England boss Gareth Southgate says he will not speak to any interested parties until after Euro 2024 and called speculation linking him to Manchester United “completely disrespectful” to Erik ten Hag.

This summer could well prove the 53-year-old’s fourth and final tournament in charge of the national team with his Football Association contract expiring in December.

Southgate says contract talks are on the back burner with his full focus on glory in Germany, but the background noise dialled up this week following reports of Manchester United’s potential interest.

“I think there are two things from my point of view,” Southgate said.

“One is that I’m the England manager. I’ve got one job, basically, to try and deliver a European Championship. Clearly before that, two important games this week.

“And the second thing is Manchester United have a manager and I think it’s always completely disrespectful when there’s any speculation about a manager that’s in place.

“I’m president of the LMA so I don’t have any time for that sort of thing, really.”

United’s ambitious new co-owners Ineos are understood to admire Southgate, who has a good relationship with Sir Dave Brailsford as well as potential incoming sporting director Dan Ashworth.

But he would not be the only candidate if the job came up and the Red Devils are planning for next season with Ten Hag as things stand.

And irrespective of whether that role comes up in the coming months, Southgate says he will not speak to anyone until after the Euros.

“I think I’ve answered this every time I’ve sat with you,” Southgate said. “Yeah, my focus is a European Championship.

“If we did something, a contract, here before everybody would be saying, ‘why are you signing a contract before a Euros where you’ve got to prove yourself?’.

“I’m certainly not going to speak to anybody else ahead of that. I never have.

“I’ve been eight years in the job. I wouldn’t entertain speaking to anybody else when I’m in the job.”

What the papers say

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag‘s job is safe for the rest of the season, claims the Guardian, with the embattled manager understood to have impressed new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe during his early stages at the club.

Atalanta midfielder Teun Koopmeiners has told the Italian club he wants to leave this summer, with the Metro reporting he has been linked with Liverpool.

The Telegraph writes that 28-year-old RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner is keen to turn his loan to Tottenham into a permanent move, which may only cost Spurs £15million or less.

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Mason Greenwood: Spanish club Getafe’s hopes of signing the English forward for another loan are set to be dashed, with the Sun reporting that Manchester United want a permanent deal.

Joao Gomes: Manchester United are targeting the Wolves midfielder to replace Casemiro, says The Mirror.

Rodrygo: Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all keen on Brazil forward Rodrygo, and Real Madrid are open to offers north of £85m, says Sport.

Roy Keane and Gary Neville have said they can envisage England boss Gareth Southgate succeeding Erik ten Hag as Manchester United manager.

Ten Hag’s future at United has been questioned following Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s purchase of a minority stake in the club, with the team currently lying sixth in the Premier League.

United are expected to appoint Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth, who has been placed on garden leave after telling the Magpies he wanted to leave and has previously worked alongside Southgate at the Football Association.

Speaking on Sky Bet’s Stick to Football podcast, former United midfielder Keane said: “I could see that happening (Southgate being the next United manager).

“Well, obviously everyone’s thinking he’s probably going to be with England this summer if he has a good (European) Championship, thinking if they could win it. And if they don’t, then maybe they’re thinking you’ve ran your race with him.

“His connection with Dan Ashworth, who he has worked with previously. Yeah, I’m not that surprised with it.”

Former Red Devils defender Neville said: “I never saw Gareth Southgate as a Manchester United manager, psychologically, I never saw that.

“I can see it now, now Dan Ashworth has come in. I just think, what does Erik ten Hag need to do to stay as Manchester United manager? So, for instance, is the FA Cup enough, or does he need to get top four, or top five, Champions League?”

Wes Brown is confident Manchester United teenager Kobbie Mainoo possesses the temperament to take his rapid ascent to the England squad in his stride.

The 18-year-old was this week called up by England boss Gareth Southgate for the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, just four months after making his first Premier League start as Erik ten Hag’s side won 3-0 away to Everton.

Midfielder Mainoo has gone on to make 20 appearances this season and 44-year-old Brown, who has personal experience of coming through the youth ranks at United before going on to play for England, does not expect the youngster to get carried away by his remarkable rise.

“You can see from the way he plays that he’s very calm,” Brown told the PA news agency as he helped promote United’s July friendly against Rangers in Edinburgh.

“I don’t think he’ll let all the other stuff get to him, and that’s a good trait to have. He’s just thinking about football, and when you first come in that’s all you do think about.

“But since he’s come in he’s taken it upon himself to give himself the type of responsibility on the pitch that a lot of young players wouldn’t usually do.

“He’s been calm with the ball, and even when he comes under pressure, the way he gets out of that and passes the ball forward causes teams problems.”

Brown – who made more than 300 appearances for United under Sir Alex Ferguson – is still involved at Old Trafford in an ambassadorial role and would love to see Stockport-born Mainoo make a late surge for Southgate’s Euro 2024 squad.

“He’s someone the club have always held in high regard,” said Brown. “The way injuries have gone this season, it’s possibly forced their hand to put him in, but he’s also had to earn it.

“Once he’s got in, he’s been one of the best players in the team, if not the best. Gareth obviously sees the potential in him, and I think it’s good for him that he’s put in with the (England) boys to see how he reacts in training, and he might even get a game as well.

“With the confidence he has for such a young age, and the way he’s playing, he’s definitely earned the right to be in the squad.

“If you were looking at him right now, you would say yes (he could go to the Euros), but international football is very different.

“Hopefully Gareth sees something in him that makes him think he’s worth taking a chance on. It’s happened in the past with other young players and they’ve done really well.”

Mainoo’s latest eye-catching display came in Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final victory over Liverpool as United continued their upturn in form since the turn of the year.

“Sunday was one of the best games I’ve been at at Old Trafford and if they get another performance against Coventry in the semi-final, they could be in another final, which would be excellent,” said Brown.

“In the league, other teams dropping points has given us a slight opportunity (of a top-four spot) but it will take a run of wins to keep putting the pressure on.

“The confidence coming out of Sunday will help massively. We’re not the finished article but if we can go into games with that same attitude, belief and work-rate, I thin you’ll see a good few more points on the board.”

Kobbie Mainoo says a place in England’s Euro 2024 squad is the end goal after the Manchester United teenager’s whirlwind rise continued with a first senior call-up.

Long considered a future Old Trafford star, the 18-year-old midfielder has established himself as key part of Erik ten Hag’s side since returning from an ankle ligament injury sustained in pre-season.

Mainoo produced a man-of-the-match display as he made his first Premier League start against Everton in November and received his maiden England call-up just 114 days later.

Initially named in the under-21s set-up, he was promoted to the senior squad for the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium fresh from United’s jaw-dropping 4-3 FA Cup quarter-final win against Liverpool.

“It’s been a pretty mad couple of days,” Mainoo told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Sunday obviously was a great game and a great win, then to get called up to the under-21s obviously I was excited to come.

“Then getting down here and realising that I was with the first team was amazing.

“I was shocked and happy and it’s been a whirlwind of emotions.”

 

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Mainoo was told he would be going up to the senior side for training, but assumed they just needed a player for the session until he spoke to Gareth Southgate’s assistant Steve Holland.

The Stockport-born midfielder’s family were “buzzing” when he called to tell them good the news as his ascent continues apace.

“The games have been coming so fast at United I’ve not really had the time to think about it,” he said of the potential of a senior England call-up. “I have not really thought about it too much.

“Obviously I knew the international break was coming up, so thought about it a bit but, still, we had so many big games that I couldn’t really take my eye off the ball.

“But now I’m here, obviously I am taking it all in and it’s been amazing.”

Mainoo says his goal for the March meet-up are straightforward, saying “good training camp and two wins”.

Making his England debut is the personal goal on top of that as he tries to prove to Southgate that he is worthy of a place on the plane to Germany.

“Yeah, I think that’s the end goal for the season, to get into that squad,” Mainoo said.

“But obviously I’ve got to focus on club football in the meantime, and hopefully that’ll figure itself out.”

Wes Brown is delighted to see Scott McTominay proving himself as a regular goalscorer after initially pigeon-holing the in-form Scotland and Manchester United player as a defensive midfielder.

The 27-year-old notched seven times in the Scots’ successful Euro 2024 qualification campaign last year and has also chipped in with nine for the Red Devils this term despite not being a regular starter.

McTominay is enjoying a purple patch for United after starting their last four matches and netting in narrow victories over Wolves, Aston Villa and Liverpool since the start of February.

Brown has watched McTominay’s progress closely since he made his debut almost eight years ago, and the former England and United defender is thrilled to see his current resurgence under Erik ten Hag ahead of this summer’s Euros.

“It’s absolutely brilliant,” the 44-year-old told the PA news agency as he helped launch a July 20 pre-season friendly between United and Rangers at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium.

“I love the fact he plays higher up the pitch now, I think you’re seeing a really talented player. I used to look at Scott when he first started playing and, just because of his size and athleticism, you’d say he was a defensive midfield player.

“But he’s a goalscorer, he’s got the timing to get in the box when the balls are coming in and not only that, he puts it in the back of the net.

“He makes the runs defenders don’t like, and he’s saved United a few times this season. It always helps when you have a good run of games whereas Scott’s been in and out quite a bit at United. You can see he’s a player the manager really likes this season.”

Brown endorsed McTominay as a future United captain back in 2019 and he still believes that could come to fruition if he asserts himself as a regular over a longer period.

“He loves the club and he puts everything into it,” said Brown.

“Captain doesn’t always have to be the best player, it’s the player that gives everything and commands everything as well, and Scott’s always done that.

“Yes, you do need to be a regular to be a captain but Scott has definitely got the fundamentals to go on and do that. If you see some of the performances he’s put in this year, that’s exactly what a good captain is made of.

“The fans have noticed it, the manager has noticed it, and he’s done it in a tough period as well.

“When the team’s not playing well or the fans are sometimes upset and getting on the players’ backs, Scott’s always the one that will give that determination and the correct attitude. He just needs to play more regularly now.”

While McTominay has not always been in favour at United, he is firmly established as one of the first names on the Scotland teamsheet.

“He really thrives on playing for Scotland,” said Brown.

“Every time I see Scotland are playing, the first thing I think of is ‘has Scott scored?’ and most of the time he has. He’s a passionate player for Scotland.”

What the papers say

Gareth Southgate is the top choice of Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe to replace Erik ten Hag as manager in the summer, reports the Star.

According to The Times, Nottingham Forest may be forced to sell star players by the end of June to avoid losing more points for breaching financial rules.

Tottenham, Chelsea, and West Ham are all keen on England striker Ivan Toney, reports The Sun.

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Jack Grealish: HITC writes that Manchester City might let the England forward leave this summer, with the club understood to be raising funds to boost their squad.

Alexander Isak: The Newcastle and Sweden striker is on Arsenal’s summer shortlist, says Football Insider.

Erling Haaland: The Manchester City striker limped out of training while on international duty with Norway, alarming his club, writes The Guardian.

For Kobbie Mainoo, it was a sign of things to come.

High summer at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and a record crowd for football of 82,262. Manchester United against Arsenal in a July friendly and all the talk surrounded the Gunners’ new £100million midfielder Declan Rice.

But by the end of United’s 2-0 win, the chatter was about Mainoo after the 18-year-old had impressed with his passing ability, maturity and composure on the ball.

“It’s fantastic,” United manager Erik ten Hag said of a player called up to the England squad eight months later for the upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

“Manchester United is famous for always bringing young players up and it can be done. But we have to see.

“This year, he showed it in spring, then he got injured. We are really happy.”

It was not long, however, before Ten Hag was unhappy again as Mainoo suffered a nasty ankle injury against Real Madrid in the next game of United’s pre-season tour.

Mainoo did not return to first-team action until the end of November, curtailing progress that had seemed inevitable from the moment he joined United’s Under-18 squad in 2021.

Eligible to play for Ghana, where both his parents come from, Mainoo was capped by England from U17 to U19 level and is a son of Stockport like Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

But it was the red half of Manchester, not the blue, that Mainoo headed for at the age of nine after starting his youth career at Cheadle & Gatley junior football club.

Mainoo played a key role as United won 2022 FA Youth Cup, their first success in the competition for more than a decade.

He was named the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year at Old Trafford, claiming an award won previously by Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville.

Mainoo celebrated by signing his first professional contract and made his senior debut in a Carabao Cup victory over Charlton in January 2023.

A Premier League debut came off the bench against Leicester the following month and he has really kicked on after that pre-season injury.

The teenager has been a model of consistency in United’s inconsistent season, whether in a defensive midfield role or slightly further forward, and offering hope that better days lie ahead at Old Trafford.

Mainoo scored his first goal in the FA Cup at Newport, a Premier League winner in the dying seconds of a 4-3 classic at Wolves and has now made over 20 first-team appearances.

By the time his close control, vision and ability to resist a fierce Liverpool press had stood out in Sunday’s 4-3 FA Cup quarter-final win at Old Trafford, the clamour for him to be included in an England squad was irresistible.

“Come on, man. Come on. Man was immense, gosh,” said former England striker and ITV pundit Ian Wright.

Although some will see Mainoo as too young for a Euro 2024 brief this summer – he does not turn 19 until next month – England have experience of turning to youth at major tournaments.

Theo Walcott went to the 2006 World Cup at the age of 17 and Jude Bellingham shone at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar aged 19.

The hope for Mainoo now is that he will be joining Bellingham in Germany this summer.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has warned against the prospect of Manchester United trying to land superstar signings like Jude Bellingham or Kylian Mbappe.

The Ineos chairman is taking control of footballing operations at United following his recent minority purchase and wants to turn them back into the force they once were.

However, he believes spending big on marquee signings is not the way to prosper.

Appearing as a guest on Geraint Thomas’ Cycling Club podcast, the 71-year-old was asked whether he would try and sign England star Bellingham.

He replied: “He is a great footballer. It’s not where our focus is, the solution isn’t spending a lot of money on a couple of great players.

“They have done that, if you look at the last 10 years, they have spent a lot of money on a couple of great players.

“The first thing we need to do is get the right people in the right boxes who are managing and organising the club.

“And make sure we get recruitment right, it is such a vital part of football today.”

Later in the podcast he was given a choice of signing Mbappe for United or cyclist Tadej Pogacar for his Ineos team and he said: “I would rather sign the next Mbappe rather than spend a fortune buying success.

“It’s not that clever buying Mbappe. Anyone could figure that one out. More challenging is to find the next Mbappe or next Bellingham or next Roy Keane.”

Radcliffe is working with his long-term right-hand man Dave Brailsford at United, with Omar Berrada incoming as chief executive.

And he said it would be a “longer road” to make United great again.

“The two people who are most focused on it would be Dave and myself, in terms of how we resolve it all,” he added.

“We’ve now got Omar Berrada of course, our new CEO from Manchester City, who is still on gardening leave at the moment, he’ll be a big part of it.

“But it’s Dave and myself really.

“You have to believe with Manchester Utd, if we get all the details right, all the right people in the right boxes, doing the right things in the right environment, that sporting elite environment that the results will drop out the bottom.

“Those things are not right at Manchester United today as we’ve said very clearly.

“It’s not a light switch, it’s a much longer road to travel because there’s so many aspects to it.”

Former England striker Michael Owen announced he would retire at the end of the season on this day in 2013.

Owen, then 33, had signed a one-year contract with Stoke after leaving Manchester United the previous summer but his time in the Potteries was hampered by a hamstring injury, contributing to his decision to call it a day.

Owen scored 40 goals in 89 England appearances – making him the fourth highest scorer for his country’s men’s team at the time – and played at the top level for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United.

“It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire,” Owen said on March 19, 2013.

“I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey I could only have dreamed of.

“I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career.”

Owen burst on to the scene as a teenager at Liverpool and made England’s 1998 World Cup squad aged only 18.

His memorable solo goal against Argentina in that tournament made him a world superstar.

Owen scored 220 goals in club football, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Cup, as well as being a three-time League Cup winner.

The peak of his club career came at Liverpool where he scored 158 goals in 297 appearances, including a late double in the Reds’ 2-1 FA Cup final victory over Arsenal in 2001 – , before moving to Real Madrid in 2004.

Owen returned to the Premier League with Newcastle in August 2005 and, after four injury-blighted years on Tyneside, moved to Manchester United on a free transfer and won his sole Premier League title at Old Trafford in 2011.

He won the Ballon d’Or in 2001 – the first English player to collect the accolade since Kevin Keegan in 1979.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is unlikely to retain his position next season, so says David James. 

The Red Devils sit sixth in the Premier League table after a mixed campaign, with some calling for Ten Hag to be replaced following a series of underwhelming performances and a group-stage Champions League exit.

However, United claimed a morale-boosting victory on Sunday when Amad Diallo scored in the 121st minute to snatch a 4-3 win, after extra time, over Liverpool in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

But with INEOS owner Jim Ratcliffe, whose purchase of a 27.7 per cent stake in the club was ratified earlier this year, having taken charge of football operations, James believes Ten Hag will not be part of the hierarchy next year. 

"I think traditionally with United, the manager's job is solely dependent on qualification in the Champions League," James told Stats Perform.

"I don't think they're going to qualify for the Champions League. I don't think [he’ll] be there next year on that basis to start with.

"I hear him talk about good performances when they lose games or good parts in losing matches and I think this doesn't sound like Manchester United.

"I've got nothing against the person as an individual, of course, but as a manager, I'm not hearing from him what I think I should be hearing about Manchester United, who are one of the biggest clubs in the world. So next season, I don't think he'll be there, as simple as that."

Ten Hag's side lost 3-1 in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month, having held a 1-0 lead going into half-time courtesy of a Marcus Rashford stunner. 

When asked for his thoughts on that performance, James said: "I watched them. I was at the Manchester derby and it's probably one of the worst games I've seen United play.

"I know they were leading 1-0 but the last shot in the game was in the 23rd minute. That was a wonderful strike but you would argue a slightly fortuitous strike by Marcus Rashford. They were poor, very, very poor. This isn't what I expect from United.

"I was doing the commentary and saying – I think it was 60-odd minutes, 65 – how is this still one all? How is this game still a draw? I just couldn't make any sense."

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.”

Two Manchester United fans were arrested in connection with tragedy chanting during Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Greater Manchester Police is also trying to identify another United supporter after footage widely shared on social media footage appeared to show him allegedly engaging in tragedy chanting.

GMP announced it had made eight arrests in total at the game, including three Liverpool fans for possession of Class A drugs, an away supporter on suspicion of possession of a pyrotechnic, and two United fans for a racially-aggravated public order offence and pitch encroachment respectively.

As well as the arrests, a 39-year-old man, George Fenning from Edinburgh, has been charged with possession of a Class B drug, possession of a pyrotechnic and throwing missiles and subsequently bailed.

“The arrests made were the result of us taking a proactive, zero-tolerance approach to ensure that genuine supporters and spectators were able to enjoy the match safely,” said Chief Inspector Jamie Collins, silver commander for the match.

“GMP can confirm that a 21-year-old and a 59-year-old man were arrested in connection with tragedy chanting.

“Incidents of tragedy chanting will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.

“We are also aware of footage circulating on social media of a Manchester United supporter engaging in tragedy chanting.

“No arrest has been made yet but GMP are working with both clubs to identify the individual in connection with this incident.

“We held a supporter group meeting with both sets of fans prior to the match and both groups agreed that tragedy chanting was totally unacceptable.

“GMP will clamp down on this and arrest those who engage in such behaviour, regardless of what team they support.

“I hope that these arrests will act as a deterrent to anyone attending future games.”

However, Peter Scarfe of the Hillsborough Survivors Support Alliance believes police have to take a wider approach to tragedy chanting.

In the middle of the second half of Sunday’s FA Cup tie – which United won 4-3 after extra time – a significant number of fans in the Stretford End were heard chanting ‘Murderers’, quickly followed by ‘Always the victims’ and the singing was clearly audible to the live television audience.

“It’s not getting better. The message is not getting through,” Scarfe told the PA news agency.

“It’s one or two arrests and being charged but when you have the Stretford End singing ‘Murderers’ and ‘Always the victims’, who do you target?

“We had Hillsborough survivors at the game and they have tried to report it to stewards and police but there are too many of them.

“I’ve become more hardened in my role but you see how painful it is to be continually called a murderer.”

United did not comment publicly but sources said the club were “fully supportive” of statements issued by The Football Association and GMP condemning tragedy chanting.

But Scarfe also believes clubs should be made responsible for their supporters.

“If you were to fine the clubs the money could go back into emotional support groups or awareness courses but it would then lower the allocation when they come to Anfield,” he added.

“So fans are not getting to go to away games and as it dwindles down there will be a banning order on them all.

“We don’t want that as a club, and neither will anyone else, because you want that banter between home and away fans.

“And I’m not saying there were not chants going the other way: there was one particular guy who started the Munich shout and he was told straight away to shut his mouth.

“Until we get our ducks in order we can’t expect others to do that same. It has to be zero tolerance to them.

“But what is going to happen in three weeks’ time when we play them again and Liverpool are playing to win the league?”

Manchester United skipper Bruno Fernandes is determined to end a poor season on a high after Sunday’s jaw-dropping and “spicy” FA Cup quarter-final win against Liverpool.

With immense pressure on manager Erik ten Hag and his misfiring side, the Red Devils secured a remarkable 4-3 victory in stoppage time of extra time through substitute Amad Diallo.

His strike sparked wild celebrations and secured an FA Cup semi-final against Coventry, breathing new life into a season that had threatened to go into a tailspin.

Asked if he had ever seen scenes like that at Old Trafford before, captain Fernandes said: “I think the last year probably against Liverpool, it was the turnaround of last season and kind of the same.

“Today the game got a little bit spicy, a little more special because it’s an FA Cup game and if you lose, you’re out.

“We know the rivalry between fans, we know how United fans wanted us to win the game to give us something to celebrate because it’s not been great for us.”

The key victory Fernandes referenced came in August 2022 after Ten Hag began his United reign with defeats to Brighton and Brentford.

That season ended up with Carabao Cup glory, reaching the FA Cup final and a third-placed league finish and the Dutchman hopes Sunday can be the turning point after several false dawns as they look to chase down a Champions League finish.

“We’ve talked about turnarounds but have never done the next step,” Fernandes said. “But I think we have to understand the FA Cup is a thing and the Premier League is another one.

“In the league now, we have 10 matches to go and we don’t depend on ourselves but as we saw Tottenham losing points to Fulham, Villa losing points to West Ham.

“But our main goal is to not lose points to Brentford away. We need to put our effort into winning that game.”

Fifth could prove enough for Champions League qualification as sixth-placed United look to reel in Aston Villa and Tottenham, while the FA Cup offers a chance to top it off in glorious fashion.

Cheers were heard from suites around Old Trafford when Coventry were drawn rather than Manchester City or Chelsea but there is little chance of semi-final complacency.

“Obviously we’re playing a Championship team and not a Premier League team, but Wolves went out against them,” Fernandes said.

“We don’t want to compare ourselves with Wolves but we have to respect every team that comes here because I remember two seasons ago we went out against Middlesbrough at home.

“We have to respect them, give them the respect they deserve and give our best performance, as we did against Liverpool and with the same mentality.”

Fernandes epitomised that approach, filling in at centre-back – a role he said he used to play as a kid – and playing through a dead leg as his remarkable record of availability continued.

“It’s not proud, I just have to be grateful for my father and my mum because they made me the right way, the strong way,” the Portugal playmaker said.

“They’ve been here for the last two games and they give me that extra energy. With my kids and my wife, they always take care of me.”

Another to exemplify United’s impressive mentality was matchwinner Diallo, who has struggled for game time this term but etched his name in club folklore on Sunday.

“He got his reward because he’s doing the right things,” Fernandes said of the 21-year-old, who received a second yellow card for taking off his shirt.

“He deserves it. Unfortunately, he got sent off, but it’s part of the moment and part of being young.

“This moment has to be enjoyed and I think it’s one of the rules football has to change because you should be able to celebrate the goal, obviously with respect to other clubs, to enjoy your moment.”

Eric Cantona has hinted he would be interested in a role at Manchester United under the club’s new part-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Former United forward Cantona, who won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups with United before retiring as a player in 1997, said the club “remains full in my heart”.

In an interview with the Big Issue before the release of his live album later this month, Cantona Sings Eric, the Frenchman said he did not have the time to be a coach when asked if there was a role for him at Old Trafford.

 

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“I am involved in too many things I really love to be a manager,” he said. “In everything I do I work hard to give 100 per cent so that I am able to have the confidence and to enjoy.

 

“So I don’t have the time to be manager. But maybe something else…”

Ratcliffe completed a £1.25billion deal to buy a 27.7 per cent stake in United last month and Cantona is confident the club will be challenging for major honours again.

“For sure with Jim Ratcliffe I think we come back as the best,” the 57-year-old said.

“The way you drive the club is important. Ratcliffe, who is a fan of United since forever, is a great businessman of course, but is also very passionate about sport.”

Cantona, who walked away from football aged 30 because he “lost the passion”, said he could have played for “five or seven more years”.

“I never played football for money. I would have paid a lot of money to play for Manchester United,” he said.

Cantona, who embarked on an acting career following retirement, added: “I always knew that I will do something in art, any kind of arts, painting, photography, acting. Music is the last one.

“Music, it’s the closest thing to the excitement we can have when we play football. Music touches you. Every one of us. I don’t think it’s a human being that creates music. Music is a part of a human being.

“See a kid two years old and they start walking, they hear music and they start to dance. They never learned music. The music is something special.”

::Cantona’s live album of self-written songs, Cantona Sings Eric, will be released on March 29 and will be followed by a live UK and Ireland tour, starting in Dublin’s Liberty Hall on April 10 and ending at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on April 20.

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