Football: Fulham hire Magath as Meulensteen sacked

LONDON (AFP) - Fulham took dramatic action Friday in a bid to preserve their Premier League status by sacking Rene Meulensteen and bringing in Felix Magath as their new manager with just 12 games of the season left.

Former Manchester United head coach Meulensteen had been in charge of the Cottagers for little more than two months after being promoted from within the west London club's backroom staff to replace fellow-Dutchman Martin Jol on December 1.

However, Wednesday's 3-2 home defeat by Liverpool - where Fulham twice took the lead before losing out to Steven Gerrard's stoppage-time penalty - left the Cottagers four points adrift of safety.

And that was enough to persuade Fulham owner Shahid Khan, a Pakistan-born US-based businessman, to sack Meulensteen.

It was the second time this season Meulensteen had been dismissed after he was fired just 16 days into his time in charge of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in August.

Fulham's official statement on Magath made no mention of Meulensteen but their former manager, confirming his departure, accused the Cottagers of "freaking out" and "hitting the panic button on the emotions of fear".

German manager Magath led Bayern Munich to successive Bundesliga titles in 2005 and 2006, before achieving the same feat with Wolfsburg, whom he left in 2012.

"I am very happy to welcome Felix Magath to Fulham Football Club," Khan told Fulham's website. "Felix is an accomplished manager with multiple honours in the Bundesliga and a hunger to replicate his success with Fulham in the Barclays Premier League.

"I'm especially impressed with the reputation Felix has for coming into clubs at difficult times, often late in the season, and lifting them to their potential and beyond.

"Our club has shown promise in recent matches, but the fact is we have not won a league match since January 1. Given our form, we can no longer merely hope that our fortunes will finally turn.

"And with 12 matches remaining and at least four points separating us from safety, we certainly can no longer post empty results. Action was required." Khan added that Magath, appointed on an 18-month contract, had been chosen on a recommendation from Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh that received "my complete approval".

Only last weekend Meulensteen guided Fulham to a 2-2 draw away to champions Manchester United and they were within seconds of another creditable point against Liverpool, the Premier League's form team.

A "disappointed" Meulensteen told BBC Radio Five: "You need to try and make things better as soon as you can, but you're playing with a deck of cards that are not yours.

"I haven't really been given any time to make that work. I thought the performance against Manchester United and Liverpool were very, very good and it was unfortunate that we did not pick up the points that we deserved.

"Twelve games to go, plenty of points to play for and I'm sure we would have turned it around.

"I've not been told anything. I knew the owners were freaking out and panicking about the fact that Fulham could get relegated, but they've had that sort of attitude already 10 games back.

"They've hit the panic button on emotions of fear, but hey-ho, that's what happens in football. It's not always fair."

Meanwhile the 60-year-old Magath told his Facebook followers: "Here we go again, I'm coming back into football. I would like to thank the club and the owner for this faith. I'm looking forward to (moving to) London and particularly to the fans and employees of Fulham, in particular the backroom staff and team there."

Magath's comments may mean a reprive for assistant head coach Ray Wilkins, a former Fulham manager, and technical director Alan Curbishley, both of whom were only appointed to their current posts in December.

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