Ronaldo Hits Back At Claim He Wants To Beat Messi’s Ballon d’Or Haul

Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on November 28, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

 

Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo has hit back at a “disrespectful” claim that his only remaining ambition is to win the Ballon d’Or more times than Lionel Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi won the prestigious award for a seventh time on Monday.

Ronaldo, who finished sixth in this year’s voting, has earned the Ballon d’Or five times.

The Ballon d’Or, given to the best male and female footballers of the year, is voted on by 180 journalists and presented by France Football.

Pascal Ferre, the editor in chief of France Football, was quoted in the New York Times recently saying Ronaldo told him his primary motivation was to retire having won the accolade more often than his old rival Messi.

Ronaldo, 36, took to Instagram to deny that suggestion.

“Today’s outcome explains Pascal Ferre’s statements last week, when he said that I confided in him that my only ambition was to finish my career with more Ballon d’Ors than Lionel Messi,” Ronaldo wrote.

“Pascal Ferre lied, he used my name to promote himself and to promote the publication he works for.

“It is unacceptable that the person responsible for awarding such a prestigious prize could lie in this way, in absolute disrespect for someone who has always respected France Football and the Ballon d’Or.

“The biggest ambition of my career is to win national and international titles for the clubs I represent and for the national team in my country.

“The biggest ambition of my career is to be a good example for all those who are or want to be professional footballers.

“The biggest ambition of my career is to leave my name written in golden letters in the history of world football.”

Ronaldo, who did not attend Monday’s prize-giving event in Paris, last won the Ballon d’Or in 2017.

This year marked the first time the former Juventus and Real Madrid striker finished outside the top five voting since 2010.

Messi’s seventh success extended his lead in the male category after he set the record with his sixth in 2019.

Barcelona and Spain midfielder Alexia Putellas won the 2021 women’s Ballon d’Or.

Klopp’s Mentor Rangnick Brings Studious Approach To Man Utd

Ralf Rangnick is reportedly close to finalising a deal to become Manchester United’s interim manager (AFP/John MACDOUGALL)

 

Manchester United’s new interim manager Ralf Rangnick once mentored Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel and now “The Professor” will use his studious approach to revive his troubled Premier League club.

United hired Rangnick on Monday after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked last week following a humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford that featured the kind of confusion and lethargy that are anathema to the German.

Solskjaer’s failed reign was defined by an acute lack of coherent game-planning.

But Rangnick’s role in championing the “gegenpressing” (counter-pressing) philosophy popularised by Liverpool boss Klopp suggests United are about to be dragged into the 21st century.

United lured Rangnick from his role as Lokomotiv Moscow’s head of sports and development after learning Paris Saint-Germain were not willing to part with Mauricio Pochettino at present.

That could turn out to be a blessing in disguise if the 63-year-old can emulate the success enjoyed by his devoted pupils at Liverpool and Chelsea.

Klopp used Rangnick’s tactics to become a Premier League and European champion at Liverpool, while Chelsea boss Tuchel is an ardent admirer after United’s new manager gave him his first coaching job at Stuttgart.

Rangnick rejected an interim offer from Chelsea in January, paving the way for Tuchel to win the Champions League in his first season with the Blues.

Klopp and Tuchel swear by the intense scheme Rangnick first adopted after watching Valeriy Lobanovskyi’s Dynamo Kiev in the 1980s.

“That was my football epiphany. I understood that there was a different way of playing,” Rangnick said.

The German’s obsession with his players’ reaction times in training is fuelled by his desire to deploy high-tempo pressing tactics during matches.

When Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund suffered an eye-opening 4-1 defeat against Rangnick’s Hoffenheim in 2008, he immediately learned lessons from his counterpart’s style.

In an interview with the Coaches’ Voice website, Rangnick said: “Our idea is clear: it’s very similar to my almost-coaching friend Jurgen Klopp. Our football is very heavy metal, rock and roll and it’s not slow balls.”

Reacting to Rangnick’s appointment, Klopp said it was not good news for United’s rivals.

“Ralf is obviously a really experienced manager,” he said. “Unfortunately a good coach is coming to England.”

‘Trust and empathy’

It will be fascinating to see if Rangnick can persuade Cristiano Ronaldo to carry out his demands after the striker’s apparent unwillingness to get his hands dirty this season.

Ronaldo is not the only United star who might benefit from Rangnick’s arrival, with their often shambolic defending one area his rigorous approach could clearly improve.

Rangnick was one of the first coaches to hire video analysts and sports psychologists and while he once had a no-nonsense style, he has changed with the times.

“Modern-day leadership is about being persuasive and creating a motivational basis so every day the players will want to come in and get better,” he said.

“This is about trust and empathy and human relationships.”

Lutz Pfannenstiel, who worked with Rangnick at Hoffenheim, believes his methodology is ideally suited to lifting United out of their malaise.

“We like to call him in Germany, the football professor. Everything he does is very well thought-out, the way he puts structures in place at every club is something amazing,” Pfannenstiel told the BBC.

A self-confessed Anglophile, Rangnick studied English and physical education at the University of Sussex in the 1970s.

He also played non-league football for Southwick during that spell in England and once worked as an intern at Arsenal.

Rangnick built his coaching resume in Germany with spells at Stuttgart, Hannover, Hoffenheim, Schalke and RB Leipzig, where he was last in the dug-out in 2019.

Rangnick has only won one major trophy, the 2011 German Cup with Schalke.

But he did take Schalke to the Champions League semi-finals in 2011, losing to Alex Ferguson’s United, and led Hoffenheim to the Bundesliga with successive promotions.

After his six-month interim regime, Rangnick has agreed to take on a consultancy role at Old Trafford for two further years.

By the time he steps away, United hope Rangnick’s lessons will have raised the bar at a club that have fallen a long way since their glory days under Ferguson.

AFP

Manchester United Appoint Ralf Rangnick As Interim Manager

File photo of Ralf Rangnick

 

Manchester United announced on Monday they had appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 63-year-old German joins from Lokomotiv Moscow, where he was manager of sports and development.

At the end of the season Rangnick, whose appointment is subject to work visa requirements, will take on a consultancy role at Old Trafford for a further two years.

He takes over from first-team coach Michael Carrick, who has been in caretaker charge for two games since Solskjaer was sacked just over a week ago following a terrible run of results for the 20-time English champions.

“He was our number one candidate for interim manager, reflecting the invaluable leadership and technical skills he will bring from almost four decades of experience in management and coaching,” said United football director John Murtough.

The former RB Leipzig boss said he was excited to be joining United and focused on making it a successful season for the struggling club.

“The squad is full of talent and has a great balance of youth and experience,” he said. “All my efforts for the next six months will be on helping these players fulfil their potential, both individually and, most importantly, as a team.

“Beyond that, I look forward to supporting the club’s longer-term goals on a consultancy basis.”

United are eighth in the Premier League table after a 1-1 draw with leaders Chelsea on Sunday, five points off the top four.

First-team coach Carrick — who has overseen a Champions League win over Villarreal and the draw at Stamford Bridge, where he dropped Cristiano Ronaldo — will remain in caretaker charge until Rangnick’s work visa is finalised.

Club bosses sacked Solskjaer last week after a 4-1 humbling at lowly Watford despite keeping faith with the Norwegian after humiliating home losses to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.

Solskjaer, who scoring the winning goal for United in the 1999 Champions League final to complete a historic treble, was in charge for nearly three years.

Under his leadership United finished in the Premier League top four in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Alex Ferguson retired as boss in 2013 but they failed to win their first silverware since 2017.

United can boast abundant riches in attack, with Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Sancho, Marcus Greenwood and Anthony Martial all vying for starting spots.

But their leaky defence has already conceded 22 goals in 13 games, more than four times Chelsea’s total of five.

Rangnick could take charge of United for the first time against Arsenal on Thursday if his work permit issues are sorted out quickly.

Former United defender Gary Neville tweeted: “Welcome to the Greatest Football Club in the World Ralf Rangnick.

“A contract for 6 months to coach the team. A contract for 2 years to coach the club.”

AFP

Chelsea Held To Man Utd Draw As Man City Go Second

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender Thiago Silva (bottom) lies injured after being fouled by Manchester United’s English defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka resulting in a penalty during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in London on November 28, 2021. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

 

Premier League leaders Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United on Sunday as Manchester City moved to within a point of top spot following a 2-1 win over West Ham in swirling snow.

Blues midfielder Jorginho rescued a point as the Italian’s penalty atoned for the error that allowed Jadon Sancho to put the visitors in front at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea fell behind when poor control from Jorginho allowed Sancho to score early in the second half.

But Jorginho made amends when he scored from the penalty spot after Aaron Wan-Bissaka fouled Thiago Silva.

It was an impressive result for United under former midfielder Michael Carrick, standing in following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United are set to hire former RB Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick as their interim manager until the end of the season in the coming days.

– ‘Disappointed’ –

Not that Carrick, who took the bold decision to leave Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench, was delighted with the performance.

“Disappointed actually,” Carrick told Sky Sports. “When you are in front in a game like this to have it taken away is disappointing.

He added: “I don’t think it was a penalty at all…I am not getting carried away but I thought we defended well. I cannot fault the boys one bit.”

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said: “I am happy, absolutely happy. I saw a huge effort. We put the pressure up high, we were brave and courageous.”

Free-scoring Liverpool hammered Southampton 4-0 on Saturday to move to within one point of Chelsea.

But reigning champions City stayed in touch with victory at home to the high-flying Hammers.

City took the lead shortly after the half-hour mark when a Riyad Mahrez ball into the box was deflected into the path of Ilkay Gundogan, before substitute Fernandinho made it 2-0 late on.

Manuel Lanzini pulled one back deep into stoppage time but it was not enough for David Moyes’s team to avoid a second successive defeat.

“We have an incredible groundskeeper — thanks to them we could play,” City manager Pep Guardiola told the BBC, referring to the wintry conditions in Manchester.

“The chances we created… it could have been three or four. The players we have out… those that came here were brilliant. All of them. We cannot forget which opponent we played. They have everything.”

– Vardy double –

Leicester’s Jamie Vardy reminded Claudio Ranieri of his enduring quality even in his mid-30s, scoring twice at a snowy King Power Stadium in a 4-2 win against Watford.

Ranieri, who won the Premier League title with unfancied Leicester in 2016, received a rapturous reception on his first return to the stadium as an opposition manager since leaving the club early the following year.

Midfielder James Maddison gave Leicester an early lead only for Josh King to level from the penalty spot in the 30th minute after Wilfred Ndidi brought down Emmanuel Dennis in the area.

Leicester regained the lead through Vardy four minutes later and the former England striker grabbed his second three minutes before the break when he glanced in Maddison’s corner.

Dennis pulled a goal back just after the hour but Ademola Lookman scored from close range to restore Leicester’s two-goal lead.

Brentford heaped the pressure on Rafael Benitez by beating Everton 1-0 to secure their first Premier League win since early October, courtesy of a first-half penalty from Ivan Toney.

Everton, who have taken just two points from their past seven league matches, face Liverpool in a daunting test in midweek.

“Every game is important for us,” said ex-Liverpool boss Benitez. “Obviously the next one is more important because it is the derby. We must learn from the mistakes we are making.”

The game between Burnley and Tottenham was called off a little under an hour before kick-off because of heavy snow at Turf Moor in northwest England.

Tuchel’s Chelsea: A Perfect Example Man Utd Should Follow

Chelsea's English defender Reece James (R) celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Norwich City at Stamford Bridge in London on October 23, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Chelsea’s English defender Reece James (R) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Norwich City at Stamford Bridge in London on October 23, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

The 12-point gap between Premier League leaders Chelsea and Manchester United after just 12 games finally cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job as the Red Devils manager, but the Blues provide the inspiration for what United could still achieve this season.

Less than a year ago, Chelsea also sacked a former legendary player turned manager when Frank Lampard was dismissed from Stamford Bridge.

Four months later, the same squad were crowned champions of Europe thanks to a rapid transformation by Thomas Tuchel.

That progress has continued on this season as Chelsea look to break the grip Manchester City and Liverpool have had on the title race for the past four seasons.

Tuchel’s men hold a three-point lead over City at the top of the table with Liverpool one further back.

Despite still missing the presence of record signing Romelu Lukaku through injury, Chelsea have hit top form since returning from the November international break.

Leicester were swept aside 3-0 at the King Power last weekend before Juventus suffered their biggest ever Champions League defeat in a 4-0 drubbing on Tuesday.

“It’s a pleasure to be at the club every single day and to be a part of this team,” said Tuchel after his 50th match in charge in midweek.

“They have a fantastic attitude, determined and hungry, so we want to keep this energy and atmosphere in the group.

“The challenges are coming and it’s good because it keeps us going.”

Chelsea's French midfielder N'Golo Kante scores his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on November 20, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP
Chelsea’s French midfielder N’Golo Kante scores his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on November 20, 2021. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

One of Tuchel’s biggest coaching influences could soon be lining up against him in the Premier League with United reportedly set to hire Ralf Rangnick as the club’s interim manager until the end of the season.

Any deal is not expected to be completed before the sides meet at Stamford Bridge on Sunday with Michael Carrick to take caretaker charge, as he did for a 2-0 win over Villarreal on Tuesday that secured United’s place in the last 16 of the Champions League.

“All my energy and my mind at the moment is on Sunday,” said Carrick.

“Everything else is not for me to worry about and get involved with because I need to win a game of football and that is what I am looking forward to doing.”

READ ALSO: Manchester United Reach Deal With Ralf Rangnick Over Managerial Position

Howe hoping to lead Newcastle

In this file photo taken on February 9, 2020, ex-Bournemouth’s English manager Eddie Howe awaits kick off in the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Bournemouth at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern England.  Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Newcastle sank to the bottom of the table last weekend after a 3-3 draw with Brentford in their first match since Eddie Howe was appointed as manager.

Howe had to watch the game from a hotel room in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.

The former Bournemouth boss is hoping to lead his new side for the first time at Arsenal on Saturday as long as he returns a negative test.

Sold to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in October, Newcastle’s new wealth has counted for little so far as they remain without a win all season.

The Magpies are fortunate to just be five points adrift of safety, but can’t rely on waiting for the January transfer window to solve their problems with eight league games to come before the new year.

Patience with Benitez wearing thin

File photo: Everton’s Spanish manager Rafael Benítez celebrates with his players as they hold Manchester United to a draw during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 2, 2021. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)

 

Everton are the only side in the league in worse form than Newcastle as the Toffees have taken just two points from their last six games.

Many in the Everton support were opposed to the appointment of Rafael Benitez as manager before a ball was kicked this season due to his close connections with rivals Liverpool,

A promising start quietened Benitez’s critics, but they are quickly resurfacing.

Benitez badly needs a win away at Brentford to avoid a frosty reception when Liverpool come to Goodison for the Merseyside derby on Wednesday.

EPL Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Arsenal v Newcastle (1230), Liverpool v Southampton, Crystal Palace v Aston Villa, Norwich v Wolves (all 1500), Brighton v Leeds (1730)

Sunday

Burnley v Tottenham, Brentford v Everton, Manchester City v West Ham, Leicester v Watford (all 1400), Chelsea v Manchester United (1630)

AFP

Manchester United Reach Deal With Ralf Rangnick Over Managerial Position

Ralf Rangnick is reportedly close to finalising a deal to become Manchester United’s interim manager (AFP/John MACDOUGALL)

 

Manchester United have reached an agreement with Ralf Rangnick to take over as new interim manager.

Rangnick will be taking over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was relieved of his position following a humbling 4-1 defeat by Watford, at Vicarage Road, with the club being in an unfamiliar eighth position in the league table.

The German had been part of a short-list of experienced managers inclusive of (current PSG manager) Mauricio Pochettino, (former Barcelona coach) Ernesto Valverde. Rudi Garcia, Lucien Favre, marked to take over at Carrington Road.

An agreement has been said to be reached with Rangnick, which will see him take up the interim role and remain at the club for two years beyond the end of the season on a consultancy basis.

Despite this deal, Michael Carrick is still expected to be in charge for Sunday’s Premier League clash against in-form Chelsea.

Carrick has been placed on a temporary charge of United after the axing of the Norwegian legend.

Lokomotiv Moscow are yet to dissolve Rangnick’s contract, although the English giants are understood to not see this as a hindrance to landing the former  R.B Leipzig boss.

Rangnick has been touted as the “Godfather of German football, “where he helped to shape the forward defending style commonly employed by Jurgen Klopp’s men, Liverpool; whereby the team, after losing possession, immediately attempts to win back possession.

Ronaldo Fires Manchester United Into Champions League Last 16

Manchester United's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Villarreal CF and Manchester United, at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on November 23, 2021. JOSE JORDAN / AFP
Manchester United’s Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Villarreal CF and Manchester United, at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on November 23, 2021. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s excellent goal helped Manchester United begin life after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 2-0 victory over Villarreal on Tuesday and seal their place in the Champions League last 16.

Ronaldo’s splendid lob was then capped by Jadon Sancho’s first United goal at the Ceramica, where caretaker manager Michael Carrick dropped Bruno Fernandes to the bench.

Fernandes was on the pitch for both of United’s goals after being brought on in the 66th minute, but it was Ronaldo who proved the difference again, his instinctive shot in the 78th unlocking a game that looked destined to remain goalless.

READ ALSO: Pochettino Ready To Quit PSG For Manchester United Job – Reports

After a turbulent few days that saw Solskjaer sacked following Saturday’s humiliating 4-1 defeat by Watford, United were able to calm the storm with a win that leaves them three points clear at the top of Group F.

With Villarreal, in second, up against Atalanta in the final game, United, who finish at home to Young Boys, are now guaranteed to go through, and most likely in first place.

Carrick has only been placed in temporary charge, after the club outlined their plan on Sunday to install an interim coach before then making a permanent appointment next summer.

Numerous candidates have been linked, with former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde the latest name to emerge on Tuesday.

Carrick, who wore a black suit and won the Champions League once in his 12 years as a Manchester United player, had been surprisingly reluctant to distinguish himself from Solskjaer in his first press conference on Monday.

He said “we’ll have to see” when asked if he could lift United out of their slump and admitted he had “similar beliefs” to the Norwegian and “that’s why we worked together for so long”.

His team selection, though, was bolder, with Fernandes the statement change. The Portuguese playmaker was replaced by Donny van de Beek, while Anthony Martial, Alex Telles and Fred came in for Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic.

None of those promoted really justified their inclusion. Telles was twice exposed in the first half while Martial was largely anonymous before coming off for Rashford in the second half.

Villarreal, the Europa League champions who will likely have to beat Atalanta now to make it through, had chances but failed to take them and were punished.

Compelling first half

The first half was compelling even if it never quite caught fire, with both sides seemingly waiting for the other to either over-commit or make a mistake.

Scott McTominay went close with a header at the back post and Arnaut Danjuma fired wide. Yeremi Pino had the best opening when another Danjuma shot span out to him on the right. He made space away from Telles, only to lash into the side-netting.

Telles was struggling to contain the lively Yeremi and misjudged a long punt down field which his opponent pulled back for Manuel Trigueros but David de Gea palmed away.

Ronaldo was largely a frustrated figure, flailing his arms as his teammates turned down opportunities to advance the ball quicker. There was a free-kick on the edge of the area, but he drove it into the wall.

The game grew more cagey in the second half. Trigueros again tested De Gea with an effort banged into the ground but again, the Spaniard reacted fast.

With 24 minutes left, Carrick brought on Fernandes and Rashford for Martial and Van de Beek. Fernandes gave the pass from which Sancho should have scored, the winger darting in off the right, only to finish straight at Geronimo Rulli.

The changes had given United impetus and in the 78th minute, Ronaldo struck.

Rulli played the ball to Etienne Capoue around 30 yards out but the midfielder was immediately pressured by Fred, who forced the ball to cannon off Capoue’s left foot and bounce up close to Ronaldo.

With Rulli out of his goal, Ronaldo glanced at the goalkeeper and cushioned the ball over his head and in.

There was still time for another and again Ronaldo was involved, winning the ball back and then sent clear down the left. His pass inside was moved on to the back post, where Sancho controlled and rifled in.

AFP

Pochettino Ready To Quit PSG For Manchester United Job – Reports

Paris Saint-Germain’s Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino greets supporters at the end of the French L1 football match between Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) and FC Nantes at The Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris on November 20, 2021. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino is ready to take up the reins at Manchester United if the English giants reach out to him.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, who fell out of favour with the board and club faithful, has been replaced by Michael Carrick, while they look to appoint an interim boss until the end of the season.

It is understood that Pochettino is prepared to vacate his position at PSG because he is unhappy in Paris, according to reports.

The former Tottenham boss was a heavy favourite for the Red Devils job after Jose Mourinho was relieved of his position in December 2018 and is still hugely admired by certain quarters of the Old Trafford ladder.

Interestingly, the Argentine will be in Manchester on Tuesday ahead of his team’s clash with Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday; however,  United are yet to make any official contact with him.

Also in support of the 49-year-old taking charge at United is a club legend, Gary Neville who claimed Pochettino wouldn’t think twice at the job offer

“I think Mauricio Pochettino – although he’d never say it – would leave to come to Man Utd on a five-year deal tomorrow,” Neville said in an interview with Skysports.

“He’d look at that group of players, he’d look at the club and he’d realise he’d probably be able to achieve more than he wants at Manchester United in terms of a project.”

Speaking on the United philosophy he said: “At PSG you are on a season by season, ‘you’ve got to win the Champions League or you’re out, type of model.”I don’t think that suits Pochettino. I think he would absolutely come to Manchester United on a five-year deal, with backing behind him.”

Pochettino has also been said to be increasingly frustrated at managing a dressing-room with big egos like Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Kylian Mbappe and would love out of the club.

Leicester City boss, Brendan Rodgers, has been heavily linked with the United job with the club willing to pay £8 million in compensation to the Foxes.

Rodgers also has a contract clause allowing him to speak to certain clubs if they require the Scottishman’s services.

Also in the running are Ajax boss, Erik ten Hag, who has been reported to be unavailable until the summer and Ralf Rangnick, the current head of sports and development at Lokomotiv Moscow.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Outstanding Human’: Ronaldo Pays Tribute To Solskjaer 

Ex-Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) shakes hands with Manchester United’s Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo as he comes off the substitutes bench during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 2, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo paid tribute on Monday to “outstanding human being” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after the Norwegian was sacked as Manchester United manager.

Ronaldo, who returned to Old Trafford in August, has scored nine times in 13 games for United this season but has failed to prevent the club’s slide down the Premier League table after a series of embarrassing results.

Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday, less than 24 hours after United’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford, which followed chastening home losses to Liverpool and Manchester City.

READ ALSOMan Utd Sack Solskjaer After Dismal Run

Ronaldo, 36, was a team-mate of Solskjaer’s in his first spell at the club under Alex Ferguson.

“He’s been my striker when I first came to Old Trafford and he’s been my coach since I came back to Man. United,” Ronaldo said on Twitter.

“But most of all, Ole is an outstanding human being. I wish him the best in whatever his life has reserved for him. Good luck, my friend! You deserve it!”

Former United midfielder Michael Carrick, who was part of Solskjaer’s coaching team, will take charge of upcoming games while the club look to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season.

United are already realistically out of the Premier League title race, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea, and face a crucial Champions League trip to Villarreal on Tuesday.

AFP

What Next For Man Utd After Solskjaer Sacking?

Solskjaer watches from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England.  Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Manchester United once again have to press the reset button after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became the fourth manager to be shown the door since Alex Ferguson stepped down in 2013.

United have fallen a long way in those eight years, watching from the sidelines as their fiercest rivals, Manchester City and Liverpool, have become the new dominant forces in the Premier League.

David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho all came and went before beloved former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was appointed as caretaker boss in December 2018 with a brief to restore the club to former glories by tapping into its DNA.

United rediscovered their spark in a honeymoon period under the Norwegian, summed up in a breathless Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain — a result that helped persuade club bosses to hand him a permanent deal.

Despite persistent concerns over his lack of experience and technical nous, Solskjaer has come agonisingly close to delivering the club’s first silverware since 2017, losing on penalties in last season’s Europa League final and finishing second in the Premier League.

Club bosses were confident enough in the direction of travel to hand him a new three-year contract in July.

Former United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel said in his recent autobiography that his former team-mate had brought the “heart and soul back” to the club after the divisive Mourinho reign but in the end that did not prove enough.

Solskjaer, 48, said after his side’s chastening 4-1 defeat to lowly Watford on Saturday that he felt for the fans and understood their pain after they vented their fury at Vicarage Road.

“We’ve had a hard time since Sir Alex (Ferguson) left the club and fans who have been with us the last few years since I came in, they’ve been unbelievable, they’ve understood the situation,” he said.

“The signings this summer with Rafa (Raphael Varane), Jadon (Sancho) and Cristiano (Ronaldo) of course raised everyone’s expectations, rightly so, because we brought some top players.”

Zidane link

The question is, who do United turn to now to take the club forward?

A club statement on Sunday stated the intention to hire an interim manager till the end of the season with former midfielder Michael Carrick in the hotseat for the forthcoming games.

By delaying Solskaer’s departure, one prominent candidate is now off the market as Tottenham snatched up a former Premier League winner in Antonio Conte.

United have been consistently linked with Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and the Argentine may well be the motivation for waiting till the summer.

Former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers and Ajax coach Erik ten Hag have also been linked with the role.

United, for so long a byword for stability under Ferguson, have been reluctant to sack their managers until they feel their hand is forced.

That tipping point has now been reached, with the club seventh in the Premier League, already six points off the top four and out of the title race after just 12 games.

Whoever does take over at Old Trafford will have a richly talented but bloated and unbalanced squad to work with.

United can boast abundant riches in attack, with Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Sancho, Marcus Greenwood and Anthony Martial all vying for starting spots.

But Solskjaer’s preferred midfield pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay has often looked lightweight this season and the leaky defence has conceded 21 goals in the league, over five times more than leaders Chelsea.

Any new manager will also have to work under the American owners, the Glazer family, who remain intensely unpopular among a large section of the club’s fanbase.

Protests have recently died down, in part due to the huge funds that they have made available for new players, but the underlying frustrations over the ownership model, which loaded huge amounts of debt onto the club, persist.

One thing is for certain — whoever is next in through the door will face enormous expectations that will not be satisfied until United are top dogs again.

Five Potential Candidates To Replace Solskjaer

File photo of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer/ AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time as Manchester United manager finally ran out on Sunday as the Norwegian was sacked following a humiliating 4-1 defeat at Watford.

Solskjaer failed to win a trophy in nearly three years in charge at Old Trafford and tangible signs of progress after finishing second in the Premier League last season have been blown away amid a run of five defeats in their last seven league games.

United are already 12 points off the pace at the top of the table and the club have announced their intention to appoint an interim manager until the end of the season before making a permanent appointment.

Here, AFP Sport looks at five of the leading candidates to be Solskjaer’s successor:

Zinedine Zidane

Expectations were high for United to challenge for major trophies this season after the signings of serial winners Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, along with £73 million ($100 million) winger Jadon Sancho.

Three of Ronaldo and Varane’s Champions League titles came under Zidane at Real Madrid and the Frenchman is also a free agent having ended his second spell with the Spanish giants in May.

Zidane proved himself a master of moulding a star-studded squad into a team at Madrid, where he also won two La Liga titles.

That is exactly what United need and his global profile fits the brand-building exercise the English giants have gone down in recent years, at times to the detriment of a well-functioning team on the field.

According to reports, he is the favoured candidate of the club’s American owners, the Glazer family.

Brendan Rodgers

The outstanding option on the domestic market for United is Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman’s past as a Liverpool manager may rule him out for many United fans, but he has rebuilt his reputation since a rollercoaster three years at Anfield between 2012 and 2015.

Rodgers proved himself capable of handling the demands of winning every week in three years at Celtic, where he won a clean sweep of seven domestic trophies before returning to the Premier League with Leicester.

The Foxes have narrowly missed out on the Champions League for the past two seasons to Chelsea despite far inferior resources and beat the European champions to win the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s history last season.

However, Leicester have also struggled of late with just two wins in their last nine league games.

Erik ten Hag

The Dutchman is responsible for one of the form teams in Europe right now with Ajax already into the Champions League last 16.

Ten Hag was linked with a number of top jobs after leading the four-time European champions to the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 1997 two years ago.

But unlike many of his players from that run, he is yet to be poached by one of Europe’s top clubs.

The former Bayern Munich youth team coach would fit the attacking style demanded of a United manager.

Luis Enrique

The Spain coach is another with plenty of experience in getting the best out of a collection of talented individuals.

He won the treble in his first season at Barcelona and added another La Liga title with a front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Fluent in English, Luis Enrique has never hidden his desire to one day coach in the Premier League.

His success with Spain this year at Euro 2020 and the Nations League finals shows he is also capable of producing an exciting side without the same quality of stars he had on offer at the Camp Nou.

Mauricio Pochettino

The Argentine is the one that got away for many United fans as the Red Devils kept faith with Solskjaer while Pochettino was a free agent for over a year following his sacking by Tottenham in 2019.

Now in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, Pochettino is unlikely to jump ship mid-season with a 12-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 and another chance to win the club’s first ever Champions League.

However, Pochettino’s time in the French capital has not been plain sailing, particularly in his dealings with PSG’s sporting director Leonardo.

By waiting until the end of the season to make a permanent appointment, United are opening the door to another shot at luring Pochettino to Old Trafford.

Solskjaer Pays Price For Failing To Rekindle United’s Golden Years

Solskjaer watches from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England.  Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer trudged forlornly towards Manchester United’s fans at Vicarage Road, the merciless booing that greeted the ashen-faced Norwegian served as a bitter coda to his failed reign.

United had just suffered a 4-1 thrashing against lowly Watford, the latest in a long list of calamitous defeats during Solskjaer’s three years in charge.

The axe was about to fall on the United manager and the club’s supporters had finally turned on a man they regarded as a legend for his heroics during his Old Trafford playing days

Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday with seventh-placed United languishing 12 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea and six adrift of the top four.

It was a dismissal that felt years in the making after Solskjaer repeatedly dodged the bullet during previous troubled periods.

Coming hot on the heels of a humiliating 5-0 home defeat against arch-rivals Liverpool and a 2-0 loss to Manchester City, United’s fifth defeat in seven league games was the final straw.

There was an alarming lack of cohesion, direction and fight in a star-studded team that flopped despite the close-season signings of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

Those deals, especially re-signing Ronaldo from Juventus, were expected to prove the catalyst for United to push hard for their first English title since 2013.

Instead, they appeared increasingly rudderless as Solskjaer struggled to gel his new recruits into a team packed with attacking talent but painfully short of midfield steel and prone to embarrassing blunders at the back.

When Liverpool ran riot at Old Trafford on October 24, the malaise at the heart of United’s brittle squad was brutally exposed.

Solskjaer’s decision to opt for a high-pressing game-plan was picked apart by Liverpool, with United’s players reportedly complaining that the manager did not give them enough preparation time.

That hint of dissent came just weeks after Ronaldo stormed off the Old Trafford pitch in disgust after Solskjaer only brought him on in the second half of a draw with Everton.

Even Alex Ferguson, the great United manager who brought Solskjaer to the club in 1996, added to the mounting pressure when he reacted to the Ronaldo incident by saying you should “always start with your best players”.

United in decline

In truth, Solskjaer often looked out of his depth at Old Trafford.

The 48-year-old’s previous experience in management had come with Norway’s Molde — where he was working when United called to hire him in late 2018 — and a brief stint with Cardiff that featured Premier League relegation and concluded with the sack after less than a year.

Even Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, both boasting far more in terms of success and service time than Solskjaer, had been unable to solve the problems that have bedevilled United since Ferguson retired in 2013.

After replacing Mourinho on an interim basis, Solskjaer earned a permanent contract by winning 14 of his first 19 matches.

Supposedly reconnecting United to their soul with his commitment to an attacking style that contrasted with the pragmatic Mourinho, Solskjaer was feted by fans who chanted “Ole’s at the wheel”.

As a player, Solskjaer won six Premier League titles in 11 years with United, shining as a selfless super-sub with an eye for goal.

But the man idolised at Old Trafford for his dramatic Champions League final winner against Bayern Munich in 1999 failed to fulfil hopes of a return to the glory days.

United finished third in the 2019/20 season, losing in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League.

And while they came second last term, they remained underachievers on the big occasion, crashing out of the Champions League group stage and losing to Villarreal on penalties in the Europa League final.

Solskjaer was given a new contract in July, but his failure to get a grip on a squad packed with big personalities proved fatal.

It was must have been galling for Solskjaer that his last moments as United manager featured Bruno Fernandes arguing with the fans who jeered after the final whistle at Watford.

If only Solskjaer’s players had shown such defiance during matches, they might have avoided another depressing chapter in United’s post-Ferguson decline.