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Four years ago today, Fulham faced 81 crosses and still claimed a point at Old Trafford

A crestfallen David Moyes, soon to be put out of his misery as Manchester United manager, told the press that ‘it doesn’t get any worse than this‘. His reaction was understandable – anyone who had watched the Sunday afternoon live game from Old Trafford would have considered one of the most remarkable results of the weekend – after bottom of the table Fulham resisted 81 crosses, a whole barrage of United pressure and then claimed a precious point thanks to Darren Bent’s injury time equaliser.

Whilst Moyes was left to lick his wounds following what was widely lamented as the nadir of his spell in the home dugout at Old Trafford, this result marked the high point of former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen’s brief spell in charge of Fulham. The Belgian followed this draw with a gut-wrenching injury-time defeat by Liverpool at Craven Cottage and, after a far flatter performance saw the Whites eliminated from the FA Cup in a fourth round replay by League One Sheffield United, Meulensteen was replaced by the eccentric Felix Magath in a doomed attempt to preserve the club’s Premier League position.

Meulensteen had sprung a surprise on his return to Old Trafford by handing Fulham debuts to Jonny Heitinga and Ryan Tunnicliffe, the Heywood-born midfielder who had captained United to FA Youth Cup success and left for London only ten days earlier on transfer deadline day, whilst teenage forward Muamer Tankovic made his league debut. The new coach preferred Dan Burn to Brede Hangeland in the centre of defence, with the young defender making headlines in days following the game by comparing United’s constant crossing with the type of attacking he faced during his non-league days.

Fulham absorbed home pressure from the off, but stunned Old Trafford by taking the lead against the run of play twenty minutes in. Little Lewis Holtby dinked a delightful ball over the United defence and there was Steve Sidwell sliding in to steer a finish past the stranded David de Gea. Robin van Persie, who had already been denied by a fine Sascha Riether tackle, should have equalised almost immediately but lifted Rafael’s cross over the bar at the back post. The visitors had another lucky escape when Maarten Stekelenburg parried Michael Carrick’s effort before Sidwell bravely blocked van Persie’s follow-up.

The visitors should have made it two before the break, when they hit United on the counter attack. The impressive Tankovic, looking far from overrawed on the big stage threaded a ball through for former United utility man Kieran Richardson, but the ex-England international fired over the bar. Had Tankovic opted to play the ball right rather than left, Tunnicliffe would have been free for a tap in. As it was, Fulham would still have considered themselves fortunate to head in ahead at half time.

The same pattern continued after the interval. Stekelenburg made a sensational save to keep out Wayne Rooney’s effort from a van Persie cross and it was soon all-out-defence from the man in white. Jon Arne Riise got in the way of a venomous van Persie drive and substitute Scott Parker also produced a block tackle on Rooney, when the England skipper looked certain to score. When Fulham’s defence was breached, they caved in twice within the space of two minutes. First, a tiring back four could only clear Patrice Evra’s cross as far as Juan Mata and van Persie poached the equaliser from two yards and then Michael Carrick’s deflected drive from the edge of the box wrongfooted Stekelenburg to put the hosts ahead.

It looked for the world as though Fulham’s brave rearguard action would count for nothing, but that assessment reckoned without the late drama. Bent, who had been something of a spectator in the final third having replaced Tankovic at half time, stopped to head home the equaliser in the fourth minute of added time after David de Gea could only push Richardson’s shot up into the air, sparking wild scenes of celebration in front of Fulham’s travelling supporters.

Heitinga bans talk of relegation

Fulham defender John Heitinga has banned the word ‘relegation’ being said anywhere near him – even in his native Dutch.

The Fulham defender refuses to throw in the towel on the club’s chances of escaping the drop despite the precarious situation staring the Whites in the face.

Heitinga and co venture to Aston Villa tomorrow in front of a sell-out 3,000 away section. Heartened by the travelling support, the team in trouble is only too aware they must winkle out points wherever they play over the last six games – and not just against the lesser sides in the division.

He said: “I know it’s sold out by our supporters at Villa. The fans believe and we believe – they’re great. We now need to show it on the pitch.

“Every game is a must-win now. I do not want to use that word, ‘relegation’. It is banned. Even in Dutch.”

Even so, the man who joined from Everton in January admits the silver lining behind the 3-1 defeat to Heitinga’s old team on Sunday is a clutch of games against lesser mortals of the Premier League, who are fighting for their lives like Fulham.

“It can be good for us,” said the defender. “But they are in the same situation that we are. It was disappointing against Everton and the Villa game is now immensely important. We will keep fighting.”

Heitinga ready for ‘seven Cup finals’

Fulham defender John Heitinga is preparing for seven cup finals to save Fulham from Barclays Premier League relegation.

The Whites sit rock bottom of the table heading into this weekend’s visit of Robtero Martinez’s Everton.

Heitinga only swapped Goodison Park for Craven Cottage in January and knows only too well the threat posed by the Toffees.

It is the first of seven tests Fulham are facing between now and May 11 as Felix Magath looks to mastermind a great escape.

Four or five wins should be enough to see the Whites survive but Heitinga is approaching every game with a cup final mindset in a bid to beat the drop.

“I knew when I came to Fulham that it was going to be hard and a long season,” he said.

“Hopefully my experience will keep Fulham in the league. We will still need to play better. We need to fight to survive.

“It’s important to look at ourselves. We showed against Newcastle [a 1-0 triumph earlier this month] that we will be hard to beat at home, and in the games before for example.

“It [Everton] is an important game and all of the games that are coming are important. They are all big. They are all cup finals. There’s still 21 points to play for and hopefully we will survive.”

Fulham’s hopes of beating the drop took another blow on Saturday as they were thumped 5-0 by title hopefuls Manchester City.

Fernando Amorebieta partnered Brede Hangeland in the centre of defence, Heitinga’s preferred position, but conceded two penalties and was sent off.

It means the Venezuelan will miss this weekend’s game with Everton through suspension and opens up a spot in the heart of the Whites backline for Heitinga to slot into.

“I will play wherever the manager asks me to play,” added the Holland international.

“Normally I play as a centre-half. I did for the national team and my other clubs. It’s up to the manager but I can play in different positions and at the moment I am flexible.”

Hangeland and Heitinga still upbeat

Fulham skipper Brede Hangeland remains upbeat about Fulham’s chances of avoiding the drop, even though the west London club prop up the Premier League table with just 24 points from 31 matches.

The Cottagers suffered another heavy defeat at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, losing 5-0 to Manchester City which takes their goal difference for the season to minus 40.

However, the Fulham captain is certainly not entertaining thoughts of relegation to the Championship just yet.

The Norwegian said: “We have quite a few games we know we can win. It is still doable and there is a belief we can do it.

“Time is running out a little bit and we need to pick up results. But if we are honest, we didn’t expect to win at Man City.

“We were hoping for something but I suppose in the ‘budget’ there weren’t many points here. We will have to get them elsewhere.”

And Dutchman John Heitinga is another who is confident of avoiding the drop: “We need to fight to survive.

“There are still seven games to play and most of the games are at home, so we need to keep (getting) the points.”

Fulham need a miracle, admits Heitinga

Fulham defender John Heitinga admits Fulham now need a miracle to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Cardiff City left the Whites four points from safety – which with their vastly inferior goal difference – might as well be five points.

And Dutch defender Heitinga reckons it will be like winning a trophy if Felix Magath’s men manage to avoid the drop into the Championship.

He said: “You have to believe we can still do it. I still believe in the miracle. There are still 27 points to fight for, and we play some of the teams around us, but to stay in the Premier League now would be like winning the Champions League for us.

“Survival for us is the trophy. It’s the same now as winning a cup or a title. The only thing that matters at the moment is Fulham. It does not matter how we survive, we have to find a way.

“The manager afterwards said to us that Fulham is a club full of history and we have to try everything to keep it in the league. But it needs to be quick, because it is already five minutes past midnight now.”

With Fulham’s goal difference currently sitting on minus 36, Heitinga conceded the shoots of recovery must begin with him and his fellow defenders.

He added: “It’s not difficult to see what the problem is – we concede too many goals. This is a team at the moment that plays without confidence and concedes goals too easily.

“It was not good enough. We have to take a look in the mirror now because there are only nine games left. We need to stick together as a team, we need to have a little bit of luck. We have got the quality in the squad, but we need to show it on the pitch.”