All the top stories and transfer rumours from Tuesday’s national newspapers…
Manchester United are close to signing Matheus Cunha from Atlético Madrid for around £50m.
Romano has been informed that the rumours of Manchester United and Mateusz Cunha are empty.
Romano says that Manchester United have had direct talks with Mateusz Cunha’s agent in the last few days, just like many others. As things stand, United have not yet reached an agreement with Atletico.
The report also states that Atletico want to sell Mateusz Cunha for more than €50 million this summer.
Liverpool 1-1 Crystal Palace| Highlights
Liverpool hosted Crystal Palace in the 2nd round of the EPL. In the first half, Milner missed a shot, Nunez shot high from the back post, Salah pushed a shot wide, Zaha scored with a single shot and Nunez hit the post from a small angle. In the second half, Nunez saw red with a header and Luis Diaz equalised with a long-range shot to make it 1-1 to Crystal Palace.
Juventus 3-0 Sassuolo | Highlights
In the first half, Di Maria fired a left-footed shot from the back post that bounced into the net. Just before half-time, Vlahovic took the penalty himself. In the second half, Di Maria assisted Vlahovic to add to his tally. The match ended with Juve beating Sassuolo 3-0 at home to open the new Serie A season.
Atletico Madrid 3-0 Getafe| Highlights
Atletico Madrid were away to Getafe. In the first half, Felix scored his first goal in his return to Atletico Madrid with an assist from Morata, while Mayoral hit the post. In the second half, Felix added a hat-trick of assists with two more strikes, Morata added a second with a shot from a tight angle and Griezmann came on as a substitute to score a brace. Atletico Madrid won 3-0 away to Getafe.
Napoli 5-2 Verona | Highlights
Verona was at home to Napoli. In the first half, Günter sent a header across the face of the goal for Lasagna to break through, before Lozano assisted Kvaracshelia to grab a header to equalise and before half time Di Lorenzo headed in front for Osmayne to score at the back post to put Napoli back in front. In the second half, Verona equalised with a header from Thomas Henry, assisted by Faraoni, before Kvaraccheria assisted Zielinski to put Napoli back in front, then Lobotka drove in and pushed the ball into the net to extend the lead. The match ended 2-5 to Verona against Napoli.
Ronaldo, Maguire told club to buy more
According to a new report in the Mirror, Ronaldo, Maguire and other players have told the club’s hierarchy to buy before the end of the transfer window after suffering two consecutive defeats in the new season.
After the 0-4 defeat against Brentford, core players including Ronaldo, Maguire, Rashford, Fernandes and Luke Shaw have reportedly told the club’s hierarchy that the team needs to make some more signings before the end of the transfer window.
A total of five players have left United this summer and so far they have signed three – Eriksen, Lisandro Martinez and Malasia – with the transfer window due to end on September 1.
United’s senior players believe that the club’s lack of decisive action in the transfer market this summer has left them with little hope of competing for the top four, with another mediocre and underachieving season to follow.
Kante to miss at least a month with hamstring injury
Chelsea midfielder Kante will miss at least one month due to an injury, according to French media sources.
Reports suggest that Kante suffered a right hamstring injury against Tottenham Hotspur and the Chelsea midfielder will undergo an MRI scan on Tuesday local time.
Kante seems unlikely to play for France in September, with Deschamps due to announce his squad on September 15.
Manchester United is in talks with De Tomas
According to journalist Pedro Morata, the Spaniard striker did not travel with the team to play away at Celta and is currently negotiating with Manchester United. De Tomas is not the only option for the Red Devils, but the club is interested in him. It is reported that the transfer fee for de Tomas could be between €25 million and €30 million.
De Tomas’ agent has recommended him to Manchester United, who have shown interest, but United have two more options. Previously De Tomas was recommended to Atletico Madrid with a bid of 40 million euros but was rejected by Atletico.
Last season, De Tomas played 36 games in all competitions for the Spaniards, contributing 17 goals and 3 assists.
Nottingham Forest also wants to sign Aouar and James Garner
According to Sky Sports, Nottingham Forest, who have been making a lot of reinforcements this summer, are also interested in Lyon’s Aouar and Manchester United’s James Garner.
So far Nottingham Forest has brought in as many as 15 recruits this summer, including Lingard, Dean Henderson, Avonyi, Neco Williams, Froile and Omar Richards.
Now according to Sky Sports, Nottingham Forest hasn’t stopped attracting reinforcements, as they have made initial contact with Lyon regarding the transfer of Omar. Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest is also looking at the situation of Manchester United midfielder James Garner, the England U21 international who played for them last season on loan, during which he played 49 games and scored 4 goals and 10 assists.
Fofana growing frustrated at the prospect of Chelsea’s move
Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana has reportedly become disillusioned with the prospect of a move to Chelsea.
An exclusive from Sky Sports reporter Lyle Thomas says that Fofana has become increasingly frustrated and feels left out of his dream of joining Chelsea.
In addition, Fofana is also unhappy with Leicester City’s desire to get a huge transfer fee of over £80 million from him as Maguire did.
The long-running saga of Manchester United’s summer pursuit of Frenkie de Jong may have hit its final snag, with a report in Holland claiming the club’s offer to Barcelona has expired.
Hector Bellerin has requested that Arsenal terminate his £110,00-a-week contract at the club as he enters the final 12 months of his deal.
Manchester United have reportedly agreed to loan out Hannibal Mejbri to a Championship club on a season-long deal, with Birmingham City leading the race to get the Tunisian teen.
Everton are ready to ramp up their efforts to sign Billy Gilmour as Chelsea look to make another bid for Anthony Gordon before the end of the transfer window.
Manchester United’s players have sent an SOS to the club’s hierarchy to make the signings they need to recover from their disastrous start to the season.
Chelsea have made a £45m approach for Anthony Gordon. Though his club Everton do not want to sell the prize asset they have developed through the academy, there is an awareness he now wants to leave.
Jurgen Klopp has escalated his war of words with UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin after being told to stop complaining about the increasingly demanding workload on top-level footballers.
Erik ten Hag has shifted his stance on Cristiano Ronaldo’s request to exit Manchester United and is open to selling the Portugal international in the transfer window.
Chelsea will wait for the findings of a new independent panel before deciding whether to lodge a formal complaint about the referee Anthony Taylor.
Chelsea are ready to increase their offer for Anthony Gordon as Everton’s stance that the winger is not for sale comes under severe test.
Manchester United are battling Chelsea to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Watford players “openly celebrated” Emmanuel Dennis’ departure to Nottingham Forest, according to reports.
Brazilian star Joao Gomes has revealed Liverpool would be his dream Premier League move.
Marcos Alonso has agreed personal terms with Barcelona, according to reports.
Tottenham have appointed Leonardo Gabbanini – one of the key men in the Pozzo scouting network – as the club’s new chief scout.
Former football agent and Doncaster Rovers talent identification manager Graham Younger is one of the new faces behind the scenes at Watford having taken up a role in the club’s recruitment team.
The Portuguese has taken to social media to reflect on a turbulent year that saw him return to Old Trafford from Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo has admitted that he is “not happy” with what Manchester United are achieving while calling for “higher spirit and a stronger mentality” in the dressing room.
Ronaldo completed arguably the biggest transfer of 2021 when he rejoined United from Juventus for £20 million ($27m) in August.
The 36-year-old has since proven that he has lost none of his sharpness in front of goal by finding the net 14 times in 21 appearances, but the Red Devils have not been nearly as consistent as a collective, which he admits has been a source of major frustration.
What’s been said?
Ronaldo took to social media to reflect on another stellar year that also saw him round off his time at Juve with two more domestic trophies before taking home the Golden Boot for Portugal at the European Championships.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner is demanding far more from his United team-mates in the second half of the season, though, as he wrote on Instagram: “2021 is coming to an end and it was far from being an easy year, despite my 47 goals scored across all competitions.
“At Juventus, I was proud to win the Italian Cup and the Italian Supercup, and become the Serie A Top Scorer. For Portugal, becoming the Euro Top Scorer was also a high point this year. And of course, my return to Old Trafford will always be one of the most iconic moments in my career.
“But I’m not happy with what we are achieving in Man United. None of us are happy, I’m sure of that. We know that we have to work harder, play better and deliver way more than we are delivering right now.
“Let’s make this New Year’s Eve a turning point of the season! Let’s embrace 2022 with a higher spirit and a stronger mentality. Let’s take us above and beyond, let’s reach for the stars and put this club right where it belongs! Join us, we’re counting on all of you!
“Happy New Year and see you soon!”
Can United still salvage their 2021-22 campaign?
With the additions of Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho in the summer transfer window, the Red Devils initially looked well placed to challenge for the title at the start of the season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United started brightly but quickly faded, suffering humiliating defeats at the hands of Liverpool, Manchester City and Watford, with Solskjaer ultimately paying the price with his job.
Ralf Rangnick has now taken the managerial reins on an interim basis, and has overseen three wins and two draws from his first five games at the helm, with Wolves up next on Monday.
A 3-1 victory against Burnley last time out, during which Ronaldo netted his eighth Premier League goal of the campaign, served to raise fresh optimism, but United now have a real fight on their hands to finish in the top four.
An early exit in the Carabao Cup saw another chance for silverware fall by the wayside, but supporters will hope that Ronaldo and Co. can go all the way in either the Champions League or FA Cup as Rangnick continues to try and mould the squad in his own image.
Manchester United was mistakenly drawn with Villarreal, even though both teams faced each other in the group stage while the Premier League side’s ball was not added to the bowl as a potential opponent for Atletico Madrid.
Manchester United was mistakenly drawn with Villarreal, even though both teams faced each other in the group stage while the Premier League side’s ball was not added to the bowl as a potential opponent for Atletico Madrid.
The last 16 ties will be played in February and March.
UEFA blamed a “material error” due to a “technical problem with the software of an external service provider” as it announced that the draw for the first knockout round of its flagship competition would be redone at 2 p.m.GMT.
Key players, rankings, ones to watch: all you need to know about the 16 teams through.
There are nine former winners among the teams through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16. UEFA.com profiles all these high-flying contenders.
Champions League round of 16 draw
The draw will be streamed live on UEFA.com and on the official UEFA Champions League app from midday CET on Monday. Two seeding pots will be formed: one consisting of the eight group winners (seeded teams) and the other of the eight runners-up (unseeded teams). No team can play a club from their group or any side from their own
UEFA ranking: 17 Group C: winners (W6 D0 L0 F20 A5) Last season: group stage (UEFA Europa League quarter-finals) European Cup best: winners (1970/71, 1971/72, 1972/73, 1994/95)
Campaign in ten words: Fearless, dynamic, inventive and relentlessly attack-minded: at home and away.
UEFA.com Ajax reporter: Yet another Ajax side shaped in the totaalvoetbal mould. Every player in the team – keeper included – is comfortable in possession and can take the ball even when under extreme pressure. They switch positions effortlessly, excel at creating and exploiting space, and are committed to flowing, creative football. What’s not to like?
Coach: Erik ten Hag Ten Hag has done a magnificent job with a squad that is constantly evolving. After taking Ajax to the brink of the Champions League final in 2018/19, he lost many key players that summer, but has simply rebuilt the side: same script, different actors.
Key player: Sébastien Haller The first player ever to score nine goals in his first five Champions League matches. The Ivory Coast striker has taken to the top tier with aplomb.
Did you know? Ten-goal Haller is only the second player to score in all six group games in a single season, following in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017/18.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 10 Group B: runners-up (W2 D1 L3 F7 A8) Last season: round of 16 (L 0-3agg vs Chelsea) Best European Cup performance: runners-up (1973/74, 2013/14, 2015/16)
Campaign in ten words: Struggled in a tough group but produced when it mattered.
UEFA.com Atlético reporter: A campaign that never really got going until the win against Porto on Matchday 6. A goalless draw with the same opponents on Matchday 1 was followed by a last-gasp win in Milan which did not have the galvanising effect many had anticipated. Successive defeats by Liverpool left them with their backs against the wall, but that’s just how they like it.
Coach: Diego Simeone Simeone has coached the Rojiblancos to two UEFA Europa League titles, two UEFA Super Cups and two Champions League finals. Last season, he added a second Liga crown to show his powers remain undiminished.
Key player: Luis Suárez Signed from Barcelona in summer 2020, the Uruguay striker has proved an inspired acquisition. He plundered 21 league goals in 2020/21, the last of them guaranteeing his club would claim their first championship for seven years.
Did you know? The only time Atleti failed to get out of the Champions League group stage under Simeone, in 2017/18, they went on to win the Europa League.
UEFA ranking: 1 Group E: winners (W6 D0 L0 F22 A3) Last season: quarter-finals (L on away goals vs Paris) European Cup best: winners (1973/74, 1974/75, 1975/76, 2000/01, 2012/13, 2019/20)
Campaign in ten words: Scoring freely, hungry and deeply committed to title number seven.
UEFA.com Bayern reporter: Despite all their limitations through injuries and illness this season, it’s been relatively smooth sailing results wise and Bayern will again be major contenders in the spring if they continue to build on this rhythm. The tactical ploys new coach Julian Nagelsmann is currently implementing should also become even more visible as the campaign progresses.0 seconds of 0 secondsVolume 0% Lewandowski’s best Champions League goals
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann The 34-year-old has been diligent as successor to Hansi Flick, overseeing some fine displays and a cruise through the group stage. In 2016, he became the youngest coach in Bundesliga history when he took the Hoffenheim reins aged 28, leading them into the Champions League by finishing fourth the following season. He continued to impress across two seasons at Leipzig prior to joining Bayern last summer.
Key player: Robert Lewandowski The relentless Polish marksman hit new heights last term, scoring a record 41 German league goals as Bayern sealed a ninth straight championship. He has maintained that form this season with nine goals in six group fixtures and sits third on the list of all-time scorers in the Champions League.
Did you know? Bayern have extended their record unbeaten streak in Champions League away games to 21 matches.
UEFA ranking: 29 Group E: runners-up (W2 D2 L2 F7 A9) Last season: third qualifying round (L 1-2 vs PAOK) European Cup best: winners (1960/61, 1961/62)
Campaign in ten words: Finishing above Barcelona looked impossible but Benfica pulled it off.
UEFA.com Benfica reporter: Group winners Bayern were just too strong, but Benfica – starting the campaign as clear underdogs – finished above Barcelona with the help of an impressive 3-0 win in Lisbon. Darwin Nuñez’s goals, Rafa Silva’s pace and Nicolás Otamendi’s resilience at the back made sure the Eagles got the job done.
Coach: Jorge Jesus During his first stint, from 2009 to 2015, Jorge Jesus became the most successful coach in the club’s history by winning ten trophies: three Liga titles, a Portuguese Cup, a Super Cup and five League Cups. He returned in 2020.
Key player: João Mário The 28-year-old won a Portuguese title last term with Sporting CP while on loan from Inter. He only arrived at Benfica in July but has made an instant impact with his organisational skills, vision and ability to dictate the pace of games. “He adds class to the team,” says Jesus of the midfielder, a UEFA EURO 2016 winner with Portugal.
Did you know? The Lisbon giants have reached seven European Cup finals but have lost their last five (most recently against Milan in 1990).
UEFA ranking: 4 Group H: runners-up (W4 D1 L1 F13 A4) Last season: winners (W 1-0 vs Man. City) European Cup best: winners (2011/12, 2020/21)
Campaign in ten words: Defensively outstanding with the attacking variety to challenge the best.
UEFA.com Chelsea reporter: This is some team. Everything Thomas Tuchel touches seems to turn to gold and his side have once again been a joy to watch. The Matchday 2 reverse in Turin aside, they look just as ruthlessly efficient as they were during last season’s knockout phase. It will take something special to stop them.0 seconds of 7 minutes, 49 secondsVolume 0%00:0007:49 All Chelsea’s 2020/21 Champions League goals
Coach: Thomas Tuchel The coach took over last January and immediately went 14 games unbeaten. The former Mainz and Dortmund boss was a runner-up with Paris in 2020 before going one better with the Blues last season. His Midas touch is yet to desert him.
Key player: Jorginho The 2020/21 UEFA Men’s Player of the Year is a metronomic presence in midfield who more often than not dictates the tempo of his team and the match.
Did you know? The Blues had conceded just three goals in 12 Champions League games since Tuchel’s arrival before their 3-3 draw with Zenit on Matchday 6.
UEFA ranking: 24 Group D: runners-up (W3 D1 L2 F8 A5) Last season: group stage European Cup best: winners (1963/64, 1964/65, 2009/10)
Campaign in ten words: Strong defensively and creating plenty of opportunities but not clinical.
UEFA.com Inter reporter: Simone Inzaghi’s Inter may be less solid than Antonio Conte’s version, despite the same 3-5-2 system, but the Nerazzurri are certainly playing more attacking football compared with last season. They have missed an incredible number of chances, particularly against Real Madrid and Shakhtar. Should they become more clinical up front, they could go a long way.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi A Serie A and three-time Coppa Italia winner as a player with Lazio, the 45-year-old also brought a domestic cup to Rome during his five seasons in charge. From a tactical viewpoint, he is another exponent of the 3-5-2, like his predecessor Conte.
Key player: Marcelo Brozović The Croatian international has the perfect attitude in putting himself at the service of the team both defensively and going forward; indeed he often leads the ‘distance covered’ stats after a game. The key phases of play often go through him and he has the sort of mentality every coach loves. A real leader.
Did you know? European champions in 2010, Inter have reached the knockout stage for the first time in a decade.
UEFA ranking: 8 Group H: winners (W5 D0 L1 F10 A6) Last season: round of 16 (L on away goals vs Porto) European Cup best: winners (1984/85, 1995/96)
Campaign in ten words: Blend of impressive veterans and youngsters with potential; lacking consistency.
UEFA.com Juventus reporter: Massimiliano Allegri rejoined Juventus in May but he is still searching for the magic dust that carried the team to two finals during his first spell. Very inconsistent in Serie A, Juve were impressive with four wins in as many games to start their European campaign but the 4-0 loss at Chelsea on Matchday 5 brought the Bianconeri down to earth.
Coach: Massimiliano Allegri The 54-year-old returned to the bench with a mission after two sabbatical years. He steered Juve to the Champions League finals of 2015 and 2017 but lost on both occasions.
Key player: Federico Chiesa After tasting EURO glory with Italy, the winger is continuing his progression and turning into a real leader of this Juve team. He scored the only goal in the crucial victory over Chelsea in Turin.
Did you know? The Bianconeri have made the final five times since their last triumph in 1996 but are still waiting for a third success in the competition. No club have lost more finals than their seven defeats.
UEFA ranking: 3 Group B: winners (W6 D0 L0 F17 A6) Last season: quarter-finals (L 1-3agg vs Real Madrid) European Cup best: winners (1976/77, 1977/78, 1980/81, 1983/84, 2004/05, 2018/19)
Campaign in ten words: A perfect group stage facilitated by an in-form attacking unit.
UEFA.com Liverpool reporter: The Reds have left their challengers for dust, storming to the Group B summit without dropping a point. It’s not been plain sailing, though, as they have had to show some mettle to battle back against top-quality opposition in AC Milan and Atlético.
Coach: Jürgen Klopp Liverpool boss since 2015, Klopp guided the Reds to continental glory in 2018/19 and to their first English title in 30 years the next season. A striker turned defender at Mainz, he lifted two Bundesliga titles with Dortmund before heading to Anfield.0 seconds of 0 secondsVolume 0% Thiago’s sensational Liverpool strike
Key player: Mohamed Salah The Egypt forward has been the face of this Liverpool side since arriving from Roma in 2017. A star at Basel, he first landed in England with Chelsea in 2014, but has proved a major talent on Merseyside, his pace, intelligence and finishing helping him bag 32 Champions League goals for the club. He has seemingly gone up another notch this term.
Did you know? Liverpool have been European champions six times – more than any other English team. That is as many titles as Bayern, with Milan and Real Madrid the only sides to have won more.
UEFA ranking: 62 Group G: winners (W3 D2 L1 F7 A4) Last season: UEFA Europa League round of 32 (L 2-4agg vs Ajax) European Cup best: round of 16 (2006/07)
Campaign in ten words: Surprise French champions keen to cause more upsets in Europe.
UEFA.com LOSC reporter: After collecting two points from their opening three games, few would have expected LOSC to reach the last 16. Nevertheless, Jocelyn Gourvennec’s men eventually found their feet at this level, earning their first group stage win in nine years on Matchday 4 and building on that victory to clinch a first knockout round berth since 2006/07.
Coach: Jocelyn Gourvennec The boss made his name in six seasons with Guingamp, winning the French Cup for only the second time in their history in 2014. He had a second spell there following a stint at Bordeaux and returned to the touchline last summer after two years without a club.
Key player: Jonathan David The 21-year-old Canada striker was the most expensive player in LOSC’s history when he joined in August 2020 from Gent, and he truly began to deliver during the business end of the club’s French title charge last season. Even more prolific this term, David weighed in with vital goals on Matchdays 4, 5 and 6.
Did you know? This is just the second time in eight attempts that LOSC have advanced beyond the group stage.
UEFA ranking: 2 Group A: winners (W4 D0 L2 F18 A10) Last season: runners-up (L 0-1 vs Chelsea) European Cup best: runners-up (2020/21)
Campaign in ten words: Guardiola’s free-flowing outfit have been mesmerising to watch at times.
UEFA.com Man. City reporter: City have arguably taken their game to another level this season. They came so close to that elusive first title last term and Josep Guardiola has raised the bar once more as he chases a first Champions League triumph since 2011. When on song, their football is peerless.0 seconds of 45 secondsVolume 0%00:0000:45 Watch Man. City’s winner against Paris
Coach: Josep Guardiola One of the most decorated coaches in the game, the 50-year-old won this competition twice with Barcelona. He has scooped three league titles apiece at the helm of the Catalan club, Bayern and City.
Key player: Kevin De Bruyne The 30-year-old schemer passed 250 appearances for the club last season and remains a talismanic figure in their midfield despite the riches around him. He has endured something of a stilted campaign but remains key.
Did you know? Guardiola reached his eighth Champions League semi-final last season – the joint-most in the competition’s history alongside José Mourinho.
UEFA ranking: 9 Group F: winners (W3 D2 L1 F11 A8) Last season: group stage (UEFA Europa League runners-up) European Cup best: winners (1967/68, 1998/99, 2007/08)
Campaign in ten words: Ronaldo has brought salvation to a topsy-turvy season so far.
UEFA.com Man. United reporter: Jadon Sancho thumped home his first Red Devils goal to confirm their spot in the knockouts with a game to spare. In the midst of a turbulent Premier League campaign, United recovered from an opening-day upset against Young Boys to stabilise their European season at least.0 seconds of 2 minutes, 26 secondsVolume 0%00:0002:26 Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-gasp goals
Coach: Ralf Rangnick The 63-year-old ‘professor of football’ has replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjær as United’s interim manager until the end of the season. Having coached clubs including Hoffenheim and Schalke – whom he guided to the semi-finals in 2011 – Rangnick then oversaw Leipzig’s meteoric rise from fourth tier to Bundesliga and Europe’s elite.
Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo The Portuguese veteran has justified his summer return to Old Trafford, scoring six times in five group appearances. His last-gasp heroics against Villarreal and Atalanta secured United’s last-16 berth.
Did you know? United have been English champions a record 20 times, but have won only two major trophies – the 2015/16 FA Cup and the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League – since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after 27 years in charge.
UEFA ranking: 7 Group A: runners-up (W3 D2 L1 F13 A8) Last season: semi-finals (L 1-4agg vs Man. City) European Cup best: runners-up (2019/20)
Campaign in ten words: Star-studded team with huge potential still seeking the right balance.
UEFA.com Paris reporter: Despite coming second in their group to Manchester City, Paris remain among the chief contenders for the trophy. The 2019/20 runners-up have everything required to go one better this term – not least attacking talent aplenty in Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi and Neymar – but they must improve their consistency in Europe and Mauricio Pochettino needs to find the best way to support his ‘MNM’ spearhead.0 seconds of 0 secondsVolume 0%00:0000:00 In the Zone: Paris’ counterattack against Leipzig
Coach: Mauricio Pochettino The brains behind Tottenham’s surprise run to the 2019 final, the Argentinian replaced Tuchel at the Paris helm in January 2020, some 20 years after signing for the club as a defender.
Key player: Kylian Mbappé Competing for the limelight with Messi, Neymar and Ángel Di María, the France starlet has been the main source of goals for Paris in this season’s tournament, providing devastating runs into the final third, assists and lethal finishes.
Did you know? When Paris overcame Bayern in the 2020/21 quarter-finals, it was the first instance in Champions League history of the previous season’s runners-up eliminating the holders in the knockout stage.
UEFA ranking: 5 Group D: winners (W5 D0 L1 F14 A3) Last season: semi-finals (L 1-3agg vs Chelsea) European Cup best: winners (1955/56, 1956/57, 1957/58, 1958/59, 1959/60, 1965/66, 1997/98, 1999/2000, 2001/02, 2013/14, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18)
Campaign in ten words: Looking ominously back to their best after a shaky start.
UEFA.com Real Madrid reporter: Madrid’s strong form on the road – three wins, nine goals, none conceded – underpinned their progress. With Karim Benzema and Vinícius Júnior delivering the goods, the Merengues could afford a surprise stumble at home to debutants Sheriff. Madrid are where they want to be, and from here they’re always a threat.
Coach: Carlo Ancelotti The manager who steered Madrid to ‘La Décima’ in 2014 returned last summer for a second stint in charge. He is one of just three coaches to have won the European Cup/Champions League on three occasions.
Key player: Karim Benzema Many people wondered where Real Madrid’s goals would come from when Cristiano Ronaldo left in 2018, but the France forward has more than stepped up to the plate to become the club’s talisman. Fittingly, he scored Madrid’s 1,000th European Cup goal against Shakhtar earlier this campaign.
Did you know? Madrid have never failed to make it through the group stage of the Champions League.
UEFA ranking: 22 Group G: runners-up (W3 D1 L2 F8 A6) Last season: group stage (UEFA Europa League round of 32) European Cup best: group stage (1994/95, 2019/20, 2020/21, 2021/22)
Campaign in ten words: Nerves jangled after a brilliant start, but potential is there.
UEFA.com Salzburg reporter: Salzburg looked to be cruising after taking seven points from their first three games, but faltered as they prepared to take the final step towards the knockouts. Results have not been quite as sparkling since November, but this exciting young team will be a force to be reckoned with once they regain their composure.
Coach: Matthias Jaissle It was a considerable surprise when Salzburg announced that a 33-year-old former Hoffenheim defender, who had never coached a top-flight team, would be their new boss last summer. He made the move up after two years in command of their U18s.
Key player: Karim Adeyemi The striker has big boots to fill but could be the next top-class forward to come off the Salzburg production line, after Patson Daka and Erling Haaland. The 19-year-old is quick, versatile and shows no mercy in front of goal. He has also worked his way into the senior Germany team.
One to watch: Luka Sučić What the 19-year-old midfielder lacks in experience, he makes up for in quality. Already a central component in Salzburg’s system, his success in the Champions League earned him a first cap for Croatia.
Did you know? Salzburg have made it to the round of 16 for the first time in their history; they reached the final of the UEFA Cup in 1994, losing 2-0 on aggregate to Inter.
UEFA ranking: 28 Group C: runners-up (W3 D0 L3 F14 A12) Last season: UEFA Europa League play-offs (L 1-4 vs LASK) European Cup best: quarter-finals (1982/83)
Campaign in ten words: Mightily impressive recovery after September setbacks for vibrant young side.
UEFA.com Sporting reporter: The outlook was bleak after the Lions opened their first group stage in four years with back-to-back defeats but three straight wins – and big ones at that – saw them through to the knockouts for only the second time. Some debut campaign for 37-year-old coach Rúben Amorim.
Coach: Rúben Amorim The former Portugal midfielder masterminded Sporting’s first Liga title in 19 years during his first full season as coach. The Lions set a league record for the longest unbeaten sequence in a single campaign – 32 matches unbowed – and dispatched Braga in the League Cup final.
Key player: Pedro Gonçalves He had netted just seven career goals for Famalicão before joining Sporting in August 2020 but ended his first term in Lisbon as the league’s top scorer with 23. The 23-year-old started this campaign in similar form after winning his first two Portugal caps in June.
Did you know? Sporting had progressed from the group stage on only one of their eight previous attempts in the Champions League era.
UEFA coefficient ranking: 21 Group F: runners-up (W3 D1 L2 F12 A9) Last season: UEFA Europa League winners (W on penalties vs Man. United) Best European Cup performance: semi-finals (2005/06)
Campaign in ten words: Lack of a finisher nearly cost them a knockout place.
UEFA.com Villarreal reporter: The Yellow Submarine played some excellent football during the group stage, in particular dominating Manchester United for large swathes at Old Trafford. Gerard Moreno’s injury issues meant that they lacked a natural goalscorer, which cost them dearly on more than one occasion, but they got the job done.
Coach: Unai Emery The former Almería and Valencia coach made the Europa League his own with a hat-trick of successes at Sevilla. Led Paris to the treble in 2017/18 and Arsenal to a European final a year later, before joining Villarreal in summer 2020 – and promptly winning the Europa League again.
Key player: Arnaut Danjuma A summer arrival from the English second tier might not have had fans overly excited, but the Dutchman has been a revelation both domestically and in Europe for Villarreal, terrorising defences with his skill, pace and directness – as well as his eye for goal.
Did you know? Just under half of Villarreal’s 52,000 inhabitants can fit inside their 23,500-seater stadium.
The new interim manager wants his team to press their opponents high up the field and was impressed by the Portugal star’s work up front
Ralf Rangnick has praised Cristiano Ronaldo for his work off the ball as the German coach’s reign at Manchester United started with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace.
A goal from Fred in the second half of the clash at Old Trafford was enough to see the Red Devils secure the three points in the first match under the new interim boss.
Rangnick was pleased with the way they played, and highlighted Ronaldo’s effort as United got their first taste of the new pressing system the manager is looking to implement.
What has been said?
“I am very happy with the way the team performed, especially the first half-hour, with the pressing, it was exceptional. The only thing missing was the 1-0 or 2-0,” he told BBC Match of the Day.
“The way we defended, we had control of the whole game, the clean sheet was the most important part.
“These are the things we must improve. We need to keep clean sheets. With just the one training session, I was really impressed. We did much better than expected.
“We always tried to be on the front foot. We were never not apart from maybe the last five minutes. At all other times we were trying to keep them away from our goal.
“We wanted to play with two strikers, especially in the central position. By the way, Cristiano Ronaldo’s work off the ball, chapeau.”
What do Man Utd players think of Rangnick’s style?
Much has been made of the playing style the former RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim coach is expected to introduce at Old Trafford, with the team expected to press teams high up the pitch.
United star Bruno Fernandes was delighted with the start they had against Palace as they closed their opponents down and played at a high tempo.
“It depends on the game,” he told Premier League Productions.
“Sometimes you have to press a little bit more, sometimes you have to press less and everyone knows that it’s one of the things that the manager wants from us. More pressure, to be more aggressive. We tried to do it [today].
“I think the first 25 minutes from us was unbelievable, great tempo and we don’t give any space to them. We recovered a lot of balls high up the pitch. We could have scored many times in the first half I think, at least three times we could do a little more.
“But we got the three points and that’s the most important thing.”
Fred’s long-range winning goal against Crystal Palace capped off a hugely encouraging first outing for the Red Devils under their new interim boss
Ralf Rangnick went into his first Manchester United game with two aims: to win, and to oversee a controlled display from his new team.
On Sunday, he succeeded on both counts.
The 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace did not mark a blistering start to the new regime at Old Trafford, but this was a performance to bring hope and promise that Rangnick, with a bit more practice, could bring success back to United.
Much like the end result is unlikely to cause major headlines once the dust settles, Rangnick arrived in the dugout for the first time to little fanfare.
He walked out merged in with the rest of the coaching staff, and stadium announcer Alan Keegan made no special declaration that a new manager was in town.
But even those who may have had their heads in the sand for the last three weeks and were not aware that United had made a new coaching appointment would have realised from the off that this was a different side to the one that has struggled through the early months of the season.
He may have picked the same line-up that had beaten Arsenal on Thursday – which given he only had one training session with his new players was hardly a surprise – but the team’s style of play was already markedly different.
Right from kick-off United pressed with purpose. It is not that they had not pressed in the past, but this time there seemed to at least be a structure to it.
Gone were individuals aimlessly hounding opposition players hoping for the best as they did so many times under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Here they pressed as a pack, and it almost bore fruit after just three minutes, as Alex Telles saw a shot pushed out for a corner after the ball had been won back deep in Palace territory.
A switch of formation to Rangnick’s favoured 4-2-2-2 resulted in the team being more direct in their attacking play, too. With half-an-hour gone, Marcus Rashford had created three chances, Cristiano Ronaldo had attempted five shots and Jadon Sancho looked lively as he switched positions with Bruno Fernandes behind the front two.
In total, United managed 12 efforts on goal during the first half, with all that was missing was that final clinical pass or shot.
Rangnick, who spent the majority of the match in the technical area, seemed encouraged by what he was seeing, as he applauded each attempt on Vicente Guaita’s goal. Their pressing was clearly paying off, as across the duration of the match they won possession 12 times in Palace’s defensive third. Their previous best in a league match this season was seven times.
“It has been an average season so far, there is no avoiding that, but the club has players who are much better than the position we currently occupy, and it is my job to improve those players and that position,” Rangnick wrote in his first programme notes. “The first step in doing that is a shift in how the collective approaches games.
“If you want to win a football match, you have to control it, so the aim right now is to help the team control games more. That means being more proactive with and without the ball.”
That proactivity was clear, though the energy levels required to keep that up over the course of 90 minutes is something United’s players will need to reach going forward as they began to flag after just 20 minutes of the first half.
That said, they still recorded season highs for first-half passes into the final third (48), first-half touches in the opposition box (26) and first-half passes into the opposition box (26), among other metrics.
“I didn’t expect us to play on that level after only one-and-a-half training days with the players,” Rangnick told Sky Sports post-match. “The first half-hour was amazing. It was high-intensity, high-speed, high-tempo.
“The way we played against the ball, the whole game was in their (Palace’s half). I was positively surprised.”
Rangnick did his best to maintain his team’s intensity after the break, and could be seen wildly gesturing with his arms on the touchline as he looked for a solution to break down Patrick Vieira’s visitors.
The ex-RB Leipzig boss introduced Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga from the bench in a bid to spark his attack back into life, but in the end it was Fred who provided the moment of magic that United required.
Despite the win, this was not a perfect 90 minutes from United. There was, though, clear progress, and having only met his players for the first time 48 hours ago, that is as much as Rangnick could have asked for.
The control he demanded in his programme notes was certainly there as David de Gea was rarely tested on his way to securing United’s first clean sheet at Old Trafford since April, and with consecutive league wins for the first time since September, the fight for a top-four finish is on ahead of what looks to be a forgiving run of fixtures.
The Rangnick revolution has begun, and the signs are encouraging for all those related to Manchester United.
The Red Devils’ new interim manager has been discussing the Portuguese star’s role in his team
Ralf Rangnick has officially taken charge at Manchester United, with the interim boss at Old Trafford revealing how Cristiano Ronaldo figures in his plans and how foundations for long-term success will be put in place.
The German has been cleared to inherit the reins from caretaker coach Michael Carrick, who is walking away completely after three games at the helm, with a visa finally granted.
There is much for Rangnick to do in the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s dismissal, particularly how Ronaldo will fit into his plans.
What has been said?
Ronaldo was dropped to the bench by Carrick for the trip to Chelsea, but returned to the United starting XI with a bang as he passed the 800 goal mark for his career in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Arsenal.
Rangnick was in attendance for that game and said at his introductory press conference: ”You always have to adapt your style or your idea of football to the players you have available, not vice-versa.
“Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half at the age of 36, an amazing top professional. At his age, I’ve never seen a player who is still that physically fit. He’s still a player who can easily make the difference.
“So, yes, it’s about how we can develop the whole team not only Cristiano. We play in the most competitive league in the world so we need all the players on board.
“What I saw from Cristiano yesterday, he is more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team. His team-mates will have to do the same.”
Why turned down Chelsea?
Ralf Rangnick has confirmed that Chelsea offered him the chance to take over as interim manager last season, before they settled on Thomas Tuchel as Frank Lampard’s permanent replacement.
Rangnick has since been snapped up by Manchester United on a temporary basis, taking over until the end of the season as head coach before he moves into an advisory role for a further two years.
After red tape delayed his appearance on the touchline – the German was forced to watch United’s victory over Arsenal on Thursday from the stands – he will finally be in the dugout for his new side’s meeting with Crystal Palace.
Speaking before that game, Rangnick explained why he turned down a Premier League move with Chelsea before being tempted to England by the Red Devils’ offer.
“When Chelsea contacted me last year, they only spoke about the option to become interim manager for four months, without any prospective to work in the long term together,” he said.
“Now here we are talking about six-and-a-half months, so we only have one third of the games played in the Premier League.
“We have also agreed on a two-year advisory role after those six-and-a-half months. In the end, to be honest, if a club like Manchester United contacts you for such a role you cannot possibly turn it down.”
Rangnick arrives at Old Trafford with United lagging behind his former suitors. The Red Devils currently sit in seventh, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table.
Will additions be made?
Rangnick has arrived in England with another transfer window fast approaching, but claims to have no recruitment plans in place yet.
He said when asked about possible additions in January: “We haven’t spoken about new players.
“Now is the time to get to know the current squad in detail, the squad is definitely not too small. There are enough players.
“Maybe after Christmas, there will be a time to talk about possible transfers in the winter. In my experience, winter is not the time for sustainable transfers. It will be difficult in the winter.”
There have been suggestions that United will look to use Rangnick’s presence as a bargaining chip to prise Erling Haaland away from Borussia Dortmund, with the 63-year-old having previously spent time working with the Norwegian striker as sporting director at Red Bull Salzburg.
Bonuses are said to be up for grabs if such a deal can be put in place, but Rangnick has laughed off those reports.
He said: “£10 million [$13m] for Haaland, £10m for [Kylian] Mbappe, £10m for [Robert] Lewandowski and £10m for [Joshua] Kimmich.
“This is nonsense. There is no such clause in my contract. There is little point in speculating over new players. I know what kind of player he is, but in the meantime, the whole world has realised how good the player is.
“The offensive players we have here, we have so many top players in the offensive department that we don’t need to speak about any other player.”
How long will Rangnick stay?
For now, Rangnick is eager to keep focus on the present as he has only signed up to six months in the dugout before shifting into an advisory role.
He said of his position: “The people who I’ve spoken with, they have been very clear that it is a six-month role. We have never spoken about what will happen in the summer.
“If they will speak about me with that, we will see. if they ask me about my opinion, I might make the same recommendation that I did at RB Leipzig twice, that it might be better to work with me for one year.
“It’s not unusual that after a long, successful spell, the club needs to find a new pathway. The club has had no continuity in signing new players and sticking to the DNA of the club.
“In the future, the board members and my self have the same opinion. It’s important not to have many changes in management.”
The forward has continued to pour in goals in important situations for the Red Devil as he becomes the first professional footballer to reach 800 goals milestone
Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 800th career goal in all competitions on Thursday against Arsenal to briefly give his side a 2-1 lead before converting the match-winning penalty for No.801 after the Gunners had equalised.
The forward is recognised as the all-time top men’s goalscorer, and he has continued to reach significant milestones upon his return to the Red Devils.
Ronaldo has made a habit of netting in important moments this year, as he’s scored at least once in each of his five Champions League appearances, including two late winners, and scored six times in the Premier League.
Watch: Ronaldo scores 800th career goal
Ronaldo found the back of the net by sliding in a low pass from Marcus Rashford for his 800th goal.
What has been said?
“Incredible,” midfielder Bruno Fernandes told Amazon of Ronaldo. “We all know he is improving game by game, year by year.
“He wants to keep being the best and that’s what he did. He knows how to self-motivate.”
Ronaldo’s goalscoring by team
Ronaldo has scored the most goals at Real Madrid with 450.
He’s now bagged 130 at Manchester United, as well as 115 with the Portugal national team, 101 with Juventus and five with Sporting CP.
The coach draws the curtain on a decade and a half at Old Trafford, finishing on a high with victory over the Gunners
Thursday’s thrilling 3-2 victory over Arsenal will be the last act of Michael Carrick’s Manchester United career, as the interim boss announced he was stepping down from his coaching position at Old Trafford.
Carrick took over on a temporary basis following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November, and led United to two wins and a draw in his three matches in charge.
But he will not stay on once Ralf Rangnick takes up the manager’s job until the end of the current season.
What was said?
“Michael Carrick has decided to step down as First Team coach and leave the club following the conclusion of his spell as caretaker Manager,” United revealed in a statement released shortly after the club beat Arsenal on Thursday.
John Murtough, Football Director, explained: “Michael leaves with the sincerest thanks and best wishes of everyone at Manchester United after 15 years of exceptional service to the club as a player and as a coach. While we are sad to see him go, we respect and understand Michael’s decision.”
Carrick added: “My time at this great Club will always rank as the best years of my career. When I first signed over 15 years ago, I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined winning so many trophies and I will certainly never forget the fantastic memories both as a player and as a member of the coaching team.
“However, after a lot of thought and deliberation, I have decided that now is the right time for me to leave the club. I want to place on record my thanks to all of the players and a special mention goes to the backroom staff, working long hours with such a great group of people has been a real pleasure and I have made some long-lasting friendships.
“I am, and will always be, a Manchester United fan and will come to as many matches as possible. I would like to wish Ralf, the staff, the players and the fans all the best for the future and I look forward to being in the stands and supporting the boys as a fan.”
The bigger picture
Carrick departs Old Trafford after 15 years at the club as a player and coach.
He originally signed in 2006 from Tottenham and stayed at United for the rest of his career before taking up a backroom job upon retirement in 2018.
The former England midfielder ends his brief tenure on the bench having helped steady the ship following Solskjaer’s exit, while he also clinched Champions League knock-out qualification with victory over Villarreal.
“It’s not been an easy decision to make but I feel it’s the right one. I was going to take time off after I finished playing and it never happened. It feels like the right time to step away and what a way to finish,” he told Amazon following the Arsenal clash.
“It’s 100 percent my decision. Over the last week I was conscious I respected the club and the manager coming in. I thought it was the right thing to do for the club and for Ralf [Rangnick] and I’m quite happy with that.
“We were in a situation where there was a responsibility to see these games through. The loyalty to Ole is a little bit of a factor but there were a lot of things that came into my decision.
“I’ve had great times, great memories and I’m proud of the players over the past three games. I just told [the players] and they were a bit shocked and surprised, a bit emotional in the changing room. I held it together just about. It’s not been easy to keep it away from people but I had a job to do.”
As of Thursday the Reds sit eighth in the Premier League, 14 points behind leaders Chelsea and five points away from the final Champions League spot.