Marco Silva exclusive: Fulham manager on building Craven Cottage legacy and damaging Liverpool’s title hopes

Marco Silva on building a legacy at Fulham, coping without Aleksandar Mitrovic, his belief in Rodrigo Muniz and his strong record against Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool; watch Fulham vs Liverpool on Sky Sports Premier League from 4pm on Sunday, kick-off at 4.30pm

It seems a long time ago Marco Silva was billed as the next Jose Mourinho. Perhaps it feels like it for the straight-talking Portuguese too.

Perhaps it feels even longer now he is managing a fourth top-flight club in the seven years since his first, Hull in 2017. And that is without mentioning an 18-month spell out of the game.

In each of those roles, at Hull, Watford and Everton, he left a lingering feeling that something remained untapped. That once he found the right club, and they found the right Marco, he would build some kind of lasting legacy.

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Up to that point he had spent more than 18 months at only one club – his first, Estoril. In three years, he took them from the Portuguese second tier to the Europa League.

In February, his spell at Fulham finally eclipsed that spell as his longest in any one job.

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He has already ticked off promotion at Craven Cottage. A repeat run to Europe probably remains elusive, but that long-awaited legacy is being built on the banks of the Thames. Back-to-back top-10 finishes remain a realistic possibility – something Fulham have not managed for 12 years.

Legacy is a word Silva himself has previously used to express what he wants to achieve in west London. And now he is finally realising a longevity he has sought for almost a decade.

“It gives you real satisfaction and pride,” he tells Sky Sports from the club’s Motspur Park base. “When I first joined the club, the mood was really down after a really tough season where the club had only won five games.

“You can imagine how it starts. The coaches, the staff, the players – that was the moment everyone needed a lift. The best way to do it was by winning games and with the style of football. Now everyone is enjoying what we are doing – the players, the fans and ourselves.

“[That longevity] has not been at some clubs because at some moments, you and they have to take decisions. Some clubs want you to stay, some don’t. The reality is that in every club we have been able to have a fast impact, which has always been very good.

“Afterwards, if you keep going – even with some doubts – it’s normal that results are going to be like we saw at my first club Estoril. And now at Fulham too.”

Some Fulham fans talk of Silva as the club’s best ever manager. Better even than Roy Hodgson, and his march to the Europa League finals.

Side-by-side, Hodgson’s achievements appear far grander. In deeper context, Silva’s Fulham have had to survive without an irreplaceable striker, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and with what he admits were unwanted distractions over the futures of several other key players last summer.

That the Cottagers could match the points tally of their first season back in the top flight would represent something bigger than it may appear on the surface.

“Mitro had a huge impact on this club since I joined, it was not planned to lose him,” Silva says. “With all that noise in pre-season, it was tough not having that focus there should be to prepare.

“Even after winning our first game, our start was not the level we are at now. To match what we did last season would be a big achievement.”

Even without the 14 goals of their star striker Fulham could easily score more this season than last. The goals have been shared around more this campaign, something Silva says is as much out of design than necessity.

But in the second half of the season, the sudden impact of Rodrigo Muniz has played a major part too.

There was interest in the Brazilian in January but despite 11 Premier League games and no goals, Silva was not interested in selling the 22-year-old prodigy.

Two days after the transfer window shut, both were rewarded as he broke his duck against Burnley, a goal which brought the young striker to tears. Something clicked, and seven more have followed in the last 11 matches.

“We had very good offers from him, both to sell him and take him on loan but the answer was always no,” Silva reveals.

“I had a conversation with him last summer, after his loan at Middlesbrough, and again in January saying we wanted to keep him here.

“He showed from the start of pre-season he was back, and he was back really strongly. There were some ups and downs, but we saw he was capable of doing what he’s doing now. Sometimes you just need the confidence to grow.”

Liverpool are next up at Craven Cottage, a team Silva knows will be hurting following both domestic and European disappointments over the last week.

Jurgen Klopp may not relish the pair’s final Premier League meeting either, given Silva has taken points off his side with each of the four English clubs he has managed.

Even in three wins from five meetings since Fulham’s promotion, Liverpool’s victories have have only come by the odd goal on each occasion and they were 3-2 down with three minutes to go at Anfield earlier this season.

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Fulham head coach Marco Silva believes his squad is in the best place they could be to make life difficult for Liverpool on Sunday

Those kind of performances, and results, will likely only build Fulham’s belief of finally beating the Reds at Craven Cottage for the first time since 2011 to derail their title hopes further.

“Our players know it, Liverpool know it as well, we are going to face a strong reaction from them after their recent games,” Silva says. “It will be even more difficult after those results, but we know we can hurt them.

“It’s going to be tough for them – and Liverpool know every time they come to Craven Cottage how difficult it is to play against us.

“I haven’t changed many things in my teams down the years. We have improved, worked on how to be stronger, be better teams, but that ambition and desire has always been there.

“It’s one of the reasons we have been strong against some managers, and Jurgen is one of them.”

That steadfast nature, stubbornness at times, has had its ups and downs in Silva’s managerial career. Now, it’s finally paying off.

There is no question he is building a legacy at Craven Cottage. He might yet put a dent in Klopp’s at Anfield.

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