EPL

Rashford rivals Haaland for Player of the Month award amid Man Utd revival

By Sports Desk January 05, 2023

Marcus Rashford joined Erling Haaland in being nominated for the Premier League's Player of the Month award for November and December after a strong run of form for Manchester United.

With the 2022 World Cup necessitating a seven-week break for elite club football, performances from either side of the tournament contributed towards the nominations.

Having scored three times during England's campaign in Qatar, Rashford hit the ground running on his return to club football by claiming a goal and an assist against Nottingham Forest before netting the winner at Wolves in United's final game of 2022.

Rashford – who was named Player of the Month in September – will face fierce competition for the award from Haaland, who scored four goals in four games for rivals Manchester City either side of the World Cup break.

Casemiro joins his United team-mate Rashford on the shortlist after helping Erik ten Hag's resurgent side win three of their four games throughout November and December.

Meanwhile, leaders Arsenal have strong representation from two nominees, with captain Martin Odegaard on the shortlist after recording six goal contributions (three goals, three assists) during this period – the most of any Premier League player.

Bukayo Saka is also in contention after netting in the Gunners' crucial victories against West Ham and Brighton and Hove Albion over the festive period.

Newcastle United's Kieran Trippier, Brentford defender Ben Mee and Fulham's Joao Palhinha complete the eight-man shortlist for the prize, which will be awarded next week.

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    Pep Guardiola has bluntly responded to Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s aim to knock Manchester City “off their perch” by pointing out he speaks “the truth”.

    Ratcliffe completed his purchase of a 27.7 per cent in Manchester United this week and immediately set out his ambitions to restore the club to the top of the English and European game.

    He did this by reprising the language of Sir Alex Ferguson, who similarly pledged to rein in Liverpool in his early days as manager at Old Trafford.

    United have won just one trophy compared to City’s 14 in the past six seasons and Guardiola feels Ratcliffe’s acceptance of the Blues’ current pre-eminent status is the Red Devils’ first step towards a fightback.

    The City manager said: “It’s the truth! As (soon) as the teams admit it, they will be closer to us.

    “If they want to deny it for things that are not the reality then it’s their problem. It’s not our problem.

    “When I’ve been below teams I’ve always admired them and thought about what we need to do to be close, to challenge them.

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    “The period of Sir Alex Ferguson – the generation with Roy Keane, David Beckham, Gary Neville – and all those big, big players, Rio Ferdinand – I’m pretty sure City admired and thought ‘we want to be there’. Now we are there.

    “That’s why, for these type of comments, that I have the feeling that they will be back.”

    While Guardiola now expects United to improve under the guidance of Ratcliffe, who has taken control of footballing operations at Old Trafford, he insisted it was not something that concerned him.

    The Spaniard said: “It’s not about (being) worried. I’m pretty sure with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the other people that United are going to take a step forwards.

    “I feel that they know exactly what they have to do, appoint the people they need to appoint with their experience in the business world to make projects better.

    “But that is normal. It’s not just United. All the teams want it. We want to be there and as long as I’m here, we will try to be there again.

    “What I want is Man City, my team, being there. The rest, I don’t care.”

    Second-placed City travel to Bournemouth in the Premier League on Saturday with a chance to cut the gap to leaders Liverpool to one point in what is their game in hand.

    Playmaker Kevin De Bruyne was not risked in the midweek win over Brentford due to what Guardiola described as “niggles”.

    He would not confirm if he would return this weekend but said he was “pretty sure he will travel”.

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    The in-form 21-year-old, who had scored seven goals in his last six appearances for United, will sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Fulham and Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Nottingham Forest.

    United said the Denmark international is expected to miss two to three weeks, a timeframe that would also rule him out of the trip to the Etihad Stadium a week on Sunday.

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    Ten Hag was speaking for the first time since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s purchase of a minority stake in the club was ratified and after the billionaire gave a wide-ranging interview in midweek in which he laid out ambitious plans to knock the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool “off their perch”.

    Ten Hag said he and Ratcliffe, whose Ineos group have taken control of footballing operations following the deal, are on the same page.

    “We speak a lot, we have many conversations with him and with Dave Brailsford (Ineos director of sport) about this club, about the team about the structures,” he said. “We are very aligned. Their ambitions fit with the ambitions I have, with the ambitions I had when I came in.

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    And the Dutchman denied that he would find himself under increased pressure given the expectations that Ratcliffe will have for the club. United have won four in a row in the league but remain five points adrift of the top four.

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    “Of course that is an issue but other clubs have this and we have to deal with this,” Ten Hag said. “I feel we can deal with it better but still it’s an issue with the depth of the squad, and the squad have to prove it.”

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    “The number one stated aim of the regulator is to secure the financial sustainability of the football pyramid,” Fair Game’s director of advocacy Mike Baker said in a statement issued on Friday.

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