EPL

Gary O’Neil dismisses talk of Manchester United move

By Sports Desk March 29, 2024

Gary O’Neil said there is no truth in reports that he will leave Wolves in order to replace Erik ten Hag as manager of Manchester United.

A number of names have been linked with Old Trafford since minority investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe took charge of football operations earlier this year.

O’Neil, appointed at Molineux days before the start of the current season, has overseen an impressive campaign in which Wolves have far exceeded expectations.

They currently sit ninth and are 20 points clear of the relegation zone despite having been tipped to struggle following the departure of former boss Julen Lopetegui in August.

Instead they have sights on possible European qualification and could finish the weekend in seventh – likely to be worth a place in next season’s Europa Conference League – if they beat Aston Villa on Saturday evening and other results go their way.

Despite his rising personal profile, O’Neil dismissed suggestions he is being lined up for the United job.

“I don’t know where it came from,” he said.

“Growing up, Liverpool and Manchester United always felt special. It’s an honour to be linked even if there’s no truth in it.

“I love it here. I’m a head coach, I’m always going to be a head coach. I’m really enjoying my time at Wolves. I was only made aware of (the links) by the media team to prepare for your questions.”

Matheus Cunha is in contention to feature against Villa having missed most of the last two months with a hamstring injury.

The 24-year-old went off during his team’s home defeat to Brentford on February 10 but could return to the fold on Saturday.

He has scored 11 goals in all competitions in what is is his first campaign since signing permanently from Atletico Madrid.

“He will play some football for us this week,” said O’Neil. “He’s back, he’s fine and has worked his socks off. He’s shaved an enormous amount of time off the medical diagnosis of what he had.

“He’s done unbelievably well and now the decision for me is when and how long he plays. He is training, sprinting and has done everything you can do to test the hamstring, apart from being put into a Premier League game.

“It’s now on me to decide if that’s from the start tomorrow, the bench tomorrow or from the start on Tuesday (against Burnley).

“We’re trying to get it right for him as he’s massively important to us for tomorrow’s game, but also the nine after that.”

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    The 24-year-old Sweden international, the Magpies’ £63million record signing, has been linked with both Arsenal and Tottenham in recent weeks amid the perception that the Saudi-backed club may have to trade to comply with profit and sustainability rules.

    Isak enhanced his blossoming reputation further with a superb double in a 4-0 Premier League victory over Champions League-chasing Spurs at St James’ Park on Saturday to take his tally for an injury-interrupted season to 21.

    Asked about the need to retain his services, head coach Howe said: “We are trying to build a team, we are trying to grow everything, really, upwards and to do that as quickly as possible and as efficiently as you can, you need to keep your best players, otherwise you enter a different period where you go into transition and you have to start again.

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    Isak left Micky van de Ven sitting on his backside to open the scoring on the half-hour and when Anthony Gordon did the same two minutes later, the visitors were in trouble.

    Isak’s equally accomplished 51st-minute finish put the result beyond doubt and Fabian Schar added the flourish at the death with a thumping header on a day when the Magpies’ game-plan worked to perfection.

    For long periods, they were content to allow Spurs possession – they had just a 27 per cent share – and back themselves both to deny them clear-cut chances and to hit them on the break, and Howe could not have asked his players to execute his instructions any more comprehensively.

    Asked how good Isak could be, Howe said: “For me, he’s so exciting to work with, he’s got so many facets to his game we can explore and try to make better.

    “First and foremost, he has the undeniable quality that he wants to score, he needs to score – that’s a great characteristic for any striker to have.

    “But he also plays for the team, he doesn’t play for himself, which is rare. You can see him linking play and doing things that the team needs, not just what he needs. I thought it was a great performance from him today.”

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  • Killer instinct of matchwinner Sammie Szmodics lacking for Leeds – Daniel Farke Killer instinct of matchwinner Sammie Szmodics lacking for Leeds – Daniel Farke

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