Jack Grealish believes Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea gives Manchester City the perfect opportunity to put their Champions League agony behind them.

City’s hopes of successfully defending their European crown – and winning a second successive treble – were shattered on Wednesday as they were beaten by Real Madrid on penalties.

The defeat was particularly galling given that City had dominated the second leg of the quarter-final tie at the Etihad Stadium, but they have little time to dwell on their misfortune.

Attention has immediately shifted to Wembley and a key clash in City’s bid to retain one of the other two trophies they won in glorious fashion last season.

Midfielder Grealish said: “We’ve not been used to losing, especially in the last couple of years. We always knew it was going to be a tough game against one of the best teams in the world.

“It went down to penalties and it’s never nice to go out on penalties. Luckily enough for us we’ve got another game within three days where we can go and put it right.

“Sometimes it’s better when it’s like that. It’s better when you can put it right straight away rather than waiting and dwelling on it for a couple of weeks.

“It’s the perfect game for us to put it right.”

As well as being favourites for the FA Cup, City have put themselves in a strong position to win the Premier League for a fourth year in succession and a sixth time in seven years.

Grealish said: “This year, if we win the Premier League and the FA Cup it would be a hugely successful season. Hopefully we can go on and do that and that’s our aim.”

It has been a frustrating campaign in a personal sense for Grealish, although he has regained form and his place in the side in recent games.

The 28-year-old England international, who excelled in the treble-winning season, struggled to find consistency after an injury in the autumn and was then hindered by further fitness issues.

“It’s been difficult,” he said. “Especially on the back of last year, I had such a good season.

“At the moment, I feel good and I feel confident. At the start of the season, I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like I was playing well really. I didn’t really feel that fit if I’m honest.

“But I feel good now. I feel fit and I feel like I’m playing with good confidence. Hopefully I can bring that into the end of the season.

“We’ve still got a lot to play for. The season is nowhere near over yet. I still feel like I’ve got a big part to play.”

Grealish spoke recently about his determination to repay manager Pep Guardiola for guiding him through his difficult spell and he remains keen to deliver for the City boss.

He said: “I’ve got a really good relationship with him. I’ve said before that he’s the best manager in the world, in my opinion.

“I’ve had my own problems, even off the pitch, and he’s always spoken to me and been there for me.

“Hopefully, I can help him and he can help me towards the end of the season.”

Mauricio Pochettino believes Cole Palmer will go into Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City on Saturday with nothing to prove to his former employers, insisting he is the right manager to help the 21-year-old continue his stunning ascendancy.

Palmer, who left Chelsea’s Wembley opponents in a £42.5million deal in the summer, is joint top scorer in the Premier League after his four goals in Monday’s 6-0 demolition of Everton moved him level with City’s Erling Haaland on 20 for the season.

He has netted an incredible seven times in the team’s last two home games, including a hat-trick in the breathless 4-3 win over Manchester United when two of his goals came in the 10th and 11th minutes of stoppage time.

He previously scored from the penalty spot in the fifth minute of added time to snatch a point in a 4-4 draw when City visited west London in November.

Palmer has previously stated his decision to leave the champions – for whom he scored twice in August in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup – was based on the belief he would get more first-team game time at Chelsea.

That decision has been thoroughly vindicated, with his performances for Mauricio Pochettino’s frustratingly inconsistent side placing him in the reckoning for the PFA Player of the Year award.

His odds on winning the award have been slashed by as much as half with some bookmakers since his Everton haul.

But his manager said there was no possibility the England international would face City with an axe to grind.

“It’s his first consistent season playing, we need to be careful because he’s still young, he’s growing,” said Pochettino.

“He’s already played twice (against City) in the Premier League. He’s very grateful for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola. He always talks very highly of them.

“He’s not the type of player that has something inside (to prove). He understood perfectly that for different reasons he wanted to prove himself in another club.

“He’s not the type of person to wants to prove something against his former club.”

Prior to joining Chelsea, Palmer had played only 19 senior league games spread over three seasons, and had not scored in the Premier League.

Yet he is now a genuine contender to deprive his former team-mate Haaland of the Golden Boot won by the Norwegian last season.

There is also the growing prospect of his being selected in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024 in Germany this summer.

“He has to absorb the pressure to play in the Premier League consistently,” said Pochettino, who previously enjoyed success at Tottenham stewarding young talents though their early years, including England captain Harry Kane.

“It’s about the demands in his private life. He is top scorer. He maybe needs to pay attention to different things than before. That’s going to have an influence on how he is going to prepare himself, how he’s going to rest and going to sleep, how he spends his energy.

“We need to be careful. We have the experience to manage this type of thing, when a young kid becomes a big star. Why is he not performing in a few months? Because his life has changed. He needs to learn from this experience that is completely different to the past.”

The row over the abolition of FA Cup replays intensified on Friday, with the EFL accusing the Football Association and the Premier League of sidelining its clubs from the decision-making process.

Here the PA news agency looks at the situation more closely.

What has happened?

The EFL released an explosive statement on Friday afternoon saying the agreement announced between the FA and the Premier League on the new format and funding for the FA Cup was “a further example of how the EFL and its clubs are being marginalised in favour of others further up the pyramid” which “only serves to threaten the future of the English game”.

A number of EFL clubs and some from lower down the pyramid have also criticised the lack of consultation on the issue. One of them, League Two side Bradford, said that although retrospective consultation was still necessary, it would be “nothing more than an insult”.

What has the FA said?

Football’s national governing body said it “understands the concerns” expressed in the last 24 hours and said it would be “sharing more details with clubs very shortly to explain the additional revenue opportunities in the early rounds”.

It added that the EFL had been involved in discussions about replays for over a year and that “all parties accepted they could not continue”. The FA also pointed out that the calendar changes were approved by its Professional Game Board (PGB) which includes four EFL representatives.

So the EFL backed the changes?

The EFL insists the abolition of replays from the FA Cup was “agreed solely between the FA and the Premier League”. It said its PGB representatives did challenge the position on replays and were told that clubs would be “comfortable” without them. The EFL added: “Any decisions taken on the calendar involving EFL representatives are in no way an endorsement of the joint deal agreed between the FA and Premier League that imposes changes to the FA Cup competition format in isolation.”

The FA, EFL and Premier League were in discussions over the so-called “New Deal For Football” to agree new financial settlements and changes to the domestic calendar in response to fixture pressures caused by UEFA expanding its club competitions from 2024-25. However, the EFL statement says the discussions over the FA Cup were “bilateral” between the FA and the Premier League.

The EFL insists it must be involved in all discussions on changes to the calendar affecting its clubs and crucially, how any such changes are compensated for. But sources close to the EFL feel that now Premier League clubs have opted to halt talks on a new settlement with the 72 clubs, the EFL is being sidelined.

What happens now?

The FA says it will try to convince lower-league clubs they will not “lose out” as a result of the changes. The EFL says the FA and the Premier League must “re-evaluate their approach” to dealing with it and its 72 clubs.

York owner Matt Uggla has said he will contact all those clubs who have spoken out in opposition to the changes to “discuss our options” regarding the FA Cup.

“We might be called small clubs but together we are giants,” he wrote on X.

He described boycotting the FA Cup as “the nuclear option”.

Erling Haaland is a doubt for Manchester City’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea on Saturday.

The Norwegian striker was surprisingly substituted prior to extra time of the Champions League quarter-final loss to Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Manager Pep Guardiola revealed after the game the 23-year-old asked to be withdrawn but did not give a reason why.

Speaking on Friday, Guardiola confirmed the forward had suffered an injury but still gave little indication as to how serious.

Guardiola said at a press conference: “We will see. It was a tough game, a lot of action, high intensity for both sides.

“Erling felt something, a muscular issue. That’s why he told me he could not continue.

“The (doctor) said he had a little bit of niggles, a little problem, we will see how his evolution is in the next hours.”

In a more positive update, Guardiola confirmed playmaker Kevin De Bruyne “feels well” having been taken off during extra time against Real for nothing more serious than exhaustion.

Guardiola feels, given the schedule, it is understandable that players would be tired at this stage of the season.

He said: “It’s normal with the amount of games we are playing this season and the previous seasons and not much recovery, and extra time and high intensity.

“We put a lot of pressure in our game and that’s why the fatigue is there. They are human beings. They are not a machine. We are used to it.”

The agonising penalty shoot-out defeat by Real ended City’s hopes of winning the treble for a second season in succession.

Yet they remain on course to repeat the domestic double and Guardiola is determined to bounce back from the midweek heartache.

He said: “We don’t have another option. I don’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves.

“In football, you lose games. We performed at our best and we were not able to win. You have to accept it.

“We did everything. We know it, they know it, all the world know it, but it was not enough. When it’s not enough, it’s bad night.

“So congratulations (to Real) and, tomorrow, FA Cup.”

The decision to scrap FA Cup replays is further evidence of the EFL and its clubs being “marginalised”, the league has said.

The Football Association announced on Thursday it had reached an agreement with the Premier League on the future format and funding of the competition, which would include all replays from the first round being abolished.

A number of EFL clubs have criticised the changes and insisted they were not consulted, with the FA releasing a statement on Friday saying it understood those concerns and would share details with them about how any shortfall in lost replay revenue may be made up.

However, the EFL said this was just the most recent example of how the league and its clubs were being sidelined, with the Premier League clubs having also decided to halt discussions over a new financial settlement with the EFL.

“This latest agreement between the Premier League and the FA, in the absence of financial reform, is just a further example of how the EFL and its clubs are being marginalised in favour of others further up the pyramid and that only serves to threaten the future of the English game,” the EFL’s statement on Friday afternoon said.

“The EFL today calls on both the Premier League and the FA, as the governing body, to re-evaluate their approach to their footballing partnership with the EFL and engage more collaboratively on issues directly affecting our clubs.”

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag confirmed Alejandro Garnacho has apologised for liking social media posts criticising his handling of the player and insisted the incident does not show the squad is fractured.

The Argentina winger, who was taken off at half-time of last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth, liked two messages on X, formerly Twitter, which were negative about Ten Hag.

He quickly unliked both posts and has now apologised, leaving no issues around his involvement for this weekend’s FA Cup semi-final against Coventry at Wembley.

Asked whether it suggested the group was not together, Ten Hag replied: “I wouldn’t point to that.

“Alejandro is a young player, has to learn a lot. He apologised for it and after that we move on.”

Experienced midfielder Casemiro has received criticism for his recent performances, with Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp suggesting his display against Bournemouth last week was like he was playing in Soccer Aid.

But Ten Hag has backed the Brazilian and insisted he will bring United success.

“I think we needed the six when I arrived here and last season Casemiro was fantastic,” he said.

“I don’t think he ever scored so many goals as well but as a six, a holding midfielder, as a strategist, he was so important for the team.

“This season he struggled with a bad injury he never had in his career, but he is such a winner. See his career, always in his career he has won, everywhere he was there will be success.

“I trust he will give us success and I know he will need games and he will be better and I’m very confident about him.

“He is a fighter, why he also won big trophies, he’s a personality and he’s a very important player and he will give us success.”

Another player who criticised the club on social media was Jadon Sancho and the winger has since found his form on loan at Borussia Dortmund, who made it through to the Champions League semi-finals this week.

Ten Hag said nothing has changed surrounding his future because of his performances in Germany.

“We know Jadon Sancho is a fantastic football player, so that is not a surprise for us, that is not the issue,” he said.

“Of course, I follow international football and follow the players on loan at other clubs.

“It was a fantastic game, Dortmund against Atletico Madrid, great performance from Dortmund and for Jadon it’s good news. He made his contribution to the result for Dortmund.”

Ten Hag hopes to be able to have Scott McTominay and Antony back in the squad against Championship outfit Coventry on Sunday.

“Antony and Scott I expect them to be back,” he said. “Scott didn’t train all week, partial on Wednesday, today I expect him full. Antony did train all week.

“We have some problems. Harry (Maguire) had a small injury, he didn’t train this week so far but now he is back on the pitch. We expect him to be back for Sunday, I hope.”

Coventry boss Mark Robins has scoffed at the “derisory” criticism of Manchester United, insisting his side’s FA Cup semi-final opponents remain the biggest football club on the planet.

Robins began his career at Old Trafford and his history with the club is firmly intertwined with the cup, with his third round winner against Nottingham Forest in 1990 often cited as the goal that saved Sir Alex Ferguson from the sack.

Ferguson’s latest successor in the hot seat, Erik ten Hag, could do with firming up his own position and could find himself on extremely rocky ground if the Red Devils were denied a shot at silverware by Championship opposition.

They are winless in four games since reaching the last four with a penalty shootout victory over Liverpool and sit seventh in the Premier League table, but Robins believes their problems have been overstated.

“People, pundits, are talking in a derisory way about Manchester United and what they’re doing, how they’re performing,” he said.

“For people who are talking about Manchester United are this or that, or they concede lots of shots: you’re talking about a team that is full of talented players, top international players. We know they are clearly favourites to win this game, by a million miles, simple as that.

“They can hurt anybody on their day. The game against Liverpool their goals were outstanding. So you’ve got a lot of things to consider, especially as a Championship club going up against the biggest club in the world.

“For Manchester United, this is a normal occasion. They play at Wembley a lot of times, there’s some England internationals there and other internationals who’ve played at Wembley on numerous occasions. It’s an expectation for them and their supporters; for us it’s slightly different.”

The Sky Blues booked their place in the last four with a dramatic 3-2 win over Wolves, with stoppage-time strikes from Ellis Simms and Haji Wright completing a remarkable upset.

The euphoria of that result has not carried in to their league form though, with three losses in their last four games leaving their play-off hopes – and regular games against the likes of United – all but over.

With that in mind, Robins has urged everyone connected to the club to make the most of the experience in front of them.

“We’ve already given the fans a special occasion getting there. Being in the national stadium with Manchester United, it doesn’t get much bigger than that,” he said.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity for everyone and there’s a lot of excitement around the city. There is a global reach there for Coventry City, the world will be tuning in and it’s a great occasion for all of our players.”

One player who will not be part of City’s big day is Kasey Palmer, suspended after picking up a booking for encroaching on the pitch to celebrate the late triumph over Wolves.

“In the moment it’s the reaction we all made, you don’t necessarily think too much about it,” Said Robins.

“It was really poor but the rules are the rules and you’ve got to abide by them. Unfortunately for him and for us, we can’t use him.”

The Football Association insists it “understands the concerns” of EFL clubs over the scrapping of FA Cup replays and will be sharing details with them on how new revenue will be generated.

The FA announced on Thursday that replays would be abolished from the first round onwards, sparking criticism from the EFL and its clubs over a lack of consultation.

However, football’s national governing body has moved to allay some of the fears clubs have expressed over the move.

“We understand the concerns expressed over the last 24 hours, and we will be sharing more details with clubs very shortly to explain the additional revenue opportunities in the early rounds,” the FA statement said.

“We will keep this under review as the new calendar begins to ensure that EFL and National League clubs do not lose out.”

The scrapping of replays has been driven to a large extent by a need to reduce calendar congestion, with UEFA’s expanded club competitions beginning next season.

FA Cup replays are being scrapped next season, ending 150 years of tradition and sparking calls for EFL clubs to be compensated for lost revenue.

The Football Association announced the format change on Thursday morning as it confirmed a new agreement with the Premier League which will increase funding to the grassroots game by up to an extra £33million per season.

The FA’s chief executive Mark Bullingham said the new format – which includes fifth-round ties reverting to weekends after five seasons in midweek, and the final being played on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season – would strengthen the FA Cup.

Changes to the domestic calendar were inevitable given the expansion of the Champions League from next season, and although replays’ days have appeared numbered for some time, a Football Supporters’ Association poll last summer found 69.5 per cent of fans still saw them as an important part of the FA Cup.

The FSA has relayed the “serious concerns” of fans about the loss of replays to the FA, while the EFL expressed frustration and disappointment over how it has felt sidelined on the detail around such a pivotal calendar decision affecting its clubs, particularly since talks over its own financial settlement with the Premier League stalled earlier this year.

The EFL will now seek to discuss the mechanisms within the new agreement to ensure its clubs do not lose out financially from the loss of replays.

The FA’s statement said the Professional Game Board – which includes four EFL representatives including its chairman Rick Parry – had approved the overall calendar for next season containing the changes.

Sources close to the EFL insist that although there was broad agreement on the calendar at the Professional Game Board level, the EFL had not been privy to discussions around the mechanisms to ensure the changes did not cause its clubs financial detriment.

The sources also insisted it was not true that the EFL’s own board had approved the changes, only that it had been appraised of what was discussed at the Professional Game Board. The timing and content of Thursday’s announcement is understood to have taken the EFL and its clubs by surprise.

The FSA, which has held regular meetings with the FA over the cup’s format, said: “It’s clear today’s announcement about the FA Cup has not gone down well with a lot of fans up and down the country.

“Supporters are concerned that the changes to the FA Cup will further diminish what makes the competition enduringly popular – namely its history, heritage and tradition.

“While we recognise the footballing calendar is coming under impossible strain – due to the increasing bloat of FIFA and UEFA competitions – recent surveys of both our members and National Council revealed serious concerns about loss of replays and the impact that could have on the magic of the competition.

“The FA Cup is the oldest domestic cup competition in the world, an asset of national importance, and we have shared those concerns with the FA as its primary custodians.”

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: “Whilst the league had previously been involved in discussions over the future of the calendar, these were predicated on the agreement of a new financial deal with the Premier League for EFL clubs which has not progressed.

“This is frustrating and disappointing given the calendar is a shared asset across football and as we have consistently said a whole game approach is required to find solutions to complex fixture scheduling challenges.

“Our domestic calendar has been put under extreme pressure by the expansion of UEFA competitions and ultimately this represents another lost traditional revenue stream for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is growing bigger than ever.

“We will now be discussing the implications for EFL clubs and seeking appropriate compensation arrangements.”

The EFL announced on January 24 that it would not make any changes to the format of next season’s Carabao Cup until a new financial deal had been agreed. That leaves open the strong possibility of clashes between that competition and UEFA dates next season.

FA sources have challenged the notion that replays are major revenue earners for lower-league clubs.

Of the 19 third and fourth-round replays in the last 10 years where an EFL side was away to a Premier League team, 12 had an attendance of over 25,000. Only a very small percentage of first and second-round replays over the same period achieved attendances of over 7,000.

While the FA Cup final will not be the last domestic fixture of the season, as was the case for many years, there will not be Premier League matches scheduled on the same day.

The late May Bank Holiday weekend has been ringfenced for the EFL play-offs.

The mid-season break has also been scrapped in order to allow the 2024-25 Premier League season to start in mid-August. It is hoped the longer break will ensure top-flight clubs are able to give their players a consecutive three-week rest.

The EFL will seek compensation for its clubs over the “frustrating and disappointing” decision to scrap all FA Cup replays from next season.

League sources say it was sidelined from the decision, which was announced by the Football Association on Thursday.

EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: “Whilst the league had previously been involved in discussions over the future of the calendar, these were predicated on the agreement of a new financial deal with the Premier League for EFL clubs which has not progressed.

“This is frustrating and disappointing given the calendar is a shared asset across football, and as we have consistently said a whole game approach is required to find solutions to complex fixture scheduling challenges.

“Our domestic calendar has been put under extreme pressure by the expansion of UEFA competitions and ultimately this represents another lost traditional revenue stream for EFL clubs at a time when the financial gap between the biggest clubs and those further down the pyramid is growing bigger than ever.

“We will now be discussing the implications for EFL clubs and seeking appropriate compensation arrangements.”

A lower-league club boss has called for protests over the decision to scrap all FA Cup replays and warned the Premier League will “strangle” the pyramid without a strong independent regulator.

Replays have been abolished from the first round onwards from next season as part of a minimum six-year agreement between the Football Association and the Premier League.

The matches have long been a part of FA Cup tradition – with the first replayed final taking place in 1875 – and have in some cases been highly lucrative for lower-league clubs.

It has long been expected that the expansion of UEFA club competitions would lead to their abolition at least from the third-round stage, but Tranmere vice-chair Nicola Palios fears this move could be the thin end of the wedge.

“The FA and the Premier League have reached an agreement to suit themselves further at the expense of the rest of the football pyramid,” Palios posted on X.

“Bring on the regulator and make sure it has some teeth before the Premier League strangle the pyramid.

“Seven hundred and twenty-nine teams compete in the FA Cup. Why is its format being dictated by the Premier League who represent circa three per cent of them? Why were EFL clubs not given a say? Why is the EPL even dictating whether replays are allowed in rounds they don’t participate in? Protest is needed!”

Next season’s domestic calendar – including the changes to the FA Cup – have been approved by the FA’s Professional Game Board, which includes EFL representation.

The EFL has not yet commented on the matter.

The agreement also includes fifth-round ties reverting to a weekend slot, having been played in midweek for the last five seasons. The FA Cup final will also now be played on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham insists the move, which will mean up to an extra £33million for the pyramid, strengthens the FA Cup.

Andy Holt, the chairman of Accrington, wrote on X: “Why would the hapless FA scrap early-round replays that can be lucrative to minnows? A chance to change their financial fortunes? Against EFL clubs? I expect nothing less of Masters and co Premier League buying the game into a format that suits their needs.”

Niall Couper, the chief executive of the Fair Game football reform group, described the move as “short-sighted” and as “another nail in the coffin for the already crumbling football pyramid”.

FA sources have challenged the notion that replays are major revenue earners for lower-league clubs. Of the 19 third and fourth-round replays in the last 10 years where an EFL side was away, 12 had an attendance of over 25,000. Only a very small percentage of first and second-round replays over the same period achieved attendances of over 7,000.

Nevertheless they remained popular among fans, with 69.5 per cent of those taking part in a Football Supporters’ Association survey last summer believing they are an important part of the FA Cup. The FSA, which had been involved in talks with the FA over the FA Cup’s format, has not yet commented.

Freeing up first and second-round replay dates would help to create room for any expansion of the EFL Trophy, which has been under discussion between the Premier League and the EFL. The former is keen to give top-flight clubs’ young stars more opportunities to play in competitive matches.

However, with talks over a new financial settlement between the EFL and the Premier League stalled, it is unclear when – or even if – such an expansion would take place.

The Professional Footballers’ Association said the move highlighted the knock-on impact to domestic football of changes agreed at the international level.

“What football needs is a collective approach to a properly thought-out global fixture calendar – not a fight for available dates,” PFA chief executive Maheta Molango said.

“(The agreement) shows how decisions that are made at an international level have a knock-on impact which affects clubs, and players, throughout the pyramid.

“The current unsustainable approach to the calendar needs to be seen as an issue for every club at every level if we want to continue to protect our domestic competitions.”

FA Cup replays have been abolished as part of a new agreement between the Football Association and the Premier League on the competition’s format and funding.

Here the PA news agency looks at the issue in closer detail.

What has happened?

The FA has agreed to scrap all replays from the first round proper onwards. Replays had already been phased out from the fifth-round stage but will now be ditched completely. The format change will see all fifth-round ties, which have been played in midweek for the last five seasons, revert to weekends while ties in the fourth round, fifth round and quarter-finals will be played exclusively of Premier League ties.

The FA Cup final will be played on the penultimate weekend of Premier League games, but no top-flight matches will be played on the Saturday of that weekend.

The Premier League will provide up to an extra £33million per season to support the pyramid as a result of the agreement, the FA said.

Why has this happened?

The primary driver has been the pressure placed on the domestic calendar by the expansion of UEFA’s club competitions from next season. The new format for the Champions League, for example, features an extra 64 matches next season compared to the current campaign, and spills into January for the first time, a month which had previously been the reserve of domestic football.

But why scrap replays in the first and second rounds, where Premier League teams aren’t involved?

FA sources say that decision has been taken for the sake of consistency in the competition, and to help EFL clubs and those lower down the pyramid resolve their own congestion issues. It is understood the EFL Trophy is another candidate for expansion as Premier League clubs look for further playing opportunities for their young stars, although with talks on a new financial settlement between the Premier League and the EFL having stalled, it is not clear when – or even if – that change will come to pass.

FA sources have also challenged the idea that replays are major revenue earners for lower-league clubs. Of the 19 third and fourth-round replays in the last 10 years where an EFL side was away, 12 had an attendance of over 25,000. Only a very small percentage of first and second-round replays over the same period achieved attendances of over 7,000.

What else has happened?

The mid-season break has been scrapped to allow a mid-August start date for the new Premier League season, which should enable top-flight clubs to ensure all players can get a consecutive three-week break in the summer. The new schedule also allows for the late May Bank Holiday weekend to be ringfenced for the EFL play-offs.

What has the reaction been?

The Football Supporters’ Association has not yet issued any comment on the move, but its survey from last year showed continued strong support for replays, with 69.5 per cent of respondents believing they are an important part of the FA Cup.

Nicola Palios, the vice-chair of League Two side Tranmere, said the FA and the Premier League had reached an agreement “to suit themselves at the expense of the rest of the football pyramid”, and said the new independent regulator would need the power to stop the Premier League “strangling” the lower leagues.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the changes would strengthen the FA Cup while his Premier League counterpart Richard Masters said the changes had been agreed “without compromising the excitement of knockout football”.

The Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango said the move showed how decisions taken at FIFA and UEFA level had “a knock-on impact which affects clubs, and players, throughout the pyramid”.

“What football needs is a collective approach to a properly thought-out global fixture calendar – not a fight for available dates,” Molango said.

FA Cup replays have been scrapped from next season, the Football Association has announced.

The move to abolish all replays from the first round proper onwards is part of a new agreement between the FA and the Premier League which will see an extra £33million going to grassroots football from the top flight each season.

The FA had already scrapped replays from the fifth round onwards and said the move to ditch them altogether had been agreed “in light of changes to the calendar driven by the expanded UEFA competitions”.

The FA said all rounds would now be played at the weekend, with the fifth phase having moved to midweek for the last five seasons.

The FA said the final will now be played on the penultimate weekend of the Premier League season, on a Saturday with no top-flight matches taking place on the same day.

Pep Guardiola is the best manager of all time, according to former Manchester City goalkeeper David James.

Guardiola claimed a historic treble with City last season, taking his tally to 11 league titles and three Champions League trophies across his time at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the Citizens over a glittering managerial career.

Guardiola has led City to the Premier League title in five of the last six campaigns, and his team is deeply entrenched in yet another battle at the top of the division this season, too, sitting third but just a point behind leaders Arsenal, who they face on Sunday in a huge clash.

Alex Ferguson leads the way with 13 Premier League titles over 21 editions of the competition, but James believes the rate at which Guardiola is catching up with the Scot means the former Barca boss must be considered the best manager of all time.

"Tactically, and with regards to what he's won, I'm struggling to think of a manager who's overall done better [than Guardiola]," James told Stats Perform. "Alex Ferguson you could think of, but Alex Ferguson had [a long time]. It's just ridiculous how good this guy is.

"I just think when you look at Pep, in a short period of time, he has effectively dominated anything he wants to go for. The Premier League, it is the best league in the world. His team has dominated.

"It wouldn't surprise me if they win the Champions League again. When you think the EFL Cup was his first [trophy], I think it was three years in a row, now it's the Premier League, and it's kind of like, well next is naturally the Champions League, isn't it?"

James believes it is Guardiola's ability to develop talented players into becoming world class that truly sets him apart from other managers and allows him to have so much success wherever he goes.

"For what anyone says about money being spent, I think other than Jack Grealish at one point, he's never bought the most expensive player," James added. "He gets the players and makes them better.

"You've got Phil Foden. The player I'm looking forward to over the rest of this season and next season is Oscar Bobb.

"There are players in the City side who are coming through or already there, and it's just a joy to watch."

For the majority of Guardiola's City career, Liverpool and their boss Jurgen Klopp have been his team's closest challengers.

That competition is soon to be coming to an end, however, with Klopp set to leave Liverpool at the end of the season after almost nine years in charge at Anfield.

James believes this will prove to be a huge loss for the Premier League, particularly when it comes to Klopp's personality, saying: "He has been so frank, so honest about anything that he's been asked.

"I just think it's so refreshing to have a manager who is managing one of the biggest clubs in the world in the most pressurised environments in sport, if you like, and he takes to it like it's a chit-chat around a cup of coffee over a table.

"While we've got him I think we have to enjoy him, and hope that at some point he comes back to the Premier League in some shape or form and just illuminates football for anyone who's following him."

Yet, James feels the nature of football means that if Liverpool's next manager succeeds on the pitch in a superior fashion to Klopp, the former Borussia Dortmund boss will become just another one of the top managers Liverpool have had.

"Will there be a gap? Yeah," James continued. "And the character will be difficult, if not near impossible to replace.

"However, the game will move on. And if the new manager of Liverpool hardly ever talks to anyone but gets results in Liverpool surpassing Jurgen's success on the trophy trail, then in the end Jurgen will just be one of the great managers that Liverpool had and it will all be about the new guy. We know how this game works."

Manchester United’s FA Cup hero Amad Diallo is prepared to be patient in order to get his chance at the club.

The 21-year-old, in only his fourth appearance of the season, came off the bench to score a dramatic winner deep into stoppage time at the end of extra time to make it 4-3 against Liverpool.

Amad spent last season on loan at Sunderland in the Championship, having previously had six months at Rangers. He has only made a total of 13 United appearances with his last start coming at the end of May 2021, following his move from Atalanta.

But he is prepared to be patient as he waits for more chances at first-team level.

“It was important for me to go on loan to get more confidence and experience, so now I am at Manchester United,” said Amad, who was sent off for a second bookable offence after removing his shirt in celebration.

“I am very happy to stay here and every game for me is like a Champions League final. To score the final goal is so important for me.

“I believe in myself. I train hard every day and waited for my chance. The manager believes in me.

“I am on the bench but every time I am ready to come in and fight for the team. If I score for the team, then I am very happy.”

“I wait for my chance and whether I start or I am on the bench it is important for me to be ready every time.”

The goal was only Amad’s second in United colours, his first coming in a Europa League draw with AC Milan two years ago.

And the joy of scoring the winner against his team’s arch-rivals meant the Ivory Coast international was unable to rein in his celebrations in front of the Stretford End, resulting in his sending-off.

“I forgot the first yellow – but it was important we won, so I am very happy,” he added.

“It was an unbelievable day for me. I want to celebrate this moment with my family and the fans, who supported us all game.

“It is very special for me because it was my dream to play for Manchester United. I was in Sunderland last season and I came here to wait for my chance.

“To score my second goal for Manchester United was very important for me.”

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