Pochettino confident he retains backing of Chelsea owners

Mauricio Pochettino is confident he retains the backing of Chelsea’s owners but conceded his future was out of his hands after defeat in the Carabao Cup final increased scrutiny of his position.

The under-fire Argentine said he had supportive conversations with the club’s co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali following Sunday’s 1-0 extra-time loss to Liverpool.

Defeat at Wembley sparked further criticism of Pochettino and his expensively-assembled squad – including scathing comments from Gary Neville – as they failed to overcome inexperienced rivals who were missing a host of star names.

Chelsea, who are languishing in 11th place in the Premier League and sit closer to the relegation zone than the top four, return to action on Wednesday evening at home to Championship club Leeds in the FA Cup fifth round.

“I said hello to the owners when I saw them in the stadium and after [the final] I met Behdad and we were talking,” said Blues boss Pochettino, who has lost forward Christopher Nkunku to another injury.

“We were sharing our opinions about the game and the opportunity we missed to win a trophy because I think we played really well during the 90 minutes.

“We created the best chances, we were not clinical enough but that is what has happened since the beginning of the season.

“They [the owners] showed their support and after the game, Todd sent a nice message.”

Asked if he would be given time to turn things around, Pochettino replied: “It’s not in my hands. We have a very good relationship with the owners, with the sporting director.

“It’s up to them to trust or not. It’s not the coach’s decision.”

Is the Chelsea project working?

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino:

“It depends on your view and your opinion.

“We are in a good way, in the moment, in the process, that is normal to be. Then you can call ‘successful’, no? Being in a final and losing?

“Maybe you can say it’s disastrous, good or not good. That depends on how you judge.”

Poch: Neville criticism unfair

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Neville explains the comments he made about Chelsea after they lost the Carabao Cup to Liverpool

Sky Sports pundit Neville labelled Chelsea “blue billion pound bottle jobs” following their cup final failure.

Pochettino believes the criticism is unfair but insists he respects the opinions of the media and former professionals.

“We need to put it all in context,” he said. “Always I respect the opinion of every pundit. Gary, I have a very good relationship with him. Sometimes it can be unfair in my opinion and in that case I think it is unfair.

“After 90 minutes, we were the better side and we deserved to win. We were not clinical enough and then you always need some luck to score the goal and win the game. If we won the game after 90 minutes, then everyone would be talking in a different way today.”

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The Football Show panel discuss Neville’s ‘bottlejob’ comment after Chelsea lost the Carabao Cup final in extra-time

The 51-year-old has been encouraged by the response of his underperforming players as they seek to keep alive their last chance of lifting silverware this season.

“I think we are all tired because always when you lose a final, it’s not easy to recover,” he said. “But I am so happy because they are really focused and they move forward.

“If you ask all the players if they want to be involved tomorrow [Wednesday] in the game, they spoke [about] revenge.

“Of course [I am] disappointed because we cannot win the Carabao Cup but we need to move on because we need to compete tomorrow.

“It wasn’t difficult [to lift the players] because we cannot wait. Now we need to get the spirits up and move on and be ready for tomorrow because it’s another competition where we want to go until the end.”

‘Nkunku out for three or four weeks’

Christopher Nkunku controls the ball against Crystal Palace
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Christopher Nkunku is set for another spell on the sidelines

France international Nkunku, who missed Chelsea’s first 17 top-flight fixtures this term due to a knee issue, is set for up to a month on the sidelines with an unspecified injury sustained at the weekend.

“We need to see and evaluate every day but at the moment, it’s three or four weeks maybe he’s out, no more,” Pochettino said of the 26-year-old summer signing from RB Leipzig.

Marc Cucurella, Thiago Silva, Benoit Badiashile, Carney Chukwuemeka, Wesley Fofana, Reece James, Romeo Lavia and Lesley Ugochukwu will also be absent for Leeds’ visit to Stamford Bridge.

Poch on facing Leeds…

Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino:

“The pressure is always to go through in the competition. To arrive in the final, I think it’s a massive achievement. We played very good games to arrive there. I think it is going to be tough for all of the circumstances. We need to be strong, have energy. The players want to be there, to be involved and to show that we are in a way that is going to be good for the team and for the club.”

‘Get rid of Poch? Who would come in?’

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Paul Merson says Chelsea are a club stuck and lacking direction but the Sky Sports pundit believes Pochettino should stay at Stamford Bridge because of a lack of alternative options

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“There’s always talk about the manager at Chelsea.

“We always say get rid of managers, but if Pochettino were to go, who would come in? That’s the problem.

“Who’s about? Who would you take?

“Chelsea is a huge football club. People will talk about Roberto De Zerbi and he has done brilliantly at Brighton.

“However, there is a huge difference between Brighton and Chelsea. Brighton drew at home to Everton at the weekend and nothing is said. Meanwhile, Chelsea are 11th in the league and have been beaten by top-of-the-league Liverpool in a cup final and it’s headline news. Chelsea weren’t even favourites for the game, but it is a shock they haven’t won.

“That’s the difference when you are managing a massive club. The scrutiny is on a different level.

“Who are you going to bring in that can cope with that pressure? Bringing in Carlo Ancelotti to steady the ship and win a trophy is not going to help Chelsea at this stage.

“The club needs a plan. The worrying thing is that they had one, but whoever came up with it doesn’t understand football.”

Read Paul Merson’s column on Chelsea in full.

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Merson says: No one can justify Chelsea’s contract policy

Paul Merson says Chelsea are a club stuck and lacking direction but the Sky Sports pundit believes Mauricio Pochettino should stay at Stamford Bridge because of a lack of alternative options.

Chelsea missed out on the chance of Carabao Cup glory on Sunday when they were beaten by a Liverpool side without a number of key players including Trent-Alexander Arnold, Mo Salah, Curtis Jones and Darwin Nunez.

Virgil van Dijk headed in the winner after 118 minutes of drama at Wembley, leaving the Blues to rue a number of spurned chances as they missed out on what Merson described as Chelsea’s “big chance” to lift some silverware.

Chelsea’s performance, particularly in extra-time, has been heavily criticised, with Sky Sports’ Gary Neville branding Pochettino’s side as “blue, billion-pound bottlejobs”, and while Merson doesn’t agree with the former Man Utd defender’s assessment, he was critical of the Chelsea project, questioning the direction the club is going in.

Read on for the Magic Man’s thoughts in full.

‘Chelsea are stuck’

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Highlights from the Carabao Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool

You cannot see where Chelsea are going.

I said this months ago and I’ll say it again now, a lot of the players are not good enough to play for Chelsea Football Club, yet they are sitting on eight-year deals.

It’s not long ago that Chelsea won the Champions League. People talk about the success of the club like it was 20 years ago. They won the Champions League three years ago, but the club are still asking for patience from the fans.

It’s just not good enough.

You cannot see where Chelsea are going. I said this months ago and I’ll say it again now, a lot of the players are not good enough to play for Chelsea Football Club, yet they are sitting on eight-year deals.

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson

The main problem with Chelsea is that Pochettino has come into a club that has spent a lot of money to bring a lorry load of players in on eight-year contracts.

The people that bought these players in: what were you thinking? We need to know but I’ve never heard any of them give an interview. All I hear is Mauricio Pochettino having to justify it, but he never bought these players in. He just got the manager’s job and has had to deal with the situation he finds himself in.

But now they are stuck, and because of the mess they are in it looks like they will have to go and sell one of their best players in Conor Gallagher to get out of it. He’s come through the ranks, he’s a homegrown player and one of the club’s own, but he’ll make them a profit in terms of the Profit and Sustainability Rules. It’s shocking.

‘Chelsea didn’t bottle Carabao Cup final’

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“When the game went to extra-time, my feeling was there was only going to be one winner.

“The youngsters came on for Liverpool and did well, but I thought Chelsea were going to dominate. I thought that was it, to be honest.

“However, Chelsea just never got going in that final 30 minutes of extra-time.

“I don’t buy into [Gary Neville’s] bottlejobs statement. Chelsea are 11th in the league, and they are in that position for a reason. It’s not bad luck.

“If it had been Arsenal in the final last Sunday and they’d have got beat, then I could understand it.

“Arsenal are a top team and they are flying at this moment in time. Arsenal would have expected to win but I’m not sure you can say the same about Chelsea. They do have good players. Individually they are decent players but as a team they are nowhere near good enough yet.”

‘Why the eight-year deals? No one has justified the policy’

Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box
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Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box at Wembley

What was the thinking behind eight-year deals? Why has no one from the club ever come out and told us what the thinking was behind it? The only thing I can think of is the club thought they were going to get a 10-year transfer embargo.

One thing is for sure, you cannot tell me anyone knows what will happen with a player over eight years. You cannot say what will happen in three years let alone eight.

Two years ago, Joao Cancelo at Manchester City changed the face of football. He was playing as a full-back and coming into midfield. He was getting forward and scoring goals. No one knew how to pick him up. He was absolutely amazing.

If you were on a quiz programme and were asked where he was now, you wouldn’t know. Where is he now? That was only two years ago remember.

Chelsea have these players for eight years. Eight years! No one has ever come out and justified the policy.

‘Get rid of Poch? Who would come in?’

Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time
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Pochettino shows his frustration as Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time at Wembley against Liverpool

There’s always talk about the manager at Chelsea.

We always say get rid of managers, but if Pochettino were to go, who would come in? That’s the problem.

Who’s about? Who would you take?

Chelsea is a huge football club. People will talk about Roberto De Zerbi and he has done brilliantly at Brighton.

However, there is a huge difference between Brighton and Chelsea. Brighton drew at home to Everton at the weekend and nothing is said. Meanwhile, Chelsea are 11th in the league and have been beaten by top-of-the-league Liverpool in a cup final and it’s headline news. Chelsea weren’t even favourites for the game, but it is a shock they haven’t won.

That’s the difference when you are managing a massive club. The scrutiny is on a different level.

Who are you going to bring in that can cope with that pressure? Bringing in Carlo Ancelotti to steady the ship and win a trophy is not going to help Chelsea at this stage.

The club needs a plan. The worrying thing is that they had one, but whoever came up with it doesn’t understand football.

Merson: Why did Gallagher come off? | ‘Chelsea will never get a better chance of a trophy’

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“Chelsea played well in the game in parts. They had plenty of chances but Caoimhin Kelleher in goal for Liverpool was incredible. But consistency has been a problem all season and it was proven again on Sunday. They couldn’t sustain their performance level for long enough.

“Conor Gallagher was brilliant for Chelsea. He was full energy and running and was a big part of what Chelsea did well at Wembley.

“When he came off in extra-time, the only thing I can remember was seeing him and Ben Chilwell really stretching their calves at a Liverpool corner.

“The next thing I knew they were both off.
Gallagher was the one. He was the one full of running and driving Chelsea on. Chilwell was also good and I know he hasn’t had a lot of football, but them coming off didn’t make sense.

“This was Chelsea’s big chance. They aren’t getting into the Champions League next season. This was it. Of course, they are still in the FA Cup, but let’s be honest, with the likes of Man City and potentially a fully fit Liverpool side still in the hat for the latter stages, Chelsea don’t have much of a chance.

“Against a weakened Liverpool side this was their chance and Gallagher especially should have stayed on. The players needed to run themselves into the ground because will never get a better opportunity than they had on Sunday to win a trophy.

“If they played in the next 10 Cup finals, they’ll not have a better chance than they did against that Liverpool side.”

‘Chelsea job used to be the ultimate, who wants it now?’

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Gary Neville explains the comments he made about Chelsea after they lost the Carabao Cup to Liverpool

Being Chelsea manager used to be the ultimate job in football.

Going in at Chelsea, a manager knew they had every chance of winning a trophy.

Now, I don’t see people queuing up to take this job because managers look at certain things when they go into a club. Tim Sherwood said on Soccer Saturday the other day that when he went in at relegation-threatened Aston Villa, he knew he had the players to get out of trouble.

Managers aren’t taking jobs if they are looking at the team and not liking what they are seeing.

This is the problem for Chelsea. People will be looking at the club and thinking ‘what chance have you got’.

It’s just not a great job at the minute. You are stuck with players strolling around on eight-year deals. How do you get them going? Particularly when a lot of the players are not good enough in the first place.

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Neville defends Chelsea ‘bottlejob’ tag: They played Liverpool’s reserves

Gary Neville has doubled down on labelling Chelsea as “blue billion-pound bottlejobs”, while Jamie Carragher believes the tag will stick until the club win something big.

Liverpool beat Chelsea 1-0 in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final after Virgil van Dijk headed in the winner after 118 minutes of drama, having earlier seen a goal controversially ruled out.

“In extra-time it’s been Klopp’s kids against the blue, billion-pound bottlejobs,” said Neville on commentary after the Dutchman’s goal.

Already deprived of Trent-Alexander Arnold, Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez, Liverpool won the final with a host of youngsters on the pitch after 18-year-old Jayden Danns, 19-year-olds James McConnell and Bobby Clark as well as Jarell Quansah (21) were thrown into the fray. Conor Bradley (20) had started the final in defence and Harvey Elliott (20) played the full 120 minutes.

In contrast, Chelsea fielded Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo – both of whom cost over £100m – in the centre of their midfield. Raheem Sterling (£50m) was in attack, while Mykhailo Mudryk, who cost £88.5m, and £52m Christopher Nkunku stepped off the bench.

Todd Boehly has spent over £1bn on players since taking charge of the club in the summer of 2022.

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Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino rejects Gary Neville’s description of his players as ‘blue billion-pound bottlejobs’

Responding to the comments, Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino said: “If you compare the age of the two groups, it’s similar. I have a good relationship with Gary, I can respect his opinion. We made a few changes for extra-time, but we didn’t keep the energy.

“For sure I feel proud. They made a big effort. We have a young team, and nothing to compare with Liverpool because they finished with young players on the pitch. It’s not fair to talk in this way, if he said that. We’re going to keep being strong and believing in this project.”

Speaking on Monday Night Football, Neville took up his right of reply to further explain what he meant by the comments shortly after Van Dijk’s winning goal.

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Liverpool captain and goal scorer Virgil van Dijk praises the young players in the squad following the extra-time win in the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea

“I’m not going to sit here and say it was an instinctive commentary moment. I mean it was instinctive as I didn’t know what was going to happen in extra time. Peter [Drury] did about 30 seconds after the goal went in and Carra had about 25 seconds.

“If you heard my commentary of Chelsea during extra-time, I was getting angrier with them from the first minute to around two minutes to go.

“I could smell the fear in Chelsea when I noticed they were sitting off Liverpool. Why were they letting these young lads and Jurgen Klopp grow in confidence?

Chelsea have lost in each of their last three League Cup finals (2019, 2022 and 2024) – this after only losing two of their first seven finals in the competition between 1965 and 2015
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Chelsea have lost in each of their last three League Cup finals (2019, 2022 and 2024) – this after only losing two of their first seven finals in the competition between 1965 and 2015

“There was a chorus from the Liverpool fans for about five minutes because they could smell the blood and the fear in those blue shirts.

“At half-time, Mauricio Pochettino had to get the message into his players that they had 15 minutes to beat or not lose to a side that only had two players who would get into their starting XI – Luis Diaz and Virgil van Dijk.

“They needed to leave that pitch with no regrets. Chelsea had to grab the moment but they shrunk.”

Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box
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Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box

Pochettino, who has now lost the three major finals he has reached while managing in England at both Chelsea and Tottenham, told his squad they needed to feel hurt by the setback.

The Argentine pointed to Liverpool’s own progression under Klopp as an example for Chelsea to follow in the coming years.

Neville hopes Chelsea can swiftly erase the growing perception following six successive domestic cup final defeats, adding: “Maybe ‘bottle’ is a very strong word but playing with absolute fear, froze… whatever you want to call it, that’s what we saw from Chelsea in extra-time [on Sunday].

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Mauricio Pochettino has only won one of his 14 games as a manager against Jürgen Klopp (D5 L8), going winless in eight matches since recording his only such victory (Spurs 4-1 Liverpool in October 2017).

“I don’t want that tag to stick as there’s a lot of talented young players there.

“I know there have been people say that Chelsea’s team was younger than Liverpool’s, but the idea of saying ‘Klopp’s kids’ wasn’t a reference to his side being younger.

“When Liverpool made those substitutions, I had to put my mic down and put my headset off and say to Carra that I didn’t have a clue who was playing for them. There were three or four players I didn’t know who they were.

“No word of a lie, they were playing against Liverpool’s reserves and they didn’t seize that moment. I got angry with them and that’s why I felt I had to say what I said.

Conor Gallagher reacts after a missed Chelsea chance
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Conor Gallagher reacts after a missed Chelsea chance

“I don’t think it suggests cowardice. Many a team I played in for England at tournaments were accused of bottling it.

“One of the greatest footballers of all time and greatest analysts of all time who I’ve got a huge respect for went for us like you wouldn’t believe on the first day back during the Premier League season in 1995 – Alan Hansen.

“He said you couldn’t win anything with kids and we were say there in training on the Monday morning, six of us… 19-20 years of age – not 24 or 25 – and we had one of the most respected people in football entitled to say what he said.

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Highlights from the Carabao Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool

“If we hadn’t turned that around that season and won the double, it would’ve stuck with us. This is football at the highest level where you’ve got to perform under scrutiny.

“After the game, I didn’t think it was a harsh word ‘bottle’ and I was only referring to the last 30 minutes of the match as I thought Chelsea did well in the first 90.

“When I heard after that Mauricio Pochettino said his team were playing for penalties, it almost cemented the thought in my mind that they did freeze.

Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring in extra time
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Virgil van Dijk celebrates after scoring in extra-time

“Whoever in a team that is playing against such a weakened Liverpool side with three kids on the pitch who did find it difficult in the last few minutes of normal time… why did they do what they did?

“Does it make it more difficult for Pochettino? That’s not the reason why I said what I did. I’m here to work for Sky Sports to deliver lines that I feel instinctively and reflect the passion I have for football.

“Make no mistake, I didn’t want Liverpool to lift that trophy so it’s not like I was in a position of being biased against Chelsea.”

Carra: Tag will stick as long as Chelsea don’t win anything

Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time
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Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time

Jamie Carragher said on Monday Night Football:

“The criticism of Chelsea comes from how they allowed Liverpool to grow in confidence in extra-time.

“Chelsea had a team on the ropes hanging on for dear life and then two kids come on for Liverpool who are 19. Enzo Fernandez is a World Cup winner and Moises Caicedo is the most expensive player in British football.

“In extra-time, Chelsea played the way 90 per cent of teams play. Most teams think, ‘we’d love to win it but let’s make sure we don’t lose it’. But the reason it was wrong was because Chelsea were playing against Liverpool’s B team and they were hanging on from minute 69 to minute 90.

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The Liverpool players were breaking out the dance moves as they kicked off their celebrations in the dressing room following their Carabao Cup final win.

“The Liverpool players were doing stepovers and they shouldn’t have been allowed to do that so that’s where the criticism comes from.

“Gary called them billion-pound bottlejobs and unfortunately for Chelsea it’s a great line and for as long as they don’t win anything big, it’s going to stick.

“I came into a Liverpool team in 1997. In 1996, they lost an FA Cup final to Manchester United. That team were christened the Spice Boys.

“Was that harsh? This was a team that had got to a cup final and challenged for the league title twice, two years in a row. That tag is still with that team today – the Spice Boys.

“This tag for Chelsea that Gary has given them will stick until they win something big. Whether they think it’s right or wrong, it will stick, and they are the only ones who can change it.”

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Merson: Enzo can swing Carabao Cup final if he plays like Jorginho

In his latest column, Sky Sports’ Paul Merson explains why Enzo Fernandez will need to play like Jorginho if Chelsea are to beat Liverpool in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.

‘Liverpool injuries will be decisive in Carabao Cup final’

“I’m more confident for Chelsea’s chances than I was after the Liverpool game when they lost 4-1 at Anfield in January.

“It all depends on who is fit for Liverpool – if Mo Salah and Darwin Nunez are fit, it is a different story. If they aren’t fit, I think it is a heads-or-tails football match.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea.


Sunday 25th February 2:00pm

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“But if they don’t play, it is a funny old game, football. Three or four weeks ago, you are thinking Chelsea don’t have much chance after being blown away at Anfield.

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The Carabao Cup kicks off at the earlier time of 3pm on Sunday – live on Sky Sports

“Now all of a sudden, Chelsea are playing half-decent at the right time. Second half at Palace, they did well and at Man City the other day. For me, they are just playing well at the right time and I think they have a good balance.

“Now Curtis Jones isn’t fit, I think Chelsea win that midfield battle.”

‘Chelsea need Enzo to play like Jorginho’

“Playing against Man City suited Chelsea in the draw last weekend. You know they are going to leave gaps at the back. You always get a chance against them – if you pick that right pass on the counter, you are going to cause them major problems.

“I don’t think that is the case against Liverpool. They will be more shrewd about Chelsea’s counter-attack.

“Chelsea have to beat Liverpool’s press. Arsenal beat it umpteen times at the Emirates the other week with Jorginho in the team.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Arsenal and Liverpool

“I’m not sure if they have that Jorginho figure in the team. They have Enzo Fernandez – if he can play the same as Jorginho did that day for Arsenal, then it swings the advantage to Chelsea.”

Importance of a trophy for Poch and Klopp

Will a Carabao Cup win be the springboard to success for Mauricio Pochettino's Chelsea
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Would a Carabao Cup win be the springboard to success for Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea?

“Winning the Carabao Cup will help Mauricio Pochettino win over Chelsea fans 100 per cent.

“Chelsea go into the season and they can only win three things – the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the Premier League. They were out of the title race in a New York minute. They are still in the other two and if they win the first one, there are not many teams that are going to win a trophy this season.

“We are going mad about Tottenham and how great they are playing, but Chelsea could go and win a trophy and Spurs win nothing.

“If you win a trophy – what can anybody say? You can’t have a go at someone that’s won a trophy.

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Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he has lots of experience at losing finals – and that in many other sports second-place is celebrated

“It is so important to win this – this trophy is an amazing trophy. There’s not one footballer that will be watching on Sunday and not wishing he was playing in the final.

“It’s perfect for the managers, a February final, it gives you that confidence. It takes the pressure off you.

“Liverpool can go on and try to win the quadruple while Chelsea if they win it, there’s only three trophies they could’ve won, and they will have won one of them. It’s so important for both clubs.

“Jurgen Klopp will want to win something before he goes and he is in everything at the moment. But we know how quickly football changes and a couple of results here and there, then it is all gone.”

‘Ratcliffe has to pay whatever it takes to get Ashworth’

“He’s talking about knocking Man City and Liverpool off their perch, but what about Arsenal, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Chelsea? They’re all getting better.

“Man City are the team, I get that. But you still have to look at the others.

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe has outlined his plans for Manchester United’s future after his minority stake was ratified

“It’s going to be hard, they have to get Dan Ashworth and they have to start from the bottom. Their recruitment hasn’t been good enough.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Luton and Manchester United

“Antony is not worth £86m, Jadon Sancho was £73m and is out on loan. If he gets the right people in place, who knows? You have to be careful how quickly it is.

“How much would I pay for Ashworth? He is the future, so you pay whatever in my opinion. He is a signing.

“You’ve got to start from the bottom, you can’t build a house on water, on a puddle, you have to put the concrete down. Ashworth, I know he’ll need people around him, but he will get them in. And then you start recruiting the right people.

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Gary Neville assesses how much Dan Ashworth is worth to Man Utd

“No disrespect to Sancho and Antony, but you can’t keep throwing £160m away light-heartedly. It’s willy-nilly and you can’t go around like that. A lot of Ashworth’s signings that he has overseen at Newcastle could play for Man Utd.”

‘Next five games are massive for the title race’

“Looking at Arsenal’s fixtures, they aren’t going to be far off with eight games to go. They have majorly winnable games coming up. But if I had to put my hat on someone, it would be Man City.

“Kevin De Bruyne didn’t play the other day and Jack Grealish is out injured. Arsenal couldn’t deal with Bukayo Saka being injured for a couple of weeks, or rest Martin Odegaard or Declan Rice. That’s where it takes its toll.

“I was impressed with Liverpool against Luton with the injuries they had. One-nil down at half-time but they steamrollered them. They just keep churning it, but they have to keep doing that for another 13 or 14 football matches.

“If Man City win their next five league matches, you’d be shocked if they didn’t win the Premier League. That means winning at Liverpool, beating Man Utd and Brighton. They have some hard games so I would expect them to win the Premier League if they win those.

“But you’d be very disappointed if you were Arsenal, looking at their fixtures and Man City’s, if they weren’t ahead of them in the table after these next five games.

“It’s really in the balance. We’ve got massive times coming up. It couldn’t get any better.”

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