Barcelona head to Bayern Munich on the final matchday desperately needing a positive result to secure their spot in the Champions League knockout stages.

Benfica, who face Dynamo Kiev in Group E's other clash, hold the head-to-head edge over Xavi's new side as Barca travel to Germany knowing they likely need a win to make it through to the next round.

Manchester United and Chelsea are already through their respective groups, while Juventus host Malmo with the Bianconeri's place in the last-16 sealed before the final matchday as well.

As Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo edge towards more records, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data heading into the games taking place on Wednesday.

Bayern Munich v Barcelona: Blaugrana face thankless task to qualify

Bayern have won their last three Champions League meetings with Barca, which is already the longest run against the Blaugrana in European history by any side.

Julian Nagelsmann's team, who have averaged five goals per home game in this season's competition, have cruised through to the next round, while Barca could fall to their second-worst performance in terms of points if they fail to avoid defeat.

The visitors will have to deal with Lewandowski, who is the top scorer in the group stage with nine goals and the Poland forward could become the only player in history to net 10-plus times in the group stage on multiple occasions. Ronaldo (11 in 2015-16) and Lionel Messi (10 in 2016-17) are the only other players to have achieved this once.

Zenit v Chelsea: Blues edge towards more defensive milestones

Chelsea could become just the second English team, after Manchester United in 2003-04 and 2010-11 to win four consecutive games in the competition while keeping a clean sheet on each occasion.

Indeed, with a clean sheet the Blues and Thomas Tuchel could become the fastest team and manager combination to reach 10 shutouts in the competition, having already recorded nine in just 12 games since the German's appointment.

The defending champions have also had 14 different scorers, excluding own goals, the most of any team in the Champions League since Tuchel's Blues bow in Europe.

Manchester United v Young Boys: Ronaldo looks to repeat history

Ronaldo has scored in all five of his Champions League appearances since returning to United (six goals), while Bruno Fernandes boasts the most assists in the competition so far this term (five).

Portugal captain Ronaldo will be looking to repeat the feat of scoring in all six group stage games in a single campaign, having previously done so for Real Madrid in 2017-18 – the only previous instance of this in the competition’s history.

Worryingly for Young Boys, who never kept a clean sheet in 11 attempts in the competition, the Swiss side have lost their last six away games between 1986 and 2021, last tasting European Cup/Champions League victory in August 1960.

Juventus v Malmo: Bianconeri aim to match record home dominance

Juve have won each of their last five Champions League home matches, only registering more consecutive such victories in a run of six between December 2016 and 2017.

While the Bianconeri did suffer their heaviest defeat in the history of the competition against Chelsea, Juve have a perfect record against Malmo in their opening three games – only Barca have ever won their opening four games against a specific opponent in the competitions.

Meanwhile, Malmo have only managed one win in their last eight against Italian opponents in the European Cup/Champions League, with their lone triumph against Inter in September 1989.

 

Other fixtures:

Atalanta v Villarreal:

21 - There have been 21 goals scored in Atalanta’s five games against Spanish opponents in the Champions League (11 goals for, 10 against), at an average of 4.2 per game. Only one of these five games have seen a team manage to keep a clean sheet, with Real Madrid doing so in a 1-0 victory back in February.

1 - Villarreal have won just one of their eight visits to Italian opponents in major European competition (D3 L4), though it came in their most recent such outing, defeating Roma 1-0 in the Europa League in 2016-17.

Benfica v Dynamo Kiev:

4 - Since losing their first ever meeting with Dynamo Kiev in European competition (0-1 in November 1991), Benfica are unbeaten in four games against the Ukrainian side (W3 D1), with all four coming in the European Cup/Champions League.

60 – Dynamo Kiev have lost 60 per cent of their away matches in the competition, only Olympiakos (75) and Galatasaray (71) have lost a larger percentage out of teams to have played at least 50 such games.

Red Bull Salzburg v Sevilla:

5 – Red Bull Salzburg are winless in their last five fixtures against Spanish opposition in the Champions League and have only won one of their last 11 meetings against such sides.

3 – Sevilla's Ivan Rakitic has managed three goal involvements in his side's five goals in the competition, despite only starting two games – only for Barca in 2015-16 did he record more (four).

Wolfsburg v Lille:

5 - Wolfsburg have gone unbeaten in their last five games against French opponents in European competition (W2 D3) after previously going eight games without recording a victory against French teams across all competitions (D3 L5).

8 – Lille have claimed eight points from their opening five games and could equal, or improve on, their best ever return in a group stage in the competition - nine points in 2006-07, where they qualified with a second-place finish.

Sebastien Haller broke a Champions League record held by Erling Haaland when he gave Ajax the lead against Sporting CP on Tuesday, matching another feat previously only ever achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Ivory Coast international, who joined in January from West Ham, had difficulty in coming about goals during an 18-month Premier League stint.

His Champions League form has been stellar, though, and the penalty he converted against Sporting was his 10th goal of this season's group stage.

It made him the quickest player to reach double figures in a Champions League career, doing so in just six games. Norwegian star Haaland previously held that record, having got there in seven appearances.

Haller also became the first player to score in each of his opening six games in the competition.

Cristiano Ronaldo was already a Champions League veteran when he scored in all six of Real Madrid's 2017-18 group games. That made Ronaldo the first player to have netted in all of his team's matches at that stage of the competition in a single season.

Haller has now become the second man to achieve that feat, with the 27-year-old's eighth-minute spot-kick coming after he was fouled by Daniel Braganca.

It gave Ajax a 1-0 lead, but they were soon pegged back to 1-1 as Nuno Santos replied in the 22nd minute for Sporting. Antony restored Ajax's lead before half-time.

Ajax were already assured of winning Group C coming into the final game of the opening stage, with Sporting assured of finishing as runners-up.

Ralf Rangnick insisted Manchester United can only succeed with development as he declared there is more room for improvement ahead of the visit of Young Boys.

United head into their final Champions League Group F game with their place in the knockout stage already confirmed and with new interim manager Rangnick in charge for his first European game with the Red Devils.

The former RB Leipzig coach and director oversaw a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday before Wednesday's clash against Young Boys, who have not won away in the European Cup/Champions League since August 1960.

But Rangnick refused to get ahead of himself as he pinpointed development and regaining confidence as the key factors to initial success.

"As Nemanja [Matic] said, if you win games it is the best tool to regain confidence," Rangnick told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"[The] last four games, three wins, one draw. It is about regaining confidence. Players have to buy in. I can tell them whatever I want. They need to make my idea of football their own. The first step has been taken, then it is about the next ones.

"Success can only be achieved with development, if we can develop the team in next six months.

"[Sunday] showed how the team can play [but there is] still room to improve. The first clean sheet at Old Trafford since April, it was clear where the priorities should be.

"At the end, successful hopefully means playing in the Champions League, and the FA Cup [Aston Villa in the third round] is not an easy draw. It's like another Premier League game."

Cristiano Ronaldo is eyeing his own record as he looks to repeat the feat of scoring in all six group stage games in the competition, having done so for Real Madrid in 2017-18 – the only previous instance of this happening.

Only former striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has ever enjoyed a longer scoring streak for United in the Champions League (nine goals in 2003, six in 2002) than Ronaldo (five), but it remains unclear whether the former Madrid man will start.

Rangnick, while hinting at rotation of his side at Old Trafford, did confirm that Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson would be involved.

"Well to start with they will both play tomorrow, in the first XI," Rangnick said of Henderson and Van de Beek. "Donny came on as a sub last Sunday. Dean is a very ambitious goalkeeper, we need two.

"I haven't finally decided [the team] but it makes sense we will rest a few players due to the crowded fixture list.

"We need to make sure we have as many recovered players as possible but also need the positive momentum. The first game in this group we lost at Young Boys, so we need to make up for that."

Asked for an update on Raphael Varane and Edinson Cavani, Rangnick added: "They both cannot play tomorrow but they were part of the training today. Edi even yesterday, Rapha the first time.

"Expect them both in full training next week, they are both top players. It is also about sustainability. It would be great to have them as soon as possible, but obviously we have to think for the rest of season."

Ralf Rangnick praised Cristiano Ronaldo's work-rate and admitted he was surprised by Fred's match-winning strike after Manchester United beat Crystal Palace in his first game in charge.

United looked set to be held to a frustrating and goalless Premier League draw until Fred picked out the far corner of the net with a sweet right-footed strike after 77 minutes at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Red Devils had swarmed all over the Eagles in the first half with an intense high-press approach that interim manager Rangnick will demand during his tenure.

They struggled to break down a well-drilled Palace though, until Fred came up with the only goal of the game, the 1-0 win moving United up to sixth – three points behind fourth-placed West Ham.

Questions have been asked over whether Ronaldo would put in the sort of shift Rangnick will expect off the ball, but the German doffed his cap to the prolific forward as he delivered his verdict on United's performance.

"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," Rangnick told the BBC's 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."

Rangnick had to be patient for the first goal of his tenure and he raised eyebrows over Fred's decisive strike.

"I had to ask my assistant coach if that was Fred's right foot. I thought he could only shoot with his left. I'm happy for him," Rangnick said.

"It's always easier to build on things after you're successful. We must produce further clean sheets and get better at creating chances for our attack. Overall I was very pleased with the way we played today."

Lionel Messi insists outdoing supposed rival Cristiano Ronaldo has never been a source of extra motivation after the Argentinian won a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or crown.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi finished ahead of serious challenger Robert Lewandowski on Monday to cement his status as the world's best player.

The Argentina international has now won the award two times more than Manchester United striker Ronaldo, who finished outside of the top three for the first time since 2010.

Between them, the pair have won the Ballon d'Or – widely considered to be the most prestigious individual accolade in football – in 12 of the last 13 years it has been awarded.

They also battled it out for team honours during their time in LaLiga with Barcelona and Real Madrid, but Messi says he has only ever been focused on himself rather than others.

"I always wanted to surpass myself and not look at what others were doing," he told France Football. "With Cristiano, we kept our battle going within the same league for years. 

"It has been wonderful and has helped us both to grow in our careers, but without looking at each other. I just wanted to surpass myself, to be the best I could be, and not better than any other."

Messi had previously been criticised for failing to match the international achievements of Diego Maradona, but he finally guided Argentina to a first major trophy in 28 years back in July, as La Celeste won the Copa America.

The 34-year-old admits comparisons with Maradona "have sometimes bothered me in the past", and he also does not feel comfortable with being a role model himself.

"I don't like giving advice," he said. "I fought for my dreams. At first it was to be a professional player, then I tried to surpass myself and achieve new goals every year.

"In the midst of it all, there is also an element of luck. It also depends on God, and I believe he chose to have all of this happen to me."

The former Barcelona man added: "I've been Messi for 34 years, so I'm starting to get used to it. I'm happy with everything that's happened.

"But sometimes, I have to admit, I'd quite like to go unnoticed, to enjoy being with my family without people recognising me.

"I'm not complaining, though, on the contrary. It's always nice to receive a compliment, a smile or someone asking for a photo with me. I'm used to it and for me it has become normal."

Ralf Rangnick praised Cristiano Ronaldo, dismissed a theory he could cash in on any deal for Erling Haaland, and threw in the odd curveball during his first news conference as Manchester United interim manager.

It was a lively start in the job for Rangnick, who takes charge of United for the first time when they face Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday.

He faced questions from journalists for half an hour, giving media and fans an insight into what sort of a manager he may prove to be.

Here is a look at what the 63-year-old had to say on a wide range of topics:

THURSDAY'S ROLLER COASTER 3-2 WIN OVER ARSENAL

"You could see the potential that is in the team, but we have to do that more sustainably, to transfer the game away from our own box more into this area where we have our assets and our weapons in the team."

RONALDO BEING A KEY MAN IN HIS PLANS

"Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half, at the age of 36 he is 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. 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's more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team. The other team-mates will have to do the same."

FINDING THE RIGHT BLEND OF BRAIN AND BRAWN

"Of course it's train the brain. Modern football in the last 10 years has completely changed into a more physical, more athletic, more vertical, more high-speed ball game. If you watch games in early 2000s and compare it with now, you wouldn't believe it's the same ball game. It's completely changed, and in order to develop teams you need to not only train the bodies but also the brains."

LINKS TO ERLING HAALAND, AND RUMOURS OF A BONUS IF HE SIGNS THE DORTMUND STAR

"This is nonsense, obviously. Of course, there are no such clauses in my contract. It doesn't make sense now to have speculation about possible new players. Erling Haaland is a fantastic striker. I know it best myself because I was together with the people at Salzburg at the time [that Haaland played there] and I was also a little bit involved in the move from Molde to Salzburg, therefore I know what kind of player he is. In the meantime, the whole world has realised how good the player is. We have so many top players in the offensive department that we don't need to speak about any other players."

HIS LONG-RUNNING LOVE AFFAIR WITH ENGLISH FOOTBALL

"I studied English at university to become an English and PE teacher back in the late 70s, early 80s. I also lived in Brighton with a host family and at this time I fell in love with English football. In the early 80s I took the fast train from Brighton to Victoria Station and I watched every three days a home game in the old Highbury, in the old White Hart Lane or even in Liverpool – I went to Goodison Park. Since then, I have always very much cherished the way teams are supported and even yesterday, I think this is absolutely unique. You will find very, very few football clubs in the world with that much support. This is for me football in the purest sense, as it was in those times. It's more than exciting to now be part of that atmosphere."

HOW UNITED CAN PROGRESS UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP

"I think to gain control of games in the future it's got to do with playing proactively. You have to just make sure you have the biggest chance to win the next game, then step by step let the players participate, they have to go together with me. They have to follow not only my instructions, but they have to buy into the idea I can offer them how we should want to play in the future. This is what it's all about and it has to happen step by step."

HOW TO COMPETE WITH CHELSEA, MANCHESTER CITY AND LIVERPOOL

"If you look at the top three teams, they seem to be very stable and they have top coaches. If you see how they play and keep winning in style, controlling games, this is something that we have to develop. When, for example, Jurgen [Klopp] came to Liverpool and the squad he inherited at the time, I'm sure it was definitely not a better squad than the one I inherit now at Manchester United."

SLOWING DOWN UNITED'S TURNOVER OF MANAGERS

"There have been changes in management, about five or six managers since Sir Alex [Ferguson] left [in 2013], so it was difficult for the club to gain continuity with regard to signing new players, developing and sticking to the DNA of the club, and I think this is vital in modern football that you do that. For me, it's not that unusual that there were so many changes. For the future, and I think we have the same opinion, the board members and myself, it's important that this is developed in the future, that there will be not that many changes in management."

COULD THE INTERIM BECOME PERMANENT?

"We have never spoken about what might happen in the summer. Right now, I'm fully aware that they might be looking for a new manager. If they will then speak with me about that, we will see. Maybe if they ask me my opinion and everything goes well and we develop the team, I might even make the same recommendation to the board that I did at Leipzig twice, when I recommended to them that it might be a good idea to keep working with me [as coach] for one year, but this is all hypothetical."

Cristiano Ronaldo is, of course, always a hot topic of discussion.

But the Manchester United superstar seems to be the talk of the town even more than usual since it was confirmed Ralf Rangnick would be taking over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager on an interim basis until the end of the season.

The debate has largely centred on whether Ronaldo will suit a boss whose sides – which have included Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig – are known for a high-press, high-intensity game.

It seems a logical and fair discussion point for a player with remarkable goalscoring prowess but now – at the age of 36 – in the twilight of a sensational career.

As if seeking to make a point, Ronaldo scored twice in Thursday's 3-2 win over Arsenal – a match Rangnick watched from the stands – to surpass 800 career goals for club and country, but he also seemed extra determined to show he can suit Rangnick's style of play.

Against the Gunners, Ronaldo made 27 pressures – his most in any league game this season. He was previously averaging 14.4 per 90 minutes.

Additionally, he made 16 pressures in the attacking third, more than five times as many as in his previous league start against Watford (3).

Whether it is the effect of Rangnick taking place already or a mere coincidence, the new man at the helm quelled any idea Ronaldo would be ostracized under his leadership.

"You always have to adapt your style or idea of football to the players you have available, not vice versa," Rangnick said.

"Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half, at the age of 36 he is 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.

"It's about how we can develop the whole team. It's not just about 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's more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team. The other team-mates will have to do the same."

Rangnick's first assignment is Sunday's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.

Ralf Rangnick is ready to make Cristiano Ronaldo a central part of his Manchester United plans after taking on the biggest job of his career.

The new United interim manager spoke at his first news conference since accepting the job, and he backed 36-year-old Ronaldo to be a standard-setter to the rest of his squad.

Rangnick was speaking less than 12 hours after United completed a 3-2 home win over Arsenal in the Premier League, a game that he watched from the stands.

There had been speculation that Ronaldo would not fit into Rangnick's system, but the new boss sees nobody better suited to helping the Red Devils push for success this season.

The Portuguese striker's two goals against Arsenal could not have been more timely, and now Rangnick can prepare for Sunday's clash with Crystal Palace.

"You always have to adapt your style or idea of football to the players you have available, not vice versa," Rangnick said.

"Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half, at the age of 36 he is 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.

"It's about how we can develop the whole team. It's not just about 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's more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team. The other team-mates will have to do the same."

Rangnick said United were "obviously the biggest club" he has managed, having previously done his best work in Germany with RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim.

But after the stuttering start to this season, which has left United well off the pace in the Premier League, the German boss faces a major task in re-establishing the team as a force to be reckoned with.

He hopes the situation will have changed for the better by the end of the season, which is when his spell as manager is due to end, but also sees the opportunity for major growth by the time a subsequent two-year consultancy period ends.

"In an ideal world we will be in the top flight regularly, not only the top four but playing for titles," Rangnick said. "This is in the DNA of the club, winning cups, winning titles, being as successful as we can in the Champions League.

"We are still in the Champions League and, depending on the draw, can get further in that competition. You have to be as successful as you can be."

He knows plenty about the club's history, but admitted he went on the internet to remind himself about the greats of United.

"Looking back to the times of George Best or Bobby Charlton, I had a look into Google about the most famous players, and you could line up four top teams in the last 50, 60 years," Rangnick said.

"Of course, I also know about the disaster in Munich in 1958, the year I was born. I know all this and the legacy of this club is unique.

"Anyone who has the pleasure to work for the club has to follow this legacy and this DNA always has to be respected."

Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes both refused to dwell on Manchester United's come-from-behind win against Arsenal as the Red Devils look ahead to life under interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

With Rangnick watching in the stands, Ronaldo scored twice to lead United past Premier League rivals Arsenal 3-2 on Thursday before caretaker boss Michael Carrick announced his departure from Old Trafford.

Carrick – who was placed in temporary charge after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, overseeing wins against Villarreal and Arsenal, and a draw at Chelsea – revealed he would not be staying on and serving as a coach under Rangnick.

After helping to snap United's three-game drought in the Premier League, superstar Ronaldo quickly switched focus as Rangnick prepares to see the embattled giants through until the end of the season.

Ronaldo, who scored the 800th and 801st goals of his illustrious career, wrote via his social media pages: "Our minds are already set on the next game, there's no time to celebrate!

"Today's win was very important to get back on track, but there's still a long road to go until we reach our destination… Congrats to all my team-mates, great spirit tonight."

United – seventh in the standings and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea – scored three goals in a home Premier League game against Arsenal for the first time since February 2016, with Carrick completing all 90 minutes that day.

The Red Devils were forced to come from behind following Emile Smith Rowe's 13th-minute opener – Fernandes restoring parity a minute before half-time.

Fernandes made his 100th competitive appearance for United. Since his club debut in 2020, he has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions than any other player for Premier League sides (79 - 45 goals, 34 assists).

Ronaldo put United ahead seven minutes into the second half, only for Martin Odegaard to equalise two minutes later, though the Portuguese superstar sealed United's victory via a 70th-minute penalty.

"Every win is important for us at this moment," Portuguese star Fernandes told Amazon Prime post-match.

"We know that we have been through a lot of ups and downs, and it has been hard for us to come out of that.

"Today we got a great win, but we cannot stop here and be satisfied because we beat Arsenal. The next game is coming quick, so we have to put our heads on that straight away and be ready for that one."

On countryman and team-mate Ronaldo, Fernandes added: "What can you say about that? It's incredible.

"He's proving game by game, year by year, season by season, that he wants to keep being the best, he wants to be the best and that's what he did.

"He doesn't need anyone to motivate him, he knows how to do it and how to carry on scoring goals."

Before players were told of Carrick's decision to step down, Fernandes hailed the former United midfielder.

Carrick, winner of five Premier League titles and a Champions League crown among other honours during his 12 years as a player in Manchester, made 464 appearances for United between 2006 and 2018 before stepping into coaching.

"Michael can be a really good manager in the future if he gets the chance," said Fernandes. "He knows how to speak, he knows a lot about football.

"He was one of those great players that not a lot of people talk about but from what I know and what I have seen, he can be a top coach."

Outgoing Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick said Cristiano Ronaldo's 800th and 801st career goals were the "perfect' ending to his time at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo's memorable brace guided United past rivals Arsenal 3-2 in the Premier League on Thursday before Carrick confirmed his departure.

Carrick – who was placed in temporary charge after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's sacking, overseeing wins against Villarreal and Arsenal, and a draw at Chelsea – announced he would not be staying on and serving as a coach under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

Former United midfielder Carrick, winner of five Premier League titles and a Champions League crown among other honours during his 12 years as a player in Manchester, hailed Ronaldo's performance.

"He's not younger," Carrick told reporters post-game. "As we all were. And to see kind of how he has gone full cycle and come to us not quite at the end of his career obviously, but coming towards the later stages. 

"I think just seeing how he goes about his business, his mentality, his attitude, and obviously his quality. I mean, to score so many goals, it's incredible.

"He's been terrific this week. Especially for me. The things I have asked of him, and the way he has gone about his business with the other players is top, top, drawer.

"So no surprise that he goes and scores tonight. The perfect ending really."

United scored three goals in a home Premier League game against Arsenal for the first time since February 2016, with Carrick completing all 90 minutes that day.

The Red Devils were forced to come from behind following Emile Smith Rowe's 13th-minute opener – Bruno Fernandes restoring parity a minute before half-time.

Fernandes made his 100th competitive appearance for United. Since his club debut in 2020, he has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions than any other player for Premier League sides (79 - 45 goals, 34 assists).

Ronaldo put United ahead seven minutes into the second half, only for Martin Odegaard to equalise two minutes later, though the Portuguese superstar sealed United's victory via a 70th-minute penalty.

Reflecting on his decision to walk away, Carrick – who made 464 appearances for United between 2006 and 2018 before stepping into coaching – added: "You have got to go all in. Since I walked through the doors here. It's pure dedication, and the club takes over your life.

"There's no getting away from your head anymore. It's everywhere. For the good and the bad. But that's... you take that. Being here the highs and lows are extreme. I've had a bit of both. A period of both.

"The players have obviously done the same now in recent times. I have to say I have enjoyed it, I have enjoyed it, what's next I don't know. But, I have to say, I have enjoyed it as the weeks gone on."

Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed 800 career goals as Manchester United got back to winning ways in the Premier League with a 3-2 success over Arsenal at Old Trafford. 

Arsenal took the lead in bizarre circumstances when Emile Smith Rowe volleyed home with David de Gea down injured after Fred stepped on his ankle, but Bruno Fernandes restored parity on his 100th United appearance. 

Ronaldo marked his return to the starting line-up with a milestone goal to put the Red Devils in front, with newly appointed head coach Ralf Rangnick – who had been waiting on visa clearance before taking charge of first-team affairs – standing to applaud in the stands. 

Martin Odegaard hit back in rapid time for the Gunners but his foul on Fred enabled Ronaldo to rattle in a ferocious penalty to end United's three-game winless run in the top flight and secure just their second victory in nine. 

Arsenal opened the scoring in controversial fashion in the 13th minute, with Smith Rowe volleying home from 20 yards after spotting that De Gea was prone after a collision with Fred. Referee Martin Atkinson appeared to have awarded United a free-kick but following a VAR review the goal was allowed to stand. 

Fred helped get United back on level terms before half-time by cutting the ball back for Fernandes to steer an effort beyond Aaron Ramsdale, though Harry Maguire was perhaps lucky not to give away a penalty following a tussle with Takehiro Tomiyasu in the box. 

Ronaldo put United in front with his landmark goal in the 52nd minute, holding his run to emphatically sweep home a pass from Rashford. 

However, Arsenal were level two minutes later when Odegaard guided Gabriel Martinelli's cutback into the bottom-left corner. 

Odegaard's lunge on Fred resulted in a penalty after the referee visited the pitchside monitor and Ronaldo fired it straight down the middle to seal an important win for United. 

What does it mean? Ronaldo back with a bang 

Michael Carrick dropped Ronaldo to the bench for his first league game as caretaker boss against Chelsea at the weekend. 

The appointment of Rangnick, who favours the high press, led to further questions over Ronaldo's suitability for this United team, but he proved he can deliver the goods against Arsenal. 

He reached 801 goals across his illustrious career, with his double taking his total for United to 130. The 36-year-old has also registered 450 for Real Madrid, 115 for Portugal, 101 for Juventus and five for Sporting CP.

Influential Fernandes

Fernandes was overshadowed by Ronaldo on his landmark appearance, but the midfielder was once again hugely important for United. In his 100 appearances for the club, he has been directly involved in 79 goals (45 scored, 34 assisted) – more than any other player for a Premier League side since his debut.

Stopping the rot 

Although Smith Rowe's opener meant United had conceded nine straight goals at Old Trafford without reply for the first time in the Premier League era, they avoided succumbing to an unprecedented seven-game winless streak against the Gunners in the league. 

What's next? 

United entertain Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Sunday, while Arsenal have an extra day of rest before their trip to Everton. 

Cristiano Ronaldo reached yet another milestone when he scored his 800th career goal in Manchester United's clash with Arsenal on Thursday.

Ronaldo was reinstated to the United starting XI after being benched for the 1-1 draw at Chelsea, and he justified his return when he converted Marcus Rashford's cross early in the second half to put the Red Devils 2-1 ahead.

The strike takes Ronaldo to 11 goals in 16 appearances in all competitions in his second spell at United, having sensationally returned to Old Trafford in August when it initially looked as though he was heading to Manchester City.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored a combined 685 club goals for Real Madrid, Juventus, Sporting CP and United, with the other 115 coming with Portugal – no one has more than him on the international stage in the history of the men's game.

 

Ronaldo was most prolific in Madrid, scoring an incredible 450 goals in 438 appearances to become the club's all-time leading scorer, also providing 132 assists.

His best club season also came with Los Blancos, netting 61 times from just 47.9 expected goals (xG) in 54 games across all competitions in 2014-15.

In that campaign, Ronaldo registered the best minutes-per-goal ratio (76.1) of any player from Europe's top five leagues to have scored at least 10 in all competitions.

The Portugal captain's favourite opponent is Sevilla, scoring 27 times in just 18 appearances against them, although he will also have fond memories of Granada and Espanyol, scoring five goals in a game against each of them in 2015.

Not only is the 36-year-old forward the highest-scoring player in international football, he also boasts the all-time record in the Champions League (140).

Ronaldo's effort against the Gunners was his first in the Premier League in over a month, last netting in the competition back on October 30 when United beat Tottenham 3-0 away from home.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were more deserving of winning the 2021 Ballon d'Or award than Lionel Messi, according to Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos.

Messi won football's top individual accolade for a record-extending seventh time on Monday largely thanks to his success at international level with Argentina.

The 34-year-old played a key part in Argentina's Copa America success, contributing to nine of the 13 goals his side scored as he ended his long wait for an international trophy.

He has had a rather more mixed year at club level, having scored 28 goals in 29 games for Barcelona before completing a shock transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in August.

Messi has netted just four times in his first 11 games for PSG, but he did enough to finish ahead of favourite Robert Lewandowski for his latest Ballon d'Or triumph.

Lewandowski finished second despite scoring 53 times in 42 games this year so far – 15 more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions.

Chelsea and Italy midfielder Jorginho was third, followed by Benzema – who has 34 goals this year – in fourth and N'Golo Kante placed fifth. 

Five-time winner Ronaldo finished sixth – the first time he has failed to make the top three in 11 years – but Kroos insists his former team-mate, as well as current colleague Benzema, have impressed more this year than Messi.

"[Messi's] award is absolutely not deserved," Kroos said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast. "There is no doubt that Messi, with Cristiano, has been the player of the last decade, but this year there should've been others ahead of him.

"For me, Karim would have been the number one if you were really looking for the best individual player of the last year. I can see from close quarters what an outstanding footballer he is.

"When I see how many decisive goals Cristiano has scored lately – Manchester United are still in the Champions League thanks to him alone – then, in my eyes, Cristiano would have also come before Messi."

Messi won the first of his seven Ballons d'Or in 2009 and now has two more than Ronaldo, with Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten next on the list with three each.

The PSG superstar's latest success has caused plenty of debate, however, with legendary Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas also questioning the outcome of Monday's vote.

"It is increasingly difficult for me to believe in football awards," he posted on his personal Twitter account.

"For me, Messi, he is one of the five best players in all of history, but you have to know how to list the most outstanding players in a season. It's not that hard."

Lionel Messi has won a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or after beating Robert Lewandowski to the most sought-after individual prize in football.

The Paris Saint-Germain star may have endured a somewhat slow start to life in France this season, but before that he was electric for Barcelona and Argentina.

It was surely his long-awaited first trophy success with La Albiceleste that gave Messi the edge over Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski. 

Messi captained Argentina to Copa America success in July, ending their 28-year drought in major international competitions.

 

At the Maracana – the scene of Argentina's 2014 World Cup final defeat to Germany – Messi helped Lionel Scaloni's men to a 1-0 win over bitter rivals and Copa hosts Brazil.

He had previously lost Copa finals in 2007, 2015 and 2016, briefly retiring after missing his penalty in the shootout that saw the trophy slip from their grasp in the latter.

Messi may not have had the decisive impact in this year's final, but over the course of the tournament he was deemed to have been the best player, scoring four goals and setting up another five – no one bettered him in either metric.

 

Lewandowski had been considered the favourite before then, partly due to breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season.

The Poland striker looked likely to have won the award in 2020 before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But Messi's success in Brazil seemed to tip the scales in his favour, with the 34-year-old increasing his lead over Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d'Or stakes, the Manchester United forward now two back on five after finishing sixth in the voting this time around.

Lewandowski did, however, win the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Cristiano Ronaldo lost ground in his quest to claim more Ballon d'Or awards than his rival Lionel Messi, finishing sixth while the Argentine claimed a historic seventh award.

It is the first time the Portugal forward, who was not in attendance at the ceremony in Paris on Monday, has not been named in the top three since 2010, when Messi – who won his second prize that year – was joined by then Barcelona team-mates Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

Ronaldo managed 30 goals at club level in 2021 for Juventus and Manchester United, while also becoming the all-time top scorer in men's international football.

The 36-year-old finishes above Paris Saint-Germain pair Gianluigi Donnarumma and Kylian Mbappe as well as Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Liverpool attacker Mohamed Salah.

Salah and Mbappe both outscored Ronaldo at club level this calendar year, scoring 32 and 37 goals across all competitions, but finished seventh and ninth respectively.

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante and Real Madrid centre-forward Karim Benzema claimed the fifth and fourth spots, with Ronaldo's former team-mate enjoying a prolific year, managing 34 goals and 12 assists for Los Blancos in all competitions.

Jorginho, who won the Euros with Italy and claimed the Champions League with Chelsea, makes it into the top three behind Messi and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who finished second but won the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

Lewandowski had been considered the favourite before then, partly due to breaking Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season, while he has netted 53 times in 2021.

The Poland striker looked likely to have won the award in 2020 before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ballon d'Or top 10:

1. Lionel Messi (PSG and Argentina)
2. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich and Poland)
3. Jorginho (Chelsea and Italy)
4. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)
5. N'Golo Kante (Chelsea and France)
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United and Portugal)
7. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)
8. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)
9. Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)
10. Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG and Italy)

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