EPL

Mauricio Pochettino calls for fairness in recovery time over festive period

By Sports Desk December 23, 2023

Mauricio Pochettino called on the Premier League to reassess the way it schedules fixtures over the Christmas period to even out the time that teams have to recover.

Chelsea face Wolves at Molineux on Christmas Eve before welcoming Crystal Palace to Stamford Bridge three days later.

Palace, by contrast, will have had double the recovery time having most recently played six days earlier on December 21 against Brighton.

Gary O’Neil’s side will also have enjoyed two extra recovery days compared with Pochettino’s team, with Chelsea having been in action against Newcastle in their Carabao Cup quarter-final on Tuesday.

The Blues will have played a total of eight games in December by the time they sign off 2023 with a game away at Luton on December 30.

Pochettino was asked whether he believed too much was expected of players over the festive period, but insisted that his priority was every team being given equitable time to recover between fixtures.

“The problem is the difference between the teams,” he said. “If we all play on the 24th or we all play on the 27th, we are in the same circumstance.

“But the problem is that one plays (on the 21st) another on the 27th. That is a big disadvantage or advantage. But I don’t complain.

“The problem is to organise the situation better, because it’s not fair. It’s not to make an excuse, not to open the umbrella before the rain.

“But come on, it’s a fact. It’s the reality.”

The manager reiterated his call for patience with summer signing Christopher Nkunku after he made a long-awaited debut during Tuesday’s quarter-final win.

The 26-year-old performed well on Chelsea’s pre-season United States tour before picking up a knee injury which required surgery.

Since then, the team have signed Cole Palmer from Manchester City, who can occupy similar positions in the final third of the pitch as Nkunku, whilst Pochettino has also gained more of a sense of his favoured starting XI and style.

“I don’t see him in a different way, only that after his injury he is a different player than before, because of the form today,” said the manager.

“Maybe in some positions it’s going to be tough for him to cope with the demands. You will see in the future.

“I’m not going to put pressure on him. I’m so happy that he made his debut against Newcastle. We’re going to push him, to help him to perform better every day.

“He needs to be clever also to understand that he needs to push himself. He needs to make a double effort, double in everything. He needs to make an impact.

“In the long term, he’s going to be important for the club and for the team.”

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    Bruno Fernandes believes Erik ten Hag and Manchester United deserved to win the FA Cup after a challenging campaign.

    Goals from Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo gave United a 2-1 victory over Manchester City in Saturday's final at Wembley.

    The cup victory comes amid strong reports that manager Ten Hag will be relieved of his duties in the near future following an eighth-placed finish in the Premier League.

    But with Ten Hag potentially going out on a high, Fernandes feels Ten Hag and the club earned their opportunity to walk up the famous Wembley steps to lift the FA Cup.

    "It is crucial for everyone," Fernandes told the BBC. "We know the manager is under so much scrutiny. He deserves this, also everyone in the backroom staff and the players, we all deserve this.

    "It was the last chance to get something positive from the season. We were here last season and we weren't good enough, and we had to see them [City] go up and get the trophy.

    "They have great quality, great players, a great manager. We had to sacrifice and suffer but we did great things. I try my best to help the team."

    In scoring United's second, Mainoo (19 years and 36 days) became the first English teenager to net in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981 (19y 172d) and the youngest to do so since John Sissons for West Ham against Preston North End in 1964 (18y 215d).

    Fernandes hailed the impact of Mainoo, who earlier this week was named in Gareth Southgate's provisional 33-man England squad for the upcoming European Championships in Germany.

    "Kobbie Mainoo is really good, such a quality player and you can see the composure he had with the finish," Fernandes continued.

    "He came through the academy and once more on the biggest stage in the world he showed it again.

    "Congratulations to everyone, the staff, the players and all the fans, they have given us a big push. Finally, we have something to celebrate."

  • Mainoo hails Man Utd togetherness as Red Devils stun rivals City in FA Cup final Mainoo hails Man Utd togetherness as Red Devils stun rivals City in FA Cup final

    Kobbie Mainoo lauded the togetherness demonstrated by Manchester United as they stunned rivals Manchester City 2-1 to claim the FA Cup.

    Mainoo and fellow teenager Alejandro Garnacho were on target at Wembley to deny Pep Guardiola's side the double after they secured their record-breaking fourth successive Premier League title last weekend.

    Although Erik ten Hag's job was reportedly on the line - regardless of the result - United defended brilliantly to largely keep City at bay, despite Jeremy Doku's late strike for the Citizens.

    The Red Devils subsequently held out to end a disappointing season on a high, securing a place in the Europa League next term with their first FA Cup triumph since 2016.

    And Mainoo, who was named in Gareth Southgate's provisional England squad for the forthcoming European Championship, saluted the efforts of United's players and staff.

    "[It means] absolutely everything," he told BBC Sport. "It's been a tough season of ups and downs. All the fans had to look forward to was this final. Last year, I was in the stands watching. I couldn't be involved.

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    Garnacho also paid tribute to his team-mate, who became the first English teenager to score in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981, while dedicating the victory to United's supporters.

    "Just incredible; I say he's the best player in the squad, and he's the youngest. I'm so happy for him," the Argentine said of Mainoo.

    "[It is an] incredible feeling. Nobody believed in us, but we are together, here with these fans. An incredible moment for us, also for me and Kobbie to score the goals, but all together, we fought like it was the last day of our lives. We're so happy.

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    Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo were the heroes as Manchester United pulled off an upset to beat rivals Manchester City 2-1 in the FA Cup final.

    United boss Erik ten Hag's job was reportedly on the line whatever the result in Saturday's game, but a mix-up between Josko Gvardiol and Stefan Ortega was capitalised upon by Garnacho to hand the Red Devils the lead at Wembley Stadium.

    Mainoo's fine finish made it 2-0 shortly after, and though Jeremy Doku pulled a goal back late on, United held firm to claim the famous trophy for the first time since 2016 and deny City a double after they secured a fourth straight Premier League title last weekend.

    It now remains to be seen whether Ten Hag will suffer the same fate as compatriot Louis van Gaal, who was sacked as United boss after winning the FA Cup eight years ago.

    Pep Guardiola's men started the brighter, though it was United who went close first as Ortega got his body behind Garnacho's fierce strike.

    Garnacho was not to be denied with 30 minutes on the clock, though, as he pounced on a calamitous mix-up in the City defence.

    A long ball over the top was not dealt with by either Ortega or Gvardiol, who inadvertently nodded it beyond his goalkeeper, allowing Garnacho to tuck home into an empty net, becoming the first teenager to score an FA Cup final goal since Cristiano Ronaldo in 2004.

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    Erling Haaland nearly halved the deficit when he rattled the crossbar after the interval, before Andre Onana made a superb stop to keep out Kyle Walker's ferocious long-range drive.

    Onana should have done better in the 87th minute, though. United's goalkeeper got down to Doku's hopeful attempt, but could only parry it into the corner.

    Yet United ensured Onana's mistake did not prove costly, as City's hopes of a double were dashed and the Red Devils claimed a stunning victory in what could have been Ten Hag's final game at the helm.

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    Garnacho scored with one of his three shots on target, more than any other player on the pitch, while Mainoo's performance did no harm to his chances of making Gareth Southgate's final squad for Euro 2024, ruthlessly finishing his only big chance and again having an impact in both defence and attack.

    Mainoo's goal also made him the first English teenager to net in an FA Cup final since Steve MacKenzie for City against Tottenham in 1981, and he looks set to be a big fixture for both United and England for many years to come.

    De Bruyne's dismal derby day

    Kevin De Bruyne finished the Premier League season with 10 assists and four goals in just 18 appearances, but he, alongside many of City's stars, looked well off the pace here.

    De Bruyne completed an uncharacteristically low 71 per cent of his passes before Guardiola had seen enough, hauling off the Belgium international for Julian Alvarez with over half an hour left.

    City ended their league campaign with nine straight wins to seal the title, but they looked a shadow of that side this time out and will finish the season with just one trophy, after claiming a treble last term.

    Doku did make an impact after his half-time introduction, but though he managed to cut into United's lead, it was too little, too late.

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