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Aston Villa pay emotional tribute to Ugo Ehiogu before derby clash

Sports News 24th April 2017

Aston Villa pay emotional tribute to Ugo Ehiogu before derby clash with Birmingham as former club Rangers remember him at Hampden Park
• The football world has been paying tribute to Ugo Ehiogu following his death
• Ehiogu died on Friday after suffering a heart attack at Spurs’ training centre
• His name has been on the side of Wembley before the FA Cup semi-final
• There have been minute’s silences and applause at games throughout England
• Mauricio Pochettino labelled his death a ‘terrible and tragic moment for us’
• Former club Aston Villa paid an emotional tribute to Ehiogu on Sunday

Tributes have continued to pour in for Ugo Ehiogu, following his tragic death on Friday, with emotional scenes prior to former club Aston Villa’s clash with Birmingham City on Sunday.

The defender, who passed away on Friday morning after suffering a heart attack on Tottenham’s academy pitches the previous day, made his name at Villa Park where he won two League Cups and played in an FA Cup final during more than 300 appearances over nine years at the club.

Flowers, scarves and shirts were left outside the ground in tribute before kick-off of Villa’s clash with Birmingham, while an image of the former defender was held up by the club’s players and placed to the side of one of the goals before the game.

Once the two sides had emerged before kick-off, Ehiogu’s image was put on the big screens inside Villa Park with the words ‘Ugo Ehiogu 1972-2017’, just as it was at Wembley the previous day for Tottenham’s clash with Chelsea.

A minute’s applause was held as both sets of players, including managers Steve Bruce and Harry Redknapp, looked visibly emotional as they honoured the popular former defender.

Another of Ehiogu’s former club’s, Scottish giants Rangers, also remembered the defender before the start of their cup semi-final clash with Celtic, as fans held up a banner reading: ‘RIP Ugo Ehiogu – once a Ranger, always a Ranger’.

A one-year spell in Scotland saw Ehiogu play 12 times for the Ibrox club, with his only goal coming in dramatic circumstances as his stunning volley secured victory at Celtic in March 2011.

Tottenham and Chelsea paid an emotional tribute to Ugo Ehiogu during Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium after the former England defender died of a heart attack this week.

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino revealed he was taking training on Friday when he was told Ehiogu, the club’s Under 23 coach, had passed away at the age of 44.

He said after their 4-2 defeat by Chelsea: ‘It was a big shock for all of us, we were on the training ground. It is a big impact because it was a person that was very close to us and in that moment, you realise that we are in real life.

‘We are fighting to play and win games but it is all relative after this type of situation and one more time I want to send my condolences to the family and friends and all the Tottenham family. It is a big loss for us.’

The words ‘Ugo Ehiogu 1972-2017’ were beamed onto the outside of the stadium facing Wembley before the match on Saturday and both sets of players wore black armbands as a mark of respect.

Both sets of supporters burst into spontaneous applause as the players gathered around the centre circle ahead of kick-off, with the Spurs fans also chanting his name in tribute.

The Tottenham end of the stadium also applauded in the 44th minute to reflect the age at which Ehiogu passed away.

Ehiogu collapsed on the club’s academy training pitches on Thursday and received immediate attention from the Spurs medical staff, but after paramedics rushed him to hospital he passed away in the early hours of Friday morning.

Pochettino paid tribute to Ehiogu, claiming his death at the age of 44 is a ‘big loss for us and all of the Tottenham family’.

Ehiogu collapsed on the club’s academy training pitches on Thursday and received immediate attention from the Spurs medical staff, but after paramedics rushed him to hospital he passed away in the early hours of Friday morning.

There was an outpouring of grief as the football world paid tribute to Ehiogu in the hours after news of his death was announced, with those tributes continuing on Saturday as games kicked-off up and down the country.

Many games were preceded by a moment to remember the former defender, with some club’s acting for silence and others honouring him with applause, with black armbands worn by players at all levels of the game.

At Wembley, where Chelsea played Tottenham, the screens outside the national stadium were dedicated to the four-cap England international.

Fans walking down Wembley Way towards the stadium saw the defender’s name written in black on a white background, in tribute to the man who has nurtured a generation of Tottenham’s young players.

Prior to kick-off, both sides took part in a minute’s applause as fans of Tottenham and Chelsea joined together with chants of ‘Ugo, Ugo, Ugo’ while an image of the former player was seen on both big screens.

The Tottenham players and manager Pochettino looked visibly emotional as tributes were paid to their former youth coach.

Elsewhere, a picture of Ehiogu was on the screens inside the London Stadium ahead of West Ham’s clash with Everton.

There was a poignant moment at Bournemouth, where a minute’s applause was held before the game, when Benik Afobe scored his side’s second goal of the afternoon against Middlesbrough.

The striker removed his black armband, kissed it, and held it to the sky in memory of Ehiogu.

Former Villa defender Ehiogu was honoured by his old club on Friday, with a tribute posted on the electronic screens outside Villa Park.

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N’Golo Kante crowned PFA Player of the Year 2017

Sports News 24th April 2017

N’Golo Kante crowned PFA Player of the Year 2017 after Chelsea midfielder enjoys another stunning season
• N’Golo Kante secured the most amount of votes from his fellow professionals
• Kante saw off competition from Eden Hazard and Harry Kane among others
• He is set to become the first player to win successive Premier League titles with two different clubs
• Dele Alli won the Young Player of the Year award for second consecutive year
• Beckham received PFA Merit award for achievements with England and United

N’Golo Kante has been voted the Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year.

The tireless midfielder, 26, has been central to Chelsea’s surge to the Premier League summit. The Frenchman, bought from Leicester for £32million in July, is on course to win back-to-back titles.

He secured the most votes from his peers, seeing off competition from team-mate Eden Hazard plus Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal.

Kante was presented with the award at the Grosvenor Hotel in London on Sunday evening.

He said: ‘To be chosen by the players to be player of the year means a lot to me.

‘It means the world to be chosen and it’s been two beautiful seasons, one with Leicester, and we are in good form with Chelsea. To be player of the year, it’s a great honour.’

On his move from Leicester to Stamford Bridge, Kante continued: ‘It’s a different type of playing, but with the manager, with the players, everything is easy, because we work a lot to be good in the games. It’s working very well.’

Asked about the influence of boss Antonio Conte, the former Boulogne and Caen player said: ‘He knows what he wants from the players.

‘He wants to win, and we work very, very, very hard in training for him. He put a winning mentality into the squad, and everyone wants to give their best for the team, and to make Chelsea win titles.’

The Blues are four points clear at the top of the Premier League and Paris-born Kante added: ‘We have to fight for six more games.

‘We’re going to fight like a final for every game, and hopefully we can win the league at the end of the season.’

Chelsea will also face Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 27 and, on talk of a double, he said: ‘We’re going to fight for both competitions.

‘The cup is just one game, and the league six games, and we’re going to give our best to win these two competitions.’

Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli won the Young Player prize for the second successive season, Manchester City’s Lucy Bronze won the Women’s Player of the Year award for the second time having also won it in 2014, and Birmingham’s Jess Carter topped the voting in the Women’s Young Player category.

Former England captain David Beckham received the PFA’s Merit award for his contribution to the game.

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Jurgen Klopp demands Liverpool to compete in ‘serious football’ in bid to seal Champions League place

Sports News 24th April 2017

Jurgen Klopp demands Liverpool to compete in ‘serious football’ in bid for seal Champions League place

• Liverpool suffered surprise slip-up in 2-1 defeat by Crystal Palace on Sunday
• Reds defeat opens door for Manchester United and Arsenal to move into top four
• Jurgen Klopp optimistic his side can bounce back in final four games
• Liverpool boss hints Adam Lallana could return for May Day clast at Watford

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he is vastly experienced at bouncing back from adversity but it remains to be seen whether his players can do the same.

A 2-1 defeat at home by Crystal Palace has dealt a significant blow to their Champions League qualification hopes as it opened the door for both Manchester United and Arsenal, with matches in hand, to catch them in the Premier League.

Suddenly the Merseyside club are taking a keener interest in this week’s two derby matches – in Manchester on Thursday and north London on Sunday.

A home win for Manchester City in midweek would take them above Liverpool into third but also deal a blow to United’s chances of overtaking Klopp’s side, while a Tottenham victory would make it more difficult for Arsenal to do the same.

Klopp remains optimistic but it is his players’ creaking confidence which will be tested, especially as they have to watch all the action unfold before playing at Watford on Monday.

‘I’m pretty much used to nothing more in my life than to get up after a knock. Nothing has happened more often to me than this, so that’s no problem,’ said the Reds boss.

‘I spoke to the boys after the game and told them that yes, it feels frustrating, it’s disappointing, we made these mistakes but that defeats always make sense.

‘You don’t like it but there’s a reason for them – not only what you did in the game, but also how you react after the game.

‘There is one month to go; one wonderful football month with four games, so we will not give up, 100 per cent not.

‘The boys have delivered a lot of this excitement, but now it’s really about serious football. Do what you have to do, and we will do.

‘Maybe Adam Lallana (out injured since the end of March) is coming back for the next game, which of course would help us in different situations and that’s good.

‘We have now five or six days to train until Watford, so we will use it and then go to Watford. It will not be easy (to win) but possible and that’s enough.’

Midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum insists the spirit within the dressing room is still enough to secure a top-four spot.

‘(As long as) There’s a chance to qualify for the Champions League, we have to believe in it,’ he told liverpoolfc.com.

‘If you don’t believe you can reach it, it’s already done. We must have the confidence and stick together, helping each other out in moments like this.

‘We will fight for the Champions League spot. That’s the only thing we can do now. We can’t change this game any more, so we have to look forward.’

Palace boss Sam Allardyce celebrated his first league win at Anfield but will not be toasting guiding the club to Premier League survival until he is absolutely sure.

Historically their tally of 38 points, seven clear of the bottom three, is usually enough to secure top-flight status but he is taking nothing for granted yet.

‘Thirty-eight has been safe for a long time but we’re not mathematically safe yet,’ he said.

‘Five games to go, pick as many points up as we can and then – when we are mathematically safe – we will have a little celebration.’

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Neymar joins Messi and Suarez to recreate Barca star’s shirt celebration

Sports News 24th April 2017

Now you’re really rubbing it in! Neymar joins Messi and Suarez to recreate Barca star’s shirt celebration that taunted Real fans

Luis Suarez hails Barcelona star Lionel Messi as best ever.

Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi rubbed salt in the wounds of rivals Real Madrid by recreating the Argentine’s celebration the morning after Barcelona’s victory. Messi popped up with a dramatic last-gasp winner at the Bernabeu on Sunday night to seal a thrilling 3-2 La Liga victory. In the aftermath of that sensational goal in Madrid, Messi ripped off his shirt and showed it to the home fans as the jubilant Barca supporters celebrated.

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Vintage Messi snatches Clasico glory at the death

Sports News 24th April 2017

After surviving two-footed tackles and elbows, bloodied Barcelona star’s last-gasp strike wins thriller:
Vintage Messi snatches Clasico glory at the death: After surviving two-footed tackles and elbows, bloodied Barcelona star’s last-gasp strike wins thriller (and he taunts Real Madrid fans with shirt).

Bruised, bloodied but not beaten Lionel Messi won the Clasico for Barcelona with the last kick of an extraordinary five-goal thriller. He ripped his shirt off and held it up to the North Goal of the Santiago Bernabeu on the final whistle that came seconds after his shot hit the back of Keylor Navas’ net. Even by his standards this had been a remarkable performance. Still sporting a black eye from the Champions League exit against Juventus last week and cut early-on by a flailing Marcelo elbow he had a bloodied towel in his hand when he scored Barcelona’s first goal to cancel out Casemiro’s opener.

Neymar WAS at the Bernabeu… because Lionel Messi called Barcelona team-mate on FaceTime so he could join celebrations after Clasico victory

He may have been banned for Barcelona’s win over Real Madrid on Sunday, but Neymar still made it to the Bernabeu. The Brazil star was suspended for the dramatic Clasico victory, and forced to watch the game from his home in Catalonia. But as Barca celebrated in the away dressing room in Madrid, the forward made a surprise visit – via FaceTime.

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Manchester United star David De Gea does NOT have release clause in deal

Sports News 30th March 2017

Manchester United star David De Gea does NOT have release clause in deal and Real Madrid face huge transfer fee for Spanish keeper

• Man Utd news: All the latest from Old Trafford
• Reports in Spain had suggested that David De Gea has a £52m release clause
• But that is not true, and club would demand double the £33m record for a keeper
• De Gea is said to be settled in the North West and enjoying life at Old Trafford
• Missing out on the Champions League would cause him to consider a move
• Thibaut Courtois and Gianluigi Donnarumma are options for Real Madrid

Real Madrid will be made to pay astronomical figures if they firm up interest in David De Gea, who does not have a buyout clause in his Manchester United contract.

Reports in Spain suggested Real believe De Gea could be signed for £52million after the goalkeeper demanded a clause be inserted into the four-year deal signed in 2015.

But it is understood a fee of more than double Gianluigi Buffon’s £33m world-record transfer to Juventus would be required if he ever did leave Old Trafford.

That looks unlikely this summer, given De Gea is contracted for another two seasons, with United owning the option of another on top of that.

United are relaxed about his situation and their No 1 is understood to be very happy in the North West.

Jose Mourinho made sure to keep his No 1 close when taking over from Louis van Gaal and appointed De Gea’s former mentor Emilio Alvarez as the club’s goalkeeping coach.

Alvarez was crucial to the Spaniard’s development at Atletico Madrid and De Gea is thought to be more engaged during training sessions at Carrington than under Van Gaal’s team. The pair have regularly undertaken extra sessions together, despite the intense calendar.

The 26-year-old enjoys an excellent relationship with Mourinho – also represented by Jorge Mendes – and thrives off his manager’s anger in the dressing room following disappointing draws.

He shares the same vision as the Portuguese, having completely lost faith in Van Gaal’s ability to close the gap on their rivals last season.

Even though United still face a battle for the top four, De Gea is thought to be confident Mourinho is guiding the club in the right direction.

De Gea would consider a move if United missed out on Champions League qualification for the second year running, coupled with Real Madrid tabling an absurd offer which would be too huge to reject by his club.

But he is not mulling over his future and remains content with life in Manchester, with his family not hankering for De Gea’s return to Spain.

Real do want more Spanish players in their team and therefore the national team’ s No 1 would appeal, yet their sights have not definitely been fixed on De Gea, with Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois and AC Milan teenager Gianluigi Donnarumma still options.

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Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet admits he enjoys the hostility of the Merseyside Derby

Sports News 30th March 2017

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet admits he enjoys the hostility of the Merseyside Derby… and he has yet to taste defeat against Everton

• Liverpool host Everton in the 228th Merseyside Derby at Anfield on Saturday
• Simon Mignolet has admitted he enjoys the atmosphere of the derby clash
• The Belgian has yet to end on the losing side in seven Merseyside Derbies
• He has only conceded one goal in the last three derbies played at Anfield

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet admits he enjoys the hostility of a Merseyside derby.

The Belgium goalkeeper has yet to be on the losing side since in seven meetings with Everton, whose last win in the fixture came at Goodison in October 2010.

Mignolet, who has conceded just one goal in the last three home derbies, is eagerly anticipating Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at Anfield in the 228th encounter between the two neighbours.

‘It’s always a bit hostile but like in any other derby game, that’s something you relish – two groups of fans who are cheering their team on,’ the Belgian is quoted on liverpoolfc.com.

‘It’s a bit special, of course, in Liverpool because in some families you have got both Everton and Liverpool supporters.

‘Although it’s a derby I don’t think there is so much hatred between the two clubs.

‘In the time I’ve been here, we’ve always had great results against Everton at home.

‘It’s always a big fixture to look forward to. On the day itself, it’s nice to be part of it. It is pretty special.’

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Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum reveals intense preparations and rituals of a Premier League match day

Sports News 30th March 2017

Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum reveals intense preparations and rituals of a Premier League match day – forcing down meals and relentless ice baths in the search for glory

• The build up and aftermath of a Premier League game involves great detail
• Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum has revealed his specific regime
• The Dutchman admits he religiously takes ice baths and forces himself to eat
• Wijnaldum also opens up on how his stomach used to hurt after high-energy ties
• The midfielder has a very regimented diet… but admits he cannot cook
• There are nerves on a match-day… but only for his former clubs, not Liverpool

The match day of a Premier League footballer, both leading up to and the aftermath of a game, is usually much more intricate than the average fan would imagine.

Countless variables come together to construct what is the most important day of the week for an elite footballer, andLiverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum has given a rare glimpse of just what it is like for a Premier League star.

Wijnaldum has fast identified himself as one of the most important components in Jurgen Klopp’s team this season, using his versatility and high fitness levels to cover a multitude of positions for the Reds as the season has progressed.

And, for the Dutchman, preparing to walk out at Anfield is the one thing his week revolves around.

Speaking to Liverpool’s official website, Wijnaldum outlined his approach to a match-day morning, beginning with the source of his endless energy: ‘In the morning, I will eat bread with strawberry jam, bread and eggs, omelette or porridge.

‘I try not to eat a lot in the mornings because if I do, I will stay full and that makes it harder for me to eat a pre-match meal in the afternoon.

‘I have learned in my career, you have to find out what’s the best way for you personally to prepare for a game – and I realised it was better for me to have a small breakfast and then eat in the afternoon,’ he added.

As for nerves, the ever-smiling midfielder admits in a personal capacity he has none… though that doesn’t stop him worrying about other teams.

‘A few weeks ago, two of my old teams played against each other – Feyenoord and PSV – and I had more nerves for that game than our game that weekend. I don’t know why… they’re just two of my old teams and I support them,’ Wijnaldum said.

But when it reaches the time to enter the Anfield dressing room, the only thing on the mind of the 26-year-old is reaching a state of focus.

‘As soon as I go into the dressing room on match day, my phone goes into flight mode,’ he admitted.

‘I still want to listen to my music, but I don’t want to use WhatsApp or look at Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter because I am fully focused on the match. All that stuff is only for well after the game!’

Walking out to You’ll Never Walk Alone is a source of pride for Wijnaldum, but the midfielder admits that whatever the scoreline, preparation for the next match begins immediately as the full-time whistle sounds. And, on occasion, this can even involve forcing down food when an appetite isn’t present.

‘After a game, I also go into the ice bath because they say you recover quicker if you do that, so I’ll spend five minutes or so in there.

‘After a game, there is also food available for you to eat, so sometimes I will force myself to do so because although I am not really hungry, it’s important to eat after a match because your body needs the nutrients and energy again, so it’s important to get them in you quickly after a game.

But a lot of times it is difficult to do that, for me, because I am a person who doesn’t really get hungry, especially after games – maybe because I have a lot of adrenaline in my body,’ Wijnaldum added.

The Liverpool No 5 credits the majority of his dietary regime to the club’s head of nutrition, Mona Nemmer, who he reveals has helped him with a stomach issue which had occurred following high-energy games.

‘My stomach sometimes might hurt after games. I must say, since I spoke with Mona about it, I’ve had it less than before. Mona is aware of everything and she is always trying to find solutions to help your body go forward, and to change it for yourself,’ Wijnaldum said.

Despite not always being able to eat, the Dutchman acknowledges that replenishing the body is vital and, as a result, he is always very careful with what and how he eats… despite admitting he cannot cook.

‘What I try to do is eat breakfast, lunch and dinner because my body needs it. If you play at an intense level, you lose a lot of energy, so you need to fill it up again with food, drinks and shakes,’ he said.

‘My cooking skills aren’t great so I will take the food Mona has made home with me, or when my family come over they will cook for me. I can’t cook – it’s a shame,’ the midfielder added.

Wijnaldum will be hoping his preparation is spot on this weekend as the Reds return to action against fierce city rivals Everton.

Liverpool host the Toffees on Saturday, April 1, for a 12.30 lunchtime kick-off in which victory could lift them temporarily to second place in the table.

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Arsene Wenger tells Arsenal he wants to sign new contract and stay at the Emirates Stadium for two more years

Sports News 30th March 2017

Arsene Wenger tells Arsenal he wants to sign new contract and stay at the Emirates Stadium for two more years

• Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger wants to sign a new contract at the club
• The Frenchman has come under severe pressure from dissenting fans this term
• Wenger informed the Gunners of his decision at a meeting last week

Arsene Wenger has informed Arsenal that he intends to sign a new, two-year contract.

Itemsgalore Blog understands the Frenchman told the club hierarchy that he wants to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium during a meeting last week.

The north London club are adamant that Wenger’s future will be resolved as a joint decision.

But last week’s talks are a major step towards the Frenchman continuing his stay at the club.

After having doubts over his future, Wenger is now determined to stay and transform the club’s fortunes.

Victory against Manchester City on Sunday would help Wenger’s cause. Mesut Ozil is expected to be fit for the clash after recovering from the hamstring strain that kept him out of the defeat against West Brom. The midfielder played for Germany against Azerbaijan last Sunday.

Forward Alexis Sanchez could be opening the door to a move — perhaps to Chelsea — after saying: ‘I am happy in London and I hope to finish my contract at Arsenal. I want to stay in a winning team and keep playing in the same city. I want to play in a team that has aspirations.

‘I’m 28 years old, I still have a lot ahead of me.’

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Manchester United want to kick off summer spree with £40m move for Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier

Sports News 30th March 2017

Manchester United want to kick off summer spree with £40m move for Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier

• Man Utd transfer news: All the latest
• Manchester United are eyeing a £40m move for Tottenham’s Eric Dier
• Jose Mourinho is an admirer of Dier and wants to sign him this summer
• The 23-year-old joined Spurs from Sporting Lisbon in 2014 for around £3m

Manchester United are ready to kick off their summer spending with a move for Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier.

Dier – valued at over £40million – has been earmarked as a potential replacement for Michael Carrick.

Jose Mourinho is a keen admirer of a number of Spurs players but is wary of how difficult it would be to take an asset from a club now seen as a direct rival.

United’s top brass are also well aware of the perils of going into business with notoriously tough negotiator Daniel Levy and the Tottenham supremo may well demand a price that the Manchester club are unwilling to pay.

Sportsmail understands United have a list of four players for each position they wish to strengthen lined up and will not be held to ransom.

The Red Devils have been linked with numerous player as the summer transfer window appears on the horizon.

Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann and Barcelona star Neymar are names reportedly on Mourinho’s radar, but it would appear as though he’s focused on addressing his midfield issues first.

Carrick’s current deal ends this summer and as yet he hasn’t been offered an extension.

The 35-year-old said earlier this month: ‘I haven’t really had that much of a conversation with him [Mourinho] at the moment. Obviously that will happen, it’s going to happen at some stage, pretty soon I’d have thought. That’s something I’m really relaxed about. I’m sure he is as well.

‘[Retirement] almost depends on how long I’m here. I don’t think there’s many places I’d want to play, if any, after this anyway.

‘I probably would say yes – that would be it if I left in the summer.’

While he arrived at Tottenham as a defender, Dier has been converted into a midfielder by manager Mauricio Pochettino.

He played a key role in helping Spurs finish third in the Premier League last season, featuring in all but one of his team’s league games.

However, he is no longer guaranteed a starting spot in midfield following the arrival of Victor Wanyama from Southampton and has been moved back into defence as Pochettino switched to a 3-5-2.

Any move United attempt to make will mean negotiating with Levy once more – something they have found difficult in the past.

Former boss Sir Alex Ferguson revealed in his book in 2015 that he found dealing with the Spurs chairman while trying to sign striker Dimitar Berbatov in 2008 as ‘more painful than my hip replacement’.

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