Manager on Monday

Gianfranco Zola will make sure his team channel all their energies on the two important away fixtures at Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers over the next ten days.

"They know that Saturday was a different contest," he said, reflecting on the 4-0 defeat by high-flying champions Manchester United. "The games that have real value are the games we are facing now.

"The players will be all right. We will be working on their confidence because they don't have to be affected by this. The game we play on Saturday is the one that really matters for us."

The manager could have captain Matthew Upson and Mark Noble back in contention at least for the weekend trip to St Andrews and will have taken heart from substitute returns for Alessandro Diamanti and Kieron Dyer. He is certainly looking forward rather than dwelling on what is past. "Maybe the result is too hard. No doubt though that they were better than us," he added.

Zola manager knows it is vital that his players are as prepared as possible for both matches. "These are the games that will really make a difference for us. So, starting from the game we play on Saturday, we have to forget quickly about Manchester United. They are obviously on a different level.

"Saturday is a big match so we need to pick ourselves up straight away, because we need a very big performance. Right now we are there [near the bottom]. We have we have to realise that is the situation right now. We need to make an effort to get out from that position straight away."

While the Hammers are at the wrong end of the table, Zola has the experience of seeing his side climb from exactly the same position a year ago to finish the season in ninth position. As such, the manager knows two positive results over the coming ten days could alter the face of the campaign.

"If you see the position, there are teams on 17 points who are in the middle of the table almost, so it depends. If you get a couple of results, it changes. It's not only difficult for us to make points, it is difficult for others as well. It's just down to us. We need to find a little bit more consistency and also have less injuries. That would help."

Zavon Hines was forced off during Saturday's defeat with a knee injury but the manager said it was too soon to know the extent. "Zavon has a knee problem," he said. "I felt sorry for him because he wanted to play and he gave everything and I think he was excellent. Now we don't know what it's going to be. I don't know if he'll need an operation."

With five games still to play this month, the manager was not focusing too much on the possibility of bringing in players at the moment.  'We'll see what happens," he said before reflecting further on Saturday's reverse. He paid tribute to the efforts of his team - featuring four Academy graduates - in trying to stifle the three-time Barclays Premier League champions.

"I did not criticise them at all. There was no criticism for anything. They played the game we asked them to and their commitment was fantastic. Ok, the game was on at 2-0 and we had to try something. We played a little bit more offensive and that's what Manchester United was expecting."

Zola also found time to praise the performances of United veterans Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, suggesting the pair were setting examples his own young players would do well to follow

"A player like Scholes, I'd like to see him play for a long time. He's a fantastic competitor and his goal killed us. They are champions because they have players like him. They never give up. They know how to win the games and that was the story. They might be 35 and 36 but they don't look like it."