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Erik ten Hag admits Manchester United are over-reliant on Marcus Rashford’s goals

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag admitted the team are over-reliant on Marcus Rashford, after he scored the winner as they beat Brentford 1-0 in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Wednesday to climb back into the top four.

Since the World Cup ended in December, only Napoli’s Victor Osimhen (12) has netted more league goals in Europe’s big five leagues than the England forward (11).

Overall, only Erling Haaland (42) and Kylian Mbappe (31) have scored more times than Rashford (28) in Europe’s big five league’s this term.

United’s other strikers are Wout Weghorst, who has scored twice in 19 matches and Anthony Martial, who has six goals in 16 games but has been injured for much of the season.

“Yes, it’s the truth,” conceded ten Hag, when asked if the Red Devils are too reliant on Rashford.

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“But we know other players can score as well.

“Bruno (Fernandes) can score as well. We have many more players across the squad who can score.”

Rashford has found the net 19 times at Old Trafford this campaign, the most by a United player since Wayne Rooney, the club’s all-time top scorer, also netted 19 at home in 2011-12.

The 25-year-old’s 10 winning goals in the Premier League are the most by a Red Devil in a single season since Rooney in 2009-10.

“We are in that period of the season where every game is important and every game counts, so we are pleased to win,” Rashford said.

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“We are not going to play our best every week, but there is never a time to drop our standards and we have to keep trying to push each other.”

The victory was a perfect response following a 2-0 defeat by Newcastle United on Sunday and lifted the Red Devils to 53 points, three ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and level with the Magpies in third.

United started brightly, forcing a series of corners and free kicks and, when the breakthrough came in the 27th minute, it was from another set piece.

A Brentford clearance from a corner only made it as far as winger Antony on the edge of the box.

He lofted it towards Marcel Sabitzer, and Rashford met the Austrian’s bouncing headed knockdown with a sumptuous half-volley that gave David Raya no chance.

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David de Gea almost gave Brentford a lifeline early in the second half when his loose clearance cannoned into Ivan Toney. But, luckily for the United goalkeeper, the ball bounced to safety.

“We want to play as a machine and not make mistakes,” said ten Hag.

“We made one mistake and thankfully they didn’t benefit from it. This is a massive win.”

United could have sealed the game in the 80th minute as Rashford broke down the left and squared to Fred, but the Brazilian blazed the ball high over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Brentford poured forward in the closing stages, but the closest they came to scoring was an audacious chip from Toney that drifted harmlessly over the bar as the hosts held on.

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Said Bees boss Thomas Frank: “We’re just disappointed that we didn’t get anything of it.

“That’s crazy because we were playing Manchester United. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of who we are and what we have done.”

Looking for a top-four finish that will give them a crack at Champions League football next season, Rashford said consistency would be key for United as the Premier League heads into its final phase.

“Hopefully we can build on that and get back to where we were a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

-Reuters

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Sancho back in training with Man United after positive meeting with Ten Hag

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Jadon Sancho was back training with Manchester United for the first time in 10 months, with a club source confirming the winger and manager Erik ten Hag have resolved their differences following their public fallout last year.

Sancho and Ten Hag had a positive meeting at Carrington Training Centre and the two have decided to draw a line under last season’s drawn-out argument, the club source said.

The 24-year-old Sancho made just three appearances for United last season, spending the second half of the campaign on loan to Borussia Dortmund after his relationship with Ten Hag soured in September.

Ten Hag had left the winger out of his squad for United’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal, saying Sancho’s performances in training had not warranted a place in his team. Sancho immediately lashed out on social media, accusing Ten Hag of making him a “scapegoat.”

He was banished from the first team and trained with United’s youth squad before returning to his former club Dortmund in January, where he shone during their Champions League semi-final victory against Paris St Germain, earning praise from Ten Hag. Dortmund were beaten by Real Madrid in the final.

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“(Sancho) is a very good player… he showed why Manchester United bought him and he showed he represents a high value for Manchester United, which is good,” Ten Hag told reporters following Dortmund’s 1-0 win over PSG in the first leg.

“I’m happy for Jadon, for the performance, and we’ll see what is going to happen in the future.”

Sancho will not travel with the team to Norway for their pre-season opener against Rosenborg since he began training later than the other players but the club source said he would be available for selection after that.

-Reuters

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Another Nigerian blood replaces Ndidi at Leicester

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Wilfred Ndidi who has just left Leicester City will have another Nigerian blood replacing him.

Leicester has never been without a Nigerian since Ahmed Musa joined in 2016. Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho joined in 2017.

Another Nigerian blood, Caleb Okoli, a centre back, has just been signed from Italian  Serie A side Atalanta on a five-year contract. Born in Itali, Caleb Okoli is Igbo and Yoruba by descent.

The 22-year-old, who spent the last season on loan at Frosinone Calcio, represented Italy at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

“I think now is the right moment (for me) to make a step forward and a very big one. I’m very happy with the choice I made, so I’m very excited to start in the Premier League,” Okoli said in a statement. The clubs did not disclose financial details of the deal.

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Ruud van Nistelrooy returns to Man United

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United legend Van Nistelrooy is expected to be announced as one of Erik ten Hag's assistants

Manchester United legend, Ruud van Nistelrooy has been spotted being driven into Carrington, the training ground of Manchester United.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and Rene Hake arrived at Manchester United’s training ground

Reports have it that the Dutchman is set to be appointed as one of Erik ten Hag’s new assistant coaches.

He played for Manchester United from 2001 to 2006.

Now  48, he reportedly turned down job offer from Burnley to return to his old club, having previously led PSV Eindhoven to second place in the Eredivisie and victory in the Dutch Cup.

He is being joined by Rene Hake, 52, who was persuaded to give up his job as Go Ahead Eagles manager despite leading the Deventer-based club into Europe for only the third time in their history.

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