Newport manager Graham Coughlan has described hosting Manchester United in the FA Cup as the biggest game in the club’s history.

County booked a money-spinning fourth round date with the 12-time winners at Rodney Parade on January 28 by winning 3-1 at non-league Eastleigh on Tuesday.

The Sky Bet League Two outfit have become used to entertaining Premier League big guns in recent years, welcoming Manchester City and Tottenham among others, while the old Newport County played in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in the 1980s before going out of business.

But Dubliner Coughlan, a massive United fan who joked his family would be “doing Irish jigs around the house” after Newport beat Eastleigh, insisted the visit of Erik ten Hag’s side will top those occasions.

“It’ll be a hell of an occasion,” Coughlan told BBC Sport Wales ahead of the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.

“It’s a fourth round tie against Manchester United, for me the biggest club in this country, in Europe and in the world.

“I know some people would lean towards the fifth round game against Manchester City (in February 2019), but I’d say Manchester United all day long.”

Coughlan recalled before the Eastleigh replay how United had left him in tears as a four-year-old when Arsenal beat them 3-2 in the famous “Five-minute final” at Wembley in 1979.

Gordon McQueen and Sammy McIlroy had dragged United back into the game in the final few minutes before Alan Sunderland slid home at the death to win the FA Cup for Arsenal.

“We’re a big Manchester United family, we’ve been to FA Cup finals with them,” Coughlan said.

“I can’t get my head around it to be honest, they are unbelievable names.

“Just to have Manchester United coming to Rodney Parade is a hell of an achievement.

“I don’t know when it will sink in, I’m sure my family are doing Irish jigs around the house at the moment.”

Television coverage, fourth round prize money and a capacity crowd around the 10,000 mark means Newport stand to make around £400,000 from the United tie.

It is a welcome boost for the supporter-owned club who have encountered financial difficulties and are on the brink of being taken over by Huw Jenkins, the former Swansea chairman who took them into the Premier League.

Newport are due to increase capacity at Rodney Parade by starting work on a temporary stand on Wednesday.

The stand will be in place for Saturday’s sold out League Two clash with Welsh rivals Wrexham.

“Another 1,000 passionate members of the Amber Army will get the chance to back the Exiles against Wrexham and Manchester United with the erection of a temporary stand behind the North Terrace,” read a club statement.

“The club is also adding an additional 400 seats to the away stand to meet the FA’s allocation guidelines for the Manchester United tie.”

Graham Coughlan was delighted after his Newport side secured a money-spinning FA Cup fourth-round tie with boyhood club Manchester United thanks to a 3-1 replay win at Eastleigh.

After drawing 1-1 at Rodney Parade last time around, both clubs knew the prize on offer at the Silverlake Stadium.

Top scorer Paul McCallum pulled the fifth-tier Spitfires level after Aaron Wildig’s early opener.

But James Clarke and Will Evans ended the hosts’ fairytale run as dreams of a fourth-round debut against Erik ten Hag’s Red Devils were crushed.

Coughlan’s side will earn £400,000 due to the tie being picked for television coverage.

And the Exiles manager said: “It’s a dream come true.

“Personally, for me and my family, it is a hell of an honour. We’re a big Man United family, we’ve followed them through thick and thin.

“We’ve been to FA Cup finals with them, but that’s a story for another day.

“It means a lot to the football club but it means a lot to this group of players. This group of players have absolutely run through brick walls and they’ve put their bodies on the line since they’ve come in. I’m really proud of them.

“Let’s take nothing away from Eastleigh. They have taken the scalp of a League One team here already in Reading. I’m pretty sure they would have fancied doing a League Two side tonight so fair play to them.

“I hope to see them push on from tonight and I hope that they can get into the play-offs.

“This is a really good club with some great people at it. I don’t want to be unfair to Eastleigh but I think there were a few more moments of quality from ourselves.”

After seeing his side’s fine run ended, Eastleigh boss Richard Hill labelled it a “punch in the face”.

He said: “This will be a memory which lives for a while.

“Over the time I’ve been at the club, the three stints, looking back I always said the one game I’d want back is the Grimsby game back and in time this will be a game I’d like back again.

“The cup run’s been great. It’s brought a lot of exposure to the football club, it’s brought the fans out. The fans were brilliant, they deserve a lot of credit because they stuck with us until the end.

“I know I divide opinion with a lot of them, but I’ve got to thank them. They were brilliant.

“To look back on the cup run, beating Reading was great. But the prize for this was massive and that’s what hurts the most; what the prize could have been. Not just for me, or the players, but for the media and being around those players who would have been coming here.

“It would have been a great occasion for everything around the football club.

“Newport were bright, sharper and a little bit more streetwise on the night. They deserved the victory, you’ve got to give credit to them.”

Newport set up a fairytale tie with Manchester United with a 3-1 FA Cup third-round win at non-league Eastleigh.

Goals from James Clarke and Will Evans sent the Welsh side through after Paul McCallum briefly levelled for the fifth-tier Spitfires following Aaron Wildig’s early opener.

The Exiles will host 12-time cup winners United at Rodney Parade on January 28.

There was a shock at Ashton Gate where Championship club Bristol City overcame 10-man West Ham 1-0.

Tommy Conway, who earned the Robins a replay with the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium on January 7, claimed the early winner after capitalising on a defensive mistake.

A disappointing evening for the Premier League Hammers was compounded by Said Benrahma’s 51st-minute red card, with City going on to host either Nottingham Forest or Blackpool.

Matheus Cunha struck an extra-time winner from the penalty spot as Wolves progressed to a Black Country derby at West Brom by twice coming from behind to beat Brentford 3-2.

Ex-Wanderers defender Nathan Collins gave the Bees a 13th-minute lead at Molineux before Nelson Semedo levelled.

Neal Maupay restored Brentford’s advantage only for Nathan Fraser to force an additional 30 minutes, which was decided by Cunha’s spot-kick following Shandon Baptiste’s foul on Pedro Neto.

Luton avoided an upset by hitting back to beat Bolton 2-1.

Dion Charles gave the League One Trotters an 11th-minute advantage but the top-flight visitors overturned the deficit thanks to Tahith Chong and Chiedozie Ogbene to earn a trip to either Crystal Palace or Everton.

In Tuesday evening’s other replay, Tony Mowbray registered his first win as Birmingham boss after a last-minute strike from substitute Koji Miyoshi secured a 2-1 success over Hull.

Jason Lokilo’s first Tigers goal edged his side ahead at St Andrew’s but Jay Stansfield levelled before Miyoshi’s dramatic finish earned Blues a trip to Championship rivals Leicester.

Incoming minority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has told Manchester United supporter groups he is there to help take the club back to the top rather than make money.

After a frustrating, prolonged 13-month process, it was announced on Christmas Eve that the Ineos chairman had agreed to buy a 25 per cent stake from the Glazer family.

Ratcliffe receives control of football operations at the Premier League club under the terms of a deal that he told reporters he expects to be approved by mid-February.

The 71-year-old watched Sunday’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Tottenham at Old Trafford, where he returned the following day to engage with fan representatives and local leaders.

Ratcliffe met members of the club’s Fans’ Advisory Board and leaders of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST), before holding a video meeting with the larger Fans’ Forum.

“His main message was that everything at United needs to be ruthlessly focused on creating winning teams on the field – something we are sure all fans will agree on,” MUST said.

“He also expressed the view that he views our club as a ‘community asset’ and stressed that his purpose in taking a share in United is not to make money.

“We were able to set out to Sir Jim what we think the key priorities are – a clear plan to get back to the top, putting in place a football structure with the right people in the right roles; an investment plan in both the teams and the stadium; and building a genuine and strong partnership with fans that supports success.

“We hope today’s discussion is the start of an ongoing dialogue both with Sir Jim and his team.

“We all know the journey back for our club is not a short one – and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. But most fans agree that the signals Ineos has sent in the last few weeks are encouraging.”

The meeting with MUST lasted more than an hour, with Ratcliffe joined by Sir Dave Brailsford, the director of sport at Ineos, Jean Claude Blanc, Ineos Sport chief executive, and senior United officials.

Certain topics were off the table as the deal awaits approval, but MUST “felt he was as open as he could be within those rules”.

The trust’s chair JD Deitch posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it was a good meeting and that Ratcliffe’s team “get it” but “proof will be action, not words”.

A fan representative at one of the meetings told the PA news agency that Ineos made it clear the immediate priority is fixing things on the field during “really positive discussions”.

There was a sense that Ratcliffe’s team will be “able to hit the ground running” once the deal is ratified, with player trading pinpointed by Ineos as an area requiring improvement.

“I think the impression of everybody in all the meetings was it was actually amazing and unprecedented for us at Manchester United that the owner of the club spent that much time,” the fan representative said.

“More fan engagement in one day than the Glazers have done in 20 years. That’s just a fact.

“I’m sure it’s not accidental. It’s a very clear signal of a change in how the club will be and I get the sense that they are not waiting for the details of the deal to go through.

“I get the sense that the work has started already.”

After speaking to fan representatives, Ratcliffe and his team met a range of local leaders to discuss United’s role in the community and potential development of Old Trafford.

Among those in attendance were senior representatives from Trafford Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority, including mayor Andy Burnham.

Former Chelsea forward Timo Werner believes he can make a big impact under Ange Postecoglou at Tottenham without being “the main man” scoring goals.

Much was expected of the Germany international when he completed a £53million switch to Stamford Bridge in 2020 after scoring goals aplenty at RB Leipzig.

But the pacy forward failed to transfer his German scoring feats into the Premier League and returned to his former club for just £25m after two seasons in west London.


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The 27-year-old is back in English football after joining Spurs on loan – with Son Heung-min at the Asian Cup – and provided an assist on his debut in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Manchester United.

“We wanted to win the three points, that’s the only not-so-good thing but we did a very good game,” Werner, whose six-month loan includes an option to make the deal permanent, said.

“It’s not easy to win at Old Trafford and yeah I’m very pleased with my game.

“I enjoyed it out there and with the assist, it was a very good debut for Spurs.”

Asked whether supporters saw the best of him at Chelsea, the Germany international said: “That’s hard to say. There was always criticism of my game there.

“At the beginning I also started like I did here, from the left side.

“I think a lot of people wanted to see me scoring more goals, but at Spurs, with the tactics we have and the way the manager wants me to play, I can bring a lot to the group, also with my assists and maybe (by) not being the main man who scores the goals.

“To make deep runs to create space for the others and like today, to create an assist.”

Werner’s work on the left allowed Rodrigo Bentancur to make it 2-2 at Old Trafford, where Spurs twice came from behind and should perhaps have left with more than a point.

It was a promising debut from a player that scored 23 goals in 89 appearances for Chelsea and helped win the Champions League in 2021.

“Maybe sometimes it’s not about the fans or the manager,” Werner said when asked if criticism of his time at Stamford Bridge was unfair.

“Sometimes it’s about you, how you are getting things together, how you look at your stats and think, ‘I wanted to score more goals’.


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“I think now I’m a bit older, I see how important assists and deep runs are for the team.

“I also want to score goals but it’s not the main part of my game anymore. I can bring so much more especially in this kind of tactic for the group.”

Richarlison and Bentancur were the goalscorers for Postecoglou’s side on Sunday, cancelling out goals from Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford.

Hojlund’s thumping opener got United off to a dream start inside three minutes, but Erik ten Hag’s side lost their way in what will be their only Premier League match this month.

“We were talking in the break about switching off, so it was a little bit annoying (to concede so quickly),” Hojlund said, referring to Bentancur’s strike within a minute of the second half getting under way.

“We need to take the positives with us, again we need to be disappointed, as two times we were ahead.

“It can happen but again I think we played a great game.”

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag wants to see Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford kick on after both strikers scored in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham at Old Trafford.

As Sir Jim Ratcliffe attended his first game since agreeing a partial takeover of the club, United were twice pegged back by goals from Richarlison and Rodrigo Bentancur in a frustrating afternoon for Ten Hag, with Scott McTominay missing a glorious chance to win it late on.

But there was encouragement in seeing summer signing Hojlund make it two goals in as many Premier League matches after a long wait to break his league duck, and then for Rashford to score only his fourth of the campaign.

“I hope they keep going, there is progress,” Ten Hag said. “They are coming up with some routines and that is what you need, especially in the front line where a quick decision has to be made and in a split second you need the right decision so you need intuition.”

This was only the sixth game in 24 domestic fixtures in which at least one of United’s forwards has found the net.

“When your forwards are not scoring it is going through the whole team,” he said. “It makes everyone insecure, starting with the front players when they are not scoring. (Alejandro) Garnacho, Hojlund, and Rashford must be a threat.”

Ten Hag claimed United should have had a penalty when Garnacho tumbled in the box but although Destiny Udogie had hold of the forward, there appeared to be little in the incident.

“Yes,” Ten Hag said when asked if it should have been a spot-kick. “But what can you do? But I am used to it, all season that is the case.

“(Away at) Spurs was similar, a clear handball from (Cristian) Romero and I can list more. In some point in the season I think it will turn to our side. Let’s hope for that.”

While Ten Hag was delighted by two “great goals” for his side, he called Tottenham’s equalisers “soft”, with Richarlison heading in from a corner and   Bentancur allowed to stride through the United box as Tottenham caught them cold at the start of the second half.

“The equaliser is no good but I have seen some good spells,” he said. “Two goals and we created other chances. We played well and that pleased me most but you are still disappointed when you get this result.”

Spurs counterpart Ange Postecoglou was proud of his side having travelled north without several players through injury and illness.

Tottenham bossed possession and had 16 attempts at goal to United’s nine, but allowed the hosts to score with their only two shots on target.

“I thought it was an outstanding performance, considering the team out there today,” said Postecoglou, whose team remain fifth in the Premier League, eight points above seventh-placed United .

“It’s a difficult place to come and play. A win today would give United some kind of momentum.

“Every time these players have to deal with adversity, they do it. It was an outstanding performance, I thought they were unlucky not to win.”

Romero and Bentancur returned ahead of schedule while Micky van de Ven played almost the entire match before suffering with cramp in his first appearance since early November.

And Postecoglou said their desire to play and help a short-handed team even when not fully fit spoke of the spirit in the Tottenham camp.

“We are not (where we are) because everything is running our way,” he said. “Anyone doing an objective commentary on our season would say we have not had it easy. These guys are giving me everything. They just give everything.

“It is not always smooth but there is no manager on this planet who wouldn’t feel they are not in the right place when they put in this effort.”

Tottenham twice pegged back Manchester United to deny Erik ten Hag’s men victory as Sir Jim Ratcliffe attended his first match since agreeing a partial takeover of the club.

The billionaire’s agreement to buy a 25 per cent stake and take control of football operations has brought some hope to a club that has fallen off the top of the English game under owners the Glazers.

But it is a long way back and fans will continue to protest the Americans’ involvement, no matter how diminished, with Ratcliffe getting a first-hand look at the challenge he is taking on in Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Spurs.

The 71-year-old, who grew up supporting United, sat next to Sir Alex Ferguson in the directors’ box at Old Trafford and only had to wait three minutes to celebrate as summer signing Rasmus Hojlund hammered home.

Richarlison headed in an equaliser from a corner – his sixth goal in as many Premier League matches – but Marcus Rashford smartly put the hosts back ahead in the 40th minute.

Cristian Romero rattled the United crossbar in stoppage time and 49 seconds into the second half Rodrigo Bentancur slammed Spurs level, capitalising on some lax home defending.

Ange Postecoglou’s visitors looked most likely to win it but United avoided a 10th Premier League loss of the season in front of Ratcliffe and his INEOS team.

Things had got off to an ideal start from a United perspective.

Andre Onana – playing his final match before heading off to the Africa Cup of Nations – collected a cross and threw wide to Alejandro Garnacho, who played onto Bruno Fernandes.

The skipper put Rashford behind to drive forward and then cut inside, with Destiny Udogie’s eventual challenge taking the ball into Hojlund’s path rather than halting the counter.

The 20-year-old Dane moved the ball away from Spurs defenders, steadied himself with another touch before thundering a left-footed drive into the roof of the net.

Rashford tried to add a second when meeting a deep Christian Eriksen corner with an unorthodox volley across goal, but Spurs soon awoke from their slumber.

Pedro Porro’s pot shot may have been easily held but Jonny Evans had to be alert to stop a looping header from Spurs debutant Timo Werner causing problems.

Diogo Dalot cleared Bentancur’s header from the resulting set-piece off the line, but another corner would prove United’s undoing in the 19th minute.

Porro swung in from the left and Richarlison showed strength in a congested six-yard box to glance home, extending Spurs scoring run in the league to a club-record 33rd game.

Play settled for a while, only for United to kick on towards the break.

Garnacho’s penalty appeals against Udogie fell on deaf ears but the Spurs left-back was soon breathing a sigh of relief after heading a Rashford cross onto his own post.

United’s pressure continued and brought about a 40th-minute goal.

Rashford played a one-two with Hojlund around the edge of the 18-yard box, then followed a touch with a low snapshot into the bottom corner.

The England forward made a talking gesture with his hand as he celebrated – seemingly a message for those questioning him.

Rashford was blocked out as he attempted to add another but Spurs went close in stoppage time, with Romero launching himself to meet a corner and sending a header crashing off the bar.

Postecoglou’s side were not discouraged by that near miss and drew level moments into the second half.

Werner held the ball up on the left and played across to Bentancur, who drove into the box, past Evans and continued to slam Spurs level.

It was a gut punch Tottenham were determined to add to.

Richarlison forced a low save out of Onana and Werner hooked over as the visitors looked most likely to score, but they could not capitalise on their boatload of set-pieces.

Ten Hag made a pair of changes in quick succession to change the dynamics.

The first, Scott McTominay, drove narrowly wide from 20 yards after replacing Eriksen, before Lisandro Martinez came on for his first appearance since September.

Spurs introduced January arrival Radu Dragusin as the match wound down, with McTominay heading over at the end of five minutes stoppage time.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe says his involvement with Manchester United is the most exciting thing he has done and expects his partial takeover to be ratified by mid-February.

The 71-year-old billionaire was at Old Trafford on Sunday to attend his first United match since agreeing to buy a 25 per cent stake in the Premier League outfit.

And ahead of kick-off for the visit of Tottenham, Ratcliffe spoke publicly for the first time since the Christmas Eve announcement of his deal.

“It’s the first match for me since we sort of got there, if you like,” he said, introducing himself to members of the media in the press conference room.

“I am very excited to be here, but I can’t answer any questions, really, because that would be inappropriate, honestly.

“It’s a big match… we normally do well against Spurs!”

Asked if his deal to come in at United is as exciting as anything he has ever done, Ratcliffe smiled and said: “Correct. Yes.

“I have done a few exciting things, but this caps it all. There’s no question about that.”

Ratcliffe said this was his first match at Old Trafford for two to three years, mentioning Paul Scholes and Eric Cantona when asked about his favourite players.

The 71-year-old thinks he was around 10 when he first watched United, where his INEOS group are preparing to take responsibility for footballing operations.

Ratcliffe plans to come “quite a lot” moving forwards and expects ratification to arrive in the next month.

“I think it’s three or four weeks,” he said. “Early Feb.”

A colleague interjected saying “early to mid Feb”, before Ratcliffe added with a laugh “we hope they don’t find anything dodgy in our CV!”

Ratcliffe was unable to answer questions on specifics until the deal gets the final sign off, saying it would not be appropriate to say what his first impressions were.

The INEOS chief also said he “can’t comment” when asked about his influence on the January transfer window and declined to answer what the biggest challenge was.

It was a brief conversation that is expected to be followed by a more in-depth media appearance when ratification is approved.

Quizzed on how long he has had ambitions to be involved, he said: “A few years.

“It’s taken a few turns, as you know, along the road, but these things quite often do. It all turned out well in the end.”

Erik ten Hag says Manchester United will only succeed with “hungry players” after letting Jadon Sancho leave little more than a year after Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-profile departure.

The Dutch coach was brought in 19 months ago to change things on and off the pitch at Old Trafford, where he has had to deal with a fair share of distractions.

Unhappy star Ronaldo’s second spell at United ended in acrimonious fashion in November 2022 and another big name has left midway through a Ten Hag season in charge of the Premier League giants.

Sancho has been banished from the first-team since September, when he claimed on social media that he had been made a “scapegoat” after the Dutchman said he omitted him from a matchday squad due to his training levels.

The 23-year-old this week returned to former club Borussia Dortmund on loan for the rest of the season and, while he wished the winger luck, the United boss underlined the need for the right mentality at the club.

“If you want to perform, you need hungry players,” Ten Hag said.

“I already said, we need personalities and players who are very hungry to fight for the badge, so fight for this club, and to do this in the team.”

Discipline is a key pillar of Ten Hag’s approach and was backed during the Ronaldo situation by the Glazers, while new incoming minority owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has not stood in the way of Sancho’s exit.

“I think it is not about discipline, it is about normal behaviour,” the Dutchman said. “It is about that, so what you can expect from a top professional.”

United are preparing for Sunday’s home clash with Tottenham – their only Premier League match this month.

The Red Devils need a win having lost nine of their 20 top-flight matches in an injury-hit season, with results and performances increasing the pressure on Ten Hag.

But the United boss trusts a process he believes will improve as absentees return, including Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez.

Ten Hag said: “If you ask me the question ‘is it difficult for you (to deal with things)?’, no, it is not difficult for me.

“Because I could expect from the start of the season when this happened the process could go negative, then, as a manager, you have to stay positive and get the process in the right direction.

“In the meantime, you have to be pragmatic, get as much points as possible and wait until the players are fit.

“In the meantime, work on your team, work on individuals that they go to higher levels, that you set conditions that the team is performing better, that the results will rise again.”

Erik ten Hag says goal-shy Manchester United must show a clinical edge if they are to kickstart their Premier League campaign against Tottenham.

This has been a bumpy second season in the hotseat for the Dutchman, whose side enter the weekend eighth in the standings having lost nine of their 20 Premier League games.

That is as many top-flight defeats as United tasted in the entirety of last season and victory against Spurs would improve the mood around a team playing just one top-flight game in January.

Ten Hag takes heart from his side’s performance in August’s 2-0 defeat in the north London reverse but knows a killer instinct is needed if they are to beat Ange Postecoglou’s men on Sunday.

“It’s definitely different,” he said of the visitors’ approach under the Australian, who swapped Celtic for Spurs in the summer. “I think it’s a really big compliment the way they played, so he changed the environment there.

“They play really proactive, it’s very enjoyable to watch them, with a lot of dynamics. Very proactive. And they combine it with good results.

“But also, when we played them over there, I think we can take belief out of that.

“I would say, especially in the first 35 minutes, we dominated them and we should have gone in the lead.

“But we didn’t, so we have to make our own luck and take control of the game, and then we have to finish the chances.”

United’s inability to make the most of their dominance caused frustration in Monday’s FA Cup third-round win at Wigan, when they had 33 shots but only managed to triumph 2-0 against League One opposition.

Only Burnley and Sheffield United, the bottom two sides, had scored fewer than the Red Devils’ 22 Premier League goals entering a weekend they will again be without Anthony Martial for.

The 28-year-old forward is out of contract in the summer and has managed just two goals and 19 appearances in another disrupted campaign, leaving Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford as options through the middle.

“He’s not fit, so he’s not OK,” Ten Hag said of Martial, who has not featured since United fans cheered his substitution in the 3-0 home loss to Bournemouth on December 9.

“We want all the players to be fit and prepared for the game. In this moment, he is not. We have to make him fit.

“It’s his job as well to get ready for the next game, but in this moment he isn’t. He is in medical treatment, and he has to recover.”

Martial joins Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount, Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire on the sidelines, plus Sofyan Amrabat is at the Africa Cup of Nations with Morocco.

There is better news about Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro, with Ten Hag expecting the long-term absentees to be involved on Sunday.

Luke Shaw, Antony, Christian Eriksen and Amad Diallo are also back in contention for the visit of Spurs.

Ange Postecoglou has insisted Tottenham are in the Premier League title race.

Spurs have endured a tricky winter period with a litany of injuries and suspensions, but they remain within touching distance of leaders Liverpool.

Tottenham are also only a point behind Arsenal and Manchester City ahead of Sunday’s clash at Manchester United.

“By definition, we are aren’t we? So, yes we are,” Postecoglou claimed.

“I’ve said all along that until the point where you’re not, why would you discount the possibility?

“We’ve gone through a really tough period and we’re hanging in there. We had four games when results went against us, but we’ve clawed our way back. We’re still in there.

“Our performances for the most part have been pretty consistent, but all that is meaningless if we don’t finish the season stronger than the first half of the season and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

A season of transition was expected for Spurs after they finished eighth last term and sold record scorer Harry Kane on the eve of the campaign.

Postecoglou enjoyed a flying start instead with Tottenham at the summit in November, but a costly 4-1 loss to Chelsea sparked a run of four defeats in five.

Spurs have regrouped admirably since and after securing the additions of Timo Werner and Radu Dragusin this week, the Aussie coach is not prepared to put a limit on his squad’s potential.

“No, I don’t think that would be right for the players and for the club,” Postecoglou added.

“We have scratched and clawed our way into a decent position in the league, we’re into the next round of the cup, those possibilities are always there.

“And we certainly want to tackle them as robustly as possible without any fear or fear of not achieving anything.

“We’ve done it from day one, we’ve had a vision of the sort of football we want to play and some parts are really, really good and have surprised me with the progress and other parts we’re still in the early stages of development.

“We’ve got a platform here to kick on and try on from here.

“It does excite me. Look, that has to be the objective and the aim and we’ve got to take every opportunity we have to get stronger.

“Part of that process is just a trust thing, they have obviously invested in me, you can only gain that trust over a period of time and after doing certain things.

“The club itself probably took a lot of comfort from our summer window knowing they got their business right there and going into this window, saying you want to work quickly, there’s a leap of faith there which the club has to have in me and what I’m doing.

“I think the first part of the season has helped that and hopefully that keeps accelerating because hopefully it can accelerate our work and where we want to get to.”

The prognosis for James Maddison is encouraging with the England international set to return to training next week with the intention of being fit to face Man City in the FA Cup on January 26.

Postecoglou said: “He’s getting closer. He hasn’t trained with the group yet. Obviously after Man United we’ve got two weeks.

“I’ll be hoping between the two Manchester game he’s back training with the first team as long as there’s no setbacks in that two-week window.

“I think we’ve got three games in that week after the Man City game so, him and Manor Solomon are the next two that should be fairly close after that provided there’s no setbacks.”

Manchester United left-back Alvaro Fernandez is set to return from a loan spell at Granada and join Benfica, the PA news agency understands.

Donny van de Beek and Jadon Sancho have already left Erik ten Hag’s side this month to join Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund respectively on loan for the rest of the season.

Hannibal Mejbri is set to join Sevilla on loan with a view to buy having also attracted interest from Everton and Joe Hugill has joined Burton for the rest of the season fresh from extending his United contract.

Facundo Pellistri and Dan Gore are others attracting interest, while left-back Fernandez looks set to head to Portuguese giants Benfica.

The 20-year-old Spaniard joined from Real Madrid in 2020 but has yet to make a first-team appearance for United, spending last season on loan at Preston before joining Granada this term.

The process has now begun to recall Fernandez from the LaLiga outfit ahead of an expected move to Benfica, with the breakdown of the deal yet to be nailed down.

A potential 10 million euros (£8.6m) permanent move has been mentioned in the Portuguese media and a loan with clauses has also been under discussion.

Ange Postecoglou believes an alignment between all the key figures at Tottenham has allowed them to move quickly in the January transfer window.

Postecoglou repeatedly made clear his desire to bring in a centre-back early and Spurs completed the signing of Radu Dragusin from Genoa on Thursday, with Djed Spence heading on loan in the other direction.

It capped a busy week for Tottenham after they secured the loan addition of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig on Tuesday and allowed Eric Dier to depart after 10 seasons to join Bayern Munich.

Spurs’ quick work is a big shift in strategy after previously waiting until the end of the month to secure signings and Postecoglou paid tribute to chairman Daniel Levy, technical director Johan Lange and chief football officer Scott Munn.

“It’s easier said than done because while we might have a desire to do things early, you’ve got to have all parties agreeing to that and it’s not easy to do, especially in January,” Postecoglou said ahead of Sunday’s trip to Manchester United.

“The key thing for us was from the chairman to Johan and his team and Scott, we were all very aligned in what we wanted and we got our targets early.

“It was pretty clear what we wanted to do and if it didn’t happen, then we’ve moved on. But I think the fact that we were all pretty aligned on what our objectives were allowed us to be sitting here now with two players in – not so much for Sunday, but we know we’ve got a two-week break which means we get at least a couple of weeks to get the lads up to speed.

“We had some pretty clear objectives. If there’s an opportunity for us to get better, we’ll take it, but what we were trying to achieve going into it, I’m really pleased we’ve got two players in who I think will play a really important part for us.”

Postecoglou has continued to reshape the squad this month with former captain Hugo Lloris joining Los Angeles FC and Dier ending his nine-and-a-half-years at Tottenham to join Bayern.

“The club made a conscious decision to change the way we went about things and for that to happen you need change in personnel,” the Australian reflected.

“Hugo left and Eric moves on to another chapter in his career, he’s another one who has had a fantastic career here at Tottenham.

“Eric’s left his mark, he was part of a very very good side who made many great memories for our supporters here and he certainly leaves his mark here at Tottenham.

“He moves to another big club and hopefully has success in the rest of his career.

“For us, it’s a constant evolution of traying to inch forward to becoming the team we want to be.”

Postecoglou expects Dragusin to be involved at Old Trafford despite still waiting for his work permit and Micky van de Ven is fit enough to start.

Cristian Romero has also returned to training and could feature against United, but Giovani Lo Celso and Ben Davies are both out.

Lo Celso’s absence could earn Werner his full debut.

Erik ten Hag wished Jadon Sancho luck at Borussia Dortmund but would not be drawn on the winger’s long-term future following the Manchester United misfit’s temporary return to his former club.

The 23-year-old left the Bundesliga side for Old Trafford to much fanfare in 2021, joining in a £73million deal after a long, well-documented pursuit of the England international.

But Sancho has struggled to live up to the hype and been banished since claiming he had been made a “scapegoat” after Ten Hag said he did not reach the “level” required to be involved in their squad at Arsenal.


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The winger has been training away from the main group since September and has now returned to Dortmund on loan for the remainder of the season without an option to buy, saying it felt like he was “coming home”.


“I hope he’s doing well, so I wish him the best of luck,” Ten Hag said. “That’s it. I hope he’s doing well and he will be a success.”

The Dutchman has been reluctant to speak about Sancho during his four-month absence and quickly shut down further talk about the United man.

Asked what Sancho has to do at Dortmund in order to get back in the United team, he replied curtly: “No, I already replied. I think it’s enough.”

Sancho followed Donny van de Beek in leaving on loan, with other peripheral players likely to follow as United’s injury issues begin to ease.

The Red Devils have been beset by problems this term, but they are easing ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash against Tottenham.

Lisandro Martinez could be involved for the first time since injuring a foot in September, while Casemiro has been out with a hamstring complaint picked up in October.

“We have had a lot of injuries,” Ten Hag said.

“This week in training, so the last couple of days, Licha Martinez training, Casemiro training, Luke Shaw training, so there are players returning. They are coming in for selection for Sunday.

“(Christian) Eriksen was ill in the week, he will return. Antony will return. Amad (Diallo) will return.

“We have more choices in this moment in the squad to put out a starting XI and to create a bench that is stronger.”

Ten Hag’s options are improving and the United boss will be hoping that is matched by an upturn in players’ form.

Antony has been particularly underwhelming after joining from Ajax for 100million euros (£84.8m) in 2022, with a slow first season following by a poor second campaign.

The Brazil international was given a leave of absence in September to deal with allegations of abuse against him that the winger has always strongly denied.

Police inquiries in Brazil and the UK are ongoing and Ten Hag believes off-field issues have had “an impact on him”.

“I can explain (his struggles),” Ten Hag, who worked with Antony at Ajax, said. “I think it’s very simple.

“I think his off-field issues stop him playing. I think first year was OK and I think in the pre-season he was very OK. First four games were very good.

“He was out and then he came back. He didn’t deliver the performance we should expect from him and he can do so much better.

“You mention Ajax, also I look back there so his effectiveness, his end product was very high there and also in the Champions League very high.

“So, I am sure he’s capable of doing this.”

Manchester United misfit Jadon Sancho has returned to Borussia Dortmund on loan for the remainder of the season.

The 23-year-old winger claimed on social media in September that he had been made a “scapegoat” after boss Erik ten Hag said he did not reach the “level” required to be involved in their squad at Arsenal.

United later confirmed Sancho would train away from the first-team group “pending resolution of a squad discipline issue”, but a settlement between player and manager was never reached.

The England international has been banished for the past four months and will now look to kickstart his career in familiar surroundings, having returned to Dortmund on a temporary basis.

“When I walked into the changing room today, it felt like ‘coming home’,” said Sancho, who left the Bundesliga side for United in a £73million deal in 2021.

“I know the club inside out, I’ve always been very close to the fans here and I’ve never lost contact with the people in charge.

“I can’t wait to see my team-mates again, get out on the pitch, play football with a smile on my face, get assists, score goals and help the club qualify for the Champions League.”

The PA news agency understands Dortmund are contributing an initial 3.5million euros (£3m) to take Sancho on loan without an option to buy.

That figure could reach 7.5m euros (£6.5m) dependent on appearances and team success as Sancho looks to get his career back on track.

Sancho made the last of his 82 United appearances 141 days ago against Nottingham Forest – one of just three games he has played in this season.

Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said: “Jadon is an absolute difference-maker and I’m looking forward to seeing him in Black & Yellow again soon. He knows this city, Signal Iduna Park, our fans and our club.

“Even though he hasn’t played any competitive games in recent months, we’re sure that he’ll quickly settle back in with us, find his best form and help us to achieve our season objectives with his qualities.”

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