Ten Hag ‘on trial’ at Man Utd and ‘needs more than gradual improvement’ ahead of ‘acid test’

9 Feb 2024

Erik ten Hag is 'on trial' at Man Utd.
Erik ten Hag has been told he “needs more than a gradual improvement” in the remainder of the season as he’s currently “on trial” to keep his job at Manchester United.
United currently sit sixth in the Premier League having generally underwhelmed, and face an “acid test” against Aston Villa at Villa Park on Sunday.
The Red Devils are currently eight points behind Villa, who sit fourth, and would really fancy their chances of remaining in the Champions League qualification spots were they to beat Ten Hag’s side at the weekend.

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The arrival of Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos has increased the scrutiny on Ten Hag, and former Blackburn and Chelsea striker Chris Sutton reckons the Dutchman is currently “on trial” and will need his side to show significant improvement to retain his job beyond this season.
Sutton told the It’s All Kicking Off podcast: “I think he’s on trial now. I think there does come a time where you have to strip everything back and look at the performance levels this season and see how far they have regressed.
“I take your point about what you said about having his best players back. I think that that’s a fair point, but they have really been underwhelming this season. So I think he needs, if it was me, he would need more than just a gradual improvement towards the end of the season for me to keep him on.”
It looks like a good time for United to be playing Villa, who have an excellent home record but have lost their last two by the same 3-1 scoreline, to Newcastle and Chelsea.

United came from two goals down to beat Unai Emery’s side 3-2 in the reverse fixture on Boxing Day, but Sutton reckons the Villans will come out on top on Sunday in what is an “acid test” for United and Ten Hag.
“You’d say they’ve had an excellent season. Unai is done a brilliant job, but it’s about finishing the season off now,” he added.
“I was, I think I was surprised by, by them being knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea. And then (before that) they beat Sheffield United on their own patch. and beat them well, thrashed them, hammered them, and you think, right, they’re back on track. But overall, it’s been an excellent season for them, but they need to finish it off strongly.
“And of course, Manchester United, this was in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford. Villa were two up, absolutely cruising, and Manchester United turned an incredible second half performance to win the game, 3-2.
“But it’s a game which I think that Villa will win because I think that they’ll have that ability to bounce back.

Man Utd reach verdict on transfer involving Ten Hag signing as PL manager opens door to return

Harry Maguire and Christian Eriksen.
According to reports, Manchester United will not let Denmark international Christian Eriksen join Turkish giants Galatasaray this week.
The Red Devils were unable to make any signings during the January transfer window as they were being impacted by their ongoing Financial Fair Play issues.
Man Utd did manage to offload some unwanted talents, though. Jadon Sancho, Donny van de Beek and Hannibal Mejbri have departed the club on loan deals.

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It has also been suggested in recent days that Eriksen could depart the Premier League giants in the coming days amid interest from Turkish outfit Galatasaray.
Eriksen joined Man Utd during the 2022 summer transfer window on a free transfer after his short-term deal with Brentford expired.
The midfielder impressed for the Red Devils during his debut season in 2022/23 but he has slipped down the pecking order this season. He has been impacted by a knee injury as he has only made nine Premier League starts this term.
The Turkish transfer window closes on Friday and it’s been claimed that talks between Man Utd and Galatasaray over Eriksen have been ongoing ‘in great secrecy’. 
But Sky Sports have now revealed that Eriksen ‘will stay at United until the summer’ as he is ‘happy’ where he is.

‘Christian Eriksen will stay at Manchester United until the summer despite tentative interest from Galatasaray. The Denmark midfielder is understood to be happy at United and focused on the rest of the campaign.
‘The Turkish transfer window is still open and Galatasaray want a new midfielder. Eriksen has been high on their list due to his reduced playing time at United this season.
‘Galatasaray are also thought to be big admirers of Celtic’s Matt O’Riley but would not be able to afford the kind of transfer fee the Scottish champions would want.
‘O’Riley was the subject of a rejected bid from Atletico Madrid in January and is the Spanish club will continue to monitor him into the summer along with Inter Milan and clubs in the Premier League.’


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A return to Brentford could be on the cards in the future as head coach Thomas Frank has insisted that the experienced midfielder is “always welcome back” at the Gtech Community Stadium.
“He will always be welcome back! Christian will always be,” Frank told Danish magazine Tipsbladet.
“I think he knows that well. And we know he had a good time here.

How Liverpool, Man Utd and Newcastle could follow Manchester City’s multi-club ownership transfer lead

Manchester City’s loophole exploitation might give Liverpool problems in signing a Mo Salah replacement and complicate transfers for Man Utd and Newcastle.
The reported arrangement Manchester City have put in place to sign a player contracted to one of their sister clubs and on loan at another has exposed the absolute sham of the multi-club ownership model.
Might as well make it even worse by looking at the transfers other clubs in a similar situation could strike, with owners locked in high-powered, volatile negotiations with themselves.
The City Football Group is obviously unique in Premier League terms in its comprehensive collection of familial clubs across the globe, having established a broad network of teams rather than just one random club to whom they can occasionally send a couple of players on loan.
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Using Transfermarkt player values as a guide, here are the other deals involving Premier League teams in multi-club ownership models which would boil the most urine.
There has been little danger of Stan Kroenke overdoing his celebrations with the Colorado Rapids, who finished a distant bottom of the MLS Western Conference table last year. A substantial improvement is expected this upcoming season, with Zack Steffen arriving from Manchester City and a beloved former Man Utd assistant made manager.But their marquee signing thus far has been Djordje Mihailovic, the AZ midfielder who featured against Aston Villa in the Europa Conference League earlier this season. The 25-year-old only spent 12 months in the Netherlands before packing his bags for the States. And Mikel Arteta will obviously be desperate to bring him in as soon as possible.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta
© Provided by Football365
Mikel Arteta celebrates after the Gunners beat Liverpool.
Aston Villa
Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens reduced their stake in Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes in the summer, their hand forced by a UEFA ruling after both they and Aston Villa qualified for the Conference League this season. But they remain involved in that venture and might take a look at any or all of Bruno Varela, Tomas Handel or Jota Silva, the last of whom is presumably a diminutive and ludicrously effective Portuguese schemer created in a laboratory secretly co-owned by Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.  
Bill Foley spent last winter beginning his portfolio of football clubs, starting with Bournemouth in December 2022 before purchasing a significant minority stake in Lorient.That partnership has already been utilised by the Cherries, who signed right-winger-turned-left-back Dango Ouattara from the Ligue Un side for £20m in Gary O’Neil’s only transfer window.
Lorient’s slump into a relegation battle has effectively eliminated any prospect of the bigger brother in this partnership selfishly nicking one of their younger sibling’s tattered toys. But there will surely be an eye on the development of French forward Eli Junior Kroupi, whose four goals and three assists across 10 starts and a few more substitute cameos at the tender age of 17 have seen him dubbed ‘the new Dominic Solanke’ by absolutely no-one.

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Similarly to Aston Villa’s owners, Tony Bloom had to relinquish some share in his other pet project due to Union Saint-Gilloise and Brighton’s inexorable rises leading to some crossed Europa League paths.Both clubs have maximised that link: Brighton have sent six players on loan to their sister club since summer 2018, with Simon Adingra and Kaoru Mitoma in particular peppered with some necessary seasoning in Belgium.
If the Seagulls are to exploit the situation again, they would surely consider the credentials of Mohamed Amoura. The 23-year-old Algerian forward’s 20 goals and four assists in 29 appearances so far this season includes his scoring of the opener and creating of the winner against Liverpool in Europe.
‘All of our fears about the BlueCo project, confirmed in this transfer window,’ reads the translation of one banner produced by the home fans during Strasbourg’s recent defeat to Paris Saint-Germain. It turns out the supporters of a 118-year-old club are not particularly fond of it being used to, in the words of owner Todd Boehly, ‘show pathways for our young superstars to get on to the Chelsea pitch while getting them real game time’.Those ungrateful fans should be saluting the late sale of their starting goalkeeper to Nottingham Forest, and subsequent promotion of a complete novice almost ten years his junior to replace him. Where is the appreciation for two of Strasbourg’s three most valuable current players being Angelo and Andrey Santos, a pair of Chelsea-owned Brazilian teenagers parked in France for ripening?

The Blues might even be magnanimous enough to take Habib Diarra off their hands soon. It was reported by one outlet in September that Chelsea see the 20-year-old midfielder ‘as a top talent and were therefore not keen to see him move to Wolves in the summer window’.
One need not remind you, dear reader, of Chelsea’s last Premier League result, nor where that left them in the table in relation to their opponents, nor how hilarious those two pieces of context make that judgement.
Crystal Palace
The only Premier League owners with their fingers in more pies than Crystal Palace custodians John Textor and David Blitzer are Manchester City. Between them, the pair have stakes in Botafogo, RWD Molenbeek, Estoril Praia, ADO Den Haag, Real Salt Lake, Brondby, FC Augsburg and Lyon.The last of those clubs stand out, even if Lyon are scrambling around just outside the Ligue Un relegation zone. They spent the most money of any European club in the winter, a tally which does not include their loans of Orel Mangala and Said Benrahma. That pair are second and third in terms of most valuable Les Gones squad members, beaten only by exciting – albeit currently rather out of form – 20-year-old forward Rayan Cherki.

Get him in, keep Roy Hodgson and endanger some more young hamstrings.
The multi-club status of Liverpool is far less defined and embedded than that of many of their peers. They are part of the RedBird Capital Partners portfolio through that group’s purchase of a stake in FSG in 2021, the American investment firm awkwardly introducing Jurgen Klopp’s side to their new distant cousins in Toulouse and Milan, in whom RedBird boast controlling shares.Liverpool and Toulouse had to prove to UEFA that RedBird did not have sufficient influence over both clubs for them to both compete – and inevitably be drawn in the same group – in the Europa League.
Milan’s subsequent slump into Europe’s secondary competition has muddied those waters a little more but RedBird’s lack of overall involvement at Liverpool should assuage any potential concerns. It might nevertheless bring a few of the Serie A side’s players into the Anfield orbit.
Rafael Leao has frequently been mentioned as a possible replacement for Mo Salah, which feels like just enough of a vaguely tangled web to let some Manchester City and Newcastle supporters engage in some delightful whataboutery.
Man Utd
“We made some mistakes in Lausanne,” Sir Jim Ratcliffe told his newest club, Nice, in summer 2019. One INEOS-owned side has flitted between the top two Swiss divisions in recent years, while the other is currently the closest – albeit still entirely distant – challenger to PSG in Ligue Un.Man Utd would probably take some modicum of middle ground right now, as well as a few of Nice’s better players. And maybe their manager, the 34-year-old Roberto De Zerbi protege, Francesco Farioli.

As for that squad, Jean-Clair Todibo stands out as a known Old Trafford target, but Liverpool’s previous interest in Khephren Thuram during The Great Transfer Window Of Midfield Transformation might suggest he is worth a look to clean Kobbie Mainoo’s boots.
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Take your pick, really. Neymar is technically the most valuable player under the PIF’s umbrella of four Saudi clubs but the 32-year-old has, to use the official medical term, slightly borked his knee. And Newcastle injury crises as so 2023 now.The mere prospect of Ruben Neves hopping back over to the Premier League for a bit from Al-Hilal was enough to prompt a rushed mid-season vote on such examples of multi-club ownership player trading.
There is Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr but that would be awkward for those many sycophants who want to keep pretending the 39-year-old remains athletically relevant because he has figured out a Pele friendly hack for the modern era.
The Jordan Henderson option has even been sadly removed. Fabinho is probably the closest thing on that front but it is unknown whether he would betray the revolution just as easily when he realises it’s a bit humid and no-one’s actually watching.

Nottingham Forest
Evangelos Marinakis prefers to keep his families entirely intertwined rather than completely separate. Nottingham Forest have signed 11 players from Olympiacos and nine have headed in the opposite direction since they were brought into his unified bosom and told they just needed to spend some quality time together to get to know each other.The most valuable member of the Olympiacos squad is not actually owned by them but instead Porto defender David Carmo, who joined on loan in January. After that it’s Daniel Podence, who joined on loan from Wolves in the summer. And then it’s Fran Navarro, who joined on loan, again from Porto, again in January.
You have a problem, Evangelos.
Sheffield United
Prince Abdullah has been trying to source a buyer for Sheffield United to approximately no avail since they were moored in the Championship, even if the Blades are the jewel in his questionable football ownership crown.Chris Wilder might need some convincing that any of the answers to his innumerable questions lie in the squads of Beerschot, Al-Hilal United, Chateauroux or Kerala United. The leaders of the Belgian second division might lend them 20-year-old winger Tom Reyners for a bit.
West Ham
After cashing a few sizeable transfer Czechs in recent years, West Ham solidified their connection with the Republic by inviting billionaire businessman Daniel Kretinsky onto the board as a major shareholder in 2021.That tied them to Kretinsky’s other sporting venture as co-owner and president of Sparta Prague, whose only prior dealings with West Ham in the market have been to swap Vladimir Labant back and forth in the early 2000s, with the Hammers sending Tomas Repka back to his homeland a few years later.
If West Ham fancy renewing that dormant link, captain Ladislav Krejci and rather large centre-half Martin Vitik might register on the David Moyes radar. They do need some competent back-up players.

Liverpool’s worldie-addicted next local hero is ready to carry the post-Klopp torch

Liverpool are preparing for a new era and with that comes a lot of unsettling changes, but one constant they can lean on in that time is their stellar academy setup.
The Reds’ academy has quietly been one of the most efficient in world football in recent times when it comes to producing talents ready for senior football at a variety of levels.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has gone from a promising young full-back to a complete footballing anomaly with a right foot that NASA would struggle to explain, Curtis Jones is blossoming into a box-to-box beast at the highest level and now Conor Bradley has emerged to push Trent into midfield.
No matter what happens between now and the end of the season when Jurgen Klopp departs Anfield, the one thing that can’t be denied is that his successor is picking up a brilliantly built squad which is championing the best of its homegrown foundations.
That doesn’t quite tell the entire story, though.
There remains a bit of a dilemma in attack, with Mohamed Salah’s cycle coming to an end and Darwin Nunez still struggling to find a vein of consistent, world class form.
It gives Liverpool a potentially expensive headache in attack, especially if Salah leaves, but it doesn’t have to be as costly as it sounds.

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Not when the academy has done it again and produced a hometown hero with a frightening firing rate and a goal catalogue that could put life on Mars.
Jayden Danns hasn’t had much of a taste of senior football yet, but at 18, already has legacy and – crucially – a story to finish.
The son of Neil Danns, a midfielder with well over 500 senior appearances who enjoyed a career throughout England’s various professional divisions, and an international with Guyana, Jayden was picked up by Liverpool at just eight years old.
His father also played for Liverpool at youth level, but the story ended for him at 16. Not Jayden, though. Now 18, the versatile forward has found a home up at the top of the pitch and is forcing his name into headlines due to a sickening addiction to rifling in goals.
Not just any goals, either. Absolute worldies. Freakishly often.
Don’t just take our word for it, though. The teenager’s brace against Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup speaks for itself.

Liverpool’s second-generation star is also an England under-18 international and has managed 19 goals from his last 17 games at the time of writing, and watching him feels like living proof that the professional footballer gene is exactly that – something you’re born with.
His eye for a goal and instincts around the opposition penalty area are second nature. Combine that with a glorious pair of feet and a desire to strike the ball with enough venom to scare off a cobra and you’re looking at Danns.

With Salah’s future up in the air and Nunez still as chaotic as ever, now is the perfect time for Liverpool to integrate another constant from their illustrious academy to propel the team forward.
Danns is already showing a fearlessness that both frightens and impresses you in equal proportions alongside an extremely high ceiling ability-wise.
Having seen how rising ballers have taken the bull by the horns in recent months, giving the 18-year-old a chance to stake his claim in Klopp’s final months seems fitting.
He could end up being the perfect leaving present to the fans from the German.
By Mitch Wilks
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