Erik ten Hag says Manchester United are not in a position to underestimate any opponent as his stumbling side look to keep their hopes of silverware alive in Sunday’s FA Cup clash at Newport.

This has been a challenging second season in the hotseat for the Dutchman, whose side languish eighth in the Premier League and were eliminated from European competition before Christmas.

United’s Carabao Cup defence is also long since over, meaning the FA Cup takes on extra significance as their only potential route to a trophy in a disappointing campaign.

“It is the truth,” Ten Hag said. “But it is true that the league, of course, (offers) qualification for the Champions League.

“But the FA Cup probably is, it’s fact, the last opportunity for a trophy, so we would go for it.”

FA Cup glory would be a welcome shot in the arm for a club that is preparing to go through a big transition under Ineos, who are set to take control of football operations next month.

Incoming minority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has a bloody-minded focus on improvements across the board and this competition could provide the platform for under-scrutiny Ten Hag to impress.

United have a kind-looking fourth-round assignment at Newport, but there is no chance of complacency seeping in against the mid-table League Two outfit.

“Also in the Netherlands we have a cup and also we also play against lower-class teams,” Ten Hag said of Sunday’s trip to South Wales.

“I know always when you go as a big club to a lower class team, how it will be and how you have to approach that.

“Definitely us, we are definitely not in a position to underestimate any opponent, so we will not do.”

By “lower class” Ten Hag seems to mean lower league, with Newport the lowest ranked side he has faced in any competition since taking charge at Old Trafford.

It is also a rare away day after the third-round trip to League One outfit Wigan earlier this month ended a run of home draws in domestic cups that stretched throughout his entire reign.

Rodney Parade is much different to the DW Stadium, a former Premier League ground, but Ten Hag is confident his players will cope.

That includes summer signing Altay Bayindir, who he confirmed will finally make his United debut between the sticks at Newport.

“You have been in Fenerbahce?” Ten Hag said when asked if he has any thoughts about picking the 25-year-old Turkey international given the specific challenges of such a tie.

“The pressure is also in Turkey, that is big pressure always, also for the national team, so he knows how to deal with that.”

Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro are in contention for Sunday’s game, but Marcus Rashford and Jonny Evans are doubts having reported ill on Friday.

Andre Onana and Sofyan Amrabat remain at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Mason Mount, Anthony Martial, Tyrell Malacia and Victor Lindelof are sidelined.

Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United can “change the story” of their season once key players return from injury.

This has been a bumpy second campaign in the Old Trafford dugout for the Dutchman, whose side have been eliminated from Europe and seen their Carabao Cup defence ended early.

United’s Premier League title chances are all but over before Christmas and Ten Hag’s side need to build on last weekend’s dogged 0-0 draw at rivals Liverpool when they head to West Ham.

The absentee-hit Red Devils are dealing with several doubts ahead of the Saturday lunchtime clash, but Ten Hag expects their injury problems to ease over the coming weeks.

“Now we have some doubts,” the United manager said.

“We have some illnesses during the week, so we have to see who is available for tomorrow. Hopefully they are recovered but we have to see.

“(Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez) are not available before Christmas, so that will be mid-January we expect them back.

“Mason Mount similar into January. Harry Maguire I expect him early on and Victor Lindelof is not available.”

United confirmed that Lindelof has undergone surgery on a minor groin issue and is set to be out for just over a month.

The impending return of such players will be a shot in the arm for a United side deprived of so many options in recent weeks and months.

The spate of injuries has raised eyebrows and has reportedly led to head of sports medicine Gary O’Driscoll heading an internal review of the medical department.

“We did research here about it but there are so many factors in that you can’t point at one factor,” Ten Hag said.

“But in this moment, what is most important is that we have to deal with it.

“And we have to work to get the players back as soon as possible because we know we have a strong squad in the moment we have everyone on board.”

Ten Hag says “bad luck” has been a factor as the United boss mentioned problems at centre-back, left-back and right wing along with the absence of “huge impact player” Casemiro in midfield.

“You have to deal with that, but everyone understands that when such key players are not available it will have a negative effect on the results,” the Dutchman said.

“Still, we are in a place (where) we can change the story, we can change the season, so I am confident when the players are back we will have a good and strong squad.”

United’s squad has been stretched, with illness meaning Anthony Martial missed the previous two matches while Marcus Rashford was absent in their Champions League exit against Bayern Munich.

The England forward was able to return to the bench at Liverpool and is now fighting for a starting berth, having mustered just two club goals after plundering 30 last term.

Rashford’s struggles in front of goal has been compounded by summer signing Rasmus Hojlund failing to open his Premier League account despite scoring five in the Champions League.

“I’m always very supportive to players and I know, especially front players, a keeper, they need more trust, support from the manager,” Ten Hag said.

“I have a strong belief in Hojlund and in Rashford that they are capable of scoring a lot of goals.

“We have to work as a group, as a team, on our attacking game, but they are capable of scoring a lot of goals.”

Asked if he has seen right response from Rashford in training, Ten Hag said: “He’s training well.

“It can always be better, but I think he’s such an experienced player. He’s mid-20s but he’s a very experienced player.

“He knows how football works, how top football works, so he knows he has to take the responsibility and I’m sure he will do (that) so he will line up himself.”

Manchester United’s European campaign is over after Kingsley Coman fired already-qualified Bayern Munich to a victory that meant Erik ten Hag’s men finished bottom of their Champions League group.

A wild, error-strewn continental group stage left the Red Devils’ last-16 hopes hanging by a thread, with progress only possible if they beat the German champions at Old Trafford and Copenhagen and Galatasaray drew.

But the Danes’ victory and Coman’s finish from a smart Harry Kane pass in a 1-0 Bayern win saw toothless United’s hopes of a Champions League miracle go up in smoke as the curtain came down on Group A.

The loss also meant Ten Hag’s side missed out on the consolation prize of Europa League qualification, with this just the fourth time a Premier League side has finished bottom of their Champions League group.

United had restricted Thomas Tuchel’s men to half-chances during the opening period at Old Trafford, where the hosts’ injury list increased as Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw picked up issues just before the break.

The reshuffled backline looked far more solid than during Saturday’s 3-0 humiliation at home to Bournemouth but still could not stop Bayern from running out victorious.

Coman was a livewire throughout his time on the pitch and Kane, a long-term United target, brilliantly played him in to beat Andre Onana as the hosts bowed out of Europe before Christmas.

United mustered just one shot on target in a must-win match that is followed by Sunday’s Premier League trip to rivals Liverpool. There were boos at the final whistle once again.

Harry Maguire has warned Manchester United their need to be more aggressive if they are to achieve their ambitions for the season.

Erik ten Hag’s men slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on Saturday evening – their third successive loss in all competitions against the Magpies – and were decidedly second-best until they very nearly snatched a point they really did not deserve amid a late rally.

England defender Maguire, who was one of their better players on the night, admitted as much in the wake of a disappointing display and called for a reaction against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.

He told the club’s official website: “We know we’ve got to do better, we’ve got to play better, the team’s got to perform better.

 

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“We’ve got to play with a lot more intensity and tempo. We’ve got to win more duels – I feel that in the first half, we lost far too many duels. Every 50-50, we got beat in.

“We’ve got to be aggressive, we’ve got to play on the front foot, we’ve got to play at a big tempo and we just didn’t do that well enough tonight.”

Anthony Gordon’s 55th-minute strike ultimately settled the game at St James’ Park, although Kieran Trippier had earlier hit the crossbar with a fine free-kick.

The visitors thought they had snatched a draw at the death when substitute Antony’s shot was unwittingly deflected into the Magpies’ net by Maguire, but he was in an offside position and the flag went up swiftly to dash their hopes.

 

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Maguire, who played in both last weekend’s 3-0 win at Everton and the 3-3 Champions League draw at Galatasaray, said: “The boys are disappointed. I don’t think we played to our level.

 

“It’s been a tough week – three away games in six days – but we don’t use that as an excuse. We didn’t play well enough, especially in the first half.

“We grew into the game in the second half and maybe could have got the point. We put a lot of pressure on them in the last 10 or 15 minutes but it wasn’t enough and, in the end, you’ve got to say Newcastle deserved it.

“We allowed them to get into our box far too easily, so it’s something that we need to work on – all of us as a team.”

Eddie Howe saluted one of Newcastle’s best performances of the season after watching them beat Manchester United to end a gruelling week on a high.

Four days after suffering late heartache in a 1-1 Champions League draw with Paris St Germain, having dispatched Premier League rivals Chelsea 4-1 before heading for France, the Magpies secured a 1-0 league victory over the men from Old Trafford at St James’ Park.

Asked if that represented the perfect ending to a testing week, head coach Howe said: “Yes it is. I think that’s one of our best performances of the season, for me.

“I thought we were very, very good on and off the ball and when you consider the week we’ve had and the difficult games we’ve had, the end of the game in Paris, what a response from the group of players.”

Anthony Gordon’s 55th-minute strike from Kieran Trippier’s cross ultimately secured the points on a night when Newcastle largely dominated without reward until his intervention.

Having been robbed of victory by a contentious stoppage-time penalty in Paris, they were spared further pain when Harry Maguire inadvertently turned Antony’s shot past substitute goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, but from an offside position.

Gordon has now scored in each of his last four league games on Tyneside and taken his tally for the season to six goals to reap the rewards of his hard work on the training pitch.

Howe said: “He himself has really worked on that.

“I’m really pleased because I thought he played really well at the start of the season, but every attacker needs to score, needs to have that feeling and that confidence that that brings.

“It elevates your game, not just the goals, but he’s getting assists as well. He’s involved in match-winning moments.

“I thought he played really well again today. It was a really good cross from Kieran, a good team move and a good finish.”

The only disappointment for Howe was that goalkeeper Nick Pope, who has played such a key role in the club’s recent success, suffered a dislocated shoulder late in the game and may now need surgery.

Asked how long he might be sidelined, the 46-year-old said: “It’s too early to say. He was in pain when the shoulder was out of its joint. It’s been put back in now and he feels much more comfortable.

“We’ll seek specialist opinion, but it doesn’t look good.”

It proved a difficult night for the visitors, who have now lost to the Magpies in their last three encounters and rarely looked like avoiding that fate until a late flurry.

Manager Erik ten Hag said: “Today we have to say ‘credit to Newcastle’. After the start, where we could have scored with (Alejandro) Garnacho, they were better than us, they were more proactive.

“We had to go back, we had to defend and we did that. We allowed them one goal, but at the end, we fought back, we had two good opportunities, but unluckily we could not take a point from here.”

England international Marcus Rashford in particular cut a frustrated figure and was replaced by Rasmus Hojlund with 29 minutes remaining.

Asked about Rashford’s form, Ten Hag said: “He works hard and he is investing a lot. He will get back, he will recover and he’s got all our support.”

England’s calendar year ended with a mundane 1-1 draw in North Macedonia on Monday night.

It was a lacklustre close to 2023 for Gareth Southgate’s side but during the past 12 months they won in Italy for the first time in 62 years and secured Euro 2024 qualification with two games to spare.

Here, the PA news agency goes back over the 10 games played to give collated ratings for players who appeared in at least three fixtures.

JORDAN PICKFORD: 7 (out of 10)
Appearances: 8, Clean sheets: 4

Undoubtedly remains Southgate’s first-choice goalkeeper and started all of the Euro 2024 qualifiers – has an interesting end to the Premier League season after Everton were deducted 10 points.

MARC GUEHI: 7
Appearances: 7, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0
The Crystal Palace man is now seemingly the first cab off the rank if either Harry Maguire or John Stones are unavailable for selection and looks comfortable playing at international level.

HARRY MAGUIRE: 7
Appearances: 9, Clean sheets: 4, Goals: 0
A torrid start to the year for Maguire saw him booed by England fans while poor form meant he was stripped of the Manchester United captaincy, but he has bounced back brilliantly to prove he is still integral to Southgate’s plans.

LUKE SHAW: 6
Appearances: 3, Clean sheets: 2, Goals: 0
Not the sort of year the Manchester United left-back would have hoped for. He was sent off in the opening England game of the year against Italy and the June double-header against Malta and North Macedonia were his last international outings of 2023 before injury struck.

JOHN STONES: 7
Appearances: 5, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0
Injury restricted Stones to just half of the England games played this year but the Manchester City treble-winner oozes a class others do not possess and if he is fit, he plays, as simple as that.

KIERAN TRIPPIER: 6
Appearances: 6, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 0

Once again showed his versatility as a viable option at either left-back or right-back, with the Newcastle man closing in on a half-century of caps. He is one of Southgate’s most trusted players and did not put a foot wrong throughout the year.

KYLE WALKER: 7
Appearances: 8, Clean sheets: 3, Goals: 1
The Manchester City defender has to be considered in the conversation for England’s finest right-back of all-time and is seemingly still improving at the age of 33. He scored his first England goal and captained the national team for the first time in a memorable year for club and country.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD: 7
Appearances: 5, Goals: 1
Having struggled to get into Southgate’s side at right-back, Alexander-Arnold is now predominantly being picked as a midfielder and flourished there in the away trip to Malta. Still seemingly struggles in the role against bigger nations but is a great option for Southgate.

JUDE BELLINGHAM: 8
Appearances: 5, Goals: 1
A coming-of-age 2023 for the 20-year-old who commands games as if he has been playing at the highest level for years. His move to Real Madrid has showcased his ability and could be in line for a role further forward than he has been playing for England, especially with his goal output in Spain.

CONOR GALLAGHER: 6
Appearances: 4, Goals: 0
The first half of the year was an uncertain one for Gallagher who was in and out of the Chelsea side and looked set to be sold in the summer. Instead, he has become a firm favourite of new Blues head coach Mauricio Pochettino and has been in and around the England squad all year.

JORDAN HENDERSON: 6
Appearances: 7, Goals: 0

While Southgate has kept faith in Henderson, the former Liverpool skipper was jeered by England fans on a number of occasions as they protested against his controversial move to the Saudi Pro League. Is likely to go to the Euros despite the new level he is playing at, such is Southgate’s belief in his ability.

KALVIN PHILLIPS: 6
Appearances: 6, Goals: 1
Another who has retained his place in the squad despite his club situation, with Phillips finding game-time at Manchester City severely limited. May yet have to seek a January move away from the Etihad Stadium to ensure himself of a place at Euro 2024.

DECLAN RICE: 7
Appearances: 9, Goals: 1
A near-ever present across the year for England and his £105million summer move to Arsenal has seen his game go up another notch as he provides the perfect foil for Bellingham to work his magic further forward.

PHIL FODEN: 7
Appearances: 9, Goals: 1
The Manchester City forward was another who was heavily involved throughout 2023 and he will likely battle it out with Bukayo Saka for the right-wing role in Southgate’s side. Could do with adding more goals to his game but was the pick of the players in the November games.

JACK GREALISH: 6
Appearances: 5, Goals: 0
Another who won the treble with City last season but Grealish still often flatters to deceive in an England shirt and has never really looked like an automatic starter since Southgate first brought him into the fold. Only two senior goals also show he needs to up his output.

JAMES MADDISON: 6
Appearances: 4, Goals: 0

Having gone to the World Cup but not played due to a niggling injury, Maddison’s move to Tottenham has seemingly opened the door to him taking on a more sizeable role for England, although he rarely shone when given the chance this year.

MARCUS RASHFORD: 6
Appearances: 8, Goals: 2
His form at Manchester United tailed off massively since the start of the current campaign but Southgate is a huge fan and the 26-year-old still provided the odd moment of brilliance that shows why he remains a key member of the England set-up.

BUKAYO SAKA: 8
Appearances: 7, Goals: 4
Named England’s player of the year for the past two seasons, Saka enjoyed a standout 2023 for club and country. His international highlight came with a hat-trick in the 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia at Old Trafford but he has proven he can be a thorn in the side of a much higher calibre of opponent, too.

HARRY KANE: 8
Appearances: 9, Goals: 9
The England skipper continues to be a talisman for his team and became the first player to pass 60 international goals for the nation. Is scoring for fun since joining Bayern Munich in the summer and will be determined to carry on finding the back of the net in Germany throughout Euro 2024.

Other players used: Sam Johnstone, Aaron Ramsdale, Ben Chilwell, Levi Colwill, Lewis Dunk, Rico Lewis, Tyrone Mings, Fikayo Tomori, Eberechi Eze, Cole Palmer, Jarrod Bowen, Eddie Nketiah, Ivan Toney, Ollie Watkins, Callum Wilson.

Gareth Southgate’s England squad selection will be a huge discussion point as next summer’s Euros come into focus.

An unbeaten 2023 is now in the history books and the PA news agency has analysed how Southgate likely sees his options right now.

Goalkeepers

On the plane: Jordan Pickford (Everton).

In the departure lounge: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace) and Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal).

Hoping for a late ticket: Nick Pope (Newcastle).

Pickford established himself as England’s number one ahead of the 2018 World Cup and is all but certain to go into his fourth major tournament as the main man between the sticks. Ramsdale had looked his closest contender but David Raya’s arrival at Arsenal has impacted his playing time and could well damage his international ambitions. Johnstone has supplanted Pope as third choice for the time being.

Defenders

On the plane: Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle) and Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

In the departure lounge: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton), Reece James (Chelsea) and Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan).

Hoping for a late ticket: Ezri Konsa (Aston Villa), Rico Lewis (Manchester City), Tino Livramento (Newcastle) and Ben White (Arsenal).

Trippier, Stones, Walker and Maguire have been to every previous major tournament under Southgate and will do so again if fit and playing.

James undoubtedly has the quality to be on the plane but needs to prove his fitness – not ideal given his issues staying available and the competition at right-back.

Injured Chelsea team-mate Chilwell is in a similar position but may benefit from a dearth of options at left-back. That said, he looks behind Shaw and further behind than the Euro 2020 final goalscorer in terms of his rehabilitation.

Colwill can fill in there as he did on his England debut against Australia, which will boost the central defender’s hopes. He missed November’s camp through injury, meaning Tomori and versatile teenager Lewis starting there instead. The latter impressed on his debut against North Macedonia.

Guehi has established himself as third-choice centre-back and Dunk pushed his case before having to withdraw from November’s squad. Konsa was brought in but did not feature. Livramento was name-checked by Southgate and White has not been involved since Qatar 2022.

Midfielders

On the plane: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq) and Declan Rice (Arsenal).

In the departure lounge: Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Cole Palmer (Chelsea) and Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City).

Hoping for a late ticket: Mason Mount (Manchester United) and James Ward-Prowse (West Ham).

Bellingham would be in any squad in the world, as would Rice. There are questions over Henderson and Phillips given their club situations, but Southgate has so far seen enough to stick with two players he trusts implicitly. The latter’s place is the bigger doubt given his limited playing time at Manchester City.

The Football Association now lists Alexander-Arnold as a midfielder, with his versatility and qualities surely enough to see him involved in a midfield that Gallagher is now a regular part of.

Palmer got the nod this time and the adaptable attacking midfielder featured in both November fixtures after a fine start at new club Chelsea.

By contrast, Mount’s difficult end to last season and injury-impacted beginning to life at Old Trafford has seen him miss out on recent squads, but Southgate is a long-term admirer of the Euro 2020 final starter. Ward-Prowse has not been called up despite his impressive form at West Ham.

Forwards

On the plane: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) and Bukayo Saka (Arsenal).

In the departure lounge: Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), James Maddison (Tottenham), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) and Callum Wilson (Newcastle).

Hoping for a late ticket: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Anthony Gordon (Newcastle), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Chelsea) and Ivan Toney (Brentford).

England are blessed with an abundance of attacking options. Skipper Kane is a certainty, as is fleet-footed Saka. Foden, Grealish and Rashford are established performers under Southgate, while Maddison is now a regular squad member.

There are decisions to make beyond them. Sterling has won 82 caps for his country but has not featured since December’s World Cup quarter-final loss to France.

Bowen is another fighting for a sport after his October recall and was denied a chance to take his West Ham form onto the international scene by an issue sustained on the eve of the Macedonia game.

As for Kane’s back-up, Watkins scored on his return to the set-up in October but failed to further his chances with a poor performance from the start in Skopje.

Nketiah was omitted having made his debut last month, while injury hampered Wilson’s chances to prove he should go to another tournament in that role. Calvert-Lewin did at Euro 2020 and is fit again and Toney is the most interesting alternative, although his betting ban does not end until January.

Gareth Southgate praised Rico Lewis after the teenage debutant bounced back from a contentious penalty call made against him during an impressive first England appearance away to North Macedonia.

An unbeaten year that started with victory in Italy ended with a 1-1 draw away in chilly Skopje as the Euro 2020 runners-up rubberstamped their place among the top seeds for next year’s finals.

Monday’s trip to Skopje represented England’s final match on foreign soil before Euro 2024 gets under way in June, and Southgate’s side had to dig deep after falling behind to a team they beat 7-0 in June.

Lewis was unlucky to see a spot-kick awarded against him shortly after Harry Maguire survived making a clumsy challenge in the box, with Enis Bardhi scoring after Jordan Pickford saved his initial spot-kick.

England returned from the break strongly and Southgate quickly turned to Harry Kane, who immediately forced Jani Atanasov into an own goal that would seal the draw.

“I thought the performance was good, mentality was excellent,” England boss Southgate said after bringing the curtain down on 2023. “I thought we played well, we totally controlled the game.

“It was difficult with the way that they defended and the pitch not easy to get the perfect final pass.

“But I thought there were some excellent performances within the game.

“I didn’t think that was a penalty. The one before might have been, so maybe that evened itself out.

“I’ve zero to say about (the VAR) which probably tells you everything.”

Thankfully Southgate was more forthcoming when it came to the performance of versatile talent Lewis.

Making his England debut a day shy of his 19th birthday, the left-back was in a far more advanced position in possession and reacted well to the penalty decision against him.

Lewis caught Bojan Miovski with an arm when rising to win a header and referee Filip Glova pointed to the spot after reviewing the incident on the VAR’s behest.

Asked if that moment may overshadow the teenager’s debut, Southgate said: “Well, it shouldn’t do because he was excellent.

“His performance and then his reaction to what I know will have been a disappointment for him, but we’re not looking at him for being at fault in any way.

“His composure with the ball was outstanding and he should be really proud because we are very, very pleased with what he did.”

Southgate said there was no need to console Lewis about the penalty at half-time and instead reminded him about how well he was playing.

“We thought Rico throughout the whole game was excellent,” the England manager added. “Great composure, great resilience.

“We didn’t feel he had anything to come back from but I know sometimes as a player you might feel that.

“But we thought there was no crime, so we were pleased with everything he did.”

Lewis was the youngest starter on a night when Manchester City team-mate Kyle Walker was the elder statesman and skippered his country for the first time.

“It was a nice moment for him to captain his country,” Southgate said of the 33-year-old.

“He’s really grown in terms of his leadership. I know he’s thriving on that with his club and that will be a special moment in his career as well.”

England boss Gareth Southgate says he can “take far fewer gambles” with his Euro 2024 squad compared to the previous two tournaments.

Next year’s competition will see a return to relative normality after the delayed, Covid-impacted Euro 2020 and an unprecedented winter World Cup in Qatar.

Increased 26-man squads were introduced for both of those tournaments, but UEFA has confirmed the size of selections will return to 23 players in Germany.

“It makes it a different sort of thought process because you’ve had that leeway in the last couple of tournaments to take players that weren’t going to be fit for the first couple of games,” England boss Southgate said.

“Or a bit of cover in certain positions that you might or might not have needed.

“This time the physical conditioning of players is going to be really important. The ability for players to bat out six, seven games.

“We know having been to the end of two tournaments that physically the demands on that is far greater than we would have known had we not been through that experience, so we know that is a huge requirement.

“If you can only sort of take two for each position, players that are adaptable are helpful, players that can play more than one position are helpful.

“But equally players that are physically vulnerable we will have got to think very carefully about.”

The enlarged selection at Euro 2020 helped Southgate include Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire. The former had not played since the February due to groin surgery and the latter missed six weeks with an ankle injury, returning to action in England’s final group game and going onto be earn a place in the team of the tournament.

As for Qatar, Southgate was able to include Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips despite a lack of fitness following groin and shoulder surgery respectively.

Asked if players needed to be fit to be on the plane to Germany, he said: “I wouldn’t say all 23.

“But we can take far fewer gambles than we were able to take for the last two tournaments where it was 26.”

Long-serving number one Jordan Pickford is sure to be a key part of the squad next summer and is away with England at a time when his club side are in the headlines.

It was announced in the hours before Friday’s 2-0 win against Malta that Everton had been deducted 10 points after being found to have breached Premier League financial rules.

“I haven’t spoken to Jordan about it,” Southgate said ahead of Monday’s final Euro 2024 qualifier away to North Macedonia.

“The rest at the minute is speculative, so we’ll just have to see as and when anything happens.

“He has coped really well with a couple of really difficult seasons at Everton, where they’ve been in the lower reaches of the league.

“So, if the ultimate decision is as has been said – I am guessing there will be some sort of appeal – then it’s a scenario he’s been through and actually been a really important player for.”

Fikayo Tomori is hoping England’s final two Euro 2024 qualifiers will present the “perfect opportunity” to spring a “stop-start” international career into life.

The 25-year-old AC Milan defender made his senior England debut in 2019 but has collected just four caps since, although he is yet to be part of a back line that has conceded a goal.

Now, for the first time, the former Chelsea youngster has been called up by Gareth Southgate for three successive squads.

 

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Harry Maguire and John Stones continue to be Southgate’s first-choice partnership at the heart of his defence but the latter will sit out the upcoming double-header against Malta and North Macedonia through injury.

That could open the door for Tomori, as well as Crystal Palace skipper Marc Guehi, to stake a claim for a more prominent role for England, especially with qualification for next summer’s Euros already achieved.

Asked how big the two upcoming games are for his own Euros chances, Tomori told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Very important. Obviously, the guys have gone through this kind of qualifying campaign really well and they managed to get us qualified early.

“So I think now that we have two games when we’ve already qualified, I think it’s a good chance for the players who probably haven’t played as much or who want to make a claim for the Euros.

“I think it’s the perfect opportunity. The last camp I managed to get a match, my first game at Wembley, which was nice. That’s a positive step in the right direction for me and hopefully this camp I can make another step and play in a qualifying game.

“Obviously John and Harry are really top players and they have been for him (Southgate) for a number of years.

“So, for me, I’m coming in and I’m just trying to push them as much as I can, show the manager what I can do.”

Tomori’s first steps on the international scene came with Canada – the country of his birth – when he represented their under-20s before switching his footballing allegiances to England.

After coming up through the ranks, he made his senior debut as a late substitute in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win away to Kosovo.

He has since been capped once in 2021, 2022 and 2023 despite winning Serie A with AC Milan two seasons ago.

“I think it’s been a bit stop-start,” Tomori said of his England career to date.

“I think when I was 21 and I first got called up I made a few appearances off the bench… then after the Covid year I wasn’t paying as much, so obviously I wasn’t getting called up.

“Then I went to Milan and I’ve been in a few camps, out a few camps. But this season started off really well and I’ve have managed to play a few games and I’ve come to every camp.

“So yeah, it has started off well and now I just want to keep it going and play more games, get more caps.

“Most players will say once you come here, you want to stay here and when you get taste for it, you want to you want to keep building on it.

“Like I said, this season, I started off really well and this is my third successive camp. So I’m really, really happy with how things are going and I think now it’s just about staying consistent, trying to get into the next camp and the next camp and the next camp.”

Harry Maguire has demonstrated his mental strength upon his return to Manchester United's team, according to Emile Heskey, who says the defender should be shown greater compassion by the media.

Maguire began 2023-24 out in the cold at Old Trafford, having reportedly turned down a move to West Ham to fight for his place, despite receiving fierce criticism from some quarters.

However, injuries to fellow centre-backs Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane forced Erik ten Hag to recall Maguire, who has started United's last eight games across all competitions.

Though the Red Devils have been inconsistent this season, with Ten Hag coming under pressure following a 3-0 rout at the hands of neighbours Manchester City and a chaotic 4-3 Champions League defeat at Copenhagen, Maguire has earned praise for his displays. 

Maguire has helped United earn back-to-back shutout wins over Fulham and Luton Town, and Heskey is pleased to see the 30-year-old respond to the criticism he has received. 

"He's got to be mentally strong, and I think this is one of the things where we forget that they are human," Heskey told Stats Perform. "We batter them and think they should just accept that. 

"We forget that players are mentally very, very strong to deal with those sorts of scenarios. But they still need help because we don't know how they're coping away from here. 

"I can talk to you here and say all the right things, but away from here, you don't know whether I'm crying. You don't know whether I'm pulling my hair out because it's not going right. 

"It's great that now he's showing his full strength of character, being back in the team."

Maguire's lack of playing time at club level has led to criticism of Gareth Southgate's decision to select him in England teams, and he was repeatedly booed by the Three Lions' fans last year.

Heskey recalled his experience of receiving harsh treatment from the press towards the end of his own international career as he called for the media to act in a more considerate manner.

"You've got to have thick skin. I got a lot of it, a hell of a lot of it," Heskey recalled. "I remember coming back from the wilderness in 2007 or 2008. I hadn't played for four years. 

"Coming back, everyone was like; 'Oh, no, not him again'. Now, that's fine, if that's your opinion, but now you're telling everyone else to have that opinion. 

"By putting that in the news, putting that on the back of a newspaper, you're telling them to have that opinion. 

"I was in a great place and it didn't really bother me. But going back years, it might have bothered me because I was younger. 

"At that time, I think I was 28 or something like that. I'd played 11 years of football so it really didn't bother me then. But you've got to sell papers, I get you. You've got to build your profile within social media. 

"Don't forget that it is a human being that you're talking about, and he's got kids, he's got family, he's got friends, he's got all these different people that can be affected by that. 

"I wasn't. I don't know if Harry Maguire is affected by it. He's not showing that he's affected by it. So that's a good thing, but he could be."

Your #ThreeLions for their final camp of 2023!

— England (@England) November 9, 2023

Reflecting on the way he saw off-pitch issues impact players' performances, Heskey added: "I remember one coach talking to me about a player and it was to do with his performances. 

"He couldn't go to the manager, so he went to the coach and he sat down with the player. He opened up, he'd got a newborn baby and he hadn't slept for like two weeks. 

"So they gave him a week off, he came back and he was fine. People don't know what's going on in people's lives, beyond actually being on the football pitch or being at work."

Manchester United’s Champions League hopes received a huge blow as Erik ten Hag’s side twice blew a lead following Marcus Rashford’s red card before super sub Roony Bardghji sealed a bonkers 4-3 win for Copenhagen.

A fortnight on from injecting hope into a faltering continent campaign by narrowly beating the Danish champions, Parken witnessed a scarcely believable comeback that leaves the Red Devils bottom of Group A.

Rasmus Hojlund’s brace had put United in control against his former club, but Rashford’s red card sparked an incredible turnaround as Copenhagen’s pre-match tifo reading “your theatre of nightmares” proved prescient.

This first half was as dramatic as it was action-packed. Hojlund’s third minute opener at the end of a fine team move was followed by several breaks in play, before the Copenhagen native scored his second and was denied a hat-trick.

Things soon spectacularly unravelled for United. Rashford was sent off for catching Elias Jelert after a VAR review, with Mohamed Elyounoussi scoring before Diogo Goncalves levelled from the spot after a Harry Maguire handball.

A wild first half was followed by a pulsating second period. Skipper Bruno Fernandes’ penalty put United back ahead, only for Lukas Lerager to level again and substitute Bardghji to seal an incredible Copenhagen victory.

FC Copenhagen coach Jacob Neestrup has warned Manchester United the atmosphere at Parken will be 100 times more intense than Old Trafford ahead of Wednesday’s key Champions League clash.

Harry Maguire’s header and Andre Onana’s stoppage-time spot-kick save secured Erik ten Hag’s stumbling Red Devils a much-needed 1-0 victory against the Danish champions a fortnight ago.

It was a crucial win having lost their first two Group A games to Bayern Munich and Galatasaray, but United must now build on that triumph in Copenhagen.

The hosts need a win themselves having secured one point despite going close in their first three fixtures and Neestrup believes Parken’s intense atmosphere will be different for United.

“What can they expect? I would say with all the respect I felt when I stepped into Old Trafford, then I felt the historical atmosphere,” the 35-year-old said.

“But you can’t compare Old Trafford with Parken because the intensity is times 100 in terms of what we played in two weeks ago.

“Then this is a standard (that), for me, is way above Premier League, to be honest.”

Neestrup’s bold comments about the contrasting atmospheres was put to United midfielder Christian Eriksen, who knows the stadium better than most.

“I’ve never played against Copenhagen in here, I’ve only been here with the national team,” the Denmark international said with a smile.

“I do know the atmosphere with the national team is very special, so I do expect a special atmosphere.

“But I don’t know if it’s 100 times more theatrical than it would be at Old Trafford! I’m not sure about that.”

United boss Ten Hag was also asked about readiness to play in front of a hostile crowd.

“We are looking forward (to it),” he said of the game at Parken. “This team is experienced and experienced hostile.

“For instance, last year, Barcelona and we can get good performances and we can get good results. We know that.”

United are under scrutiny as they head to the Danish capital, having edged past Fulham 1-0 as they responded to back-to-back 3-0 home defeats to Manchester City and Newcastle.

Put to Neestrup that Copenhagen are facing a side in unconvincing form, he said: “But I don’t care. I also thought it was a perfect time to play Bayern Munich.

“We play at home, we are a big, big club in Copenhagen, so for me it really doesn’t matter.

“If we’re going to play a team tomorrow who have won 20 games in a row or, in terms of your words, are struggling a little bit, because for us it’s the same.

“We need a result. Best case three (points), next best it’s one. But the shape that the opponent arrive in I don’t care, really.”

Wednesday’s match will see Rasmus Hojlund return to his hometown club, where his younger brothers Emil and Oscar currently play.

Copenhagen midfielder Rasmus Falk, who played alongside the United striker during his time at Parken, said: “His strength is he is very, very fast, very, very strong, then his mentality.

“He wants to score goals, he wants to do the best all the time and the hunger he shows in the game is, for me, his biggest strength.”

Brain injury charity Headway have questioned the decision to allow Harry Maguire to continue playing for Manchester United after sustaining a head collision and warned about the management of in-game impacts in football.

Maguire fell to the floor with less than a minute played at Fulham on Saturday after clashing heads with Rodrigo Muniz and appeared to have sustained a cut just above his eye.

The England defender continued after treatment but referee John Brooks questioned Maguire’s condition after 58 minutes and United physios again analysed the defender.

Maguire finished the game United as won 1-0, and he later told MUTV he had passed concussion protocols, saying: “The doctor did all the tests, I knew where I was and I was answering all the questions and I completed them (protocols) thankfully.”

But Headway say the sight of Brooks’ intervention when Maguire appeared to be in difficulty was “deeply concerning”, and the organisation has warned that progress made over the past decade to improve the health of players is at risk due to football’s failure to manage in-game head injuries.

“The incident with Harry Maguire is concerning for a number of reasons,” said Luke Griggs, chief executive of Headway.

“An opponent’s shoulder strikes the side of his head; minutes later he goes down on his haunches, showing clear signs of discomfort.

“After a brief on-pitch assessment – again highlighting the nonsensical lack of temporary concussion substitutes in football – he was allowed to continue.

“The sight of the referee then having to intervene in the second half when the player continued to look in difficulty was deeply concerning. But again, after another brief assessment with medics, he was again allowed to play on.

“We are not privy to the discussions with his medical team, nor should their professionalism be questioned. This is an issue with the very culture of football and its stubborn refusal to put players’ health above all else – including the result of a game.

“Every time the ‘if in doubt, sit it out’ principle is seen to be ignored in elite level football, our chances of educating younger players and better protecting future generations from short and long-term brain injury is diminished.

“Temporary concussion substitutions would immediately help return some credibility to the process, but an evolution of attitude is urgently needed.”

Griggs said attitudes to concussion have changed over the past decade.

He said: “We have come such a long way since Hugo Lloris was labelled a ‘hero’ for over-ruling club medics to return to the pitch after a clear concussion while playing for Spurs against Everton in 2013.

“That shocking incident was a wake-up call for football. We called it ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ at the time, demanding it be used as a catalyst for change.

“That change has been a slow process, but attitudes have changed. Promises were made, such as the concept of players being immediately removed from play if there is any suspicion of concussion.

“An ‘if in doubt, sit it out’ approach was enshrined in a series of concussion protocols, eventually adopted by various footballing bodies.

“But this progress is eroded with every high-profile incident in which the safety first principle is set aside and players being allowed to continue despite showing signs that a concussion could have occurred.”

Erik ten Hag lauded Harry Maguire’s performance against Fulham after Manchester United’s dramatic 1-0 win at Craven Cottage.

United kept a clean sheet and stole victory courtesy of Bruno Fernandes’ added-time winner.

Maguire’s resurgence in form has seen him start in United’s last four league games at centre-back.

And Ten Hag said: “He was playing a massive game and so it was a very good performance.

“He showed leadership and in and out of possession he was very good so we are very pleased with Harry’s performance.”

Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund, who United signed for a reported £64million in the summer, and Antony failed to get off the mark for the league season after a lethargic attacking performance at Craven Cottage.

And Ten Hag admitted he expects his forward players to do better on a day where they were fortunate to take three points.

He added: “Yes, it is clear, we expect it from them (to do better) because we think they are capable and we are confident that they will do it.

“If they keep working, stay composed and keep the confidence then it will come.”

The Dutch manager praised captain Fernandes’ performance.

“You can see with the way that he (Fernandes) is pressing, with the way that he is counter-pressing in games and the way he recovers,” he said.

“So he is absolutely the example and he’s taking the responsibility all the time on and off the field and he’s taken the responsibility by scoring important goals.”

Fulham came close in the second half through Harry Wilson and Joao Palhinha but United keeper Andre Onana made two good saves to deny the hosts.

Marco Silva felt his side were the better team in the second half and believes Fulham should have found the back of the net.

Silva said: “It is clear we were the better team on the pitch in the second half.

“We created more chances, we arrived in dangerous areas so many times. I think the chances we did create are chances that was enough to probably score.

“Onana made some good saves but against United to create what we did, we should have scored. It’s a tough one to take.”

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