Former Manchester United striker Andrew Cole believes it could take Sir Jim Ratcliffe longer than three years to turn the club into genuine Premier League title challengers.

Ratcliffe has laid out his plans to restore United to their former glory at the top of English football within “two or three seasons” after becoming their co-owner earlier this week.

Cole, who won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League during his eight seasons as a player with United, told the PA news agency: “It’s going to take time.

“It could possibly take longer than three years, we have to be very honest.

“We’re what, 11 years in now (since United were last crowned Premier League champions)?

“If we look at ourselves now, we’re still in the same position and if he’s going to turn it around in three years he’s going to have to go some. But change is good.”

Cole, attending an event held by United’s official hydration partner WOW HYDRATE, said it has taken both Liverpool and Manchester City “six or seven years to lay their foundations”.

“They’ve had managers in place for the long term and have bought well in the transfer market. That’s what we have to do,” he said.

“As long as Pep Guardiola stays at City it’s going to be very difficult for anyone to beat them to the Premier League title.

“I think it could change at Liverpool due to the fact that Jurgen Klopp leaves at the end of the season.

“They could find themselves in the same position as Manchester United are in, starting all over again, new manager, fresh ideas.”

United won their first major trophy since 2017 last season under manager Erik ten Hag, but Cole is undecided on whether the Dutchman is the right man for the job.

“You’re only the right man if you keep winning football matches,” the former United forward said. “Once you don’t win football matches, you’re not the right man. Football will never change.”

Five straight wins in all competitions have eased the pressure on Ten Hag, with £72million summer signing Rasmus Hojlund playing a key role.

Hojlund has scored eight goals in his last eight appearances after a slow start to his United career and Cole is delighted for the 21-year-old Denmark striker.

“A lot was expected of him, but it was always going to take time in this United team,” Cole added. “But fair play to him. He took a bit of flak, but he never hid.

“A lot is expected of a young man to come in and be Manchester United’s main goalscorer.

“Many players have come before him to Old Trafford and failed and I like the way he’s gone about his business recently.”

What the papers say

Manchester United investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe wants to wait until the end of the season before deciding on the future of manager Erik ten Hag, reports the Daily Star.

Meanwhile, Liverpool knocked back an approach from Chelsea for forward Darwin Nunez last summer, says The Times.

According to the Independent, Sporting Lisbon manager Ruben Amorim is a leading contender to replace Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp if they miss the chance to secure Xabi Alonso .

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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: Tottenham do not expect the midfielder to stay at the club this summer, with several Serie A sides interested in the 28-year-old, writes Football Insider.

Amadou Onana: Arsenal are eager to sign the Everton midfielder this summer, reports TEAMtalk.

Oscar Bobb: Manchester City are close to locking the Norway striker into a new long-term contract, says the Daily Mail.

Everton manager Sean Dyche has admitted the club’s 10-point deduction may have had a psychological effect on his players.

The Toffees are still awaiting the outcome of their appeal against the punishment they received for breaching the Premier League’s financial regulations last November.

The sanction has effectively plunged the Merseyside club into a relegation battle and Dyche feels the uncertainty over whether or not they will get any points back could be having an impact.

Dyche told a number of national newspapers: “It affects everyone – everyone is sitting around waiting and wondering.

“They take those 10 points off immediately, so you keep looking at that table and you keep getting asked about being in the bottom three, four, five. They don’t leave you up there, so how do we know how that affects the psychology?

“It changes the perception, it changes the feel, it changes the fan base, it changes the feel of performances. That’s just a fact. We all measure it differently when the team are there, top, middle or bottom.

“Does that affect the team whilst the process is going? At first everyone says obviously not because you win four, but you could argue there is a delayed effect.”

Everton’s appeal hearing was held at the end of last month and a verdict is now thought to be imminent but no exact date has been set for when it will be delivered.

“We haven’t got a clue, or I certainly haven’t at the moment,” said Dyche at a press conference.

“The guidelines that you (the media) suggest and we suggest have been for around about the end of the month, so we just have to wait and see.

“I don’t know all the legalities of appeals, of course, but I think it’s in everyone’s interest, firstly our own of course, and for the greater good of football – I think everyone’s wondering – it would be helpful if it’s sooner rather than later.”

After initially responding well to the points setback, Everton are now without a win in eight Premier League games.

They are above the relegation zone only on goal difference after a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Monday.

Dyche, whose side travel to Brighton on Saturday, has at least been pleased with the attitude of his players throughout a troubled period.

He said: “I think the players have been working very hard, very diligently. I’m very pleased with what they’re doing on a daily basis. I don’t think it is literally in the way of every day’s business.

“I’m sure at the back of their minds they’re still wondering, ‘Come on then, when are you going to tell us where we’re at and give us more of a factual kind of view?’, but we’re in the same mindset – it is where it is and that’s it.

“We look at where it is now and then see what comes. We can’t do anything about it until it’s done.”

Trafford Council is looking forward to working with Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe on his ambitious plans to regenerate the south of the city.

Ratcliffe set out two routes to providing United with a stadium which he feels would befit the club’s status – either a redevelopment of Old Trafford or building a brand-new stadium which would be a northern rival to Wembley.

Ratcliffe sees the extra revenue generated from either option as a key factor in helping United consistently challenge north-west rivals Manchester City and Liverpool for domestic and European honours, having vowed on Wednesday to “knock both of them off their perch”.

He anticipated redevelopment would cost in the region of £1billion, while he estimated a new stadium and regeneration project would be £2billion. He saw no reason why state funding should not partially cover the cost of the bigger project, which he believes could transform the area around the stadium.

United’s existing leadership have been working alongside Trafford Council on its Trafford Wharfside development plan, and council leader Tom Ross was excited by Ratcliffe’s vision.

“We’ve got two visions that are coming together – a potential brand new stadium as discussed by Sir Jim, and also the vision we have for housing regeneration, bringing this area back to life,” Ross told BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday.

“There’s a lot of excitement in Manchester United about this as a key partner of ours. We look forward to working together to deliver those plans.”

Ratcliffe said on Wednesday that a task force – which could include former United defender Gary Neville – was being formed to consider the feasibility of the new stadium project. The PA news agency understands Trafford Council expects to be invited to join too.

United have been urged to actively involve local residents and small business owners in their plans as they consider how to proceed.

Dr Tom Bason, a sports legacy and football finance expert at Coventry University, highlighted research which found such groups had not been properly consulted in previous stadium-led regeneration projects, and ended up being priced out of the area.

“(Proper consultation) is the sort of thing that needs to happen from the start otherwise you do end up with this sort of displacement that we saw around the Olympic Stadium (in east London),” Dr Bason told PA.

“It’s not always intentional, but if you see house prices or rent increases going up 20, 30, 40 per cent, although you might not be kicked out because your house or flat is getting knocked down, you might still have to leave that area because you can’t afford to live there any more.

“The same happens with businesses – multinationals start coming in, you start to get chains of coffee shops rather than a local café for example.

“It’s not always intentional but if these sort of local community groups, residents and businesses aren’t part of the process, it is what happens every time.”

Liverpool midfielder Wataru Endo believes victory in the Carabao Cup final will provide the extra energy required to maintain their challenge on three other fronts.

Sunday’s meeting is a repeat of the Reds’ 2022 encounter with Chelsea at Wembley which Jurgen Klopp’s side eventually won 11-10 on penalties with only one player – goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga – missing.

However, only four of that Liverpool starting XI are likely to be in this weekend’s team – Mohamed Salah would be a fifth but is currently doubtful with a minor issue after making his comeback from a hamstring problem at Brentford – as a result of some high-profile departures and a raft of injuries.

The extent of the injury crisis was laid bare in Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Luton, in which Klopp named a bench with three defenders and four academy players, and should that situation continue it could seriously hamper Liverpool’s bid to contend in the Premier League – which they lead – the FA Cup and Europa League.

But Endo said nothing gives players a boost like winning a trophy and for a large number of the Reds’ team – the Japan international included – Sunday will be their first chance at the club.

“If we could win this first one I think it would have a really positive impact on the other competitions we’re competing in,” said the £16million summer signing.

“Winning at Wembley would give us extra energy for the challenges ahead. I’m so excited to play there. It will be my first time at such a special stadium.

“It would mean a lot to me. It would be my first title with Liverpool and I’m focused on doing everything I can to help the team win the final.

“The manager has spoken to us about staying positive and needing to show that we are Liverpool. We did that against Luton.

“We don’t think too much about injured players, we just focus on the next game in front of us.”

Sunday is the first significant milestone in Klopp’s long goodbye after he announced his decision to leave at the end of the season.

Endo was away at the Asian Cup when the news broke but the 31-year-old, who has proved his critics wrong after being viewed as an emergency stop-gap holding midfielder, is keen to repay the manager’s faith.

“I was sad to hear about that. I really enjoy playing for him and playing football the way he plays,” he said.

“It’s disappointing but I really want us to achieve titles for him before he goes.

“I’ve only played for Jurgen for one season. Others have been here a lot longer so maybe they have more emotion but he has helped me so much.”

 

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After a tough introduction to English football the former Stuttgart midfielder has cemented his place as the team’s anchor, fulfilling a role which Alexis Mac Allister had been asked to do after Fabinho departed to Saudi Arabia in the summer.

 

“It’s hard to play for Liverpool. There’s always a lot of pressure,” Endo added.

“Playing in the Premier League is tough but this is something I wanted for a long time and I try to make sure I enjoy it and do my best every time.

“I feel like I’ve developed over the course of the season and that has helped to give me confidence.”

Everton manager Sean Dyche says the club remain in the dark as to when they will hear the outcome of their appeal against their 10-point deduction.

The Toffees received the sanction for breaching the Premier League’s financial regulations last November and their appeal against the punishment was heard at the end of January.

That verdict is now thought to be imminent but no exact date has been set for when it will be delivered.

“We haven’t got a clue, or I certainly haven’t at the moment,” said Dyche at a press conference.

“The guidelines that you (the media) suggest and we suggest have been for around about the end of the month, so we just have to wait and see.

“I don’t know all the legalities of appeals, of course, but I think it’s in everyone’s interest, firstly our own of course, and for the greater good of football – I think everyone’s wondering – it would be helpful if it’s sooner rather than later.

“But, as I said, I don’t know how the legal process, the timescales and why it takes so long. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”

The points deduction means Everton are now facing another relegation battle. After a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace on Monday, they are above the bottom three only on goal difference.

The uncertainty does not end there with the club also facing a second charge of breaching financial regulations and a proposed takeover by 777 Partners proving a protracted affair.

Dyche said: “There hasn’t been much calm water since I’ve been at this club, that’s for sure – the odd week, and then another wave comes and hits you in the face. Let’s see how it tumbles forward.”

Dyche, whose side travel to Brighton on Saturday, has been pleased with the attitude of his players throughout a troubled period.

He said: “I think the players have been working very hard, very diligently. I’m very pleased with what they’re doing on a daily basis. I don’t think it is literally in the way of every day’s business.

“Of course, you still look at a league table that they adjusted immediately and took 10 points away – we don’t know whether that 10 points is fact.

“I’m sure at the back of their minds they’re still wondering, ‘Come on then, when are you going to tell us where we’re at and give us more of a factual kind of view?’, but we’re in the same mindset – it is where it is and that’s it.

“We look at where it is now and then see what comes. We can’t do anything about it until it’s done. “If we had a million conversations, it’s not going to change what’s happening in an appeal process. Unfortunately that process has taken some time.”

Burnley boss Vincent Kompany has revealed his father’s experiences as a political refugee give him the drive and determination to lead the club’s fight for Premier League survival.

The Clarets are on course for relegation after a 5-0 thrashing at home to Arsenal left them anchored in 19th place with just three wins this season, but Kompany’s resolve has roots far beyond the football pitch.

Explaining his hunger for the fight, the former Manchester City captain cited his father Pierre, who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo for Belgium as a dissident in 1975 having protested against the brutal dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. He later went on to become Belgium’s first black mayor, and put his son on the path to a glittering sporting career.

Offering an emotional account of his inner drive, Kompany said: “It’s a deep answer; it’s about where you come from.

“Where I come from is my dad, who was a political refugee. He had to flee a country not just at war, but as a dictatorship where he was getting whipped in his twenties because he was against the regime over there.

“It’s fleeing from one part of the country to the other, it’s losing family members, it’s everything you’ve experienced. It’s where I come from.

“You say where does the drive and desire come from? I have so many reasons to have that fire in me every single day. So many reasons why I can’t ever do less.

“It’s bigger than one result, or a bad month, or anything like that.”

Kompany also pushed back against the notion that this season’s struggles were a new experience for someone more accustomed to lifting silverware than fighting the drop.

“That’s the bulk of the known experiences, yeah. But a gambler never tells you about his losses, right?” he said.

“That (a serial winner) is what you see, but my experiences feel different. I do feel I’ve had to overcome and do a lot to get where I was.

“You’re in a position where your job is the centre of your life, you’re that focused on it 24/7 that keeping perspective can be difficult, so to have my dad, my mum, our own experiences, it is important.

“It’s important to keep a steady course because you have a bad result and usually the way it works in football is it kind of defines who you are for the next week – you can imagine that after the Arsenal game.

“But the reality is it’s the strength of a team when you are able to move past it and not let it define you.”

One of Kompany’s players who will need plenty of mental strength in the days ahead is Aaron Ramsey, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

The 21-year-old left the field on a stretcher with what looked a nasty knee injury against the Gunners and faces a lengthy lay-off.

“Unfortunately for us he was as bad as we thought, definitely his season is over,” said Kompany.

“Maybe for the larger part of this year he won’t feature. I don’t want to go into specifics but the main thing is he’ll recover fully.”

Following Jayden Danns’ brief debut appearance for Liverpool in their home win against Luton, visiting boss Rob Edwards, in conversation with Jurgen Klopp, was seen mouthing: “I played against his dad!”

Striker Danns, 18, is the son of former Crystal Palace, Bolton and Bury midfielder Neil Danns and is not the only offspring of a once-famous footballer to have made a breakthrough this season.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five more young talents with dads you may remember.

Bobby Clark

Liverpool’s academy has more teenagers with famous fathers, including Bobby Clark, son of former Newcastle and Fulham midfielder Lee. Bobby, 19, made his Premier League debut against Bournemouth at Anfield last season, coming on as an 83rd-minute substitute with the Reds leading 9-0. He repeated that feat this season in a 4-0 win on the south coast and has come off the bench three more times in the league this term, including late on against the Hatters on Wednesday night. Bobby moved to Liverpool from Newcastle – the club where dad Lee started his playing career – in August 2021. Lee went on to join the Magpies’ arch-rivals Sunderland before returning to the Premier League with Fulham in 2001 after helping the Cottagers to promotion. He later moved into management, most notably with Huddersfield and Birmingham. Lewis Koumas, son of former Tranmere and West Brom midfielder Jason, and Keyrol Figueroa, whose dad Maynor made 214 Premier League appearances for Wigan and Hull, are also part of the Reds’ youth set-up.

Gio Reyna

He may only be 21, but Sunderland-born Gio Reyna moved to Nottingham Forest with almost 100 senior appearances at German giants Borussia Dortmund under his belt. Gio is the son of former Rangers, Sunderland and Manchester City midfielder Claudio Reyna and is a United States international, just like his dad. Midfielder Gio joined Forest in January on a loan deal until the end of the season and has made two substitute appearances so far.

Jack Hinshelwood

Adam Hinshelwood may not be a household name to many football fans outside of Brighton, but son Jack is following in his footsteps. Adam made his Seagulls debut under the management of his uncle, Martin, in 2002, when the club were playing in the second tier. A central defender, Adam spent seven years as a player at Brighton and has managed Worthing since 2017. Midfielder Jack, 18, made his Premier League debut on the last day of last season, coming on as an 89th-minute substitute. He started his first league game in September – a 6-1 defeat at Aston Villa – and scored the first of his three goals this term against Brentford in December to secure a 2-1 win.

Bailey Cadamarteri

Danny Cadamarteri hit the headlines when he scored a stunning second goal for Everton in a 2-0 Merseyside derby victory against Liverpool in 1997. Unfortunately his career failed to ignite after that, as he left the Toffees in 2002 having scored just 13 goals in almost 100 appearances. Danny’s son Bailey, also a striker, has made an impact at Sheffield Wednesday this season aged just 18. He made his Championship debut in November and scored his first senior goal in a 3-1 win against Blackburn at the start of December. He was named the EFL’s Young Player of the Month after two more goals that month and now has four to his name for the season. Danny’s younger son Caelan-Kole is also making a name for himself in the Owls’ youth teams.

Tommy Doyle

Tommy Doyle comes from fine stock. Although his father Scott was not a professional footballer, the 22-year-old’s grandparents made over 750 appearances between them for Manchester City, with Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe winning the First Division title, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup with the club in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Midfielder Tommy is also a Manchester City player but is currently on a season-long loan at Wolves, who have the option to buy him this summer. The England Under-21 international has played 20 times in all competitions for Gary O’Neil’s side so far this term.

Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk admits the team was probably guilty of trying too hard to compensate for the absence of a host of star players in the 4-1 victory over Luton.

Forwards Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah were the latest added to an absentee list, which had grown to 11 senior players and left manager Jurgen Klopp short of options, certainly of match-winners, as his bench comprised three defenders and four academy players.

The likes of Harvey Elliott and Cody Gakpo, and to a lesser extent Luis Diaz, all struggled up front in the first half, but four goals in an impressive second-half comeback after going behind in the 12th minute re-established a four-point advantage at the top of the Premier League.

Klopp’s side have won now 22 points from losing positions this season, more than any other team.

“First half with the very first chance (for Diaz) we could have changed the game, but we were a bit rushed in the final third,” said Van Dijk.

“Obviously the way we turned it around was credit to the boys.

“Staying calm is the most difficult thing to do, especially in the situation where we are at; everyone wants to show themselves and play their best game ever, and you have to try to stay calm and find the right solution.

“The first half was a bit rushed and that’s why we struggled a little bit in that sense. Being 1-0 down is never nice, but the way we bounced back is good to see.”

Elliott, on his 100th appearance, scored the team’s 100th goal of the season with the late fourth to end his night on a high after coming in for some vociferous criticism from the crowd.

However, Klopp – who remonstrated with a fan who appeared to target Elliott after yet another pass went astray in the first half – defended the 20-year-old.

“Top performance. And Harvey is a top player; 100 games for Liverpool FC in not the worst period of the club’s history, where you cannot afford players who (just) play the position, that’s a proper sign,” he added.

“He had not a great first half. There was a pass with Lucho (Diaz); I saw he wants to play the pass instead of maybe he can go in a one-on-one situation.

“But the reaction in the second half is the main difference, that’s the thing. That made this performance the performance and I’m so happy for him.

“I don’t lose patience in these moments, I know that it’s a challenge for young boys.

“When everything is great, they are super talents. When things don’t go well, you have to show up. And that’s what he’s learning more and more.

“And with 100 games under his belt, we all know he will definitely play another 100, 200, 300 – if you ask him, 500 – for this club.”

What the papers say

Paris St Germain and Liverpool are both interested in England defender Levi Colwill, but Chelsea are not keen on seeing the 20-year-old leave the Blues, says the Evening Standard.

West Ham are eyeing striker Dominic Solanke, who currently plays for Bournemouth, the Daily Telegraph writes.

As per the Daily Telegraph, Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel is eager to return to England when he wraps up at the German club at the end of the season.

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Marc Guehi: Manchester United could join Liverpool in the race to sign the Crystal Palace defender, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Kylian Mbappe: Liverpool’s uncertainty over Mohamed Salah cost the club the chance to sign the Paris St Germain star ahead of Real Madrid, talkSPORT reports.

Mason Greenwood: Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are gearing up for a showdown for the Manchester United forward, as the Red Devils appear eager to offload the striker following his loan spell at Getafe, says the Daily Mail.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp evoked memories of their famous win over Barcelona in 2019 during their “thunderstorm” second-half comeback to beat Luton 4-1.

Trailing to Chiedozie Ogbene’s 12th-minute header, Klopp’s side were a different prospect after the break with Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott bringing up 100 goals for the season.

While it by no means matched the magnitude of their Champions League semi-final comeback after losing the first leg 3-0 to the Catalan giants, it was significant in terms of the title race – re-establishing a four-point lead over Manchester City – and the invigorating atmosphere which the team will undoubtedly have to lean on during the run-in.

“Tonight is one of those nights where it is difficult to stop talking. I am so happy,” said Klopp, who was without 11 first-team players including forwards Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez who remain doubtful for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

“We had to ignore the fact we were 1-0 down and use the things that are good and improve the counter-press. The second half was a thunderstorm. Wow.

“I will mention this game from now quite a few times. I promised my team a few months ago that I would never mention or use the Barcelona game as an example and I used it again today so I broke my promise.

“Just because before the game, it was kind of similar. Many players missing, stuff like this. The team that time ignored the fact who is missing and I want us to ignore the fact who is missing.

“That is difficult because the public got the whole knowledge of who is missing only tonight. It’s like… I needed a few minutes to process it when I got all the news.

“But from that moment on, when you know how you can deal with it and sort it for this game, it feels really good. That is what I wanted the boys to show.

“This is an example tonight. This is their Barcelona, now against Luton. A difficult situation, plenty of reasons to give up in moments: not tonight and I saw only a super group fighting.

“If you don’t limit yourself with bad thoughts, you can fly. And that’s what the boys did.”

Luton head coach Rob Edwards, whose side were impressive in the first half, admitted scoring so early just made their task harder.

“We just made them angry,” he said. “Overall it was a really good first half. Second half I thought we saw Anfield, saw Liverpool, saw their full-throttle football. Their counter-pressing football was amazing.

“In the end, it was a great learning curve for us to see what the best looks like. I know they had some players missing, but their second-half performance was like the best out there.

“I thought we were very, very good. They were better.”

A stirring second-half comeback saw Premier League leaders Liverpool restore their four-point advantage at the top and avoid one of the shocks of the season with a 4-1 victory over Luton.

Chiedozie Ogbene’s early header was only the 11th league goal a visiting team had scored at Anfield this season but for a long time it looked like producing another twist in the title race as the depleted hosts struggled to find their best form.

But headers from Virgil van Dijk and Cody Gakpo within the space of two minutes turned things around before Luis Diaz and Harvey Elliott fired home to ease them away from the clutches of second-placed Manchester City.

Any slip up, even at this stage, could have significant implications in what is currently a three-way battle and without this victory City would have had the chance to go top at Bournemouth on Saturday as Liverpool are otherwise engaged in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea.

That Wembley encounter meant no risks were taken with Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, who are both carrying knocks, but with injuries had already ruling out nine other players it left Jurgen Klopp with very few options.

What the first half, in particular, showed was that stand-ins Elliott and Gakpo lacked half-a-yard of pace both over the ground and in their passing.

They were not helped by some poor decision-making by Diaz, the one regular starter in the forward line, who in only the third minute delayed his shot too long as he tried to manoeuvre it on to his right foot and then shot wide with only goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski to beat.

Luton stunned Anfield by taking the lead in the 12th minute. Tahith Chong received a return pass from Cauley Woodrow before shooting from a narrow angle and the ball squeezed under Caoimhin Kelleher and bounced up to the far post where Ogbene headed into an empty goal.

Luton’s gameplan was then to try to attack the space behind the full-backs but limit Liverpool’s options by going man-for-man in defence, which often left them two on two.

The last visiting team to win a league game at Anfield – Leeds in October 2022 – did the same.

And Luton also worked harder – Albert Sambi Lokonga easing Elliott off the ball as he looked to shoot from Gakpo’s flick-on – and smarter as the hosts resorted to firing in long-range shots.

Elliott’s radar was off from two breakaways as his passes to Gakpo were three feet short and two yards too long as the final ball continued to elude them and frustrations threatened to boil over with Klopp exploding in rage at a fan near the front of the main stand, presumably for his negative reaction to a third mis-placed Elliott pass.

The early omens in the second half were not much better as Diaz fired straight at Teden Mengi but when Gakpo’s near-post shot was turned behind Van Dijk powered home a header from Alexis Mac Allister’s 56th-minute corner.

Two minutes later it was Gakpo producing a brilliant leap to launch Conor Bradley’s cross past Kaminski, who had brilliantly saved Bradley’s deflected shot with his legs.

The Luton goalkeeper did even better to repel another powerful Van Dijk header as Liverpool turned the screw, with substitute Andy Robertson charging forward to tee up Diaz for the third.

In doing so he became the fifth Liverpool player to reach double figures, which is the best of any team in Europe’s top five leagues, with Elliott grabbing his second of the season late on as Luton remained in the bottom three.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe says Manchester United will make a fresh decision on the future of forward Mason Greenwood and will “justify it one way or the other”.

Greenwood, who is on loan at Spanish side Getafe, was suspended by United on January 30, 2022 over allegations relating to a young woman after images and videos were posted online.

The now 22-year-old faced charges including attempted rape and assault but the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February last year that the case had been discontinued.

Reports last year that United were planning to retain him following an internal investigation were met by public outcry and Ratcliffe acknowledges that a decision will have to be made when Greenwood returns about what happens next – but insists nothing has been finalised yet.

“It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. There is no decision that’s been made,” Ratcliffe said at a media briefing to mark the completion of his purchase of a minority stake in United which delegates control of football operations to his company Ineos.

Asked asked if the Greenwood situation would be a “fresh decision”, Ratcliffe said: “Yeah we will. Absolutely. We will make a decision, and we will justify it one way or the other.”

Ratcliffe added: “He’s on loan obviously, but he’s not the only one – we’ve got one or two footballers that we have to deal with and we have to make a decision on, so we will do that.

“The process will be – understand the facts, not the hype, and then try and come to a fair decision on the basis of values, which is basically: is he a good guy or not?

“Could he play sincerely for Manchester United, (play) well and we’d be comfortable with it and the fans would be comfortable with it.”

Greenwood is under contract at United until the summer of 2025.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has jokingly questioned whether his Manchester United takeover rival Sheikh Jassim even exists after completing the purchase of a minority stake in the Red Devils.

Ratcliffe and Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim were the two public bidders looking to take full control of United from the Glazer family which has owned the club since 2005, before Ratcliffe’s focus switched to securing a smaller stake.

His Ineos company now controls football operations as part of a deal which will see him own 28.9 per cent of the club by the year’s end.

Reflecting on the long road to the completion of the deal, Ratcliffe admitted he did find it strange that there was an apparent lack of interest in buying United in comparison to when Chelsea came onto the market in 2022 and that his main rival for full control was someone who “still nobody has ever seen”.

“The Glazers never met him. I’m not sure he exists,” he joked.

“It was extraordinary. That (apparent lack of wider interest) was confounding. There’s no comparison between Chelsea and Manchester United, the scale of Manchester United is incomparable with any of the London clubs to be honest with you.”

Asked whether he thought he may have been bidding alone rather than against Sheikh Jassim, Ratcliffe said: “They (the Qatari bid) were obviously there and there was a whole host of people on the team, on the squad. I didn’t ever meet them. But it was a very odd affair.”

Representatives who worked with Sheikh Jassim during the period of his interest in United have been contacted for comment by the PA news agency.

Ratcliffe was asked about whether he held a long-term ambition to ultimately gain full control of United and whether he was concerned that ‘drag-along’ rights held by the Glazers which could force him to sell his stake in the event they wished to sell.

“There are all sorts of scenarios. We might get hit by an asteroid,” he said.

“There have been lots of opportunities for people to come in and buy Manchester United in the last 12 months – why is it all going to change?”

Asked if taking full control was his ultimate aim, Ratcliffe said: “The ultimate aim is just for Manchester United to play really good football. It’s not about what am I going to do in five years’ time?”

Sir Jim Ratcliffe admits Dan Ashworth would make a “very good addition” to Manchester United as sporting director and says it would be “absurd” if he was forced to serve an extended period of garden leave.

Ashworth has been placed on leave by Newcastle after informing the club that he had chosen to leave his role as their sporting director.

Manchester United co-owner Ratcliffe has confirmed United’s interest in Ashworth and hoped a sensible solution could be worked out.

“I think Dan Ashworth is clearly one of the top sporting directors in the world. I’ve no doubt he’s a very, very capable person,” Ratcliffe said on Wednesday after completing his purchase of a minority stake in United which will rise to 28.9 per cent by year’s end.

“And he’s interested in the Manchester United job because it’s probably the biggest sporting director job in the world just now, with the biggest challenge.

“It would be different if you were sporting director at Manchester City, because you’re just maintaining a level. With Manchester United, you’ve got quite a significant building job.

“I think it’d be a very good addition to Manchester United, but he needs to decide whether he’s going to make that jump.

“We’ve obviously had words with Newcastle. They clearly would be disappointed to lose Dan. I understand why they would be disappointed to lose Dan but but then you can’t equally criticise Dan because it is a transient industry.

“So we’ll have to see how it unfolds.”

Ratcliffe said it would be “a bit silly” if it took £20million to secure Ashworth’s services, and added: “What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting that a man who’s really good at his job, sits in his garden for one and a half years.

“I mean, that’s completely stupid. We had a very grown-up conversation with Manchester City about Omar (Berrada, who will become United’s new chief executive). Things calmed up and we sorted it out very amicably.

“They could see why Omar wanted to take on that challenge and they didn’t want to stand in his way.

“You look at (Manchester City manager) Pep (Guardiola) with his footballers, if you’ve got a footballer that doesn’t want to play for Manchester City, then he says ‘fine, you can leave’ but he doesn’t tell him, ‘I want you to sit in the garden for four and a half years’.

“That’s not the way the UK works, or at least not the way the law works in the UK, either. It supports a period of time which is sensible and fair, but not silly periods of time.”

Ratcliffe admitted recruitment was “top of the list” in achieving his goal of returning to the pinnacle of the English and European game within three years.

“I think recruitment in the modern game is critical,” he said.

“Manchester United have clearly spent a lot of money but they haven’t done as well as some other clubs. So when I was talking about being best in class in all aspects of football, recruitment is clearly top of the list.”

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