Meulensteen relishing Martinez duel

Dutchman Rene Meulensteen pits his wits on Saturday against the Premier League manager who reminds him most of himself.

Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen

The Fulham boss will shake hands with Everton manager Roberto Martinez at Goodison Park and then forget for 90 minutes the friendship they have nurtured over the past decade.

The pair used to compare footballing notes on a regular basis when Meulensteen was a crucial part of Sir Alex Ferguson's coaching team at Manchester United.

Now, with Meulensteen installed as head coach at Craven Cottage following Martin Jol's departure, they go head to head with Meulensteen praising the rise of his big pal.

Asked if they were alike, he said: "Roberto and myself? I don't think we'd be far off. I know Roberto really well, we've discussed football going back as far as when he was the manager at Swansea.

"But what I like about Roberto is when he had four years at Wigan and endured some tough times. Every week. I always respected the way he handled himself in the media, always stuck true to his principles, no matter how tough it was going to get. Fantastic."

Meulensteen, who saw a transformed Fulham team beat Aston Villa at home last weekend, believes Martinez already has made his mark at Goodison.

He said: "They are more free-flowing, that comes from the manager. In many ways you see the team through the eyes of the manager. What he is. Roberto is a manager that wants the team to play football. Based on possession, based on flooding people forward, based on pace. It's a different challenge to overcome."

Meulensteen, in particular, admires the loan signing of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea and has devised a plan to try to stop the Belgian centre forward as Fulham attempt to break free of the relegation zone.

"It's a matter of making sure you're always aware of the line they want to feed him," said Meulensteen, who includes Darren Bent in his squad after the striker recovered from a hamstring problem.

"Making sure you can stop the supply and can't get into the area he's really strong at. We worked at it in training.

"It's denying space to some extent. If you give him space he can get away from you. Some of the footage I've seen, Everton break really, really quickly. He is always part of those because he's quick, he's mobile, he's dangerous in the air."

One of the big differences at Craven Cottage since Meulensteen arrived is the relationship with new owner Shahid Khan.

Jol admitted he rarely spoke to the man who took over from Mohamed Al-Fayed, but Meulensteen revealed his relationship is different.

"He cares. He wants to know what's going on and from our point of view we need to keep him posted about what is going on," said Meulensteen.

"I've had a good opportunity to get to know him. He knew me and I knew him. I spoke to him straight away when it (Jol's sacking) happened.

"I met him the day after and he sent me some really nice text messages after the Spurs and after the Villa game. Our relationship won't change. We've known each other for many, many years. He knows football and he wished me all the best."

Meulensteen, however, insists he did not go to Craven Cottage with any eyes on the manager's job.

"There was absolutely not one idea in the back of my mind that this was going to happen," he said.

"I didn't want it to happen, to be honest. I still thought to this point we were able to turn it around together."



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