Dwight Yorke appreciates Harry Maguire is going through a tough phase but implored the centre-back to keep things simple to battle through his dip in form.

Maguire joined Manchester United in August 2019 for £80 million – a world record fee for a defender - from Leicester City on a six-year contract, with the option of a further year.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was the man to bring the England international to the club, though the Norwegian and the Red Devils have now parted ways with United eighth in the Premier League after a 4-1 humiliation at Watford.

Maguire was the first to admit the players must "share the responsibility" for Solskjaer's departure, with his downturn in form coinciding with United's struggles in recent months.

Former striker Yorke, who won three successive top-flight titles at Old Trafford between 1999 and 2002, wants the 28-year-old back at his best to aid United's revival.

"These guys are supposed to be world class," Yorke told Stats Perform.

"This is the number one England defender, stand-in captain when Harry Kane doesn't play. It's just crazy how things change so quickly and opinions of others change so quickly. 

"Listen, you go through phases in your career. And it's never going to be an easy part where you play every game and you get an eight or nine each game and stuff. 

"You're going to have challenges in your time and Harry Maguire is obviously going through one of those phases.

"Especially in a team that is not winning games, you come back into a team that is not winning, not high on confidence, you’re going to be low on confidence and you're going to be making mistakes. 

"And unfortunately, when you're at a club like Manchester United, you're going to be scrutinised, right, left and centre. If you don't perform well, you’re not going to get away with it at Manchester United, and Harry Maguire is no different."

Michael Carrick has been placed in temporary charge as United search for an interim appointment, which looks likely to be Ralf Rangnick, before hiring a permanent solution at the end of the season.

In his first game at the helm against Villarreal, Carrick managed to sure up a shaky defence that has conceded 21 times in the Premier League, only Newcastle United and Norwich have been breached more (both 27).

Maguire captained the side in Tuesday's Champions League clash but Yorke believes the solution for the defender is to return to the basics that have previously served him so well.

"We're talking about someone that we invested £80million in so there's a huge expectation for him," he added.

"Now he has to get back by doing what Maguire did in the first place, that has got him all this recognition, which is to defend and make the game very simple. 

"When you start making it complicated you cause problems, especially in a team that is struggling on confidence at the moment. 

"And this is where if I was Carrick, I would get back to just the basics of getting these players doing their job and doing it well in their areas rather than trying to complicate the game like they are doing at this moment."

Dwight Yorke believes criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo for having a negative influence on Manchester United is "absolutely crazy".

Ronaldo made a sensational return to Old Trafford at the end of the last transfer window, moving back to United after a 12-year absence following spells with Real Madrid and Juventus.

The Portugal forward struck twice on his second debut for the Red Devils against Newcastle United and has added two further goals to take his tally to four in the Premier League.

The 36-year-old has been especially prolific in the Champions League, netting six times as he became the first player to score in the first five matches of a European Cup/Champions League campaign for an English team with his most recent goal in the 2-0 win against Villarreal on Tuesday.

But United's form in the 2021-22 campaign has been far from inspiring, with the club eighth in the league after parting ways with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following a 4-1 reverse at Watford.

Criticism has been directed at Ronaldo, who some believe does not have the work rate to lead the line, but Yorke disagrees with suggestions that the forward is a disruptive presence.

"That's just rubbish, nip that in the bud," Yorke, who won three successive Premier League titles with United between 1999 and 2002, responded to Stats Perform. 

"For people to be questioning every now and then about how disruptive he has been to the football club, it's just absolutely garbage. 

"I mean, you have arguably the best footballer in the world. You want, and any manager wants him in your team, and you've just got to fit the puzzle around him. As simple as that. 

"You know, make him happy, make him do what he does best which he's been able to do for nearly two decades of his playing career. It's sensationalist. 

"It was crazy how ex-footballers and pundits, people could say that he can be disruptive at Manchester United, which is a farce. 

"This guy is sensational. He's a rare talent. He wants to win at all costs, you can see that winning mentality, it is a rare thing. And for people to be saying that he is disruptive at our football club is just absolutely ludicrous."

Michael Carrick will be United manager ahead of their trip to Chelsea, who are winless in the last seven top-flight meetings between the pair.

Reports suggest former RB Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick will become the interim manager until the end of the season, when the club will look for a permanent appointment.

Mauricio Pochettino has been strongly linked to the role but, whoever the manager, Yorke thinks it is on all the players to get United back to where they belong.

"It's all well and good having a world-class player, other people have to come along and join in that bandwagon and get us back to where we were," he added.

"There is no question in my mind that the team that we have, and the quality that we have possessed in that squad, we should nowhere be near where we are today. 

"We should be definitely challenging for the league, and all the other competitions because I think that we have got one of the best squads in world football at this current time. 

"But for some reason, we haven't been able to back that up with performances. And for people even trying to point the finger at Cristiano Ronaldo is just absolutely crazy, in my opinion."

Tottenham legend Gary Mabbutt believes the club can still finish in the top four in the Premier League this season after appointing Antonio Conte as manager.

Spurs turned to the Italian coach after sacking Nuno Espirito Santo last week following a start to the campaign that saw them lose five of their opening ten league games.

Ahead of Sunday's clash against Everton at Goodison Park – Conte's first Premier League game in charge at Tottenham – Mabbutt said that the decision to remove Nuno was the correct one, and gives his former club a chance at finishing in the top four to qualify for the Champions League.

Mabbutt told Stats Perform: "I think that in the summer there was a lot of due diligence done on managers and going after different managers. And of course, some of them Spurs went after obviously weren't available. 

"The chairman was looking for a manager to bring back the DNA of Spurs, the attractive attacking flair type football, and they believed in Nuno that he could do that.

"After the first month of the season, they were top of the table, not conceded a goal, played three games and got nine points, and Nuno got the Premier League Manager of the Month. It was all looking good.

"But since then it was a real roller coaster ride with performances, ranging from being good enough to be able to scrape away with a one-nil victory.

"But then there were occasions against Crystal Palace, the second-half against Chelsea, against Arsenal, and against Manchester United – they were well below-par performances.

"The remit was for Nuno to bring back the DNA of Spurs. That didn't seem to be working, and I think the chairman and the board had to make a decision.

"They’re four points off the top four. We want to be in that top four, and things had to be addressed. I was delighted that the board acted very, very swiftly and brought in Antonio."

Mabbutt, who played 619 games for Spurs in all competitions, won the UEFA Cup in 1984, and captained them to the 1991 FA Cup, praised the job that Nuno did at Wolves but admitted that the Portuguese coach did not ultimately fit with what Spurs needed.

"If you look at what Nuno achieved at Wolves over the last few years, I think he's done an incredible job there, and he was given an opportunity [at Spurs], and yeah, it didn't work out for him," he added.

"Nuno is a really good guy. He is a gentleman and is the sort of chap that you want to do well. But I think it was clear to see after the first four months of the season that what the club were looking for to be fulfilled was not going to happen.

"As I said, a decision had to be made quickly because we're still in with a chance to getting into that top four. That's where we want to be."

When asked about the number of different managers at Tottenham in the last few years, Mabbutt said that the club have made the difficult decisions when they have had to, and emphasised the need to get "back on track".

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing. You look back at the past, to things we would change if we could. You know [Mauricio] Pochettino was very, very popular at the club. He came in and he took us to the Champions League final," Mabbutt said.

"But again, things towards the end of his tenure didn't seem to be right. And again, the board had to make a decision.

"I think for Mauricio getting the Paris Saint Germain job, for him, is a dream because he loves Paris. He played there, and of course with the squad they have built up at the moment, I think he's enjoying himself there.

"It's easy to say, 'What if we kept Mauricio? What if things had been different?' But that's always going back in hindsight, it's always wondering what could happen.

"But we have to deal with the facts as they are, and position that we're in. Mauricio left, Jose [Mourinho] came in to replace him.

"And then of course after that Ryan Mason came in for a short spell, and then Nuno, and after that Antonio. So, I think it's something like four managers in the last six months we've had in place. So, we now need to get back on track.

"We now need to get more of a solid background I think for the manager and the staff coming in. Antonio has been given an 18-month contract with a potential year extension on that. So yes, I think everyone's been excited by Antonio coming."

Former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham has praised the understanding of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min as the duo close in on a Premier League record.

Kane and Son have directly combined for 35 goals in the English top flight since the South Korea international's move from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.

The Spurs pair, who successfully linked up again in last weekend's win at Newcastle United, are now just one behind the leading tally of 36 set by Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba ahead of a London derby with West Ham United on Sunday.

And Sheringham, who scored 124 goals in 277 appearances across two spells for Spurs, is hopeful Kane and Son can continue to link up in such devastating fashion.

In an exclusive interview, the 55-year-old told Stats Perform: "They have a great understanding.

"They're two phenomenal players playing at the top of their game. They have an understanding that clicks. 

"They know what's good and what's bad for each other and they play to their strengths and long may continue for Tottenham."

Sheringham knows all about the benefits of playing with a team-mate on the same wavelength.

Indeed, the former England striker directly combined with Darren Anderton for 27 goals during their time together at Spurs; the fifth-highest tally in Premier League history.

"Every now and again, you come across people that understand how you play and accommodate you perfectly," he continued.

"Not everyone gets on that wavelength, but I definitely had it with Darren Anderton.

"Maybe it'd be a little signal or an eye contact, but he would understand exactly where I wanted the ball. 

"That's one thing understanding it, and there's another thing putting it exactly where it's needed to be. He was unbelievable at that.

"People ask me who my favourite players are that I played with. He's out there in the top three because he was phenomenal at putting the ball exactly where I wanted. He was a feeder. 

"I was the goalscorer at Tottenham, and I made a few for him as well."

Juliano Belletti believes Barcelona and Real Madrid can make memories to last for many years in Sunday's Clasico as he recalled being on the team that swept aside the famous 'Galacticos'.

Brazilian full-back Belletti spent three seasons at Camp Nou between 2004 and 2007, winning two LaLiga titles and scoring the winner in the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal.

He featured in four games against Los Blancos for the Blaugrana, winning one, losing one and drawing two.

The 45-year-old, who is now assistant manager at Brazilian club Cruzeiro, reflected on the stature of the historic fixture and cast his mind back to his first Clasico after arriving in Catalonia.

"Most of the best players in the world are [at Barcelona and Real Madrid]," Belletti told Stats Perform. "So, just being involved is already special. Barca and [Real] Madrid have fans all over the world. We are aware of it as football players. And when we are not involved in El Clasico, whether we are from the football world or not, we are watching this game.

"There is top quality football, there is big rivalry. There is so much history and it is something global. It is not only about LaLiga. That's why I believe the impact of the result of this game, winning or losing, is incredible. That's all what makes this Clasico special.

"My first Barca v Madrid was at Camp Nou in 2004. We faced 'Los Galacticos' of Real Madrid. It was very special for me to be there at that time.

"Besides, we won that game 3-0. It was even more special as my first time playing against 'Los Galacticos' and winning the game. And even nowadays my family remembers that day."

 

David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Brazilian striker Ronaldo were all in the Madrid team in that November 2004 game, with Samuel Eto'o, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Ronaldinho scoring for Barcelona.

Belletti says those that feature in this weekend's game will already feel, with some justification, that they have made it in the game.

"This sport is very competitive," Belletti said. "Reaching Barca or Real [Madrid] is a very high level, so demanding, a very hard-working culture. So, being there, you think: 'Oh my god, I did well. Now it is time to enjoy it.'"

Barcelona have been experiencing a decline of late, with the Catalan giants failing to win the league in their last two seasons and not claiming a Champions League title since 2015.

Furthermore, financial difficulties prevented the club from offering Lionel Messi a new contract, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, and Barca started this year poorly in his absence.

They have won their last two games, however, beating Valencia 3-1 in LaLiga and Dynamo Kiev 1-0 in the Champions League as under-pressure head coach Ronald Koeman looks to generate momentum ahead of the first Clasico of the campaign, possibly a pivotal match in his reign.

Barcelona's youngsters can help the club emerge from their transitional period as a stronger side, according to former full-back Juliano Belletti.

The Catalan giants have endured a difficult time of things on and off the field of late, with a solitary Copa del Rey triumph all they have to show for the last two seasons.

Barca finished outside the top two in LaLiga last term for the first time in 13 seasons and are down in seventh place eight games into the 2021-22 campaign.

Due to the club's well-documented financial problems, with their debts amounting to €1.35billion, they were unable to keep hold of legendary forward Lionel Messi during the close season.

As well as being off the pace in LaLiga, Ronald Koeman's men have also kicked off their Champions League campaign with successive 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica.

It is the first time Barca have lost back-to-back group games in a single season since 2000-01, putting added importance on Wednesday's clash with Dynamo Kiev.

But while many are questioning whether the 26-time Spanish champions are a fading force, Belletti insists what his former side are going through is completely normal.

Belletti has personal experience of helping Barca return to the top of Spanish and European football after the previous barren spell that saw them go five seasons without a trophy between 1999 and 2005.

Then a Brazil international, Belletti arrived from Villarreal ahead of the 2004-05 campaign and was a regular in that season's LaLiga triumph.

He also lifted the title in a memorable second campaign at Camp Nou that also saw him score the winner in the Champions League final against Arsenal – his only goal for the club.

Fourteen years on from his departure, Belletti can see a similar scenario playing out in Catalonia.

"It is very weird for world football to see what's going on at Barcelona lately," he said. "However, I see it as a transition: from what has happened last season, to a new era of the club. 

"When you change something as Barcelona has done it, there are always difficulties and tough times. And you should know how to deal with them. 

"Barca has already dealt with them at times in their history. It is not the first time. When I arrived at Barcelona in 2004, the club was in a dry titles run for five years. 

"It was seen as a very big crisis, so much pressure, many critics… and we were able to change the way. It is exactly what it is going to happen again. 

"Nevertheless, as Barcelona is very global nowadays, their issues are very global too. 

"It's a very well-known club, with many fans all over the world… so, pressure is different to what it used to be a few years ago. But I think it is normal. 

"They will go through it. There are going to be many tough times, but the current president has experience on how to fix this situation."

Belletti, who made 102 appearances for Barcelona before joining Chelsea in 2007, added: "Nobody is perfect and I can guarantee the work is really hard and complicated when you work in a global company. 

"You need people around you who support you, especially in football. All of us we go through difficulties. We are managing a small, medium or huge company. In that process, there are difficulties. 

"What happens to Barcelona is due to its huge size, meaning that difficulties are huge too. They haven't won trophies and it has been tough to keep youngsters like they used to do it and that affects into the pitch."

One positive for Barca this season has been the continuation of their proud history of transforming academy hopefuls into first-team stars.

The average age of Koeman's side this season is 24.9, considerably down on the 27.2 from four seasons ago. That ranks Barca as the team with the third-youngest side in LaLiga this term behind only Real Sociedad (24.2) and Valencia (24.3).

And Belletti is hopeful the likes of Gavi and Ansu Fati, the latter of whom has taken on Messi's famous number 10 shirt, can help Barca get back on track.

"It is what all of us hope, because La Masia has already proved on being able to solve many issues of the club with its own talents," he said. "That transition from the academy to the pro football is one of the main issues to many clubs in the world. 

"However, Barca knows how to do it. They have to work for getting the benefit of this. Youngsters have the talent, as the club has proved already in the past, for being in a top table of best players in the world. 

"So, it has to be invested on them. And especially protect them when there is more pressure around in order to avoid those direct pressures on their performances. 

"On the other hand, they are aware of that pressure and deal with it because they have been educated in that way, so they become Barcelona players."

Liverpool should give Mohamed Salah "whatever he wants" to sign a new contract, according to Jose Enrique.

Salah has had a magnificent start to the season and moved onto six Premier League goals for the campaign with a sensational solo strike against Manchester City on Sunday.

The 29-year-old's efforts, which also included an assist for Sadio Mane's opener, was not enough to propel Liverpool to victory, however, with champions City twice fighting back in a thrilling 2-2 draw.

Liverpool were not particularly active in the recent transfer window, with Ibrahima Konate their only major addition – the centre-back joining from RB Leipzig – while Georginio Wijnaldum joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

However, the Reds did move to secure the futures of some of Jurgen Klopp's key players, with Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson signing new deals.

Salah, though, was not among those players. While he has shown no signs of wanting to leave, the Egypt forward has less than two years to run on his current contract.

It is a situation that Jose Enrique, who played for Liverpool between 2011 and 2016, insists the club must swiftly rectify.

He told Stats Perform: "Him scoring [against City] doesn't surprise me. Obviously when you watch it, you're like 'wow what a goal', but he's made a few of them already at this level, very good goals.

"He doesn't surprise me any more. I don't know what he's asking for from Liverpool to renew his contract, but I say give him whatever he wants, because in my opinion at the moment, take [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo because of the history they have and everything like that, but you tell me one player at the moment in the world of football that I would take if I was manager and I would say Salah.

"Definitely I would say Salah, he's unbelievable. People forget that he's not actually a forward, he's a winger really.

"He plays a little bit as a forward as well but he's a winger actually but making these kind of numbers. Today, another assist and a goal. What am I going to say about him? Liverpool sign a new contract, tie him down and let's get it over with, definitely."

Liverpool may ultimately consider themselves unfortunate to twice throw away their lead, but City dominated the first half and could have been out of sight had they shown more cutting edge in the final third.

"I think the first half wasn't good enough from Liverpool," acknowledged Jose Enrique.

"Then obviously the second half, we perform much better but the game overall, seen as a fan, not a Liverpool supporter or Manchester City supporter, as a fan, I think it was a very, very nice game to watch.

"Obviously I'm a Liverpool fan as well myself now, so it was a fair result, but with the first half that we've done we could have easily lost this game.

"Actually we got in front twice with Mane first and then with Salah as well, and then getting the goals and then [City] getting back into the game was a bit unfair. But then when you think overall, to be honest, a draw I think is a good point.

"We should have won this game, at home, but against City it is always difficult, but definitely I'm happy with the point because of the way we performed in the first half.

"I think in the second half we were great but in the first half we were really, really bad in my opinion."

Manny Pacquiao will go down as one of the greatest fighters of all time and newly crowned world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk possesses a similar skillset, says Joseph Parker.

Pacquiao's decorated boxing career has come to an end, with the sport's only eight-division world champion announcing his retirement.

His decision came under a month after his unanimous points loss to Yordenis Ugas for the WBA super welterweight title.

The 42-year-old had made his boxing return against Ugas for the first time since July 2019, but the Filipino's comeback did not go according to plan in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao, who has declared his candidacy in the 2022 Philippine presidential election, retires with a record of 62 wins (39 knockouts), eight losses and two draws.

Heavyweight contender Parker, who was speaking prior to the formal announcement from Pacquiao, suggested he did not want to see one of the best boxers in history fight on. 

He also thinks Usyk, who has just been crowned WBA, WBO and IBF champion after defeating Anthony Joshua, possesses some of the same traits.

"I feel like he's going to go down as one of the best of all time," New Zealander Parker said to Stats Perform.

"It is quite hard to see someone like Pacquiao to continue to fight when he had this great legacy and great career. 

"And now he can still beat a lot of guys but it is hard to see someone who is not in his prime. They keep fighting and let these guys get the better of them."

Describing what makes Pacquiao special, Parker added: "I feel like he is similar to [Usyk]; his movement, his footwork; he's very quick on his feet and also the volume of punches that he throws. 

"He throws a lot of punches and combinations. 

"And I feel like it's really hard to fight someone like Pacquiao when he's trying throwing all these punches and the movement that he presents.

"His legacy? The eight-time division champion - just the achievement of that and a lot of a lot of young fighters look up to him. 

"You have to say that he's going to go down in history and he's going to always be talked about, as an eight-time division world champion. 

"And he can give a lot back to the sport by teaching the [young] fighters, signing other fighters and just being involved as a manager or promoter, as he knows the game and set up.

"My favourite Pacquiao fight? I really like the fight against Ricky Hatton. Just the timing and precision of when he landed the big shot to finish the fight. 

"Hatton is a beast himself and has had a great career, but when you’re in the ring with Manny Pacquiao it’s a different story."

Anthony Joshua must learn from his defeat to Oleksandr Usyk if he is to come back stronger and keep alive the possibility of facing Tyson Fury, according to Joseph Parker.

Joshua lost his IBF, WBA and WBO titles to Usyk on Saturday after being outclassed by the Ukrainian on home soil at a packed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The 31-year-old had no answer to former undisputed cruiserweight champion Usyk and lost on a unanimous points decision.

It was just the second defeat of Joshua's professional career, having previously been stopped by Andy Ruiz Jr. in June 2019 before reclaiming the belts in their rematch.

The prospect of Joshua and Fury facing off now appears slim, with the latter's promoter Frank Warren casting doubt on a bout that at one point looked certain to take place this year.

A rematch with 19-0 Usyk may now be on the cards for Joshua before he can contemplate facing Fury, who has a third clash with Deontay Wilder coming up on October 9.

But Parker, who was the first man to take Joshua the distance in their 2018 unification fight in Cardiff, believes there is still hope of an all-British heavyweight clash taking place.

"I feel like the point is just the best fighting the best," Parker told Stats Perform. "Even though AJ lost that fight to Usyk, he's still considered one of the best. 

"He's going to go down in history as one of the best heavyweights. I think people want to see the best fight the best and that's a fight that can still happen. 

"People will still be very interested to see who's the best British heavyweight there is."

Speaking after his surprise defeat in London at the weekend, Joshua said he is "110 per cent" up for a rematch with Usyk to win back his belts.

Despite the manner of the defeat, Parker has backed Joshua to put up a far stronger performance if he does step back into the ring with Usyk.

"I was a little surprised by the defeat," Parker said. "I mean, a lot of other people called it a 50-50 fight, a lot of people said it was going to be a tear up for AJ to win. 

"But Usyk showed everyone watching tremendous skill and footwork and movement. You just saw him outbox and outsmart AJ for the 12 rounds.

"But [Joshua's] a smart man and he's got a smart team. He's faced a loss and adversity and he's come back with a better game plan. That's what he's going to need to do. 

"I think I saw an interview saying he's already watched the fight straight after it happened and he just needs to make those adjustments and how to counter someone like Usyk.

"Who wins the rematch depends on the training, it depends on who shows up on the day. But going into the rematch, Usyk would have big confidence. 

"It's pretty crazy how he came from the cruiserweight division, unified champion of the world and then has three fights and he's the unified champion of the world. 

"That's the goal of a lot of heavyweights, is to be champion of the world and be unified champ. It's so crazy how things happen."

Joshua followed up his victory over Parker, which saw him retain his WBA, IBF and IBO belts and win the WBO title, with a knockout triumph over Alexander Povetkin.

The Briton has lost two of his following four fights, however, giving him a record of 24-2 and leading to inevitable suggestions that his career is now declining.

But Parker said: "It's hard to say if that's the case. From when I fought him, he's had a couple of wins, a loss to Ruiz and come back and beat him again.

"He's saying that he's improving and getting better, but maybe he just was faced with a fighter who was just different, you know, in his element. 

"When you see Usyk, with the footwork and the movement - he didn't really allow AJ to land his shots and catch him. He was just in and out and just very smart."

Milan must show courage if they are to overcome Atletico Madrid and keep their dream of advancing in the Champions League alive, according to the great Franco Baresi.

The Rossoneri have made an unbeaten start to their Serie A campaign with five wins and a draw from their first six matches, but they were defeated 3-2 by Liverpool at Anfield in their opening European game of the season two weeks ago.

That was Milan's first match in Europe's elite club competition in seven and a half years, and the narrow defeat leaves them bottom of Group B, with Atletico and Porto sharing a point apiece in the other match.

Milan welcome LaLiga champions Atletico to San Siro on Tuesday and history is not on their side, having won only won of their past 17 games against Spanish opposition in European competition, including an ongoing run of seven games without a victory.

The only previous meetings between the teams, meanwhile, saw the Italian side lose both legs to Atleti at the last-16 stage of the 2013-14 Champions League.

But Baresi, who won the European Cup three times during his 20-year playing career with Milan, insists his former side have nothing to fear when they play host to Diego Simeone's side

"At the draw, we knew we would be in the fourth-tier pot," Baresi told Stats Perform. "We knew we would draw high level opponents.

"This groups is very tough, but we want to have our say until the end and enjoy this moment, this comeback to the Champions League. 

"To me, in this group, all the clubs will lose points, because it is not easy to beat Atletico Madrid and Porto. This next one at home against Atleti will be so important for Milan if we want to dream about going through. 

"But we don't have to be too nervous, we have to live it with enthusiasm and courage – like Milan always did around the world."

Milan were runners-up in Serie A last season – their highest Serie A finish since 2011-12 – as they ended their long wait for Champions League football.

Head coach Stefano Pioli has been hailed for his work over the past two years, and Baresi believes Paolo Maldini, who has served as technical director since June 2019, also deserves credit for helping to turn things around at Milan.

"He started with great enthusiasm, giving out all his experience as a player and his ideas and prowess as a manager," Baresi said. "He is doing a great job and Milan have improved exponentially in the last two seasons. 

"We can do well this season. Even last season we did well as we qualified for the Champions League. Let's hope we can play well in the Champions League, too."

Manchester United have a realistic chance of breaking into the top three of the Women's Super League this season, despite losing head coach Casey Stoney during the close season. 

That is according to Tottenham defender Kerys Harrop, who told Stats Perform she is expecting the 2021-22 campaign to be the "most exciting yet".

Stoney departed United at the end of last season after steering the club into the top flight and then to successive fourth-placed finishes in the WSL across her three years in charge.

The Red Devils have opted for an experienced replacement, with former Birmingham City and Orlando Pride boss Marc Skinner taking the reins.

United led the way at the top of the division come the end of last year, but hampered by injury issues they slipped down to fourth, one point behind third-placed Arsenal.

United States duo Tobin Heath and Christen Press have departed, while Jessica Sigsworth, Amy Turner, Lauren James and  Abbie McManus have also moved on.

But with Hannah Blundell, Aoife Mannion, Sophie Baggaley, Martha Thomas and Vilde Boe Risa all arriving, Harrop believes United can possibly go one better this time around.

"I think it's realistic ambition for them and certainly what Marc and the players I know there, former team-mates of mine, want," Harrop said.

"And then you've still got other teams like ourselves at Tottenham and you have got Brighton, who will be wanting to push on this year as well, Everton too.

"I know we say every year that it's going to be the most exciting season yet. But I believe it actually will be. 

"Everton have invested as well as us, even Villa to an extent as well. So I think it's going to be really important for this game for the top three places.

"But certainly in and around the top half of the league, I think it's going to be really interesting and really exciting."

 

Skinner was widely praised for his work at Birmingham, whom he led to the FA Cup final in 2017 and to fourth in the table in the WSL in 2019.

The 38-year-old finished bottom of the National Women's Soccer League in his first season with Orlando before a more promising start to the 2021 campaign.

Harrop was part of the Birmingham side that achieved success under Skinner and expects her former manager to be a success on his return to the English game.

"It was really tough to see when he got the job [with Orlando]," Harrop said. 

"You know, he kind of went out to Orlando and got that experience, but I think deep down he'd always wanted to manage in the WSL. 

"I think he's got a quite unique style of play, certainly from when I was under him at Birmingham. And he's well respected. I know he'll get the best out of all the players there. 

"That's certainly what he did with us at Birmingham. It's going to be interesting to see whether his style has changed since being out in America. 

"He was quite adamant on the way that he wanted his teams play."

Harrop is entering her second season as a Tottenham player and has made the third-most appearances of any player in WSL history.

Spurs finished eighth in the top flight in 2020-21, but Harrop is hopeful of challenging United for a Champions League berth this coming season in their first full campaign under Rehanne Skinner.

"I definitely think we will improve," she said. "You know, we've already kind of stayed ourselves and we want at least a top four finish, if not higher. 

"Rhian's recruited well. She's bought in a lot of good new quality, kind of international signings really. Every year you want to improve but I think realistically we can definitely develop on last season. 

"I think just having Rhian in from the beginning will help. Last season she came in in January, so it was a lot harder for her to kind of implement all her tactics and her style of play. 

"This year we've had everyone together from the beginning of pre-season in terms of her and the coaching staff. So hopefully there will be a bit of flow to the league this year."

Pernille Harder is encouraged by the increasingly competitive nature of the Women's Champions League after Chelsea reached the final last season in a campaign where Lyon's run of titles was ended.

Lyon had been European champions in five successive seasons heading into 2020-21, pipping Harder's Wolfsburg in 2018 and 2020.

The Denmark superstar was named UEFA Women's Player of the Year on both occasions and secured a world-record move to Chelsea, where she again made the final.

The Blues came up short, but there was a new name on the trophy as Barcelona claimed their first title after Lyon were knocked out in the last eight.

Harder, speaking on behalf of Heineken, told Stats Perform: "Chelsea, as a team, we want to be one of the big teams in the world, and I think we still are. I think we can develop more from last year.

"Last year, we reached the final, so that's good, and we have the potential to be even better.

"But I also think the competition is really high. Now, there are so many good teams in Europe, so it will also be even more difficult to reach the final and to win the Champions League.

"I think it's good that it's not only one team that is just dominating the women's football.

"Lyon has been doing that for so many years, but I think now more teams are getting into the competition.

"Obviously, Lyon is still one of the big teams who will compete about the title, but it's really good that it has developed in this way with more teams being contenders for winning the title."

Team success is the priority for Harder, despite her individual recognition following Wolfsburg's final runs.

"The individual [awards] wasn't a goal for me – it was just the outcome," she said. "But the ultimate goals are to develop and to develop as a team but also to win titles.

"If that will make me win another individual award, that's just maybe a result on a good season. But that's not the main goal for me."

Heineken is a new sponsor for the Women's Champions League and Women's European Championship, which Harder sees as evidence of the sport's development.

"It's great that Heineken has chosen to go into women's football, to the Women's Champions League and the [Women's European] Championship that's coming in the next years," she said.

"It just shows the way women's football has developed, that a big brand like Heineken wants to go in and help to develop women's football even more.

"So, obviously, me as a football player, a women's football player, I'm really happy and pleased about that."
 

Watch Heineken's latest announcement video sharing three more reasons to cheer, having extended its already expansive footprint in motorsport and football with three exciting new partnerships – UEFA Women's Champions League, UEFA Women's European Championship and W Series.

Youri Tielemans has been tipped to sign a new contract at Leicester City by Andy King after writing his name in the club's folklore with his stunning FA Cup final winner.

The Belgium international scored the only goal of Saturday's showdown with Chelsea in front of 21,000 supporters with a right-foot drive into the top-left corner from 25 yards.

Leicester survived a nervy finale to win their first ever FA Cup at the fifth attempt, making it one of the most famous days in the Foxes' history.

Match-winner Tielemans - the third Belgian to score in the showpiece after Eden Hazard in 2018 and Kevin de Bruyne a year later - was rightly acclaimed after the match.

The 24-year-old has impressed throughout the season for Leicester, who will now switch focus to trying to nail down a top-four finish and Champions League football when they face Chelsea again on Tuesday.

Despite rumoured interest from other Premier League heavyweights, former Leicester midfielder King believes Tielemans can achieve all his career aims by staying on at the King Power Stadium.

"It's important Leicester keep him. Only he will be able to tell you whether it's going to be difficult to keep him because you never know what certain players' ambitions are, but days like Saturday certainly help," King told Stats Perform.

"He knows he can win trophies at Leicester and he knows he can play in the Champions League - that's what all the top players want.

"So, you never know, especially with players who aren't from the UK, if they want to play in another country or try something new.

"But from what I've heard, read and seen, he is really, really happy here, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him sign some sort of new contract in the not-too-distant future. I'm not saying I know he's doing it, but it just seems the right fit.

"He's probably been Leicester's Player of the Season this year – he has been absolutely outstanding. He's got everything, and for someone so young to score the match-winning goal in an FA Cup final is amazing."

That stunning Wembley strike took Tielemans' goal tally for the season to nine in all competitions – six of those in the Premier League – and he has also chipped in with four assists.

The former Monaco midfielder, who has two years to run on his existing deal, is third behind Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (2,615) and Rodri (2,683) for passes attempted among Premier League midfielders this term with 2,355.

He also ranks ninth in the division for tackles by midfielders (74), joint-10th for tackles won (39) and joint-11th in terms of chances created (44), underlining his all-round ability in the middle of the park.

Manager Brendan Rodgers has been credited with getting the most out of Tielemans, who arrived for a reported club-record fee of £40million in July 2019, and King feels the former Liverpool boss can also play a part in keeping the player at the club.

"He really likes the manager," said King, who won the League One, Championship and Premier League titles during his time with the Foxes. "The manager really likes him as well and he's now playing the best football of his career.

"He's just won a trophy and [can still get] into the Champions League, so I don't think he will be in any sort of rush to get out of the situation he's in at the moment.

"The way Leicester are going now, with one of the best training grounds in Europe, plans to extend the stadium, he's going to enjoy all that. 

"He's young and has plenty of years ahead of him, so hopefully he can sign that new contract and carry on playing the way he is."

While Tielemans' strike will long live in the memory of Leicester supporters, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel also cemented his status as one of the Foxes' all-time greats with some big saves against Chelsea.

Schmeichel turned Ben Chilwell's header on to the post and then somehow kept out Mason Mount's powerful shot en route to becoming the first goalkeeper to captain the winning side in an FA Cup final since David Seaman with Arsenal in 2003.

"Kasper is someone who is made for big moments," King said of his former team-mate. "He is driven to improve himself every day and improve those around him to make sure standards don't slip.

"He's vocal in the dressing room, and the best thing for us is that he really does love and care for the club. He cares about the owner and the supporters and will do anything to make sure Leicester win a game.

"He thrives off the big occasion and that save off Mason Mount is world class, an unbelievable save.

"I was sat right behind the shot, and just the sheer power on it, you think he might get a hand to it, but he's not going to be able to keep it out. He's a world-class goalkeeper."

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