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Men's football Ten Hag ‘kicked out regardless of result’

UNDER-FIRE Erik ten Hag said today that he was solely focusing on winning the FA Cup despite reports that Manchester United were planning to sack him as manager regardless of today’s result.

The Red Devils are looking to salvage a poor, injury-hit season by beating neighbours Manchester City at Wembley tomorrow.

United bowed out of Europe before Christmas, limped home in eighth place — their lowest-ever Premier League finish — and the Guardian reported today that boss Ten Hag will be out even if the team manage to bring home the silverware.

Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel and Kieran McKenna are among the names being linked with the Old Trafford hot seat.

Earlier today, when it was put to Ten Hag that this weekend’s final could be his last match as United manager, the Dutchman chuckled and said: “I have nothing to say.

“I am just focusing on the job I have to do and that is first win the game on Saturday and then we are in the project. Keep going in the project.”

Pushed on how he wants his time at United to be judged, Ten Hag  added: “I came here to win trophies.

“Saturday I have the next opportunity and we earned this opportunity as a team and now we have to go for it.

“At the same time, in the last two years, of course after every season you review it and then we will see where we are in the project and things we have to change.

“We spoke lately about it. Underneath there are very good things — players coming up, players developing, values coming up.”

United’s injury issues have eased ahead of the final, with Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane returning recently along with Marcus Rashford and captain Bruno Fernandes.

Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount and Anthony Martial have trained in the build-up to the final, but Harry Maguire will miss out along with left-backs Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia.

Maguire sustained a muscle injury in training at the start of the May and was expected to be out for three weeks.

Asked if the defender, who has been named in England’s provisional Euro 2024 squad, had suffered a setback, Ten Hag said: “I don’t think so, no. It’s just he didn’t make it, didn’t heal as we expected.”

Maguire was joined in England’s 33-man long list by United team-mates Shaw and 19-year-old Kobbie Mainoo, but misfiring Marcus Rashford was overlooked for the finals in Germany.

The 26-year-old forward was the most eye-catching omission from Gareth Southgate’s squad and has the chance to react on a big stage at Wembley this weekend.

“He looks good and that is a career, ups and downs,” Ten Hag.

“So, a down can also be fuel, that is what I see in training. He will be highly motivated. Speak with your feet, he is highly talented.

“He has already a big career and I am sure he will get over this and he will make even more goals.”

Meanwhile, Ten Hag’s opposite number Pep Guardiola has sympathy but is well aware of what expectations are.

The City boss said: “So, in big clubs like United and City, when you don’t win you are always in trouble. It is not a secret.

“I have a huge respect for his jobs in the past and now with United. I completely agree when I listen to him and he says they were not a full squad, they did not have all the squad ready all season. They had a lot of injuries.

“They should think of the reason why. Even in my case I am focused on that. You have to be fit, fit, fit otherwise you cannot use the players.”

After last week’s unprecedented feat of securing a fourth successive English top-flight title, City have the chance to make further history by becoming the first side to win successive domestic doubles.

City have a fully fit squad aside from goalkeeper Ederson, who is sidelined with a fractured eye socket.

It is the first time since 1885 the same two sides have met in a repeat of the previous year’s final.

 

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