Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen has defended his decision to give debuts to four players in their 1-1 draw with Norwich in the FA Cup.

The Dutchman blooded 18-year-old French midfielder Ange Freddy Plumain and 19-year-old Lasse Vigen Christensen in the third round tie at Carrow Road.

Chris David and Dan Burn were also given their chance to impress, with 17 changes made in all by Meulensteen and his opposite number Chris Hughton from the teams they put out on New Year’s Day.

But in the wake of comments from Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert that most Premier League managers ‘could do without’ the competition, Meulensteen was keen to explain his decision.

“The FA Cup is a great competition to be in and it is a competition where you want to utilise the squad,” he said. “It gives you opportunities to bring other people into the fold.

“Four players made their debuts, four young players, which in my opinion is the biggest bonus.

“It’s a breath of fresh air in that respect so that was a big positive for us.”

The return of a senior player also offered some cheer to Meulensteen, who welcomed former player Clint Dempsey back to the club for the first appearance of his two-month loan spell from MLS side Seattle Sounders.

“I’m very pleased with him. I’m glad he’s part of our squad now,” he added.