Talk of United move is shot down by Saha

If Louis Saha is affected by the increasing speculation linking him with a move to Manchester United in the January shop window, he is not showing it. Sitting back in a swivel chair at Fulham's impressive training base in Motspur Park, the Frenchman is a picture of calm and happiness.

So he should be. Fulham have made an impressive start to the new campaign, thus banishing any further talk of impending gloom on and off the field. Saha admits that there have been "very tough times" at the club recently - not least the sacking of Jean Tigana in March and the subsequent talk of the chairman Mohamed Al Fayed walking out - but believes that Fulham are finally in a position to fulfil their potential.

"Everything is in place for me to stay," says Saha, who will be offered a new contract in the next couple of weeks. "We've had a great start to the season and I am in a superb position at Fulham, so there is no reason to think about going anywhere."

No one doubts Saha's loyalty, but one wonders how he copes with the growing rumours surrounding a possible transfer to Old Trafford or today's League opponents Arsenal. "It doesn't worry me at all," is Saha's nonchalant response. "I see these stories every day and it just drives me to play better for Fulham. I like hearing that big clubs are interested in me, because it makes me knuckle down and work even harder."

Saha concedes that his feelings have changed radically since August, when the new manager Chris Coleman was about to embark on his maiden season in the hot seat and Fulham seemed to be heading for another difficult League campaign. "It's true that it would have been difficult to stay had things continued the way they were," says Saha, referring to Fulham's brush with relegation at the end of last season. "Every player here has ambitions and wants to play at the highest level. Going back down to the First Division would have been a disaster."

Playing matters aside, the 25-year-old striker was also very upset about Tigana's sacking. Saha, along with the likes of midfielder Sean Davis - who has only just come off the transfer list - felt that the architect behind the club's recent success had been disposed of far too carelessly. "I think that each and every player was disappointed by the manner in which Jean left," says Saha, who still keeps in touch with the man who brought him to the club in June 2000.

"Jean was responsible for taking us to the top, and he deserved better. It was very tough for us and I could certainly understand why certain players like Sean [Davis] wanted to leave. But we're a group again now, and I think that everyone at the club wakes up with a slightly wider smile every morning."

Unity seems to be the new buzzword at Fulham, thanks in the main to their fledgling manager. In keeping with that fresh spirit, Saha is quick to point out that his eight goals in 13 League games are the product of his team-mates' endeavours. "The reason why I've had a much more regular campaign is that everyone at the club is giving their all at the moment," he says. "So far as spirit and combativeness are concerned, we're performing at an unbelievably high level. I'm getting the goals, but this has definitely been a team effort."

Saha is being modest. True, Fulham have pulled together, but he deserves credit for the way he has reinvented himself as a lone striker. "Now that we play a 4-5-1 system," he explains, "I have to be a much more complete centre-forward. I have to hold the ball up better, make more runs, come to get the ball a lot deeper, and take my chances when I get them. It's been a real challenge, and I've had to work hard to adapt, but I think I'm there now and I've enjoyed it."

Coleman believes that we are now seeing "the real Louis Saha", the Saha who terrorised defences and scored 32 goals when Fulham won the First Division title in 2001. "Louis is realising his potential," the top flight's youngest manager says. "He understands how the Premiership works, and that's made all the difference to his goal scoring. But he deserves his success. He's always the first on the training field and the last off. He's been different class for me."

Saha will have to perform at his very best again today, when Fulham travel to Highbury to take on an Arsenal team who put five past Internazionale at the San Siro in midweek. "This may sound strange," Saha smiles, "but I think it's almost the best time to play them because we have nothing to lose. We will be away against a great team, so I think we'll be totally liberated. We won't be scared, and I feel we could repeat our result against Man U."

The key to that 3-1 win at Old Trafford earlier this month was keeping Ruud van Nistelrooy quiet, and the same discipline will be required against Thierry Henry, who has been shortlisted for the World Player of the Year award. "He's the most complete striker in the world right now," says Saha, who was at France's national academy in Clairefontaine with Henry, and hopes to join his friend with the senior team one day. "I am not surprised by his success. Mentally and physically, he is a monster. He is a real competitor and, with his ability, he could score five goals every weekend."

Saha, for his part, would settle for one today.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone