Dusan Vlahovic has drawn interest from Juventus, Arsenal and Tottenham among others.

The 21-year-old has 18 months remaining on his contract and Fiorentina are keen to maximise their profit on him.

Vlahovic has netted 38 goals in the past 18 months in Serie A.

TOP STORY – FRESH TALKS ON VLAHOVIC DEAL

Juventus are set for fresh talks on Thursday on a deal to sign Fiorentina's Vlahovic, reports Fabrizio Romano.

The Serbia striker has attracted plenty of interest but an agreement between the Bianconeri and Fiorentina is in place.

The stumbling block is Vlahovic's final contract and agent's fees, with a deal potentially set to trigger Alvaro Morata's exit to Barcelona, although Romano claims there are no new talks on that.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal claims that Barcelona are working on a plan to raise €100million (£83m) in funds to lure Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland to the Catalan club. The Blaugrana are determined to win the race to sign Haaland despite interest from wealthy giants Real MadridManchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Bayern Munich's 32-year-old forward Thomas Muller has drawn interest from Newcastle United and Everton as he approaches the final year of his contract, claims Sport Bild.

- L'Equipe claims that Bruno Guimaraes had told Lyon he wants to join Newcastle after the Magpies tabled a bid.

- The Sun reports that Manchester United have put their search for a new manager on hold as they consider whether to make Ralf Rangnick's stay permanent.

- Staying at United, numerous reports in England suggest Jesse Lingard is angry with the club as their demands have put off Newcastle's attempt to sign the player on loan.

- Ousmane Dembele wants to stay at Barcelona after all, according to Sport. The France international's representatives met with Barca boss Xavi this week.

- Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele is set to join Valencia on loan, reports Telefoot.

Anthony Martial explained his reason for leaving Manchester United on loan is that he wants to "enjoy football again".

Sevilla announced the temporary signing of the France international on Tuesday, with Martial moving to LaLiga until the end of the season.

While the finances behind the deal have not been revealed, it was reported that it will cost Sevilla roughly €6million, a fee that combines Martial's salary and a loan fee.

Sevilla sporting director Monchi did appear to confirm Martial took a pay cut to get the deal over the line, as United apparently wanted the forward's reported £240,000-a-week (€287,000) wages covered in full.

United interim boss Ralf Rangnick revealed last month that Martial wanted out after struggling for first-team football – he has played the full 90 minutes of a game only once this season and featured for just eight minutes since Rangnick's first game in early December.

Martial considers finding enjoyment again to be his priority.

"For me, it was just about the feeling I had with the manager [Julen Lopetegui], and I decided that at the moment I wanted to come to Sevilla," he told Sevilla's media channels.

"I spoke with him [Lopetegui] a few times, he was very excited to see me coming here to play.

"For me, it's a good club. Whatever, it's not just about money, it's to play and enjoy. That's it, that's why I chose to come here: to play and enjoy football again.

"I feel excited, it's a good club in Spain. I come to help and do a great job. I know they have good players, I'm just coming to help, give my best and try to win a trophy for the fans."

During a behind-the-scenes video of Martial's arrival and introduction to the club, Monchi thanked the striker for making the move happen.

"Thank you, in front of the president and vice president, for the effort you made to come here," he said.

"For us, it's important that a player wants to come here, but even more so that they want to come so much they make some economic sacrifices. It's an honour for us."

Martial could make his Sevilla debut against Osasuna after the international break.

He joins the club second in LaLiga and just four points behind leaders Real Madrid, with Lopetegui's men hoping to defy the odds by claiming a first league title since 1945-46.

They also remain in Europe and next month face Dinamo Zagreb in the knockout round play-offs of the Europa League, the final of which is to be held in Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in May.

Arsenal's search of attacking reinforcements has apparently led to Alexander Isak after it became clear Dusan Vlahovic is seemingly headed to Juventus.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of form and ostracised at the Emirates Stadium and Alexandre Lacazette struggling for goals, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is desperate to land attacking reinforcements in January.

Their hunt for Fiorentina hitman Vlahovic has apparently failed but Sweden star Isak may be a potential option for the Premier League side.

TOP STORY – ISAK THE MAN FOR MIKEL?

Vlahovic has been a man in demand during the January transfer window, though it appears Juve have won the race in a €75million deal.

Arsenal are now thought to be turning their attention to Real Sociedad forward Isak, and are reportedly ready to make him their club-record signing by paying £75million, which would trigger Isak's release clause.

Isak scored 17 goals in 34 LaLiga outings last term, but he has managed just four from 18 top-flight appearances in 2021-22 thus far.

ROUND UP

- Newcastle United's pursuit of new players in their fight against relegation has reportedly led to a €40m (£33.5m) bid for Lyon's defensive midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, according to the Guardian. Arsenal and Juventus have also been touted as potential suitors.

- The Evening Standard says Tottenham are planning a loan deal for Fiorentina's Sofyan Amrabat as Antonio Conte looks to bolster his midfield with Tanguy Ndombele, Dele Alli and Giovani Lo Celso all set to be allowed to leave. A move for Georginio Wijnaldum, whose move to Paris Saint-Germain has not exactly gone to plan, has also been tipped.

- Germany full-back Robin Gosens could be about to swap Atalanta for Serie A rivals Inter, with a move in the "final stages", says Fabrizio Romano.

- Nicolas Tagliafico has told Ajax he wants to joined Barcelona in what he considers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Goal first reported Barca coach Xavi was eyeing the left-back to provide competition for Jordi Alba.

- Donny van de Beek is seemingly headed for a loan move out of Manchester United. Crystal Palace are said by Sky Sports to be in direct negotiations with the Red Devils, while a temporary switch to Valencia is also an option.

Anthony Martial will play the remainder of the 2021-22 season on loan in LaLiga with Sevilla after falling out of favour at Manchester United.

France international Martial has reportedly taken a pay cut to join the Andalusian club, who it is said will pay €6million for salary and a loan fee combined.

United interim boss Ralf Rangnick revealed last month that Martial had asked to leave the club in January after struggling for first-team football following a return from injury.

Rangnick then claimed in the wake of United's 2-2 Premier League draw with Aston Villa that Martial was not with the squad because he "didn't want" to be involved – the forward refuted those claims.

While Rangnick drew a line under the situation, he hinted United were negotiating exits for several players ahead of the transfer deadline, and Sevilla's tactic of playing the long game has paid off.

LaLiga's second-placed side were linked with Martial last month, but reports suggested they could not get anywhere near the player's wage demands, and United were seemingly unwilling to lower their own demands.

But a breakthrough in negotiations has seen the clubs reach an agreement that Sevilla will hope significantly boosts their chances in LaLiga's title race.

After 22 matches played, Sevilla are just four points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Throughout January, they have been linked with forwards due to injuries and a general lack of goals scored – their 34 in LaLiga is the fewest of those in the top four and 13 behind Madrid's tally.

Rafa Mir is their top scorer in the league despite a fairly underwhelming total of six in 20 appearances, with the pre-season arrival from Wolves struggling to pick up the slack for Youssef En-Nesyri, who has been absent through injury and Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Sevilla will hope Martial can hit the ground running after the international break, but he may be lacking match sharpness given he has played the full 90 minutes of a game once all season and has played just eight minutes of football since Rangnick's first match in charge in early December.

Anthony Martial will play the remainder of the 2021-22 season on loan in LaLiga with Sevilla after falling out of favour at Manchester United.

France international Martial has reportedly taken a pay cut to join the Andalusian club, who it is said will pay €6million for salary and a loan fee combined.

United interim boss Ralf Rangnick revealed last month that Martial had asked to leave the club in January after struggling for first-team football following a return from injury.

Rangnick then claimed in the wake of United's 2-2 Premier League draw with Aston Villa that Martial was not with the squad because he "didn't want" to be involved – the forward refuted those claims.

While Rangnick drew a line under the situation, he hinted United were negotiating exits for several players ahead of the transfer deadline, and Sevilla's tactic of playing the long game has paid off.

LaLiga's second-placed side were linked with Martial last month, but reports suggested they could not get anywhere near the player's wage demands, and United were seemingly unwilling to lower their own demands.

But a breakthrough in negotiations has seen the clubs reach an agreement that Sevilla will hope significantly boosts their chances in LaLiga's title race.

After 22 matches played, Sevilla are just four points behind leaders Real Madrid.

Throughout January, they have been linked with forwards due to injuries and a general lack of goals scored – their 34 in LaLiga is the fewest of those in the top four and 13 behind Madrid's tally.

Rafa Mir is their top scorer in the league despite a fairly underwhelming total of six in 20 appearances, with the pre-season arrival from Wolves struggling to pick up the slack for Youssef En-Nesyri, who has been absent through injury and Africa Cup of Nations duty.

Sevilla will hope Martial can hit the ground running after the international break, but he may be lacking match sharpness given he has played the full 90 minutes of a game once all season and has played just eight minutes of football since Rangnick's first match in charge in early December.

Anthony Martial has made no secret of his desire to leave Manchester United in the January window – and the France international appears to have been granted his wish.

Restricted to just four starts in all competitions this season, Martial has very much been on the periphery at United in what is his seventh campaign at the club.

However, there are no shortage of suitors for Martial and it looks increasingly likely that the 26-year-old will spend the remainder of the campaign away from Old Trafford.


TOP STORY – SECOND TIME LUCKY FOR SEVILLA

Sevilla had a loan bid for Martial rejected earlier this month, but Goal reports that the issues have been ironed out and the out-of-favour forward is now set to undergo a medical.

Juventus are said to have been among a number of other European sides in the running to sign Martial, but Sevilla were always his preferred destination.

The LaLiga club are expected to pay a loan fee for the former Monaco man, potentially as much as €5.96million (£5m), while the player himself will accept a cut in wages.


ROUND-UP

– After growing frustrated in their attempt to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, The Sun reports that Arsenal may now instead go after Real Madrid's Luka Jovic this month.

– Calciomercato claims that Serie A leaders Inter are close to strengthening their squad with the addition of striker Felipe Caicedo from Genoa.

Watford are set to move quickly on the back of sacking head coach Claudio Ranieri by bringing in Roy Hodgson as early as Tuesday, according to Sky Sports.

– Goal suggest that Bayern Munich are targeting Chelsea's Andreas Christensen on a free transfer after Niklas Sule turned down the offer of a new contract in Bavaria.

Manchester City are increasingly confident of wrapping up a deal for Julian Alvarez. However, the Daily Mail reports that the striker will initially remain on loan with River Plate.

Newcastle United have made a fresh approach for Man Utd winger Jesse Lingard, according to The Telegraph. The Magpies are happy to pay a £6m loan fee.

Manchester United are in negotiations with rival clubs in a bid to find solutions for their wantaway stars, Ralf Rangnick has confirmed.

There are a number of high-profile players on the fringes of United's expensively assembled squad who might be interested in a move before the January transfer window closes.

Reports suggest Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek are among those who might hope to leave before the end of the month.

Lingard is a target for Newcastle United, Rangnick revealed prior to Saturday's win over West Ham, while Sevilla are said to hold an interest in Martial, and Van de Beek – formerly a top performer at Ajax – would surely have suitors.

It had previously been suggested the Red Devils would be reluctant to reduce the size of their squad due to the risk of being left short in the event of a coronavirus outbreak.

But Rangnick's latest comments appear to indicate United will work with those players who see their futures elsewhere.

"I don't know [what's going to happen]," the interim manager said. "I know which players would want to leave.

"I know that there are some negotiations with clubs but I am not involved in that. I will probably be posted and made aware if something is happening. We will all have to wait and see what happens."

Lingard and Martial have found themselves further down the pecking order as the season has worn on.

With teenager Anthony Elanga coming into the side, even Marcus Rashford has had to settle for a role on the bench, scoring as a substitute in United's past two matches.

"We have a lot of wingers and outstanding players in that position," Rangnick. "Jadon [Sancho] was not available [against West Ham], but we have a lot of players for those two positions, and Marcus is one of them.

"Right now, yes, he scored twice in two consecutive games when he came from the bench, but of course his ambition is to play regularly from the start.

"And if he continuously plays on a high level and scores goals, of course this is the best way back in the team and to play from the beginning."

Ralf Rangnick admitted he took a punt that paid off after Manchester United's super-subs combined for a priceless winner against West Ham.

United's German interim boss sent on forwards Marcus Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial to join Cristiano Ronaldo in attack, and that quartet conjured a dramatic goal three minutes into stoppage time.

Rashford tucked in from close range after Ronaldo fed Martial, who relayed the ball to Cavani, with the Uruguayan narrowly beating the offside line before delivering the perfect low cross.

After huffing and puffing without reward until that point, United could celebrate and the Old Trafford crowd was jubilant as the home side pinched a 1-0 win that lifts them to fourth place, at least for a short while, in the Premier League. Arsenal and Tottenham have the chance to jump ahead of United on Sunday.

United have scored eight goals via substitutes in the Premier League this season, said Opta, more than any other team. Old habits die hard.

Rashford's goal also meant that for the second time this season, West Ham were denied a point by a late United winner from a substitute, with Jesse Lingard's 89th-minute effort having decided the London Stadium tussle between the teams in September.

On that previous occasion, West Ham were thrown a lifeline when Luke Shaw handled and they were awarded a penalty, only for more substitute drama to follow. Mark Noble was sent from the bench to take the spot-kick, but the specialist missed.

This time, the goal came too late for any similar drama to follow.

"It couldn't have been better than that, if you score in the last second of the game. It was amazing," Rangnick told MUTV.

"Enormous important win and physically a great performance.

"I'm extremely happy for the boys. They did it, and we had to take some risks in the last 15 minutes.

"We played almost with four strikers in a 4-2-4, but we knew we had to win that game and that's why we decided to take that risk."

Rashford has been directly involved in more goals against West Ham in all competitions than he has against any other side at club level (eight – four goals, four assists).

He has hit four winners in the 90th minute or stoppage time in his United career, which is twice as many as any other Red Devils player in the Premier League era.

United have now won 21 of their 26 Premier League home games against West Ham (D3 L2) and are unbeaten in their last 14 against them at Old Trafford since a 1-0 loss in May 2007.

Another notable detail is that Saturday's hosts have only lost once in their last 10 Premier League games (W6 D3). This was their first clean sheet in the competition in six matches, another plus for Rangnick as United rebuild in the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer months.

All the positives aside, there were still elements that disappointed Rangnick in United's display, and it had been shaping up as a game to forget before the late twist.

After a win at Brentford on Wednesday, United looked flat at times against West Ham, who almost snatched the lead before Rashford's intervention when Tomas Soucek headed just wide.

"We didn't always find the right solutions in possession of the ball, especially in the final third of the game," Rangnick said. "But the way we played defensively after having played only three days ago at Brentford, I was really impressed by the team.

"I'm still not quite happy the way that we play in possession of the ball, so this will have to be the next step in the next couple of weeks."

Marcus Rashford hit a last-gasp winner as Manchester United jumped ahead of West Ham in the race for the Champions League with a 1-0 Old Trafford success.

A drab game looked destined to end in goalless stalemate until Edinson Cavani's low cross from the left was turned in from close range by fellow substitute Rashford in the third minute of stoppage time.

Cavani appeared to be possibly offside when he collected a pass from Anthony Martial, but a VAR review allowed the goal to stand, leaving the Hammers devastated.

The result means West Ham manager David Moyes has now not won an away league match against his former club in 15 attempts (L11 D4).

The race for Erling Haaland's signature will be a huge story in 2022.

The 21-year-old sensation has interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Haaland has netted 63 goals in the past 18 months for Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Dortmund's Haaland, according to ESPN.

The Red Devils will focus on alternative attacking options with uncertainty around Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo's futures at the club while Haaland is favouring a move to Real Madrid.

United have had a long-standing interest in the Norwegian, who has a €75 million (£62m) release clause on his Dortmund contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

- Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

- Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

- Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

- French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

- Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

Cristiano Ronaldo has emerged as an injury doubt for the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham on Saturday.

The Portugal star played 71 minutes of the 3-1 win at Brentford on Wednesday before being substituted - a decision with which he was clearly annoyed.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick insisted he had no problem with the player becoming frustrated at going off and that it would not affect his chances of facing the Hammers at Old Trafford.

However, Rangnick later confirmed Ronaldo suffered a neck injury during the victory over Brentford that could keep him out of the game.

"Cristiano is a question mark because he has a problem with his neck," he said to MUTV on Friday.

"He received treatment yesterday [Thursday] for two, three hours and we will have to wait to see how he feels today."

Edinson Cavani missed the match at Brentford Community Stadium and he too is facing a race to be fit for the visit of David Moyes' men.

"Edi hasn't been training with the team yet and will hopefully resume training today and then we'll take the final decision after the training session, [around] if he will be available for the game," Rangnick said.

Losing Ronaldo and Cavani presents United with a possible striker shortage given Anthony Martial is attempting to secure a move away from the club.

Rangnick left Martial out of the 2-2 draw at Aston Villa, saying the France international had told him he did not want to be involved – a claim Martial later disputed.

Jesse Lingard will be available to face the club for whom he excelled on loan last season, while Jadon Sancho, who missed the Brentford match due to a family funeral, could be involved.

"We need to see where Jadon stands," said Rangnick. "He didn't train yesterday. As you know, he attended a funeral on Wednesday and didn't want to train yesterday as he is still affected by that. We will have to see.

"I will see him for training today and speak with him after the training session, to see if he is in the state of mind, and also his energy [is there], so he can be available for tomorrow."

Aaron Wan-Bissaka will also be missing again with illness, while Victor Lindelof will sit out the game after a burglary of his family home, but midfielder Scott McTominay hopes to be involved after battling a back problem.

Victor Lindelof will miss Manchester United's clash with West Ham as he wants to stay with his family after his house was broken into on Wednesday.

Lindelof started alongside Raphael Varane in a 3-1 win at Brentford, but during the clash in London entered his home while his wife and children hid inside.

The 27-year-old's wife, Maja, revealed on Instagram she locked herself and her two children in a room before the intruders entered the house.

United interim manager Ralf Rangnick confirmed on Friday that the Sweden international will be unavailable for Saturday's Premier League meeting with West Ham as he wants to be with his family.

"I spoke with him at length on our flight back home from London," Rangnick told reporters at his pre-match news conference. 

"Also, we spoke for about 20, 25 minutes this morning. He told me what had actually happened and that this was a traumatic event especially for his wife and three-year-old son.

"He said to me that he right now needs to stay at home. He doesn't want to leave his wife and family on their own, which I can fully understand, being a father of two children myself. 

"We agreed that he will not be training today and won't be available tomorrow for the game."

Jadon Sancho, who was absent for the trip to the Brentford Community Stadium, remains a doubt for the encounte with the Hammers.

The former Borussia Dortmund winger missed the meeting with Thomas Frank's side as he was at a family funeral on the same day. Rangnick remains unsure whether Sancho will available to face West Ham.

"Jadon didn't train because he still asked to be able to not train," he added. "He attended the funeral on Wednesday. It's still affected him quite a lot. He's expected back today at three o'clock. 

"Right now, I'm not sure if he will be available because it was an important member of the family, someone he was close to all his life. We've got to wait and see and speak after training."

The Red Devils will be without Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who remain out injured, so Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles will likely continue at full-back.

United sit seventh in the Premier League, two points behind fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand.

Not many would have predicted before the season that Manchester United versus West Ham represented a key game in the battle for the top four, but that's where we are.

The Red Devils' win over Brentford moved them to within two points of the Hammers in fourth, with a game in hand, meaning Saturday's clash at Old Trafford offers a good chance to make some headway in the race to finish behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

It also gives David Moyes the chance to end a pretty rotten record at the home of his old club – and that's not including the nine months he was in charge there – as well as the chance for West Ham to avenge their defeat in the reverse fixture.

Let's not forget they have already won away against United in 2021-22 – and not many teams manage to do that twice in a season. The last one, in fact, was managed by Jose Mourinho.


BEDEVILLED

United have won 20 of their 25 home games against West Ham in the Premier League, their last defeat coming in May 2007, when soon-to-be Red Devil Carlos Tevez secured a 1-0 win for the visitors.

Yet their record when London clubs come calling hasn't been so strong of late: they have lost three of the previous eight home games against teams from the capital, as many such defeats as they suffered in 38 matches at Old Trafford between 2013-14 and 2019-20.

West Ham, of course, boast the rare feat of being above United in the table: while they sit fourth, United are seventh. Only four times previously in the Premier League era have the Hammers faced them while being placed higher in the standings; interestingly, they failed to win any of them, losing 2-1 in August 1995 and September 2014, drawing 0-0 in August 1998 and losing 3-1 in December 2020.

'PLAY LIKE FERGIE'S BOYS...'

Moyes has done a quite brilliant job at West Ham since being parachuted in to rescue them in December 2019. Since the start of 2020-21, he has managed 30 wins from 60 league matches, accruing 102 points in that time. The only sides with more victories and more points are United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Old Trafford, though, is not a happy hunting ground for the former United boss. He has drawn four and lost 10 of his away games at the stadium as a Premier League manager; only Harry Redknapp (15 games) has visited more often in the competition without a single win.

That being said, Moyes did lead West Ham to victory on this ground in the EFL Cup back in September, and they could become just the fourth team to beat United away twice in the same season after Aston Villa (1919-20), Tottenham (1989-90) and Chelsea (2004-05).

BOWEN'S ROAD RAGE, HAMMER TIME FOR RONALDO

Cristiano Ronaldo scored in United's dramatic 2-1 win in the reverse fixture in September, in which he was also denied a couple of pretty strong penalty shouts before Mark Noble's injury-time spot-kick was saved by David de Gea.

The Portugal great has always quite enjoyed facing the Hammers, with six goals and one assist in his five league appearances against them. He was directly involved in seven of the 10 United goals in those matches, in fact, so you wouldn't bet against him keeping up that record – assuming, of course, he isn't having a strop on the bench instead.

Jarrod Bowen, arguably West Ham's most in-form player, is another who will be hoping to make an impact.

He has scored six and assisted seven goals in his past 18 league appearances, including goals in his most recent two, but the former Hull City man has only scored three times in 43 top-flight matches on the road, converting a meagre four per cent of his shots (3/69).

Bowen has played seven times against United from the start, but he's never scored, and only twice has he even lasted the whole game.

SATURDAY SLUMP

It's a minor novelty in itself that United are playing a match at 15:00 local time on a Saturday. Such is their global appeal that broadcasters are usually quick to shift them to a more viewer-friendly kick-off time.

Ralf Rangnick might actually have preferred a different slot. United have lost their most recent two games to start at this time on a Saturday, both of which were this season: 4-2 at Leicester City, and 4-1 at Watford, a result that ended the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Never before have they lost three in a row when playing at this time.

United's opening league game of 2022 ended in a 1-0 loss to Wolves at Old Trafford. They have not lost their first two home league matches in a year since 1985, when Ron Atkinson's side were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City. They did go on to finish fourth, though...

Ralf Rangnick insisted that his priority will always be with the Manchester United team and not certain individuals amid ongoing questions over Cristiano Ronaldo's behaviour at Brentford.

United sit seventh in the Premier League but are two points behind fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand after defeating Brentford 3-1 on Wednesday.

Ronaldo played a part in Mason Greenwood's goal, the second for United, at the Brentford Community Stadium but was removed nine minutes later, seemingly much to the Portugal captain's disgust.

The 36-year-old appeared annoyed as he wandered towards the dugout, where he sat on the steps as he continued to gesture as if he was asking why he had been substituted.

Rangnick, who could be seen having a word in Ronaldo's ear minutes later in an attempt to defuse the situation, said post-match that the commotion did not concern him, a stance he once again reiterated on Friday.

"I think we shouldn't make too much of a fuss out of it," Rangnick responded when asked about Ronaldo at a pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's clash with West Ham.

"I can only speak for myself and my coaching staff. I explained that to him during the game, we had a little conversation after we scored the third goal. In fact, I told him the same as what I said in our press conference. 

"The job of a football manager is to help the team win the game and it was clear from our experience at Villa Park that this time we have to do things better. 

"We did it better and the only question was, who do we take off? Of course, Cristiano is a prolific goalscorer and he's a player that will always want to play and score goals. 

"The team is more important than whoever – Cristiano, Edinson [Cavani], Bruno [Fernandes].

"He was also asking why me 'why didn't you take off one of the younger players?'. The answer came five minutes later when one of the younger players scored the third goal. 

"Maybe Cristiano could have also scored the third goal, but football is not about maybe, it is about taking a decision in the right moment."

Asked for further clarification on his decision to send on centre-back Harry Maguire for Ronaldo, Rangnick added: "In a way in football it's a bit like chess, things can change so quickly during the game. 

"If you watched last night's semi-final [between Arsenal and Liverpool] in the EFL Cup things can change from one minute to another.

"In some parts of the game, you are dominating the game, pinning the other team back, and all of sudden it can be different. 

"Therefore it is important to be able to react to what the game needs now, to what the team needs and we had exactly the same decision at Brentford as at Villa, 70 minutes played, 2-0 up against a team who does not give up. 

"For me, it was logical with the negative experience we had at Villa Park to do it differently this time and it was clear we bring on Harry [Maguire] and then defend this 2-0 result and in the end we even scored a third one on the counter-attack and it was clear we were going to win the game."

Ronaldo will likely lead the line again at home to David Moyes' Champions League-chasing Hammers, who the striker has scored seven goals in his last five top-flight appearances against.

West Ham, however, have already won away at Old Trafford this season, winning 1-0 in the EFL Cup. Only three teams have ever won twice away against the Red Devils in the same season – Aston Villa (1919-20), Tottenham Hotspur (1989-90) and Chelsea (2004-05).

Rangnick appreciates he has to take a game at a time at the United helm as he refused to look to far ahead in terms of rebuilding at the club.

"My full focus as I have indicated is to win games with this team, in order to win games as a team we need to develop as a team," he continued.

"We need to improve in some areas, we have done so in the last couple of weeks, but there is still more space for that in vast areas of our game and this is where my focus is. 

"I'm not dealing with what might happen in four or five months, that is not on top of my list.

"It's about how we can win the game against West Ham, then the cup against Middlesbrough and then Burnley, playing Southampton and Brighton [and Hove Albion] at home, this is where my focus is."

The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

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