Divided United in Manchester misery as crisis club's maligned manager looking over his shoulder

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Will Erik Ten Hag finish the season as Manchester United manager?

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At this point, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll make it to Christmas.

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While it’s generally OK to get knocked out of the Carabao Cup, especially by another Premier League team, this case is a little different when you look at the Red Devils being punted 3-0 by Newcastle on Wednesday.

This cup means different things to different teams. Many clubs use the contest as a chance to give younger prospects a chance and look at their talent in a competitive environment, and getting to a Cup Final is always a great day for fans of any stripe.

But going into this Newcastle cup tie, United were on the precipice off a crisis. It’s clear now they’ve fallen and are tumbling down a deep, dark chasm. Firstly, United won the trophy last year and were defending champions. But United have had a miserable start to the season, mixing horrendous performances with scandals off the pitch. They’re in eighth and are already eight points out of the Champions League places for next season. Newcastle, with an eye on their first foray back into the Champions League in 20 years, played a lot of their reserves. The game was in Manchester. It was a chance for United to get back on track, defend their trophy and uplift supporters.

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Instead, they lost by three, the second-consecutive home match they had lost 3-0, the first time that’s happened since 1962, after being spanked and blanked by neighbours Manchester City on Saturday.

The knives are out. Stories are leaking to the media, like Marcus Rashford laughing it up a nightclub after Saturday’s humiliation, striker Anthony still under legal scrutiny with allegations of domestic abuse and legions of legends from the club’s past launching lethal rants in their roles as media analysts.

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After winning this Cup last year and finishing in the top four and getting back into the Champions League, many felt Ten Hag was the man to finally get this massive club back on the path to glory. Sir Alex Ferguson left United in 2013 after a trophy-laden 27-year chapter. Since then the club has ploughed through eight managers in those 10 years. After last season it was thought they finally had a boss who could sculpt the club into something resembling its former self. This recent stretch might indicate otherwise.

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Owned by the Glazer family, the club had been up for sale, but was pulled off the block as a full sale and Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe came in as a significant investor. Big money brings big demands, and if United don’t manage a win at Fulham this week, the seat under Ten Hag will grow ever-hotter.

After Fulham they play Luton and then Everton. That should be nine easy points, anything less will just continue the turmoil.

2. What does loyalty mean in football?

In 2019 Tottenham thwarted Manchester City and Ajax to reach their first Champions League Final. They lost, 2-0 to Liverpool, but the feeling was manager Mauricio Pochettino had Spurs ready to finally win a trophy for the first time since the modest Carabao Cup triumph in 2012. Pochettino was being courted all over the place, Real Madrid, PSG even Barcelona came with a big offer. Pochettino had played at Espanyol, the second club in Barcelona, and vowed he’d never join their massive city rivals.

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Fast forward to 2023 and Pochettino was in a very different place. Things came apart in a hurry at Spurs and he was brought into PSG to be chief babysitter between Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. He let them run wild and destroy the house and left by ‘mutual consent’.

So when a dysfunctional Chelsea came calling, he couldn’t say no. Spurs fans were livid. He was one of theirs and many had hoped he’d one day return the way Jose Mourinho had done at Chelsea. Instead he joined one of Spurs biggest rivals.

Poch and the Blues visit his old house on Monday in the Fubo Game of The Week. Spurs fans have been calmed by the stunning success of their new manager, Ange Postecoglu, as they sit atop the table, the only undefeated team in the Premier League.

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Chelsea are following up their massively disappointing 12th place finish last year sitting in 11th place and are coming off a 2-0 loss to Brentford. They’ve spent nearly $1.5 billion on players in the last 18 months, and somehow are getting worse. They’re already 11 points out of the Champions League spots and with the amount of money they’ve spent, they desperately needed the revenue that comes with a place in the top club competition to help balance the books.

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Pochettino will no doubt hear it from a lot of the Spurs supporters, but the fact is, they’re relishing the job their new manager has done, not dwelling on past failures.

Chelsea, like United are lurching from crisis to crisis and Pochettino is likely choking looking at their schedule. After league-leaders Spurs they face Manchester City, in third, Newcastle, in sixth , and then plucky Brighton in seventh. Then they face fellow crisis club United in early December. It’s the kind of schedule that would make any of the top teams sweat, let alone mid-table rabble like Chelsea.

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3. Who has more currency, new or old? You have historic, though revived, behemoth in Arsenal taking on new super power Newcastle on Saturday. The Magpies, bolstered by an infusion of oil money, have expectations to fly to the very top. But they have stumbled against several of the ‘top’ clubs this season, losing to City, Liverpool and Brighton. So facing second-place Arsenal is a huge hurdle for them. They currently sit in sixth but are six points back of the Champions League spots. Arsenal are level with Manchester City but claim second on goal difference, two points back of Spurs.

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Neither team, who have an identical four wins and two draws in their last six, can afford to lose this one. With it being at home, Newcastle especially will want all three points as City, Liverpool and Brighton who are all ahead of them have games they should win this weekend and can’t drop more points at home with the gap growing ever larger.

SATURDAY: Fulham v. Manchester United; Brentford v. West Ham; Burnley v. Crystal Palace; Everton v. Brighton; Manchester City v. Bournemouth; Sheffield United v. Wolves; Newcastle v. Arsenal.
SUNDAY: Nottingham Forest v. Aston Villa; Luton v. Liverpool.
MONDAY: Tottenham v. Chelsea.

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