Ruben Neves was furious that a "clear foul" by Paul Pogba was not given in the build-up to Manchester United's winning goal at Wolves.

The Red Devils claimed a 1-0 Premier League victory at Molineux on Sunday courtesy of Mason Greenwood's strike with 10 minutes of normal time remaining.

The result moved United to seven points from their first three games and stretched their unbeaten run away from home to 28 games, a record in English league football.

However, Wolves were incensed that the goal was allowed to stand, with Pogba having caught Neves low on the shin in a 50-50 challenge on the edge of the home side's penalty area shortly before debutant Raphael Varane teed up Greenwood.

Referee Mike Dean allowed play to continue, much as Craig Pawson did in United's previous game at Southampton when a robust challenge on Bruno Fernandes prior to Saints' opening goal went unpunished.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Neves said: "Everyone saw it, everyone saw my leg. We always do meetings and everything with referees about VAR. I don't know why.

"They said before the season started they will look for contact – if the contact is strong enough, they will give the foul. I showed them my leg.

"I think maybe because last game it was a foul before the Southampton goal, maybe now they did the opposite. I showed my leg to the ref, I showed [it] to the assistant ref, I cannot say anything more.

"After the game, he said 'you both go to the ball' and I said 'yes, we both go to win the ball but I was the one who touched the ball'. It's a foul, a clear foul."

Sky Sports pundits Roy Keane and Graeme Souness agreed, with the former Liverpool midfielder branding the challenge "a leg-breaker", but Pogba was adamant there was no reason to award a free-kick.

"My view is this is the Premier League, it's a 50-50. Every weekend, that is happening," he said.

"I need to see it again, but I didn't touch him. I won the ball and we scored. I need to see it again."

Manchester United broke the record for the longest unbeaten streak away from home in English football league history on Sunday.

The Red Devils made it 28 matches on the road without defeat as they won 1-0 at Wolves courtesy of Mason Greenwood's 80th-minute strike.

They had equalled Arsenal's 27-game run set in the 'Invincibles' season of 2003-04, with a 1-1 draw at Southampton last week.

United's last away defeat in the Premier League was against Liverpool at Anfield on January 19, 2020. They have won 18 and drawn 10 of games on their travels since then.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have scored 50 on the road in that time, conceding just 18. Their top scorer in that run was Bruno Fernandes with 15, more than twice as many as any other United player.

Solskjaer has now overseen 100 league matches in charge of United, becoming only the ninth manager in the club's history to reach the milestone. Only Ernest Mangnall (54) won more of his first 100 in charge than the Norwegian (53).

Mason Greenwood struck a late goal to give Manchester United a 1-0 Premier League win at Wolves on Sunday and ensure the Red Devils set a record for matches unbeaten away from home.

The teenager's right-foot finish settled a tight contest in which Wolves had looked the more dangerous for much of the first hour, David de Gea making one incredible save to keep the scores level in the second half.

United, who handed first starts to Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, grew into the game after toiling early on and eventually took maximum points while making English football league history with a 28th league game without defeat on their travels.

It capped a memorable week for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, who are set to bring Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club from Juventus in the coming days.

Adama Traore, starting despite speculation linking him with Tottenham, set up Francisco Trincao for the best of the early chances only for De Gea to save well with his feet.

Wolves looked deadly on the break and only a superb goal-line block from Aaron Wan-Bissaka stopped Trincao from rolling in the opening goal, Fred having failed to halt his advances after blocking the ball into his path.

Bruno Fernandes fired the ball into the net from Paul Pogba's ball over the top but the offside flag was raised, as United ended the half without a shot on target.

They finally tested Jose Sa just before the hour mark, Fred's volley kept out after Fernandes had just failed to tee up Greenwood.

United were all over the place when Greenwood lost the ball in attack, Traore rolled it to Trincao 12 yards out, but he miscued his finish and could not even find the target. The United forward then set himself up for a run into the Wolves box with a brilliant touch only for his control to let him down and let the hosts off the hook.

After Traore forced another Wolves corner, De Gea made a remarkable double save to keep out Romain Saiss' header and then stop the defender smashing home the rebound from point-blank range.

It proved a pivotal moment. With 10 minutes remaining, Ruben Neves gave the ball away near his own box and Mike Dean waved away free-kick appeals, Varane fed Greenwood, and the teenager's strike was too powerful for Sa to keep out.

 

What does it mean? Record for United but little to impress Ronaldo

Away fans held aloft a cardboard cut-out of Ronaldo in the first half. There was little to suggest the real-life United attackers on the pitch were posing any more of a goal threat early on.

Seven points from three games is a big improvement on the three they managed last season, but they were given serious tests by Southampton and Wolves and rarely looked in control of either match.

The pressure is on Ronaldo to make a real difference when he returns.

Traore torments United

Whether he will still be a Wolves player after the international break remains to be seen, but fans will certainly hope to see Traore in black and gold again.

He was a menace to United throughout, creating more chances (four) than any other player on the pitch and running the backline ragged.

Sorry Sancho

Sancho's full debut was far from the one he and United fans would have envisaged.

The England winger spent 72 minutes on the pitch, during which time he failed to have a shot or create a chance, while he also lost all six of his contested duels.

What's next?

Following the international break, United will hope to have Ronaldo available for the home game with Newcastle United on September 11. Wolves head to Watford on the same day.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says the return of Cristiano Ronaldo will provide everybody around the club with a timely boost.

United announced on Friday that a deal had been agreed to bring the Portugal captain back to the club for a second spell.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo will reportedly move from Juventus in a deal worth £12.8m (€15m) plus £6.9m (€8m) in add-ons.

The 36-year-old enjoyed a hugely successful first stint with the Red Devils between 2003 and 2009.

The forward scored 118 goals in 292 appearances while winning three Premier League titles, the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup before his world-record transfer to Real Madrid.

And Solskjaer is excited by the potential impact of his former team-mate, who is said to have undergone a medical in Lisbon this weekend.

"The fans have been excited for the last couple of days, we all are of course," he told MUTV.

"He has had such a great career and he has been here before. 

"Hopefully, we can just finalise the paperwork and announce it. 

"I played with him, he's a great player, he is a top human being, he is a top professional, so he will give everybody in the squad and everybody around the club a buzz."

Meanwhile, Luke Shaw says he and his team-mates cannot wait to line up alongside Ronaldo and tap into his vast experience at the highest level.

"I feel like it's given the club a massive lift, not just inside but also outside," the defender told Sky Sports.

"Obviously, it's a big positive. He's been one of the best players in the world for a number of years now. 

"Everyone is excited for him to come in and not just learn from him but to be able to play with him too."

Raphael Varane was handed his Manchester United debut in Sunday's Premier League clash with Wolves, while Jadon Sancho was included in the starting line-up for the first time.

United officially completed the signing of Varane from Real Madrid two weeks ago and the centre-back was an unused substitute in last week's 1-1 draw with Southampton.

Sancho had made two substitute appearances since arriving from Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, playing a combined 46 minutes in the Red Devils' opening two league games.

Victor Lindelof and Anthony Martial dropped out of the side from the draw at St Mary's to make way for Varane and Sancho respectively.

The omission of Daniel James was the third change made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with Nemanja Matic coming into the side for the showdown at Molineux.

Paul Pogba once again started and was looking to build on an impressive start to 2021-22 that included five assists in his first two outings – the most by a Premier League player at this stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo will have to wait to make the first appearance of his second spell for United as his high-profile switch from Juventus has yet to officially go through.

Edinson Cavani was in contention to feature for the first time this season at Molineux as a substitute after being given an extended break following his Copa America exertions with Uruguay.

Wolves boss Bruno Lange named the same starting line-up that fell to a 1-0 loss to Tottenham last week, meanwhile, but Willy Boly and Daniel Podence were back among the substitutes.

United had lost just one of their last eight Premier League meetings with Wolves heading into Sunday's contest, going down 2-1 at Molineux in April 2019.

Roy Keane says Cristiano Ronaldo will bring a "winning mentality" to Old Trafford but his arrival will not enable Manchester United to lift "big trophies".

The Red Devils on Friday sensationally confirmed a deal has been agreed with Juventus to bring the Portugal captain back to the club where he became one of the best players in the world.

United will reportedly pay £12.8million (€15m) plus £6.9m (€8m) in add-ons for the prolific forward, who scored 118 goals in 292 appearances under Alex Ferguson before joining Real Madrid in 2009.

Three Premier League titles, a Champions League triumph and an FA Cup success were among the honours Ronaldo achieved during his six years with United.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's former captain believes he will be a great acquisition for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

Asked if he had been swept along by the euphoria ahead of Ronaldo's impending arrival, the ex-United skipper told Sky Sports: "Yes I have, it's been great. I think it's great news for United: for the fans, for the Premier League.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's still a world class player. People might have doubts about him but the hunger, the desire is still there. It's certainly not pay day for him, the guy is worth fortunes.

"We saw in the Euros he won the Golden Boot. The World Cup is about a year and a half away, he'll have that incentive to keep going."

Yet Keane does not expect the presence of Ronaldo to help United win the Premier League or Champions League.

He added: "He's a clever guy, I think he's only coming back to Man United to win stuff. Okay, my doubts are I don't think he'll be the difference in winning the big trophies, but to win an FA Cup or a League Cup, I think that's more than possible.

"But he'd want more than that. I think he'll bring a winning mentality to the dressing room, we all know he's a fitness freak.

"His game has changed over the last year few years obviously and I've said it before, I think he's one of the most intelligent players I've ever seen in my life, the way he's adapted his game.

"He's a winner, he's coming back to Man United to win stuff, make no mistake about that. But Man United still have the same problems with or without Ronaldo and that is midfield and goalkeeping problems. But for Ronaldo, I think it's great."

Jose Mourinho declared Cristiano Ronaldo's move back to Manchester United is "perfect business".

In a remarkable turnaround on Friday, United confirmed they had agreed to sign Ronaldo – who left Old Trafford in 2009 – from Juventus.

The 36-year-old is reportedly completing a medical in Lisbon this weekend, with personal terms and a visa to be finalised.

Mourinho, who is now at Roma after an ill-fated spell at Tottenham, managed his compatriot Ronaldo at Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013 and later went on to coach United as well.

Ronaldo had one of his best goalscoring seasons in 2011-12 under Mourinho's tutelage, scoring 60 times across 55 appearances in all competitions.

 

The forward averaged 1.1 goals per appearance, or one every 81.7 minutes. That haul included seven hat-tricks and he also provided 15 assists over the course of the season.

Asked for his thoughts on Ronaldo's swift departure from Serie A, and his United return, former Red Devils boss Mourinho told a news conference: "The only thing I say – and it looks to me something basic and logic – is that if Juventus are happy, if Cristiano is happy and if Manchester United are happy, this is the perfect business.

"I think there is no need to talk about Cristiano.

"There is no need to make any comment about someone who plays, wins, scores and makes history for 20 years."

Ronaldo represents United's fourth addition of the transfer window, following on from Tom Heaton, Jadon Sancho and his former Madrid team-mate Raphael Varane.

Kylian Mbappe is dominating headlines amid Real Madrid's pursuit.

Madrid are keen to prise Mbappe to the LaLiga club, though Paris Saint-Germain are in no hurry to part with the soon-to-be free agent.

Due to PSG's tough stance, Madrid could back out of negotiations.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID GIVE PSG ULTIMATUM

Real Madrid could walk away from their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Le Parisien.

While Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season, Madrid have been attempting to prise the Frenchman from PSG before the transfer window shuts.

The report claims Madrid will walk away from negotiations if a deal is not completed by Sunday.

There has been talk that PSG could target Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland as a replacement for Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

Lautaro Martinez has agreed to sign a new contract with Inter, per Gianluca Di Marzio. Out of contract in 2023, the Argentina international – linked with the likes of Barcelona, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United – will re-sign for four to five years at €6million per season.

Willian will join Corinthians on a free transfer after Arsenal granted his release, says Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also claims Feyenoord are close to bringing United sensation Amad Diallo to the Eredivisie club on loan.

- Widespread reports say Moise Kean is set to undergo a medical at Juventus as he gears up to join from Everton. It comes as Cristiano Ronaldo prepares to return to United. Juve are also eyeing PSG forward Mauro Icardi.

Dortmund are working on a loan deal for Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi, according to Sky Germany. Hudson-Odoi has long been coveted by Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Dortmund are also looking to bring in United full-back Diogo Dalot.

Chelsea are nearing a transfer that will see Jules Kounde arrive from Sevilla after Kurt Zouma departed for West Ham, reports Goal. Chelsea are also reportedly still targeting Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, who is wanted by United.

Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus cannot keep thinking about Cristiano Ronaldo after the struggling Serie A giants crashed to a shock loss against Empoli without the Manchester United-bound superstar.

Without Ronaldo as he edges closer to returning to Premier League contenders United, Allegri's Juve were upstaged 1-0 by visitors and newly promoted Empoli in Turin on Saturday.

Mancuso's strike lifted Empoli to a surprise victory and condemned Juve to a winless start to the season following last week's draw at Udinese.

Juve have failed to win either of their opening two in the competition for the third time in the last 52 Serie A seasons – having done so in 2010-11 and 2015-16, and head coach Allegri was asked about five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo's exit post game.

"Cristiano spent three years at Juventus, he scored goals, which he is very good at, he's an extraordinary player, but we cannot think about Ronaldo from now on," Allegri told DAZN.

"I have a fine squad, we simply must realise that we can't just dominate every match.

"We need to come together and this will help us for the future.

"I am optimistic, always."

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 and he remained an ultra-reliable frontman for the Italian giants, scoring 81 goals in 98 Serie A games.

The 36-year-old 29 league goals last season and 36 across all competitions. In 2020-21, only four players across Europe's top five leagues scored more goals than his 36-goal haul.

Ronaldo is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. He won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

The Portugal captain made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

Meanwhile, Juve have lost two successive Serie A home matches against promoted sides for the first time in their top-flight history.

Juve have also lost two consecutive league fixtures against promoted teams (Benevento in March and Empoli on Saturday) for the first time since 1999.

The Bianconeri have conceded in each of their last 16 league games – only twice in their Serie A history they have been on a longer streak without a clean sheet: 19 in April 2010 and 21 in October 1955

It seems Manchester United are not only masters of the late turnaround on the pitch, but off it, too.

Just as it looked like Cristiano Ronaldo was bound for Manchester City on a private jet out of Turin, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinted that the doors of Old Trafford were open to his old team-mate. Within hours, the 'race' to sign him was over: Ronaldo was becoming a Red Devil again.

It's a transfer that did not even look possible 24 hours earlier and one that makes Alexis Sanchez's dramatic decision to join United over City three years ago look positively dull by comparison.

And talking of Sanchez: a sensational transfer this may be, but is it the right one? Two Stats Perform writers go head to head to settle the debate...


'Still one of the best around' 

By Patric Ridge

For much of the last two decades, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have tussled for dominance. 

Ronaldo's first Ballon d'Or - the first of five - was won in 2008, when he was still at United. The remaining four followed across his spell at Real Madrid.

While the endless debate over which superstar shines brightest rolls on, well, endlessly, there can be no doubting that Ronaldo, even at 36, is still one of the best around.

Rather than slowing down, Ronaldo has refined his game, from flying winger to penalty box poacher.

In 2020-21, only four players across Europe's top five leagues scored more goals than Ronaldo's haul of 36. No prizes for guessing those names, either. 

Of his tally, 33 came from inside the area, with seven from his head, nine with his left foot and the remainder of his total coming with that wicked right.

Given United's creative qualities, Ronaldo will not be short of service. His international team-mate Bruno Fernandes created 12 goals last season and is sure to be licking his lips. Paul Pogba has already crafted five goals this term - a Premier League first this early in a campaign.

United have the money. A midfielder may still be required but goals win games and Ronaldo scores them. Regularly.

With Edinson Cavani providing another experienced option, the pressure can also be lifted off the likes of Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho and, when he returns from injury, Marcus Rashford, who will surely be relishing the chance to learn from one of the game's greats. A fully fit and raring Anthony Martial, meanwhile, would add another string to Solskjaer's bow.

In 2016, United brought a 34-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford. While injury derailed the latter stages of his campaign, it is surely no coincidence that the club last won a trophy back in the 2016-17 season.

Solskjaer has so far fallen short in that regard. Ronaldo should get them across the line. Plus, getting one over on the noisy neighbours will never be judged as a bad thing.

'This could be an error for all concerned'

By Joe Wright

When rumours emerged Ronaldo could return to Spain, he responded on Instagram to say: "My story at Real Madrid has been written." Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti added: "Cristiano is a Real Madrid legend and he has all my love and respect. I have never considered signing him. We look forward."

Mutual respect and admiration, but no sentiment. Ronaldo and Madrid's glorious history will remain just that: history. Nostalgia has little place in the aspirations of the elite.

That is the attitude Manchester United should have had.

Ronaldo last played for the Red Devils 12 years ago, when he was a roving wide forward, not a 36-year-old poacher. He was signed by Juventus three years ago with a view to being the missing piece to their Champions League hopes, and they never got beyond the last eight. There is little reason United should think he alone can drag them any closer to the biggest domestic or European titles.

For the player, too, it's a strange move. If he really was motivated to leave Juve by a desire for one more crack at the Champions League and a sixth Ballon d'Or, is United the best place to achieve those goals? They have been to two Champions League quarter-finals in 10 years, and their last player to win the game's top individual prize was Ronaldo himself back in 2008.

Solskjaer proclaimed his admiration for his old team-mate in the hours before the deal with Juve was confirmed, but this is not a signing in keeping with Solskjaer's ideals. The pursuit of expensive stars such as Sanchez or Angel Di Maria from past regimes was replaced by a search for younger, hungrier talent, and it's generally paid dividends. The club has laboured long, hard and to no little expense to turn their transfer policy to a sensible, long-term approach. If signing Cavani was a step away from that, this is a giant leap.

If reports are to be believed, Ronaldo was dragged back to Old Trafford via the heartstrings, with ex-players like Rio Ferdinand and even former boss Alex Ferguson urging him to snub City. It may sound cynical, but signings should be considered through detailed analysis and forward planning, not rose-tinted spectacles and impassioned phone calls.

And anyway, United really don't need another forward. Solskjaer spent weeks convincing Cavani to stay for another year, and now the Uruguayan has likely lost his starting spot. The manager said he does not want to sell Martial or Jesse Lingard to make space, either. Rashford is out injured until October, but United also have new signing Sancho, Daniel James and Greenwood, along with academy striker Anthony Elanga and expensive teenager Amad Diallo. Solskjaer might have preferred remaining funds to be focused on getting a defensive central midfielder, while a two-year deal for Ronaldo might also ruin their chances of signing Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland next year – and those chances were good, given the 21-year-old's relationship with Solskjaer.

Ronaldo and United wrote a marvellous story together. The sequel could be an error for all concerned.

Cristiano Ronaldo will want to "set the Premier League on fire" and lead Manchester United back to silverware, according to his former team-mate Gary Neville.

Ex-United captain Neville conceded it had been "torture" for anyone connected with United to contemplate the prospect of the 36-year-old joining rivals Manchester City.

Instead, Ronaldo is poised to make a sensational return to United 12 years after the end of his initial six-year spell at Old Trafford.

United have agreed a fee reportedly worth up to €23million with Juventus, with the forward set to sign a two-year contract.

While it may only be a short-term move, Neville thinks it is a transfer that could prove the difference as United look to challenge for a first Premier League title since 2013.

"It's fantastic news," Sky Sports pundit Nevill said. "It's a little bit nostalgic, which doesn't always work in football, but the idea of Ronaldo going to Manchester City was torture for United fans.

"If there is a big player available, United have to be in the market. 

"We know there's a potential that Erling Haaland could be available next summer, Edinson Cavani's probably got a year, they definitely need a centre-forward option with Cavani.

"I know they've got Mason Greenwood but if you look at the business Chelsea have done, that Manchester City were looking to do, Manchester United had to compete.

"What they've done is bolster the squad with a proven goalscorer, a club legend, and it's going to give them an incredible 12 months.

"Ronaldo will be coming to win trophies, personal accolades, set the Premier League on fire. 

"It is a different Ronaldo, everyone expected that. But he is a number nine, someone who still has that burst over short distances, he makes great runs inside the box, has anticipation of where the ball's going to drop, and he gives United something they need.

"This is one of the most special players that has ever lived, forget Manchester United, it's one of the greats of all time."

Given the strength of title rivals City, Chelsea and Liverpool, Neville felt a move of this stature was needed if United are to have realistic title ambitions.

Neville added: "I said the other day United should be in for Harry Kane if he was available, or Haaland. These types of player. 

"To get above Manchester City and Chelsea they're going to have to do something big, and this could give them a temporary shot in the arm to get them right up there this year.

"I was a little bit fearful watching Chelsea last weekend, knowing City are going to be strong, Liverpool have Virgil van Dijk back, that United could improve but finish in a lower position. 

"But this news gives me more hope that they can have a great season."

Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United was not just a shock to football fans. 

Those inside the game seemed in disbelief, too, but United players past and present were ecstatic at the news. 

News of Ronaldo's impending move from Juventus sparked an outpouring of joy on social media. 

Among the first to react was a man who apparently played a role in bringing Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, former skipper Rio Ferdinand. 

He was not alone, as another former Red Devils legend, Edwin van der Sar, also weighed in. 

But it was the current United players who seemed most pleased about Ronaldo's return.

Arsenal have made their worst start to a league season in their 118-year history in England's top four tiers with back-to-back defeats without scoring against Brentford and Chelsea.

The Gunners find themselves in the relegation zone after more than one match for the first time since August 1992 and the pressure is growing on manager Mikel Arteta to turn things around.

Arteta is no stranger to slow starts, having been signed by Arsenal on deadline day in 2011 with the club struggling near the bottom of the division with one point from three games.

The catalyst for that signing, plus the arrivals of Yossi Benayoun, Per Mertesacker, Andre Santos and Park Chu-young, was a humiliating 8-2 loss against Manchester United that reduced the Gunners to the butt of all jokes on social media – "I'd 8-2 be an Arsenal fan," as the saying goes.

It remains one of the most extraordinary results in Premier League history, one that legendary boss Arsene Wenger later described as one of his lowest moments in management.

Exactly a decade on from that heavy loss at Old Trafford, Stats Perform takes a closer at the numbers behind the scoreline.

 

GOALS GALORE... BUT JUST SHORT OF RECORD

The 10 goals scored in the match is the joint-second most ever netted in a single Premier League game, with Portsmouth 7-4 Reading in September 2007 leading the way.

The win remains United's biggest against one of their 'big four' rivals in the Premier League era and is one of four occasions they have scored eight or more in the competition.

It is one of only two occasions Arsenal have conceded eight or more goals in a league game in their history, the other being an 8-0 loss to Loughborough in 1896.

The Gunners have since suffered another six-goal loss in the top flight, going down 6-0 to Chelsea in March 2014 in what was Wenger's milestone 1,000th game in charge.

WENGER'S YOUNG GUNS BRUSHED ASIDE

Wenger fielded a young side at Old Trafford that day, using seven players aged 21 or younger – something Arsenal have not repeated since in a Premier League match.

Those seven players were Armand Traore, Henri Lansbury, Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin, Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Only on two occasions have the Gunners ever fielded more players aged 21 or under in the competition, using eight against Manchester City and Portsmouth in 2008-09.

 

ROONEY AND YOUNG THE KEY ARCHITECTS

Wayne Rooney grabbed the headlines by scoring three of United's goals, with that one of eight hat-tricks he scored for the club and his final one of three at Old Trafford.

Ashley Young was on the scoresheet twice and provided three assists as well, making it one of only five occasions a player has achieved such a feat in Premier League history.

The only player to repeat that accomplishment – two goals and three assists in a single game – since Young a decade ago is Jack Grealish for Aston Villa in their 7-2 win over Liverpool in October 2020.

 

FERGIE'S GREAT ENTERTAINERS

Legendary United boss Ferguson was no stranger to seeing his side rack up goals in games, with this fixture one of 44 times the Red Devils scored five or more in a single match under the Scotsman.

Only Wenger comes close to that figure among Premier League managers, with Arsenal scoring five or more goals 41 times during his 22-year reign.

Despite only being in English football for five years, Guardiola may well overtake both those managers one day as Manchester City have plundered at least five goals in 25 games since he took charge.

Sunday marks a special occasion in the managerial career of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 48-year-old will take charge of Manchester United in a Premier League match for the 100th time, becoming only the ninth man in the club's history to oversee as many top-flight games.

He could also lead the Red Devils to an English football record should he mark the milestone by avoiding defeat against Wolves at Molineux.

Stats Perform takes a quick data dive into Solskjaer's top-flight record as boss at Old Trafford...

 

In his 99 league games in charge, Solskjaer has managed 52 wins, 28 draws and 19 defeats. That gives him a win percentage of 52.53, with an average of 1.86 points per game.

Of the eight previous managers to reach the milestone for the Red Devils in the top flight, only Ernest Mangnall (54) won more of his first 100 in charge than the Norwegian.

Solskjaer's side have scored 181 goals and conceded 107. Their biggest win came in February, when they equalled their Premier League record by beating Southampton 9-0. That was the fifth time under Solskjaer that United have scored at least five goals in a league match - something they failed to do once under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho.

Solskjaer's average points per game puts him third among United managers in the Premier League era, behind Mourinho (1.89) and Alex Ferguson (2.16). He has the best attack in the post-Ferguson era, but also the leakiest defence.

United have taken 184 points under Solskjaer, a figure that puts him 10th in a league table of managers over their first 99 games in the Premier League. He is just three points off the tally amassed by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, but well short of the 210 accrued by Ferguson, Pep Guardiola's 234 at Manchester City, or the record of 237 set by Mourinho at Chelsea.

The signing of Bruno Fernandes last January was transformative for United and Solskjaer. They won 21 and lost 13 of their 45 league games under Solskjaer before the Portugal star's arrival; since he joined, they have won 31 of 54 games, and lost only six.

On average, United have scored more goals per game, from a lower expected goals figure per game, all while attempting fewer shots. At the same time, they have faced fewer attempts on average, conceded fewer goals and posted a lower expected goals against figure since Fernandes arrived.

As for game 100 itself, the omens are against Solskjaer: of the previous eight United managers to reach 100 games in charge in England's top flight, only Matt Busby and Tommy Docherty celebrated the milestone with a win.

Of course, if United do avoid defeat at Molineux, they will set a new English football league record of 28 consecutive away games unbeaten.

Cristiano Ronaldo ripped off his shirt and celebrated as though he had netted the winner in a World Cup final, rather than a stoppage-time clincher at Udinese that was disallowed moments later.

That was his farewell moment at Juventus, the performative Portuguese signing off with a magical thumping header that counted for nothing and a yellow card for showing the world that torso once again.

Manchester City awaited him, so it seemed, but incredibly Ronaldo is heading back to the red half of the city, back to Manchester United, providing wages and fitness prove no obstacle. Terms for the transfer have been agreed with Juve.

United have swooped for Ronaldo twice now, as an 18-year-old and at the grand age of 36. Derby day on the first weekend in November is now a red-letter day.

Ronaldo left United for Real Madrid at the end of the 2008-09 season, just weeks before Carlos Tevez swapped red for blue, pointing to a swing in the balance of power in English football.

Twelve years later and he is back in the north west, United pinching him from under the noses of City to lead their attack and the pursuit of Premier League glory.

 

But none of this makes sense...

Ronaldo looked a banker for a City switch before United and Jorge Mendes, the player's agent, held discussions. The Manchester Evening News reported Ronaldo's former United boss and mentor Alex Ferguson spoke to the one-time Old Trafford boy wonder, and that involvement looks to have been a moment that helped sway the now veteran striker from blue to red. Perhaps Rio Ferdinand's phone call also helped.

Pep Guardiola was expected to be cautious about the prospects of Ronaldo joining his City squad when he held a lunchtime news conference, but only out of sensible circumspection. Rather than playing a straight bat, however, he was highly pessimistic, and that was an alert that something had changed dramatically.

The BBC soon reported City had ended their interest in Ronaldo, who had instead begun talks with United, and the hints that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dropped in United's earlier news conference grew in resonance. At shortly before 17:00 BST, confirmation arrived from United of an agreement with Juve. All this within hours of Ronaldo saying his goodbyes at Juve's training ground in the morning.

Why do United need him? They seem well stocked for strikers

Ronaldo is unmistakably in the diminishing returns stage of his career, much like Edinson Cavani whom he joins in the Old Trafford ranks. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are at the opposite end, striving to become United greats, and Anthony Martial, who should be nearing his peak years, is desperate for a run of games.

Into this battle for places walks one of the two greatest players of the past 20 years – some would say of all-time – and Solskjaer will discover his former team-mate Ronaldo still has a huge appetite for the game. His goal celebration antics at Udinese were easy to mock in light of the VAR outcome, but they showed his passion burns bright.

The data tells us Ronaldo is a fading force, but by most standards he remains a formidable footballer. He scored a decidedly healthy 36 goals for Juventus across all competitions last season, at one every 104.19 minutes. The minutes-per-goal ratio was a slight improvement on his first two campaigns with Juve, but in eight of his nine years at Real Madrid he scored at a rate better than one every 90 minutes.

He is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. Ronaldo won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

Ronaldo also made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

At his best with Madrid, Ronaldo hit 55 goals in the 2012-13 season from an xG of 29.49, indicating he was far exceeding expected performance levels based on the quality of his chances.

He remains a tremendous penalty box predator and it would be surprising if he fails to hit 20 goals in the Premier League, but Ronaldo's contribution outside the 18-yard box has fallen away.

His style looked an awkward fit for City, who have sought flexibility from their front players, often favouring a 'false nine' system. Ronaldo has evolved from thrilling winger in his teens to feared targetman, and United's style is far more fitting to his game, so that aspect of the transfer makes sense.

United presumably also very much wanted him so that City couldn't have him.

What it means for United

Ronaldo gave United six years of his young career before being granted his wish to leave in June 2009, making a then world record £80million switch to Madrid.

He departed after a season where United won the Premier League and City finished 10th, with Ferguson's team also lifting the EFL Cup, reaching the FA Cup semi-finals and finishing runners-up to Barcelona in the Champions League.

Much has changed in English football, but Ronaldo is not blind to that. This represents a chance to end his career bathed in glory again in Manchester, with the Old Trafford crowd ready to worship him once more.

City won the Premier League by 12 points last season and they began this campaign as favourites to notch up another title. Signing Ronaldo would not only have hurt United deeply, but it would possibly have made this year's title race a procession.

Consider it game on now.

It was May 10, 2009, when Ronaldo last appeared in a United-City clash, scoring a deflected free-kick before being rested after 58 minutes by Ferguson as the Red Devils scored a 2-0 Old Trafford victory.

Ronaldo left the field in frustration, wanting to play for longer, but days earlier he had been the prime architect of the famous 3-1 win at Arsenal in the Champions League semi-finals, and Ferguson wanted to save his star asset for the tests ahead, particularly the European final against Guardiola's Barcelona.

Now the long-retired Ferguson's influence tells once more. He persuaded Ronaldo to take his United career into extra time during his first stint at the club, and now the man Jose Mourinho describes as Solskjaer's 'big boss' has struck again.


Messi v Ronaldo: The reunion's off!

The great rivalry between the standout players of their generation looked set to be rekindled in the Champions League group stage, with Ronaldo's City taking on Messi's PSG. Scrub that now though. Any such clash will have to wait for the knock-out rounds, with United having Villarreal, Atalanta and Young Boys to negotiate in their pool.

This announcement tells us United are craving Champions League success again. They have won the competition three times, while Ronaldo has done so on five occasions, once with United and four times at Madrid. In three years at Juventus, he could not drag the Old Lady of Italian football to European glory, however, a disappointment given that had been ostensibly why he was signed.

United's owners, the Glazer family, will expect the investment in Ronaldo to pay off handsomely, given his commercial appeal and United's global reach. And the  Glazers even stand to earn a little rare kudos from supporters who are bound to get misty-eyed at this deal.

Signing a five-time Ballon d'Or winner will be interpreted as taking a short-cut to glory. It is a gamble too though.

Two Scudetti in three years at Juventus was one fewer than Ronaldo may have expected to take away from Turin, given Juventus were on a seven-in-a-row streak when he joined, and the coach who delivered the second of those titles, Maurizio Sarri, recently spoke of the challenges involved in accounting for the Portuguese's imposing presence.

Sarri told Sportitalia in July: "The management of Ronaldo is not easy, he is a multinational that has personal interests to match those of the team. It is certainly a difficult situation to manage."

But Sarri ventured that there were "many positive aspects because at the end of the year Ronaldo brings important results".

The ego has landed, back in Manchester, back in red. It's one-nil to Solskjaer and his big boss in the season's first battle of Manchester, and the rest of the campaign should be a thrill ride.

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