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Man Utd out to put a spoke in Man City’s title charge –

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Man Utd Out To Put A Spoke In Man City's Title Charge -

Manchester United have the opportunity to knock Manchester City off their perch when they travel to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday even if they will not be the main beneficiaries of a surprise Premier League win.

United’s new minority owner Jim Ratcliffe laid out his plans to return the 20-time English champions to the summit when he completed his acquisition of 27% of the club’s shares this month, including re-establishing the pecking order in the city.

With 15 points separating second-placed City to sixth-placed United, that ambition might take a while to come to fruition.

United are a long way from a gripping three-way title race also featuring leaders Liverpool and Arsenal, but would take immense satisfaction at denting City’s hopes of winning a record fourth successive Premier League crown.

City, who are one point behind Liverpool and one ahead of Arsenal with 12 games left, are unbeaten in their last 18 games in all competitions and warmed up for the derby with a 6-2 FA Cup win at Luton Town in which Erling Haaland scored five times.

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United also reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in midweek and were in a decent run of league form themselves until a 2-1 home defeat by Fulham last weekend.

“We are also on a good run, the spirit is very good,” manager Erik Ten Hag said on Thursday. “We have done it before against City, also against Liverpool. We will prepare well. The players are looking forward to it. I can smell it. I’m excited.”

United were humiliated 6-3 in the fixture last season but won the home match, although they also lost to Pep Guardiola’s side in the FA Cup final with City going on to match United’s 1999 feat by completing a treble.

City, who also won 3-0 at Old Trafford in October, are in ominous form, but Ten Hag says his side can halt their charge.

“We need a great day,” he said. “We like the challenge and we are looking forward to challenge with them. We know we have to give everything and show a team performance, if we want to get the result. But if you do it, it is possible.”

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Liverpool have the advantage of playing first at the weekend with a trip to struggling Nottingham Forest on Saturday, while Arsenal go to bottom club Sheffield United on Monday.

Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool have been decimated by injuries to key players but have maintained the momentum with their League Cup final win over Chelsea last weekend and a victory over Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round on Wednesday — both of which highlighted the Anfield youth production line.

Free-scoring Arsenal, meanwhile, will be eyeing another chance to boost their goal difference against a Sheffield United side who have conceded 66 league goals this season.

The battle for Champions League qualification continues with fourth-placed Aston Villa away to Luton Town on Saturday and Tottenham Hotspur, who are five points behind with a game in hand, hosting Crystal Palace.

At the bottom, Everton will seek to crown a good week in which they had four points of their 10-point penalty for breaking financial rules returned on appeal.

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Victory at home to West Ham United could lift them eight points clear of 18th-placed Luton.

“Adding on the points going back, and then adding a win on that against West Ham, then it’ll be a very good week,” manager Sean Dyche said. “We got four back, the league table looks different, now it’s about using that wisely and stepping on.”

-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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Premier League

June 12 relief for Ten Hag…to stay at Old Trafford

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Manchester United Can Still Finish Fourth, Says Erik Ten Hag -

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag will remain in the job for next season and has entered into talks with the Old Trafford club over a contract extension despite the team’s lowest ever Premier League finish of eighth, British media reported.

The decision comes after an end-of-season review by the club’s board for the 2023-24 campaign, which finished on a high with a shock FA Cup final win over favourites Manchester City.

Ten Hag’s contract runs until the end of next season, with the club having the option of extending it a further 12 months.

Former Ajax Amsterdam coach Ten Hag had come under increasing pressure after 20-times English champions United suffered their worst start to a season since 1962-63 with eight defeats in their first 15 matches in all competitions.

They ended up eighth after 14 defeats in their 38 league games and bowed out of the Champions League in the group phase.

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Ten Hag’s job security had been the subject of speculation all season and many pundits believed the FA Cup final would be the Dutchman’s last game with the team, win or lose.

But moments after their thrilling triumph, the 54-year-old insisted he had no doubt he would be back and said he had received the backing of the club’s owners all season.

“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,” he told reporters at Wembley.

“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.”

INJURY WOES

Ten Hag pointed to United’s revolving door of injuries last term, the most of any Premier League team and concentrated in key positions such as central defence.

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He also spoke about the breakout seasons of young players such as midfielder Kobbie Mainoo, who is part of England’s Euro 2024 squad in Germany, and Argentina winger Alejandro Garnacho.

In Ten Hag’s two seasons in charge, United have played in three Wembley finals and lifted two trophies, having also won last season’s League Cup.

Media reports said that all eventualities were considered in the club’s post-season review and the clear preference was for Ten Hag to remain in charge at Old Trafford.

Among coaches linked to the job as potential replacements were Thomas Tuchel and England manager Gareth Southgate.

Ten Hag is United’s fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 as the club have searched for someone to lead them back to the heights of their glory years.

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He guided United to third in the league in his debut season

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood to flow in Chelsea veins

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Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Everton v Fulham - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - December 19, 2023 Fulham's Tosin Adarabioyo celebrates after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine

Chelsea have signed centre back Tosin Adarabioyo from fellow west London club Fulham on a free transfer, the Premier League side announced on Friday.

Adarabioyo, a former England youth international is of Nigerian descent. He is the latest Nigerian linked with Chlesea after Celestine Babayaro, Mikel Obi and Victor Moses among others.

The 26-year-old Adarabioyo who will join the Stamford Bridge side on a four-year contract beginning on July 1, has made one appearance for the England Under-19s and has played 78 times in the Premier League.

He is the first player to join Chelsea since they announced the arrival of new head coach Enzo Maresca, opens new tab earlier this week, and will bolster their options at centre back following the departure of veteran Thiago Silva.

“We are delighted to bring Tosin to Chelsea,” Chelsea co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley said.

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“Throughout his career, he has showcased his maturity and defensive qualities and has gained a wealth of experience in the Premier League in recent seasons.

“He is ready to make the step up to Chelsea and work alongside the talented players in our squad. We look forward to Tosin joining up with us for pre-season.”

Chelsea are looking to revive their fortunes under Maresca after finishing sixth in the standings last season.

“I’m looking forward to starting work with Enzo and I’m sure the boys are too,” Adarabioyo said.

“It’s going to be exciting. We’re going to play good football and win a lot of games. There are top players in this squad and I’m eager to play with them all.”

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-Reuters

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Nigerian-born Ogbonna leaves West Ham after nine-year stay

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Premier League - West Ham United v Luton Town - London Stadium, London, Britain - May 11, 2024 West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna applauds fans as he is substituted REUTERS/Tony Obrien/File Photo

West Ham United centre back Angelo Ogbonna is leaving the club after nine years in east London, the Premier League side said on Wednesday.

Ogbonna was born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy from Nigeria in 1983, settling in the city of Cassino in the central part of the country, but managed to obtain Italian citizenship only after his 18th birthday. He is now 36.

The  Italy international made 201 Premier League appearances for the club and was part of their Europa Conference League-winning side last year.

The former Juventus player struggled with several injuries during his time at West Ham, including a cruciate ligament tear suffered in 2021 that kept him out for almost a year.

“When he was not playing, Ogbonna was always a willing supporter of the club’s community work,” West Ham said in a statement. “He will always be a beloved member of the West Ham United family

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-Reuters

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