London - Fulham made a late, desperate throw of the dice in a bid to avoid relegation when they sacked Rene Meulensteen on Friday and brought in former Bayern Munich coach Felix Magath as his successor.
The London club, bottom of the Premier League and four points from safety with 12 matches left, only appointed Meulensteen on Dec. 1 when fellow Dutchman Martin Jol was fired.
“Felix is an accomplished manager with multiple honours in the Bundesliga and a hunger to replicate his success with Fulham,” owner Shahid Khan said in a statement.
“Our club has shown promise in recent matches but the fact is we have not won a league match since Jan. 1.”
Khan, an American businessman and the owner of NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars, bought Fulham from Mohamed Al Fayed in July.
“Given our form, we can no longer merely hope that our fortunes will finally turn,” said the owner.
“With 12 matches remaining and at least four points separating us from safety we certainly can no longer post empty results. Action was required.”
The Fulham statement made no mention of Meulensteen but the Dutchman told the BBC: “They have hit the panic button on emotion and fear but hey ho, that's football.
“I knew the owners were freaking out a little bit that there was the possibility of the club going down. The way forward that we have discussed with the club was about longevity and in this case it is clearly an act of fear.”
Meulensteen was assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United between 2007-13 before having an ill-fated 16-day spell in charge of Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala last year.
Fulham chief executive Alistair Mackintosh said: “The opportunity to bring in a manager with the experience of Felix Magath would typically be unlikely at this point in the season.
“However, Felix relishes this challenge. He is very impressed with our squad and commitment by Mr Khan and his confidence is precisely what we need over these final three months of the season.”
Mackintosh was heavily involved in Fulham's transfer business last month.
The club brought in seven players including their former striker Clint Dempsey, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Lewis Holtby and Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou for a club record fee that media reports put at 11 million pounds ($18.1 million).
The 60-year-old Magath, who won two Bundesliga titles with Bayern and one at VfL Wolfsburg, was widely tipped to take over at struggling German top-flight club Hamburg SV but told them on Thursday night that he was unavailable.
The controversial Magath, famous for his tough discipline, rigorous training methods and prolific transfer buying, joins Fulham with the London club on 20 points from 26 games.
They lost 3-2 at home to Liverpool on Wednesday after giving away a late penalty and picked up a creditable 2-2 draw against champions United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
“I have not had a lot of time and people who came to the United and Liverpool games could see what I was trying to put in place,” added Meulensteen.
Fulham's next fixture is a trip to fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion on Feb. 22 before they host neighbours Chelsea, who are top of the table, on March 1. – Reuters