Cristiano Ronaldo will "definitely" make his second Manchester United debut in Saturday's Premier League clash with Newcastle United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner completed a sensational return to Old Trafford two weeks ago for an initial fee of £12.9million (€15m) on a two-year deal with the option of a third.

After being granted permission to leave Portugal duty early and then serving a period of isolation, Ronaldo reported to United's training ground for the first time on Tuesday.

He started training with his new team-mates on Wednesday and is now set to play his first Premier League game since May 2009 – the longest gap between appearances in the competition's history – this weekend.

"He had a good pre-season with Juventus, he's played for his national team and has had a good week with us here," Solskjaer said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"He will definitely be on the pitch at some point, that's for sure."

Ronaldo scored 188 goals in 292 games in his first spell at United, which lasted for six years before he joined Real Madrid in 2009.

Despite that prolific return in front of goal, the Portugal captain scored just one hat-trick across that previous stint – against Saturday's opponents Newcastle in January 2008.

And Solskjaer expects the former Juventus man's return to also help get the most out of others in the squad as United look to build on a return of two wins and a draw from their opening three Premier League games.

"Everyone is very happy to have him back. He can speak for himself but he seems happy to be back as well," Solskjaer said. 

"The mood has been good and we're looking forward to Saturday.

"The way he has come in and conducted himself... we know what he's achieved in his career but he's coming here to achieve more. 

"He's lived the life of a top professional ever since he came here. You can't go into training and give 95 per cent and not be focused, that's what he demands from everyone."

Ronaldo has remained prolific across nine years with Real Madrid and three with Juventus, scoring a combined 551 goals in 572 matches in all competitions.

Asked what he is expecting from a player that finished top of the Serie A scoring charts in his last season with Juve, Solskjaer said: "Everyone evolves and develops throughout their career.

"Cristiano is a different player to the one who left but he's in such good nick still and will be looking in next few years to play and score as many goals as he can but also to be on the end of crosses and he's added something extra.

"We don't have his skill set in the team, the mix, no one has really. He is one of the best players that's ever played the game.

"He has developed, he has evolved as age goes by you have to change your game a little bit. You won't see those 18, 19, 20 stepovers before he goes past you.

"He has developed into one of the most accurate finishers. What he has developed on at Real Madrid has impressed us all. He is one of the best in the air, he still hits the target 99 out of 100 times when he shoots from outside the box as well. 

"He knows the game more, the positions and he is still as quick as he was it looks like, from the stats. Everyone is going to look up to him and he is going to be a leader in this dressing room."

Jurgen Klopp hinted that Liverpool will be without Roberto Firmino, Alisson and Fabinho for the trip to Leeds United on Sunday.

Firmino misses out through a hamstring injury sustained against Chelsea but the availability of Alisson and Fabinho remains in doubt after Brazil called on FIFA to suspend the players from playing this weekend.

Brazil requested the governing body to take action after the Premier League clubs agreed to not let their players travel to South America, amid quarantining fears on their return subsequently causing them to miss fixtures.

When asked for an update on the situation, Klopp told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference: "I know Bobby [Firmino] will not be available because of injury. About the rest, no.

"It’s a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs and players, especially.

"We should not forget the players wanted to play, the clubs wanted to let players go but it was not possible.

"It looks like the real punishment is on the players because they can't play and, of course, the clubs as well.

"That's really not okay, we didn't decide that the players could not go.

"Brazil played 1.30am this morning [UK] time, they won all 3 games and still there is a complaint.

"Before the last break I met [Arsene] Wenger and he showed me World Cup plans. In that moment I got the message from our guys 'no exemptions from government for our players'.

"Now we have that situation, we still don't know who we can line-up at the weekend.

"I've no idea when I can expect a solution, we will see. I don't know what moment I have to make the decision. I want to play them on Sunday but we will see."

Klopp's side travel to Elland Road on the second-longest unbeaten run in England's top four tiers (13), also winning seven of their last eight Premier League matches on the road.

Leeds are winless in their last eight top-flight meetings with the Reds, though they held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Elland Road last season.

Jurgen Klopp hinted that Liverpool will be without Roberto Firmino, Alisson and Fabinho for the trip to Leeds United on Sunday.

Firmino misses out through a hamstring injury sustained against Chelsea but the availability of Alisson and Fabinho remains in doubt after Brazil called on FIFA to suspend the players from playing this weekend.

Brazil requested the governing body to take action after the Premier League clubs agreed to not let their players travel to South America, amid quarantining fears on their return subsequently causing them to miss fixtures.

When asked for an update on the situation, Klopp told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference: "I know Bobby [Firmino] will not be available because of injury. About the rest, no.

"It’s a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs and players, especially.

"We should not forget the players wanted to play, the clubs wanted to let players go but it was not possible.

"It looks like the real punishment is on the players because they can't play and, of course, the clubs as well.

"That's really not okay, we didn't decide that the players could not go.

"Brazil played 1.30am this morning [UK] time, they won all 3 games and still there is a complaint.

"Before the last break I met [Arsene] Wenger and he showed me World Cup plans. In that moment I got the message from our guys 'no exemptions from government for our players'.

"Now we have that situation, we still don't know who we can line-up at the weekend.

"I've no idea when I can expect a solution, we will see. I don't know what moment I have to make the decision. I want to play them on Sunday but we will see."

Klopp's side travel to Elland Road on the second-longest unbeaten run in England's top four tiers (13), also winning seven of their last eight Premier League matches on the road.

Leeds are winless in their last eight top-flight meetings with the Reds, though they held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw at Elland Road last season.

Cristiano Ronaldo will pull on the Manchester United shirt for the first time in over 12 years on Saturday, with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner all set for his second Red Devils debut.

Ronaldo secured his return to United at the end of the most recent transfer window, with the deal reportedly set to cost an initial £12.9million (€15m).

But it's fair to say the player United have re-signed is rather different to the one they sold for a then world-record fee.

Then a flying winger, Ronaldo has adapted his game as he's grown older and is now a clinical penalty box poacher – diminishing goal returns he may have, but 36 in all competitions last season would still have had him as the leading goalscorer in English football.

Saturday's visit of Newcastle United will provide Ronaldo with the opportunity to make his return, and ahead of that match, Stats Perform has used Opta data to look at how the formerly flamboyant trickster has altered his game since his Old Trafford departure in 2009.

Positional sense

In his final league game with United – a goalless draw against Arsenal in May 2009 – Ronaldo played on the right, though was given license to roam infield and exert his influence, as had been the case for much of a season in which he scored 26 goals across all competitions. 

However, only five of his touches on the day came inside Arsenal's penalty area, with the majority out on the right wing and a cluster from an advanced, central position. 

Contrast that appearance with his final Serie A start for Juve back in May, when he scored in a 3-2 Derby d'Italia triumph against Inter: only three touches in the area but fewer overall, heavily weighted to the centre of the pitch.

It speaks to the way Ronaldo has greatly changed his game over the past 12 years. 

During his time at United, he netted 115 goals in all competitions, making him the club's leading scorer in that six-year span from 2003 to 2009. In his final season at Old Trafford, Ronaldo scored eight goals from outside of the area – a feat he matched in four of the next five seasons and surpassed in the other, with 10 in 2011-12 (his third season at Madrid).

Yet by his final season at Juve, Ronaldo had refined his game to become the poacher United are adding to their squad. Across his three seasons at Juve, the 36-year-old scored just seven times from outside the area, from a total of 101 goals.

Wing wizard to penalty box king

During his formative years at United, Ronaldo's mazy dribbling and eye for a showboat caught the eye. It is no surprise, then, to see the numbers back this up. In 2004-05, he attempted 9.55 dribbles per 90 minutes, a career high. 

As he grew in stature, adapted to the rigours of English football and became a more powerful presence, rather than the wiry winger that burst onto the scene, Ronaldo's dribbling figures dropped – 8.22 in 2005-06, 5.65 the following year and 6.28 in 2007-08.

By 2008-09, Ronaldo's attempted dribbles per 90 were down at a relatively modest 4.73, completing 1.92. By the end of his last year at Juve, Ronaldo was down to 3.07 dribbles per 90, though his success rate of 61.7 per cent ranks as the highest in his career. He has not lost the ability to dribble, but rather picks his moments to do so.

Of course, there is less need for taking on the opposition when you are positioned in the opposition's area, ready to pounce on a cross or run onto a throughball.

Ronaldo's adaptation into a number nine had started before his move to Turin. Indeed, in his final campaign with Madrid, Ronaldo registered 1,913 touches in total, with 409 of these coming in the opposition's area – his highest total in the box in a single campaign.

Contrast that figure with his totals from his second season in the Spanish capital – just 82 of his 3,344 touches came inside the opponent's box as he scored 60 times in all competitions, a tally he bettered in 2014-15 (61).

The 2014-15 season was undoubtedly Ronaldo's zenith. Turning 30 halfway through the campaign, he was at his best in front of goal and creatively. His 21 assists were a career high, as were the 97 chances created.

If United are looking for a creative force now, though, they have chosen the wrong forward.

Ronaldo's 2008-09 season saw him create 82 opportunities and lay on 10 assists (at an average of 1.71 and 0.21 per 90). Last term, he created a career-low 1.15 chances per 90, with his average of 0.12 assists each game better only than the previous campaign with Juve.

Ronaldo averaged 50.6 touches per 90 in 2020-21, with 6.8 in the penalty area. In only four seasons, all at Madrid, did the Portugal captain touch the ball less on average, though his figure of penalty box touches ranks as the fourth-highest across his career.

Heads up

Looking back at images of Ronaldo's early days at United, it is hard to imagine how that rapid, tricky winger developed into one of the most feared headers of the ball in world football.

Ronaldo's leap – his ability to almost hang in the air at great height, while generating unbelievable power – is something few players have come close to emulating. It might as well be trademarked, at this stage.

If his all-round array of talents were not already enough, Ronaldo also gives Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team an aerial threat that only Edinson Cavani brings. Cavani, another veteran at 34, can no longer play every game.

Ronaldo scored seven headed goals across all competitions in 2020-21, as many as Cavani and Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who were the leading players from Premier League clubs in that regard.

Since he left United, 70 of Ronaldo's 450 club goals have come with his head – no player across Europe's top five leagues has scored more, with Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski ranking second with 57.

With Luke Shaw rejuvenated as an attacking force and Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba all capable of brilliant deliveries, Premier League centre-backs should fear Ronaldo's leap in 2021-22.

Sergio Aguero denied the presence of any get-out clauses in his Barcelona contract relating to Lionel Messi.

Aguero, who scored a club-record 260 goals in 389 appearances for Manchester City, arrived at Camp Nou on a two-year contract following a free transfer from Pep Guardiola's men.

He was expected to link up with international colleague Messi before the Blaugrana legend departed on a free to Paris Saint-Germain, the Blaugrana's financial issues preventing them from re-signing six-time Ballon d'Or winner after his contract expired, thus ending a 21-year spell at the Catalan club.

After Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets agreed to pay cuts, Ronald Koeman's side were able to meet salary-cap restrictions and register Aguero and their other new signings.

The Argentina forward has now quashed any rumours that any so-called "Messi clause" was in his contract.

"I don't understand why there was talk of this," Aguero told RAC1. "When I signed, Leo [Messi] had nothing signed. They [Messi and Barca] were coming to an agreement.

"It was invented that there was a clause, but there was nothing.

"I didn't ask Leo much either, I didn't want to bother him.

"I saw him at the Copa America, he told me that they were about to agree, and I thought, good!

"But I didn't want to bother him every day either. I didn't speak any more after the Copa America and I was shocked when everything happened."

The 33-year-old enjoyed a stunning decade at the Etihad Stadium, but only managed seven league starts in 2020-21, playing 559 minutes across 12 appearances.

His final campaign at City was hampered by coronavirus-related issues and injuries, but when Barcelona came knocking, Aguero could not refuse.

"When I was no longer at City and the talks with Barcelona came, I knew how the club was doing financially but I told my agent that I didn't care about money, that I wanted to come and play," he continued.

"Money is not a problem. What I was getting paid at City, I wasn't going to get paid here. Any player wants to play for Barca.

"Of course I would sign again, without a doubt. If someone from Barca calls you ... the name of the club ... many players are willing to give up money."

Manchester United have a "massive" opportunity to win multiple titles this season following the return of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Red Devils winger Jesper Olsen.

Ronaldo is back at Old Trafford after re-joining United from Serie A giants Juventus before the transfer window closed last week – the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football signing a two-year contract with the option for a third in Manchester.

The 36-year-old won one of his five Ballon d'Or trophies with United, scoring 118 goals in 292 games across his first spell in Manchester as he clinched three Premier League titles and the Champions League – a competition he has since won four more times – before moving to Real Madrid in 2009.

Formerly a dazzling winger but now a penalty-box poacher, Ronaldo has netted 674 times across 895 club games in all competitions, averaging a goal every 108 minutes.

Between his entrance on the Premier League stage and his final appearance in May 2009, Frank Lampard (131) and Thierry Henry (124) were the only two to have a hand in more English top-flight goals than Ronaldo (118) – Henry (92) the only one to outscore Ronaldo's 84.

After his 12-year absence, Ronaldo – who scored the first of his 48 club hat-tricks against Newcastle United in 2008 – is in line to make his debut against the Magpies in the Premier League on Saturday, and former United winger Olsen is excited about the Portuguese's second coming.

"I think it's fantastic. It's a great way to finish his career I suppose. He is 36 now," Olsen, who won the FA Cup during his four years at United in the 1980s, told Stats Perform.

"I was doing a lot of work in Manchester at the time when he arrived, we looked after Wayne Rooney – our sports management company – I can only see the whole thing being positive.

"The stature of the guy and also the players around him getting to play with him and learn from him. Exciting for the Premier League, absolutely."

Not since 2012-13 – Alex Ferguson's final season in charge – have United won the Premier League, while the Red Devils have not celebrated silverware since claiming the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield in 2016-17.

United, who finished second to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League in 2020-21, surprisingly lost to Villarreal in last season's Europa League final.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United have won two of their opening three league fixtures this season, ahead of Newcastle's visit to the Theatre of Dreams.

Ronaldo's last Premier League appearance was in May 2009 against Arsenal – if he faces Newcastle, it will set a new record for the longest gap between appearances in the competition's history (12 years, 118 days).

His last Premier League goal came 12 years and 124 days ago, against City in May 2009. Assuming he scores again for the Red Devils, only one player has ever had a longer gap between Premier League goals – Matt Jackson (13 years and 187 days between May 1993 and November 2006).

"It [Ronaldo's arrival] certainly hasn't made United weaker as a team. It isn't easy to win anything, we know that," Olsen continued. "We talk about Tottenham who haven't won anything for a long time. The Premier League is hard.

"The way United played last season, they got some rhythm and continuation in terms of winning matches. I think they have the spine and now the belief as well. The players seem to have settled in.

"The mixture of younger players, too. The likes of [Paul] Pogba and [Bruno] Fernandes performing well, [Edinson] Cavani coming on to score goals, [Mason] Greenwood as well. I think it's a really good mix. We know there's a lot of different competitions. It's a long season. It can only help them with that squad they have."

With United also bringing in top transfer target Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane via Real Madrid, pressure is on manager Solskjaer to deliver.

"Every year, if you play for United, you're expected to win titles – players and managers. Obviously, he came to United with a bit of experience but it's a massive club and a huge task," ex-Denmark international Olsen added.

"…It has to click but they definitely have a massive chance to not win one title but possibly a few over the next 12 months.

"It takes time but if you look as a player, and I don't think at any stage or age, if you look around Europe, the bigger clubs you can join, United surely stands as one of those at the top.

"They have certainly been on reliant on a way of playing that suits the team. They will have a lot of ball now with the way they play. It's a lot more settled. They've done really well in terms of signings. It can take some time to settle at United, but after a long time in the wilderness I suppose, it's settled down.

"Solskjaer is very calm and very structured. He knows what he's doing with his management team. It's a very exciting season. Obviously, it all depends on the games and if you win of course."

While fans and pundits have been buoyed by United's transfer business in 2021-22, one recent signing has been left in the wilderness.

Donny Van de Beek joined from Ajax last season amid much fanfare, however the Netherlands international is yet to make an appearance this term, having made just four Premier League starts in 2020-21.

"It doesn't make sense because we all know what he did for Ajax, but there's obviously something that the way Solskjaer wants to play doesn't fit in," Olsen, who also played for Dutch giants Ajax, said. "There's no doubt that you don't become a bad player overnight.

"Maybe he is getting used to a different style and system. Sometimes it takes a while but of course there would be people watching because you don't want to go two-three years without playing when you're such an exciting player who has done so much already."

Erling Haaland was not lured away from Borussia Dortmund in the most recent transfer window despite widespread interest.

But the race to sign the 21-year-old Norway international will heat up in the coming months.

Haaland scored 41 goals for Dortmund last term, making him one of European football's hottest properties.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID LEAD HAALAND RACE

Real Madrid have a verbal agreement for Dortmund star Haaland to join the club next year, reports Diario Madridista.

The Spanish club leads the way amid widespread interest in the Norwegian forward, including from BarcelonaChelsea and Manchester City.

Additionally, Los Blancos' decision to respect Dortmund's stance to not sell the 21-year-old during the previous window has helped any potential deal.

 

ROUND-UP

Leicester City are planning to make a move to sign Sassuolo and Italy winger Domenico Berardi in January, reports CalcioMercato. Berardi, who has attracted interest from Milan and Fiorentina previously, could be available for approximately €35million (£30m).

- Dortmund will not sell Jude Bellingham amid reported interest from Liverpool as they plan to offer the 18-year-old England international a new contract, claims 90min. Bellingham's current deal runs until 2025.

- Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is on Chelsea's radar as they plan for Jorginho's potential departure, seeing him as a replacement, according to the Daily Express. Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in Kessie, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Chelsea will revive their interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde in January, but the Blues still only want to offer approximately €50m (£42m), according to ESPN. Sevilla previously demanded a deal in the region of €70m (£60m), before then informing the English side only depositing his release clause – understood to be between €80m (£68.3m) and €90m (£76.8m) – would suffice in the final two days of the transfer window.

- Fichajes claims Tottenham are planning to hand 34-year-old French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a new two-year deal, with his current contract due to expire in June 2022.

Freddie Woodman could be excused for having nightmares on Friday night as Cristiano Ronaldo prepares for his second Manchester United debut against Newcastle United.

The 24-year-old goalkeeper has the unenviable task of attempting to stop one of the greatest players of all time – the newly crowned leading scorer in men's internationals – in front of a jubilant United home crowd.

It is a challenge that has proved beyond many of the world's best number ones, including former Newcastle stalwart Shay Given.

The last time Ronaldo faced Newcastle at Old Trafford, in January 2008, he scored three and United hit six...

RONALDO GOAL GLUT

This was a landmark game in a landmark 2007-08 season for Ronaldo, still less than a year on from his first Champions League strike and only now establishing himself as a prolific goalscorer.

The winger had an outstanding 19 goals in 24 games ahead of the visit of Nigel Pearson's Newcastle – days out from Kevin Keegan's second managerial stint at St James' Park – but was still waiting on a first career hat-trick.

Ronaldo was without a league goal against Newcastle, too, and that trend continued until half-time.

But the Magpies knew only too well how quickly he could take the game away from them; in the 2004-05 FA Cup semi-final, Ronaldo was booked for diving in the opening stages, then provided sublime assists for Ruud van Nistelrooy and Paul Scholes before adding a clinching fourth himself in United's 4-1 win.

Sure enough, a second-half onslaught was led by Ronaldo, whose free-kick crept past Given for the 49th-minute opener.

Carlos Tevez made it two following an awful clearance from Given – actually one of Newcastle's better performers, with seven saves – and then sent Ronaldo through for his second.

Rio Ferdinand grabbed the fourth, but all eyes were on Ronaldo again as he chopped past Jose Enrique and fired in a deflected effort to complete the treble.

"This is a very special day for me," he said afterwards. "It makes me feel very proud to score a hat-trick for this great club."

Ronaldo followed in the footsteps of Andy Cole, Van Nistelrooy and Scholes in scoring a Premier League hat-trick against Newcastle for United, a record number for one club against another that remains unsurpassed (matched by Arsenal v Leicester City, Liverpool v Arsenal and Tottenham v Southampton).

A controversial Tevez finish, which prompted Alan Smith's red card, had completed the scoring and made this a day of firsts, with no previous examples – and only one since, Hull City versus Fulham in 2013 – of a Premier League game goalless at half-time ending 6-0. It also equalled United's 1968 record win against Newcastle.

THE FIRST OF MANY

The hat-trick was not just a first for Ronaldo but also a last – at least until now. He did not score another treble in his initial United stint, although a trip to Tyneside a month later brought two goals and an assist.

Ronaldo will expect to improve that haul on his return, though. There were 44 hat-tricks in his nine years at Real Madrid and a further three in three seasons for Juventus.

His 48 since the Newcastle game leads players in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions, just ahead of great rival Lionel Messi's 46.

In fact, until now, Ronaldo's final season at United was the last campaign in which he did not net a hat-trick. That is a streak he will be keen to preserve – perhaps as soon as in this friendly first fixture...

MORE MAGPIES MISERY?

Ronaldo is yet to lose to Newcastle in all competitions, with his 11 such outings coming in the middle of a 19-game unbeaten stretch for United in this fixture – their best ever sequence.

Newcastle won four times against post-Ronaldo United, however, while the hosts' long undefeated run at Old Trafford – spanning all 23 home meetings under Alex Ferguson – was ended during David Moyes' tenure.

But the Magpies, now led by former United captain Steve Bruce, should again make for accommodating party guests.

Woodman has shipped eight goals already this season, becoming the 13th keeper to concede at least two in his first three Premier League starts, although little blame can be laid at his door – the one-time Under-20 World Cup winner has actually prevented 0.11 goals, according to expected goals on target data.

The Newcastle man has matched Declan Rudd's miserable record in facing a penalty in each of his first three Premier League outings, beaten on the rebound against West Ham on the one occasion he was able to add to the four spot-kick saves he tallied in the Championship with Swansea City across two loan spells.

Only three Premier League teams have given away penalties in four or more matches in succession, but Newcastle's haphazard defending suggests Ronaldo may well get an opportunity from 12 yards on Saturday.

Regular taker Bruno Fernandes' only miss in 22 attempts for United was against Newcastle, while nobody has dispatched as many penalties as Ronaldo (84 – 31 clear of second-placed Messi) in Europe's top five leagues since he left England.

On his big day, who could possibly deny the 36-year-old that sort of opportunity?

Domestic football returns this week after the international break, and with it being the first set of matches since the transfer deadline passed, there are some new faces to consider.

Though one of them will be very familiar to everyone – Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United and an interesting option for fantasy teams.

Newcastle United are the visitors at Old Trafford in what many may be predicting to be a one-sided encounter, though Ronaldo's by no means the only threat to Steve Bruce's men.

Stats Perform has picked out seven players potentially in action over the weekend who could be worth signing up to give your fantasy team a boost.

HUGO LLORIS (Crystal Palace v Tottenham )

Spurs have enjoyed a solid start to their new era under Nuno Espirito Santo, winning all three league games to make themselves early leaders.

They've also not conceded a single goal, with Hugo Lloris the only goalkeeper in the division to already have three clean sheets.

Up next is a trip to Crystal Palace, and while you can never guarantee anything in football, Patrick Vieira's men have struggled during the early weeks of 2021-22. Lloris is surely a strong shout for a clean sheet.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Leeds United v Liverpool )

The international break saw Alexander-Arnold become a hot topic of conversation again as his England career continues to stall – this time his performance in midfield attracting criticism.

Nevertheless, at club level there's little question that he'll return to his usual right-back berth, where he has excelled so far this term.

Leeds should offer the Reds stern opposition, but their style of play means Liverpool could be afforded a lot of space – if anyone can exploit that, it's Alexander-Arnold, given he has created five more chances (15) than any other player in the league and his six successful open-play crosses is a joint-high.

REECE JAMES ( Chelsea v Aston Villa)

If you're the type of fantasy football manager who loads their team with full-backs in the hope of the goal involvement/clean sheet double-threat, then you've probably already got James in your team.

But if you haven't, you may want to consider it.

The Chelsea wing-back is already on three goal involvements (one goal, two assists), the most among defenders and anyone in Thomas Tuchel's squad, and is part of a team that wouldn't expect to concede regularly.

ILKAY GUNDOGAN (Leicester City v Manchester City )

Leicester City have often been seen as a bit of a bogey team for Manchester City, so perhaps this is a bit of a wildcard choice.

However, Gundogan's enjoyed a stellar 2021 to date. His 12 Premier League goals is second only to Harry Kane (14) and has become an influential player in City's attacks over the past year.

He's probably not in the conversation to be anyone's captain, but his goals haul makes him a strong contender to at least get in your XI.

BRUNO FERNANDES ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)

Man Utd have averaged 2.9 goals per game over their previous 14 Premier League home matches, and with Newcastle taking just 10 points from the past 15 away games, the omens look good for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

With that in mind, the man usually behind many of United's goals is Fernandes, who is just two goal involvements from reaching 50 – only three players will have hit that mark quicker than him if he gets a couple against Newcastle.

Similarly, since the start of 2020-21, Fernandes' 10.3 expected assists (xA) is the highest in the Premier League and his 12 actual assists haul is level with Kevin De Bruyne as the most among midfielders.

IVAN TONEY ( Brentford v Brighton and Hove Albion)

He was the man who propelled Brentford into the Premier League with his goals, so when Toney got off the mark in the Premier League last out time out against Aston Villa, many will curiously wait to see if the floodgates now open.

That took him to 56 league goals (excluding play-offs) since the start of 2019-20, more than anyone else in the top four tiers of English football.

Granted, those came in lower divisions, but others before him have adapted to the Premier League – why can't Toney be the next Jamie Vardy?

CRISTIANO RONALDO ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)

Solskjaer's already said Ronaldo hasn't return to United to sit on the bench, so there's every chance the Portugal captain could make his second debut as a starter against Newcastle.

If he does, he will complete a formidable frontline for the Red Devils, regardless of who he's joined by, and given the mauling they handed out to Leeds United on matchday one, they certainly have big wins in their locker.

It's also worth noting that Ronaldo scored his very first club hat-trick against Newcastle back in 2008 – he couldn't do it again, could he? Either way, Ronaldo as captain this weekend looks a smart choice.

Juventus sporting director Federico Cherubini insisted Moise Kean is not Cristiano Ronaldo's replacement, rather "one of the pawns in a plan to continue winning with a different project".

Ronaldo left Juve before the transfer window closed, re-joining Premier League giants Manchester United after asking for a move away from Turin.

After Ronaldo departed Juve, the Serie A powerhouse – who were dethroned by Inter in 2020-21 – brought Kean back to the club from Everton on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy.

"When Cristiano told us he wanted to leave, we immediately thought of anticipating the future," Cherubini told Tuttosport in an interview that will be published in full on Friday.

"Kean is not the replacement of the Portuguese striker, but one of the pawns in a plan to continue winning with a different project."

During his time at Allianz Stadium, Ronaldo scored 101 goals across 134 matches in all competitions.

Ronaldo topped the goalscoring charts with 29 Serie A goals last season but Juve finished fourth in Andrea Pirlo's first campaign at the helm.

Pirlo was sacked as a result, with Juve turning to former head coach Massimiliano Allegri, who have only collected one point from their opening two fixtures of the 2021-22 season.

Guus Hiddink, the former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Netherlands head coach, announced his retirement at the age of 74.

Hiddink declared in a television interview that he had decided to quit as boss of Curacao and would not return to football.

The Dutch great told SBS 6: "Lately, with COVID, I haven't worked much. Coincidentally I was talking with the president of the Curacao federation and we came to the conclusion it was better that I stop for a while, because they are going in a new direction.

"But I'm going to stop totally. Am I going to do a Advocaat. No, no."

That was a reference to his fellow veteran coach Dick Advocaat, who was expected to retire after leaving Eredivisie giants Feyenoord last season but instead took on the job of coaching Asian nation Iraq.

Hiddink began his career at PSV and had two spells with the Eindhoven club, from 1987 to 1990 and 2002 to 2006, winning three Eredivisie titles in each successful stint.

His PSV side won the old European Cup in 1988, beating Benfica on penalties in Stuttgart following a goalless draw, clinching a treble after already landing the domestic league and cup titles.

He twice led teams to World Cup semi-finals – the Netherlands in 1998 and South Korea in 2002 – and helped Australia reach the second round of the 2006 tournament.

His Russia team reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals, where they lost 3-0 to Spain, and he had his first short spell as Chelsea interim manager while still in that national team job, helping the Blues win the 2009 FA Cup.

Hiddink was not a success at Madrid, failing to complete the 1998-99 season before he was sacked. He managed one trophy while at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Madrid beat Vasco da Gama in the Intercontinental Cup.

A long career as a head coach also took in jobs at Valencia, Real Betis, Turkey, Fenerbahce and Anzhi Makhachkala.

Hiddink had a brief and unsuccessful second stint as Netherlands boss, then succeeded Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in December 2015 and helped the team recover from a shocking start to their title defence season, but that was just a half-season tenure.

A year as China Under-21 coach followed, and then the curtailed spell as Curacao boss, his final act, barring a change of heart.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has declared Virgil van Dijk fit to face Leeds United on Sunday after the defender's injury scare on international duty.

The Netherlands captain picked up a slight knock in the 6-1 demolition of Turkey on Tuesday, which would have concerned Liverpool given Van Dijk's absence for most of last term.

However, the centre-back quickly calmed Klopp's concerns before returning to Liverpool, who are on the second-longest unbeaten run in England's top four tiers (13).

The Liverpool manager confirmed the £75million man's fitness.

"With Virgil [van Dijk], that was obviously a scary moment, you can imagine," Klopp told Liverpool's official website.

"I sent him a message after the game, 'Are you all right?'."

Klopp was immediately sent a message or reassurance, and he then asked whether Van Dijk was "100 per cent", and was told he was actually "200 per cent" healthy.

The Reds boss said he then sent a message that read: "Come on, send me a video of you without limping…"

"So he called me from the bus and said, 'Boss, I’m fine!'," Klopp said.

"I said, 'Why are you limping then?’. He said, 'My wife asked the same!'.

"So, yeah, that was a bit of a tricky moment but apart from that, no, all fine [for the international players]."

Klopp will have been briefly sweating on his star defender's fitness, given Liverpool missed Van Dijk's leadership and defensive attributes last term, with only one Premier League defender (Burnley's James Tarkowski: 199) bettering his 191 aerial wins during the Reds' title-winning campaign of 2019-20.

Despite the encouraging news on Van Dijk, Klopp will be without Roberto Firmino for the trip to Elland Road as the forward suffered a hamstring injury against Chelsea.

However, Harvey Elliott is back to full fitness after withdrawing from England's Under-21 squad. Prior to the international break, Elliott became the third youngest Liverpool player ever to start against Chelsea, after John McLaughlin in 1970 and Raheem Sterling in 2012.

Klopp also confirmed Naby Keita's safe return from Guinea, having managed to leave his home country after a military coup.

"Naby is fine," said Klopp. "Yesterday he was not here [at Liverpool's training ground] but he was in Liverpool again."

Cristiano Ronaldo is convinced his move to Manchester United will be a "big thing in the next three or four years" and insists he is "not here for a vacation".

The former Real Madrid forward netted 118 times in 292 appearances across all competitions for United, lifting three Premier League trophies and the Champions League during a glorious six-year spell between 2003 and 2009.

The Portugal captain returned to Manchester earlier in the week for the first time since his arrival from Juventus, after breaking Ali Daei's all-time international scoring record against the Republic of Ireland with his 110th and 111th goals for his country.

Speaking exclusively to former team-mate Wes Brown in an interview with United's official website, Ronaldo declared his return is not just for nostalgia.

"I am not here for a vacation," the 36-year-old said.

"As I told you, before was good, winning important things and I wore the shirt before many years ago, but I am here to win again.

"I am capable, me and my team-mates. I am ready to go. It is a good chance for me, for the supporters, for the club, to get one step ahead.

"I am ready and I think I will be a huge thing in the next three or four years."

Ronaldo is in line to feature against Newcastle United on Saturday, the Magpies being the only club the returning star managed a Premier League hat-trick against in his first spell in Manchester.

Mikel Arteta says Arsenal must "reset" following their disappointing start to the Premier League season.

The Gunners sit bottom of the table and are yet to register a point ahead of welcoming Norwich City to the Emirates on Saturday.

Arteta's side have lost each of their opening three games against Brentford, Chelsea and reigning champions Manchester City, while shipping nine goals without reply.

Though he will be without the suspended Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny, who has a thigh injury, the manager has Gabriel, Thomas Partey and Eddie Nketiah available for selection again after injury.

Meanwhile, Ben White will also return after previously testing positive for coronavirus.

And Arteta is hopeful his squad can start afresh against the Canaries.

"I am really looking forward to having everybody available and trying to start the season the way we want," he said.

"We don't want to use any excuses, but we know how difficult the start was with injuries and a lot of COVID issues we had, and extremely difficult games to play.

"We have to reset now, we need to start and hopefully get everybody back on track, and start to improve our game, which is what we have to do.

"The pressure is always there to be as high as possible in the league table.

"We need that first win. We're playing in front of our fans after a disappointing start, so it is down to us to provide everything that we have performance-wise, to gain a result at the end."

Arteta also said that former midfielder Jack Wilshere is always welcome to train to the club, where he scored 14 goals in 197 senior appearances between 2008 and 2018.

Wilshere is a free agent following his release from Championship side Bournemouth at the end of last season, while he recently trained with Italian club Como in a bid to boost his fitness.

Once tipped as a future England star, a string of injury problems have prevented the 29-year-old from truly kicking on and fulfilling his potential.

"[Jack is] someone that I know, that I shared a dressing room with and is so loved by everyone here," Arteta added.

"Our doors are always open."

The Premier League is among a group of major European leagues that are "firmly and unanimously" against FIFA's proposals to hold the World Cup every two years.

The men's World Cup has taken place every four years since the inaugural edition in 1930, aside from 1942 and 1946 due to the Second World War, while the women's World Cup has followed suit since it was first staged in 1991. 

Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been campaigning to shorten the gap in his role as the governing body's chief of global football development. 

Meanwhile, the FIFA congress in May saw a vote go heavily in favour of carrying out a feasibility study into the project. 

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the European governing body had "serious reservations and grave concerns" surrounding the concept, while Spain and Barcelona captain Sergio Busquets warned that players will "explode" should the plans come to fruition.

The Premier League, along with the other so-called "big five leagues" and several other competitions, is a member of the European Leagues group, which released a statement on Thursday saying: "The leagues have firmly and unanimously opposed any proposals to organise the FIFA World Cup every two years.

"The leagues will work together with the other stakeholders to prevent football governing bodies taking unilateral decisions that will harm domestic football, which is the foundation of our industry and of utmost importance for clubs, players and fans across Europe and the world.

"New competitions, revamped competitions or expanded competitions for club and national team football both at continental level and/or at global level are not the solutions to the current problems of our game in an already congested calendar.

"The football calendar definitely requires the agreement of all stakeholders and can only be the result of a subtle balance between club and national team football and between domestic and international club football."

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