Man United performance shows Fulham are on the up

Jamie McDonald

It may not have been a result to turn many a head but the display against United could well shape Fulham's season

If there's a good way to lose, then we know how to do it at Fulham. We know the bad way, too, and there's plenty of evidence around to support that but on Saturday, against Manchester United, we showed a sizeable slab of dignity in defeat and it was hugely welcome.

For, despite the lack of points, it was a performance we badly needed. It hasn't been a pretty few months at Craven Cottage but with the resilience on show against United, there's hope yet that we can, beyond avoiding relegation, keep an eye on the table's higher echelons. Not top ten, of course, but eleventh, twelfth; something that refutes the widely-held notion that we are a side that merely makes up the numbers.

We're not, and we haven't been for a while now.

No, we are a respectable team that, as Sir Alex Ferguson took great pleasure in pointing out at the weekend, can fight with the best and land a great many punches. No team particularly enjoys Fulham away. We can be compact, incisive and nimble all in one go.

We can even, believe it or not, defend sometimes. The job done in keeping Robin van Persie quiet was a particularly remarkable, even if the idea didn't exactly spill over onto Wayne Rooney as well.

That said, though, the onslaught aimed at Phillippe Senderos in the aftermath is, I feel, a little harsh. He made a bad call with his positioning but it wasn't a mistake, in the broadest sense of the word. Aaron Hughes was as much to blame in reusing to close down the England international but, again, you'd be hard pushed to find any significant faults in either player's game on Saturday.

And that's encouraging because it has been one of Fulham's most concerning areas. It never used to be but, as regimes change, so will, inevitably, tactics. We're not the slow-moving, positionally adept side we used to be under Hodgson and, to a lesser extent, under Hughes. We're more expansive now and take a few more risks and, with risk, eventually comes reward.

Hopefully, that reward will show later in the season, much like it usually does. Martin Jol is not one to flounce on his ideologies and more performances like the one we witnessed against United will inevitably find their way into our remaining thirteen league games.

All the more encouraging, too, is the knowledge that January actually went pretty well for Fulham. Yes, no notable signings - although this is arguable, as Urby Emanuelson on loan is a rather dapper piece of business in my opinion - but no major departures either.

We retained Brede Hangeland which, regardless of his contract situation, is essential and, more importantly, we invested in the right areas. Three central midfielders and a right back - all positions in which we were short. A striker would have been nice, but necessary? No. And Stekelenburg, he would have been nice, but necessary? No, that can wait until the summer.

So we have a bright few months ahead for us at Fulham. It won't involve the glitz and glamour of the top ten but it will still have a warm and fuzzy feeling. The feeling that you're building for the future, pulling out your compass and setting your direction. All without debt, as well.

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