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FA Cup talking points: Coventry's Mark Robins the king maker again? Progress for Man Utd under Erik ten Hag?

Can Man Utd show progress under under-pressure manager Erik ten Hag on what will be the Dutchman's two-year anniversary at the helm at Old Trafford; will Coventry City boss Mark Robins end up in the Man Utd history books for a second time this weekend?

Can Man Utd show progress under Ten Hag on his anniversary?

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Speaking on his podcast, Gary Neville believes that Erik ten Hag's Manchester United future will depend on whether they are successful in the FA Cup

Sunday marks two years since Erik ten Hag was announced as the new Man Utd manage - since he arrived in the summer of 2022, it has been an often tumultuous tenure.

This season alone there have been well-publicised player-manager disagreements, inconsistent performances and results and a huge shift in the club's hierarchy.

But there have been positives too. Last season, United reached two finals in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup - winning the former - and Ten Hag has the chance to reach another final this weekend.

United will go into the game against Championship side Coventry as heavy favourites. It by no means guarantees them a win, but it adds another layer of pressure on to one of world football's most scrutinised clubs.

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Gary Neville says Manchester United's performance levels and squad unrest remind him of the same problems faced by Erik ten Hag's predecessors at Old Trafford - and injury problems are no excuse for the Dutch manager

United's last win was in their thrilling FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool. Since then, they have thrown away leads against Brentford, Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League, and drew with Bournemouth in an indifferent performance last weekend.

Not only is a place in the FA Cup final at stake, but a test of United's mentality on the big stage. They have not lived up to the stress test in the last few weeks.

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But what lessons have they learnt to see them into what could be a third domestic cup final in two seasons? That's a decent enough return, especially for a team arguably in transition, but they would be foolish to underestimate the test Coventry will give them.

Sky Sports' Gary Neville has also said that Ten Hag's future could largely depend on FA Cup success. Of course, another trophy would certainly make it harder for the new hierarchy to dismiss him - although the club have done so before.

But at the very least, the new United hierarchy need to see some fight from this team and signs of progress under Ten Hag in one of their most important games of the season so far.
Charlotte Marsh

Will Robins play king maker again?

Mark Robins

We've all heard the story of Mark Robins saving Sir Alex Ferguson's job. Saving those 13 Premier League titles. Saving one of football's all-time legacies.

Reality rarely lives up to legend, but perhaps this is one of the few exceptions.

If true, Robins' winner in the FA Cup third round in 1990 saved Fergie a premature sack which would have seen him leave Old Trafford with only two trophies to his name.

"It was my breakthrough season, to score a goal in the FA Cup third round is something you do look back on with fondness," Robins was quoted recently.

If there's one thing more prevalent than legend in football, it's irony. Specifically, Robins' ability to sound the death knell on a Man Utd manager's spell in charge 34 years on, this time from the opposition dugout.

Ten Hag is already under pressure. United's drop-off this season has been alarming. Two years in, there is still no discernible style of play. Jadon Sancho's performances at Borussia Dortmund are raising questions about the personal fallout between the pair.

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Birmingham City and Coventry City

New owners often like to bring in their own man, and Sir Jim Ratcliffe could already list off a ream of reasons to do so. Defeat to Championship side Coventry in the semi-finals of a cup competition would top the lot.

Common sense suggests even this United side would not slip up against lower-league opposition. They have only been beaten by a team outside the Premier League in this competition once in the last 14 years.

But with their consistent inconsistence, who knows which side will turn up on Sunday.

Coventry's Championship play-off hopes hang by a thread, perhaps sharpening their focus this weekend, and they have nothing to lose with a top-flight scalp already under their belts at Wolves in the quarter-finals. They will fancy this. Robins could yet be in the United history books for a second time.
Ron Walker

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