Covid outbreak at Manchester United puts Brentford clash in doubt

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Manchester United’s Premier League match away to Brentford is at risk of postponement after the club closed their Carrington training ground for 24 hours due to a number of positive Covid-19 tests.

United are in talks with the league over whether it is now safe for them to travel to the Brentford Community Stadium on Tuesday night.

It emerged on Sunday that a small number of players and staff – reportedly four – had returned positive lateral flow tests following the 1-0 win over Norwich on Saturday evening, with those results confirmed by PCR tests a day later.

“Individuals who tested positive are isolating per Premier League protocols.

“Given cancellation of training and disruption to the squad, and with the health of players and staff the priority, the club is in discussion with the Premier League whether it is safe for Tuesday’s fixture against Brentford to continue, both from a Covid infection and player preparation perspective.

“Team and staff travel to London will be deferred pending the result of that discussion.”

On Sunday, the individuals who had returned positive lateral flow tests were sent home before the rest of the squad trained outdoors, with the schedule adjusted to individual and non-contact sessions.

But the decision a day later to shut down operations at Carrington must bring into question whether or not United will be ready to play Tuesday’s match.

The Premier League’s 2021-22 handbook says that matches should go ahead if a club has 14 or more players available on its squad list, but decisions can be taken on a game-by-game basis by the Premier League board.

The PA news agency understands there is no official threshold for the number of positive cases that would cause a game to be called off.

The Premier League wrote to all top-flight clubs last Thursday instructing them to reinstate Covid-19 emergency measures.

Top-flight clubs that had reached a vaccination rate of 85 per cent had been allowed to relax restrictions which were imposed in the summer, but those that had done so were told they must return to the stricter measures.

Last week, Tottenham reported that eight players and five members of staff had tested positive, leading to their Europa Conference League match against Rennes and Sunday’s Premier League trip to Brighton both being called off.

Several other clubs – including Norwich and Aston Villa – have reported a number of cases, while Monday’s Championship fixture between QPR and Sheffield United was postponed due to an outbreak at the London club.

United’s opponents Brentford have had problems of their own. Earlier on Monday manager Thomas Frank said top scorer Ivan Toney was on track to be available for Tuesday’s game following a period of isolation but Ethan Pinnock remains out, and Mads Bech Sorensen has only recently overcome the virus.

Speaking about United’s situation prior to Monday’s statement from the Old Trafford club, Frank echoed Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta in saying there needed to be more clarity from the league regarding potential postponements.

“We are planning to play the game,” Frank said. “That’s what we are focusing on. We can’t control anything else.

“I think it needs to be a significant amount of Covid cases before the game can be cancelled, but to be fair I’m a little bit in doubt when it is enough.

“It’s a very tricky situation. I think it’s very important the Premier League and all of us are following normal society rules and restrictions. That’s very important.

“And then if we can make it very clear what the rules are to cancel a game that would be good.”

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