Rene Meulensteen

Former Manchester United, Fulham coach joins Philadelphia Union as consultant

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For Rene Meulensteen, the last few lines on his resume have been relatively short ones.

There was the two-month stint as manager of Fulham, which sounds like an eternity compared to the 16 days in charge of Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia. He also spent a year at Brondby.

But, as a man in demand, Meulensteen’s new Stateside job has the potential to bear some long-lasting fruit, like his 11 years over two stints in the system at Manchester United.

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He’s been named a consultant for the Philadelphia Union in MLS, a club which is just one week removed from naming Jim Curtin its third-ever full-time head coach.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“We are happy to announce we have engaged Rene Meulensteen’s partner in sports practice to consult with us on many of our key decisions over the next several months, as we look to benefit from his exceptional history of success in both player development and first team performance during his decade of work at Manchester United,” Union chairman/owner Jay Sugarman said in a statement.

“René has hit the ground running and I know Nick [Sakiewicz], Jim, Tommy [Wilson] and our team of coaches as well as our academy staff will welcome René’s insights and experience during this important period for the club as much as I do.”

Prior to serving as manager for Fulham FC in the Barclays Premier League during the 2013-14 season, Meulensteen spent more than five seasons as a first-team coach of Manchester United under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. During that time, Manchester United captured four Barclays Premier League titles, a UEFA Champions League title and a FIFA Club World Cup title.

Curtin talked about Meulensteen’s vast experience being a boon for him, and said the former Fulham coach has already helped them refocus their development and player evaluation.

Sugarman said Meulensteen will be around for less than years and more than weeks, so it’s not a threat to Curtin. And he’s not a bad man to have around as a new coach separates the wheat from the chaff.

Rating the Premier League bosses: How did your manager grade out?

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The manager’s chair is always one of the hottest seats in a Premier League venue, but this year’s bosses seemed more flammable than ever before. From Jose Mourinho to Malky Mackay to three bosses at Fulham, 2013/14 was a season for the bosses.

So how did yours do? Let’s take a look.

Arsenal – Arsene Wenger
Wenger’s tumble in the train station symbolically illustrated Arsenal’s season: It seemed like the Gunners were headed for title town only to be forced to hold onto the fourth Champions League spot for dear life. To be fair to Wenger, the club faced big injuries to some key players including missing a half-season’s worth of Theo Walcott. Still, the inability to bring a forward in during the transfer window, opting instead for a last-second swoop for injured Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom, gives the slender Frenchman a poorer grade than the No. 4 slot would hint.
Grade: C-

Aston Villa – Paul Lambert
A 15th place finish for Villa should almost never be acceptable; This is not a club in which survival is the only goal. Lambert didn’t seem to press the right buttons and even had his assistants stripped from him at the end of the year. At many times during the season, the attack seemed to center on “Let’s hope Christian Benteke scores,” and the team hemorrhaged goals late in the season. Throw in his criticism of the cups, and it wasn’t a good year for PL or AV.
Grade: D

Cardiff City – Malky Mackay, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Criticize unorthodox owner Vincent Tan as much as you’d like, but Mackay did not succeed despite some decent spending in August. Plus half the battle is getting along with your owner, not getting a solid month of the season hamstrung in ornery shouting matches. Mackay did well to get the team up, for sure, and will likely do better with a fresh start somewhere. Solskjaer was allowed to spend, too, but his infusion of Manchester United castaways and Norwegian talent didn’t do the trick. They went down. No one wins.
Grades: Mackay, D; Solskjaer, F

Chelsea – Jose Mourinho
The Special One had a good first year at Chelsea, although not up to his lofty expectations. He made clear the team’s problems (Have you heard they need a striker?) but also made some classy buys in Nemanja Matic amongst others. There were times his verbal games seemed to backfire, like in the case of his, “Well now we won’t win the league” with plenty of time remaining. But still he reached second place and the final four of the Champions League. Next year, it’s hardware or bust.
Grade: B+

source: APCrystal Palace – Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis
Credit to Holloway for getting Palace to the Premier League, but he struggled in the first throes of the season. The Pulis hire was a brilliant one, as the Eagles defended in elite fashion and pulled a number of surprising results out of the sky. And, of course, if all Crystal Palace’s season served was the “Pulis laugh” after a 3-3 draw against Liverpool, then this year was a success.
Grade: Holloway, D; Pulis, A

Everton – Roberto Martinez
He walked into a club that had traditionally failed to push to the next level… and took them to the Europa League. Martinez’s style may not have achieved PL success at Wigan, but he worked wonders with youngsters like Ross Barkley as well as veterans across the board. Martinez guided Tim Howard to a career-best in clean sheets, and Everton nearly made the Champions League. That’ll be the measuring stick for next season.
Grade: A-

Fulham – Martin Jol, Rene Meulensteen, Felix Magath
What a mess. Jol never seemed to have the answer, and Meulensteen’s first time in a Premier League first chair could was not a success. Magath did a number of good things that make you wonder what would’ve happened if he was appointed when Jol was fired or if the plug could’ve been pulled on Meulensteen a couple weeks earlier. In any event, their records reveal more about the on-field talent then the sideline sorcery.

Martin Jol: 3W-1D-9L
Rene Meulensteen: 3W-1D-9L
Felix Magath: 3W-2D-6L

Grades: Jol, F; Meulensteen, D; Magath, C

Hull City – Steve Bruce
A slow start for the Tigers was complicated by ownership’s public desire to change the team name to Hull Tigers, but credit Bruce for steadying the ship. The big man also made a couple solid mid-season signings in forwards Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, and got the club into the Europa League with a run to FA Cup Final. This grade could be higher if they trump Arsenal for silverware.
Grade: B+

Liverpool – Brendan Rodgers
Last year, with his club on a reality show, everyone wanted to pip Rodgers as out of his depth. Yet here came the man with 33:1 odds to win the title, and he came to within a Steven Gerrard slip of getting the job done. You can’t blame the man for allowing a veteran to fall down. Rodgers will have to find better defending and hold onto Luis Suarez to be a true threat next year, but he also has the Champions League with which to lure players. Unquestionably, the man navigated an emotional season with a deft touch.
Grade: A-

Manchester City – Manuel Pellegrini
Talk about his board room riches? Sure, but Pellegrini lowered his public persona and worked his way through some tricky injuries and trickier road struggles. Though you could argue that City underachieved given its talents, Pellegrini pushed the right buttons and massaged egos well on the way to a title.
Grade: A

Manchester United – David Moyes, Ryan Giggs
The Moyes era was a disaster, but was Moyes himself? You could certainly argue he needed a PR-savvy team to help him talk and negotiate transfer fees, as his ludicrous offer for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini set the table for a rough season. He also never seemed to sound the right note after losses. Manchester United is not considered a normal club by anyone, but Moyes often sounded as if “losses happen.” They do, but Manchester United fans don’t accept that. Giggs was a place-holder  who did his job of not being Moyes and being Giggs pretty well.
Grades: Moyes, D; Giggs, B+

source: APNewcastle United – Alan Pardew, John Carver
We have to include former TFC boss Carver because Pardew went and got himself suspended for headbutting an opponent during a game. Read that and guess what grade is coming. What makes it most screwy is that the club chief scout Graham Carr and Pardew assembled was talented enough to flirt with Europe for most of the early season. Then, Yohan Cabaye was allowed to leave for Paris Saint-Germain and Pardew had no answers. Not one, unless you count headbutting an opponent during a game. Carver was essentially Pardew Jr. for the suspension, and the club was simply the worst outside of Norwich over the final weeks, even months of the season. See this Tweet for more:

Grades: Pardew, D; Carver, F

Norwich City – Chris Hughton, Neil Adams
It wasn’t much better for former Newcastle boss Hughton, whose club was pegged for big things after offseason signings Gary Hooper and Ricky Van Wolfswinkel. The club just wasn’t humming all year. By the time Adams took over, it almost felt like the philosophy was, “Well, let’s see if Neil can pull off a miracle and at least he’ll get to say he was a PL boss if he doesn’t.”
Grades: Hughton, F; Adams, D

Southampton – Mauricio Pochettino
Really it could’ve gone so much worse for the Saints, with a midseason boardroom kerfuffle to go with constant rumors of nearly every player getting a big name transfer. Pochettino to me is the guy who should be getting looks from Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. A brilliant tactician who knows his way around the motivational circles as well, he’s about as good as it gets.
Grade: A

Stoke City – Mark Hughes
It didn’t start well, but boy did Hughes pull it together! Stoke leapt into the No. 9 slot in the table on the season’s final day, and Hughes did it with a variety of tactics. He’s earned plenty of guff for failures at other stops, but if the Britannia Stadium club backs him with a difference maker or two… well, perhaps the Potters can make the next step.
Grade: B

Sunderland – Paolo di Canio, Gus Poyet
This isn’t the first time di Canio’s honeymoon ended in disaster, but don’t think Poyet gets a great grade just for a pair of Cup runs and rescuing the season. The boss had plenty of chances to save his team a bit of late-season drama, only to fail. That said, there’s promise for Gus’ guys once he gets more of his own flavor in the side.
Grade: di Canio, F; Poyet C-

Swansea City – Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk
When you have a PST writer comparing you to Don Draper, that isn’t a compliment. Laudrup failed, leaving a player to step up and clean up the pieces. Monk did that after a shaky start, and earned himself a three-year extension. Training ground dustups were old hat by the end of the season, but the play improved.
Grade: Laudrup, D; Monk C+

source: ReutersTottenham Hotspur – Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood
It almost feels unfair to grade either of these gents considering Daniel Levy seemed intent on making sure both of their jobs were complicated. AVB claimed to have a handful of players he didn’t want after Spurs spending spree, and while that’s not ideal, who says that? Sherwood did the world’s best job doing anything soccer-related ever, according to him.
Grade: AVB, C-; Sherwood C+; Levy, F

West Bromwich Albion – Steve Clarke, Pepe Mel
Maybe it’s the concussions, but Clarke’s was the only manager whose name I couldn’t recall from memory. A forgettable start to the season, and Mel barely saved things — if you can even call it that — before mutually-parting ways with the club today. Bad year for the Baggies, but it obviously could’ve been worse. Perhaps Clarke was dealing with expectations that were too high, but still…
Grade: Clarke, D+; Mel D+

West Ham United – Sam Allardyce
Well, well, well Big Sam. The Irons had to contend with an injury to their prime signing in Andy Carroll, but really isn’t that the argument against putting all your eggs in one basket? Allardyce saved his team from the drop, and how, but he also guided his team into said danger.
Grade: C-

Vidic prepares final bow, Evra says pair once lamented Manchester move

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It’s the time of the year to say goodbye, and today’s Old Trafford finale for Nemanja Vidic could be a tricky one for the rocksteady Manchester United captain.

Vidic is headed to Inter Milan this summer after an accolade-hoarding — at least until this season — career at Old Trafford.

The 32-year-old Serbian defender is preparing himself to focus on the match against Hull City, which could become difficult as Manchester salutes him (Watch live at 2:45pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

From United’s match program:

“You never know what is going to happen with your emotions,” Vidic said. “You can try to predict but I wasn’t emotional before and I haven’t cried yet! We will see what happens after the last game. It is going to be sad.”

“Thank you for all the support you have given me over the years. I know I will be supporting the club in the future. Hopefully we can win as many trophies as we did in my eight years over the next eight years.”

Red Devils back Patrice Evra is “really sad” to see Vidic go, and told some interesting stories regarding the arrival of the two backs to Manchester. Both arrived in England in 2006, Evra from AS Monaco and Vidic from Spartak Moscow.

From ManUtd.com:

The pair endured a tough start to life in England, with Evra recalling one particularly difficult performance. However, they soon adapted and helped to form what was one of Europe’s finest defences for many years, picking up plenty of silverware in the process.

“When you speak about Vida, it’s like you’re speaking about myself,” the full-back continued. “We joined the club together. I remember the first game was so hard. In one match, we played in the reserves together. We were so poor!

“Rene Meulensteen was the [reserve team] manager and he took us both off! We were talking in the dressing room and saying: ‘Oh my, why have we come to Manchester United? We should go back to our old clubs!’

While it will be “goodbye” for several United players, Vidic leaving is far more ceremonious and likely to be actually met with sadness from the Old Trafford crowd (which has soured on other departers).

Could it be more emotional than Robert Lewandowski’s send-off from Borussia Dortmund fans?

Thanks to WhoAteAllThePies.tv for that video.

Felix Magath’s blueprint to save Fulham revolves around the fans

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When Felix Magath first arrived at Fulham’s training ground at Motspur Park in February, the players knew only of his reputation.

And they were afraid of it.

Nicknamed “Saddam” the German had a reputation for being not just a disciplinarian, but a dictator, working his players to the precipice of exhaustion to get them in shape for matches.

“That was a problem,” Magath admitted in his prematch press conference ahead of this weekend’s game at White Hart Lane. “The players read a lot of things and they were afraid.”

They had reason to be afraid. They had been leaking second-half goals at an alarming rate, suggesting the squad was running out of steam too early, and neither Rene Meulensteen nor Martin Jol before him had been able to plug the dike.

They were just 1-0 down to Manchester City at halftime – they lost 5-0. They were in a scoreless draw with Southampton until the 65th minute – they lost 3-0. They were scoreless at the Emirates at halftime – they lost 2-0.  They fell to Liverpool, Newcastle, Swansea, and Tottenham all in the last 10 minutes.

So the front office brought in the man who would plug the gap.  The man who would whip them into shape.

Except he didn’t.

Sure he wakes them up at the crack of dawn – to eat breakfast together.

Sure he sticks them in a basement – to make phone calls.

Felix Magath’s strategy to save Fulham from the drop concentrates on reminding the players what really matters: the fans. They’ve been stuck in the Fulham call center to thank fans for renewing their season tickets with personal phone calls.

He’s invited fans to come attend open training sessions and then dine with the players for lunch after.

And it’s worked.  Just watch the elation when they score a goal.  Lewis Holtby’s made a habit of acknowledging the fans after every score, whether it’s by his doing or not. Pajtin Kasami is a hug machine. Hugo Rodallega’s cried – twice.

Holtby will likely return to Tottenham Hotspur after the season, especially if the club is relegated. Why should he care? He has no real reason to, yet he does. Magath has instilled into this club what should really matter to the players.

Because when it comes down to it, if the club is relegated the players can get another job, they can go to another team, they can sign another contract.  But the fans can’t. And when Magath focuses on that, it all becomes clear.

This doesn’t just apply to Fulham, mind you. It applies to all the clubs fighting for relegation, but this club has made it clear that the reason they’re fighting against the drop is for those in the seats, not those on the pitch.

For the Whites, it may just save their season, and they have the German “dictator” to thank.

“The players work with us,” Magath said behind his funky looking glasses, “not only me, but my athletic coach and my assistant coach – and they realize that we are not monsters.”

“Don’t worry about it, it’s not so bad.” It won’t be, if they stay up.

Fulham with plenty of explaining to do for the Kostas Mitroglou debacle

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Kostas Mitroglou is injured. Again.

With Fulham manager Felix Magath confirming the Greek tweaked his hamstring on international duty, there are a myriad of questions that fans are demanding answers to.

The Cottagers are bottom of the league, and with relegation a major possibility Magath has maintained that Mitroglou is not fit enough even for bench duty.

Mind you, the 25-year-old is no ordinary January transfer target.

Having bagged 14 goals in 12 Greek Super League matches for Olympiakos, Fulham shelled out a club-record $20 million looking to save their Premier League status.

The transfer sum broke Fulham’s previous record signing – Steve Marlet. That name conjures demonic thoughts in the minds of many Fulham fans, as the French striker proved a massive flop at Craven Cottage.

Marlet scored 11 goals in 54 Fulham appearances between 2001-2005, and his performances were so poor they caused former owner Mohamed Al Fayed to sue then-manager Jean Tigana for the ridiculous $19.3 million transfer fee.

source: Getty Images
Kostas Mitroglou has spent most of his time on the Craven Cottage pitch in street clothes.

Fans were eager to purge those painful memories, and Mitroglou’s signing was a promising step towards both erasing Marlet from the Fulham record books and bolstering an offense not capable of making up for a porous defense.

But none of that has happened.

Instead of leading a Whites charge out of the relegation zone, Mitroglou has spent a grand total of 30 minutes on the pitch for Fulham, against West Brom, and he looked utterly baffled in both mind and body.  Otherwise, Mitroglou hasn’t even made the squad once since signing.

Prior to facing Chelsea last weekend, Magath explained his reasoning by confirming his striker wasn’t injured, just plain unfit.

Then, despite this allegation, the club released Mitroglou to play in the international break.  The decision is a baffling one, and sure enough the striker pulled his hammy after an hour.

So we come full circle to the original question – who in the heck sanctioned a club-record transfer for a player who can’t last a half hour in the Premier League before looking exhausted, and can’t go an hour in international competition without getting injured?

If you believe ousted Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen, the transfer decisions were almost solely in the hands of longtime CEO Alistair Mackintosh.  A former member of Manchester City’s front office, Mackintosh is a fan-favorite at Craven Cottage, having orchestrated the club’s rise from Premier League newbies to Europa League contenders.

But in the last few years, Mackintosh was handcuffed by a transfer policy dominated by frees and cheap journeymen purchases. The policy often caused former manager Martin Jol to say Fulham were required to be “creative” in the transfer market.

Now, the squad is full of these players, and Mackintosh needed to make a splash to rescue Fulham’s Premier League status.  Using an injection of cash by new owner Shad Khan, he failed to rope in Steven Defour but cashing in on Mitroglou along with Lewis Holtby.

Unfortunately, the Greek’s arrival has only produced more questions than answers at the front of Fulham’s attack. When will he play? Why was this purchase sanctioned if it took just a set of eyes to see he’s not fit? If he’s unfit, why was he released to international duty? Will he stay if Fulham are relegated?

With Dimitar Berbatov gone to Monaco and just Darren Bent left at Fulham to run the attack, the future remains bleak for Fulham’s season, and Mackintosh has plenty of explaining to do after flushing money down the toilet on obviously damaged goods.