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Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane makes sack admission ahead of Barcelona El Clasico clash

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane believes he has the full backing of everyone at the club ahead of today’s El Clasico match against Barcelona. Zidane is reportedly on the brink at the Bernabeu after a sluggish start to the season.

Madrid’s poor start to the campaign continued on Wednesday as they suffered an embarrassing defeat against Shaktar Donetsk in the Champions League.

Zidane’s side were 3-0 down at half-time after a disastrous start at home, before failing with a second-half comeback.

The result was made worse by the fact Shaktar were missing ten first-team players as a result of Covid-19, meaning they were forced to play a second-string team.

It was Madrid’s second defeat in a matter of days, having lost 1-0 at home to newly-promoted side Cadiz at home in the league last weekend.

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The back-to-back defeats have turned up the pressure on Zidane, who now goes into today’s El Clasico knowing he must win in order to put the speculation to bed.

But the French boss insists he still feels the full support of everyone at the club, and referenced his previous successes in the role as reasons to stick by him.

Zidane said: “Yes, [I feel support from] all of them.

“Ultimately, I’ve won many things with these players; they have made me win a lot of things.

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“I will be with these players to the death. They are the ones who fight and run.

“I can see the support, yes, but for now, what’s important for us is to change the mindset.

“Games are coming for us to change things. Football is beautiful for that.

“When things get worse, you have to bring out your character and quality.”

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Zidane went on to dismiss Madrid’s recent poor form, and insisted he was fully in control of the team’s fortunes.

He continued: “Nothing at all has changed. It was the same last year, the same in my first period. It doesn’t change.

“What I have to do is my job, give 100 per cent as always and, to the rest, nothing. We look at the games.

“We started badly in the sense that, when they scored, it was tough for us to lift our heads.

“That’s football. There are high and low moments and you have to accept them. You have to forget what happened the other day.

“I don’t like being a victim or anything. It’s a game and each one has its story, and that’s the good thing about football.

“You can go through bad moments and the good thing is you can take that and come back to change the situation.

“I’ve always been critical of myself. It’s the engine to improve. After a defeat, as coach, most of the criticism is for me, and that’s normal. I don’t live in the past; I’m interested in what lies ahead.”

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Premier League manager wages as Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool salaries emerge

Nine of the division’s 20 bosses pocket base annual salaries of £5million or more and pay packets usually rise when new contracts are handed out. Sportekz have published details of the wages being earned by the Premier League managers. We’ve ranked them here in terms of their earnings.

20) Chris Wilder, Sheffield United

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the man who was first appointed at Bramall Lane when the Blades were languishing in League One is the lowest-paid manager in the Premier League. 

However, Wilder has signed two new contracts since Sheffield United earned promotion – a three-year deal in the summer of 2019 and then a new contract in January, seeing him through to the summer of 2024, as per BBC Sport.

Wilder earns a reported £14,000 per week with a base salary of £675,000 per year.

19) Slaven Bilic, West Bromwich Albion

Slaven Bilic is the only other Premier League manager who is said to have an annual wage of less than £1million. 

His two-year deal was signed when the Baggies were in the Championship and is due to expire at the end of the current campaign.

One of four Premier League managers out of contract at the end of the season, Bilic earns a reported £17,700 per week.

18) Ralph Hassenhutl, Southampton

Hassenhutl may have finished as a runner-up with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, but he’s one of the lowest-paid bosses in England’s top tier.

The 52-year-old, who replaced Mark Hughes as Southampton boss in December 2018, earns £21,000 per week and an annual income of £1million.

In June 2020, he signed a new contract to extend his stay at the club until 2024, as per The Guardian.

17) Graham Potter, Brighton

Having previously worked wonders at Swedish underdogs Ostersunds, Potter impressed at Swansea City before being appointed by Brighton in 2019.

Potter is reported to be on the same wage as Hassenhutl, with an annual earning of £1million.

16) Dean Smith, Aston Villa

There is a significant hike in income to the next man on the list, with Aston Villa boss Dean Smith earning a reported £31,250 per week – translating to £1.5million per year.

Smith’s current deal runs through to the summer of 2023, as per BBC Sport, with Villa recently rewarding him for maintaining their top-flight status.

15) Sean Dyche, Burnley

The Burnley boss is one of five Premier League managers whose contract expires in the summer of 2022, with his most recent deal penned in 2018, as cited by BBC Sport.

Dyche has been in charge at Turf Moor since 2012 and has established the Clarets as a fixture in the Premier League in recent years.

Sportekz claim his salary is £2.4million per annum, but the Lancashire Telegraph have previously reported it could be as high as £3.5million.

14) Steve Bruce, Newcastle

One of the league’s most experienced managers, Steve Bruce is said to be on a weekly wage of £57,000, which translates into an annual salary of £2.75million.

He has two years remaining on his contract at St James’s Park, which was signed upon his appointment in the summer of 2019.

13) David Moyes, West Ham

On slightly more than Bruce, West Ham boss David Moyes has an annual wage of £3million.

The Scot penned an 18-month deal last season and the Telegraph report there will be no discussions over a contract renewal until the turn of the year at the earliest.

12) Scott Parker, Fulham

The former combative midfielder guided Fulham to promotion via the play-offs last term and the club confirmed in September that he had penned a three-year contract through to 2023.

He is said to earn a wage of £73,000 per week, which is £3.5million per year – surprisingly high for someone at the start of his managerial career.

11) Nuno Espirito Santo, Wolves

The Portuguese boss signed a new three-year deal at Molineux on the eve of the current season, as per BBC Sport.

He is said to now be on an annual wage of £4million, with weekly earnings of £85,000.

10) Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace

Now 72, Roy Hodgson is the league’s oldest manager and is under contract at Selhurst Park until the end of the season.

His most recent deal was signed back in March, as per BBC Sport, and while he has generally impressed across his spell at Palace, it is unlikely he will remain beyond the current campaign.

Hodgson is currently in his 44th year as a manager, his career having begun at Swedish club Halmstads in 1976. He is said to earn £4.5million per season.

9) Brendan Rodgers, Leicester

Brendan Rodgers committed his long-term future to Leicester last December – when the team were comfortably in the top three – by signing of a new contract to 2025, as per The Guardian.

Reports indicate the Northern Irishman earns £105,000 per week and has an annual salary of £5million.

8) Mikel Arteta, Arsenal

Arsenal appointed Mikel Arteta through to the summer of 2023 last December, and Goal say his salary is the same as Leicester boss Rodgers – an annual sum of £5million.

The Spaniard has enjoyed a successful opening year at the Gunners, helping them to last season’s FA Cup and also lifting the Community Shield ahead of this season.

He is one of the youngest managers in the league but the protégé of Pep Guardiola looks to have a bright future in coaching. 

7) Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manchester United

It is perhaps a little surprising that the manager of Manchester United – known for their generous contract offers to players – is not even among the six highest-earning managers in the Premier League.

The Norwegian was appointed permanently in March 2019 following a successful stint as caretaker. He earns a reported £160,000 per week, which works out as £7.8million per annum.

6) Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds

Marcelo Bielsa penned a one-year contract extension at Elland Road last month to make him one of the highest-paid managers in the Premier League.

The Argentine is on a reported £166,660 per week – £8million per year, a figure which is higher than his Arsenal and Manchester United counterparts.

He has overseen the club’s return to the big time and will leave a lasting impact on the Whites regardless of what happens this season.

5) Frank Lampard, Chelsea

Frank Lampard is the fifth highest-paid manager in the Premier League, earning marginally more than Bielsa at £166,850 per week.

As per Sky Sports, the former England international penned a three-year deal at Stamford Bridge last summer.

Lampard met his objectives of a top-four finish last year, but more will be expected after the Blues’ significant outlay in the summer transfer market.

4) Carlo Ancelotti, Everton

It is unsurprising that one of the game’s most distinguished managers earns a significant salary at Everton.

Sportekz claim Carlo Ancelotti’s salary is £11million per annum, but The Sun have reported Ancelotti’s deal is worth £14million over the course of a season.

With Juventus, Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich among his former employers, the Italian is one of the division’s highest-profile head coaches.

3) Jose Mourinho, Tottenham

Jose Mourinho is still managerial box-office and his appointment at Tottenham last season stole headlines across the football world.

The Daily Mail claim Mourinho is on a £15million-a-year contract at Spurs, making him the third highest-paid manager in the Premier League, with a whopping weekly wage of a £313,000.

2) Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has transformed Liverpool from Premier League underperformers into record-breaking champions in England and Europe.

Unsurprisingly, he is very well paid and pockets marginally more than Mourinho at Spurs. Sportekz claim his weekly wage is £313,500, which is around £15million per season.

Klopp’s current deal at Anfield runs through until 2024.

1) Pep Guardiola, Manchester City 

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola last signed a contract extension in 2018, with the Daily Mirror reporting his annual salary is a whopping £30million.

That places the Catalan far above any of his competitors in the Premier League and reflects Guardiola’s status within the game.

Guardiola’s weekly wage is £417,500, but with his contract up at the end of the season, there could be a new leader of this list next term.

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Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opens up on Donny van de Beek mindset before Chelsea

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed Donny van de Beek is ‘eager to play’. The Netherlands international signed from Ajax in the summer transfer window but has struggled for opportunities at Old Trafford since moving. But that could change when the Red Devils face Chelsea on Saturday night.

Manchester United paid £40million to sign Van de Beek from Ajax back in the summer transfer window. 

But the Dutchman is yet to start in the Premier League since his move, only being unleashed from the beginning in Carabao Cup showdowns with Luton Town and Brighton.

That, for many United fans, has been a big disappointment.

And Solskjaer has admitted the 24-year-old is eager to play, saying in his pre-match press conference: “Donny’s fit enough but of course it’s competition for places, it’s giving him time to settle in and adjust to his new teammates, it’s a new league.

“He’s an absolutely top footballer and personality, so humble and hard-working but also, of course, eager to play more.

“You’ll see him throughout the season, it’s going to be a long, long season and he’s impressed me. You’ll see him.”

Solskjaer also insisted he had no issue with Mason Greenwood.

In the week, reports suggested the England international had been brought in for crunch talks amid concerns over his punctuality, with the forward arriving late for training.

And Solskjaer said: “We have a great record and tradition of bringing our players through, that means from early on you get good habits, you express yourselves, Mason’s come through this programme, done fantastic and will be kicking on I’m sure, he’s a very exciting boy to work with.

“You do [make a target for yourself] when you play well and I’m not concerned at all with Mason making a target for himself. H he came in, played fantastic, he made his first start against Tottenham last season, was brilliant, kicked on.

“He made a mistake for England and suddenly English press go after him.

“I have to disappoint you… he’s never ever late for training. I’ve seen some ex United players talking about him and they don’t know what they’re talking about and they can see every day. I don’t know where these stories have come from.

“He’s got a good family behind him, academy and he’s a good trainer and I cannot believe all these stories about him not being professional, that’s something we have to deal with many players, many other players at United have had that.”

Solskjaer feels the match against Chelsea could be important.

“Of course, it’s very important, players if you lose games you’re determined to win, to bounce back I saw that focus at Newcastle and after you beat PSG gives you more belief and confidence,” he said.

“Two very good performances and results but now it’s the next game and that’s what we’re focused on.

[Chelsea’s start] is like many of us, some very good games, some lesser performances, football is just settling now and teams are just getting into their shape.

“We know it’s gonna be a tough game against Chelsea, we had maybe four or five games against them last year, two teams that know each other really well.”

On Harry Maguire, Edinson Cavani and Greenwood being picked, he added: “I hope and expect all three of them to be available for selection.

“Of course we’ve got a training session this morning which is the last chance of preparation, but they’ve all got a chance, all of them.

“Edinson needs to tick all the boxes that he’s gone through in his programme to be ready and make an impact.

“I’ll have a discussion with him today, as well as with Mason and Harry.”

United beat Chelsea three times last season.

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What Arsenal star Lucas Torreira has said about returning after Atletico Madrid loan spell

Arsenal star Lucas Torreira has no desire to return to the Emirates Stadium once his loan spell with Atletico Madrid comes to an end. The Uruguay international was sent to Spain for the year during the summer transfer window. And he’s apparently loving life under Diego Simeone having struggled for chances under both Mikel Arteta and Unai Emery during his two years in north London.

Torreira was determined to join Atletico back in the transfer window, with the midfielder’s agent, Pablo Bentancur, saying shortly after the midfielder’s move: “Arsenal were targeting Thomas Partey and when the two clubs have a different objective it is difficult to be in the middle of the two operations.

“We had other agreed-upon teams such as Roma, Fiorentina and Lazio, who play the Champions League, but Lucas was blunt.

“He told us that his goal was Atletico and that we get it for him and we work for the players.

“He closed all the other possibilities, it either, ‘yes or yes’ to Atletico. Luckily in the end it was done.”

The 24-year-old has made two appearances for Atletico since joining and impressed, despite his limited game time.

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And Torreira has now revealed that he’d be happy to stay in Spain, telling Ovacion: “I’ve suffered a lot of things, I had a lot of personal problems and more than anything my family also suffered.

“I know that I am a year on loan.

“But I’ve been here for four or five days and it seems like it’s a lot, because I’ve been treated very well.

“It is a new opportunity in my life, in which I have fought a lot, because Atlético has always been one of my dreams, one of my goals as a team.

“And being able to achieve it at the age of 24 is something very important.

Premier League done deals: Every confirmed transfer in the summer window

“It all depends on how I go during the season, which I hope is very good, and maybe in the future I can stay in the club.”

Torreira posted a touching message to Arseal supporters upon leaving the club, saying on an Instagram post: “I would like to thank all the people I met at Arsenal during these two incredible years, all the outstanding staff working on and off the pitch.

“And, of course, I would like to hug all the Arsenal fans for the amazing support they have been showing me since the first day.

“The chant you sang for me will always be in my heart. It was an absolute privilege playing for Arsenal these last two seasons.

“Thanks a lot! We’ll catch up soon. Once a Gunner…always a Gunner! #LT11.”

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Arsenal signed Thomas Partey from Atletico as Torreira’s replacement and the Ghana international sparkled on Thursday as Rapid Vienna were beaten in the Europa League.

And Arteta was full of praise for the powerhouse after the match, saying: “He looked really solid, really comfortable, and I think he held the midfield by himself in the second half when we were a little bit more open and took more chances, attacking spaces with some players.

“I think he was fantastic tonight and there is much more to come from him obviously.

“He needs his team-mates around him, it’s not about him. With the price we paid for him and the profile of him, he’s going to have a lot of people looking at him every single game.

“But it’s about the structure we have as a team, the flow, the unity and cohesion we have in the team, and he’s one piece of that and hopefully a big piece.”

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Arsenal player ratings vs Rapid Vienna: Thomas Partey shines but one flop gets a 4

Arsenal secured a 2-1 win over Rapid Vienna on Thursday night thanks to goals from David Luiz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But who stood out the most for Mikel Arteta’s side? Here’s Express Sport’s player ratings for the Gunners. 

Bernd Leno – 4

Made some crucial saves to keep Arsenal in the game in the first half, but his game will be defined by the goal.

He can’t afford to make simple errors while playing out from the back in the Europa League, even though his options were limited.

Made another poor mistake with Luiz as he tried to clear the ball only for it to hit the defender’s back.

Cedric Soares – 5

Was largely ineffective before being taken off for Hector Bellerin.

Failed to have much impact on the game, but made some nice forward passes during his time on the pitch.

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David Luiz – 5

Luiz could be partially blamed for Vienna’s goal, after playing a lacklustre pass back to Leno inside his own box that left the goalkeeper short of options.

He made up for it, though, with a nice header to equalise with 20 minutes to go.

Gabriel Magalhaes – 7

Looked solid at the back throughout, and found himself pushing high up the field to get involved in the build-up play.

Never failed to track back, even after Arsenal had lost the ball in the opposition half, and made a goal-saving tackle after a mix-up at the back.

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Saed Kolasniac – 5

A pretty standard game from Kolasinac. He put in a strong performance on the left side of the defence.

Bukayo Saka – 7

Had a pretty good game down the left flank, and refused to neglect his defensive responsibilities despite having success going forward.

Taken off with five minutes to spare with one eye on this weekend’s game against Leicester.

Mohamed Elneny – 8

Elneny looked terrific in the middle of the park alongside Partey, producing some defence-splitting passes and causing trouble for the Vienna defence.

Created Arsenal’s second with a nice through ball to Bellerin, which left the right-back with a simple pass to make to Aubameyang.

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Thomas Partey – 9

Partey put in a man-of-the-match performance on his full debut for the club.

The deadline day signing dominated proceedings from the middle of midfield, and always seemed to be in the right position to win any loose balls.

Eddie Nketiah – 6

The youngster had a good game before being hauled off for Aubameyang on the hour mark.

He was played slightly out of position, being employed as a left winger with Alexandre Lacazette through the middle.

Nicolas Pepe – 7

Looked lively throughout the game, and created Arsenal’s equaliser with a beautifully curled free-kick which was placed right on Luiz’s head.

He caused trouble for the Vienna defence and showed some potential ahead of the Leicester tie.

Alexandre Lacazette – 6

Lacazette led the line well, but didn’t do too much to cause Vienna problems.

A few times he found himself in behind the defence, only to turn and try to play a ball through to one of his team-mates, when you thought he could have gone for goal instead.

Substitutes

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang – 8

Made the difference off the bench after being introduced after the hour mark.

Tapped in from close-range after a brilliant ball across goal by Bellerin.

Hector Bellerin – 8

Just like Aubameyang, Bellerin was crucial to Arsenal turning the game around in Vienna.

His pace offered Arsenal another option going forward and his assist late in the game for Aubameyang’s goal proved to be the difference.

Kieran Tierney – 6

Had a fine game, but wasn’t on the pitch for long enough to make an impact.

Callum Willock – 6

Much the same with Callum Willock, having come on at the same time with five minutes left.

Reiss Nelson – N/A

Came on with mere seconds left.

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PSG masterclass justifies Man Utd chiefs’ feeling that Solskjaer has next Nemanja Vidic

Manchester United seem to have mastered the knack of pulling off an exceptional result when they need it most under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. On Tuesday night they went to Paris Saint-Germain and outclassed last season’s Champions League runners-up as Solskjaer laid on a tactical masterclass in the French capital which was capped by Marcus Rashford’s late winner.

It was the very least United deserved after an impressive showing which saw them flaunt two different formations.

United started in 3-4-1-2 before switching to a 4-3-3 following the introduction of Paul Pogba, a tweak that later won the Red Devils the game.

In stark contrast to previous weeks, United looked strong at the back and never really looked in danger of throwing the game away.

Much of that was credit to the performance of young Axel Tuanzebe, who was making his first senior appearance in 10 months.

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Despite the long injury lay-off, Tuanzebe was comfortably up to speed with the ferocious intensity of the match and also led by example.

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar endured a difficult evening up against the 22-year-old and now United are hopeful he can stay fit and Marshall their defence moving forward.

It was a performance that confirmed the feelings of those who work at Carrington, who have seen Tuanzebe up close and personal since he joined the club’s academy in 2005.

Earlier this summer, journalist Andy Mitten revealed the extent of the praise he was receiving behind the scenes at Old Trafford despite being absent through injury.

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“Axel Tuanzebe is a player that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer really likes. Everybody at the club likes him,” Mitten said on Talk of the Devils podcast.

“There’s people at the club that think he’s good enough to be absolutely top class, [Rio] Ferdinand class, [Nemanja] Vidic class.

“But he’s got to do it and the time to do it was this season. He’s had a season that has been interrupted by injuries and United can’t wait forever.

“Sometimes there are just situations with players where for whatever reason, it just doesn’t quite happen for them.”

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The humble Tuanzebe will no doubt be honoured by comparisons to Ferdinand and Vidic but now his full focus will be on nailing down a spot in Solskjaer’s line up.

Speaking in the BT Sport studio after the game, Ferdinand was delighted with the performance of Tuanzebe and claimed he was ready for a run in the side.

“Ole has just said it’s two of the best two strikers in the world, he snuffed out danger many a time today,” Ferdinand said.

“You have to reward performances like that. He’s had a hard time with injuries – first game in 10 months – to come in and play like that, from in out of the cold, you deserve to be rewarded. But Ole is the man to make that decision.

“This is where Man United have struggled in the last six to 12 months, in them areas chasing players down the channels, they can’t stay with them and then obviously that opens up the back four or back three. But he was smelling danger.”

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Liverpool injury news: Keita, Thiago, Matip, Alisson updates as Klopp leaves stars at home

Liverpool will begin life without Virgil van Dijk tonight in their Champions League opener at Ajax. The club confirmed on Sunday that the Dutchman will be undergoing surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament after hobbling off in the Merseyside derby. Naby Keita, Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip were among others to be left at home for the trip to Holland and Express Sport brings you the latest in regards to Liverpool’s injury concerns.

Naby Keita

The former RB Leipzig man has been left at home as a precaution.

It appears he may have sustained a knock during training ahead of the trip to the Netherlands.

Keita missed the Merseyside derby because he was isolating following a positive coronavirus test while on international duty.

He was in line for a start tonight but Curtis Jones gets the nod.

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Thiago Alcantara

The midfielder was sent for a scan on his knee following Richarlison’s dangerous tackle in the Merseyside derby.

The Everton forward was shown a straight for the challenge which ruled Thiago out of the Ajax clash.

Although the scan did not reveal any signs of serious injury, it was enough to keep him out of the trip to Amsterdam.

Liverpool are hoping he will return for the visit of Sheffield United on Saturday.

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Alisson

Liverpool had feared he would be out until November after picking up an injury in training.

Ahead of the 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa, the Brazilian was involved in a collision in training.

He has now returned to individual training but the match comes too soon for him.

Alisson is expected to return in the near future in a major boost for Liverpool.

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Joel Matip

Matip did not train after the Merseyside derby and underwent a scan on a niggle.

He was deemed not fit for the Ajax match but the injury is not serious as he bids to fill the void of Virgil van Dijk.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The midfielder is working through a rehabilitation program after picking up a knee injury in Liverpool’s pre-season camp in Austria.

Klopp is happy with his progress but he is not closing on a return just yet.

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Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may change formation permanently due to two players

Last night’s triumph at the Parc des Princes against Paris Saint-Germain belonged to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the Manchester United boss came up trumps to answer his critics. A small tactical tweak and shift in formation in the second half transformed a draw into a well-deserved victory thanks to Marcus Rashford’s late drive that flew in off the post.

It was a performance that saw Solskjaer learn a lot about his team, their character and fight and he may have also found a solution moving forward.

The Red Devils set up in a 3-4-1-2, a system that Solskjaer has called on several times before since being appointed United boss.

In truth, it’s rarely let him down and gives United a platform to build on defensively.

While 4-3-3 enabled them to win the game and will always be their preferred formation, the performance in Paris suggests 3-4-1-2 could be the way forward.

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United’s defence has been a problem and an area that continues to hold them back.

They shipped three goals against Crystal Palace before being run ragged by Brighton in a 3-2 win at the Amex and Tottenham hit them for six.

Yet with a back three, United look like a team capable of keeping the opposition at bay.

Much has been made of Axel Tuanzebe’s brilliant performance as he helped nullify Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

His re-emergence could still United switch permanently to three at the back given that he offers Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof plenty of protection.

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Tuanzebe has the pace to cover ground but is also confident bringing the ball out from the back.

The arrival and display of Alex Telles, also points towards changing to three at the back.

Telles is a natural athlete who loves to get forward, parade the channel and launch crosses into the box.

In many ways, he is a left-back and left midfielder rolled into one and gives Solskjaer the option to drop Luke Shaw into the left side of the back three.

While Telles has the credentials to prove a real hit in an attacking sense, on the other flank, Aaron Wan-Bissaka is also the perfect wing-back.

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He is often urged to improve the attacking side of his game but defensively, his game is almost faultless.

That was evident last night on several occasions when the PSG attack struggled to evade him.

Elsewhere, United have the perfect balance both in midfield and attack. With Paul Pogba pulling the strings from deep, Fred is the legs and Bruno Fernandes is the creative spark to ignite the fire.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have both struggled to maintain a high level of performance through the middle but as a duo, they’re explosive.

In Tuanzebe and Telles, Solskjaer may just have found enough encouragement to persist with a back three moving forward and last night’s stunning 2-1 win in Paris may have just been the eureka moment he needed to kick on this season.

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Man Utd chief Ed Woodward opens up on Q4 financial results as coronavirus crisis hits hard

Manchester United supremo Ed Woodward has opened up on the club’s financial results for Q4. And it’s not easy reading for the club, even if there are positives to take. Football has been played behind closed doors since resuming in June and the impact of that has now been outlined.

The United Kingdom was plunged into lockdown back in March and, with the coronavirus crisis showing no signs of slowing up, that’s impacted United.

Firstly, however, the good news.

Commercial revenue for the year was a huge £279million, an increase of £3.9m from last year (1.4 per cent).

Their retail revenue was, however, drastically down.

United posted that at £96.3m, a decrease of £5.8m on 12 months ago due to the closure of the club’s official Old Trafford Megastore from March.

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Broadcasting revenue was also down.

United lost out on £101m due to the club not being in the Champions League, as well as because 10 home and away matches from last season being played at the start of the new financial year as opposed to their old one.

That’s a percentage of 41.9 per cent.

United extended their shirt sponsorship deal with Chevrolet by six months, to December 2021, to address the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Executive Vice Chairman Woodward said: “Our focus remains on protecting the health of our colleagues, fans and community while adapting to the significant economic ramifications of the pandemic.

“Within that context, our top priority is to get fans back into the stadium safely and as soon as possible.

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“We are also committed to playing a constructive role in helping the wider football pyramid through this period of adversity, while exploring options for making the English game stronger and more sustainable in the long-term.

“This requires strategic vision and leadership from all stakeholders, and we look forward to helping drive forward that process in a timely manner.

“On the pitch, we have strengthened the team over the summer and we remain committed to our objective of winning trophies, playing entertaining, attacking football with a blend of Academy graduates and high-quality recruits, while carefully managing our resources to protect the long-term resilience of the Club.”

The latest results cover the 2019/20 financial year from July 1 2019 to June 30 2020 and the fourth quarter of that year April 1 to June 30.

Due to Covid-19, only one Premier League home match, two away matches and an FA Cup quarter-final were played during the fiscal fourth quarter, all of them behind closed doors.

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Back in May, United revealed that their debt had risen by 42 per cent as figures showed the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Broadcasting, matchday and retail revenue were all down by more than £30m in the first three months of 2020.

Those figures showed United’s net debt had shot up by £127.4m to £429.1m.

And that forced the club to withdraw their previous revenue forecast of between £560m-£580m.

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Lionel Messi and three Barcelona players ‘refusing to agree pay cut’ as row erupts

Lionel Messi doesn’t want to accept a 30 per cent pay cut at Barcelona, it has been claimed. The La Liga giants have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis and want to balance the books. But doing so appears easier said than done.

Messi’s relationship with Barcelona has been considerably worsened over the past few months.

The Argentina international was furious at the sacking of Ernesto Valverde back in January and also didn’t like the appointment of Quique Setien as his replacement.

Messi was further angered by the club’s Champions League exit to Bayern Munich last season, with the La Liga giants losing 8-2 on a chastening afternoon.

And he was unhappy at club president Josep Maria Bartomeu for denying him a move away from the Nou Camp, with the 33-year-old hoping to join Manchester City.

Now, as a result of the coronavirus crisis, Barcelona have asked their players to take a 30 per cent pay cut.

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But Spanish pundit Eduardo Inda has claimed Messi has rejected that proposal, saying: “There are four players who accept the pay cut. They are Ter Stegen, De Jong, Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.

“Messi and Pique disagree. And they will have no choice but to lower their salary.”

Inda then claimed that Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti were all siding with Messi over the pay cut.

“There are three other French who have joined Messi in this war: Griezmann, Dembele and Umtiti,” he added.

“What the club is proposing is 30% to reach 20% and balance the accounts.”

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Barcelona are starting to fear a life without Messi, knowing the veteran will be able to leave the Nou Camp for free at the end of the season.

City remain keen on bringing the Argentine to the Etihad Stadium, despite Pep Guardiola missing out earlier in the summer.

And Barcelona icon Samuel Umtiti has expressed a belief that Borussia Dortmund’s Youssoufa Moukoko can be Messi’s long-term successor in Catalonia, saying: “[There’s] a young player who plays for Dortmund called Youssoufa Moukoko.

“[He’s] 15 years of age, and he’s the next top player, for me, after Messi.

“As Messi gets older, we could prepare the future of Barcelona very well.”

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Eto’o believes the Dortmund star can help Antoine Griezmann shine, with the France international struggling ever since his move from Atletico Madrid back in the summer transfer window of 2019.

“With Antoine and Youssoufa [up front together], that team would go forward very well,” Eto’o concluded.

“[I’d like to see] Kylian Mbappe at Barcelona also.”

Other clubs who could sign Messi include Juventus and PSG.

But what ultimately happens regarding his long-term future is something only time will tell. 

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