Mikel Arteta may be confident that his side can still recruit any player in the world, but Arsenal may have to wait if they are to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is the joint-fourth highest scorer in Europe's top five leagues this term and is wanted by an array of clubs across the continent.

While a January move has been touted, however, Fiorentina appear to be playing hardball when it comes to the future of the 21-year-old striker.


TOP STORY – FIORENTINA DEMANDS PREVENTING ARSENAL'S VLAHOVIC PURSUIT

Arsenal are reportedly willing to match Fiorentina's €75million (£62.62m) asking price for Vlahovic, which would make him the second-most expensive player in their history.

However, The Independent reports that the Serie A side want the majority of that money paid upfront, whereas Arsenal intend to spread the cost over the next four years.

The Gunners may therefore have to wait until the end of the campaign, at which point Vlahovic will have a year to run on his contract, before renegotiating with Fiorentina.

 


ROUND-UP

– It is shaping up to be a busy conclusion to the January window for Arsenal as Goal reports that the Premier League side have made contact with Juventus over a loan move for midfielder Arthur Melo, while Leicester City's Youri Tielemans is another potential target.

– L'Equipe claims that Paul Pogba remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain as he nears the end of his Manchester United contract. The midfielder has not featured since November due to injury and is not expected to return until next month.

– According to The Mail, Man Utd are eyeing a move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey as an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick is said to be a big fan of the right-sided player's versatility.

– Sticking with Rangnick and United, the German coach has put Ajax boss Erik ten Hag's name forward as the best option to replace him when his interim spell at Old Trafford ends in June. That is according to Le Parisien, with the French outlet also suggesting PSG's Mauricio Pochettino still remains in the frame.

– Ambitious Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier this month and more players look set to follow. Tuttomercato suggests that Roma's Chris Smalling could be lured to St James' Park as the Magpies desperately attempt to strengthen at centre-back.

Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck is attracting plenty of interest this month, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among those being linked. Bayern appear to be leading that particular race if reports from Spain are anything to go by, with the defender supposedly keen to stay in the Bundesliga.

Edwin van der Sar says he and Marc Overmars are "not ready yet" to leave their roles at Ajax and believe they can help take the club to the next level.

Van der Sar has been Ajax's chief executive since 2016, while Overmars took on the role of director of football in 2012.

The Dutch giants have claimed two Eredivisie titles and two KNVB Cup triumphs in the five years since the former goalkeeper was appointed, also appearing in a Champions League semi-final.

However, the 51-year-old claimed he is not satisfied with his achievements at the club he started his professional career with, as he expressed his desire to achieve even more success.

"I think Marc and myself are enjoying it very much here at Ajax," Van der Sar told Stats Perform. "The freedom and rewards, the level of the club is still growing. That brings joy to yourself and gives you a lot of confidence. We're easy in that way.

"For the moment I'm really happy in Amsterdam. I think we're not ready [to leave] yet. We can make a step higher and that's something we're aiming for. To be really, really successful on the pitch. It's not easy, but we're going [to give it a] go."

Van der Sar explained that players and coaches often feel they outgrow Ajax and look to move on, but he is determined to delay the departure of head coach Erik ten Hag for as long as possible.

"You see it also with players, sometimes they think they're finished at Ajax and want to take the next step," Van der Sar said continued.

"I've seen it myself when I went from Ajax to Juventus – it wasn't a natural fit. The level of football, the family, the expectations, it can be difficult abroad.

"But someone with the quality of Erik and the way he lets Ajax play and tick for the last four years, it's obvious there's a lot of interest in him. He is named among the big clubs in Europe.

"Eventually, he will take the next step, but we will try to delay it as long as possible but of course, at a certain point it's up to him. But we have to challenge him and make sure he maybe sees will there be a next level – can we be even better?

"That's what we're working hard for to make sure the players are staying, the scouting brings new talents and the structure around him are ready for a successful period."

Ten Hag will be hoping for another deep run into the latter stages of the Champions League after being drawn against Benfica in the round of 16.

For football enthusiasts, watching Ajax dazzle on the international stage soothes the soul.

At a time when the world game has been taken over by the mega rich, Ajax represent football's pure and glorious past.

Ajax's most famous name – Johan Cruyff – made the club what it is, imposing the style that would become so successful for years, helping the Dutch giants to win the Champions League in 1995.

That DNA continues to flow through the veins of players and staff – Cruyff's unforgettable legacy not lost on those in Amsterdam, where Erik ten Hag's history-makers have dazzled in the Eredivisie and Champions League in 2021-22.

Continuing to stay true to Cruyff's values five years after his death, Ajax have swept all before them in Europe this season.

Ajax became the first Dutch team to win all six of their games in a single Champions League group-stage campaign, while they also celebrated six successive victories in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their illustrious history.

"I think he would be proud of the level of football and type of football Erik ten Hag is playing with the team," Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar – who was part of that triumphant 1995 team – told Stats Perform.

A world-renowned philosophy, the manner in which Ajax teams are built remains largely in the image of their favourite son. Cruyff's influence on the club's academy is still so ingrained.

After all these years, Ajax still seem so happily married to the romantic notions of how the game should be played thanks to Cruyff, but is there a need to adapt or modify when it comes to being faithful to his masterplan?

"Football adapts and evolves all the time," Van der Sar said. "I got a call from Johan Cruyff 10 years ago when I was still playing at Manchester United. He wanted to have players into the board of directors. He asked me the question if I was open to that. I had to think about it and speak to some guys like former United CEO David Gill – what it involves etc. I took up the job in 2012.

"Of course the philosophy of the club is quite similar. We changed some things in the youth setup and making sure to bring Ajax back to European level. Not buying players for big money and not delivering. We had to refocus on bringing our players into the team. Four or five years ago, we took a new step with the reserves we had, the scouting department. A lot of things are connected with Cruyff."

While not around to witness Ajax's reclamation, Cruyff would approve of Ten Hag and his men.

Possession and pressing have been paramount under Ten Hag's watchful eye since he moved to Amsterdam in 2017 and, heading into a Champions League last-16 date with Benfica, Ajax lead the way this term for shots after high turnover (16) and passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA – 7.9).

Title-holders Chelsea, meanwhile, are the only team to have managed more high turnovers and possession won in the final third than Dutch champions Ajax.

It is a similar story in the Eredivisie, with Ten Hag's men – a point behind leaders PSV – leading the way for high turnovers (210), possession won in the final third (126) and PPDA (8.9). De Godenzonen have scored a whopping 49 goals in 16 games, while conceding only four.

"It's always a challenge being a respectable, big club from a small country to make an impact in the football world," said former Ajax, Juventus, Manchester United and Netherlands goalkeeper Van der Sar said. "We've done that over several decades of football. To the level we're playing at the moment, in the Champions League playing six and winning six. It's great encouragement for the coach and compliment for the players and the way they're playing. It's fantastic to be the director of Ajax."

Ten Hag guided Ajax to a remarkable Champions League semi-final in 2018-19 before that team was dismantled – Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt were lured away by Barcelona and Juventus respectively. Hakim Ziyech made the move to Chelsea, while Donny van de Beek eventually joined United last year.

But the highly rated Dutchman and two-time Eredivisie winner is leading a new mini-era of success with a mix of youth and experience – spearheaded by the likes of Dusan Tadic, Daley Blind, Antony and Sebastien Haller, who this term became the quickest player to reach 10 goals in a Champions League career, eclipsing Erling Haaland.

Haller also became the first player to score in each of his opening six games in the competition, while the former West Ham forward is only the second Ajax player to score 10-plus goals in a single season of the premier club competition following Soren Lerby in 1979-80.

"It's fantastic if you say the 18-19 team – De Ligt or De Jong they left us after the year – and if you see now, we have Ryan Gravenberch in midfield and Jurrien Timber, both coming from our academy and slotting into those places that those two big-name players, replacing them and reaching a similar level," added Van der Sar. "Compared to the experience of Dusan Tadic, Daley Blind and Antony coming in as a young Brazilian striker. The team is gelling fantastically together but of course we know in the last 16, quarter-finals, there are massive teams coming up. We're confident."

Van der Sar also underlined the club's faith in the next generation.

He said: "Promoting youth is in our DNA. We will always do that. That combination – four or five years ago we changed the approach a little bit to make sure if we want to compete or be in the Champions League, you also have to have experienced players. The desire and mentality, so in that way we changed the approach a bit. We combine it with the young players here who are getting opportunities to make their first steps on the international podium. That approach works fantastically for us."

Ten Hag's exploits have not gone unnoticed amid growing links to Premier League giants United, who are on the hunt for a new long-term manager following the interim appointment of Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season.

Since Ten Hag was named coach four years ago, Ajax this term boast their best figures in terms of high turnovers (13.0) and possession won in final third (8.0) across all competitions, highlighting their continued improvement on the 51-year-old's watch.

"You see it also with players, sometimes they think they're finished at Ajax and want to take the next step," Van der Sar said when discussing Ten Hag's future and whether the environment was key to his next club. "I've seen it myself when I went from Ajax to Juventus – it wasn't a natural fit. The level of football, the family, the expectations, it can be difficult abroad.

"But someone with the quality of Erik and the way he lets Ajax play and tick for the last four years, it's obvious there's a lot of interest in him. He is named among the big clubs in Europe. Eventually he will take the next step, but we will try to delay it as long as possible but of course, at a certain point it's up to him. But we have to challenge him and make sure he maybe sees will there be a next level – can we be even better? That's what we're working hard for to make sure the players are staying, the scouting brings new talents and the structure around him are ready for a successful period."

Recalling Ten Hag's arrival, Van der Sar added: "I remember speaking with him at Marc Overmars' house. Marc lives in the east of Holland, not as big as Australia but for Holland, it's still a drive. Came very well prepared. Knew what to expect. Talked about philosophies and things that needed to change. Taking the next step, putting the bar even higher every time. The last four years, every year he has taken the bar higher and higher.

"You also need the organisation to come up with that and that's been provided – the scouting, youth set up, commercial guys and media guys. Not only on the pitch we want to play in the Champions League, also the office. I live in two worlds – the training ground and the office I'm looking to the stadium. In both worlds, we want to play Champions League football. Being at the highest level."

Rio Ferdinand has been vocal previously regarding player signings and managerial appointments at Old Trafford. So, has Van der Sar been approached by his former team-mate when it comes to Ten Hag?

"Rio is quite vocal on his own media channels and the DMs [direct messages]," said the 51-year-old. "He is a great character and fantastic player, and pundit and business also. I respect him a lot. I texted him stop hassling me about players, coaches and directors to come over to England [smiling]."

The return of club legends Van der Sar and Marc Overmars, as CEO and director football respectively, have been key in maintaining Ajax's legacy and position among Europe's elite, despite contrasting budgets.

Van der Sar won four Eredivisie titles, the Champions League, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup among his 14 honours at Ajax in the 1990s before leaving in 1999, while former team-mate Overmars was also part of that conquering European outfit 26 years ago.

Now, the Dutch duo are embracing their Ajax roles off the pitch.

"We've had success and the money we've earned in our career, but it all started here at Ajax. We're happy to give something back to the club that gave us our first opportunity and a lot of things," Van der Sar said, having returned to the club in 2012 as marketing director before becoming CEO four years later.

The pair's work has not gone unnoticed. Overmars – who first became the director of football in 2012 – was sought after by Newcastle United before re-signing a week ago.

Van der Sar's future is now in the spotlight, linked with a return to Manchester United, where he enjoyed Premier League and Champions League success between 2005 and 2011.

However, Van der Sar is in no rush to leave his beloved Ajax.

"The last sentence was a good one – once your work at Ajax is done," Van der Sar replied when asked if he had a desire and interest to make his back way to United once his work with Ajax was done. "I think Marc and myself are enjoying it very much here at Ajax. The freedom and rewards, the level of the club is still growing. That brings joy to yourself and gives you a lot of confidence. We're easy in that way.

"For the moment I'm really happy in Amsterdam. I think we're not ready yet. We can make a step higher and that's something we're aiming for. To be really, really successful on the pitch. It's not easy, but we're going [to give it a] go."

Van der Sar and Overmars have established a successful structure at Ajax and it is something United are believed to be prepared to mirror by bringing in their former goalkeeper as Ed Woodward prepares to vacate his role as CEO.

Having not won the Premier League since 2013, United – up until this point – have been reluctant to appoint a director of football.

That reluctance and lack of a clear and unified vision in Manchester has seen the style of play and philosophy chop and change – David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have come and gone, and with them, the need for the club to constantly tailor to the needs of the next manager.

Ajax on the other hand, their philosophy remains the same and it will continue to be the case with Ten Hag and beyond.

"That is one of the things we changed 10 years ago that the structure is good for the club," Van der Sar said. "There's experience and quality, there's a desire to perform at the highest level and then the coach or maybe with assistant coach, one-two persons must fit into our system at the club. That's completely different in England. If you get a new manager, seven, eight, nine, 10 people, video, scouting, data, physios, doctors and everything.

"I don't think that is the right approach. I want to make sure the heart of the club and the knowledge of the club is there, that we know about the young players coming through, they know the young players need to adjust, what kind of sessions and training they need and then they're ready to be in the first team. That's why the assistant coaches are the guys who have been at the club – Michael Reizeger, Winston Bogarde, Richard Witschge, John Heitinga being the coach of the second team. We need that experience to make sure and aware to the coach that these players are coming through. That we don't have to buy a player, give this guy a chance and he will perform for you."

While popular in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, the director of football model is a topic that generates debate, particularly in England. Is it more helpful than obstructive for a coach in football?

"A coach is very important for the team," said 130-time Netherlands international Van der Sar. "He has a short-term future and for Marc and myself, we have to think long term about what's good for the club. But yeah, it can be difficult, difficult part of conversation with coach and director football.

"But I think at Ajax, we find an ideal solution at the moment. Marc and Erik have a fantastic working relationship together. Let's see what the future brings us for the club. First focus on the league and then look forward to the Champions League games in March. Hopefully a great team comes here to Amsterdam and hopefully we can entertain fans across the world."

Manchester United's search for a permanent new manager continues to roll on.

Ralf Rangnick has taken over on an interim basis following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's axing.

Several big names have been linked with the vacant post.

 

TOP STORY – TEN HAG TOP OF MAN UTD'S LIST

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag has moved to the head of the queue to be Manchester United's new manager, claims The Mirror.

Ten Hag guided Ajax through a record-breaking Champions League group campaign where they won all six games.

United have now made appointing him their priority as he ticks all the boxes for the 20-time English champions.

 

ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United have reached out to Manchester United about the prospect of a January move for Jesse Lingard, claims The Sun.

- Tottenham are tracking Chelsea's Andreas Christensen, joining Manchester City and Manchester United in pursuit of him, reports the Daily Star.

- Liverpool have set a £10million asking price for West Ham target Nat Phillips, according to The Sun.

- The Reds are also interested in signing Real Madrid winger Rodrygo and are willing to pay £68m (€80m), reports El Nacional.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Inter have not held any talks with Stefan dr Vrij amid links with Tottenham and Newcastle United.

- Brazilian powerhouse Corinthians have enquired about Manchester United's veteran Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani, claims Globo Esporte.

Ajax CEO Edwin van der Sar welcomed Manchester United's rumoured interest in head coach Erik ten Hag, while he hinted at a return to the Red Devils.

Ten Hag has been linked with Premier League giants United, who are eyeing a long-term manager following the interim appointment of Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season.

Ajax's Ten Hag has impressed in his time in Amsterdam, where the 51-year-old has delivered two Eredivisie titles and embarked on a memorable run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals.

Ten Hag's men have been the entertainers of Europe this term, dazzling their way into the Champions League round of 16, becoming the first Dutch side in history to win all six of their group-stage games in a campaign following Tuesday's 4-2 victory over Sporting CP.

Ajax have also won six consecutive matches in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their illustrious history.

Van der Sar was asked about the speculation regarding Ten Hag prior to the Group C fixture in Amsterdam.

"This means that we are doing something well," Van der Sar told RTL7 pre-game. "It's the same with the players. When we perform well, the interest comes.

"If there is interest in our players or coach… we've all been blown away in the past. So be it, we have to make sure we're ready by then, that the lists are filled in."

Former United goalkeeper Van der Sar has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford, where the 51-year-old won four Premier League titles and the Champions League among other honours between 2005 and 2011.

Van der Sar has held the role of Ajax CEO since 2016 and he responded to the rumours by saying: "I am enjoying myself so much at Ajax, I still have two years left here.

"I want to keep achieving things here with the club. But I am sure that one day the moment will arrive."

Van der Sar added: "I think it's really cool to be part of the club like this, because you don't do this alone and not just this year, but in the past 10 years.

"I still have two years to go. I don't think we're done at the club here yet. I think we can still grow in the Netherlands, but especially internationally. That's the challenge. And that seems even more cool for now."

Erik ten Hag lauded Ajax's "outstanding achievement" after the high-flying Dutch giants capped their group-stage campaign with more Champions League history.

Ajax made it six wins from six games in Group C following Tuesday's 4-2 victory over fellow last-16 bound outfit Sporting CP in Amsterdam.

With the triumph, Ajax became the first Dutch team to win all six of their games in a single Champions League group-stage campaign.

Ajax also won six consecutive matches in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their illustrious history.

Ten Hag's men have swept all before them in Europe this season and the Manchester United-linked head coach hailed Ajax.

"To win one match in the [UEFA] Champions League is difficult enough, but to win six in a row is an outstanding achievement," Ten Hag said.

"The intensity was good throughout the match this evening. You saw that in the pressure we put on them which led to the second goal by Antony."

Sebastien Haller broke a Champions League record held by Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland when he gave Ajax the lead against Sporting, matching another feat previously only ever achieved by superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Haller took his tally this term to 10 goals in six appearances – making him the quickest player to reach double figures in a Champions League career after Haaland had previously managed to so in seven matches.

Ivory coast international Haller also became the first player to score in each of his opening six games in the competition.

Haller is only the second player in Champions League history to score in all six matches of a single group stage after Ronaldo in 2017-18, while the former West Ham and Eintracht Frankfurt forward is only the second Ajax player to score 10-plus goals in a single season of the premier club competition following Soren Lerby in 1979-80.

"There is no secret [to our success]. It’s just a matter of working hard, together. The coach tells us everything we should know. And then we just try to stay focused," Haller told UEFA.com.

"Of course I didn't expect it [to score ten times in six matches], especially in my first games. The only thing you want to do is perform well, and be in the flow of the game. Ten goals was not in my dreams. So I can be happy and proud today."

Haller added: "The way we train every day, the way we think; we always want to play well and perform. Even at the end of the game you could see that.

"We're really happy with the energy and focus we put into the game, and we just hope that the next game will be the same."

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag said he is "ready" to coach abroad and would be "happy to take up that challenge" amid reported interest from Manchester United.

Ten Hag has been linked with Premier League giants United, who are eyeing a long-term manager following the interim appointment of Ralf Rangnick until the end of the season.

Ajax's Ten Hag has impressed in his time in Amsterdam, where the 51-year-old has delivered two Eredivisie titles and embarked on a memorable run to the 2018-19 Champions League semi-finals.

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

"I think I'm ready for it [coaching abroad]. I would be happy to take up that challenge," Ten Hag told De Volkskrant, with Ajax managing to score 48 goals while only conceding twice in the league this term.

"But I'm not chasing it. If it turns out that that step will never come, I will not say that my coaching career has failed.

"But I think I have sufficient competencies to take on that challenge."

The Rangnick era, albeit on an interim basis, started with a 1-0 win for United at home to Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Rangnick became the sixth German to manage in the Premier League and the first German to win his first game in charge in the competition (Felix Magath, Jurgen Klopp, Jan Siewert, Daniel Farke and Thomas Tuchel all failing to do so before him).

Following the victory against Palace, six of the last seven managers (including caretakers) have won their first game in charge of United in all competitions, with Louis van Gaal being the only exception during this period (a 2-1 loss to Swansea City at Old Trafford in August 2014).

It has been a turbulent period for Manchester United, but they appear on the cusp of solving one issue.

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gone, struggling United need a new manager and while Mauricio Pochettino seems to be the dream appointment, the Red Devils are reportedly closing in on a short-term solution.

Ralf Rangnick.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED TURN TO RANGNICK ON SHORT-TERM BASIS

Manchester United are set to appoint former RB Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick as interim manager, according to The Athletic, ESPN and widespread reports.

After sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United outlined their plan to install an interim boss until the end of the season amid reported long-term interest in Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag.

There had been reports United could turn to Pochettino immediately but a deal to prise the former Tottenham boss from Paris proved difficult.

Instead, United have offered Rangnick a six-month contract at Old Trafford, where the 63-year-old German is set to take up a consultancy role once his interim tenure ends.

Rangnick is currently head of sports and development at Russian outfit Lokomotiv Moscow.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Chelsea are plotting a move for Italy star Federico Chiesa, who is still on loan from Fiorentina. Juventus are set to sign Chiesa permanently at the end of the season, though he is wanted by a host of clubs, including Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

- United have emerged as a possible destination for in-demand Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic, reports the Daily Mail. Vlahovic is wanted by Manchester CityAtletico Madrid, JuveInterArsenalTottenham and Bayern but the Red Devils are believed to have joined the race.

Barcelona could sell Memphis Depay to help in their efforts to prise Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Depay only joined Barca on a free transfer at the start of the season, but the financially stricken LaLiga giants are among the long list of Haaland admirers. Haaland has been linked with CityUnitedReal MadridBayernLiverpoolChelseaJuve and PSG.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Stefano Pioli will sign a new contract with Milan on Friday. The Rossoneri head coach is set to extend his deal until June 2023, with the option of a further season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester United's managerial post is vacant after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday.

Solskjaer had led United since December 2018 but failed to win a trophy, finishing runners-up in last season's Premier League and Europa League.

The lean spell has United desperate to return to their former glories with their next managerial appointment.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE NOT KEEN ON MAN UTD JOB

World Cup winner and ex-Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is not interested in the vacant Manchester United job, reports BBC Sport.

Zidane left Madrid in May after failing to win LaLiga and has been linked with a host of roles since.

United have approached the 49-year-old about their vacant post but he is not interested in the position at this point.

 ROUND-UP

- Fichajes claims that reported United target Mauricio Pochettino would put Tottenham's Harry Kane at the top of his wishlist if he got the Red Devils job. The current Paris Saint-Germain boss is among those linked with the vacant post. The Telegraph claims that Pochettino is open to moving to Old Trafford at the end of this season.

- Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is United's second choice behind Pochettino reports Sky Sports, while The Sun claims the Red Devils have already approached Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers.

- Sport claims that new Barcelona boss Xavi wants to sign Al-Sadd's Algeria international striker Baghdad Bounedjah. Xavi coached Al-Sadd until taking over at Barca earlier this month.

- Tottenham may make a move for Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo who is unhappy at the club, claims Calciomercato.

- Fichajes reports that Real Madrid have an interest in Mason Mount, who is currently in talks with Chelsea on a new deal. Manchester City and Bayern Munich are also interested in Mount's services.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag is focused on winning titles with the Eredivisie, insisting he has "heard nothing" about the Manchester United job.

Ten Hag has emerged as one of the leading contenders to fill the United vacancy after manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday following Saturday's humiliating 4-1 Premier League rout at Watford.

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

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

The 51-year-old Dutchman was asked about United's reported interest after Sunday's 5-0 demolition of RKC Waalwijk.

"I am focused on my team, we have a brilliant squad and we want to achieve a lot," Ten Hag told ESPN.

"We have a brilliant squad, we want to fight for titles. My focus is on Ajax, the rest only distracts.

"I expect from my players that they are focused on Ajax, so I have to give the right example for that too.

"You keep asking me [about my position as Ajax manager], yes it is a weird question. I heard nothing about [United's interest], so I can't think about it."

Ajax have scored 42 goals in 13 rounds this season, conceding just twice.

Ten Hag's Ajax have kept 20 clean sheets in the league in 2021, their most in a calendar year since 1997 (21).

Ajax have been led by Sebastien Haller, who has scored 17 goals in 18 appearances across all competitions.

Haller has scored the opening goal in the Eredivisie nine times in 2021 – the most for a player in a calendar year since Graziano Pelle in 2013.

Manchester United's 4-1 embarrassment at the hands of Watford proved to be the final straw for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Red Devils have performed poorly this season, losing five of their past seven Premier League fixtures, with the loss at Vicarage Road their heaviest defeat against a promoted side since September 1989.

Saturday's demolition may have been the final nail, but a 5-0 crushing by Liverpool on October 24 seemed to make Solskjaer's departure a case of when, not if. 

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

Solskjaer only signed a new three-year deal with an option for an additional year in July, but disappointing results – including a home humbling by Manchester City since the Liverpool game – have forced the Norwegian out before a Champions League trip to Villarreal.

With Solskjaer through the exit door, Michael Carrick is in temporary charge. But who might take his spot and be charged with guiding United back to the top? Stats Perform takes a look at some of the favourites.

Zinedine Zidane

A free agent – and a particularly glamorous option – is Zinedine Zidane. The former France star's second stint as Real Madrid boss came to an end in May, and he remains available.

Zidane won the Champions League three times in a row in his first spell as Los Blancos head coach and also claimed two LaLiga titles over his five years in the role.

The 49-year-old is the record holder for most consecutive LaLiga away wins (13) and the longest unbeaten run in Spanish football (40 games) and United would surely see him as an upgrade on Solskjaer.

Zidane has also previously coached Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, to great success, and might be the perfect candidate to get United's stars working together cohesively. And he just may persuade Paul Pogba to stay.

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers is less decorated than the previous name on this list, but he has a wealth of experience in the English game and has done an admirable job in his current post as Leicester City head coach, guiding the Foxes to their first FA Cup triumph last season as well as successive fifth-placed Premier League finishes.

He also claimed back-to-back domestic trebles in his two and a half seasons with Celtic, but his association with United's rivals Liverpool may prove to be an obstacle, having come within two points of winning the Premier League in his second season on Merseyside.

Rodgers has been linked to the post but said this week the reports were "disrespectful" to Solskjaer "when you have a manager in place, a good manager and a good man, who is working hard at the club". He added: "I am here as the Leicester City manager, proud to be here, privileged to be here and fully committed to the players, the club, the ownership. That's about it, all the other noise around that is something we can't control."

Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino has reportedly long been admired by United, being regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford in his five-year spell in north London, having taken Tottenham to a Champions League final in that time.

However, the Argentine only joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and signed a contract extension until 2023 in July, and he is coaching a team that includes Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, not to mention the rest of PSG's star-studded squad.

Never say never, but this deal would certainly be a difficult one for United to pull off given the timing.

Erik ten Hag

Erik ten Hag has impressed in his time at Ajax, winning two Eredivisie titles and embarking on a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19, knocking Madrid and Juventus out before going out on away goals to Pochettino's Spurs.

Ajax have been entertaining and effective under Ten Hag in Europe this term and, ahead of Sunday's game in hand at RKC Waalwijk, are three points behind title rivals PSV after beating them 5-0 earlier in the season.

However, it remains to be seen if the Dutchman – who was also linked with the Newcastle United job that Eddie Howe now occupies – would be willing to leave mid-season.

Ralf Rangnick

Ralf Rangnick, who is working for Lokomotiv Moscow as their head of sports and development but is better known for his high-pressing philosophy as a coach and his influence on some of the Bundesliga's brightest minds, could be a short-term option for United.

The 63-year-old's managerial career dates back to 1983 when he started in charge of Viktoria Backnang but – despite spells with RB Leipzig, Schalke and Hoffenheim – the German remains relatively unknown outside his homeland.

Rangnick faced United in his time with Schalke, who were defeated by Alex Ferguson's side in the 2011 Champions League semi-final as the Red Devils made their third final in four years.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it seems, is no longer at the wheel.

Following another drubbing, this time a 4-1 rout at Watford on Saturday, Manchester United have reportedly called time on Solskjaer's tenure.

After a lengthy meeting, the club great is set to be axed.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER TO BE SACKED

Manchester United have agreed to sack manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to widespread reports.

Having already been humiliated by Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester City prior to the international break, United's season hit a new low following Saturday's 4-1 rout at lowly Watford.

Amid a worrying slump, The Athletic, Manchester Evening News and Fabrizio Romano claim United have opted to part with Solskjaer amid links to former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport says Raheem Sterling has told Premier League champions Manchester City he wants to join LaLiga giants Barcelona.

Barca and City are among the clubs interested in Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, per Fichajes.

- The Sun reports Newcastle United are looking to sign Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international, who scored twice to sink Milan on Saturday, has been linked with City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head for the signature of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, says Mundo Deportivo. The Germany international is a free agent at season's end. Bayern are also believed to be interested.

Dusan Vlahovic is believed to be Juventus' number one transfer target.

However, Juve are not the only club interested in the Serbia international, who is unwilling to re-sign at Fiorentina.

Juve are keeping their options open as they try to reinforced a stuttering squad.

 

TOP STORY – MARTIAL AND ICARDI EMERGE AS JUVE OPTIONS

Anthony Martial and Mauro Icardi are among the alternatives should Juventus miss out on Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato.

Juve are interested in Vlahovic, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Inter, Tottenham and Arsenal.

With competition high, United forward Martial, Paris Saint-Germain's Icardi, Benfica star Darwin Nunez, Alexandre Lacazette of Arsenal and Sassuolo's Gianluca Scamacca are also being considered by Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

- El Nacional reports Real Madrid are targeting Juve star Federico Chiesa. The Italy international signed from Fiorentina on an initial two-year loan deal and Juve are desperate to make it permanent amid interest from Liverpool.

Manchester United are in no rush to sack embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, per Manchester Evening News. Solskjaer is under pressure following humbling defeats to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City. Ajax boss Erik ten Hag, Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Zinedine Zidane have been linked.

- Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks are among Roma's transfer targets, says Calciomercato. Roma are also determined to sign Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future is in doubt as Manchester United continue to struggle.

United were outclassed effortlessly by neighbours Manchester City in Saturday's Premier League derby.

Struggling for form, Solskjaer could pay the price at Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER SET FOR AXE?

Manchester United are considering the departure of under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Manchester City eased past United 2-0 in the Premier League derby showdown at Old Trafford, where Solskjaer's side were left sixth and nine points off the pace.

There are reports of a player revolt as Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo grow frustrated with life in Manchester.

Zinedine Zidane and Ajax boss Erik ten Hag have been linked as possible replacements.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Real Madrid and Newcastle United are interested in Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. The Egypt international, who is contracted to Liverpool until 2023, is keen to sign a new deal at Anfield.

City are weighing up a move for Juventus and Netherlands centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, says El Nacional. De Ligt has also been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.

Karim Benzema is open to joining Paris Saint-Germain should Madrid sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Benzema has reportedly snubbed a move to Newcastle, while Haaland has been linked with City, United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSG, Chelsea and Juve.

Gerard PiqueSergio BusquetsSergi Roberto and Jordi Alba will be allowed to leave Barca under new head coach Xavi, according to El Nacional. Fabrizio Romano adds Xavi will look to re-sign Pablo Gavi and Ousmane Dembele.

- Calciomercato claims Atletico Madrid are interested in Udinese's Nahuel Molina, who is also wanted by Inter.

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