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Erik ten Hag dismisses speculation over Man Utd future as Pep Guardiola issues sympathy ahead of FA Cup final

Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag after it is suggested the FA Cup final could be his final game at the club: "I have nothing to say. I am just focusing on the job I have to do and that is first win the game on Saturday and then we are in the project. Keep going in the project"

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Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag is only concerned about the job he has to do at the FA Cup final, as rumours about his future in the club are addressed

Under-fire Erik ten Hag said his sole focus was on winning the FA Cup as he brushed aside talk of the final potentially being his last match as Manchester United manager.

United are looking to salvage a poor, injury-hit season by beating their neighbours City at Wembley.

They bowed out of Europe before Christmas and limped home in eighth place - their lowest ever Premier League finish - as speculation continues over boss Ten Hag's future.

Mauricio Pochettino, Thomas Tuchel and Kieran McKenna are among the names linked with the Old Trafford hot seat as INEOS consider how to take the club back to the top.

Asked about some people suggesting this weekend's final could be his last match as United manager, Ten Hag chuckled and said: "I have nothing to say.

"I am just focusing on the job I have to do and that is first win the game on Saturday and then we are in the project. Keep going in the project."

FA Cup final talking points: Who will come out on top at Wembley?
FA Cup final talking points: Who will come out on top at Wembley?

The contrasting situations of the managers is just one of the talking points ahead of this weekend's FA Cup final. Sky Sports' football writers assess what is at stake...

'I came here to win trophies and Saturday is another opportunity'

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Sky Sports Melissa Reddy says Ten Hag's future was the 'definitive theme' at his FA Cup press conference

He added: "I came here to win trophies. Saturday I have the next opportunity and we achieved this, earned this opportunity as a team and now we have to go for it.

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"In the same time, in the last two years, of course after every season you review it and then we will see where we are in the project and things we have to change.

"We spoke lately about it. Underneath there are very good things - players coming up, players developing, values coming up. And, in the same time, we have on Saturday a big opportunity to win the next trophy."

Guardiola: Injuries behind Man Utd struggles

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola defends Erik ten Hag's performance as Manchester United manager ahead of their FA Cup final

Pep Guardiola agrees rival Ten Hag has been unfortunate with injuries this season but has warned the Dutchman will still be judged on results.

In his defence Ten Hag, whose side finished eighth in the Premier League while City claimed their fourth successive title, has been badly hampered by injuries to key players - particularly at the back - throughout the season.

Opposite number Guardiola has sympathy but is well aware of what expectations are.

The City boss said: "So, in big clubs like United and City, when you don't win you are always in trouble. It is not a secret. We have done what we have done but I would be in trouble if we didn't win.

"I have a huge respect for his jobs in the past and now with United. I completely agree when I listen to him and he says they were not a full squad, they did not have all the squad ready all season. They had a lot of injuries.

"They should think of the reason why. Even in my case, I am focused on that. You have to be fit, fit, fit otherwise you cannot use the players.

"They have a lot of problems and when that happens the manager suffers a lot. I think the squad is really good but the problem when they are injured is you cannot use them and this is a big disadvantage."

Ten Hag: Maguire unavailable for FA Cup final

Injured Manchester United's Harry Maguire is substituted
Image: Manchester United defender Harry Maguire has been ruled out of the FA Cup final

Harry Maguire has been ruled out of the FA Cup final against Manchester City on Saturday.

The Man Utd defender sustained a muscle injury in training earlier this month and was expected to be out for three weeks.

"Maguire is unavailable," manager Erik ten Hag said at his pre-match press conference.

Asked if Maguire, who has been named in England's provisional Euro 2024 squad, has suffered a setback, Ten Hag said: "I don't think so, no.

"It's just he didn't make it, didn't heal as we expected."

United's injury issues easing

Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring his side's second goal from the penalty spot
Image: Marcus Rashford could feature for Man Utd in the FA Cup final on Saturday

Left-backs Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia will also miss Saturday's final at Wembley but United's injury issues have eased in recent weeks, with Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane returning along with Marcus Rashford and captain Bruno Fernandes.

Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount and Anthony Martial were also pictured in training in the build-up to the final boosting Ten Hag's options against rivals City.

"All the players you mentioned (Lindelof, Mount and Martial), are I think all available, Ten Hag added.

"Tomorrow final training and then we will make final decisions but if I oversee it now it looks good."

Ten Hag: Rashford highly motivated

Despite his injury, Maguire was named in England’s 33-player long list for Euro 2024 by Man Utd team-mates Shaw and Kobbie Mainoo, but misfiring Marcus Rashford was overlooked for the finals in Germany.

The 26-year-old was the most eye-catching omission from Gareth Southgate’s squad and has the chance to react on a big stage at Wembley this weekend.

“He looks good and that is a career, ups and downs,” Ten Hag said.

“So, a down can also be fuel, that is what I see in training. He will be highly motivated. Speak with your feet, he is highly talented.

“He has already a big career and I am sure he will get over this and he will make even more goals.”

Pep unconcerned by shot at history

After last week's unprecedented feat of securing a fourth successive English top-flight title, City have the chance to make further history by becoming the first side to win successive domestic doubles.

Guardiola insists he is more focused on finishing the season with a flourish than the record books.

He said: "The fact we can do back-to-back doubles, of course, is important but even if we did not have the chance to do these kinds of things, the FA Cup is the FA Cup.

"It's Wembley, fans going down to London. Players know it is the last game of the season, it's the last effort.

"I'm impressed how good we've trained after a few days off. People are so focused and everyone will be part of it and we will do our best."

City have a fully-fit squad aside from goalkeeper Ederson, who is sidelined with a fractured eye socket.

It is the first time since 1885 the same two sides have met in a repeat of the previous year's final. United will be aiming to avenge last season's 2-1 loss, in which City opened the scoring after just 13 seconds.

Guardiola said: "We respect United a lot. It has always been like that.

"In the last decade, we have been better but, in terms of history, they are the best team in England. So, just for that, you have to respect them massively, of course."

Does the final matter more to Ten Hag?

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Sky Sports News' Melissa Reddy explains why questions over Erik ten Hag's future at Manchester United threaten to overshadow the FA Cup final

Analysis from Sky Sports' Ben Grounds:

Following one of the club's worst league seasons in a generation, it could be that the writing is already on the wall for Ten Hag after two years in the job, as new minority owners INEOS consider how best to take the club forward.

The United manager has overseen the club's lowest Premier League finish as well as 14 league defeats and a first-ever negative goal difference, while defeat at Wembley will leave them facing just a second season since 1989/90 without European football.

Four victories in the final 13 games of the Premier League season, a run that included a calamitous 4-0 humbling by Crystal Palace early in May, was an indicator that progress under their Dutch coach has stalled, while even the manner in which they reached Saturday's final - throwing away a 3-0 semi-final lead against Championship side Coventry and requiring penalties to edge through - drew harsh criticism.

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Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag believes Marcus Rashford will be 'highly motivated' after the news he'd been left out of England's provisional Euro 2024

Ten Hag called the hostile media reception to the semi-final win "embarrassing", but the assessment of United's performance against the Sky Blues was a snapshot of a campaign in which they have consistently been accused of failing to exercise control over games.

There would be no shortage of candidates should Sir Jim Ratcliffe decide upon a change, with Mauricio Pochettino - who was considered for the job in 2022 before the appointment of Ten Hag - the latest name to become available following his departure from Chelsea.

Former Blues bosses Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter as well as England manager Gareth Southgate have also been linked, as has Kieran McKenna of Ipswich.

Ultimately the decision could come down to how much of United's demise is deemed to be on Ten Hag's shoulders and how much is the product of more structural problems outside of the manager's control.

Man Utd will need the game of their lives

In the latest Merson Says, Paul Merson says that Man Utd would need "the game of their lives" to lift the FA Cup and explains why Erik ten Hag will already know his future...

"I can't see anything but a Man City win in the FA Cup final. They're head and shoulders above Man Utd.

"People will say Wigan beat Man City in the FA Cup, but this side's a lot different. This is a one-off game, it depends how Man Utd play.

"If you turn up and play 10 behind the ball, and try to counter-attack, then get beaten 1-0 or 2-0, don't have a shot like we did at Aston Villa vs Chelsea [in 2000], you come away and think, why didn't we have a go? The manager set us up to make sure we didn't get beaten.

"Man Utd have got to go and have a go. You do get your chances against Man City if you pick the right pass - don't get me wrong, you get opened up a lot too - but you do get your chances.

"They need their players to really have the games of their lives to win this football match."

Read Merson's column in full here.

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