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Monday, February 26, 2024

Premier League: Homegrown teen gives United Sir Alex-type last-gasp victory 

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On transfer deadline day, Manchester United relied on some homegrown talent for a dramatic victory that was once their hallmark in the Alex Ferguson years. Kobbie Mainoo, an 18-year-old midfielder, scored in the seventh minute of stoppage time to seal United’s 4-3 win over Wolverhampton on Thu­rsday night at Molineux. This was Wolves’ first home defeat since September to end their seven-game unbeaten run. Mainoo was born in Stockport near Manchester and rose through United’s academy before breaking into the first team. “It is a dream come true. It is a tough place to come. We had to get the win. I have still not come down from it. I still feel like I am dreaming to be honest,” Mainoo said. “To start playing in the Premier League for my boyhood club has been amazing. Now it’s about trying to win more games.” A thrilling late, great win no doubt but Erik ten Hag’s team, who now climb to seventh on the standings, were only obliged to do it this way because they had conspired to squander the advantage so many times. Mainoo won it with an extraordinary goal in the seventh minute of time added on and as the United bench emptied in celebration, for the away support it must have been a familiar feeling. Wrapped up warm in the directors’ box, Sir Alex rocked back in his seat with delight. Yet for all the euphoria, United were only here because they had given away so much. Marcus Rashford scored in the fourth minute of the game with a very different kind of shot to those he was ordering a week earlier. With a stroke of his right foot, United’s errant No. 10 came in from the cold with the first goal in what would be one of the most chaotic wins of the season. It was the perfect response from the forward after reportedly visiting a Belfast nightspot last week and later reporting ill. Ten Hag started Rashford and appeared to get a reaction with his well-taken finish. Rashford was reportedly doing tequila shots during his Belfast bender and those in charge of the stadium music on Thursday saw the funny side, playing the Terrorvision hit Tequila before kick-off. Rasmus Hojlund doubled the visitors’ lead in the 22nd by converting Luke Shaw’s cross at the near post. Wolves got back into the game through Pablo Sarabia’s penalty in the 71st, but Scott McTominay restored United’s two-goal advantage with a header just two minutes after coming on as a substitute. Max Kilman gave Wolves hope with a goal in the 85th and their Portuguese winger Pedro Neto equalised when he cut inside and fired low into the corner to leave goalkeeper Andre Onana standing. Ten Hag held his head after seeing his team blow its advantage, but he led the celebrations on the sideline when Mainoo struck for his first Premier League goal. Mainoo beat two men in gold shirts and shaped in the winner with his right foot. “The way we conceded goals shouldn’t happen, but then we showed resilience. Especially Kobbie Mainoo. It was a great goal,” he said. United captain Bruno Fernandes was all praise for the teenager. “He is a big talent,” Fernandes said. “I have seen him play for the under-18s and I said a couple of years ago the name of Kobbie without knowing if he would come and play for the first team.” Written with inputs from AP/PTI Premier League’s penny pinch Manchester: The January transfer window closed with the Premier League’s spending power considerably down on previous years. Based on reported fees, top-flight clubs in England spent around $120.55 million on signings, not including loan deals. A year ago, Chelsea’s $357 million mid-season spree was part of a league-record outlay of around $831 million. Figures never looked like getting anywhere near those levels this year, with loan de­als dominating the market. According to auditor Del­oitte, gross spending in Spain, Germany, Italy and France rose 80 per cent year-on-year from 255 million euros ($277 million) to 455 million euros ($494 million). French league was the biggest spender of the window with an outlay of around $210 million, based on reported fees. But it was in England wh­ere the biggest shift occurred, with leading clubs like Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all resisting the temptation to spend. What is not clear is whether the caution shown during the past month represents the start of a new trend in light of the Premier League’s financial rules — or whether normal service will be resumed at the end of the season. The league’s profit and financial sustainability rules allow clubs to lose a maximum of £105 million ($130 million) over a three-year period or face sanctions. Everton was handed a 10-point deduction earlier this season for breaching the profit and sustainability rules. AP/PTI

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