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Real Madrid and Arsenal target Jarrad Branthwaite is perfect for Man Utd and Red Devils have to win this transfer tussle

JARRAD BRANTHWAITE’S name is almost as long as he is tall —  but his time as an Everton player is surely running short.

The centre-back was the one beacon of light amid the Goodison gloom engulfing Sean Dyche’s side after Cauley Woodrow won Saturday’s FA Cup tie for Luton in injury time.

Jarrad Branthwaite was Everton's best player against Luton

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Jarrad Branthwaite was Everton’s best player against LutonCredit: Alamy

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And it can now only be a matter of when and not if he moves on to bigger things.

Manchester United have had the 6ft 5in ace on their radar since he left home-town club Carlisle in 2020.

Plenty of rivals, including Real Madrid and Premier League admirers Arsenal, are also watching his progress and come summer one of them is certain to strike for the England Under-21 man.

Everton, skint and maybe down in the Championship by then, will be powerless to do much  other than hold out for the highest price.

Once Sir Jim Ratcliffe gets his feet under the table and his own men running the football show the 21-year-old should be a priority.

He ticks so many boxes, having spent last season on loan at PSV Eindhoven where he won the Dutch Cup and cut his teeth in the Champions League.

Branthwaite is  an automatic choice not only for his power in the air but his ability to break out from the back and set up attacks.

Sadly for Everton, against the  Hatters  he  and partner James Tarkowski had to spend most of the day fire-fighting.

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Much more of this — with only one win in eight games — and all manager Dyche’s work in the face of the club’s ten–point Prem deduction will go up in flames.

A fifth-round place was at stake and Luton now have that, bagging a huge tie against Manchester City at Kenilworth Road in a few weeks.

Just as important, the win gives Edwards’ momentum in their fight to beat the drop.

But Everton — injury-hit as they are — seem to be going backwards.

Toffees boss Dyche said: “People know we are stretched, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist.

“But I want these players to grip their chances and say, ‘That’s it, I’m playing and I’m ready’.”

The 96th-minute winner from substitute Woodrow — who later revealed he had broken his hand in an accidental clash with  Tarkowski — spoke volumes about Luton’s spirit.

Edwards’ side nabbed the opener through a Vitaliy Mykolenko own goal on 39 minutes.

Jack Harrison levelled for the hosts ten minutes after the break but Everton blew it at the death.

One-time Goodison golden boy Ross Barkley was booed throughout but current boss Edwards said: “This is entertainment and sometimes there is a pantomime villain. Ross dealt with it really well.”

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