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Premier League

Manchester United back in Champions League with 4-1 rout of Chelsea

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Premier League - Manchester United v Chelsea - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - May 25, 2023 Manchester United's Casemiro celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates REUTERS/Molly Darlington

Manchester United will be back in action in next season’s Champions League after they hammered Chelsea 4-1 on Thursday to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Casemiro, Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes (penalty) and Marcus Rashford scored for United, who needed a point from their final two league games to officially end Liverpool’s fading hopes of securing a spot in Europe’s premier club competition.

“It’s important, this club belongs in the Champions League,” manager Erik ten Hag told Sky Sports. “But it’s not easy in the Premier League, it’s a tough competition, so it’s a massive performance when you get this done.”

Three-time European champions United, who failed to qualify for the Champions League last season, are third on 72 points with one game remaining, six points clear of fifth-place Liverpool.

Fourth-placed Newcastle United secured a spot among Europe’s elite following a goalless draw against Leicester City on Monday. Chelsea, who have struggled all season, are 12th with 43 points.

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United, who cap their Premier League season on Sunday by hosting 10th-placed Fulham, won the Carabao Cup in February and will be aiming to complete a domestic double when they face rivals Manchester City in the FA Cup final on June 3.

“(The season has been) decent, it’s not perfect because we want more,” Fernandes said.

“But for what we did this season, I think it’s great. “Won one trophy, we get to the top four, that was our goal after we saw we couldn’t go for the Premier League (title).

“Now it’s about finish the league well and go to the FA Cup and win.”

Ten Hag’s side are unbeaten in Premier League action at Old Trafford for 17 games, going back to the opening weekend of the season.

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“They know how important they are for us,” Fernandes said of the home supporters. “You could see during the season how important it was in many games, so we just appreciate all the effort.”

Casemiro scored in the sixth minute with a close-range header off a long free kick. The Brazilian helped set up Martial’s goal just before halftime with a no-look chip into the path of Jadon Sancho. Martial was there to slot the ball into the empty net.

Interim manager Frank Lampard’s Chelsea side collapsed in the dying minutes. After Fernandes had made it 3-0 with a penalty in the 73rd minute, Rashford returned from a two-game absence to score his 30th goal of the season, cutting the ball around keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Joao Felix pulled one back for Chelsea in the 89th minute.

The one negative on the night for the home side was the loss of Antony, who was left in agony with an apparent foot injury and had to be carried off on a stretcher. Ten Hag said he did not yet know the extent of the injury.

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-Reuters

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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Premier League

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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Chelsea make improved offer for Victor Osimhen

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Chelsea have increased their efforts to lure long-term target and Super Eagles striker, Victor Osimhen, to Stamford Bridge.

According to TEAMtalk, Chelsea is prepared to include Romelu Lukaku and Cesare Casadei in a deal with Napoli to reduce the cost of acquiring Osimhen.

In December, the 25-year-old forward extended his contract with Napoli following a stellar season, committing to stay at the Diego Maradona Stadium until 2026.

Despite being linked with potential transfers to Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, and other elite teams, recent events have changed the landscape.

Earlier reports claimed Chelsea withdrew due to concerns about his injury history, PSG failed to attract his interest, and Arsenal was unable to afford his release clause. As a result, the Super Eagles star was expected to remain at Napoli.

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However, recent reports confirm that the Blues are willing to proceed with the deal regardless. Lukaku is interested in a switch to join Antonio Conte at Napoli, while Osimhen is keen on a move to the English Premier League.

While there have been no comments from Osimhen’s camp or Chelsea, this summer transfer window is anticipated to be one of the hottest, with Man United, Chelsea, and Arsenal set to lock horns for Osimhen’s signature.

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