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Erik ten Hag remains on trial after Man Utd survive Newport scare

Harry Maguire (left) and Erik ten Hag - Erik ten Hag remains on trial after Man Utd survive Newport scare

Even what ultimately might have seemed like routine progress into the FA Cup fifth round served only to intensify the questions that currently surround Erik ten Hag.

Yes, Manchester United kept alive their last remaining hope this season of a trophy but with Marcus Rashford’s absence looming large for all the wrong reasons and Ten Hag’s players wobbling badly in briefly squandering a two-goal lead, it was another day that seemed to weaken rather than strengthen the manager’s position.

Ten Hag had refused to say before the match whether there have been talks with new shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe over a contract which expires next season but admitted, like any manager, he must prove himself on a day-by-day basis.

And the status of that particular ongoing assessment felt especially critical for a 20-minute period here when, after United cruised into a 2-0 lead, League Two side Newport County scored either side of half-time to move within sight of one the FA Cup’s great upsets.

Rodney Parade was rocking, United were faltering and even Graham Coughlan, a diehard Manchester United living the dream in managing a team against them, smelt a very real opportunity.

“I did sense vulnerability – I thought we had them at 2-2 – I thought they were a little bit rattled,” said Coughlan. “They were doing things that were uncharacteristic and we just needed a moment. But I guess class shone through in the end.”

That class arrived in the form of goals from Antony and Rasmus Hojlund but, with Ten Hag offering Coughlan a bottle of red wine following the match, the Newport manager still found himself moved to offer personal words of encouragement. “I told him to stick in there,” said Coughlan.

Graham Coughlan (left) and Erik ten Hag - Erik ten Hag remains on trial after Manchester United survive Newport County scare
Graham Coughlan (left) receives his bottle of red from Manchester United counterpart Erik ten Hag - Getty Images/Matthew Peters

It had certainly not been the most welcoming of arrivals for Ten Hag and his United team.

Having dealt with pre-match interviews in which the absence of Rashford and reports of a nightclub visit on Thursday prompted an uncomfortable “internal matter” response, Newport fans made their feelings known.

“You’re getting sacked in the morning” and “You’re f------ s---” were the chants from a sell-out 9,000 crowd that had even been swelled by an ingenious piece of scaffolding on two houses outside the ground. With an extra group of fans effectively afforded a free ticket, it was hard to begrudge BlueTube Scaffolding their free piece of advertising for a match beamed live on the BBC. And yet it had very quickly seemed like it would be a question just of how many United would win by rather than if Newport could swell the £400,000 the tie had already been worth with either a replay or even a victory.

Manchester United survive scare at Newport to reach FA Cup fifth round
Newport scaffolder received a primetime slot on the BBC - Reuters/Paul Childs

With Ten Hag fielding his best available team, United took only eight minutes to bring a hush to the banks of the River Usk. Luke Shaw had sprinted down the left and Antony combined with Bruno Fernandes before the United captain smashed a wonderfully placed finish inside Newport goalkeeper Nick Townsend’s near post.

Kobbie Mainoo looked assured in the centre of midfield alongside Casimero and with Diogo Dalot getting forward on the opposite flank, the 18-year-old delivered a calm right-footed strike to double the lead. It was Mainoo’s first United goal and the match was only 13 minutes old.

Excellent chances to swiftly put the game beyond Newport then followed, with Alejandro Garnacho running onto Lisandro Martínez’s pass but opting to shoot when a simple square ball to Fernandes would surely have made the score 3-0. Garnacho’s shot duly cannoned off the crossbar and after having a convincing penalty appeal waved away, United then lost their threat and intensity.

There was no obvious sense this would be punished until the game was transformed on 36 minutes when United failed to clear a long ball from Townsend. It allowed Bryn Morris a sight of goal and while there was certainly good fortune in the way that his shot deflected off Martínez and past goalkeeper Altay Bayindir into the top corner, United only had themselves to blame.

The goal reignited the Newport fans and with the team roared off like heroes at half-time, the whole atmosphere of the match had turned. United looked distinctly nervous defensively immediately after the restart and were punished when Will Evans beat Raphaël Varane to an Adam Lewis cross before guiding the ball past Bayindir for his 19th goal of the season. It was the first time United had conceded twice against fourth-tier opposition since 1970 when they beat Northampton Town 8-2.

This was proving rather less enjoyable and after Newport went toe-to-toe for the next 20 minutes, United’s lead was restored by Antony before Hojlund finally sealed the tie during nine minutes of added time after a fan had fallen ill in the stands.

Ten Hag later seized on the positives, emphasising his team’s dominance for the first 35 minutes and the “fighters” he then had in the team when a mixture of calmness and character was required. That was partially true but rather more will surely be required to convince Ratcliffe that Ten Hag embodies the long-term managerial answer that United so dearly crave.

Newport County vs Manchester United: As it happened . . .


07:02 PM GMT

United into the next round

Congratulations and commiserations to Newport, they gave mighty Man United a good scare when they got it back to 2-2. But it is the Premier League side who travel to Bristol City or Nottingham Forest in the next round. Thanks for following with us. Goodnight.


06:44 PM GMT

Erik ten Hag to the BBC

“First 35 minutes, very comfortable leading 2-0. Should have been 3 or 4. Then they create a chance out of nothing, I think it was a foul actually. Then they score. We make a mistake in defensive condition, 2-2. Then you have to start winning the game again.

“We controlled the game, but then maybe went a bit slower. Garnacho hit the cross bar with two players in front of the goal. Shots from Antony that were very good chances. They had nothing. Really nothing.”

Ten Hag doing this rather passive-aggressive “sorry? what?” thing to the BBC interviewer Kelly Somers, either he cannot hear her properly or he is communicating his displeasure, perhaps because she dared to ask him about Rashford earlier. Deliberately or not it comes across as rather defensive and it’s not usually a good sign for a manager when they are doing that, is it?


06:35 PM GMT

Bruno Fernandes talks to the BBC

“We should have killed the game in the first half. We had chances, some not good decisions. We can’t concede a goal and let them have some belief. But we did a great job to close the game after they got belief.”

“Wasn’t the result we wanted. We wanted to win, we got it, but it wasn’t perfect for us. We didn’t want to concede.”

Bruno Fernandes, man of the match, opened the scoring
Bruno Fernandes, man of the match, opened the scoring - CameraSport via Getty Images

06:31 PM GMT

Full time: Newport County 2 Man United 4

That was an excellent Cup tie, Newport can be so proud of themselves. They made it really tough for United, and it was highly laudable for them to get back into it from 0-2 down. United, obviously, had the quality when they needed it but this was closer than ten Hag would have been hoping for. Newport are carried out on their shield.


06:29 PM GMT

90+6 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 4

Newport not quite able to force the opening and that’s probably the end of this.


06:23 PM GMT

GOAL! Newport County 2 Man United 4 (Hojlund 90+4)

McTominay threads the ball through. Hojlund with some good battling in the area and his reward is a chance to stab the ball at goal, which he does, beating the keeper and surely securing United’s place in the fifth round.

Hojlund settles it with an injury-time fourth
Hojlund settles it with an injury-time fourth - Offside via Getty Images

06:21 PM GMT

90 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

Newport are at it, great swarming and pressing. Morris has an effort, and it’s deflected for a corner. Nine minutes will be added on.


06:20 PM GMT

89 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

Harry Maguire is on. Martinez and Antony are coming off.

Evans moves forward and cracks a left-foot drive a yard wide. Could see him playing at a higher level.


06:15 PM GMT

87 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

Back underway. That little delay might not be the worst for Newport. Saved their legs. Sadly, the freekick they were waiting on is wasted. They did not manage to stick it in the mixer.


06:14 PM GMT

85 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

That’s a three minute delay already.


06:11 PM GMT

81 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

Looks like there is a medical emergency in the crowd... the game is being paused.

Newport have made some subs over the last couple of minutes: Waite, Rai and Baker are the men on.

United’s Scott McTominay and Willy Kambwala replace Casemiro and Shaw, both of whom are on the comeback trail from injury. Shaw was super today.


06:11 PM GMT

80 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

Newport have a freekick and they wheel the big men into position.


06:10 PM GMT

75 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

Garnacho, who has been quality, has a shot.

Game is a bit stretched, Newport look like they are tiring now.


06:06 PM GMT

72 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

We have the game’s first booking, and it’s Casemiro.


06:05 PM GMT

70 mins: Newport County 2 Man United 3

First change as Lewis comes off and Payne comes on.


05:57 PM GMT

GOAL! Newport County 2 Manchester United 3 (Antony 68)

Luke Shaw curls an excellent strike at goal, it crashes against the post. Antony is right on the spot for the rebound and shows good reactions to tuck the ball away.

Hard lines for Newport, that rebound absolutely presented itself to Antony.

Antony reacted quickest to a rebound
Antony reacted quickest to a rebound - Offside via Getty Images)

05:55 PM GMT

65 mins: Newport 2 Man United 2

Nick Townsend in the Newport nets needs some treatment and there is a delay of game.


05:52 PM GMT

63 mins: Newport 2 Man United 2

Antony loses the ball and has a little roll around on the grass to cheer himself up. “He’ll be fine,” says Danny Murphy sardonically on the BBC.


05:51 PM GMT

61 mins: Newport 2 Man United 2

Martinez gets to the near post and nearly steers it in. The ball hits Hojlund and that could easily have deflected in, through no fault of Hojlund’s own.


05:48 PM GMT

59 mins: Newport 2 Man United 2

Switching to a back four has made Newport much more solid. They were getting over-run 2-on-one down the flanks earlier.

Luke Shaw fouls Shane McLoughlin. Fans demand a red! Not sure it is even a yellow to be fair.


05:48 PM GMT

57 mins: Newport 2 Man United 2

Newport have a chance but Ryan Delaney’s header is easy for Altay Bayindir.


05:43 PM GMT

55 mins: Newport 2 Man United 2

Good work from Antony down the right to keep a move alive, back in to Hojlund who also does really well to hold the ball under pressure. Slips it to Fernandes, who picks out his sport but the Newport keeper is equal to it.


05:42 PM GMT

52 mins: Newport 2 Man United 2

Newport, as you’d imagine, look absolutely bang up for this. “You’re getting sacked in the morning,” sing their fans to ETH.


05:36 PM GMT

GOAL! Newport 2 Man United 2 (Evans 47)

Brilliant. What a superb bit of forward play.

Newport switch the play out to the left. Lewis gathers it and delivers a superb low cross. Evans the poach pounces, gets in front of his man and toe pokes it past the keeper. Absolutely super, come on Newport! Evans, a former dairy farmer, got to the ball just before Varane did.


05:36 PM GMT

46 mins: Newport 1 Man United 2

No changes at half time. Newport start with some good energy.


05:32 PM GMT

Half time: Newport 1 Man United 2

Newport owner Huw Jenkins: “Fantastic goal for us. We started a bit slow, maybe we gave them too much respect. But you would expect that for like Man United.”


05:19 PM GMT

45 mins: Newport 1 Man United 2

The last action of the half is a Bruno Fernandes effort that is saved by Townsend in the Newport goal.


05:18 PM GMT

43 mins: Newport 1 Man United 2

Rodney Parade is bumping, the crowd are really up for this.


05:12 PM GMT

40 mins: Newport 1 Man United 2

Newport having a right go since the goal, their best spell of the match. They have United under pressure. Morris tried another spectacular from range, but lightning does not strike twice.


05:08 PM GMT

GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!! Newport 1 Man United 2 (Morris 36)

Long ball from the Newport keeper, Morris absolutely lashes it from 25 yards. The shot takes a wee deflection off Martinez and the keeper is not even close.

Bryn Morris you beauty.

Danny Murphy on the BBC: “What a strike! It’s taken a little deflection, but Morris still strikes it really well. He chests it down, it comes off Martinez’s head, but that’s the stroke of luck you need. It takes it past Altay. What a hit!”

Bryn Morris scores a cracker
Bryn Morris scores a cracker - AFP

05:06 PM GMT

35 mins: Newport 0 Man United 2

An effort on target for Newport. Long throw into the box, Delaney gets a back-header on it and the United keeper gathers it ok.


05:04 PM GMT

32 mins: Newport 0 Man United 2

After a corner, Newport are struggling to clear. Garnacho goes down in the box, but ref gives nothing.


05:03 PM GMT

29 mins: Newport 0 Man United 2

Alejandro Garnacho cuts it back for Antony. He shoots and it might well have gone in but Delaney throws himself in the way.


05:02 PM GMT

28 mins: Newport 0 Man United 2

Garnacho at it again, slips it to Antony but he cannot control.


05:01 PM GMT

26 mins: Newport 0 Man United 2

Garnacho causing absolute chaos when he gets down that left flank.


04:51 PM GMT

18 mins: Newport 0 Man United 2

Martinez with a lovely pass that frees Garnacho. He surges onto the ball, gets into the area and lets ‘er rip with the left foot. Crossbar!

Bruno Fernandes and another United player were well placed in the centre and Bruno is telling his young colleague that he ought to have passed.


04:48 PM GMT

GOAL! Newport County 0 Man United 2 (Mainoo 13)

Kobbie Mainoo has scored his first Manchester United goal.

Dalot down the right, some trickery, cuts it back for Mainoo, who places the shot carefully in the bottom corner. Easy.


04:43 PM GMT

10 mins: Newport 0 Man United 1

Bruno Fernandes and Dalot combine neatly down the right. Slipped back inside to Antony, who has time to pick his spot. But he has leaned back and fired over.

Viewing platform!
Viewing platform! - Action Images via Reuters

04:37 PM GMT

GOAL! Newport County 0 Man United 1 (Fernandes 7)

Newport cut open. Luke Shaw down the left, he lays it to Bruno Fernandes, who exchanges a 1-2 with Antony. Fernandes gets the ball back and drills it hard and low into the near corner. Quality.


04:34 PM GMT

4 mins: Newport 0 Man United 0

Antony allowed to cut back in from the right and curl wide with his left.


04:33 PM GMT

3 mins: Newport 0 Man United 0

Martinez finds Hojlund with a nice long ball but well marshalled by McLoughlin.

Newport County: Townsend, McLoughlin, Clarke, Bennett, Delaney, Lewis, Morris, Charsley, Wildig, Will Evans, Palmer-Houlden. Subs: Payne, Zanzala, Waite, Rai, Wood, Jameson, Maxted, Baker, Bondswell.

Man Utd: Bayindir, Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, Casemiro, Mainoo, Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Garnacho, Hojlund. Subs: Maguire, Eriksen, Diallo, Heaton, Pellistri, Evans, McTominay, Kambwala, Forson.

Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)


04:31 PM GMT

1 mins: Newport 0 Man United 0

Bruno Fernandes makes an error, the crowd roar with delight, Newport have a throw in. They are playing in gold shirts, United are in all white.


04:30 PM GMT

Players are

out. We are ready.


04:25 PM GMT

Gary Lineker

has just name-checked a certain Yorkshireman. “United have, to quote Geoffrey Boycott, a corridor of uncertainty.” He’s explaining about gaps in the Man United defence.


04:23 PM GMT

Newport State of Mind


04:19 PM GMT

Ten Hag

“We are not in a position where we can underestimate any opponent. We are not happy with our standards.”


04:14 PM GMT

Newport come into this in good form

Unbeaten in their last seven matches.


04:11 PM GMT

Graham Coughlan

“Great day for me, my family, for our fans. I want our lads to go out there and represent themselves and our club. I hope we can acquit ourselves well and stay with the superstars of Manchester United, and not do ourselves a disservice. We need a bit of divine inspiration, we look to the heavens. We are going to need a lot of luck, we need them to be off their game, every one of ours to turn up. Might need one or two decisions. Massive ask but one our lads will be up for. It is impossible to enjoy a game when you are managing on the sidelines!”


04:08 PM GMT

Alan Shearer on Marcus Rashford

“There is a huge talent in there. But something is clearly wrong, either at home or his relationship with the football club. He cannot waste his talent. It is not right. He needs strong management, someone to say you know what you will get to the end of your career and have huge regrets. It needs sorting and it needs sorting now. When you see him play it is like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.”


04:06 PM GMT

Erik ten Hag on the BBC

Rashford? “He reported ill. Internal matter, I deal with it.” Asked again about the alleged nightclub visit, he repeats “internal matter.”


04:02 PM GMT

Bets and betting offers

Having a bet on today’s match? First take a look at these free bets and betting offers.


04:01 PM GMT

Draw too early?


03:55 PM GMT

Altay Bayinder makes his debut for United

in goal. The Red Devils also welcome back Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw into the starting XI. Casemiro starts in midfield for the first time since October.


03:43 PM GMT

Good lines from N Butt

Note: contains grown up language, beeped out.


03:40 PM GMT

Team news

Newport County: Townsend, McLoughlin, Clarke, Bennett, Delaney, Lewis, Morris, Charsley, Wildig, Will Evans, Palmer-Houlden. Subs: Payne, Zanzala, Waite, Rai, Wood, Jameson, Maxted, Baker, Bondswell.

Man Utd: Bayindir, Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, Casemiro, Mainoo, Antony, Bruno Fernandes, Garnacho, Hojlund. Subs: Maguire, Eriksen, Diallo, Heaton, Pellistri, Evans, McTominay, Kambwala, Forson.

Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire)


03:37 PM GMT

Draw news

Maidstone will play Sheffield Wednesday or Coventry in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The National League South club from Kent pulled off one of the great upsets in FA Cup history by winning 2-1 at Ipswich on Saturday.

They will now travel to another Championship side to face the winners of the replay between the Owls and the Sky Blues.

Holders Manchester City were drawn away at Luton.

Draw in full

Blackburn or Wrexham v Newcastle

Chelsea or Aston Villa v Leeds or Plymouth

Bournemouth v Leicester

Liverpool or Norwich v Watford or Southampton

Bristol City or Nottingham Forest v Newport or Manchester United

Wolves v Brighton

Sheffield Wednesday or Coventry v Maidstone

Luton v Manchester City

Ties to be played w/c February 26.


03:26 PM GMT

Luton Town

will host Manchester City


03:25 PM GMT

The winners of this match

will play Bristol City or Nottingham Forest.


03:25 PM GMT

The fifth round draw is underway

Liverpool or Norwich will host Watford or Southampton.


03:16 PM GMT

FA Cup preview

Good afternoon and welcome to our live blog of this FA Cup fourth round tie, it’s a classic David vs Goliath as Newport welcome Manchester United to Rodney Parade. For Man United, this competition represents a solid shot at silverware and we anticipate Erik ten Hag naming a strong lineup at around 3.30pm, with the kick off coming an hour after that at 4.30pm. The match is on BBC1 with coverage from 4pm, but we will have all the team news, build up and chat prior to that.

One man who won’t be featuring is Marcus Rashford. He is unavailable because of illness, the club have said.

United would not comment on reports the England striker had been spotted in a Belfast night spot during the week.

The club said Rashford had “stayed at Carrington to train as he recovers.”

Earlier this season Ten Hag described Rashford taking part in birthday celebrations after United had lost a match against Manchester City as unacceptable.

“I am aware of it and I spoke with him about it,” Ten Hag said in November. “It is unacceptable. I told him. He apologised and that is it.”

Newport striker Will Evans has gone from milking cows on the family farm to scoring FA Cup goals - and now has boyhood heroes Manchester United in his sights.

United fan Evans meets the Red Devils as Newport - 74 places below their visitors in the football pyramid and financial worlds apart - seek to produce one of the biggest upsets in the competition’s 152-year history.

It will cap an extraordinary journey that has taken Evans from the Powys family farm, rejection at Shrewsbury, and European football at two Welsh Premiership clubs before he finally landed his EFL break at Newport.

“Most kids come home from school and play football in the garden,” Evans said of his formative years at the Llangedwyn farm on the English-Welsh border near Oswestry.

“I’d come home and get the cows ready to be milked. There’s a lot of them too as dad’s got about 1,100 milking cows.

“Mucking out was punishment if I was misbehaving or in my parents’ bad books. It wasn’t something I ever wanted to do, I always wanted to study or go out and play football.”

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