve only got one goal then you’re always under pressure.
“We always want to take initiative – of course we can’t control the game for 90 minutes but we will try to do something about the disastrous game of last week. We want to do better and I think we can do better.
“We want to be positive – we’ve got one or two players in who didn’t play before and I hope they will show us confidence because that is what we need. We need confidence to show our quality.”
The boss will have almost a full complement of players to choose from for the clash with the reigning Premier League champions, although his Captain remains sidelined and Hugo Rodallega is also out – a huge blow for the striker following his two-goal salvo in midweek.
“Brede Hangeland is not ready yet,” Jol confirmed. “He’s better, so he will be training with us next week, so that is a positive. Rodallega will be out for the next period and we will make a good assessment next week when the blood is gone because it’s still a bit blurry, but he’s got a problem with his abductor in his groin. He will be out for at least the next couple of weeks and it could be even longer because it looks worse than I thought it was. Matthew Briggs was out already so he will be out until Christmas.”
With Hangeland still absent, Dimitar Berbatov is expected to take the Captain’s armband on Saturday. The Bulgarian has just two goals to his name so far this season and Jol admits it’s important to get his star forward firing on all cylinders again.
“He’s focused on scoring goals and playing well,” he said. “Like against Crystal Palace; he had 70 or 80 touches but against Southampton he never had a touch. Of course they will always try to find reasons why they didn’t play well but I will help Berbatov to find his form again.”
For fans watching the Southampton defeat on television, replays clearly showed that for the Saints’ opener Scott Parker instructed Berbatov to keep an eye on Rickie Lambert. However, the England striker found himself unmarked at the far post to head his side into the lead and Jol confessed the marking was not good enough at that set-piece.
“It’s about personality,” he explained. “We’ve got the personality and we’ve got the leadership, we’ve got players who can talk and who should talk, and that was an item [discussed] at half-time – you have to talk to each other.
“Berbatov was not marking the player who scored the goal. We got the information across to Scott who got the information across to Berbatov and he was on Rickie Lambert at that specific moment, but he was ball watching and he lost him.
“Initially he was in the zone so it can happen but you don’t want that to happen every game, so it’s about mentality and you have to mark your player and that is what Berbatov at that particular moment didn’t do but I can remember a lot of games with other players because we conceded a lot of goals.