Arsenal have made their worst start to a league season in their 118-year history in England's top four tiers with back-to-back defeats without scoring against Brentford and Chelsea.

The Gunners find themselves in the relegation zone after more than one match for the first time since August 1992 and the pressure is growing on manager Mikel Arteta to turn things around.

Arteta is no stranger to slow starts, having been signed by Arsenal on deadline day in 2011 with the club struggling near the bottom of the division with one point from three games.

The catalyst for that signing, plus the arrivals of Yossi Benayoun, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Park Chu-young, was a humiliating 8-2 loss against Manchester United that reduced the Gunners to the butt of all jokes on social media – "I'd 8-2 be an Arsenal fan," as the saying goes.

It remains one of the most extraordinary results in Premier League history, one that legendary boss Arsene Wenger later described as one of his lowest moments in management.

Exactly a decade on from that heavy loss at Old Trafford, Stats Perform takes a closer at the numbers behind the scoreline.

 

GOALS GALORE... BUT JUST SHORT OF RECORD

The 10 goals scored in the match is the joint-second most ever netted in a single Premier League game, with Portsmouth 7-4 Reading in September 2007 leading the way.

The win remains United's biggest against one of their 'big four' rivals in the Premier League era and is one of four occasions they have scored eight or more in the competition.

It is one of only two occasions Arsenal have conceded eight or more goals in a league game in their history, the other being an 8-0 loss to Loughborough in 1896.

The Gunners have since suffered another six-goal loss in the top flight, going down 6-0 to Chelsea in March 2014 in what was Wenger's milestone 1,000th game in charge.

WENGER'S YOUNG GUNS BRUSHED ASIDE

Wenger fielded a young side at Old Trafford that day, using seven players aged 21 or younger – something Arsenal have not repeated since in a Premier League match.

Those seven players were Armand Traore, Henri Lansbury, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Only on two occasions have the Gunners ever fielded more players aged 21 or under in the competition, using eight against Manchester City and Portsmouth in 2008-09.

 

ROONEY AND YOUNG THE KEY ARCHITECTS

Wayne Rooney grabbed the headlines by scoring three of United's goals, with that one of eight hat-tricks he scored for the club and his final one of three at Old Trafford.

Ashley Young was on the scoresheet twice and provided three assists as well, making it one of only five occasions a player has achieved such a feat in Premier League history.

The only player to repeat that accomplishment – two goals and three assists in a single game – since Young a decade ago is Jack Grealish for Aston Villa in their 7-2 win over Liverpool in October 2020.

 

FERGIE'S GREAT ENTERTAINERS

Legendary United boss Ferguson was no stranger to seeing his side rack up goals in games, with this fixture one of 44 times the Red Devils scored five or more in a single match under the Scotsman.

Only Wenger comes close to that figure among Premier League managers, with Arsenal scoring five or more goals 41 times during his 22-year reign.

Despite only being in English football for five years, Guardiola may well overtake both those managers one day as Manchester City have plundered at least five goals in 25 games since he took charge.

Sunday marks a special occasion in the managerial career of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 48-year-old will take charge of Manchester United in a Premier League match for the 100th time, becoming only the ninth man in the club's history to oversee as many top-flight games.

He could also lead the Red Devils to an English football record should he mark the milestone by avoiding defeat against Wolves at Molineux.

Stats Perform takes a quick data dive into Solskjaer's top-flight record as boss at Old Trafford...

 

In his 99 league games in charge, Solskjaer has managed 52 wins, 28 draws and 19 defeats. That gives him a win percentage of 52.53, with an average of 1.86 points per game.

Of the eight previous managers to reach the milestone for the Red Devils in the top flight, only Ernest Mangnall (54) won more of his first 100 in charge than the Norwegian.

Solskjaer's side have scored 181 goals and conceded 107. Their biggest win came in February, when they equalled their Premier League record by beating Southampton 9-0. That was the fifth time under Solskjaer that United have scored at least five goals in a league match - something they failed to do once under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho.

Solskjaer's average points per game puts him third among United managers in the Premier League era, behind Mourinho (1.89) and Alex Ferguson (2.16). He has the best attack in the post-Ferguson era, but also the leakiest defence.

United have taken 184 points under Solskjaer, a figure that puts him 10th in a league table of managers over their first 99 games in the Premier League. He is just three points off the tally amassed by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, but well short of the 210 accrued by Ferguson, Pep Guardiola's 234 at Manchester City, or the record of 237 set by Mourinho at Chelsea.

The signing of Bruno Fernandes last January was transformative for United and Solskjaer. They won 21 and lost 13 of their 45 league games under Solskjaer before the Portugal star's arrival; since he joined, they have won 31 of 54 games, and lost only six.

On average, United have scored more goals per game, from a lower expected goals figure per game, all while attempting fewer shots. At the same time, they have faced fewer attempts on average, conceded fewer goals and posted a lower expected goals against figure since Fernandes arrived.

As for game 100 itself, the omens are against Solskjaer: of the previous eight United managers to reach 100 games in charge in England's top flight, only Matt Busby and Tommy Docherty celebrated the milestone with a win.

Of course, if United do avoid defeat at Molineux, they will set a new English football league record of 28 consecutive away games unbeaten.

Tottenham have signed teenage Metz midfielder Pape Matar Sarr and allowed Moussa Sissoko to join Watford.

Senegal international Sarr will remain on loan with Ligue 1 side Metz for the rest of the season before linking up with Spurs.

The 18-year-old joined Metz from the Generation Foot Academy in Senegal last September and made 25 appearances for the club in the 2020-21 campaign.

Sissoko will remain in the Premier League with newly promoted Watford on a two-year deal.

The Hornets are reported to have paid around £3million for the 32-year-old midfielder.

Sissoko, capped 71 times by France, made 202 appearances for Tottenham following his £30m move from Newcastle United in 2016.

Cristiano Ronaldo ripped off his shirt and celebrated as though he had netted the winner in a World Cup final, rather than a stoppage-time clincher at Udinese that was disallowed moments later.

That was his farewell moment at Juventus, the performative Portuguese signing off with a magical thumping header that counted for nothing and a yellow card for showing the world that torso once again.

Manchester City awaited him, so it seemed, but incredibly Ronaldo is heading back to the red half of the city, back to Manchester United, providing wages and fitness prove no obstacle. Terms for the transfer have been agreed with Juve.

United have swooped for Ronaldo twice now, as an 18-year-old and at the grand age of 36. Derby day on the first weekend in November is now a red-letter day.

Ronaldo left United for Real Madrid at the end of the 2008-09 season, just weeks before Carlos Tevez swapped red for blue, pointing to a swing in the balance of power in English football.

Twelve years later and he is back in the north west, United pinching him from under the noses of City to lead their attack and the pursuit of Premier League glory.

 

But none of this makes sense...

Ronaldo looked a banker for a City switch before United and Jorge Mendes, the player's agent, held discussions. The Manchester Evening News reported Ronaldo's former United boss and mentor Alex Ferguson spoke to the one-time Old Trafford boy wonder, and that involvement looks to have been a moment that helped sway the now veteran striker from blue to red. Perhaps Rio Ferdinand's phone call also helped.

Pep Guardiola was expected to be cautious about the prospects of Ronaldo joining his City squad when he held a lunchtime news conference, but only out of sensible circumspection. Rather than playing a straight bat, however, he was highly pessimistic, and that was an alert that something had changed dramatically.

The BBC soon reported City had ended their interest in Ronaldo, who had instead begun talks with United, and the hints that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dropped in United's earlier news conference grew in resonance. At shortly before 17:00 BST, confirmation arrived from United of an agreement with Juve. All this within hours of Ronaldo saying his goodbyes at Juve's training ground in the morning.

Why do United need him? They seem well stocked for strikers

Ronaldo is unmistakably in the diminishing returns stage of his career, much like Edinson Cavani whom he joins in the Old Trafford ranks. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are at the opposite end, striving to become United greats, and Anthony Martial, who should be nearing his peak years, is desperate for a run of games.

Into this battle for places walks one of the two greatest players of the past 20 years – some would say of all-time – and Solskjaer will discover his former team-mate Ronaldo still has a huge appetite for the game. His goal celebration antics at Udinese were easy to mock in light of the VAR outcome, but they showed his passion burns bright.

The data tells us Ronaldo is a fading force, but by most standards he remains a formidable footballer. He scored a decidedly healthy 36 goals for Juventus across all competitions last season, at one every 104.19 minutes. The minutes-per-goal ratio was a slight improvement on his first two campaigns with Juve, but in eight of his nine years at Real Madrid he scored at a rate better than one every 90 minutes.

He is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. Ronaldo won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

Ronaldo also made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

At his best with Madrid, Ronaldo hit 55 goals in the 2012-13 season from an xG of 29.49, indicating he was far exceeding expected performance levels based on the quality of his chances.

He remains a tremendous penalty box predator and it would be surprising if he fails to hit 20 goals in the Premier League, but Ronaldo's contribution outside the 18-yard box has fallen away.

His style looked an awkward fit for City, who have sought flexibility from their front players, often favouring a 'false nine' system. Ronaldo has evolved from thrilling winger in his teens to feared targetman, and United's style is far more fitting to his game, so that aspect of the transfer makes sense.

United presumably also very much wanted him so that City couldn't have him.

What it means for United

Ronaldo gave United six years of his young career before being granted his wish to leave in June 2009, making a then world record £80million switch to Madrid.

He departed after a season where United won the Premier League and City finished 10th, with Ferguson's team also lifting the EFL Cup, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and finishing runners-up to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Much has changed in English football, but Ronaldo is not blind to that. This represents a chance to end his career bathed in glory again in Manchester, with the Old Trafford crowd ready to worship him once more.

City won the Premier League by 12 points last season and they began this campaign as favourites to notch up another title. Signing Ronaldo would not only have hurt United deeply, but it would possibly have made this year's title race a procession.

Consider it game on now.

It was May 10, 2009, when Ronaldo last appeared in a United-City clash, scoring a deflected free-kick before being rested after 58 minutes by Ferguson as the Red Devils scored a 2-0 Old Trafford victory.

Ronaldo left the field in frustration, wanting to play for longer, but days earlier he had been the prime architect of the famous 3-1 win at Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals, and Ferguson wanted to save his star asset for the tests ahead, particularly the European final against Guardiola's Barcelona.

Now the long-retired Ferguson's influence tells once more. He persuaded Ronaldo to take his United career into extra time during his first stint at the club, and now the man Jose Mourinho describes as Solskjaer's 'big boss' has struck again.


Messi v Ronaldo: The reunion's off!

The great rivalry between the standout players of their generation looked set to be rekindled in the Champions League group stage, with Ronaldo's City taking on Messi's PSG. Scrub that now though. Any such clash will have to wait for the knock-out rounds, with United having Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys to negotiate in their pool.

This announcement tells us United are craving Champions League success again. They have won the competition three times, while Ronaldo has done so on five occasions, once with United and four times at Madrid. In three years at Juventus, he could not drag the Old Lady of Italian football to European glory, however, a disappointment given that had been ostensibly why he was signed.

United's owners, the Glazer family, will expect the investment in Ronaldo to pay off handsomely, given his commercial appeal and United's global reach. And the  Glazers even stand to earn a little rare kudos from supporters who are bound to get misty-eyed at this deal.

Signing a five-time Ballon d'Or winner will be interpreted as taking a short-cut to glory. It is a gamble too though.

Two Scudetti in three years at Juventus was one fewer than Ronaldo may have expected to take away from Turin, given Juventus were on a seven-in-a-row streak when he joined, and the coach who delivered the second of those titles, Maurizio Sarri, recently spoke of the challenges involved in accounting for the Portuguese's imposing presence.

Sarri told Sportitalia in July: "The management of Ronaldo is not easy, he is a multinational that has personal interests to match those of the team. It is certainly a difficult situation to manage."

But Sarri ventured that there were "many positive aspects because at the end of the year Ronaldo brings important results".

The ego has landed, back in Manchester, back in red. It's one-nil to Solskjaer and his big boss in the season's first battle of Manchester, and the rest of the campaign should be a thrill ride.

Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back to Old Trafford.

Going into Friday, it seemed as though Manchester City would be signing one of United's all-time greats.

On Friday morning, the deal appeared to be edging closer – Ronaldo was pictured leaving Juventus' training ground before coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed the 36-year-old was departing the club altogether.

Yet in the time it took for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola to complete their pre-match news conferences, the deal had turned on its head.

By early afternoon in the United Kingdom, City had pulled out to leave United as clear front-runners and, just before 17:00 BST, Ronaldo's sensational return to Old Trafford had been confirmed.

United reached an agreement with Juve for the attacker, who scored 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches after joining from Real Madrid in 2018, nine years after his first spell in the Premier League ended.

The €23million (£19.7m) deal is subject to the completion of personal terms, a medical and the acquisition of a visa, but none of those are expected to cause issues.

So, with Ronaldo set to be back in the fold, Stats Perform assesses how United are likely to line up.

4-2-3-1: David de Gea; Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba; Jadon Sancho, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford; Cristiano Ronaldo.

GK: David de Gea

While he's probably no longer regarded among the world's very best goalkeepers, De Gea still edges out Dean Henderson for a place in this team at the moment, though he is sure to be pushed hard once the England international returns from injury. De Gea played 26 times in the league last season and conceded 32 goals from an expected goals against (xGA) value of 28.1, meaning he was culpable for the concession of nearly four goals over the course of the campaign. Henderson, on the other hand, outperformed his xGA figure of 13.8 by only conceding 12 goals in the 13 appearances he made, giving him a 'goals prevented' record of 1.8 – this suggests he was the more dependable of the two goalkeepers, and his save percentage of 76.5 was significantly better than De Gea's (65.2) as well.

RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Wan-Bissaka made 34 league appearances last term. Of all defenders in the top flight, only Leeds United's Luke Ayling (61) registered more successful tackles than the former Crystal Palace full-back (54), though his success rate of 61.4 per cent was better than the former's (56.5 per cent). Wan-Bissaka also improved his contributions to United's attack with six goal involvements, a figure bettered by only six defenders, while just four kept more than the 13 clean sheets he recorded.

CB: Raphael Varane

Ronaldo will be joining up with one of his former Madrid team-mates, with World Cup-winner Varane having previously arrived to bolster United's defence. Out of LaLiga defenders to contest 20 or more aerial battles last term, Varane led the way with a 76 per cent success rate, which vastly improves on Victor Lindelof's 59.4 per cent aerial success rate from last season.

CB: Harry Maguire

Alongside Varane, Maguire adds leadership and Premier League experience. The England man won 63.8 per cent of his duels last season, while his aerial prowess should help United dominate in both boxes. His ability with the ball often gets overlooked, and expect to see plenty of long diagonals from left to right, where Jadon Sancho or Mason Greenwood will no doubt be waiting.

LB: Luke Shaw

Shaw does have Alex Telles as quality competition but there is no doubting the 26-year-old's place in this XI. Of Premier League defenders, only Trent Alexander-Arnold (77) created more chances than Shaw (72) last term, while the left-back created an average of 2.4 opportunities per 90 minutes, the most in the league among defenders.

CM: Scott McTominay

Ronaldo's signing does mean one thing; Solskjaer has to be bold with his team selections. With so much attacking quality at his disposal, the Norwegian must, outside of the biggest games, dispense with a midfield duo of McTominay and Fred, and it is the Scotland international – who is currently out injured – who should get the nod.

CM: Paul Pogba

A long-standing issue with Solskjaer's preferred 4-2-3-1 is whether or not it gets the best out of Pogba, who starred for France at Euro 2020 in a midfield three. That has not been much of an issue so far this season as he's been filling in brilliantly on the left in Marcus Rashford's absence, with Pogba already registering five assists, becoming the first player in Premier League history to manage that tally across the opening two games of a campaign.

RW: Jadon Sancho

If Ronaldo is one for the here and now, then Sancho is a player for United's future, though the ex-Borussia Dortmund flyer is of course a star in his own right. He seems likely to alternate with Greenwood for a role on the right. He scored 38 goals and provided 45 assists in 104 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund; since his debut in October 2017, only Thomas Muller (91) and Robert Lewandowski (137) managed more direct goal involvements prior to the start of 2021-22.

AM: Bruno Fernandes

Ronaldo will not be the only Portugal star on show at Old Trafford. Solskjaer's team has been built around Fernandes, who created a league-high 95 shooting chances last season, assisting 12 goals and scoring a further 18. His hat-trick against Leeds on the opening day of 2021-22 also has him joint-top of the scoring charts after two games.

LW: Marcus Rashford

Rashford is currently recovering from surgery on a shoulder injury that plagued his 2020-21 campaign, with Pogba, Anthony Martial, Sancho, Greenwood and Daniel James – if he stays put – likely to battle it out for a place on the left in the meantime. Ronaldo, of course, can also play from the left, though it seems he will be much better utilised as the focal point in United's attack.

ST: Cristiano Ronaldo

United have Edinson Cavani, but there can surely be no doubt who will start in the majority of matches. Ronaldo is a bona fide superstar who has – alongside Lionel Messi – sustained his success at the highest level for almost 20 years. Ronaldo is the only United player to score 30+ goals in a season in Premier League history (31 in 2007-08), and while that record may seem out of reach, his arrival could have transformed the Red Devils into genuine title contenders.

Cristiano Ronaldo ripped off his shirt and celebrated as though he had netted the winner in a World Cup final, rather than a stoppage-time clincher at Udinese that was disallowed moments later.

That was his farewell moment at Juventus, the performative Portuguese signing off with a magical thumping header that counted for nothing and a yellow card for showing the world that torso once again.

Manchester City awaited him, so it seemed, but incredibly Ronaldo is heading back to the red half of the city, back to Manchester United, providing wages and fitness prove no obstacle. Terms for the transfer have been agreed with Juve.

United have swooped for Ronaldo twice now, as an 18-year-old and at the grand age of 36. Derby day on the first weekend in November is now a red-letter day.

Ronaldo left United for Real Madrid at the end of the 2008-09 season, just weeks before Carlos Tevez swapped red for blue, pointing to a swing in the balance of power in English football.

Twelve years later and he is back in the north west, United pinching him from under the noses of City to lead their attack and the pursuit of Premier League glory.

 

But none of this makes sense...

Ronaldo looked a banker for a City switch before United and Jorge Mendes, the player's agent, held discussions. The Manchester Evening News reported Ronaldo's former United boss and mentor Alex Ferguson spoke to the one-time Old Trafford boy wonder, and that involvement looks to have been a moment that helped sway the now veteran striker from blue to red. Perhaps Rio Ferdinand's phone call also helped.

Pep Guardiola was expected to be cautious about the prospects of Ronaldo joining his City squad when he held a lunchtime news conference, but only out of sensible circumspection. Rather than playing a straight bat, however, he was highly pessimistic, and that was an alert that something had changed dramatically.

The BBC soon reported City had ended their interest in Ronaldo, who had instead begun talks with United, and the hints that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dropped in United's earlier news conference grew in resonance. At shortly before 17:00 BST, confirmation arrived from United of an agreement with Juve. All this within hours of Ronaldo saying his goodbyes at Juve's training ground in the morning.

Why do United need him? They seem well stocked for strikers

Ronaldo is unmistakably in the diminishing returns stage of his career, much like Edinson Cavani whom he joins in the Old Trafford ranks. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are at the opposite end, striving to become United greats, and Anthony Martial, who should be nearing his peak years, is desperate for a run of games.

Into this battle for places walks one of the two greatest players of the past 20 years – some would say of all-time – and Solskjaer will discover his former team-mate Ronaldo still has a huge appetite for the game. His goal celebration antics at Udinese were easy to mock in light of the VAR outcome, but they showed his passion burns bright.

The data tells us Ronaldo is a fading force, but by most standards he remains a formidable footballer. He scored a decidedly healthy 36 goals for Juventus across all competitions last season, at one every 104.19 minutes. The minutes-per-goal ratio was a slight improvement on his first two campaigns with Juve, but in eight of his nine years at Real Madrid he scored at a rate better than one every 90 minutes.

He is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. Ronaldo won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

Ronaldo also made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

At his best with Madrid, Ronaldo hit 55 goals in the 2012-13 season from an xG of 29.49, indicating he was far exceeding expected performance levels based on the quality of his chances.

He remains a tremendous penalty box predator and it would be surprising if he fails to hit 20 goals in the Premier League, but Ronaldo's contribution outside the 18-yard box has fallen away.

His style looked an awkward fit for City, who have sought flexibility from their front players, often favouring a 'false nine' system. Ronaldo has evolved from thrilling winger in his teens to feared targetman, and United's style is far more fitting to his game, so that aspect of the transfer makes sense.

United presumably also very much wanted him so that City couldn't have him.

What it means for United

Ronaldo gave United six years of his young career before being granted his wish to leave in June 2009, making a then world record £80million switch to Madrid.

He departed after a season where United won the Premier League and City finished 10th, with Ferguson's team also lifting the EFL Cup, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and finishing runners-up to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Much has changed in English football, but Ronaldo is not blind to that. This represents a chance to end his career bathed in glory again in Manchester, with the Old Trafford crowd ready to worship him once more.

City won the Premier League by 12 points last season and they began this campaign as favourites to notch up another title. Signing Ronaldo would not only have hurt United deeply, but it would possibly have made this year's title race a procession.

Consider it game on now.

It was May 10, 2009, when Ronaldo last appeared in a United-City clash, scoring a deflected free-kick before being rested after 58 minutes by Ferguson as the Red Devils scored a 2-0 Old Trafford victory.

Ronaldo left the field in frustration, wanting to play for longer, but days earlier he had been the prime architect of the famous 3-1 win at Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals, and Ferguson wanted to save his star asset for the tests ahead, particularly the European final against Guardiola's Barcelona.

Now the long-retired Ferguson's influence tells once more. He persuaded Ronaldo to take his United career into extra time during his first stint at the club, and now the man Jose Mourinho describes as Solskjaer's 'big boss' has struck again.


Messi v Ronaldo: The reunion's off!

The great rivalry between the standout players of their generation looked set to be rekindled in the Champions League group stage, with Ronaldo's City taking on Messi's PSG. Scrub that now though. Any such clash will have to wait for the knock-out rounds, with United having Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys to negotiate in their pool.

This announcement tells us United are craving Champions League success again. They have won the competition three times, while Ronaldo has done so on five occasions, once with United and four times at Madrid. In three years at Juventus, he could not drag the Old Lady of Italian football to European glory, however, a disappointment given that had been ostensibly why he was signed.

United's owners, the Glazer family, will expect the investment in Ronaldo to pay off handsomely, given his commercial appeal and United's global reach. And the  Glazers even stand to earn a little rare kudos from supporters who are bound to get misty-eyed at this deal.

Signing a five-time Ballon d'Or winner will be interpreted as taking a short-cut to glory. It is a gamble too though.

Two Scudetti in three years at Juventus was one fewer than Ronaldo may have expected to take away from Turin, given Juventus were on a seven-in-a-row streak when he joined, and the coach who delivered the second of those titles, Maurizio Sarri, recently spoke of the challenges involved in accounting for the Portuguese's imposing presence.

Sarri told Sportitalia in July: "The management of Ronaldo is not easy, he is a multinational that has personal interests to match those of the team. It is certainly a difficult situation to manage."

But Sarri ventured that there were "many positive aspects because at the end of the year Ronaldo brings important results".

The ego has landed, back in Manchester, back in red. It's one-nil to Solskjaer and his big boss in the season's first battle of Manchester, and the rest of the campaign should be a thrill ride.

Cristiano Ronaldo reflected on writing a "beautiful story" at Juventus after Manchester United confirmed they have sensationally agreed a deal to re-sign the forward.

Ronaldo was reported to be on his way to Manchester City before the Red Devils revealed the club legend is poised to return to Old Trafford.

The Portugal captain will head back for a second spell in the Premier League, subject to agreement of personal terms, securing a visa and passing a medical.

United are said to have agreed to pay £12.8million (€15m) plus £6.9m (€8m) in add-ons for the prolific 36-year-old, who won Serie A title twice with Juve following his switch from Real Madrid in 2018.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner posted a farewell message on Instagram after United revealed a deal has been done.

"Today I depart from an amazing club, the biggest in Italy and surely one of the biggest in all of Europe. I gave my heart and soul for Juventus and I’ll always love the city of Turin until my final days," he posted.

"The "tiffosi bianconeri" always respected me and I tried to thank that respect by fighting for them in every game, every season, every competition.

"In the end, we can all look back and realize that we achieved great things, not all that we wanted, but still, we wrote a pretty beautiful story together.

"I will always be one of you. You are now part of my history, as I feel that I'm part of yours. Italy, Juve, Turin, tiffosi bianconeri, you'll always be in my heart."

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to be playing back at Old Trafford again in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed they have reached an agreement with Juventus for the transfer of the Portugal great.

While personal terms, a medical and visa are still to be sorted out for Ronaldo, it would take something remarkable to stop him from joining now after a deal reportedly worth up to €23million (£19.7m) was agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

But apparent interventions from Ronaldo's former United manager Alex Ferguson and old team-mate Rio Ferdinand may have swung the race in the Red Devils' favour.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to open the door to Ronaldo during his news conference on Friday, and just a few hours later United confirmed a deal had been struck with Juventus.

Following confirmation of the deal, Stats Perform takes a look at greats who went back to their spiritual home, starting with the Portugal captain…

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his last spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who probably averaged four stepovers per minute before leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and an ice-cold finisher. His then-world record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is all set for a return to England – whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, though United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

 

Arjen Robben – Groningen

Robben's first retirement lasted just a single season, having announced last year he would be returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern Munich finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his availability, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances in 2020-21. Club director Mark-Jan Fledderus wanted him to stay on for another year, but when Robben said at the end of the season that he was going to have a long think about his future, the writing was seemingly on the wall. Another U-turn appears unlikely.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt – Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez – Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He was expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca this season, but the deal ultimately fell through.

Henrik Larsson – Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move away. A trophy laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man Utd and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend suggested he had not finished playing yet and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their recent relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Cristiano Ronaldo is set for a sensational return to Manchester United after the Old Trafford giants confirmed a deal had been agreed with Juventus, beating Manchester City to his signature.

United have reportedly agreed to pay Juventus €15million plus €8m in add-ons for the Portugal captain, who had previously looked close to joining rivals Manchester City.

It marks a stunning coup for the Red Devils at the expense of their neighbours and reigning Premier League champions City, with Ronaldo returning to Old Trafford 12 years after leaving for Real Madrid.

A United statement read: "Manchester United is delighted to confirm the club has reached agreement with Juventus for the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo, subject to agreement of personal terms, visa and medical.

"Cristiano, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, has so far won over 30 major trophies during his career, including five UEFA Champions League titles, four FIFA Club World Cups, seven league titles in England, Spain and Italy, and the European Championship for his native Portugal.

"In his first spell for Manchester United, he scored 118 goals in 292 games. Everyone at the club looks forward to welcoming Cristiano back to Manchester."

 

City had been strongly linked with Tottenham's Harry Kane, but the England captain released a statement on Wednesday confirming he plans to remain at Spurs for 2021-22.

Interest in Ronaldo quickly intensified and the prospect of the former Madrid man joining ex-Barcelona boss Guardiola's City squad was tantalising, yet it failed to come to fruition.

Guardiola admitted in a news conference on Friday that City were nowhere near signing Ronaldo, and it emerged United had jumped ahead of them in the queue, with negotiations then moving at a fast pace.

Remarkably, it appears former United boss Alex Ferguson may have had a telling role in setting up the deal, with the Scot having spoken directly to Ronaldo on Friday morning, according to the Manchester Evening News.

Ferguson signed an 18-year-old Ronaldo from the Portuguese's boyhood club Sporting CP in 2003, and that raw talent went on to establish himself as one of the finest players in Premier League history.

 

His 31-goal season of 2007-08 has only ever been bettered once in a 38-match campaign (Mohamed Salah, 32 in 2017-18). In all competitions that term, Ronaldo netted 42 times as United won the Premier League and Champions League, while he later took home his first Ballon d'Or.

Nine goal-laden years followed at Real Madrid, where he became the club's all-time record scorer, and he remained a reliable frontman for Juventus, scoring 81 times in 98 Serie A matches since the start of 2018-19.

But speculation about his future had been rife for several weeks, and when he was named only as a substitute at Udinese on Sunday, it appeared his time in Italy was almost up.

Juventus denied it, but they can give up on the denials now and start planning for a future without their biggest goal threat.

Sunday's trip to Wolves will come too soon for Ronaldo's second United debut, meaning fans will have to wait until after the international break to see him back on duty for the club.

Rio Ferdinand revealed he rang Cristiano Ronaldo "straight away" in an attempt to persuade the Juventus star not to sign for Manchester City.

Reports this week suggested former Manchester United great Ronaldo had been offered to rivals City by his agent Jorge Mendes.

City were in the hunt for a forward after missing out on Harry Kane, who is staying at Tottenham.

As late as Friday morning – when Ronaldo left Juve training – it appeared the Portugal captain was all set to sign for the Premier League champions.

Speculation only mounted when Juve coach Massimilano Allegri confirmed Ronaldo was leaving Turin, yet in a remarkable turnaround, it is United who are instead set to re-sign the 36-year-old, who they sold to Real Madrid in 2009.

The Red Devils on Friday confirmed they have reached an agreement to bring the 36-year-old back to Old Trafford, subject to agreeing personal terms, a visa application and the completion of a medical.

A fee of €15millon plus €8m in add-ons has been reported.

 

And, in an appearance in an interview for his fashion label, FIVE, Ferdinand revealed he spoke to his former team-mate.

Ferdinand, who was wearing sunglasses in the video, said prior to United confirming a deal has been agreed: "It's a beautiful day man, and when it's a beautiful day you've got wear shades!

"Sir Alex Ferguson would've been exactly the same, he would've hated to see Cristiano Ronaldo in a Man City shirt, just like anyone who’s been connected for a long period of time at this football club.

"I rang him [Ronaldo] straight away: 'What's going on? Tell me you're lying.' Every type of 'no, no, no, no' in the conversation.

"I'm like the fans, we're all the same like that. 'Please tell me you're not going there.' 

"I hope that there's an announcement and it's one that I would be happy with. It's the best. We've seen some great signings this summer."

Cristiano Ronaldo is set for a sensational return to Manchester United after the Old Trafford giants confirmed a deal had been agreed with Juventus, beating Manchester City to his signature.

Benjamin Mendy has been remanded in custody after the Manchester City defender was charged with four counts of rape and one count of sexual assault.

Mendy was charged by Cheshire Constabulary on Thursday in relation to alleged attacks between October 2020 and August 2021.

The 27-year-old France international appeared in Chester Magistrates' Court on Friday, where he spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth.

Mendy was remanded in custody and is due to appear at Chester Crown Court on September 10.

The left-back was suspended by City pending an investigation after being charged. 

City said in a statement released on Thursday: "Manchester City can confirm that following his being charged by police today, Benjamin Mendy has been suspended pending an investigation.

"The matter is subject to a legal process and the club is therefore unable to make further comment until that process is complete."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Rio Ferdinand was "out of order" with his comments on why Phil Jones is still a Manchester United player.

Defender Jones, 29, has not played a Premier League game since the 2-0 win over Burnley on January 22 last year.

Former United star Ferdinand said on his Vibe with Five video that Jones should have been released "ages ago" and suggested he was unfairly keeping youngsters out of the first-team picture by being at the club yet unavailable.

The centre-back has been struggling with long-term injury issues, the most serious of which is a knee problem, but he played his first United game for 18 months in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week – also against Burnley.

Solskjaer, who himself battled a long-term knee problem as a player, explained on Friday why he has not been prepared to rush Jones back into action.

"Phil has had a horrible 18, 19, 20 months and probably a year before that as well with injuries," he said. "I think Rio was a bit, not out of order, he should have called me and asked why Phil hasn't played or why Phil hasn't been here.

"Phil is a no-fuss, get-on-with-it type of guy, and I think that was out of order completely [from Ferdinand]. I know more than anyone how it feels to be injured.

"Phil is still not 30 years of age. Since I came back here, he's battled against his knee injury and he put his body on the line every single training session, every single game. There are a few times we've had to manage him, and he's never done anything but give everything for the club.

"Rio of all should know more than go out and say this. I wanted to say a lot, I've not said a lot about Phil's injury because I protect him, he never does social media, never has to do interviews, just gets his head down, proper professional, no fuss, a family man, and just wants to get back fit.

"I was out for two years in a three-year period with a knee injury and Phil has battled valiantly and I know how Phil has felt. Because you're embarrassed at times coming in, but he has to look after his career and he's now getting back to fitness.

"Now is not the time for me to throw him in. Maybe give him a little more, a month, six weeks and he'll be there. For me as a manager to see he can see light at end of the tunnel, it's great because I've been through the same."

While Jones appears unlikely to leave the club before the transfer window closes, there remains speculation over the future of Jesse Lingard, but Solskjaer seems keen to keep a player who has just earned an England recall.

"I know there's loads of speculation about him, but he's had a very good pre-season; just been picked for England in the squad," he said.

"It's just been unfortunate that he got COVID just before the league started. He would have 100 per cent started the first game [against Leeds United] because of the pre-season he had, so I can see him doing well this season."

Solskjaer also insisted Donny van de Beek will be given his chance to impress this season, even though he did not get off the bench in United's opening two fixtures.

"We started against Leeds with a 5-1 win, [which was] justification for the team selection," he said. "Then we moved to the next one, Scott [McTominay] couldn't play and Nemanja [Matic] has been our best player in pre-season.

"Donny has worked hard, he's done really well, I can't say anything else. He'll get his chances when the season gets going."

Manchester City were firm favourites to complete a sensational move for Cristiano Ronaldo until a fiery Pep Guardiola hinted the deal was off on Friday.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed hours earlier that Ronaldo had informed him of his intention to leave the Serie A club.

Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes had reportedly approached City, who missed out on signing Harry Kane after the England captain elected to stay at Tottenham.

Reports on Thursday claimed personal terms between City and Ronaldo had been agreed and the transfer seemed to be edging closer when the 36-year-old was pictured leaving Juve's training ground, seemingly for the final time.

However, in a remarkable twist, Ronaldo's former club and City's rivals Manchester United have now reportedly entered the running and, in his pre-match news conference ahead of this weekend's clash with Wolves, Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggested a deal could happen.

While Solskjaer's comments became public, Guardiola faced the media prior to City's clash with Arsenal on Saturday, and he claimed Ronaldo would ultimately make the final call on his future.

Shortly after Guardiola's news conference had concluded, the BBC said City had pulled out of the deal altogether. 

"I cannot say much. Harry Kane announced that he's continuing with his club, an exceptional club like Tottenham," Guardiola told reporters.

"Cristiano, I think he's a Juventus player, I cannot add anything else. All I can say in these three or four days is that everything can happen.

"But in my personal view, there are a few players, and I think Cristiano is included and [Lionel] Messi of course, that they decide where they want to play. In that position [attack], right now, this is my feeling, I am more than delighted with the squad that I have and I think it will stay the same."

Asked if he would be able to coach Ronaldo after spending so much time hailing his former player Messi as the world's best, Guardiola added: "I say the same, Cristiano will decide where he wants to play, not Manchester City, not myself, there are many things but right now it looks far, far away.

"This is a difficult press conference, tomorrow we have an incredibly important game ahead of us, but now it is about other terms, other issues.

"We are incredibly grateful to have enjoyed the best two players we have seen probably in the past 20, 30 years, like these two guys have done, in world football, we can only say thank you.

"The Argentine and the Portuguese guy were amazing in every single season, in different clubs, especially Messi just at Barcelona but now in France. What they have done, we will not watch something similar in the future.

"I'm incredibly happy with the squad I have. More than satisfied. We are the same guys except one player has left, Sergio [Aguero], and Jack [Grealish] arrived. I am focused on the players I have. These type of players decide.

"Messi, he decided himself where he wanted to play. He decided Paris, he went to Paris. These players decide. They know the law, their goal. After that there are situations I cannot control, it's not my business. I am focused on what we have to do and the players we have right now."

The Kane saga has dragged on throughout the transfer window. Multiple reports have claimed Tottenham turned down a City offer for their talisman back in June, a bid which was said to be in the region of £100million.

Guardiola, however, said otherwise.

"The club did absolutely everything. We didn't talk with Tottenham – not even one offer – because they did not want to negotiate," Guardiola said.

"When one team doesn't want to negotiate, there is nothing to say. It is understandable so Tottenham they didn't want to talk, we didn't talk, that's all.

"Maybe they opened the door and they say we want for Harry Kane £200m. We are not going to pay £200m, for one reason, we do not have it, that's why we do not do it.

"We tried to open the door to negotiate and the big master of negotiations Mr Daniel Levy, he knows everything, so we could not do it. He [Kane] is a Tottenham Hotspur player and I wish him all the best in the last years of his career doing well in London."

Guardiola also confirmed City – who responded to an opening-day defeat to Spurs by thrashing Norwich City last time out – would be once again without Kevin De Bruyne for the meeting with Arsenal.

Thomas Tuchel is relishing the battle between Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk when Chelsea travel to Liverpool on Saturday.

Both sides have made perfect starts to the Premier League season with two wins from two, scoring five goals without reply.

Lukaku, who rejoined Chelsea in a club-record deal this month, marked his second debut with a goal in last weekend's win over Arsenal.

The Belgium international is set to line up against Liverpool's defensive anchor Van Dijk in what promises to be an intriguing duel at Anfield.

Blues head coach Tuchel is confident the striker will rise to the occasion when he comes up against the Dutchman, whose return from injury he feels has provided the Reds with a huge boost since Chelsea's 1-0 win when the sides met in March.

"I am looking forward to it; I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle," he said.

"For Romelu, it is a big challenge. He had a very good start, so now we are into details, connecting better and better. 

"The stress is on tomorrow at Anfield, but we knew we were getting a big and experienced player. He loves these kinds of matches.

"Liverpool with Van Dijk is different. It is not only his isolated capacity and ability; he also makes everybody around him feel more comfortable and stronger. They have a huge upgrade from last March."

Tuchel also praised counterpart Jurgen Klopp and the former Paris Saint-Germain boss is anticipating a special atmosphere on Merseyside.

"He has my full respect; he is one of the best managers in the world," the Blues boss added.

"He has the ability to make huge footprints and impact at any club. We need to be careful when he talks too good about you!

"We're super happy that the fans are back. We have to cope with energy that Anfield can create.

"The challenge is on and we're excited to be in the middle of it."

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