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Iheanacho sends Leicester into FA Cup fifth round, Leeds also win

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Kelechi Iheanacho spared Leicester City from a potential FA Cup giant-killing as his second-half goal saw the Foxes beat fourth-tier Walsall 1-0 and progress to the fifth round on Saturday, while Leeds advanced with a 3-1 win over Accrington Stanley.

Top-flight Fulham were in danger of losing to visiting Championship (second-tier) team Sunderland but salvaged a 1-1 draw thanks to Tom Cairney’s equaliser at Craven Cottage.

Southampton put their Premier League woes aside to beat Championship strugglers Blackpool 2-1 while Bristol City eased to a 3-0 win over fellow second-tier side West Bromwich Albion.

Leicester, who beat fourth-tier strugglers Gillingham with an Iheanacho goal in round three, faced a stern test from a hard-working, high-energy Walsall outfit.

It took 30 minutes for Leicester to get a shot on target and a frustrating afternoon was made worse as Belgium midfielder Youri Tielemans’ struck a penalty against the post after Patson Daka was fouled inside the box.

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Second-half substitute Iheanacho unlocked Walsall when his effort from the edge of the box deflected off the back of home defender Brandon Comley, turning it into a curling, dipping ball that proved too much for goalkeeper Owen Evans to handle.

With Foxes boss Brendan Rodgers saying after the match that first-choice striker Jamie Vardy will be out for “a few weeks” after suffering a gluteal injury in training, Iheanacho, who has started once in the league this sesaon, could get his chance.

“He will get more game time with Vards out for a few weeks. It depends on the type of game we are looking to play,” Rodgers told reporters.

“He has been first class, trains virtually every day and is very rarely injured. He sometimes starts games not so good, sometimes he is a little hit and miss, but you know when he plays to a high level he is a threat.”

Leeds reached the fifth round for the first time since 2016 as they avoided a slip-up at third-tier Accrington.

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Jack Harrison put Leeds ahead with a spectacular long-range strike after 23 minutes before Junior Firpo and Luis Sinisterra scored within two minutes of each other midway through the second half to put Jesse Marsch’s men on course for victory.

Leslie Adekoya, 18, pulled one back for Accrington in the 81st with his first senior goal seconds after coming on, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation strike.

Later on Saturday, Manchester United beat Reading 3-1

– Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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FA Cup

FA Cup win could be glorious United farewell for Ten Hag

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FA Cup - Final - Manchester City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 25, 2024 Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes and manager Erik ten Hag celebrate with the trophy after winning the FA Cup Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridg

If Manchester United’s thrilling and surprise FA Cup victory over Manchester City at Wembley on Saturday was manager Erik ten Hag’s final game as their manager, then what a send-off it was.

Teenagers Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo scored to lead United to a 2-1 upset of the holders and Premier League champions as speculation swirled about Ten Hag’s future.

Although the 54-year-old Dutchman told ITV he had no doubt he would be back and has said he has received the backing of the club’s owners all season, he was less confident in his post-game press conference.

“I don’t think about this,” Ten Hag said when asked about his future. “I’m in a project and we are exactly where we want to be. We’re constructing a team. When I took over it was a mess at United, and we are on our way to construct a team for the future.

“The team is developing, the team is winning and the team also plays to an identity. What you need to play is to be available, you need a strong squad in top football, and especially when you play in England, the Premier League is so competitive.”

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Garnacho and Mainoo were two of United’s bright sparks in a disappointing season in which they finished a worst-ever eighth in the Premier League era.

The 19-year-olds were in fine form at a sun-drenched Wembley and after the final whistle defender Lisandro Martinez hoisted a grinning Ten Hag into the air to celebrate.

“We are delighted for the manager,” midfielder Scott McTominay said.

UNBEATEN RUN

Ten Hag, who kissed the trophy before lifting it in front of the United fans, became the first manager to beat Pep Guardiola’s City in a major domestic final and ended their 35-game unbeaten run in open play.

“It is a glorious feeling to win the FA Cup final at Wembley,” said United co-owner Jim Ratcliffe.

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“Manchester United clearly were not the favourites to win today but they played with total commitment and skill and overcame one of the great teams in football. We are all very proud of the players and the staff who work tirelessly to support them.”

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies (they won last season’s League Cup). If sacking after such a positive finale seems implausible, however, there is precedent.

Louis Van Gaal was fired two days after United’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Crystal Palace in 2016 after the team finished fifth in the Premier League.

“We have to keep going, and I’m not satisfied with it, we have to do better and if they don’t want me anymore, then I go anywhere else to win trophies, because that is what I did my whole career,” Ten Hag said. “That is what they always tell me.”

Guardiola had kind words for United’s manager.

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“(United) have to take a decision. So, I don’t know but of course he’s a lovely person, an extraordinary manager,” Guardiola said.

Ten Hag’s press conference ended abruptly when a reporter pointed out that eighth in the Premier League was not good enough for United.

“Sorry to say this, but you don’t have any knowledge about football, about managing a football team,” Ten Hag said. “When you don’t have the players available, then you can’t perform, so simple as that.

“And if that is the opinion, it is no problem. Then I go anywhere else and I go and keep winning trophies.”

-Reuters

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Erik ten Hag now finds his voice, “you can’t sack me, he tells Man United

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has issued a defiant response in the wake of reports claiming that Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the club hierarchy have already decided to sack him.

According to UK publication, Mirror, Erik ten Hag has warned the Manchester United hierarchy he will ‘go and win trophies somewhere else’ if he isn’t wanted.

The Dutchman’s position is understood to be in major jeopardy after overseeing the club’s worst league campaign in over 30 years, although he did end the season with a flourish by beating Manchester United in the FA Cup final.

Reports on Friday, however, suggested that Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the club’s top brass have already decided to replace the former Ajax chief – and that even winning the FA Cup would not be enough for Ten Hag to save his job.

But in the aftermath of United’s big win at Wembley, a defiant Ten Hag fired back when he was quizzed over the latest reports relating to his future.

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Speaking in his post-match press conference, Ten Hag said of rumours the club will sack him: “If they don’t want me any more, I go somewhere else and win trophies, that’s what I’ve done my whole career.”

It’s been outlined this week that the club have been sounding out potential replacements for Ten Hag with other clubs, notably Chelsea, in the market for a new manager this summer.

Sky Sports claimed that former Manchester United  coach Kieran McKenna’s representatives have already held talks with the club after the Northern Irishman guided Ipswich Town to successive promotions.

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FA Cup

Against all odds, Man Utd win FA Cup

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FA Cup - Final - Manchester City v Manchester United - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 25, 2024 Manchester United's Lisandro Martinez and manager Erik ten Hag celebrate after winning the FA Cup REUTERS/Hannah Mcka

Manchester United have won the FA Cup after a 2-1 win against city rivals, Manchester City.

The two Manchester clubs have reached the final of England’s oldest cup competition again and City were hoping to retain the trophy after winning last year’s final.

Pep Guardiola’s side had won the last three meetings between City and United and the Reds approached the FA Cup final as underdogs again – but the game didn’t go as most predicted.

Against all odds, United claimed a stunning victory against City thanks to first-half goals from Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo, which proved enough for the win.

United were outstanding and looked like a different team after a dismal season. Erik ten Hag’s tactics worked perfectly and City only started to threaten late in the second half.

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Jeremy Doku provided City with a glimmer of hope in the dying moments of the match by finding the bottom corner, but it wasn’t enough and the Blues slumped to a defeat.

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