Scott Parker hails ‘drastic improvement’ in Fulham’s form ahead of Man Utd clash

PA

Scott Parker believes Fulham have been transformed from a Premier League “laughing stock” to a team stylishly scrapping for survival.

The west London club were among the relegation favourites at the start of the season following promotion, a status cemented by four successive defeats, including consecutive 3-0 home losses.

Manager Parker feels external perceptions of his team were clouded by the 2018-19 campaign when the Cottagers went down having splashed more than £100million on players and sacked two managers.

Fulham remain in the bottom three ahead of Wednesday’s clash with leaders Manchester United but showed resilience by going five top-flight games unbeaten before Saturday’s narrow 1-0 loss to local rivals Chelsea.

“We’ve done remarkably well considering where we were at the start of the season,” said Parker.

“We were probably the laughing stock in terms of how people were portraying us – never was that the case in-house.

“We’ve done remarkably well to be fighting and punching away like we are – not just with determination and grit, but with a real style about us.

“It’s clear that you can see a real drastic improvement in our overall game.

“There was a narrative around us at the start of this season and that narrative was probably helped by the previous time we were in this division.

“We lost two games by more than two goals, that narrative was instantly in people’s heads, ‘Oh look, it’s the same Fulham’.

“I just think people were blurred a little bit by the last time we were here. I can understand why. It was certainly an area we needed to address.”

While performances have improved, each of Fulham’s five recent games without defeat ended in draws and they are languishing four points adrift of safety.

Parker, who will have striker Aleksandar Mitrovic back from a minor hamstring problem against United, acknowledges that regularly finding the net remains a major issue and picking up single points will be insufficient to stay up.

The former England midfielder is eager to reinforce his striking options during the January transfer window but admits “time’s not on our side”.

“We’ve got draws, we now need to turn some of those draws into wins,” said Parker.

“That’s the next big challenge for us. We’ve been able to stay in games, give ourselves a platform, become a lot more solid.

“The fine margins of this division, you need to take your opportunities when they come.

“To do that, you’ve got to do the hardest thing in the game and that’s put the ball in the back of the net.

“We have one recognised striker in the building in Mitrovic. We understand where we are a little bit light.

“But this window is a tough window and time’s not on our side, really. We’ll work relentlessly hard to try and improve our attacking play.”

The visitors have not lost to Fulham for more than 11 years and travel to Craven Cottage 12 top-flight games unbeaten, a run which stretches back to the start of November.

Parker believes United have “all the ingredients” to be Premier League champions and praised rival manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for overcoming a tricky opening to the campaign.

“For Ole and the stature of club he’s at, there was probably every man and his dog wanting change or wasn’t happy with it,” Parker said of United’s poor start.

“Fair play to the resilience in Ole and his squad of players. To be sitting top of the Premier League after that is quite remarkable.

“They’ve got all the ingredients to be (champions). They’ve got a fantastic squad and players in attacking areas that can score goals and cause a lot of teams problems.

“They’re on the upward curve, momentum is firmly with them, so why not? I am sure they are right in there with the contenders.”

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