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Ten Hag calls on United board to strengthen squad

Sir James Ratcliffe and his INEOS company management installed at Old Trafford are carrying out a review of the whole 2023/4 season during which Erik…

Sir James Ratcliffe and his INEOS company management installed at Old Trafford are carrying out a review of the whole 2023/4 season during which Erik Ten Hag’s future will be decided. Winning the FA Cup has gained him a lot of fan support and delight for the owners but it is ultimately Ratcliffe and co who will make the decision.

Despite the possibility he will no longer be in charge at Old Trafford, Ten Hag has called on the United management to study his proposal for summer additions to the team.

Ten Hag’s brilliant FA Cup strategy to defeat Pep Guardiola’s world class Manchester City begged the question of where that quality had been all season? No doubt the directors were thinking the same thing. If United had played like they did in the FA Cup final, Ten Hag would not be in the precarious position he finds himself in. By the time you read this column he could be on his bike pedalling out of Old Trafford for the last time or he could be arranging his desk for next season.

Ten Hag can be credited by introducing and improving his two best young players for the season: Kobbi Mainoo and striker Garnacho.

Ten Hag’s complaint is that his squad does not have the depth of quality to compete with the likes of Arsenal, City and Liverpool. Whether new owners INEOS agree and back him remains a big question.

By the time you read this column you might know the answer.

Cancelo is facing a difficult summer

After his famous fallout with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Joao Cancelo was loaned out to Bayern Munich and then on to Barcelona. The Portugese full-back did well in Xavi Hernandez’s Barca team making 41 appearances and scoring eight goals.

Xavi will not lead Barca next season and there is no permanent deal option for the Spanish giants to buy Cancelo and he still has three years left on his City contract. There seems little chance of him returning to the Catalan capital because Xavi’s replacement Hansi Flick is not an admirer of Cancelo. The German boss has doubts over his defensive abilities and is likely to look elsewhere for a new full-back. Given that he has already been to Bayern, cannot return to play for City and will likely not return to Barcelona, it is difficult to predict his future.

What persuaded McKenna to stay at Ipswich

A close working relationship and friendship with Ipswich CEO Mark Ashton, the huge loyalty shown by fans and the total commitment of his players, persuaded Kieran McKenna to sign a new deal at Ipswich Town. Being offered four times his current £700k a year salary also played its part. McKenna and Ashton are now meeting daily to decide which players they need to sign in order to strengthen Town in readiness for their return to the Premier League. McKenna had been linked with Brighton, Chelsea and Manchester United but only United genuinely interested him but he decided that would be a career move for the future given all the current changes happening at Old Trafford. 

Hudson-Odoi interests Spurs

Callum Hudson-Odoi was transferred from Chelsea to Nottingham Forest for a bargain price of £3million last year. Since then he has been excellent for Forest, scored eight goals and is a regular starter. Tottenham sent scouts to watch Callum at the end of the season and have now registered their interest in signing the 23 year-old. 

Villa secure Emery until 2029

Aston Villa coach Unai Emery has signed a new five-year deal pledging his services until 2029. Villa’s co-owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens worked tirelessly to secure Emery’s signature on a new contract after a very successful 2023/4 campaign. Villa qualified for Champions League football for the first time since 1982/3 season after finishing fourth in the Premier League. His reward is total control of footballing matters but working closely with Villa’s president of football Monchi and director of football operations Damian Vidagany.

**Villa are actively pursuing Ross Barkley to return to Villa Park as his one year deal with relegated Luton ends in two weeks. Barkley is a free agent and he has also attracted interest from Manchester United. Villa are close to a deal for the 30 year-old midfielder where he previously made 24 appearances and scored three goals in the 2020/21 season. He was voted Luton’s Player of the Year last season but could not prevent their relegation. He scored five goals and made six assists.  

Joao Felix offered in exchange for Greenwood

Manchester United are in talks with Atletico Madrid who want to sign Mason Greenwood. Attacking midfielder Joao Felix is being offered as an exchange after spending the last two seasons on loan at Chelsea and Barcelona. Greenwood joined Spanish side Getafe after his off-field private life made it impossible for him to continue at Old Trafford and he has scored 10 goals in 36 appearances. Several European clubs have been tracking Mason including Juventus, Napoli and Borsussia Dortmund and he has 12 months left on his United contract.  

Liverpool’s Alcantara possibly going to Barca

Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara is watching the developing situation at Barcelona. With his former boss Hansi Flick confirmed as Xavi’s successor, Thiago could be on his way back to Spain.

Xavi, a club legend, left the club last Sunday and Barca is looking to secure the services of Alcantara as one of the backroom staff because he can communicate with players in German and Spanish.

The situation is complicated because he wants to keep playing at an elite level. He played for Flick when Bayern won the Champions League in 2020.  

Joe Hart calls it a day

After his glory days keeping goal at Manchester City and England’s national team, Joe Hart has decided that at 35 years-of-age it is time to say goodbye to first team football.

Hart played his last game for Celtic at the weekend and this year has won League winners and  Scottish Cup medals.

Hart was in tears after ending his 21-year career at the top level. He said, “Football has been everything to me and it’s everything I am as a person. I’ll have to find out who I am now. I’ll miss it one day but right now I have so much joy and thanks to everyone who made it special for me. I’m super proud.” 

Matip due to say goodbye to Liverpool

Joel Matip is one of the most popular players at Liverpool, so much so that when they are travelling to an away game on the club coach players often sing “So glad Joel is a Red” and it is something of which he is proud. His current deal ends this month and despite Jurgen Klopp saying Liverpool should extend his contract the club have taken a different view, based on his poor injury history. Joel saw his season end prematurely when he injured his ACL in early December when Liverpool beat Fulham 4-3. Football is a sport where fans wear their hearts on their sleeves but clubs have to be more realistic and although Matip is not one of the big earners Liverpool decided he would probably not reach the high level he achieved when he was regularly partnering Virgil Van Dijk in the centre of defence.

Joel expressed his desire to stay and many will say the club have shown him no loyalty but that is the way football is operated these days. They have looked at two simple facts: Joel is injury prone and his long time on the medical list this season has influenced the club decision. He is also 33 years-of-age this season which means his long-term value to the club is very limited.

 

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