Manchester United have received a blow with in-form striker Rasmus Hojlund expected to be out for between two and three weeks with a muscle injury.

That means the 21-year-old will definitely sit out Saturday’s Premier League match against Fulham, and almost certainly miss the Manchester derby on March 3.

Hojlund has been in a rich vein of scoring form, netting eight goals in his last eight appearances for United. His brace against Luton last Sunday also made him the youngest player ever to score in six consecutive Premier League games.

A United statement on Friday read: “Rasmus Hojlund has suffered a muscle injury which is expected to rule him out for two to three weeks. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Rasmus.”

The Denmark international’s absence will leave Erik ten Hag short of options in attack with Anthony Martial already missing, and is a second significant setback this week following news that Luke Shaw will miss several months with a leg problem.

Jamaica's Cavalier and Dominican Republic's Moca FC will both have to play catch up in order to progress to the next round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, after they suffered 0-2 and 0-3 defeats to Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit FC Cincinnati and Nashville SC in their respective Round One first-leg fixtures on Thursday.

Despite a gutsy performance, Cavalier were undone by goals from Sergio Santos (45+5) and substitute Malik Pinto (87th), much to the delight of a small FC Cincinnati fan base, which outcheered their local counterparts inside Jamaica's National Stadium.

FC Cincinnati started more purposeful and controlled the tempo of the game for the most parts, as their high attacking line forced Cavalier into a defensive posture from where they tried to catch their opponents on the counter.

By virtue of their consistent press, the visitors, which boasts the likes of out-of-favour Reggae Boy Alvas Powell, were always more threatening in opening play, and it took some good glovework from Cavalier's custodian Jeadine White, as well as the crossbar, to keep them at bay.

Santos's header from close range, was kept out by a well-positioned White in the 22nd minute.

Cavalier responded immediately after, on the counter, through Orlando Russell, whose effort was parried by FC Cincinnati's goalkeeper Roman Celetano.

FC Cincinnati again went close on two occasions in quick succession, first in the 33rd where the menacing Luciano Acosta's effort from a distance was parried by White, who got down well to his right, and the second a minute later through Santos, who caught White off his line, but his right-footer came back off the crossbar.

It took some desperate defending from Richard King and Jeovanni Laing, putting their bodies on the line to deny Acosta, who got through on twice in the 38th and 45th minutes. However, just when it seemed as if Cavalier had survived the storm, Santos broke their hearts when he poked home from a Bret Halsey on the stroke of the break to put FC Cincinnati 1-0 up.

Cavalier were more assertive on the resumption as they went on the probe for the equaliser, which they should have had in the 64th minute, but Shaniel Thomas failed to finish off a tidy team build up and was later dispossessed.

With the introduction of fresh legs, FC Cincinnati again went on the attack and almost doubled the lead in the 82nd, when Pavel Bucha met Acosta's weighted corner kick on the volley, but the effort grazed the crossbar on its way out.

Pinto, who entered the field in the 84th minute, eventually found the second for FC Cincinnati in the 87th when he drove home a right-footer from an Arquimides Ordonez backheel pass, to give his team a tidy cushion heading into their home leg on Wednesday.

MOCA FC vs NASHVILLE SC

Over in Dominican Republic, Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge each had a goal and an assist to lead Nashville SC to a 3-0 over Moca FC at the Estadio Cibao in Santiago de los Caballeros.

Mukhtar (12th), Surridge (25th) and Tyler Boyd (75th), got the job done for Nashville, who will be aiming to wrap things up on their home turf on Wednesday.

Nashville SC could not have asked for a better start, as they broke the deadlock in the 12th minute, when star attacking midfielder Mukhtar polished off a one-two combination with Surridge by finishing past goalkeeper Pascual Ramirez.

The dynamic duo of Mukhtar and Surridge hooked up again to produce Nashville’s second in the 25th. This time it was Mukhtar, who filtered a pass for Surridge to fire past Ramirez.

Moca started to threaten toward the end of the half and forced the Nashville defence into some nervy moments, especially when a Juan Angeles shot required a reaction save from Joe Willis, in goal for Nashville.

But Nashville later regained their momentum in the second half and after several looks at goal, they inevitably added a third through Tyler Boyd, who fired home in the 75th minute.

From there, it was just a matter of seeing things out for Nashville, who ensured Moca went scoreless, and maintain a very healthy advantage going into the return leg.

 

Premier League leaders Liverpool will face Sparta Prague in the last 16 of the Europa League, while Brighton face another glamour tie against Roma.

The Reds will travel to the Czech capital for the first leg on March 7, before a return at Anfield a week later in a competition Liverpool have won three times in the past.

Brighton’s maiden European campaign takes them to the Italian capital after they topped Group B containing Marseille, Ajax and AEK Athens.

Europa Conference League holders West Ham face German team Freiburg, while Rangers are up against two-time European champions Benfica from Portugal.

The Europa League final will take place in Dublin on May 22.

Liverpool reached the knockout phase of Europe’s second-tier competition by topping Group E.

Sparta are the reigning Czech champions and qualified for the knockout round play-off by finishing second in Group C. The clubs met in this competition back in 2011.

Brighton face a Roma side which reached the last 16 with a penalty shoot-out victory over Feyenoord in a play-off on Thursday night. The Giallorossi are in transition following the decision last month to sack Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho.

West Ham will feel confident of overcoming Freiburg, having beaten them home and away in the group stage earlier this season, while Scottish Premiership Rangers met Benfica in the Europa League group stage in 2020-21.

Aston Villa were drawn to face Dutch giants Ajax in the last 16 of the Europa Conference League.

Villa progressed as Group E winners and now face the Amsterdam club, who have been champions of Europe four times.

Ajax signed England midfielder Jordan Henderson last month, although he did not feature as they beat Norwegian side Bodo Glimt in extra time to progress from the knockout play-off round.

The first leg will be played in Amsterdam on March 7, with the return at Villa Park on March 14. The Conference League final takes place in Athens on May 29.

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders believes it is impossible to replace Jurgen Klopp and the club should not try to find a replica but someone who can develop their own dynasty.

Klopp’s shock decision to step down at the end of the season began an unenviable task for owners Fenway Sports Group of finding a successor for a manager who has won every club honour – bar the Europa League – during his time at Anfield.

The German has the chance to add to his tally of trophies this weekend in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday and the finale to the season could see them contend for another three in what would be a remarkable send-off.

But Lijnders, who with the rest of Klopp’s backroom staff is also leaving, insisted there was no point in trying to find someone who would be a clone of the 56-year-old, with former Reds midfielder Xabi Alonso currently the leading candidate.

“No one can replace Jurgen Klopp. But I think the past showed already a few difficult transitions,” said the Dutchman.

“What was the most difficult transition inside this club was (Bill) Shankly saying ‘That’s me’. (Bob) Paisley stepped up and was completely different from Shanks.

“It shows, as a club, we have to search for someone who wants to grow, who has the mindset to develop.

“I think we did the right thing by announcing early so the club has real time to make this transition smooth but the past has already shown that it is really impossible.

“The (Pep) Guardiola team of Barca, he says out of nothing ‘That’s me’ and then Tito (Vilanova) took over and has the highest win ratio ever – that was probably the most difficult transition in the last 15 years.

“What I’m trying to say is they don’t have to replace Jurgen, they have to find a good, good manager because nobody will replace Jurgen.”

There was a concern that Klopp’s announcement could possibly derail a team which leads the Premier League, faces Southampton in the FA Cup next week and is favourite for the Europa League, having been drawn against Sparta Prague in the last 16.

However, that has not been the case with five victories and just one defeat since the news broke and Lijnders said that was down to the mentality within the dressing room.

“I think you underestimate our squad, the personalities in it,” he added.

“They have been through a lot already, in recent history but also how they grew up; a lot of these boys had to show character from a young age – not everything went easy for them.

“A lot of us get a lot of criticism but we grow with this, it only feeds us. All these boys know how to deal with it.

“A lot of these boys didn’t win anything with Liverpool yet so of course they give everything despite the manager saying he is leaving.

“We are stable enough to deal with it. That’s what I thought before – but you never know. It is in the back of your mind but I, we, trust the squad enough that they can deal with that.

“We never make it more complicated than it is and I like that. It is the next game, that’s our final – and it is a final so let’s give everything on this planet to win this one and give joy and emotion to the fans.”

Liverpool will make a late decision on the fitness of forwards Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez, who both missed the midweek win over Luton, and midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai, who has not played since the league win over Chelsea at the end of January.

FC Cincinnati asserted their dominance in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Round One series, securing a convincing 2-0 victory over Jamaican club Cavalier in the first leg at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.

The match witnessed early and intense action, with both teams having promising opportunities to score within a span of 30 seconds. Sergio Santos of FC Cincinnati initiated the action, heading a shot at Cavalier goalkeeper Jeadine White. In response, Cavalier's Orlando Russell's shot at goal was thwarted by a save from FC Cincinnati custodian Roman Celetano.

Santos came close to breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute, striking the crossbar with a powerful shot. However, his persistence paid off just before half-time when Bret Halsey found Santos, who skillfully slotted home a shot, giving FC Cincinnati a 1-0 lead.

In the second half, Cavalier aimed to stage a comeback and tested the FC Cincinnati defense. A crucial moment occurred in the 64th minute, with Shaniel Thomas, the top scorer in the 2023 Concacaf Caribbean Cup, seemed poised to take a shot but FC Cincinnati's Yuya Kubo intervened with a last-ditch slide tackle, clearing the imminent threat.

Determined to further assert their dominance, FC Cincinnati sought a second goal and they came close in the 82nd minute when Pavel Bucha unleashed a volley from a corner kick that grazed the crossbar.

The coveted second goal materialized for FC Cincinnati in the 87th minute, orchestrated by a slick back heel from Arquimides Ordonez. Malik Pinto sealed the deal with a powerful and well-placed right-footed finish, securing the 2-0 victory and putting Cavalier on the ropes as FC Cincinnati will carry this advantage into the next leg, aiming to advance further in the competition.

 

Mikel Arteta believes Premier League officiating has improved since his “strong” criticism of VAR following Arsenal’s defeat at Newcastle in November.

The Spaniard labelled the decision to allow Anthony Gordon’s goal to stand in a 1-0 loss at St James’ Park as “embarrassing” and a “disgrace”.

Arteta was later charged by the FA for breaking Rule E3.1 – which could have resulted in a ban but was instead cleared in December.

Arsenal now host Newcastle on Saturday looking to keep up the pace in the Premier League title race, as well as bounce back from their 1-0 Champions League last-16 first-leg defeat in Porto on Wednesday.

Asked if he had seen an improvement in officiating and VAR since his post-match rant – which was backed up by an official statement from the club – Arteta replied: “Well that is what we all wanted.

“That at the end the decisions are better and I think the last stats that came across show that there was a significant improvement and a lot of the decisions they were getting right, so hopefully that is the case and we continue to do that.

“I talked the way I felt. I was very straight and I did it in a way that was pretty strong but within the law because I didn’t get charged for it and I think that tells the story.”

After impressive away wins at West Ham and Burnley, Arsenal suffered defeat in Portugal on Wednesday night to leave their Champions League progression in the balance.

Porto did a great job of slowing the game down at the Estadio do Dragao, with 36 fouls awarded – a Champions League record this season – before Galeno hit a last-gasp winner.

Speaking after the game, Declan Rice said that Arsenal need to improve their “savviness” while Arteta admits his players need to develop their level of streetwise.

“Yes, we certainly can develop a lot of things and those experiences are really relevant to judge whether we were or we weren’t,” he replied when asked if the team need to improve their darks arts.

“I believed that they did a lot of things right. But managing games and things like that, we can still improve.

“But in a year’s time for sure we can still improve and we can improve in our build-up phase and we can improve in our restarts. We can improve in many areas.

“I don’t know if it is about (being) a bad guy but you have to be tricky, you have to be smart, you have to be streetwise and you have to try to take advantages in every situation. They know that.
 
“That’s a thing that has to be developed – you don’t have it, that’s for sure. The best teams, the best players, they have that.”

Arteta revealed that Thomas Partey could return on Saturday evening, with a number of other recent injury absentees pushing to be in contention.

Partey has not played since suffering a thigh injury in October, while Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko could also return – while Takehiro Tomiyasu is still out.

Arteta also offered up good news on Jurrien Timber’s return – the summer signing having been out since suffering a serious knee injury on his Premier League debut in August.

Asked if Timber could play again this season, the Spaniard said: “I really hope so. He’s doing really well.

“He’s been with some players on the pitch. He’s going to start to do some bits with us on the pitch in the next week or so.

“Then we’ll have to see how he’s doing, his confidence level, his fitness level. Hopefully the answer will be yes.”

Premier League leaders Liverpool will face Sparta Prague in the last 16 of the Europa League, while Brighton face another glamour tie against Roma.

The Reds will travel to the Czech capital for the first leg on March 7, before a return at Anfield a week later in a competition Liverpool have won three times in the past.

Brighton’s maiden European campaign takes them to the Italian capital after they topped Group B containing Marseille, Ajax and AEK Athens.

Europa Conference League holders West Ham face German team Freiburg, while Rangers are up against two-time European champions Benfica from Portugal.

The Europa League final will take place in Dublin on May 22.

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has insisted Manchester United will not get sporting director Dan Ashworth on the cheap.

Ashworth was placed on garden leave earlier this week after telling the club he wanted to leave St James’ Park after just 20 months to take up a similar role at Old Trafford.

New Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has made Ashworth’s recruitment a priority and has railed against suggestions that his release could cost £20million, describing the prospect of the 52-year-old facing up to 18 months in limbo under the terms of his contract with the Magpies as “completely stupid”.

Asked how important it was that the hierarchy on Tyneside got the best possible deal, head Howe coach Howe said: “In these situations, it’s about Newcastle, from our perspective.

“But that is for other people to make those decisions, I’m not involved in that in any way, shape or form. I’m preparing the team to play Arsenal.”

Ashworth’s impending departure has come as a huge blow to the Magpies’ ownership group, which lured him from Brighton to oversee its plans for a successful long-term future.

After the renowned administrator informed the club of his wish to leave, Howe, who had formed a close working relationship with the former Football Association technical director, voiced his fears over the intelligence he could take with him.

Asked if he had spoken to Ashworth this week, he said, “No” before adding, “No, that’s a lie. I have, yes”.

Although he declined to reveal what was said, Howe insisted they had parted on good terms.

Newcastle launched the search for a replacement as they confirmed Ashworth’s decision and Howe, who revealed he will have an input but not the final say, is hoping the successful candidate will prove a long-term appointment.

He said: “Ideally in that role, you are in the position for a long period of time. It’s a bit like being an academy manager, you’re not going to see the end result of your work for many years because you’re putting things in place.

“That’s the same as a sporting director. It’s a longer term role, ideally.”

In the meantime, Howe’s attention is firmly on Saturday’s trip to the Emirates Stadium and the prospect of trying to keep the Gunners and in particular in-form England international Bukayo Saka, in check.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta left St James’ furious after a 1-0 defeat on November 4 with Anthony Gordon’s winning goal surviving three different VAR checks, although his Magpies’ counterpart does not believe there is any bad blood between the clubs.

Howe said: “Mikel is a very passionate guy, he will defend his team. I am the same, I will defend my team. I like to think there is a lot of mutual respect between us both.”

Former Gunners midfielder Joe Willock could be included in the squad for the first time since suffering an Achilles injury in November, while striker Alexander Isak has a chance of returning after a three-game absence with a groin problem.

George Elokobi believes Maidstone’s FA Cup adventure has catapulted them onto the global stage.

The Stones are the first team outside of the top five divisions to reach the fifth round since Blyth Spartans in 1978.

Their run, including the memorable 2-1 win at Ipswich last month, has captured the imagination from Kent to Cameroon and beyond.

They face a trip to another Sky Bet Championship side, Coventry, on Monday night bidding to become the first sixth-tier team to reach the quarter-finals.

“It’s an incredible achievement, not just for ourselves but for the community, Maidstone United, and our fanbase,” said Cameroon-born boss Elokobi.

“But we have also gained so much admiration globally, how we have gone about our FA Cup run, how we’ve approached it as a football club.

“Now we have kids coming up to us saying ‘we want to emulate what you have done’.

“It’s historic and a lot of the people around the city and elsewhere who aren’t even connected with Maidstone, they’ve told me their new team is Maidstone United. That shows you what the players have done.

“It’s a huge moment for myself. It’s a huge moment for my community back in Cameroon. It’s a huge moment for our football club. For Africa as well. It’s huge.

“The FA Cup is regarded as one of the best competitions in the world and for Maidstone to be in the fifth round, against a Championship side in Coventry, a club full of history, it’s an inspirational moment for myself and I’m ever so proud to be the leader of the club.”

Even if they do not pull off another shock against the Sky Blues, Maidstone will still have won more matches in the competition than the eventual winners.

Their journey began with victory at Steyning in September in the second qualifying round before beating Winchester City, Torquay, Chesham, Barrow and Stevenage before their Portman Road heroics set up a meeting with the 1987 FA Cup winners.

“It’s a day with for no pressure for us,” added Elokobi. “We are Maidstone United Football Club. There shouldn’t be any pressure on us.

“We will go and enjoy the occasion. It’s a historic day for our football club.”

Malo Gusto believes Mauricio Pochettino is “waking up” a winning mentality in Chelsea’s young squad as they prepare for Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

The Argentinian’s resurgent team face Liverpool at Wembley looking to claim the club’s first silverware since co-owner Todd Boehly took over in May 2022.

In that time there has been an almost total overhaul of personnel both on the pitch and behind the scenes, with over £1billion spent on assembling a team with the youngest average age in the Premier League.

After a slow start there was been notable improvement in recent weeks, culminating in a fine performance in ending champions Manchester City’s winning run at home with a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

However, Pochettino and his players are yet to convince everyone. The team were booed off by fans following their last home game, a 4-2 defeat to Wolves at Stamford Bridge, with supporters’ frustrations also being directed at the manager personally.

Sunday’s final could be a key indicator as to whether a corner has truly been turned following the City draw and impressive wins away at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

And defender Gusto – a key figure during the recent upturn in results, deputising at right-back for injured captain and England international Reece James – praised his manager for working to instil a winning attitude.

“He (Pochettino) is here for this,” said the 20-year-old. “He knows he has to wake up our mentality, to wake up our desire to win everything. We are Chelsea and a big club like Chelsea has to win everything, to keep fighting.

“He helps us a lot. He has tried to show us the desire to win, to keep fighting against every team. He talks to us a lot about tactics, technique and everything.

“He is a good person as well. He tries to help us a lot on the pitch and off it as well. He is a good coach for this young team.”

Gusto has been one of the outstanding performers of Chelsea’s recent recruits.

Signed from Lyon for £30.7million in January 2023, he was loaned back to the Ligue 1 side for remainder of last season before making his mark during the current campaign.

He has made 24 appearances in all competitions, after a recurring hamstring injury limited James to just nine.

A forward player in his youth, he has evolved into an effective attacking full-back and he has made four assists in the league, most recently setting up Conor Gallagher’s equaliser in the 3-1 win at Palace with a pinpoint low cross.

He made his senior debut for France as a substitute in a 2-1 win against the Netherlands in October.

He said he was not daunted by the prospect of dislodging James from the team before signing for Chelsea, adding: “I wasn’t thinking about what could happen. I just wanted to take my chance.

“If I can play, I play. I’ve stayed focus on my football. I work every day to become better, to improve. That’s what I do.

“We are not similar, (James) and me. He’s a bit different, but when we are on the pitch we try to keep a mentality to score and to assist.

“I work for (getting better going forward). I have good cardio, good legs. This is my football. When I was younger, I was the same, running every day. When your team-mates see you run a lot, you want to run a lot with them.”

The defender came in for particular praise for the way he dealt defensively with City’s Jeremy Doku during Saturday’s draw at the Etihad Stadium.

“I came to Chelsea because I wanted to play against great players. I think the game was complicated, but it was good for me to learn.

“(The praise) is nice, but I don’t really care about it, I just want to to become a better person and better player.

“The game against Doku, people talk about it, but it’s just one game. Maybe this weekend I could be s*** and the game after I could be better.”

Sean Dyche accepts pressure will continue to grow on Dominic Calvert-Lewin the longer his barren run continues.

But the Everton manager has reminded the rest of his goal-shy side it is not just the principle striker who needs to find the net.

Calvert-Lewin has not scored for the relegation-threatened Toffees in 19 appearances stretching back to October.

However, he is not the only Everton player struggling in front of goal with the team having struck just 27 times in 25 Premier League games this season. Only bottom two Burnley and Sheffield United have worse records.

“I think he knows where he’s at,” said Dyche of Calvert-Lewin. “There’s enough noise in football now.

“Do you think he’s thinking there’s no noise about him not scoring? I’m pretty sure he knows that.

“Whether fair or not, that’s strikers, isn’t it? That’s being a striker, that’s the reality of the role.

“But all strikers, I’m sure, want the adulation of being a striker and scoring goals.

“That’s part of the fuel that you’d have as a striker, that amazing feeling when you do score, especially at Goodison, because the crowd generally erupt.

“So I think they know the responsibility. That’s part of their role.

“Having said that, of course, it’s not just strikers’ responsibility to score goals.

“We want them to work, we want them to defend, we want them to do the hard yards for the team. So therefore we’ve got to pay that back with other people scoring.”

Conversely, in a difficult season, Dyche can take positives from his side’s strong defensive record.

Everton have conceded just 33 goals this term, a figure equalled or bettered only by the current top four.

Dyche said: “I’m pleased with that side of things and that’s the whole team. A lot is made about individuals in the back unit but I think we ask the players to defend from the front and I think they’re getting better at that.

“The tactical shape and understanding the side, I think has improved and then finding that balance for scoring goals – we know that’s the biggest part of the challenge – transitioning the chances we’re making into actual finishes and actual goals. That’s obviously still a work in progress.”

Everton, who clawed themselves out of the relegation zone on goal difference with a 1-1 draw against Crystal Palace on Monday, travel to seventh-placed Brighton on Saturday.

Everton claimed an impressive 5-1 win at the Amex Stadium as they battled against the drop last May.

Dyche said: “That was probably a hiccup in their season at that time. We made that happen, though, don’t get me wrong.

“It wasn’t because they weren’t playing well or they weren’t a good side, because they are a good side.

“They’ve shown again they’re a good outfit and the home record has been very good for a number of seasons.”

Shamal George knows bottom side Livingston have the opportunity to bunch up the relegation battle in the next couple of weeks as a crunch game against Ross County awaits.

David Martindale’s side had won once in 18 games in all competitions – against Raith Rovers in the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup – before they came from two down to beat another Championship side Partick Thistle 3-2 in the next round of the competition in Glasgow.

The Lions followed that up with a battling 1-0 win against St Mirren last Saturday which cut the deficit behind County to three points ahead of their meeting in Dingwall on Saturday, although the Staggies have played one game less.

Livingston then face St Johnstone and Motherwell who are 10th and ninth respectively and goalkeeper George said: “That’s our main focus, catching the teams above us, but one game at a time and not get too ahead of ourselves.

“We’ve obviously got Ross County, St Johnstone and Motherwell, three teams around us. One game at a time but it’s a good time to try to bring teams back into it with us.

“Even though we haven’t been playing great lately I feel like Partick was a turnaround for us and fingers crossed we can go continue that going towards the end of the season.

“We got three big games now, which we need to get points from to bring others back into the mix.

“Like I said, one game at a time but everyone is focused on those three games because they’re three teams around us. Fingers crossed we can go to Ross County and get the points we need.”

George revealed a night out in Glasgow organised by the Livi boss after the Partick game helped team bonding as the battle to avoid the drop continues.

The former Colchester keeper said: “We went for some food and it brought the boys together and everyone had a good time.

“I think it was needed. We weren’t doing anything together as a team so it was good for the boys to be out again.

“It must have had some effect, it was a big win against St Mirren and everyone is still buzzing from it.”

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 .

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

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.”

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