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.

Dwight Yorke appreciates Harry Maguire is going through a tough phase but implored the centre-back to keep things simple to battle through his dip in form.

Maguire joined Manchester United in August 2019 for £80 million – a world record fee for a defender - from Leicester City on a six-year contract, with the option of a further year.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the man to bring the England international to the club, though the Norwegian and the Red Devils have now parted ways with United eighth in the Premier League after a 4-1 humiliation at Watford.

Maguire was the first to admit the players must "share the responsibility" for Solskjaer's departure, with his downturn in form coinciding with United's struggles in recent months.

Former striker Yorke, who won three successive top-flight titles at Old Trafford between 1999 and 2002, wants the 28-year-old back at his best to aid United's revival.

"These guys are supposed to be world class," Yorke told Stats Perform.

"This is the number one England defender, stand-in captain when Harry Kane doesn't play. It's just crazy how things change so quickly and opinions of others change so quickly. 

"Listen, you go through phases in your career. And it's never going to be an easy part where you play every game and you get an eight or nine each game and stuff. 

"You're going to have challenges in your time and Harry Maguire is obviously going through one of those phases.

"Especially in a team that is not winning games, you come back into a team that is not winning, not high on confidence, you’re going to be low on confidence and you're going to be making mistakes. 

"And unfortunately, when you're at a club like Manchester United, you're going to be scrutinised, right, left and centre. If you don't perform well, you’re not going to get away with it at Manchester United, and Harry Maguire is no different."

Michael Carrick has been placed in temporary charge as United search for an interim appointment, which looks likely to be Ralf Rangnick, before hiring a permanent solution at the end of the season.

In his first game at the helm against Villarreal, Carrick managed to sure up a shaky defence that has conceded 21 times in the Premier League, only Newcastle United and Norwich have been breached more (both 27).

Maguire captained the side in Tuesday's Champions League clash but Yorke believes the solution for the defender is to return to the basics that have previously served him so well.

"We're talking about someone that we invested £80million in so there's a huge expectation for him," he added.

"Now he has to get back by doing what Maguire did in the first place, that has got him all this recognition, which is to defend and make the game very simple. 

"When you start making it complicated you cause problems, especially in a team that is struggling on confidence at the moment. 

"And this is where if I was Carrick, I would get back to just the basics of getting these players doing their job and doing it well in their areas rather than trying to complicate the game like they are doing at this moment."

Cristiano Ronaldo insisted Manchester United "will never stop fighting" after the superstar sent the embattled giants through to the Champions League knockouts following another record-breaking performance.

Ronaldo became the first player to score in the first five matches of a European Cup/Champions League campaign for an English team as United qualified for the last 16 courtesy of Tuesday's 2-0 Group F win over Villarreal.

In the first match of the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, with interim boss Michael Carrick on the sidelines, Ronaldo broke the deadlock 12 minutes from the end for his 799th career goal before team-mate Jadon Sancho sealed the victory at the death away from home.

It has been a turbulent time for United, who had only won two of their previous eight games heading into the matchday five fixture, and Ronaldo revelled in the display.

"Always great to play in Spain, amazing to win in Spain, satisfying to score in Spain, a country where I always felt special," Ronaldo wrote via social media, with United reportedly targeting Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino as Solskjaer's permanent replacement.

"Congrats to the lads for a great victory that puts us where we belong!

"We are Man. United and we will never stop fighting for this club! Let's go, Devils!"

Ronaldo's strike against Villarreal was the third time he has scored the match-winning goal in the final 15 minutes of a Champions League match this season – the most a single player has ever done so in a single season in the competition (excluding extra time).

The 36-year-old has also scored six goals for United in this season's Champions League; only Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2004-05 (eight) has ever scored more for an English club in a single group phase of the competition.

United captain Harry Maguire told BT Sport: "It's massive for our season. It was tough and edgy in the first half.

"It was important to stay in the game and I thought the lads who came off the bench really helped us push on and the second-half performance was really good. The emphasis was getting a result.

"Coming away from home in Europe you have to be solid. We got what we deserved in the end because of the chances we created. We want to be on the front foot and aggressive and in the first half maybe we played with too much fear.

"But we spoke about that and the first goal came from pressure. Ronaldo has been brilliant. We need to get back to being solid because if we do that we have every chance to win games when we have him up front."

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire accepts the players must take responsibility for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure as manager coming to an end.

Following Saturday's humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford, during which Maguire was sent off, it was confirmed on Sunday that Solskjaer's reign as boss was over.

The Norwegian had arrived in December 2018 and steadied the ship initially after Jose Mourinho's sacking, while he went on to preside over a second-place finish in the Premier League last term.

But after significant investment in pre-season, including the signings of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, United have gone backwards – Saturday's loss at Vicarage Road leaves them eighth in the Premier League with 17 points after 12 matches.

Solskjaer had routinely been criticised in the media for a perceived lack of tactical acumen, with a common perception being United were regularly bailed out by moments of individual inspiration rather than the team being great as a collective.

Individual quality seemingly was not enough this season, with United's 21 goals conceded only exceeded by Norwich City and Newcastle United (27 each), and just Arsenal (four) committing more errors leading to goals than the Red Devils (three).

Solskjaer paid the price, but Maguire acknowledged the players have more than played their part in his downfall.

"It's been really hard for us as players because of the amount of respect we have for the boss [Solskjaer] and the period he's been here," Maguire told reporters ahead of Tuesday's Champions League tussle with Villarreal.

"We've been on a journey together and it's never nice to see a man lose his job. We've shown as a group of lads how much we wanted to succeed.

"The result on Saturday wasn't good enough but the recent results have ultimately not been good and it's a result-based business. Unfortunately, Ole has paid the price for that and we [the players] have to take responsibility for that."

Although United's Champions League campaign has been far from straightforward, they do at least go to Villarreal at the top of Group F, level on seven points with the Yellow Submarine.

Michael Carrick, who was among Solskjaer's coaching staff, will be in charge for at least that match and potentially more, until United appoint an interim manager to guide them through to the end of the season.

Now Maguire is urging the players to dig deep to put things right, concerned that their issues have been spiralling out of control.

"I think in football you go through ups and downs. As players, it's probably the toughest time for you at club level," he continued.

"The recent performances haven't been good enough. When you're not doing it collectively, the results show. It snowballs from one thing to another.

"We've got to find something within ourselves; we've got to move this club forward. We've got to find something within us to put in a performance."

Whatever happens next, Solskjaer will be watching on as he would have prior to his return in 2018.

"Everybody's got a huge amount of respect for Ole," Maguire added. "He's a legend of the club and he'll always remain a legend here.

"One thing he said is that he'll be supporting us and wanting us to win every game."

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.

 

ROUND-UP

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. 

Gareth Southgate suggested pundits produce "quotable" takes to "stay relevant" after Roy Keane criticised Harry Maguire's celebration against Albania.

Maguire opened the scoring on Friday at Wembley, immediately racing to the corner where he cupped his hands beside his head before putting his fingers in his ears.

Former Manchester United captain and television pundit Keane criticised the celebration post-match, labelling the gesture as "embarrassing" considering the centre-back's recent club performances.

Maguire, however, remained adamant the celebration came "naturally" to him and was not about silencing critics, nor aimed at anyone in particular.

Southgate, who initially joked his defender's gesture was a wrestling reference, was again questioned on the topic and – while not naming Keane or Maguire – outlined pundits' tendency to work with headlines in mind.

"I think we always have to understand that, the industry we’re in, there are different roles, and in order to make a living in those different roles you’ve got to take certain approaches," Southgate said at Sunday's pre-match news conference ahead of the trip to San Marino.

"You have a choice about which type of approach you’re going to take [when working as a pundit].

"I was always thinking as an ex-player, ex-manager, recognising how difficult those things were, so I guess I had empathy for those that were stepping over the line to play and those that were in the dugout.

"It really depends on what you need to do to stay in work. Some channels or forums require headlines, some require a certain type of approach, everything's different. I understand that.

"To stay relevant in some of those fields, you've got to say things that are more quotable, and of course everything’s lifted now and used from the live broadcast for the next day’s headlines.

"Everybody in those shows knows that's how it works, and it fills a different part of our industry.

"Personally, as a manager, I get it and so be it. I'm sure the players might feel differently, they're younger and have less experience of those fields, but also they think [pundits] surely remember how difficult it was to play and probably didn't like it when they were criticised."

Harry Maguire insists his goal celebration in England's 5-0 win over Albania "was not directed at anyone" following stinging criticism from Roy Keane.

Maguire raced off after scoring the opening goal at Wembley Stadium, sliding on his knees in celebration before cupping his hands beside his head and putting his fingers into his ears.

Former Manchester United midfielder Keane labelled Maguire's celebration as "embarrassing" in light of his recent performances at club level which have drawn criticism.

"When a player scores and puts his hands to his ears, he's like 'shutting the critics up'. But I think that's embarrassing," Keane said on ITV.

"He's been a disgrace the last few months at Man United. He thinks he scores there and he's gonna shut his critics up. Embarrassing."

Maguire was adamant that the gesture was not about silencing any critics, nor aimed at anyone.

"The celebration was a knee slide, it just came naturally to me," Maguire told Sky Sports News. "It's an amazing feeling to score for my country.

"It wasn't directed at anyone, it just came naturally to do that and open the scoring for England and get the important three points."

England manager Gareth Southgate also defended Maguire, who missed last month's international window due to a calf injury.

Is he a Hulk Hogan fan? I don't know what the celebration was for," Southgate said during his news conference. "He's a fabulous player, two months ago he was in the Euros team of the tournament.

"He's rushed back because he's the sort of player who has a huge conscience to help his club. You get lots of players who hide in the treatment room when pressure is on. He hasn't done that and I have massive respect for that but you can go into matches not fully fit and you're judged as fully fit in those moments.

"I've had a good chat with him this week, reminded him how important he is for us, he's been able to switch focus and have a few days on the training pitch which has probably helped, and his performance was very good."

Harry Maguire's celebration in England's World Cup qualifier against Albania was "embarrassing" because he has "been a disgrace" at Manchester United, according to a furious Roy Keane. 

United captain Maguire scored the first of five first-half goals for England at Wembley on Friday by heading home a delivery from Reece James. 

The centre-back, who became the most expensive defender of all-time when he moved to Old Trafford in 2019, has come in for significant criticism this season, particularly following his displays against Leicester City, Liverpool and away at Atalanta. 

He responded by celebrating finding the back of the net for his country by cupping his ears and then putting his fingers in them.

However, that decision drew the ire of former United skipper Keane, who won 13 major trophies at Old Trafford and was a key part of their 1998-99 treble-winning campaign.

"When a player scores and puts his hands to his ears, he's like 'shutting the critics up'. But I think that's embarrassing," Keane fumed on ITV. 

"He's been a disgrace the last few months at Man United. He thinks he scores there and he's gonna shut his critics up. Embarrassing." 

In his 13 appearances in all competitions for United this season, Maguire has made three errors leading to shots - more than any of his team-mates and the joint-most among Premier League players.

He also made an error leading to a goal when he gave the ball away ahead of Youri Tielemans' strike in the 4-2 loss to Leicester in October.

Harry Maguire has labelled Manchester United's current form "nowhere near good enough" following Saturday's derby defeat to Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's side hardly had to get out of second gear at Old Trafford as an own goal from Eric Bailly and a close-range finish from Bernardo Silva sealed a comfortable 2-0 win.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had enjoyed a good record against Guardiola in previous league derbies, but United mustered just one shot on target throughout the match as they slumped to a fourth defeat in their last six top-flight outings.

City had 67.4 per cent possession and managed 16 attempts to United's five, with David de Gea having to pull off a string of fine saves in the first half.

United are now without a clean sheet in their last 14 home games in all competitions - they have only had one longer run in their entire history without a home clean sheet, a 21-game run between April 1958 and March 1959 - while their record of eight defeats at Old Trafford in 2021 is their worst in a calendar year since they lost eight in 1989.

The Red Devils have conceded 11 Premier League goals in six home games this season, the most after six matches at Old Trafford since 1976-77.

Part of the problem at the back has been the form of Maguire. The England centre-back missed a chunk of the season due to injury but returned against Leicester City last month, turning in a poor performance in a 4-2 defeat.

Maguire has struggled to find his best level, having a torrid time against Liverpool in a 5-0 loss on October 24, and he was at least partly culpable for City's second goal when he failed to communicate with Luke Shaw, allowing Silva to steal in at the back post and prod in Joao Cancelo's cross.

In a Twitter post on Sunday, Maguire acknowledged the performances are far from where they need to be, but insisted United will turn their fortunes around.

"As a group of players we are going through a tough period," the post read.

"We know and accept this is nowhere near good enough. We feel your frustration and disappointment, we are doing everything we can to put things right and we will put things right.

"Thanks for your support. UNITED."

Harry Maguire insists Manchester United can "still achieve things" this season, despite the club's poor recent performances.

United's historic and humiliating 5-0 defeat at Old Trafford to rivals Liverpool last time out was their fourth loss from their last five domestic games, drawing the other.

The Red Devils are seventh in the Premier League, out of the EFL Cup and required two last-minute Cristiano Ronaldo winners to claim their six Champions League points, having suffered an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Young Boys.

Maguire, though, believes it is early enough for United to turn their campaign around, with head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in desperate need of an upturn in form as his position comes under increasing scrutiny.

"There are lots of games to play in the Premier League, we’re in a strong position in the group in the Champions League and we're still early on in the season," Maguire told Manchester United's official website. "And it's a season in which we know we can still achieve things."

The 28-year-old explained the work he and his United team-mates were putting in on the training ground since the Liverpool defeat in order to better themselves and produce more convincing showings on a regular basis.

He also praised the support of the fans, revealing his disappointment at "letting them down" and stated the importance of togetherness within the club as they look to change their circumstances.

"It's been a tough week obviously, you can't just brush these things aside, especially when you lose to your rivals," Maguire continued. "To lose in the manner that we did was so disappointing.

"We've obviously had big discussions, we've analysed the game and the goals and looked at how we can do better and improve. That's the most important thing now, we need to come together as a group and a club. 

"It makes me feel disappointed because we let [the fans] down. As players, we let the management down, we let the staff down and we let the club down, but most importantly we let the fans down.

"We know we’ve got to improve, and I can assure you we're doing everything we can and giving everything day in, day out to make sure that we improve on these performances, and I'm sure we'll come through this difficult period and kick on again.

"We have a lot of experience in our dressing room and a lot of leaders. We're open, we're men, and we can take someone pointing the finger at us, but one thing is for sure and that's that we all know we're in this together, there's no blame game."

United face Tottenham on October 30, but Maguire says the Red Devils squad are focusing on themselves, not their opponents, and are intent on delivering a much-needed Premier League victory, with table-topping Chelsea now eight points ahead of them.

"We know it will be a tough game, they're a top team, but like I say we've got to focus on ourselves and this is what this week has been about," Maguire added. 

"We're not really focusing on the opposition, it's all about ourselves and how to improve and get a performance on Saturday to put smiles back our fans' faces as that's what they deserve.

"Of course it's an important game, it's a football match in the Premier League playing for Manchester United. It's not really about looking at the table and seeing where they are in the table, it's all about going there and getting three points and that’s what this club is all about.

"Every game you play in you're expected to get three points. But first and foremost we owe ourselves a good performance. We're together as a unit and we're together as a team, and we want to give the fans a performance to be proud of and the result will look after itself."

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has apologised to the club's supporters after their humiliating 5-0 defeat to rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Mohamed Salah plundered a hat-trick after Naby Keita and Diogo Jota had put Liverpool into a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes, while substitute Paul Pogba was dismissed on a dark day for United.

The result was United's heaviest ever defeat at home to Liverpool, and it is the first time they have lost to-nil by five or more goals at home since February 1955 (5-0 v Man City).

The defeat follows last weekend's 4-2 loss at Leicester City and leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side eight points adrift of Premier League leaders Chelsea.

Maguire, who was at the heart of a slapstick performance by United's defence, admitted the display was well short of the standards the club should be setting.

"We apologise to the fans, it was nowhere near good enough for this club," he told Sky Sports. "They stuck with us right to the end and we appreciate that but as a club we have to do better.

"I am so disappointed; we gave them so many chances. They were so clinical, we had a lot of chances ourselves but I am a defender and to concede four in the first half, especially at Old Trafford, is nowhere near good enough.

"As a player I know myself. I’ll be looking at myself and my individual performance.

"We have to stick together, there is no point blaming each other but look at ourselves. Look in the mirror when we go home tonight and think where we can do better.

"To lose to Liverpool in any game of football hurts. The rivals, the way we lost the game, to be 4-0 down at half time in front of our fans, like I say it is not good enough."

Asked if it was too strong to say the result was embarrassing, Maguire responded: "Not really. The term I'd use is not good enough. I look at those lads each day in training and we are working hard as we can but at the moment it is not good enough.

"I apologise to the fans, we have to look at ourselves as individuals but also stick together."

Harry Maguire expressed his disappointment at Manchester United's defensive work while hailing Cristiano Ronaldo after the Red Devils overturned a two-goal deficit to defeat Atalanta 3-2.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side raced into a two-goal lead inside 29 minutes at Old Trafford – the earliest United have found themselves two goals down at home in the Champions League since October 2012.

It was also the 12th consecutive home game across all competitions the hosts had conceded in – their longest such run since February 1964 (13).

However, Marcus Rashford netted the 300th goal of Solskjaer's tenure to give the Red Devils hope before Harry Maguire levelled things with his first goal in the Champions League.

Ronaldo then scored in his third consecutive game in Europe for United – last doing so in 2007-08 en route to winning the trophy with Alex Ferguson's side – to cap yet another memorable turnaround.

Despite the comeback, Maguire admitted his frustrations at the manner in which his side fell behind as he implored for improvements at the back.

"We definitely do like doing it the hard way in the Champions League," Maguire told BT Sport post-match.

"In the first half, we conceded two bad goals - the quick free-kick for the first and the set play we shouldn’t be conceding from.

"The last few games we've conceded a lot from set-plays, I think that's four in the last four games so we need to sharpen up on that.

"That [conceding from set-pieces] is not good enough for this club. We're working on the formula to be a lot more solid but it's about winning football matches.

"We've shown great togetherness, in the dressing room at half-time after the fans cheered and clapped us off, we gave them the result and the energy that they deserved."

Ronaldo, who also proved the late hero last time out in Europe against Villarreal, delivered once more and Maguire was quick to praise the competition's all-time leading scorer after yet another vital performance.

"I had eyes on it all the way," the centre-back said of Ronaldo's winner.

"I was right behind him. His leap, his timing, it was perfect right in the corner.

"We see it day in, day out in training and in the goals he has scored throughout his career. He has come up with a massive goal for us again in the Champions League."

United face Liverpool and Tottenham in the Premier League before travelling to Atalanta on November 2 with a two-point lead at the top of Group F.

Leicester City came from behind to beat Manchester United 4-2 in a thriller on Saturday and end the Red Devils' long unbeaten away run in the Premier League.

It looked as though United's English league record of 29 games without defeat on the road would continue when Mason Greenwood opened the scoring with a stunning strike.

However, Leicester levelled through Youri Tielemans following an error from the returning Harry Maguire, and Caglar Soyuncu prodded home to put the hosts ahead with 12 minutes to go.

In a frantic finale, Marcus Rashford marked his first appearance of the season with an equaliser before Leicester restored their lead from kick-off, Jamie Vardy blasting home from Ayoze Perez's cut-back.

Patson Daka added a fourth in injury time as United lost for the fourth time in seven matches.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended his decision to bench Cristiano Ronaldo before the international break, adamant he is trying to learn from his own mistake of overexerting his players.

Ronaldo was surprisingly named among the substitutes as United could only draw 1-1 with Everton in their most recent Premier League match.

United produced a disappointing performance as they were left with just two wins from their past seven home games in the league.

Ronaldo came on in the second half to make his 200th top-flight appearance for United, becoming only the fifth player since 2003 to reach that milestone in two of Europe's big five leagues.

The Portugal star looked furious as he walked down the tunnel after that match and a video posted by Mixed Martial Arts star Khabib Nurmagomedov – who was a guest of the club – showed Alex Ferguson questioning Solskjaer's decision to rest Ronaldo in a conversation with him.

But while Solskjaer says he would like to play Ronaldo – who scored four goals in two games for Portugal over the past couple of weeks – as much as possible, he insists he is looking out for United's collective conditioning in the long term.

"He's an exceptional player, finisher, goalscorer and professional," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Saturday's clash with Leicester City.

"It's hard to leave him out and everyone would love to play six games [in a row] and play the same XI, it's great, but it's rotation [they need].

"We need to get to May with everyone firing. We got to May and the final stretch last season and we were a little tired.

"I'm the manager, I manage for the club, but of course it's nice to have him on the pitch because he'll always come up with the goods, and the more we have him on the pitch, the better."

While many will expect Ronaldo to start at the King Power Stadium, he could potentially be joined in attack by Marcus Rashford for the first time.

England international Rashford has not played since Euro 2020 after undergoing surgery on a persistent shoulder injury in August.

Solskjaer confirmed the forward will be in the squad on Saturday and did not rule out him starting, though the game will come slightly too soon for captain Harry Maguire.

"[Rashford] is in the squad, yes. If he's starting or not, I can't tell you because it wouldn't be right, but he's been really bright this week.

"He had a 60-minute involvement in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week, so he's fit and raring to go.

"Harry's just joined us on the grass this morning, so that was the first time he's been on the grass."

Fellow England international Jesse Lingard has been the subject of significant speculation in recent months after a blistering loan spell with West Ham last season.

His contract expires at the end of the season and he has been linked with numerous clubs, including Barcelona, though Solskjaer was unequivocal in his desire to keep Lingard at Old Trafford.

"Jesse's had a good start to the season, come on and scored a few goals," Solskjaer said. "He's been important for us.

"We want to prolong his contract; we see him as an important player. It's up to him to get more playing time, and maybe it's up to me giving him more playing time because he deserves to [play], but I always have to leave players out.

"Hopefully we can get a deal sorted for Jesse, because we really rate him and value him around the club. He's a top player and a top person."

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.

 

ROUND-UP

- 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.

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