The game that summed up United’s season came at Craven Cottage, with Edwin Van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Jonny Evans, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, John O’Shea and Rafael da Silva all out injured. Like the season before, United lost the game and this was something we were left to reflect upon in May when missing out on the title by just one point.
Russ Goldman, from Fulham blog Cottagers Confidential, has spoken to me about the highs and lows of last season, as well as the hopes for this season under new manager, Mark Hughes.
Scott the Red: Were you happy with your team’s performance last season?
Russ Goldman: The answer to this question might surprise you. I am not happy with Fulham’s performance in the English Premier League. They finished 12th which is respectable considering the club went to the Europa League Final. I was hoping for at least a top ten finish. If you are talking about the Europa League, I couldn’t have asked more from a club. Fulham gave me memories that will last me a lifetime.
STR: It’s rare that I support English sides in Europe but I can honestly say I was pretty gutted when you lost. But like you say, reaching a European final is bloody good going. What are your aspirations for this season?
RG: I am hoping Fulham can finish the season seventh to possibly get back to the Europa League. The club still has a strong nucleus of players to get to that position.
STR: It’s a team game, but looking back at last season, who are you expecting to be your most important player this season?
RG: I would say that player would have to be Bobby Zamora. He really took his game to the next level last season. He was the main option at striker. Fulham are going to need his goals again this season along with his physical play.
STR: Some said he was unlucky to miss out on the World Cup squad, although with hindsight, it’s probably good for him that his first stint with England won’t be associated with a dreadful showing on football’s biggest stage! Anyway, you are one of the few Premiership clubs who start this season with a new manager. How do you rate Mark Hughes’ ability to take your club forward?
RG: I think Fulham hired the right man for the job in Mark Hughes. He had an impressive run at Blackburn. I think he was in a very difficult position at Manchester City. I rate his chances of moving the club forward as high. I have a feeling he will learn from his mistakes at Manchester City. Manchester City might not have been the right situation for Hughes. Fulham could quite possibly be a perfect fit for him.
STR: I agree. I think he is a good manager and has the potential to do a great job. From a United perspective, it’s just a shame we can never see him the same way following his decision to manage that sorry bunch from down the road. Enough of that, what’s your favourite chant you’ve heard sung at your ground?
RG: I would have to say “C”mon Fulham, C’mon Fulham”.
STR: Wow. Witty and original lyrics. I like it. Er, so, where do you think United will finish this season?
RG: I think Manchester United will finish second in the League. I am predicting Arsenal to win the EPL this season. It is a bold pick, but I am sticking to it. It should be close just like last season.
STR: Arsenal? Really? Hmmm. If you could have any two players from United’s current squad playing for you, who would they be?
RG: I like young players so I would take Tom Cleverley and Federico Macheda. These two players could have very bright futures at Manchester United.
STR: I like the way you think but I imagine you will be the only blogger who doesn’t have Wayne Rooney down! What are your thoughts on United’s debt?
RG: The debt is an issue, but I don’t see it stopping Manchester United from its short and long term ambitions. The club was recently given the highest value of any sports club in the world by Forbes magazine. The brand of the club is so strong. I can’t imagine Manchester United not being able to handle the debt and get it under control.
STR: I suppose the issue is how much more of the fans money goes in to the debt black hole rather than the betterment of the club, and how many more fans get priced out of going to games. Anyway, what is your favourite game your club have played against United?
RG: That would be last season at Craven Cottage. Beating Manchester United 3 – 0 at home was incredible. Manchester United had many injured players out for that game, but it shouldn’t take away the thrill of that victory.
STR: Kuszczak in goal, Carrick and Fletcher in the centre of defence and de Laet making his third ever league appearance for the club. Bad times. Moving switfly on, what is your worst game your club have played against United?
RG: The game at Old Trafford in the 2008 – 2009 season. Fulham lost 3 – 0. My club wasn’t even competitive in that match.
STR: You do surprise me. I thought you would have gone for the battering we dished out on the first day of the 06-07 season, particularly given that at the time everyone thought we were “in decline”! Anyway, how do you feel about Roy leaving you for Liverpool?
RG: I was very sad to see him leave. I understand the reason for leaving Fulham. He had the opportunity to go to Liverpool. That would be an incredibly tough job to turn down. Fulham still have unfinished business. I thought he would want to see that through. I am a huge fan of Hodgson and only wish him well at Liverpool. Hodgson will always be an important figure in the history of Fulham. Nothing changes that. Both Hodgson and Fulham are now moving on.
STR: Very big of you. Unfortunately, he is now a scouse bastard where we are concerned and I hope he fails miserably, obviously. But at least you’ve still got Lily Allen as your celebrity fan. Proud?
RG: I am proud. I happen to like Lily Allen’s music and have many of her songs on my iPod. She is a true fan. She has been following Fulham for a very long time. She is not a casual fan. She gets my respect.
STR: You love Lily but how much do you hate Forlan?
RG: Don’t get me started on Forlan. Every time I watch this guy play he scores. He is an incredible player. He was the difference in the Europa League final and he broke the hearts of all Fulham fans. I just never want to see him play against Fulham again.
STR: Interestingly enough, Forlan was our goal scorer the last time Fulham won at Old Trafford, back in 2003. United have won five out of five at home against Fulham since then, but have a crap record at Craven Cottage. Why do you think Fulham do well against the top teams?
RG: Fulham do well because they are a disciplined club. They are very difficult to break down. You have to beat them. They are not going to beat themselves. Fulham, also are not afraid of the big clubs. They don’t back down from the challenge. They also play with incredible confidence at Craven Cottage.
STR: Well, I wouldn’t mind a little less confidence from them this season. A former Ferguson player has never beaten him, so hopefully that record continues! Cheers.