Denis Zakaria looms as an attractive signing, with his contract due to expire.

The Borussia Monchengladbach star is not short of admirers.

Liverpool and Barcelona are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – ZAKARIA TO LIVERPOOL OR BARCA?

Liverpool lead Barcelona in the pursuit to sign Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria, according to El Nacional.

Zakaria is available on a free transfer at the end of the season and the Switzerland international has been heavily linked with Jose Mourinho's Roma.

He has also reportedly attracted interest from Manchester United and Manchester City, however, Premier League giants Liverpool and LaLiga powerhouse Barca are believed to be set to battle it out.

 

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- Staying at Anfield and Fichajes claims Liverpool have joined the race to prise Adama Traore from Wolves. Traore has also been linked with Barca and Juventus.

Paul Pogba is unlikely to sign a pre-contract agreement with a club abroad, says The Athletic. Pogba's United contract expires at the end of the season and Frenchman has been tipped to join either Real Madrid, Juve or Paris Saint-Germain.

- Premier League champions City are working to re-sign Riyad Mahrez, per The Sun. PSG are reportedly eyeing the Algeria international, who is contracted to City until 2023.

Newcastle United are set to make a move for Donny van de Beek, according to El Nacional. Van de Beek has found his chances limited at Manchester United and Newcastle are ready to pounce.

- After appointing Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season, The Times claims United's interim manager is targeting RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara.

Manchester United have broken with modern tradition and made a footballing decision that everyone seems to think is a good one.

The appointment of Ralf Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season was confirmed on Monday, a day after caretaker Michael Carrick managed a creditable 1-1 draw at Premier League leaders Chelsea.

While he hasn't been a coach for the best part of three years, Rangnick's legacy in the Bundesliga and his influence on some of Germany's finest minds makes him a shrewd appointment for United, not least because he will take up a two-year consultancy role after 2021-22.

This, then, is a decision taken by United with a view to long-term changes to their fortunes, not simply a quick fix to arrest poor results. Still, with more than half the season still to go, Rangnick could yet guide the Red Devils to some tangible on-pitch success over the coming months – provided that he gets to work quickly on some of their biggest problems.

Stats Perform looks at five things Rangnick must address as soon as possible...

 

Fix the defence

United conceded 21 goals in the first 12 games of the season; they have never previously let in more at the same stage in the competition's history. In November alone, they have faced 60 shots, the most of any side in the division.

That tells you something about the state of their defence.

Of course, Rangnick's gegenpressing system is likely to demand off-the-ball contributions from every player on the pitch (more on that shortly) but the rearguard is in need of some serious fine-tuning. In particular, captain Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have seen their individual form fall off a cliff since they helped England to the final of Euro 2020; it was telling that a good defensive performance against Chelsea on Sunday came with both players sidelined.

Getting the best out of Shaw and Maguire, arresting Aaron Wan-Bissaka's decline and getting Raphael Varane fit and integrated into the side will be essential to Rangnick's aims.

Get Bruno firing again

So often United's star performer under Solskjaer, Bruno Fernandes is another who has endured a comparatively poor season.

He tallied his 50 direct goal involvement on his 58th appearance in October (30 goals, 20 assists), which is a tally only Andy Cole (43), Alan Shearer (54) and Eric Cantona (54) reached in fewer games, so it's not all bad. But the Portugal playmaker has scored just once in 19 appearances for club and country.

He looks a player in need of a lift and, so central is he to United's attack play, he could be Rangnick's first port of call at Carrington. Well, apart from...

Accommodate Ronaldo

Like a black hole devouring a gas cloud, all the noise surrounding United's performances seems to be drawn inexorably back to Cristiano Ronaldo.

It's a beguiling narrative: a five-time Ballon d'Or winner who has to start every game but who should not expect to start every game; a 36-year-old forward who no longer contributes enough to make up for any shortcomings, but one with six goals in five Champions League matches this season, two of them winners and one a last-gasp equaliser.

There are some writing off Ronaldo's chances of winning over a coach like Rangnick who demands hard graft from every member of his team, while others say the onus is on the incoming manager to construct a unit that brings the best out of the leading male international goalscorer in history. Time will tell what the future holds.

And just a note for the 'Ronaldo doesn't press' crowd: he made three more sprints and 21 more intensive runs against Chelsea than Jesse Lingard, who came on at the same time.

Tie down Pogba and tidy the squad

Some of Solskjaer's best work at United was putting together a strong squad, but that seemed to unravel in his final few months in charge.

Lingard returned rejuvenated from West Ham but, rather than cash in when there was a demand, Solskjaer kept the England international yet gave him just 63 minutes of league action. It's now likely he'll leave for nothing next June.

There were similarly strange decisions behind contract extensions for Eric Bailly and the seldom-seen Juan Mata, while Phil Jones is still at the club after two years of injury hell and Anthony Martial was retained despite falling way down the attacking pecking order. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson also appears unlikely now to dislodge David de Gea.

Then there is Paul Pogba, still yet to sign a new deal or announce plans to leave for free next year, whose agent wastes few opportunities to discuss potentially interested parties. The word is that Pogba is excited to work with Rangnick, but the France star is just one of several members of the United squad who needs clarity on their positions.

Give Donny a chance

It felt almost pre-ordained when Donny van de Beek scored the final goal of the Solskjaer era against Watford, having come on as a substitute to rapturous (and ironic) cheers from the visiting fans.

Van de Beek has spent most of his time at United being assured his chances would come, then left wondering when that would be. Having only started four league games in 14 months, the Netherlands international – who has lost his place in the national squad – would almost certainly have pushed to leave in January had Solskjaer stayed in the job.

Now, Van de Beek has the opportunity to prove himself to a new manager. Rangnick's methods might not be Cruyffian exactly, but they are certainly more closely aligned to the Ajax way than Solskjaer's focus on individual inspiration.

Donny van de Beek was handed only his second start for Manchester United this season in Tuesday's clash with Villarreal as Michael Carrick took charge for the first time.

United were in action for the first time since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal on Sunday, and Carrick – named caretaker manager ahead of an expected interim appointment – made his presence known.

Van de Beek came straight into the starting XI after a positive cameo off the bench in Solskjaer's final game, the 4-1 defeat at Watford.

The Dutchman scored United's only goal in that game, which was just his third top-flight appearance of the season.

Van de Beek has been bizarrely marginalised since joining from Ajax last year for approximately £45million, as he made just four Premier League starts in 2020-21.

As such, he has lost his place in the Netherlands team and media speculation has strongly suggested he was planning to engineer a move away in the upcoming January transfer window.

But Carrick elected to give him a rare opportunity from the start, with Bruno Fernandes the one to drop out of the team.

Jadon Sancho also showed flashes of quality against Watford and retained his place in the starting XI, though Marcus Rashford – withdrawn at half-time at Vicarage Road – was dropped in favour of Anthony Martial, who replaced him at the weekend.

Luke Shaw missed out at left-back due to a head injury, meaning Alex Telles filled in.

Heading into the game, United sat top of Group F but level on seven points with Villarreal.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims Donny van de Beek will soon "reap his rewards" at Manchester United.

Van de Beek joined from Ajax for a reported £40million last season, but chances have been sparse for the 24-year-old at Old Trafford.

The midfielder has started just four games for United in the Premier League, his last coming against Wolves in May, while appearing just 21 times in the top-flight for his 528 minutes.

United supporters greeted Van de Beek's introduction off the bench against Manchester City two weeks ago with rapturous applause, highlighting the faith they have in the Netherlands international.

Solskjaer joined in with the praise for Van de Beek as the Norwegian pinpointed his work ethic ahead of Saturday's clash with Watford.

"I think our fans can see a top professional and a very good player," Solskjaer said. "And Donny is one that has never ever let himself or his team or his family down by his attitude.

"His approach to the game and training is spot on. I can't fault him, and he knows that.

"I keep in contact and I speak to him and communicate with him because it's not easy when players are not playing as much as they think they should do, and Donny thinks he should be playing more and he will be involved.

"I can't say anything other than he's another example of what to do when you're not in the team and he'll reap his rewards."

Van de Beek was looking to feature at Vicarage Road as United attempted to bounce back from four losses in six league games, as many as they had in their previous 40 matches in the Premier League.

But the Red Devils were expected to be without Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani, who has a tendon injury.

"Unfortunately he felt something in one of the last sessions before City and he had to pull out of the game because he didn't feel right. We've got to give him time to feel right," Solskjaer added.

"I can't give you a timescale if it's tomorrow or Tuesday or Chelsea. We'll see how he is, that's important."

Real Madrid are trying to offload a pair of veterans to Tottenham. 

Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale could be on the way out at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Spurs are reportedly only interested in one of them.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS WEIGH BALE REUNION

Gareth Bale could be headed for a permanent return to Tottenham, El Nacional reports. 

Real Madrid have offered Bale and Eden Hazard to Spurs but head coach Antonio Conte is not interested in his former Chelsea player. 

However, Spurs may pounce for Bale at a reduced price before he is out of contract following the season.

 

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Manchester United are interested in adding France defender Jules Kounde to replace Harry Maguire, says Todofichajes, which reports Sevilla will demand €80million (£68m) in return. 

Donny van de Beek wants out at United, according to the Metro, and Birmingham Live says Wolves will make a strong push to sign the Dutch midfielder, with Everton and Newcastle United also rumoured suitors.

- Fiorentina are willing to sell Dusan Vlahovic in January if an interested club like Manchester City or Tottenham will pay £70m for the Serbia international, says the Sun. Vlahovic has also been linked with Bayern MunichAtletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and Arsenal.

Milan have joined Chelsea and Atletico in pursuit of 17-year-old Angers striker Mohamed-Ali Cho, according to L'Equipe. 

Barcelona will extend 17-year-old Spain sensation Gavi's contract for five years, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

Dean Smith's appointment at Norwich City is expected to become official Monday, says The Guardian. 

Nuno Espirito Santo's future as Tottenham manager is in doubt after a slow start.

The Portuguese only took over in June but his side are eighth in the Premier League with five losses already.

Spurs were humbled 3-0 at home by under-pressure Manchester United on Saturday.

Supporters made their feelings known at full-time as boos rung out around Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

TOP STORY – SPURS READY TO REPLACE NUNO

Tuttomercato claims that Tottenham are working on a deal to have ex-Inter boss Antonio Conte replace Nuno Espirito Santo as manager.

Football Insider also reports that Spurs will sack Nuno this week, with Ryan Mason to be installed as their interim boss again.

The Standard claims that Porto head coach Sergio Conceicao is also under consideration for the job.

 

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- Le Parisien reports that Paris Saint-Germain could sensationally walk away from their contract with off-season signing Sergio Ramos, who is yet to debut for the club due to ongoing injury issues from his time at Real Madrid. PSG are said to believe they were misled about his injury status.

- Barcelona are interested in a loan deal for Manchester United's wantaway Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek, reports Sport.

- Real Madrid are considering moves for Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger, claims Marca.

- Theo Hernandez will ignore Manchester City 's advances and pen a new deal with Milan, reports Calciomercato.

- Tuttosport reports hot property Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic wants to join Juventus amid interest from Tottenham, among others.

Manchester City had a relatively quiet off-season in the transfer market.

City landed Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in a big-money move but failed in their efforts to sign Tottenham star Harry Kane following Sergio Aguero's exit.

But the Premier League champions could be more active in the January transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLAN FOR DE JONG SWOOP

Manchester City are plotting a move for Barcelona star midfielder Frenkie de Jong, according to Calciomercato.

De Jong, who also has interest from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, signed a five-year deal with Barcelona effective from July 2019, tying him down to 2024.

The 24-year-old Netherlands international has made 11 appearances in all competitions this season and is yet to score.

 

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- Fabrizio Romano claims Manchester United have made no official proposal for former Chelsea and Inter boss Antonio Conte yet amid doubts over the future of Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following Sunday's 5-0 rout at the hands of Liverpool. Zinedine Zidane and Ajax's Erik ten Hag are also possible options.

- Manchester United's wantaway Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek is preparing to make a January move with Voetbal International claiming he has swapped agents. EvertonNewcastle United and Juventus are all interested in Van de Beek, per Metro.

Paris Saint-Germain will switch their attention to Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso if they cannot secure a move for Manchester United's Paul Pogba, reports Calciomercato. Pogba has also been linked with Juve and Real Madrid.

Newcastle and Juve are contending to sign Barca forward Ousmane Dembele, according to Sport. Dembele is set to exit Barca at the end of this season and his agent has reportedly been in touch with both clubs about a move, while Liverpool and United are also possible destinations.

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows Donny van de Beek is "not happy" and "frustrated" with a lack of opportunities at Manchester United.

The Netherlands international arrived from Ajax for a reported £40million last season but chances have been few and far between for the 24-year-old at Old Trafford.

Van de Beek has been afforded just 140 minutes of action across in competitions this term – 90 of those coming against West Ham in the EFL Cup – and the midfielder's frustrations were picked up by television cameras in a win over Villarreal last month.

The former Ajax man was spotted throwing his chewing gum in the direction of the United bench after Jesse Lingard was brought on from the bench.

However, asked about the incident after the Atalanta win – in which the Red Devils overturned a two-goal deficit to triumph 3-2 – Solskjaer joked to deflect any conflict, while admitting Van de Beek's frustrations.

"It’s wiser to throw away your chewing gum and not to swallow it," Solskjaer said to Dutch outlet RTL7. "We learned that as children.

"And giving your chewing gum to someone else is not possible in these Corona times either. Sensible, so I could see he was throwing it away.

"Donny is still working hard, of course, and at the moment it’s hard. I understand Donny is frustrated, he’s disappointed but he keeps on working every day with a big smile.

"I know he’s not happy, but he works hard and he’s a top professional. He knows that that’s the way that sometimes it works in football. At the moment he’s not playing but he doesn’t let himself down."

United came from two goals down in the Champions League to win for the third time on Wednesday – the joint-most in the competition.

Marcus Rashford's strike, which was the 300th goal of Solskjaer's tenure, started the comeback before Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo completed a remarkable turnaround.

Bruno Fernandes also created eight chances – the most by a United player in Europe since the 2003-04 season – and Solskjaer insisted Van de Beek, who was once again an unused substitute again, must remain patient in waiting for a chance.

"I can’t go into every single player," the head coach continued. "But if you see our team I thought our performance was really good. He’s got some good players that he plays with.

"He keeps training well and I enjoy having him there and I hope for him that he gets his chances."

Newcastle have the wealthiest owners in the world following their £300million takeover last week.

The Magpies have since been linked to a host of top players including Niklas Sule and Philippe Coutinho, with Timo Werner now joining that list.

The Premier League club are 19th in the table, winless this season with only three points from seven games, which suggests they need significant strengthening.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE KEEN ON GERMAN STRIKER

Newcastle are set to splash the cash and could make a bid to sign Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner, says Bild.

The report claims Newcastle have been "in regular contact" with Werner's agent ahead of the January transfer window.

Werner joined Chelsea in a £47.5million deal in June last year from RB Leipzig.

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- Juventus are willing to sell France international midfielder Adrien Rabiot, with Newcastle linked as a suitor, as they raise funds for moves for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni and Manchester United's Donny van de Beek.

- Marca claims Real Madrid are looking to sign Chelsea's Germany international defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season.

- Liverpool are open to the idea of bringing Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield from Barcelona in January, claims the Express.

- Fichajes claims Liverpool are also considering a £68million (€80m) swoop for Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, while they also progress contract talks with Mohamed Salah.

- Barcelona and Milan are top of the queue in the pursuit to sign Jesse Lingard if he leaves Old Trafford on a free transfer at the end of this season, according to the Daily Mail.

- Phil Foden has agreed terms on a new six-year contract with Manchester City, reports Goal.com.

Erling Haaland has his pick of Europe's elite.

The Borussia Dortmund and Norway star is wanted by the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid.

But Premier League champions City are one particular club looking to prise Haaland from Germany if the rumours are to be believed.

 

TOP STORY – CITY HOPING TO CAPITALISE ON PUMA PARTNERSHIP

Manchester City are hoping their Puma sponsorship and a looming boot deal can help land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Daily Star.

City's kits are manufactured by Puma, while Haaland is reportedly poised to sign a boot deal with the German giants.

Haaland has been linked with City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Barcelona and Juventus.

 

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- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Juve are planning an approach to bring United midfielder Paul Pogba back to Turin. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and while United are keen for a renewal, the Frenchman has been linked with Madrid and PSG also.

- United captain and England defender Harry Maguire is poised for a new bumper contract at Old Trafford, reports the Mirror.

Liverpool are considering a move for Barca's Ousmane Dembele with Juve unwilling to part with Federico Chiesa, says Team Talk.

- According to Football Insider, Newcastle United have made star Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly a priority signing in January. It comes after Newcastle's blockbuster takeover.

PSG are targeting Napoli's soon-to-be free agent Lorenzo Insigne, per Le10 Sport. Insigne has also been linked with Inter and Milan.

- Manchester United outcast Donny van de Beek is wanted by Serie A powerhouse Juve, claims Corriere dello Sport. Van de Beek was in talks over an Everton switch during the previous window.

- Milan star Franck Kessie is among Barca's midfielder targets for the January window, says Diario Sport. Van de Beek, Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele and Marcelo Brozovic of Inter are also options.

Paul Pogba has been the subject of constant speculation over the past 12 months.

Manchester United's French midfielder is into the final year of his contract.

Pogba has been in excellent early season form, with seven assists in the league already.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID MOVE LOOMS FOR POGBA

Real Madrid are Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba's most likely destination at the end of this season, claims El Nacional.

The France international is out of contract at Old Trafford at the end of this season and could leave on a free transfer.

Pogba's agent Mino Raiola is trying to persuade Pogba to join Madrid, despite interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

 

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Liverpool target Karim Adeyemi is being chased by German pair Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, reports Sport Bild. RB Leipzig are also monitoring the 19-year-old Salzburg striker.

Marco Asensio appears destined to leave Madrid given his current role, with Sevilla hoping to sign the midfielder, according to El Gol Digital.

– Fichajes reports that Milan are plotting a January move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek.

– The Sun claims that Tottenham have revived their interest in West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone as they seek a successor to Hugo Lloris.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho wants to reunite with Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele by signing him, reports Calciomercato.

– Marca claims that Manchester City are considering tabling an offer to sign Villareal forward Pau Torres .

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended his decision to leave Donny van de Beek on the bench during Manchester United's dramatic 2-1 win over Villarreal in the Champions League.

The Dutch central midfielder was filmed throwing his chewing gum and having to be calmed down by team-mates as Fred and Jesse Lingard were chosen to come on with the scores tied at 1-1 and one minute of normal time remaining at Old Trafford.

The 24-year-old has played just 141 minutes of football this season after being denied the chance to leave the club in the most recent transfer window.

Solskjaer argues, however, that with a squad so stacked full of talent, it is impossible for him to keep everyone happy, and insists that he is satisfied with Van de Beek's professional conduct.

"You know, I manage a squad full of international footballers, competitive footballers who want to make a difference, who want to play," Solskjaer said to the media. "They all want to be on the pitch, of course they do.

"Donny was ready to come on, as all players should be. I've been a sub more than anyone in this club probably - I must have a record [for] appearances as a sub - and you have to be ready all the time. I've been not very happy a few times but that is the decision the manager makes.

"Alex [Telles] was coming off as a left-back and Fred did that job well. So I understand the frustration, of course, every player is keen to play, that's got to be built into energy and determination for when you get on and show me.

"It's not just Donny, I've got a squad of internationals and if we're going to be successful we need positive energy, no energy sappers or soakers.

"Donny has never affected his team-mates negatively. As soon as I see players affecting the team negatively then that's a different scenario and I'll probably be firmer."

United's next challenge is their upcoming fixture with Everton at Old Trafford on October 2.

Bukayo Saka only turned 20 earlier this month but he is a player on the rise.

The Arsenal forward was part of England's side that reached the Euro 2020 final in July.

Saka has put in plenty of eye-catching displays for the Gunners too.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS AND ATLETICO KEEN ON SAKA

Calciomercato claims that Juventus and Atletico Madrid  are both monitoring Arsenal's England international forward Bukayo Saka .

The Gunners are believed to want £43million (€50m) to sell the 20-year-old, who signed a four-year deal in July last year.

Saka has become a key player at Arsenal, making 32 Premier League appearances last term.

 

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- Everton's Colombia international James Rodriguez has reached a verbal agreement to join Qatari club Al Rayyan according to Argentine journalist Cesar Luis Merlo. Rodriguez has not played yet this season and almost joined Porto in the off-season.

- Inter are homing in on a move to sign Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek reports Calciomercato. The 24-year-old Dutchman has had a tough time at Old Trafford since joining United for £35m from Ajax in 2020.

- Calciomercato also claims that Jose Mourinho wants to lure Manchester United right-back Diogo Dalot to Roma . The Argentine spent last season on loan with Milan.

- Andreas Christensen is set to sign a new deal with Chelsea worth £120,000-per-week claims The Sun.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona all pursued Erling Haaland in the recent transfer window.

The 21-year-old Norway forward opted to stay with Borussia Dortmund.

But the race will heat up again at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Manchester United still want to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and will make a move next European summer, reports the Express.

United made a major transfer splash when they landed Cristiano Ronaldo last month but remain in the Haaland race.

The Red Devils are looking to end their trophy drought and added Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho along with Ronaldo for this season.

 

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- United are leading the way in the chase to sign Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, according to The Sun. The 18-year-old is being pursued by Chelsea and Manchester City too.

- The Sun reports that United are planning a clear-out at the end of this season, including Donny van de Beek , Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial to free up funds.

- Calciomercato reports that Juventus have identified Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic as a transfer target in the January window on loan.

- Ligue 1 club Lens could make a bid for Liverpool's Belgium international forward Divock Origi , claims Fichajes.

- Crystal Palace are interested in signing US international forward Daryl Dike from Orlando City, reports The Sun. Dike is set to command a £18m fee.

- Transfer expert Ekrem Konur claims that Flamengo have tabled an offer to sign Brazilian veteran Dani Alves.

Manchester United have a "massive" opportunity to win multiple titles this season following the return of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Red Devils winger Jesper Olsen.

Ronaldo is back at Old Trafford after re-joining United from Serie A giants Juventus before the transfer window closed last week – the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football signing a two-year contract with the option for a third in Manchester.

The 36-year-old won one of his five Ballon d'Or trophies with United, scoring 118 goals in 292 games across his first spell in Manchester as he clinched three Premier League titles and the Champions League – a competition he has since won four more times – before moving to Real Madrid in 2009.

Formerly a dazzling winger but now a penalty-box poacher, Ronaldo has netted 674 times across 895 club games in all competitions, averaging a goal every 108 minutes.

Between his entrance on the Premier League stage and his final appearance in May 2009, Frank Lampard (131) and Thierry Henry (124) were the only two to have a hand in more English top-flight goals than Ronaldo (118) – Henry (92) the only one to outscore Ronaldo's 84.

After his 12-year absence, Ronaldo – who scored the first of his 48 club hat-tricks against Newcastle United in 2008 – is in line to make his debut against the Magpies in the Premier League on Saturday, and former United winger Olsen is excited about the Portuguese's second coming.

"I think it's fantastic. It's a great way to finish his career I suppose. He is 36 now," Olsen, who won the FA Cup during his four years at United in the 1980s, told Stats Perform.

"I was doing a lot of work in Manchester at the time when he arrived, we looked after Wayne Rooney – our sports management company – I can only see the whole thing being positive.

"The stature of the guy and also the players around him getting to play with him and learn from him. Exciting for the Premier League, absolutely."

Not since 2012-13 – Alex Ferguson's final season in charge – have United won the Premier League, while the Red Devils have not celebrated silverware since claiming the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield in 2016-17.

United, who finished second to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League in 2020-21, surprisingly lost to Villarreal in last season's Europa League final.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United have won two of their opening three league fixtures this season, ahead of Newcastle's visit to the Theatre of Dreams.

Ronaldo's last Premier League appearance was in May 2009 against Arsenal – if he faces Newcastle, it will set a new record for the longest gap between appearances in the competition's history (12 years, 118 days).

His last Premier League goal came 12 years and 124 days ago, against City in May 2009. Assuming he scores again for the Red Devils, only one player has ever had a longer gap between Premier League goals – Matt Jackson (13 years and 187 days between May 1993 and November 2006).

"It [Ronaldo's arrival] certainly hasn't made United weaker as a team. It isn't easy to win anything, we know that," Olsen continued. "We talk about Tottenham who haven't won anything for a long time. The Premier League is hard.

"The way United played last season, they got some rhythm and continuation in terms of winning matches. I think they have the spine and now the belief as well. The players seem to have settled in.

"The mixture of younger players, too. The likes of [Paul] Pogba and [Bruno] Fernandes performing well, [Edinson] Cavani coming on to score goals, [Mason] Greenwood as well. I think it's a really good mix. We know there's a lot of different competitions. It's a long season. It can only help them with that squad they have."

With United also bringing in top transfer target Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane via Real Madrid, pressure is on manager Solskjaer to deliver.

"Every year, if you play for United, you're expected to win titles – players and managers. Obviously, he came to United with a bit of experience but it's a massive club and a huge task," ex-Denmark international Olsen added.

"…It has to click but they definitely have a massive chance to not win one title but possibly a few over the next 12 months.

"It takes time but if you look as a player, and I don't think at any stage or age, if you look around Europe, the bigger clubs you can join, United surely stands as one of those at the top.

"They have certainly been on reliant on a way of playing that suits the team. They will have a lot of ball now with the way they play. It's a lot more settled. They've done really well in terms of signings. It can take some time to settle at United, but after a long time in the wilderness I suppose, it's settled down.

"Solskjaer is very calm and very structured. He knows what he's doing with his management team. It's a very exciting season. Obviously, it all depends on the games and if you win of course."

While fans and pundits have been buoyed by United's transfer business in 2021-22, one recent signing has been left in the wilderness.

Donny Van de Beek joined from Ajax last season amid much fanfare, however the Netherlands international is yet to make an appearance this term, having made just four Premier League starts in 2020-21.

"It doesn't make sense because we all know what he did for Ajax, but there's obviously something that the way Solskjaer wants to play doesn't fit in," Olsen, who also played for Dutch giants Ajax, said. "There's no doubt that you don't become a bad player overnight.

"Maybe he is getting used to a different style and system. Sometimes it takes a while but of course there would be people watching because you don't want to go two-three years without playing when you're such an exciting player who has done so much already."

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