Fulham manager Chris Coleman is hoping the return of captain Michael Brown will help them bury not just one, but two bad memories when they take on Manchester United at Craven Cottage tomorrow.
Priority for Coleman this week was to lift his squad – and himself – after the 4-0 home defeat to Tottenham in the FA Cup last Sunday.
But in preparing for the visit of the Premiership leaders it has also been impossible to forget that on the opening day of the season Fulham were thrashed 5-1 at Old Trafford.
United were 4-0 up inside 20 minutes that day and Coleman admits: “I looked to see where the tunnel was and wondered if I could get out without being noticed.
“We were like rabbits caught in the headlights. We never asked them questions – it was a nothing performance.
“Whatever else happens tomorrow we have to make sure they know they have been in a game.”
Coleman confesses he was “shellshocked as well as frustrated and disappointed” by the Spurs hammering last weekend.
“The whole squad were gutted. Being at home we really fancied it. The goals we gave away were very disappointing – Paul Robinson had as many shots to save as Jan Lastuvka, but we have to keep clean sheets if we want to be a top-10 side.”
Brown, who tangled with Ryan Giggs in the first meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, is available again after suspension and Coleman said: “He leads from the front. He’s very infectious in his play.
“It’s going to be another heated game, I would imagine. People ask me if I’ve spoken to Michael Brown about calming down, but you can’t say that to him because that takes too much of his game away.”
Full-back Franck Queudrue is out with a badly bruised ankle suffered in training yesterday and on-loan striker Vincenzo Montella is unavailable after being sent off on Sunday, but as well as Brown’s return Coleman will replace Queudrue with Liam Rosenior.
The youngster was left out for the first time this season against Spurs because Coleman felt he needed a rest.
“At his age a week’s rest is the same as a month off for someone older and he’s looked really good in training – back to what he was.”
Coleman is not underestimating the size of the task facing his team.
“I think the title is United’s to lose. They’ve 11 games left and it’s possible for them to win eight or nine. If they do that it’s over.
“You can’t write Chelsea off, but I’ve got the feeling it will take an almighty effort for somebody else to stop United and since Chelsea are the side with most money to spend it will taste sweet for United if they do win it.
“The only way for us to put last Sunday to bed is not being on the ropes for 90 minutes. We respect United, but we don’t fear them. If you fear them it’s over before it starts.
“They’ve got a swagger and offensively I think they are the best team in the league.”
As for money he may want to spend himself, Coleman has met with chairman Mohamed Al Fayed and been encouraged by his response.
“The next step for us is to become a top-10 side – consistently,” said Coleman. “It’s not like four or five years ago when we were paying too much money and had players who didn’t really want to be here.
“We’re not in the business of spending £30million on somebody, but we are in a healthy position. We want to make the ground bigger, increase capacity, and improve the team.
“The club is going forward. Crowds are bigger than they’ve ever been in the Premiership.”