Norwich striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel was once a target for Manchester United, reveals Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen

The Fulham boss is a big admirer of the Dutchman

Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen was surprised to see compatriot Ricky van Wolfswinkel join Norwich in the summer - and revealed he had once been on Manchester United's radar.

The 24-year-old became the Canaries' record signing when he moved to Carrow Road from Sporting Lisbon in the summer, but has endured an injury-hit start to his career in English football.

Van Wolfswinkel still only has one Norwich goal to his name, but is in contention to face Fulham on Boxing Day after coming off the bench in Saturday's goalless draw at Sunderland following almost two months out with a toe injury.

Meulensteen knows a lot about the Holland striker and feels the Canaries pulled off something of a coup when they secured his services.

When asked if he was surprised when Van Wolfswinkel joined Norwich, Meulensteen said: "I was, to be fairly honest.

"Obviously I know him and know the Dutch league very well and he has an eye for goal and is really good in and around the box and is a quick and clinical finisher - he showed that at Sporting Lisbon.

"I thought at some point he would be heading for the Barclays Premier League or the Bundesliga, but it was a bit of a surprise. My first thought was that Norwich had done well there but it shows again how keen players are to play in the Premier League."

Meulensteen, who spent a total of 11 years as a coach at Manchester United before leaving the club following Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, admitted Van Wolfswinkel had caught the attention of those in and around Old Trafford.

"We had definitely discussed him," said the Dutchman, who has overseen one win in four games since taking charge at Fulham.

"I don't think it was ever to the stage that we needed to do something as we obviously had fantastic strikers at the club and, at a club like Manchester United where you have got top, top strikers, when you bring someone in he needs to be better than you have already got."

Norwich have taken five points since losing heavily at Liverpool last month, and Meulensteen is expecting a stern test at Carrow Road.

"It is going to be difficult," said the 49-year-old, whose side then travel to Hull on Saturday before a New Year's Day clash at home to West Ham.

"Let there be no mistake - the games are crucial and, from a different category to the Spurs, Everton and City games, but they are going to be equally difficult because that is what the Premier League is about.

"Most Premier League teams have gathered good squads and (Norwich boss) Chris (Hughton) did an amazing job last year and he is at it again - two draws and a win and it is a difficult place to go to. They will be looking at getting as much out of the game as we do, but we do fancy our chances."

Anything less than a win for Fulham is likely to see them remain inside the bottom three following a run of one win in nine league outings, whereas victory for Chris Hughton's Canaries could see them move in to the top half of the table.

PA

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