FA Cup win still isn’t enough to save Ten Hag

The Dutchman have a possible escape route since former side Ajax Amsterdam have him on their shortlist to take over should he be dismissed.

In Summary

• Takehiro Tomiyasu has accepted a new contract which will keep him at Arsenal until 2026. 

• Barcelona have been showing considerable interest in Liverpool’s Luis Diaz and have twice sent scouts to the northeast of England to watch him.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag
Image: /FILE

It was a great privilege to sit at Old Trafford and watch the exciting FA Cup tie between Man United and Liverpool.

It was clear the United players are backing their coach Erik Ten Hag despite talk that he will be replaced in the summer. United proved that, on their day, they are a match for any team.

However, after the match, I spoke with several of my contacts inside the club and there is a feeling that even a match such as this and United getting through to the Cup semi-final won’t save Ten Hag. I was interested to see new 25 per cent owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s main man at Old Trafford, Sir Dave Brailsford, sitting straight-faced for most of the match although even he threw his arms in the air at the final whistle.

If United had lost, it would have been the end for the coach but the win has bought him some time but probably not after the end of the season. Ratcliffe has drawn a list of possible replacements. The word is strong that England coach Gareth Southgate is Ratcliffe’s favourite to succeed Ten Hag.

The Dutchman have a possible escape route since former side Ajax Amsterdam have him on their shortlist to take over should he be dismissed.

Sunday’s brilliant, entertaining match was a thrill for the fans but Ratcliffe and Brailsford are businessmen and, in reality, only a successful run until the end of the season — United would need to climb above Tottenham or Aston Villa into the Champions League places — will save his job.

Financially big clubs with huge overheads, such as United, need Champions League football and the cash rewards it brings. Probably the most important match for United to win now is the one against Liverpool on April 7 but in reality, they cannot afford to lose another match.

Takehiro Tomiyasu
Takehiro Tomiyasu

New deal for Tomiyasu at Arsenal

Takehiro Tomiyasu has accepted a new contract which will keep him at Arsenal until 2026. The 25-year-old has been on the Gunners’ injury list since the Asian Cup but his form before that was excellent. The Japan defender has played 73 games for Arsenal since he arrived from Italy’s Serie A team Bologna in 2021. Mikel Arteta is pleased to have Tomiyasu, who can play anywhere across the backline.

Arteta focused on his ‘natural ability, strength, attitude and mentality’ adding that his ‘values are first-class.” Tomiyasu is expected to be fit for the Manchester City game on March 31. Summer signing Jurrien Timber is also close to returning to first-team training.

Eriksen speaks to Ten Hag about his playing time

With the sensational rise of Kobbi Mainoo in the heart of Manchester United’s midfield, Christian Eriksen has found himself as an unused sub in the last six Premier League games. He only featured in the FA Cup match against Liverpool, off the bench. Erik Ten Hag has preferred to start with Casemiro alongside either Mainoo or Scott McTominay.

Eriksen has one year left on his contract and he has had a heart-to-heart meeting with Ten Hag and explained that he wants more playing time. Such is Mainoo’s spectacular rise, he has been selected for England’s senior national team squad at 18.

Cole Palmer
Cole Palmer

Palmer is about to double his salary

Following his move from Manchester City and hitting a rich run of form with Chelsea, Cole Palmer has earned himself a big pay rise.

The England man joined the Blues on a seven-year deal worth £75k-a-week after signing a contract which cost Chelsea a £42.4million transfer fee.

Palmer is still only 21 but he can expect to double his current salary which brings his take-home pay closer to the sums earned by some underperforming players at the club.

Barca told ‘hands-off’ Diaz

Barcelona have been showing considerable interest in Liverpool’s Luis Diaz and have twice sent scouts to the northeast of England to watch him.

However, Liverpool have told Barca president Joan Laporta “hands off”, he is not for sale. There have been reports coming from Diaz’s homeland of Columbia that Laporta has also spoken with his advisors.

Barca are, however, in a financial crisis and it is difficult to see how they could pay for him even if Liverpool were open to selling their winger.

Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez
Liverpool forward Darwin Nunez

Nunez joins Liverpool’s injury list

Darwin Nunez has withdrawn from the Uruguay national squad after picking up a hamstring injury during United’s dramatic win over Liverpool.

The Red’s next game is at home against Brighton on March 31 and the medical team are fighting to get him fit.

Coach Jurgen Klopp said: “We had some problems. Lucho (Luis Diaz) had a groin pain, Darwin his hamstring and Cody Gakpo twisted his ankle. We now have a crazy schedule with three games in eight days and we still have eight players out injured and that does not include the casualties from the FA Cup quarterfinal.”

Players who could be on the move

Speaking with clubs this week I learned that Mikel Arteta has now cooled his interest in signing Brentford’s Ivan Toney who will leave the Bees whether they avoid relegation or not.

Chelsea are keen to take him to Stamford Bridge and Tottenham are still searching for a Harry Kane replacement so they are keeping their interest alive. Arsenal are now looking at Sporting Lisbon’s Swedish star Victor Gyokeres, 25.

Tottenham’s Timo Werner has spoken to the manager and asked for his loan from RB Leipzig to be made permanent. Timo has been showing signs of improvement under Ange Postecoglou.

Fury over Forest four-point deduction

The four-point deduction for Nottingham Forest for breaking the Fair Play rules is unfair to staff and supporters.

To emphasise how devastating this is for the club fighting a relegation battle, the deduction news was withheld from the players for three days so that their performances in last Saturday’s match against Luton were not affected.

Football is being run by lawyers and accountants who make decisions which impact the clubs and their fans. Four points is the equivalent of a win and a draw, something Forest would eagerly jump at given their precarious position in the table.

Forest have beaten five clubs this season, Everton, Palace, Newcastle, Sheffield United and Brighton…and in none of those matches, did they walk away with four points!

And who are these people who decided that Forest lose four points or Everton six points earlier this season? They are called an independent panel which largely consists of lawyers and accountants!

Forest and several other PL clubs say the Fair Play Rules are unfair to clubs, players, fans and investors. The rules are in desperate need of change.

One ridiculous fact is that Forest have until May 24 to appeal. The season ends on May 19 so it is quite possible that as the gates are closed on the final day of the season, we might not know which clubs are relegated until the lawyers and accountants have had their say.

Everton players
Everton players

Everton working in the sun

Taking advantage of the international break Everton jetted out early to Portugal to begin their “working” international break.

On arriving in the sunshine, the team checked into their hotel and went straight to a training pitch to begin working on their end-of-season run-in and, hopefully, avoid relegation.

On the first day, coach Sean Dyche worked with Abdoulaye Doucoure, who hadn’t scored for three months but is still the club’s top scorer. Jarrad Braithwaite worked on a weights session in the gym to build up his muscle strength and because the club left early, England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, joined the group but will return to the national squad for the friendly against Brazil.

Everton have gone 11 games without a win following their 2-0 defeat to Manchester United. Their next game is away at Bournemouth on March 30.

Fernandes says no to yellow cards for shirt removal

I have heard players criticising receiving a yellow card for removing their shirt during a goal celebration. This week it was the turn of Bruno Fernandes who said the rule “had to change.”

Scoring Manchester United’s dramatic late winner at the weekend against hot rivals Liverpool, Amad Diallo was sent off for a second caution.

Fernandes said: “Unfortunately, he got sent off but it’s part of the moment and part of being young. The moment has to be enjoyed and I think it is one of the rules that has to change because you should be able to celebrate a goal but obviously with respect to the opponents.”

Diallo revealed he had played and scored that dramatic late winner against bitter rivals, Liverpool, whilst fasting during Ramadan. That meant no food or drink (including water) from dawn until sunset. What a player!

Ivan Toney
Ivan Toney
Image: /BBC

Frank praises his Bees

Brentford fans have been used to success over the past few seasons with coach Thomas Frank taking them to new levels of performance.

However, 12 defeats in 15 Premier League games have taken away some of the gloss. The Bees are only four points above the relegation zone and they have tough fixtures — against Manchester United,

Brighton and Aston Villa — coming up. Frank said he was proud of how his men fought in the 2-1 loss to Burnley.

“I got everyone together, players and staff, in a huddle after the game and said I was very proud of the performance and the mentality. We played with ten men for 100 minutes and came close to a point. I am pleased with the way the team coped under difficult circumstances.”