Former Fergie right-hand man to assist new Socceroos boss Arnold

One of Sir Alex Ferguson's closest assistants has been hired to help new Socceroos coach Graham Arnold defend Australia's title at January's Asian Cup and build towards the next World Cup.

Dutchman Rene Meulensteen, the former Fulham manager, will be based in Europe as assistant coach and take responsibility for players plying their trade there, Football Federation Australia said Thursday.

Meulensteen was Ferguson's technical coach then assistant manager at Manchester United for nearly 400 games, helping them secure three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown.

He has also managed teams in Qatar, Denmark, Russia, Israel, and India and now hooks up with Arnold, who has taken over after Bert van Marwijk's temporary role as coach during the World Cup in Russia.

"We are entering another important period of our game with the Asian Cup just over four months away," said Arnold in his first media conference since assuming his new job.

"Our new management team will play a vital role in ensuring we are best prepared to defend our Asian title and develop players for the future.

"We have some excellent talent emerging in Australia and also many young Australians who are playing overseas, so having someone with Rene's stature based in Europe will open doors to ensure we are identifying the right talent at the right time."

Australia ended the recent World Cup without a win -- the third consecutive time they have failed to make it beyond the group stage since making the last 16 in 2006.

The Socceroos next task is the Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in January, where they will be defending the title they won on home soil in 2015.