From Manchester City to Arsenal who can win the FA Cup this season as the quarter finals get under way?

It may have been easy to forget that amongst the Premier League restarting and we having staggered games as the league tries to finish by the end of July, there is also the FA Cup to complete. England’s oldest prize gets off and running again this weekend and we are at the quarter final stages.

Let’s take a look at the matches due to be played, which is interesting given that every team is from the Premier League, its has been 14 years since we have seen this occurrence.

Norwich v Manchester United (June 27th)

Manchester United will start as favourites and despite focusing on the league and trying to get a top 4 spot they will be taking this game very seriously. The club would love to win some silverware this season. As for Norwich they look certain to be relegated this season and so might as well give everything in this game. Expect goals, but we expect Manchester United to go through.

Sheffield United v Arsenal (June 28th)

A few weeks ago you may have said the Blades would have been too strong for Arsenal. But United have started the league again poorly, not really on the money. Arsenal lost their first 2 games but were impressive and professional against Southampton. This could be Arsenal’s biggest game of the season and they should be ready to squeeze through to the semi-finals.

Leicester v Chelsea (June 28th)

This should be a very fascinating game as 3rd in the league is against 4th. Leicester have not started the continuation of the season well, getting draws and they have seen their gap to Chelsea cut to just 1 point. The Blues have been brilliant and have just beaten Manchester City so they won’t fear any team. This will be another close game but you look at the quality in this Chelsea team and you can see them powering through here.

Newcastle v Manchester City (June 28th)

With the league now over Manchester City will go for this cup and try to beat Newcastle. The club easily have the superior team and will be odds on favourites to win this game. However nothing is a given and Newcastle have shown some qualities of their own lately. There is always one surprise in the rounds, and this could be the game where that happens. After all let’s face it City have actually had quite a miserable season overall. The big egg for them so to speak will be in August when the Champions League kicks off again. We could well see a shock in this game.

 

 

 

Is controversial Newcastle owner Mike Ashley finally waving goodbye to football?

A consortium backed by Saudi Arabia looks to have secured Newcastle United after owner Mike Ashley has finally agreed to sell the club.

Reports suggested that the deal had been at the advanced stage in the region for the club to be sold at £370m. That figure has dropped to £300m, although maybe 370 was always going to be an inflated figure. The deal looks likely it will go through now and fans of the club will be more than happy if it does giving their disdain for Ashley over the years.

Ashley of course has threatened to sell the club on numerous occasions before, each time deals have fallen through usually at the eleventh hour, and although this new one has not been confirmed it could well be the real deal.

But why do Newcastle fans have such a dislike to Ashley who took over the club in 2007? It probably all started when Kevin Keegan a local hero resigned from the club as as manager when Ashley had just begun ownership. Ashley had brought in Keegan which was a huge plus, but then he reportedly didn’t let him do his job properly in the transfer market and Keegan couldn’t take it anymore before handing in his resignation. Obviously this didn’t go down well with fans.

There was also the curious case of giving a manager an 8 year contract, unheard of in football. That manager was Alan Pardew who hardly had the best track record ever, and once he had the contract, form for the club duly fell apart and Pardew soon moved onto Crystal Palace.

Ashley owns many business’s with his most famous in England being Sports Direct, and made the mistake of renaming Newcastle’s St James’ Park ground, The Sports Direct Arena. It made sense for him, more exposure, but let’s face it the name also sounds very flat and of course fans of the club were very displeased. It was no surprise that the name didn’t stick and the original was returned.

Perhaps Ashley’s biggest mistake was sacking Rafa Benitez a genuinely good manager who many felt could have taken the club forward. But Beintez and Ashley clashed over transfer funds, something that the fans could see coming when he was appointed and Benitez lost out, or rather the fans did and the Spaniard was gone.

Ashley used to be able to sit next to the fans during games and that didn’t last long. Is he completely to blame though? True he’s made mistakes, but he has also injected money into the club. It’s good to look at both sides and there is a mentality in football of anger towards owners, even the best owners are always accused of being in the game just for the money. In that football unlike many other sports still has that bitterness wrapped in it. For example rival supporters unlike say rugby cannot sit together, and therefore even club owners need to be discreet when entering stadiums, just look at West Ham’s ones if you needed any further evidence.

Ashley may be more than happy that he is finally severing links, in that case everyone will be happy. As for Newcastle it is yet unknown how much money the new consortium will be able to bring to the club, but the fans are going to be happy for now and may start wondering if this is the beginning of a new chapter in the clubs history?

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Man Utd 4-1 Newcastle: Ole’s men continue to keep their top four hopes alive

With Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points in their respective games whilst Liverpool take on Leicester City in gameweek 19, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had another opportunity to take the advantage of the situation as they faced a Newcastle side who have been struggling in the games away from home. The end outcome was no surprise given the differences of both teams.

Going into the Thursday evening match, Solskjaer would have expected a couple of goals as well as a straightforward victory, despite the side have been unable to breakdown the mid-table teams over the last couple of months. On the other hand, for Steve Bruce, even taking a point away from Old Trafford would have been more than enough, as Newcastle United sit confidently in tenth-place.

Looking at the game on a whole note, the hosts had dominated possession as expected and were the side that had produced more chances and completed shots on target. Meanwhile, the visitors had a few good moments early in the first half, especially on the counter-attack, but were constantly sat deep in their own half for the full match and were not successful in chasing and recovering the ball.

The first goal came for the away side, as the Red Devils lost the ball in the middle of the pitch, allowing the Magpies to counter effectively with a couple of passes as Matthew Longstaff slotted the ball past David De Gea and into the net. However, the visitor’s lead was cancelled out seven minutes later, as Anthony Martial’s shot on goal got a slight deflection by Martin Dubravka before going in.

Just over ten minutes later, Mason Greenwood pounced on a poor defensive error made by Newcastle and scored a peach of a goal, scoring his third league goal of the season. It didn’t take long for the side to extend their lead, as Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s inch-perfect cross was met by the rising head of Marcus Rashford, who made no mistakes and headed the ball into the back of the net.

Following the half-time break, United were on the front foot once again and it did not take them long to get another goal, as another mistake from Newcastle’s backline allowed Martial to latch onto the ball and run towards goal before bagging his second goal of the game. With the three points being more or less confirmed, Solskjaer made the ideal decision of bringing off both Martial and Rashford just after the hour mark, giving the duo a deserved rest ahead of the Burnley match.

In all honesty, the remainder of the match did not result in many chances created or shots completed on target, as the home side continued to recycle the ball well on both sides of the pitch whilst the visitors were accepting the inevitable outcome and did not want to leak anymore goals.

In the end, the result helps Manchester United to go up to seventh-place on 28 points, being just four points away from fourth-place Chelsea. Meanwhile, Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United still sit well in the middle of league, as they remain in tenth-place and seven points above the relegation zone.

Here are the four valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Mason Greenwood is on the rise and is proving a point

For sure, it is still early days to look into the potential that Mason Greenwood has and the type of player that he could become, but one cannot deny the incredible confidence that oozes around him and how active he is on and off the ball. Despite the forward playing out of position and on the right flank, he was still able to get into the game through his movement and demand of wanting the ball.

Although it was his stunning goal that highlighted his performance against Newcastle, he still managed to show what else he is able to offer, as he produced two key passes, 84% successful pass rate and great energy when it came to winning the ball back. With how impressive Greenwood has been in recent weeks, it may leave Solskjaer with no choice but to start him from now on as a regular starter.

Turning Old Trafford into a fortress is a key for any type of success

One of the ongoing problems for Manchester United has been their record at Old Trafford, as a number of oppositions have come to the ground in great confidence that they have the possibility of walking away with a result. After beating Newcastle, the Red Devils have now achieved 19 points in 10 home games, which is simply not good enough for a side that are looking to finish in the top four.

The side may have the fifth best record at home in the league, however, it’s the results and the dominant performances in the home games that progress the team to become a collective that are prepared to challenge for the league and in other competitions. Until Old Trafford does not become a fortress once again, any prediction about the club’s long-term success has to be instantly ruled out.

Individual defensive errors from the Magpies bailed out the Red Devils

The main focus will be on the convincing victory and the couple of goals that were scored, however, it could have been a long evening for the Red Devils at Old Trafford if it weren’t for the defensive mistakes that were produced by the Magpies. From Dubravka’s error for the first, Fabian Schar giving the ball away for the second and finally, Sean Longstaff completing a poor back pass for the fourth and final goal, these moments could have been managed more effectively by the individuals.

There is no negatives to take away from a result like this, but United have to be proactive and constantly creative when dominating possession against a low-block side, as not many teams will give away the ball with ease and make mistakes defensively like Newcastle did. They did end the match on three big chances created and ten shots on target, though, Solskjaer’s men have to show that they have too much quality for the opposition rather than winning games through defensive blunders.

Solskjaer and Manchester United have to show the much needed consistency

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been managing the club for just over a year, and despite the lack of quality and squad depth that is available, he is still trying to find the right consistency that can guide the team forward. At the moment, even the Old Trafford faithful cannot predict which United side will show up at the next game, which does sum up the up and down season they are experiencing.

With the team facing the likes of Burnley, Arsenal, Norwich City and Liverpool over the next couple of weeks, United have to start showing a mean streak or a good run of victories in order for them to keep their hopes of finishing in the top four alive. Looking at the season up until now, they have been able to win two league games in a row on only one occasion, which would make a lot of people believe that they do not have the quality or consistency to achieve Champions League football.

Newcastle 1-0 Man Utd: More problems for Ole’s young Red Devils

Although the main focus of gameweek eight was Liverpool beating Leicester City in the last moments of the game, typically from the penalty spot, and Man City dropping points once again, this time at home to Wolves. It was a great chance for Manchester United to get back to winning ways just before the international break, as they faced a cold and wet trip away to Newcastle United.

The match as a whole, was one-sided in favour of the visitors in terms of the control in possession and the amount of successful passes that were completed in general. Though, the hosts piled on the pressure half way through the first half and were not afraid to attack United’s defence through drive and pace of both Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, who played with great confidence.

After the half-time break, the breakthrough came for Newcastle in 72nd minute of the match, where they were able to counter-attack from a Man Utd corner, with Matthew Longstaff scoring an absolute peach of a goal from just outside of the box. A number of questions were raised about the visitor’s individual defending, as they could have done a lot to prevent the goal from happening.

Towards the final 15 to 20 minutes of the game, the Red Devils did begin to cause problems and attack with more intent into the final third of the pitch, but Newcastle’s stubborn and physical defence were able to see it out till the final whistle. Steve Bruce’s men were able to achieve the three much needs points whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to go back to the drawing board.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Ole’s days at the club look pretty much numbered

It’s not been a good couple of weeks for Ole personally, with his last victory in the league being back in the middle of September and since then, he has failed to beat the likes of West Ham, Arsenal and now Newcastle United. Not only that, his team completed an unconvincing performance away to AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League whilst failing to beat Rochdale in the League Cup within normal time.

For sure, it is not straightforward to explain or the state the reasons of the side’s downfall, but it has been a huge ask to request a former manager of Cardiff City and Molde to bring stability to a big club like Man Utd and guide them to success in all the competitions they take part in. Also, given the lack of quality and squad depth, the Norwegian’s time at Old Trafford looks to be numbered day by day.

Decisions and planning are badly required during the international break

Everyone at Manchester United will be more than happy that two weeks of international football has arrived, as they can aim to think about the club’s plan for the remainder of the season and what would be the ideal for the manager and the players. Some rumours have began in possibly sacking Ole before the Liverpool game, whilst others have raised that a full meeting between everyone to discuss ongoing matters and how to solve them would be the more appropriate approach.

Truth be told, the greedy and incompetent owners as well as Ed Woodward, do not really bother with how the football club do on the pitch, as long as they are making enough money off it and are seeing the value of the club continue to increase. It just happens to be one of the reasons to why they have spent around £1billion over the last six to seven years, yet there has been no consistent success in the Champions League or in the Premier League, which pretty much sums up everything.

The young Man Utd squad are clearly lacking leaders and world class players

Majority of the English media and the Premier League experts were expecting the Red Devils to have a difficult season and see themselves experience most of the campaign outside of the top-six finish. And, that has proven to be the case, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United are missing the required quality in midfield and most importantly in attack, to guide them to a Champions League spot and any potential success in the cup competition.

With the club failing to bring in a number of players throughout the summer transfer window, whilst already ignoring the departure of both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, it was never going to be an easy and simple season for the club as a whole. On top of that, the lack of leaders was an important factor that needed work on over the summer, as the squad have a consistency to crumble when they are needed the most, and have a tendency to not step up, which happens to still be the same outcome.

Is Steve Bruce the next manager to be sacked after terrible start with Newcastle?

It’s been an awful start to the Premier League campaign for Newcastle United and surely manager Steve Bruce’s job is now on the line, after losing 5-0 to Leicester he is the 2nd favourite manager to be sacked in the Premier League.

With respect it was a real surprise, at least from the outside, that Bruce got the Newcastle job in the first place, he had failed at so many other clubs with poor win rates. It didn’t make sense to get him. But then again club owner Mike Ashley had other ideas. His former coach Rafa Benitez had given Ashley such a hard time, demanding players and more money be spent it did feel as if Ashley just wanted to get rid of him and bring in someone that would understand his philosophy better- enter Bruce.

Of course on the face of it Bruce’s appointment made some sense. Here was a man almost reaching his 60s who had plenty of experience as a Premier League manager and on top of that Newcastle is his club that he has supported since being a small kid when he used to sneak into games for free. In that Bruce has reached his pinnacle job and come full circle in his career, Ashley gave him that opportunity. Nostalgia aside though and Bruce seems like he is the wrong man to take the Magpies forward.

Bruce has won just 1 game all season as manager and even that came as a major shock as it was away to Tottenham in a match that ended 1-0 but showed that Newcastle under Bruce may at least have a good defensive set up for the future. Also it was a game where Joelinton scored in, the £40m Brazilian that most seem to agree was over valued. If Joelinton could score more goals and make more of an impact it would lessen the pressure on Bruce.

As it stands Newcastle are not bottom of the league but they are going that way and in the midst of it all the bookmakers who are hardly any mugs have made the Magpies massive odds on favourites to be relegated.

Newcastle’s fixture list hardly gets any easier for them too as in October alone they will have to face the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea, Wolves are also on the schedule and it is realistic to think that the club could up getting no points from those games.

At the same time Ashley has big  decisions to make as it is obvious that he gets along with Bruce and just wants a manager who will not disturb him and get on with the job. However Ashley’s hands may be tied, and Bruce’s days could be up in a few weeks if he isn’t able to change the current situation around.

The body language of his players say it all and Bruce has a major uphill struggle on his hands not be sacked from his beloved club.

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Rafa Benitez and Newcastle finally part ways, what next?

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In the end it was no surprise that Newcastle would let Rafa Benitez leave the club. It was a relationship that painfully never worked and it still seems a rather odd choice and turn of events that Benitez went to the Magpies in the first place.

Benitez’s 3 year reign ended this past weekend after he was critical of the board and was quoted as saying that he didn’t see a way forward for the club- he is right.

The Spaniard has been incredibly loyal to Newcastle, what other manager who has just come from Real Madrid takes over a team in the English Championship? After getting the Magpies promoted he simply wasn’t given the budget for Premier League football. At the same time he was able to keep the club up, but they still finished in the bottom half the table this season.

Benitez and club owner Mike Ashley just never got along and it usually came down to a power struggle about money. Benitez wanted experienced quality players whilst Ashley was happy to spend little but bring in youth so they could be sold for much higher rates, the exact strategy it seems that Monaco have adopted over the last few years.

Tick tock and with Benitez’s contract running out day by day, he refused to sign a one year extension and his reign is over. He was more or less loved by the fans and at the end of the day only wanted a transfer budget befitting a team that are trying to finish in the top half of the Premier League. Ashley just wanted a team that would survive in the Premier League. He still has that but for how much longer? And the rift between Ashley and the fans seems to have grown much wider.

So who is the favourite to take over at St. James’ Park? That name is Mikel Arteta currently the number 2 at Manchester City. Other names that have been mentioned are Claudio Ranieri, Gary Monk, David Moyes and Jose Mourinho. Perhaps Mourinho’s name doesn’t look right in that list but Mourinho is actually the second favourite to take the job given that Ashley may finally sell it to middle eastern billionaires, if that happens then even more change will happen for the Magpies.

As for Benitez he may just take a year off before looking at his options again, there is little doubt that he will be back with a major team again and perhaps will want to prove Newcastle wrong for letting him go.

 

From Real Madrid to PSG- Are major European clubs ignoring the special one Jose Mourinho?

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Jose Mourinho has been out of a job since being sacked as Manchester United manager back in December and while he is adamant that he will be back coaching soon, it doesn’t seem that way at all. One could, with all validity wonder if the same European super clubs have had enough of the special one?

One huge telling point was when Mourinho was linked with a return back to Real Madrid. And it almost made sense given how poor the club had been under Santiago Solari. True Solari could not be wholly blamed for Madrid’s chaotic season but his name simply did not scream ‘big enough’ for the club. Madrid were not getting the desired results and Mourinho was out of a job.

There was talk and then a feeling that Florentino Perez the Real Madrid president would go back to Mourinho. It’s true that his style the first time around did not seem to fit the club, but with Mourinho comes trophies- there have always been trophies before the inevitable meltdown. But this time Madrid passed and before you could say French football legend- Zinedine Zidane was back at the same club he had walked out on the summer before. Mourinho had been ignored.

There was talk he could go back to Portugal and coach Porto where the glory all started. But Mourinho himself dismissed this idea. Then there was the Bayern Munich link but despite Novak Kovac’s up and down season in his debut one for the club, Bayern did win the league and he doesn’t look like he will be going anywhere.

The links continued- how about PSG? The job would surely have been the perfect fit for Mourinho who would have had a bottomless pit of money to buy whoever he wants. But PSG turned round and gave current coach Thomas Tuchel a new 3 year deal.

Once Juventus had parted ways with Massimo Allegri this seemed to open up the door for Mourinho to seamlessly join the biggest and best club in Italy where he would be reunited with Cristiano Ronaldo. But Juventus appointed Maurizio Sarri instead.

So now we arrive at a point where all of the vacancies at the big clubs have long but gone. It just makes that question even more intriguing- where will Mourinho go next?

That club could be Newcastle United, a club that never would have been linked with Mourinho even six months ago. The change is that the Magpies might be taken over and a cash injection that much to rival PSG could be on the cards, with the club seeing a major overhaul.

All of this could sound ideal for Mourinho apart from the fact that even when clubs get taken over and are thrown pots of money at them it takes time to adapt and become used to winning league titles- it did for Manchester City. For Chelsea it was quicker, but then again by that point Arsenal were fading in the mid 2000s and Chelsea’s only legit rival was Manchester United.

Now the Premier League is incredibly hard to win and next season it should be a two way tussle between Manchester City and Liverpool. As for Mourinho if he does join Newcastle, will he be around to see the club reap the benefits, before his 3rd season syndrome kicks in?

Football is a party and for now it feels like Mourinho does not have an invitation.

Are Newcastle about to become the next Manchester City?

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There isn’t a whole lot of love for Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley, from the current manager Rafa Benitez to the fans there has been friction between the ‘three’ which has caused problems on the pitch as well as off. Now that could be set to change in a massive way as reports suggest that Mike Ashley will sell the club for around £350m.

Of course we have been here before and it was revealed just last year that Ashley almost sold the club to Sheikh Mansour who of course went on to purchase Manchester City and the club never looked back.

But this time it feels more concrete more real and unless something dramatic happens in the coming days it seems that now is finally the time that Ashley will sell his beloved club, a team that he has supported for his whole life. But what will leave fans and the football world flabbergasted is that Ashley looks set to sell the club to Shiekh Khaled.

Shiekh Khaled is a cousin of Shiekh Mansour and the thinking is that if Khaled does take over the club that the Magpies could end up being one of the big teams of the Premier League.

Newcastle have had to endure a torrid time in recent years and it has been almost 25 years since they nearly won the league which was scuppered in the heat of the moment when Alex Ferguson’s mind games got the better of the then Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan and the club blew a 12 point lead. Since then it has been a battle without any trophies and one wonders if a new era could be taking shape at the infamous club.

What is certain is that manager Rafa Benitez who has been incredibly loyal to the club after coaching them in the Championship could leave the club at the end of June when his contract runs out. No one at the club wants that given that the Magpies have to stabilise. It is thought that if Khaled does take over the club that he wants to keep Benitez as manager, which would be good for the club.

As far as how much the Premier League has changed it all started when Roman Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003. That signalled the end of Arsenal and Manchester United’s reign of the English league. A few years later it was Manchester City. As we enter a new decade could it be that Newcastle will join them? Will Khaled change the history of the club? This summer will undoubtedly be one of the biggest of Newcastle’s in some time.

EPL Game of the Weekend – Newcastle vs Liverpool

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When you are still in the race for a league title, the pressure is of course on. At this late stage of the season, with a single point deficit and an away day to consider, one could be forgiven for feeling a little added pressure on your day job. When you are Liverpool, with the weight of the expectations of millions of fans across the globe resting heavily on your shoulders and facing an uphill battle to reclaim the crown once so familiar, an away day at Newcastle United is one of the last things you would fancy. That is not a knock on Newcastle at all, of course – but with such a rich history of clashes between the two sides, and with reining champions Man City watching on with interest, anyone connected with the Reds could be forgiven for feeling somewhat pressured.

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EPL Player of the Week – Ayoze Perez (Newcastle)

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With the future of Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez still very much up in the air – despite the Spaniard recently indicating he would be happy to remain on Tyneside beyond the expiration of his current contract in the summer – the club’s fans will take all the good news they can get at this stage. After a decent, albeit underwhelming, season now all but finished the sight of seeing one of your own players controlling a game and capping it all off with a hattrick is a beautiful one to behold. That is exactly what 25-year-old Spaniard Ayoze Perez delivered during the Magpies’ home game against Southampton last weekend, scoring all three goals in the 3-1 win which secured the Tynesiders’ Premier League survival.

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