Messi napkin that sealed Barcelona move sells for $965,000 at auction

Messi napkin that sealed Barcelona move sells for $965,000 at auction
Messi napkin that sealed Barcelona move sells for $965,000 at auction

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Ten Hag addresses Man United fans after winning last home game of season. Chelsea beat Brighton

LONDON: Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag had just seen his team win their last match at Old Trafford this season when he strode onto the field and took the microphone to address the club’s fans.

There might have been a smattering of boos but there was largely a backdrop of cheers as the under-pressure Dutch coach delivered a speech that felt like an audition to continue in the job next season.

“As you know,” he said after the 3-2 win over Newcastle in the Premier League, “it wasn’t an easy season, but one thing remained constant — and that was the backing of you for the team.

“But this season is not over yet.”

Indeed, United still have to go to Brighton in Sunday’s final round of Premier League games. Then, the following weekend, it’s another FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Two huge games. Two opportunities to qualify for Europe. Two final chances for Ten Hag to stake his claim to stay on as manager of England’s grandest club as it undergoes a shakeup.

United remained in eighth place in the league — hugely disappointing for a club of its stature — but moved level on points with Newcastle in seventh and three behind sixth-place Chelsea, who beat Brighton 2-1 away in Wednesday’s other game.

With Tottenham likely to finish in fifth place, Chelsea, Newcastle and Man United look to be fighting for the final two European qualifying positions. The teams finishing in sixth and seventh place should qualify for the Europa League and Europa Conference League, respectively.

Man United could also get in the Europa League by winning the cup final against City on May 25.

Chelsea’s win at Brighton was their fourth straight in the league. That hasn’t happened since October 2022.

NKUNKU CELEBRATION

Christopher Nkunku inflated a blue balloon and held it between his lips to celebrate his second-half goal that ultimately proved the difference for Chelsea at Amex Stadium.

The France striker’s 64th-minute strike added to Cole Palmer’s 22nd goal of the campaign in the 34th minute.

Second-half Chelsea substitute Reece James was shown a straight red card in the 88th — following a VAR review — after he kicked out at Joao Pedro while on the ground.

Danny Welbeck grabbed Brighton’s consolation goal in the seventh minute of stoppage time.

HOJLUND STRIKES

A strike by substitute Rasmus Hojlund in the 84th minute proved to be the clinching goal for Man United in a match between direct rivals for Europe.

Kobbie Mainoo put United ahead in the 31st after a pass was slipped through the Newcastle defense by Amad Diallo, who regained the lead for the home side with a fierce left-footed shot through a crowd of players after a 57th-minute corner wasn’t fully cleared.

Anthony Gordon had scored Newcastle’s equalizer in the 49th and Lewis Hall ensured a nervy finish to the game for Man United by making it 3-2 in stoppage time.

FAREWELLS

French players Anthony Martial and Raphael Varane waved goodbye to Man United’s supporters after the game against Newcastle.

They are leaving the club at the end of the season because their contracts are expiring.

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