Gary Neville believes Manchester United will make an announcement on a new manager in a "week or so" following reports the club has met with Ajax boss Erik ten Hag.

The Red Devils have been looking for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's permanent successor since appointing Ralf Rangnick in charge on an interim basis back in November.

Dutchman Ten Hag has been frequently linked to the post, alongside Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Now, Neville anticipates that the club could be closing in on their preferred candidate.

"Reports [suggest] Ten Hag has been interviewed this week," the former United defender wrote on Twitter.

"If formal interviews have started and with it being such a public process I would expect a new manager announcement within a week or so."

United are hiring their third permanent manager in the space of six years, following Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer's tenures in the top job.

Since taking the reins, Rangnick has won nine of his 20 games in charge at Old Trafford, but has been unable to prevent the club from going another season empty handed.

Ajax boss Ten Hag meanwhile is on course to lead the Eredivisie outfit to a third successive league title (the 2019-20 season was voided due to the coronavirus pandemic). They have just three top-flight losses this season and lead PSV by two points in the table.

Manchester United great Paul Scholes was once again left questioning the club's wisdom in hiring Ralf Rangnick as interim manager after Sunday's 4-1 derby humiliation by Manchester City.

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez got two goals apiece at the Etihad Stadium, as City restored their lead at the Premier League summit to six points over Liverpool.

United – without Cristiano Ronaldo due to a hip injury – started the game well and were good value for their 22nd-minute equaliser by Jadon Sancho, but thereafter it was one-way traffic as Rangnick suffered only his second Premier League defeat in 14 matches.

Despite that record, Scholes cannot get past Rangnick's lack of recent experience in coaching, having only actually been in charge of a team for two of the previous 10 seasons, instead spending much of his time as a sporting director.

Rangnick was hired as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's replacement at the end of November until the end of the season, at which point he will move into a consultancy role.

The move was initially widely praised as it seemed to suggest United were looking to establish an on-field identity that Rangnick would subsequently be able to influence with big-picture decisions, but Scholes is struggling to see the reasoning behind hiring him as the interim manager.

"What do we expect? We've brought in an interim coach who hasn't coached at an elite team," he told Premier League Productions.

"He hasn't coached a big team, he hasn't coached at a big football club like United where there's so much expected of Manchester United, whoever you're playing against, it doesn't matter. He's never been at a top club. He's coached a club for two years out of the last 10 years.

"How have United behind the scenes come to the conclusion that this man is going to be the right man for six or seven months? It baffles me. The players are lost on the football pitch.

"The first 20 minutes I was surprised, they played really well, they were comfortable on the ball, [Paul] Pogba up front looked alright. His [Rangnick's] subs have worked the last few weeks don't get me wrong, but it was a deflated team.

"As much as you can have a go at United, they were playing against possibly one of the best teams we've seen. In the second half, the players looked lost. They looked like they didn't have a clue what they were doing."

Prior to the weekend, Rangnick had been praised for improving United defensively. Before Sunday's hammering, they had conceded 10 goals in 13 league games under the German, having let in 21 in 12 with Solskjaer at the helm – only Norwich City and Newcastle United (27 each) had worse records at the time of the Norwegian's sacking.

But Scholes believes their change in fortunes at the back is a red herring, and the data seems to back him up to a certain degree.

David de Gea's saves since Rangnick's arrival have accounted for the prevention of six goals the average goalkeeper would not be expected to prevent, second only to Jose Sa (6.1).

Sa (192) is also the only keeper to face more shots than De Gea (180) in that time as well, suggesting United are not much better defensively than before – they are just relying on their goalkeeper's improved form.

"They were lucky it's not five or six. Again the goalkeeper, five or six saves," Scholes continued.

"We spoke before the game saying defensively since Ole's gone [Rangnick]'s shored things up – he hadn't. Never in a million years.

"He's kidding himself if he thinks that. The keeper has stopped him from getting batterings for a long time. [Sunday] was exactly the same."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's daughter Karna made her debut for Manchester United Women in Sunday's 2-0 win against Bridgwater.

The forward was brought on as a late substitute at Fairfax Park with United already two goals ahead in the Women's FA Cup fourth-round tie.

Karna's father Ole, who played for and managed United's men's side, and wife Silje were among the 2,500 spectators in attendance.

An own goal from Charlotte Buxton gave United a half-time lead and Ella Toone added a second eight minutes from time.

Manchester United football director John Murtough insists the club will not rush their search for the next permanent manager at Old Trafford. 

The Red Devils appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim boss until the end of the season following the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.

The former Schalke coach has won both his Premier League games in temporary charge of United, earning 1-0 victories over Crystal Palace and Norwich City, while they are due to face Newcastle United on Monday.

The club will seek to appoint a long-term successor to former striker Solskjaer at the conclusion of the campaign, with Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag reportedly among the leading candidates.

Murtough told a fans' forum: "Out of respect for Ole, we did not approach other managers before he left. 

"Our plan then was to appoint an experienced interim manager and Ralf was our clear first choice.

"He's someone I have admired for a long time, and we're delighted he's here. By bringing in Ralf, we can now take time to run a thorough process for our next permanent manager.

"Recruiting a manager is one of the most important decisions a football club makes, so we want to do it in a careful and considered fashion."

Murtough was sad to see Solskjaer depart following the 4-1 defeat at Watford, paying tribute to the Norwegian's contributions since replacing Jose Mourinho in December 2018.

"There were grounds for confidence that we were going to continue building on the progress we saw in the prior two seasons," Murtough added. 

"After the promising early-season results, things went off plan.

"As a club, we felt Ole had earned the right to be given the chance to turn things round, but didn't get a reaction after the international break, and the Watford game made it clear change was needed.

"We're all disappointed at Ole's departure, but he deserves to be judged on his record over the past three years, not his last few weeks. 

"He reset the club's culture and reshaped the squad, leaving us in a stronger position today than when he returned in 2018."

Manchester United's Champions League campaign has been one of the finest of margins, to say the least.

A shock defeat at Wednesday's opponents Young Boys on matchday one was a dreadful start, and at numerous occasions in their following two matches they appeared to be in trouble again.

They needed late winners from Cristiano Ronaldo at home to both Villarreal and Atalanta, coming back from 2-0 down at half-time against the Italians.

Ronaldo then got a last-gasp equaliser away to Atalanta to salvage a 2-2 draw. Had he not delivered the goods on that occasion, United would have gone to Villarreal on matchday five knowing they could be eliminated there and then.

As it was, they ultimately left Spain with a 2-0 win thanks to a couple of goals in the final 12 minutes, with Michael Carrick – who had taken up a caretaker manager position after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal – ensuring United finished top of the group.

Ralf Rangnick will be United's third manager of the group stage when Young Boys visit, and he has the luxury of being able to rest certain players and give others a chance to impress.

So, who will be hoping for a rare opportunity?

Dean Henderson

It wasn't perfect, but Henderson's first season in the Man United first team last term was promising. David de Gea suffered a knee injury that allowed the academy product his first serious run in the side after previously impressing on loan at Sheffield United.

He featured 26 times for the Red Devils across all competitions, keeping as many clean sheets (12) as De Gea despite playing 10 matches fewer.

De Gea prevented fractionally more goals over the season (1.9 to 1.6), according to Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) data, although Henderson boasted a better save percentage (75.8 to 66.4).

This season, due to injury and illness – and De Gea's improved form – Henderson has only managed a single appearance.

With rumours linking him with a loan move to Ajax in January, it's certainly a good time to start getting minutes again, whether that's to improve his standing at United or put himself in the shop window.

Donny Van de Beek

As with Henderson, Rangnick confirmed Van de Beek will start on Wednesday, which will make it five appearances since Solskjaer was sacked; up until that point, the former Ajax midfielder had played in just six games all season.

It's been well publicised how Van de Beek's career seemingly stalled after joining United, making only four Premier League starts in 2020-21, despite costing just over £40million, and falling out of favour at international level.

Solskjaer appeared unsure how best to utilise Van de Beek's talents, but at the very least he looks set for a few more opportunities under Rangnick.

He's one of several who have been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, but an eye-catching display against Young Boys might just provide Rangnick with proof Van de Beek can be a valuable option in midfield.

Jesse Lingard

Everything was looking promising for Lingard at the start of the season. He'd returned from a remarkable loan spell at West Ham and Solskjaer was talking a good game about how much football the attacking midfielder was going to get.

Fast forward to the present day... Lingard has racked up just 87 minutes in the Premier League, with those coming across eight brief substitute appearances.

This has hardly been ideal given United apparently rejected bids of around £25m for Lingard in pre-season because Solskjaer wanted him for the first team; additionally, the England man's contract expires at the end of the season, so if they cannot convince him that he'll be playing, the club looks certain to lose a valuable asset for free.

Last season reminded everyone Lingard is not lacking talent. Between his Hammers debut in February and the end of 2020-21, the 28-year-old scored nine times in the Premier League, a haul bettered by just five players.

Only one of those was a penalty, leaving him with a non-penalty expected goals (xG) outperformance of 4.7, the second-best record in that time. Of course, such form isn't necessarily sustainable, but it speaks to how effective Lingard can be when he has the belief of his manager.

Rangnick would do well to recognise that.

Amad Diallo

It's been a difficult season for Ivory Coast winger Amad. He was about to go on loan at the start of the season before an injury robbed him of that opportunity.

He returned to the pitch for United's Under-23s at the end of October and has played two games for them, netting a couple of goals against Leeds United.

United are well-stocked in the wide positions, which provides another obstacle, but Amad has been on the bench twice in the past few weeks under Carrick – against Villarreal and Arsenal.

One would expect United to arrange another loan move for Amad in January, but before then he may just represent something of a wildcard option for the new manager.

Teden Mengi

Centre-back Mengi has been highly rated at United for a while and even spent the second half of last season on loan at Derby County.

It seemed likely he'd return to Pride Park for 2021-22, but a deal was apparently scuppered by Derby's financial woes, with Mengi instead staying with United's Under-23s.

Mengi spent the pre-season with the first team and featured for Solskjaer's side, although that did not translate to any minutes in competitive action.

But with Raphael Varane not ready to return from injury and Phil Jones not registered in the Champions League, United's senior options at centre-back are limited to just Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly.

If Rangnick does want wholesale changes, which has been suggested, Mengi may be a surprise starter – and what an opportunity it would represent for the 19-year-old.

Raphael Varane learned a lot from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and has compared the recently departed Manchester United boss to ex-Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane.

France international Varane joined United from Madrid in August and spent three months working under Solskjaer before the Norwegian was dismissed by the Red Devils two weeks ago.

Solskjaer left Old Trafford having failed to win any silverware in his three years at the helm, which is in stark contrast to the 11 trophies lifted by Zidane across two spells as Madrid boss, with Varane a key player under his compatriot.

Despite appearing just nine times for new club United prior to Solskjaer's exit in what has been an injury-plagued start to his Old Trafford tenure, Varane was impressed by Solskjaer's coaching ability.

"I spoke with him before signing. He's a very good person and humble with important values and in the short time here he taught me a lot of things, values and a lot of things about the club, the mentality of the club," Varane told The Times.

"He represents a lot of things of this club: very respectful, humble. He always tried to do his best. Sometimes when you speak about something sensitive, it's like a bit negative because it's like a weakness. But it's not true. It's a strength.

"When he speaks with a player, he's honest. It's important for a manager to be honest with his players and especially this point it's similar with Zidane. Maybe that's why I like this feeling. It was a short time working with him but I learn a lot."

Varane won three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns among an array of other trophies during a decade-long spell at Madrid that saw him rack up over 350 appearances in the Spanish capital.

However, the 28-year-old says he and his Madrid colleagues could not always celebrate their triumphs as winning titles is what was expected of them, something that played a part in his decision to leave the club.

"After winning the Champions League, the fans don't congratulate you," he told The Telegraph. "It was 'OK, the next one' after the first one I won.

"Four Champions Leagues! And they tell me, 'OK, go to the next one'. I just want to say sometimes you have to enjoy what you have. It was good!"

Varane added: "Sometimes I wanted to push the pause button, find some time to celebrate. That's why Madrid are special. It's because of this special mentality too.

"It's different. That's why I wanted to change, not because I don't like this mentality or because it's bad. It's very good, but I just wanted to try something different."

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY'S ROLLER COASTER 3-2 WIN OVER ARSENAL

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

RONALDO BEING A KEY MAN IN HIS PLANS

"Having seen Cristiano yesterday in the second half, at the age of 36 he is an amazing, top professional. At his age, I've never seen a player who is still that physically fit. He's still a player who can easily make the difference. We play in the most competitive league in the world, so we need all the players on board. What I saw from Cristiano yesterday, he's more than willing to do that, to put his input into the team. The other team-mates will have to do the same."

FINDING THE RIGHT BLEND OF BRAIN AND BRAWN

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

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

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

HIS LONG-RUNNING LOVE AFFAIR WITH ENGLISH FOOTBALL

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

HOW UNITED CAN PROGRESS UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP

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

HOW TO COMPETE WITH CHELSEA, MANCHESTER CITY AND LIVERPOOL

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

SLOWING DOWN UNITED'S TURNOVER OF MANAGERS

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

COULD THE INTERIM BECOME PERMANENT?

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

Ralf Rangnick has hinted he would consider staying in charge of Manchester United beyond the end of the season.

The new interim boss has been appointed to guide United through the remainder of this campaign after the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

He gave a first news conference as United boss on Friday morning and began to lay out a manifesto, while speaking of a long-held love affair with English football.

The 63-year-old accepts it will be difficult to make immediate changes because he is joining close to the halfway point in a season, and time on the training pitch between games is limited.

But the former RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim head coach feels he can make a difference at Old Trafford, and he is not ruling out the possibility of staying on for longer than is currently planned.

"The people with whom I've spoken so far, they have been very clear that we're talking about a six-and-a-half-month role as a manager currently," Rangnick said

"We have never spoken about what might happen in the summer. Right now I'm fully aware that they might be looking for a new manager.

"If they will then speak with me about that, we will see. Maybe if they ask me my opinion and everything goes well and we develop the team, I might even make the same recommendation to the board that I did at Leipzig twice, when I recommended to them that it might be a good idea to keep working with me for one year, but this is all hypothetical.

"For me now it's about winning the next games, and this is the major focus."

Rangnick was director of football at Leipzig when he put his name forward to be coach, meaning he already carried significant clout regarding such appointments.

He does not come into United with the same level of influence, and it came as a surprise when Rangnick indicated the two-year advisory role he will assume at the season's end is far from a defined position.

Asked what the position would entail, and whether he might have an influence on the club's academy, Rangnick said: "We haven't spoken about that in detail in all the conversations we have had."

Rangnick has been seen as a world-class strategist, a figure that many believe United have been crying out for given how many other clubs have such experienced figures in place.

Such discussions seem likely to occur once he has his feet under the desk, with Rangnick getting straight down to work on Friday by beginning preparations for Sunday's home game with Crystal Palace.

There have already been talks between Rangnick and co-owner Joel Glazer, and the manager revealed he has spoken to Solskjaer too.

"I spoke with Ole last Sunday before the game against Chelsea," Rangnick said.

"He was very generous to spend one and a half hours on the phone with me telling me all his inside details about the team."

Rangnick will wait for the talks about his future and United's plans to take place at a convenient time.

He has spoken to director of football John Murtough, but United are in no rush to pin down plans for the future while there is so much to focus on in the present.

"With all those people we haven't spoken about what will happen in the next two years, from next summer until summer 2024," Rangnick said. "We only spoke about the current situation and how we can find a way to work together."

He wanted Michael Carrick to stay on, but the caretaker manager walked away from United after Thursday's 3-2 win over Arsenal.

"With Michael, I got to know this two days ago," Rangnick said. "I had a long private conversation with him for more than an hour.

"I was trying to convince him to stay on board, but he'd obviously taken the decision weeks ago that he needed a break and a rest after 30 years in professional football. In the end I had to accept that, and I can also understand his decision."

Rangnick said he may bring in up to three new members of staff, possibly before the end of December. But he dampened expectation of possible transfer window arrivals, saying: "We haven't spoken about new players. Now is the time to get to know the current squad in detail.

"The squad is definitely not too small. Maybe at Christmas, after Christmas, there will be a time to speak about possible transfers in the winter.

"From my experience winter is not the best time for sustainable transfers. With this quality of players we have here, it would in theory only make sense if you really get players who can almost guarantee you more quality and this will be difficult in the winter."

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford insisted former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves the ultimate respect, despite his sacking at Old Trafford.

United dismissed Solskjaer following last week's humiliating 4-1 Premier League loss at lowly Watford, the club's fifth defeat in seven league matches.

Solskjaer had been on the brink after an embarrassing 5-0 rout at the hands of rivals Liverpool, while United were outplayed by defending champions and neighbours Manchester City 2-0 prior to the international break.

Ex-United forward Solskjaer took charge from Jose Mourinho initially on an interim basis in December 2018 and oversaw a marked improvement in performance while dispelling the toxic atmosphere that developed during the Portuguese's final weeks at the club.

Solskjaer led United to sixth in his first half-season at the helm, before finishing third in 2019-20 and second in 2020-21, while his team enjoyed an English league record run of 29 away games without defeat.

However, he failed to win a trophy, reaching just one final, going down on penalties to Villarreal in the Europa League last term.

Rashford leapt to the defence of Solskjaer days after his sacking as United reportedly close in on the short-term appointment of Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season, telling BBC: "Ole's Man United at heart, nobody could ever say that he's not.

"For me, the respect that he deserves is huge, not just from us, from the fans as well.

"When Bruno [Fernandes] was on the pitch [at Watford] telling the fans that it's not just him, it's all of us, that's important as well.

"I feel like fans sometimes blame the manager. The manager can't play for us, he can set us up in the best way that he thinks possible.

"Our job is to do them instructions, do what we're good at as well and try to win games. It didn't happen for us in that game, but it's not right to blame the manager.

"I was happy that Bruno did that because it sends a message that even though things weren't going for us, Ole and team, we still respect him.

"Respect is a big thing, it goes a long way and Ole will never lose my respect."

United are eighth in the table and 12 points behind leaders Chelsea ahead of Sunday's trip to Stamford Bridge.

Ajax head coach and rumoured Manchester United target Erik ten Hag said "it's always nice when you are linked to clubs with this status", though the Dutchman stressed his commitment to the Eredivisie champions.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino is reportedly the favourite to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was sacked on Sunday following a humiliating 4-1 Premier League rout at Watford.

However, Ten Hag is believed to be United's second choice to fill the United vacancy should the Red Devils miss out on Pochettino.

Ajax's Ten Hag has impressed in his time in Amsterdam, where he has delivered two Eredivisie titles and embarked on a memorable run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals.

Ten Hag's men have been the entertainers of Europe this term, dazzling their way into the Champions League round of 16, while topping the Eredivisie ahead of rivals PSV on goal difference.

Having fielded questions about United's reported interest after Sunday's 5-0 demolition of RKC Waalwijk, Ten Hag was again quizzed by reporters on the eve of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Besiktas.

"It's always nice when you are linked to clubs with this status," the 51-year-old Ten Hag – previously linked to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Newcastle United – said during a news conference in Istanbul.

Ten Hag added: "I am busy with Ajax. No one contacted me, I can confirm this. I want to win titles here.

"If we approach this game like you do [the media], we will have a very difficult night," he said.

Ajax will be looking to become only the second Dutch outfit to win their opening five games of a European Cup/Champions League campaign, after Feyenoord in 1971-72.

The Amsterdam club have produced more shots from high turnovers (11) – sequences that start within 40 metres of the opponent's goal – than any other team in the 2021-22 Champions League.

Ten Hag's high-pressing side have also scored two goals following high turnovers; one of only two teams to have netted more than once from these situations (along with Real Madrid, two).

Manchester United caretaker manager Michael Carrick was thrilled for Jadon Sancho after the winger ended his long wait for a goal in the win over Villarreal.

In their first match since the departure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils secured a 2-0 victory in Spain on Tuesday that sealed their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo broke the deadlock after Fred had applied pressure following a goal kick, and Sancho made certain of the win with an emphatic finish at the end of a flowing counter-attack in the 90th minute.

Sancho had previously gone 14 appearances and 10 shots without finding the net for United since his move from Borussia Dortmund in the transfer window.

The result meant Carrick became the first English manager to win his first game in charge of the club since Walter Crickmer back in 1931, and the former midfielder was delighted with the manner in which his players battled for victory.

"In some ways, it was the best way to win for me," he told BT Sport. "We had to show some character, we had to dig in, had to fight.

"The game looked at times like it was drifting away from us, after half-time, and we got back together again and the subs made a massive impact.

"That's all I could hope for: the boys gave everything.

"Fred's done fantastic. He won that ball back, which we want him to, we look for that. When Ronaldo gets that chance, he puts it away.

"To finish it off with Jadon was brilliant. I know how much Jadon loves the ball at his feet and trying to make things happen, it's where he's happiest, but I thought the other side of the game, he put in a real effort defensively when we needed it. It was a big night for him."

Villarreal enjoyed the better of the chances in the first hour and David de Gea had to make a handful of saves, including a brilliant one-handed stop to deny Manu Trigueros.

Carrick felt it was always likely his side would have to adopt a more cautious approach given the game was just three days on from the chastening 4-1 Premier League loss to Watford that spelled the end of Solskjaer's time in charge.

"We came here to win the game. I believed we would, I believed we were ready for it," Carrick said.

"It wasn't an easy game, by the way. It was a tough game, they're a good team, and for those who don't watch them that much and don't see it, they're a good team, they make you work.

"I thought the boys had to dig in at times and show a little bit of everything, so I was delighted with the way it ended up.

"Let's be honest: I don't think we could have come out and hoped to play pretty football from the word go. When you've suffered results-wise and you're not in a great vein of form individually and as a team, it's not easy to come out and let everything click."

It remains unclear how long Carrick will take charge of the first team, with United exploring interim appointments until the end of the season as well as longer-term targets that reportedly include Mauricio Pochettino.

Carrick was keen to pay tribute to Solskjaer after a troubled few days at Old Trafford.

"I have enjoyed it, I must admit. I enjoyed the whole thing. It's not been an easy couple of days at the club," he added.

"That result almost feels like it was for Ole. I can't get away from that. But we had a job to do, and when I was there, and things needed to be taken care of, I was happy to do it. Thankfully, it all went to plan in the end."

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.

Manchester United should move to appoint Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager immediately rather than wait until the end of the season if he is their first choice, according to former Old Trafford hero Mark Hughes.

United sacked Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday in the wake of a humiliating 4-1 defeat to promoted Watford a day earlier, but the writing was already on the wall.

After an inconsistent start to the 2021-22 campaign, the beginning of the end for Solskjaer was arguably the 5-0 home loss to Liverpool on October 24.

That thrashing by Jurgen Klopp's side set several unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against their fierce rivals at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Michael Carrick has been installed in temporary charge until United can hire an interim manager to guide them through to the end of the season, a somewhat peculiar and convoluted process that in itself has attracted criticism.

Numerous coaches have been credited with interest in the role, with Paris Saint-Germain boss Pochettino – strongly linked to United in the past – seemingly chief among them, and Hughes thinks the club need to have the courage of their convictions if the Argentinian is the man they want.

"In terms of resources, to be able to get a top manager out of a top club, clearly United are one of the few clubs that are able to do that," Hughes told talkSPORT. "I think for a long time United have coveted Pochettino.

"I think they've wined and dined him [in the past], I think he's been out with Sir Alex [Ferguson]. I think that was well documented a few years ago.

"I think he's well thought of within the corridors of United, so it wouldn't surprise me if he's the one they really want. Whether or not he's able to come to the club quickly, that's an issue for them.

"I think if he's the man, they should just go out and go get him. This interim-to-interim position doesn't seem to be the right way to go about it.

"But clearly, if they have to wait, they seem prepared to do that. I just feel it's Pochettino that they really, really want."

Former Tottenham head coach Pochettino has only been in charge at PSG since January, though there have been rumours of friction between him and sporting director Leonardo.

Speculation has suggested that PSG would be willing for Pochettino to leave, assuming a compensation package can be agreed and they have a replacement lined up.

Zinedine Zidane, also linked to United but said to have little interest in moving to England, has been mentioned as a likely candidate to replace Pochettino at PSG.

Pochettino is in Manchester this week as PSG face Manchester City on Wednesday in the Champions League – United begin the post-Solskjaer era away to Villarreal on Tuesday.

Manchester United start life without Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a huge Champions League showdown at Villarreal, while Chelsea and Juventus face a blockbuster battle.

A 4-1 Premier League hammering at Watford was the final straw for the United board as Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday.

Michael Carrick has stepped in to take charge on an interim basis and must rally the troops for the clash between the top two in Group F at Estadio de la Ceramica.

Juventus are already assured of a place in the round of 16 and Chelsea will join them in qualifying from Group H if they avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Barcelona take on Benfica in their first Champions League match with Xavi as boss knowing a win will see them through. 

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data for the fixtures on Tuesday.

 

Villarreal v Manchester United: Red Devils in troubled waters ahead of Yellow Submarine showdown

Villarreal have failed to beat United in five Champions League matches, drawing four and losing one.

The LaLiga side did get the better of the Red Devils in the Europa League final last season on penalties, though, and may never have a better opportunity to consign them to a defeat in Europe's premier club competition.

Carrick takes charge for the first time following Solskjaer's departure and will need United to tighten up at the back as they look to end a four-match winless away run in the Champions League. The wounded Premier League side have not kept a clean sheet in the competition this season.

Chelsea v Juventus: Bianconeri plotting another Italian job on holders

Juventus could win the group if they halt Chelsea's nine-match unbeaten run, as they lead the holders by three points.

The Premier League leaders have not lost since they went down 1-0 to Juve in September and they are overdue a victory against Italian opponents.

Chelsea have not come out on top in their past four meetings against Italian teams and Juve could become the first side to record three consecutive wins over the London club in the Champions League.

 

Barcelona v Benfica: Pressure on for Xavi's Champions League bow 

Xavi celebrated a derby victory over Espanyol in his first game as Barcelona boss on Saturday and another win over Benfica will secure qualification from Group E.

Third-placed Benfica beat Barca 3-0 in September and will attempt to become only the third side to do the double over the Catalan club in the group stage, Dynamo Kiev in 1997-98 and Bayern Munich in 1998-99 being the others to achieve that feat.

Barca are two points ahead of Benfica following back-to-back 1-0 wins over Dynamo and are looking to keep clean sheets for three consecutive Champions League games for the first time since May 2019.

 

Sevilla v Wolfsburg: Los Nervionenses nearing last chance saloon

Sevilla dropped points when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Saturday, and they can ill afford to slip up when they face Wolfsburg.

Bottom of Group G and without a win from four matches, they have not been victorious in their past seven meetings with German sides, losing four and drawing three.

Third-placed Wolfsburg have not been a Spanish team away from home in Europe, losing to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid either side of a draw with Villarreal.

 

Other fixtures:

Dynamo Kiev v Bayern Munich

17 – Bayern have scored 17 goals in their four Champions League matches this season, the joint most by any team after four matches in a season alongside Paris Saint Germain's tally in 2017-18. Already through to the round of 16, the Group E leaders have also had the most shots (84) and shots on target (34) of any side this campaign. 

9 – Dynamo have failed to score in any Champions League matches this season, attempting just nine shots on target – three fewer than Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has managed in 2021-22 (12).

Lille v Salzburg

43 – Following their 2-1 victory away at Sevilla, Lille will be aiming to record back-to-back wins in the Champions League for the very first time. This will be their 43rd game in the competition.

2 –  Salzburg have only won two of their previous 12 away games in major European competition (excluding qualifiers), drawing twice and losing eight times. These 12 games have seen a total of 46 goals scored (19 for, 27 against), at an average of 3.8 per game.

Malmo v Zenit

– Zenit have only won one of their past 11 games in the Champions League (D1 L9). That solitary victory and clean sheet in this run of games came in their last meeting with Malmo (4-0 in September). 

8 – If Malmo fail to score in this game, they will equal the record for most consecutive games without finding the back of the net in the European Cup/Champions League (currently on 7). The previous instances of a team going eight games in a row without scoring are Dinamo Zagreb (2016), Deportivo La Coruna (2004) and Avenir Beggen (1986).

Young Boys v Atalanta

3 – Since winning three consecutive away Champions League games without conceding a goal between October and December 2020, Atalanta have failed to win each of their past three away games in the competition (D1 L2), conceding eight goals in the process.

4 – Young Boys won their opening group game against United but have since suffered three consecutive defeats in the competition. Bottom of Group F, If they lose this game, they will have suffered four defeats in a row in major European tournaments for the first time.

Premier League football was back with a bang this weekend following the international break.

It left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feeling especially frustrated as he paid the price for another defeat, while Mikel Arteta's Arsenal were brought back to reality by Liverpool.

That win for the Reds further highlighted their excellent record in meetings with other members of the 'big six', while Rodri once again showcased his effectiveness from distance.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the weekend's quirkier Opta facts.

Salah's collector's item

Another weekend, another devastating performance from Mohamed Salah.

After a quiet start, the Egyptian once again proved to be extremely effective against Arsenal, even if he was only able to score once.

Salah's goal was something of a collector's item as it was with his right foot, which in itself brought to light just how much he relies on being so good with his left.

Of his 108 Premier League goals, 87 have been with his strongest foot – that equates to 80.6 per cent, which is the greatest proportion of strikes netted with the left foot among the 31 players with at least 100 goals.

Interestingly, his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane is also in the top six (26.5 per cent) despite being predominantly right-footed.

Solskjaer has no defence

A 4-1 defeat at Watford brought Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's time as Manchester United manager to an end, and he could have few complaints about that.

While the Norwegian's work at United has largely been well received, as he leaves the club and squad in much better shape than when he took over from Jose Mourinho, it's fair to say the writing had been on the wall.

United have been especially poor defensively this season, not just in the Premier League, averaging 1.7 concessions every match across all competitions.

Remarkably, relegation-threatened Newcastle United (2.08) and Norwich City (2.14) have a worse record in that regard among Premier League clubs.

Whoever his interim replacement is will surely look at sorting United's ailing defence out as soon as possible.

Liverpool's big-six domination

For much of the Premier League era, Manchester United were the team to beat, and while they obviously wouldn't win every game, they seemed to rise to the biggest occasions.

But since Alex Ferguson's departure in 2013, it's Liverpool who have arguably become the best at dealing traversing contests with the other so-called 'big six'.

Liverpool's defeat of Arsenal took them to 142 points from such matches since the start of 2013-14, putting them ahead of Manchester City by a point – though the Reds have played one game less.

Granted, City boast the most victories (42 to Liverpool's 39), Liverpool have suffered eight fewer defeats.

Chelsea's 124 points is the third-most, while Man Utd are on 110 points, having lost to both City and Liverpool comprehensively in the past month.

Arsenal and Tottenham are a fair way adrift with 86 and 85 points respectively.

Acts of Rodri

Manchester City haven't been doing too badly without a recognised striker this season, with Pep Guardiola boasting plenty of midfielders who can find the net.

Defensive midfielder Rodri might not be one of those whom you'd associate with goalscoring, but he's making long-range piledrivers something of a habit.

His latest, in the defeat of Everton, was a blistering 25-yard drive.

That was his fourth goal from outside the box for City, with only Kevin De Bruyne (seven) and Riyad Mahrez managing more since Rodri joined in 2019.

Rodri's four is 57.1 per cent of his overall Premier League haul, which is the highest proportion in the City squad during that same period.

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