René Meulensteen has challenged his Fulham side to banish the memories of Tuesday’s FA Cup with Budweiser defeat when they face Manchester United on Sunday.
A below-par performance against Sheffield United saw the Whites exit the competition, and Meulensteen is keen to see his troops respond in the best possible way at Old Trafford.
“I think we all realise that it wasn’t a good performance,” he admitted. “It’s not the first time, obviously, that a Premier League team has stumbled against a Championship, League One or League Two team, and that’s what the FA Cup is for and that’s where its charm comes from.
“We have to pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off. That’s what we’ve done in the last couple of days and we have to make sure we’re in the best possible shape to travel to Old Trafford on Sunday.
“After every poor performance you look for a response. My job is to make sure I manage that and make sure that response is going to happen. We need to grow; we need to grow as a team, we need to grow in strength. Sometimes bigger challenges can even result in bigger performances, and that’s what we need on Sunday.
“For us it’s another game against a very strong opponent where we’ve prepared very well. We need to get our act together and hopefully we can get something out of it.
“People keep saying there’s pressure. I don’t see it as pressure – it’s a challenge, that’s what it is. Life throws challenges at you and that’s what you need to deal with, you need to accept the challenge and rise up to the challenge. That’s what we do.”
Fulham fans will be hoping to see new arrival Konstantinos Mitroglou in action for the first time after he was ineligible to feature against Southampton and Sheffield United.
But the Barclays Premier League is a considerable step up from the Greek Super League and when asked if the striker will feature at Old Trafford, Meulensteen replied: “I can’t tell you that. With Kostas we're trying to bring him up to speed coming from Greece and we’ll see how he goes in training. He’s improving all the time. How far he is, I couldn’t really point out to you.
“Johnny [Heitinga] is fully fit, he’s trained very, very well. Everybody [else] is fit and well to go. As we know we had a lot of games over the last period constantly – that means that you have to manage the recovery periods, but everybody is raring to go.”
One man who Whites fans will be looking forward to seeing against the champions is Lewis Holtby, following the midfielder’s energetic debut last weekend.
Asked what he’s seen from Holtby in training so far, Meulensteen stated: “Class. He’s an absolutely class player. He’s lifted the whole place with his energy. He’s got such a bright personality, he breathes his football, he’s got a great knowledge about the game and it’s just been a very positive factor him coming in. He’s going to massively contribute and give us a bigger chance [of staying up].”
Sunday sees Meulensteen visit Old Trafford for the first time since his departure in the summer, and our Head Coach admitted he’s looking forward to returning to the club where he enjoyed considerable success over many years.
“Brilliant; absolutely brilliant,” he said when asked what it will be like to go back. “It’s just been such a special club for me, and still is. I’ve got a lot of friends there, and still have, and I will enjoy every moment of it.”