Meet ex-Arsenal star looking to break Man Utd’s hearts at Wembley with Arsene Wenger a huge fan

MANCHESTER UNITED will have to deal with a former Arsenal starlet on Sunday in the FA Cup.

United lock horns with Coventry in the semi-finals of the competition at Wembley in their bid to win a trophy that would salvage something positive from a turbulent campaign.

Manchester United will lock horns with Arsenal academy graduate Ben Sheaf

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Manchester United will lock horns with Arsenal academy graduate Ben SheafCredit: Getty
Coventry ace Sheaf attracted praise from Arsenal legend Arsene Wenger

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Coventry ace Sheaf attracted praise from Arsenal legend Arsene WengerCredit: Getty

And the Red Devils will meet a Hale End academy graduate that was singled out for praise by the Gunners’ legendary manager Arsene Wenger during his seven-year stint in north London.

That is none other than Ben Sheaf, 26, who has been enjoying an impressive tenure at Coventry.

Sheaf joined Arsenal‘s youth ranks in 2014 at the age of 16 following a three-year stint at West Ham.

The midfielder amassed a total of three goals and one assist in 60 appearances with the Under-23s following a handful of outings with the Under-18s.

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That led to a surprise call-up to Wenger’s senior side in the 2017-18 season.

The legendary Frenchman also gave the defensive midfielder his senior debut in the Europa League during a 1-0 victory at Red Star Belgrade.

The 74-year-old tactician also fielded Sheaf in the EFL Cup quarter-finals against West Ham two months later and he helped his team advance to the semi-finals with a 1-0 win.

The Arsenal great was full of praise for the then youngster and predicted he would have a “good career”.

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Wenger told Arsenal Player seven years ago: “He’s always ahead of the game and his anticipation quality is absolutely huge.

“He has that kind of mental strength as well. A typical British way of handling things, facing the difficulties with a very cool and intelligent way.

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“There is something in him that I believe will allow him to progress always.

“Because he analyses well what’s happening to him, he assesses well what is going on and that’s why I believe he will have a good career.”

Sheaf, though, never got his big break at Arsenal like other fellow academy graduates, such as Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe.

Instead, the ex-England youth international was shipped out on loan for various clubs, like Stevenage, Doncaster Rovers and of course Coventry who signed him on a permanent deal in 2021.

Since then, Sheaf has turned into an essential player for Mark Robins’ side as he has amassed a total of nine goals and nine assists in 139 appearances.

I used to give Declan Rice compliments on the football pitch… I couldn’t help myself, says Troy Deeney

By Troy Deeney

THERE are certain people that you come across in football and you know instantly who they are, what they’re about and what the trajectory of their life is going to be.

Anyone who has worked or grown up with Declan Rice knows that he has always been destined for the top.

When he was at West Ham, he was a centre-half who played in midfield purely to help out and ended up excelling.

The way he used to listen and learn from his old captain Mark Noble and be a student of the game was second to none.

And because of that, whenever I interacted with him on a football pitch, I never felt the need to be disrespectful towards him because there was just a pure will to win.

We would tell each other to ‘do one’ every now and again but then I would get these weird moments when he would do something special and I couldn’t help but say, ‘Good touch, mate’.

He had this joyful atmosphere around him which you can see in all of his interviews, even now at Arsenal. You never see him get in trouble, being outlandish, but he has that jokey personality.

He is still quite kiddish at 25, yet with a very serious body and mind in terms of being the best player he can be.

When he was announced as England captain against Belgium, there was no outrage, no shock or surprise or, ‘Why him?’. It was more a sense of, ‘Yeah, that makes sense’.

There is no doubt in my mind that he is in line to take the armband for his country full-time after Harry Kane moves on, alongside his midfield partner Jude Bellingham.

Click here to read Troy Deeney’s column in full.