Manchester United and Liverpool have been urged by Rio Ferdinand to consider rescuing Raheem Sterling from "the wilderness" at Manchester City.

Sterling has played a big part in helping City to three Premier League titles since arriving from Liverpool in 2015, but his playing time has reduced this season.

The England international, who was late returning for pre-season training after reaching the Euro 2020 final with his country, has started two of City's six matches this term in all competitions.

He was linked with a move away from the Etihad Stadium during the close season at a time when Pep Guardiola's side were trying to bring in striker Harry Kane from Tottenham.

Barcelona are reported to be showing an interest in signing Sterling on loan in January, meanwhile, and fellow LaLiga giants Real Madrid have also been credited with an interest.

United great Ferdinand is unsure why Guardiola has not used Sterling more often of late and believes the 26-year-old will have plenty of suitors waiting should his situation not improve.

"Where is Raheem Sterling? He's lost confidence because he’s been taken out of the team," Ferdinand said on his FIVE YouTube channel.

"He was the go-to guy when they needed a goal, for so many years, and now all of a sudden he's in the wilderness. I'm baffled by it, I just don't understand. 

"With Pep, he gets things right more often than not, but with this one there must be clubs sitting there going, 'Let's see how this pans out because I would take Sterling all day!'

"If I'm Liverpool, I'd buy Sterling tomorrow... If I'm him, I wouldn't go to Barcelona or Real Madrid right now, that's why I said Liverpool. Man United will take him!"

Sterling finished as City's top scorer in the Premier League two seasons ago with 20 goals in 33 games, while his 10 goals last season were bettered only by Ilkay Gundogan (13).

Since Guardiola's first campaign at City in 2016-17, Sterling has been directly involved in 160 goals in all competitions – 104 goals of his own and 56 assists.

No City player has directly contributed to more goals across that period, while only 14 others in Europe's top five leagues can better that return, with Lionel Messi (309) leading the way.

Former Liverpool attacker Sterling has played just 265 minutes so far this season, however, with his only two starts coming in the two games City failed to score in, against Tottenham and Southampton.

Bukayo Saka only turned 20 earlier this month but he is a player on the rise.

The Arsenal forward was part of England's side that reached the Euro 2020 final in July.

Saka has put in plenty of eye-catching displays for the Gunners too.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS AND ATLETICO KEEN ON SAKA

Calciomercato claims that Juventus and Atletico Madrid  are both monitoring Arsenal's England international forward Bukayo Saka .

The Gunners are believed to want £43million (€50m) to sell the 20-year-old, who signed a four-year deal in July last year.

Saka has become a key player at Arsenal, making 32 Premier League appearances last term.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton's Colombia international James Rodriguez has reached a verbal agreement to join Qatari club Al Rayyan according to Argentine journalist Cesar Luis Merlo. Rodriguez has not played yet this season and almost joined Porto in the off-season.

- Inter are homing in on a move to sign Manchester United midfielder Donny van de Beek reports Calciomercato. The 24-year-old Dutchman has had a tough time at Old Trafford since joining United for £35m from Ajax in 2020.

- Calciomercato also claims that Jose Mourinho wants to lure Manchester United right-back Diogo Dalot to Roma . The Argentine spent last season on loan with Milan.

- Andreas Christensen is set to sign a new deal with Chelsea worth £120,000-per-week claims The Sun.

Liverpool ran out 3-0 winners over Crystal Palace on Saturday, to take their place at the top of the Premier League.

Title rivals Manchester City could only draw at home to Southampton, but Manchester United and Chelsea subsequently joined Liverpool on 13 points.

Here are some of the more curious facts from across the Premier League weekend.


Premier League first for Reds trio

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Naby Keita scored Liverpool's goals in their win over Palace at Anfield.

It is the first time in the Premier League that a game has ended 3-0, with all three goals being scored by African players.

Mane opened the scoring with his 100th goal for Liverpool. The Senegal forward has now scored in each of his last nine league appearances against Palace, making him the first player in Premier League history to score in nine straight matches against a single side.

All three of Liverpool's goals came from corners. Not since City beat West Brom in March 2015 has a top-flight game ended 3-0 with all the goals coming from corners.

Dave saves... finally

There was late drama aplenty at London Stadium on Sunday as United joined Liverpool at the top of the table thanks to a 2-1 win over West Ham.

After Cristiano Ronaldo continued his fantastic start to his second United stint to drag the Red Devils level, Jesse Lingard came on to break West Ham hearts late in the game.

London Stadium is the 66th different stadium that Ronaldo has scored at in matches played in Europe's big five leagues, and he has scored at more unique venues than any other player since his United debut in 2003-04, ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (64).

Lingard, meanwhile, became the 47th player to score for and against West Ham in the Premier League. Excluding own goals, West Ham have had more players score for and against them than any other side in the league's history.

But it was David de Gea who proved to be United's hero, as he saved a last-gasp penalty from Mark Noble, who was brought on specifically by David Moyes to take the spot-kick.

De Gea's save ended a drought stretching back to April 23, 2016 of 40 spot-kicks faced without making a save for both club and country, in the process helping United claim a dramatic win at London Stadium. 

Of those penalties, 11 were scored by Villarreal players in May's Europa League final, with De Gea ultimately missing the decisive kick in the Red Devils' shoot-out defeat. 

The 30-year-old did keep out a Jordan Ayew penalty in last September's league meeting with Palace, but that was retaken and scored by Wilfried Zaha after De Gea was deemed to be off his line. 

Veteran Silva helps give Spurs the blues

Aged 36 years and 362 days, Thiago Silva became the second-oldest Chelsea player to score in the Premier League behind only Didier Drogba, who scored against Leicester City aged 37 years and 49 days in April 2015, when the Brazilian headed Thomas Tuchel's side ahead at Tottenham.

N'Golo Kante's deflected effort made it 2-0. The midfielder scored for the first time in 49 league appearances, having last found the net against Man City in November 2019. Three of his last four top-flight strikes have come from outside of the box.

Antonio Rudiger condemned Spurs to a second successive 3-0 defeat; they have lost consecutive Premier League matches by a 3+ goal margin for the first time since their opening two games of the 2011-12 campaign.

Harry Kane, meanwhile, cut a forlorn figure up top for Nuno Espirito Santo's side. He has failed to score in his first four Premier League appearances of a season for the first time since 2015-16, attempting just four shots so far.

Super-sub Bailey bursts Benitez's bubble

Everton's unbeaten start under Rafael Benitez came crashing to a halt as Leon Bailey starred with a blistering cameo in Aston Villa's 3-0 win.

Bailey came on from the bench and had an instant impact. With Matty Cash's first Premier League goal having put Villa ahead, the Jamaica forward whipped in a corner that Lucas Digne turned into his own net.

Digne has now scored three own goals in the Premier League, level with Younes Kaboul for the French player to have done so on the most occasions.

Villa were not finished there, however, and Bailey burst clear to lash home his first Premier League goal. Moments later, he went off with an apparent thigh injury, becoming only the second Villa player to come as a substitute, score, and then be substituted in a Premier League match, after Julian Joachim against Derby in September 2000.

Farke's losing streak rolls on, Toney at the top

Ivan Toney scored and assisted another as Brentford defeated Wolves 2-0 on Saturday.

Since the start of last season, Toney is the outright leading goalscorer in the top four tiers of English football (excluding play-off matches), with 33 strikes to his name.

Another promoted club, Norwich City, suffered their fifth defeat of the campaign. In total, the Canaries have now lost each of their last 15 Premier League games, meaning Daniel Farke is the manager with the longest losing run in top-flight history.

Mick McCarthy (14) was the last manager to go close to almost as long as Farke without a top-tier win, though that was back in 2005.

Could a Premier League switch be on the cards for Kingsley Coman?

Coman is reportedly disgruntled at Bayern Munich amid talks over a new contract.

Liverpool and Chelsea are believed to be ready to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – COMAN WANTED IN ENGLAND

Premier League giants Liverpool and Chelsea are monitoring Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman, according to The Mirror.

Coman is contracted to Bundesliga champions Bayern until 2023 but the Frenchman has been previously linked with Manchester United.

The 25-year-old is tipped to leave Bayern as clubs reportedly queue up.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are dreaming of signing RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and United midfielder Paul Pogba, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Haaland has been linked with United, Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. Pogba is also reportedly wanted by PSG, Madrid and Juve.

Paulo Dybala is close to signing a new contract at Serie A giants Juventus, reports TyC Sports.

- Tuttomercatoweb claims Roma are trying to prise Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach.

- Jaime Ojeda claims Bayern are among the teams interested in United States and Dallas sensation Ricardo Pepi.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lauded David de Gea after his penalty-saving heroics in Manchester United's victory over West Ham, while downplaying talk of the Premier League title.

United goalkeeper De Gea saved his first penalty in 41 attempts to help the Red Devils secure a dramatic 2-1 win at West Ham. 

Jesse Lingard curled in a stunning 89th-minute strike after United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo had earlier cancelled out Said Benrahma's deflected opener in London, where De Gea emerged the hero.

De Gea saved Mark Noble's 95th-minute penalty – the Spain international ending a drought dating back to April 2016 without saving a spot-kick.

United's De Gea has now saved three and conceded 28 of the penalties he has faced in the Premier League; he had failed to keep out 21 in a row in the competition before denying substitute Noble. 

De Gea has found himself in the spotlight amid doubts over his future due to his form at Old Trafford, where Dean Henderson's arrival last season sparked speculation, but Solskjaer hailed the 30-year-old veteran.

"I believe in David and I've seen him [make a penalty save]," Solskjaer told reporters. "He saved against Crystal Palace last season, and his foot was a little inch off the line. 

"I've seen Mark Noble score so many penalties, you did feel down and out and expected to come home with one point but luckily David has continued his good form."

United have now gone 29 away Premier League matches without defeat, Lingard claiming their latest comeback victory.

Solskjaer's United are unbeaten in their last 14 away games in the Premier League when conceding first (W10 D4), including a 3-1 win in this fixture last season.

United – who have not won the Premier League since 2012-13 – are level with Chelsea and Liverpool atop the table through five matches.

"We're five games into the season, and I was probably down and out and lost my job yesterday [Saturday, after the Champions League loss to Young Boys during the week]," said Solskjaer. "So, that's just the way it is at Man United. 

"We've got to keep our feet grounded, dig out points like we did today. I thought they deserved the three points and you know it's a hard place to come and get these points.

"Hopefully we can, can make a difference, let's see when we get towards April and May."

David Moyes defended his decision to bring on Mark Noble for the crucial late penalty after the veteran campaigner's miss from the spot cost West Ham a point against Manchester United.

In a dramatic finale at London Stadium, the home side were awarded a stoppage-time chance to get on level terms, after former Hammers loanee Jesse Lingard fired United into a 2-1 lead.

Noble is a spot-kick expert, having stuck away 27 of 31 previous attempts in the Premier League, but the 34-year-old had not taken a kick of the ball before being handed the responsibility of saving the game.

The substitute, sent on by Moyes after the penalty was awarded for Luke Shaw's handball, saw his shot to the right corner pushed away by David de Gea, who had conceded his last 21 penalties on league duty.

United held on for the closing seconds to see out victory, leaving Moyes with questions to face about the sense of his decision.

"I chose Noble to come off the bench and take the penalty kick because I know how good his penalty record is," Moyes told West Ham TV.

"Mark was brave enough, he wanted it, and so from that point of view there's no responsibility with him at all."

Moyes admitted West Ham lacked an obvious candidate to take the penalty, with captain Declan Rice having been poised to take responsibility before Noble came sprinting on.

"We just don't necessarily have someone who is a natural penalty kick taker. It is an easy thing to work on because you can stand and take penalty kicks in training ... but it's a different thing when you've got to go on the stage and do it," Moyes told a news conference.

The Hammers boss failed to complete a full season as manager of United in 2013-14, being sacked in April after struggling to live up to his billing after succeeding Alex Ferguson.

Since then, he has failed to earn a win in eight matches as a manager against the Red Devils, drawing twice and losing six games.

It was a cruel twist that it should be Lingard who scored the 89th-minute winner, and he appeared somewhat apologetic as the visitors celebrated.

Lingard revived his career during his spell at West Ham last season, scoring nine goals in 16 Premier League games. The England midfielder put a midweek Champions League blunder behind him on this occasion to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side three points in the capital.

"Jesse got a second chance to bounce back as a player when he was at West Ham last year. We'll always be grateful for what he did for us," said Moyes. "I wish he hadn't scored, but we had a chance to get a draw out of it and we missed our chance."

Lingard's winner means West Ham have now had 47 players score both for and against them – excluding own goals – in the history of the Premier League, more than any other team.

Cristiano Ronaldo was denied two "stonewall" penalties in Manchester United's win at West Ham, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Portugal star got his fourth goal in three games since his return to the Red Devils in Sunday's 2-1 victory at London Stadium.

Ronaldo's first-half goal cancelled out Said Benrahma's deflected opener, with Jesse Lingard - who impressed on loan at the Hammers in 2020-21 - curling home a sublime winner after coming on as a substitute.

Ronaldo was floored by challenges from Vladimir Coufal and Kurt Zouma during the second half, with referee Martin Atkinson and VAR unmoved, but a penalty was given deep into injury time for a handball by Luke Shaw.

Mark Noble came off the bench but saw his effort saved by David de Gea with just seconds remaining.

Solskjaer had no complaints about the spot-kick given against Shaw but felt Ronaldo had been clearly fouled on separate occasions,

"The first and the last, I think are stonewall, you can't even argue against them," he told Sky Sports when asked about three penalty appeals for his side.

"Paul [Pogba] had a foul against him, Kurt Zouma: he didn't touch him but he went over him. So why is Cristiano's third appeal not a penalty? Hopefully it won't be that Cristiano's never going to get a penalty."

Noble's only touch of the ball was the penalty attempt clawed away by De Gea, who last saved a spot-kick in the Premier League against Everton's Leighton Baines in 2014.

"The thinking behind it [bringing Noble on for the penalty] was simply his record," manager Moyes said. "I'd have been more disappointed if I hadn't made the decision. I made the decision, and it didn't quite work today.

"We've given Manchester United a run for their money, the more we do that at this level against the top teams, the more we will improve as well."

Solskjaer was criticised for his game management in Tuesday's shock 2-1 Champions League loss to Young Boys, in which Lingard gifted the home side their stoppage-time winner with a loose pass.

He was delighted to see Lingard combine with fellow substitute Nemanja Matic to secure another comeback win and stretch United's unbeaten away run to 29 league games.

"Great goal, so happy for Jesse and he had a tough evening on Tuesday. He's knuckled down, worked hard again, been the same bright, positive lad. I'm so happy for him," he said.

"It's always difficult coming here against a West Ham team that's well organised. They're on their longest unbeaten run in the Premier League.

"We know we had to stamp our authority. First half, we had 60, 70 per cent of the possession. They got the first goal, but it's just a game that's waiting to open up.

"You can't take rests when you defend and we dropped into a back six, too many spaces, too late to charge the ball. We sorted and spoke about that at half-time. Great response."

United have now recovered 35 points from losing positions in Premier League matches since the start of last season, which is almost twice as many as any other side.

Manchester United came from behind to beat West Ham 2-1 on Sunday as Jesse Lingard returned to haunt the Hammers in a dramatic contest at London Stadium.

The England international, superb on loan at the Hammers last season, curled in an 89th-minute winner after Cristiano Ronaldo had earlier cancelled out Said Benrahma's deflected opener.

West Ham had the chance to equalise in the fourth minute of injury time, but David de Gea saved a penalty from Mark Noble, who had come off the bench to take the spot-kick.

Phil Jones has revealed how injury hell left him feeling "the lowest I've ever been" and that his career was "finished" as the Manchester United defender at last closes on a first-team return.

The 29-year-old has not played for the Red Devils since January 2020 due to a debilitating knee problem that has dogged him throughout his career.

First identified during his academy years at Blackburn Rovers, Jones had an operation after Euro 2012 to remove the meniscus in his right knee. He was forced to manage the problem for years, playing at "60 per cent" because he would "do anything for United", even though, by 2016, "any resistance against the knee was just agony".

Jones then recovered fitness during the coronavirus-enforced shutdown last year but, when he had to stop running in training, he sought further treatment that culminated in surgery last August. The centre-back has been battling to recover again in the 14 months since and has now played two matches for United's Under-23s, most recently against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Retelling the story of his progress and setbacks to the Times, Jones said the moment his knee gave up again last May left him considering whether the fight was worth it.

He said: "I'd lost my mind completely. I'm thinking, 'I'm finished, can't be bothered with all this anymore'. I went straight to the doc and said, 'Enough's enough. I've had too many anti-inflammatories, too many injections, too many close shaves. I need this sorted.'

"It was the lowest I've ever been as a human being. I used to come back [from the training ground] and be in bits. My head was an absolute mess. I'd be in tears. I'd say to [wife] Kaya, 'I don't know what to do'. I remember us both crying.

"She has kept the ship together while I got my s*** together. I feel guilty because she didn't deserve having to deal with me every day and then look after the kids."

Jones, who has just under two years on his contract, was prompted to speak out when former United team-mate Rio Ferdinand described him as a "waste of time" who was blocking a youth player's passage to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's senior side. Solskjaer himself was angered by Ferdinand's comments.

"Listen, the respect I've got is enormous," Jones said of Ferdinand. "I've shared a dressing room with Rio – great professional. Loved playing with him. Great lad, good humour. Learnt so much off him. But what he said was poor. Really poor. 

"I've done my absolute utmost. From tablets, to my diet, to setting up my house so that every time I get back from training I'm sitting in recovery boots and have my ice machine ready. Nobody can say, 'You didn't do enough'.

"I'll fight for United until someone tells me, 'Go somewhere else'."

Jones, who was also heckled in the street while walking with his infant daughters, added: "In this society we're living in at the minute, all the racism and stuff that affects mental health – I'd just say be careful. You don’t know how it's going to affect players: physically, mentally, emotionally. 

"Listen, my problems are not bigger than the problems someone has to deal with in an office, I know that. But they are problems. Footballers have problems like anybody else, and maybe me talking can help players.

"Every footballer has a tag and unfortunately mine is, 'Let's have a laugh at him'. But – and I say this in the nicest possible way – I know who'll have the last laugh. I'm proud of my career and when it finishes and I'm enjoying my life – and by the way I'm super fortunate that I'll be able to do that, because footballers are fortunate – [the keyboard warriors] will still be in their mum's spare bedroom, sipping Diet Pepsi that's flat, eating a Pot Noodle, sitting in their boxers, tweeting."

Jones, who has only played eight times since the start of 2019-20, won the Premier League title during Alex Ferguson's final season at the club and it was a meeting with his old boss that helped to boost him on his journey back to playing.

"He was just unbelievable for me," Jones added. "I went to the premiere of his film with a few players and he came over, we shook hands and then out of the blue he said, 'Hey, you were f****** terrific against Real Madrid away [in 2013]. F****** marking [Cristiano] Ronaldo.'

"It just gave me so much confidence. To be honest, I didn't even watch his premiere, I was just sitting there thinking about his comment, thinking, 'He remembers it... someone of his magnitude remembers that'."

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Jadon Sancho to come good after a slow start with the club.

The 21-year-old has made five appearances for Untied since signing from Borussia Dortmund for around £73million after a high-profile transfer pursuit that lasted over a year.

England international Sancho arrived to huge fanfare, though he is yet to register a goal or assist going into Sunday's Premier League trip to West Ham.

A frustrating start for Sancho continued when he was sacrificed in the first half of Tuesday's Champions League loss to Young Boys, the winger taken off as part of a reshuffle when Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sent off.

Solskjaer, though, insists nothing has changed in his evaluation of Sancho, who he feels can be a "top forward" for United over more than a decade.

"He is learning all the time," Solskjaer told reporters before the West Ham clash.

"As I said in training as well, he is learning our methods, he is learning the Premier League and of course, he knows the Champions League already from being at Dortmund.

"He is a young boy, he is only 21 and he will improve. 

"We signed him as we see a top forward for 10, 12, 15 years and I have not changed my mind on that.

"He is so clean on the ball and is enthusiastic to learn and that is such a big thing when you come to Manchester United.

"You are always going to get a chance and you play with some of the best players in the world, you are getting some fantastic coaching with the coaches I have got too."

United will do battle with their former manager David Moyes when they take on West Ham, with Sancho not a certainty to start given Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Cristiano Ronaldo are among the options in attacking positions.

Since his sacking in 2014, Moyes has failed to win any of his seven games against United in all competitions, losing five of those.

However, in-form Ronaldo has a mixed record against West Ham.

The Portugal star was involved in six goals in his last four league appearances against them in his first spell in England (five goals, one assist), though he also suffered three top-flight defeats to the Hammers.

Only against Chelsea (four) has Ronaldo suffered more Premier League losses than he has against West Ham.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona all pursued Erling Haaland in the recent transfer window.

The 21-year-old Norway forward opted to stay with Borussia Dortmund.

But the race will heat up again at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Manchester United still want to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and will make a move next European summer, reports the Express.

United made a major transfer splash when they landed Cristiano Ronaldo last month but remain in the Haaland race.

The Red Devils are looking to end their trophy drought and added Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho along with Ronaldo for this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- United are leading the way in the chase to sign Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, according to The Sun. The 18-year-old is being pursued by Chelsea and Manchester City too.

- The Sun reports that United are planning a clear-out at the end of this season, including Donny van de Beek , Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial to free up funds.

- Calciomercato reports that Juventus have identified Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic as a transfer target in the January window on loan.

- Ligue 1 club Lens could make a bid for Liverpool's Belgium international forward Divock Origi , claims Fichajes.

- Crystal Palace are interested in signing US international forward Daryl Dike from Orlando City, reports The Sun. Dike is set to command a £18m fee.

- Transfer expert Ekrem Konur claims that Flamengo have tabled an offer to sign Brazilian veteran Dani Alves.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Rio Ferdinand got it all wrong after the former Manchester United captain questioned why Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed to vent from the touchline.

Ferdinand is a former United team-mate of the current Red Devils boss and said he would have told Ronaldo, with whom he also played, to stay in his seat rather than race to pitchside to complain about a tackle.

Ronaldo, newly back at the club after 12 years away, was on his feet alongside Bruno Fernandes as they expressed anger about a foul by Young Boys midfielder Christopher Martins on Nemanja Matic in Tuesday's Champions League clash.

Both Ronaldo and Fernandes had been substituted by that stage of a game that United lost 2-1 after a stoppage-time winner by their Swiss hosts.

In his role as a pundit for BT Sport, Ferdinand had said: "If I'm the manager, I've got to be honest, I'm telling him to sit down."

But, quoted in several Sunday newspapers, Solskjaer explained that he had no complaints about the United pair showing their frustrations.

"Rio, again you know, sometimes he comments on things he doesn't really know," said Solskjaer.

"It's not like he was coaching players. No. Both Bruno and Cristiano, as competitive as they are, suddenly I had them on my shoulder.

"They were there for a brief spell and shouted at the referee. That was the aggravation of getting a few bad decisions against us. But then Cristiano sat down and Bruno sat down."

Ferdinand suggested it would be difficult to prevent a player of Ronaldo's standing in the game to hold his tongue.

"He's just a passionate guy. He wants to win, he's desperate to win, and he can't hold it in," Ferdinand said. "If that means he has to go up there and stand next to the manager, shouting instructions, so be it."

Raphael Varane believes he is fulfilling his destiny after moving to Manchester United from Real Madrid.

The centre-back won three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns in Spain's capital, while triumphing at the 2018 World Cup with France.

Varane, who joined Madrid in 2011 from Lens, completed a move to United in a deal worth a reported £42.7million (€50m) in August.

However, in an interview with Sky Sports, the France international revealed he almost arrived at Old Trafford 10 years prior as former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson travelled to his Lille home to tout the then 18-year-old's services.

"It was a special moment for me and my family," Varane said. "It's amazing to meet a person like him [Alex Ferguson] at 18.

"You know, after that, it's your destiny. Ten years in Madrid and now I'm here.

"This is a new challenge for me. A different competition, a different mentality, a different atmosphere. It's all new for me but I've enjoyed every day so far.

"It's a big challenge to get Manchester United back to the top but I feel people want to win, people want to do great things with this club, and that's a big motivation for me."

 

In the absence of Sergio Ramos last term, Varane shone for Los Blancos, who he ranked second among defenders for both duels won (110) and interceptions (36) in LaLiga.

United's defensive acquisition dominated aerially as well, winning 73 aerial duels – more than double the tallies of his defensive colleagues.

But despite his success at Madrid, he remained on the undercard as he was surrounded by big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, who he has reunited with in Manchester.

"I don't play football for this focus [the headlines]," Varane continued. "I just want to help the team and do my best.

"I want to improve and be who I am on the pitch. That's my objective and my mentality.

"Playing with this type of player [Cristiano Ronaldo], you improve every day. If he is still playing to such a high level at his age, it's because his work is amazing. I'm very happy to play with him.

"I think he is the best example in the world in terms of work ethic and winning mentality."

Could Raheem Sterling leave Premier League champions Manchester City?

The Englishman has slipped down the pecking order in 2021-22.

LaLiga giants Barcelona are reportedly ready to offer Sterling regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Barcelona are targeting a loan move for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Sport.

Sterling has fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola this season, leading to speculation over his City future.

The England international is reportedly open to reunion with former City team-mate Sergio Aguero at Barca.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Independent claims Manchester United are prioritising a move for West Ham's Declan Rice. The Red Devils are eyeing Rice to partner Paul Pogba, who himself is the subject of transfer speculation. Out of contract at the end of the season, Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Lazio are interested in free agent Dani Alves following his Sao Paulo exit, reports Calciomercato. The former Barca and Juve full-back terminated his contract and reportedly met with Brazilian rivals Flamengo.

- Fabrizio Romano says Roma are preparing a new five-year contract for Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has been linked with Premier League clubs.

- Serie A champions Inter are weighing up a move for Torino defender Bremer at the end of the season, says Calciomercato. The Brazilian has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

- According to Calciomercato, City have not given up on signing Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international forward was linked with City as well as Tottenham, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid before the transfer window closed.

Luka Jovic is on the radar of Juventus, per Calciomercato. Jovic is out of favour at Madrid, with the Serbia international originally tipped to return to Eintracht Frankfurt on a permanent basis.

Brighton and Hove Albion star Yves Bissouma believes he is the best midfielder in the Premier League amid links with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Bissouma has flourished in England since joining Brighton from Ligue 1 outfit Lille in 2018, attracting interest from a host of Premier League teams.

As his future continues to make headlines, the 25-year-old Mali international highlighted his ability.

"I don't want to be arrogant, but it's me because in my head I am working to be the best," Bissouma told BBC Sport.

"So I cannot say another name, I know in the Premier League there are so many good midfielders, but for me, it's me because that gives me the confidence and the energy to work hard to show people I am here and I am Bissouma.

"I just want to be focused on football, to play in every game, every week to be good, to help my team win and the rest we will see."

Last season, Brighton's Bissouma topped the Premier League list for tackles won among midfielder with 68 in 36 appearances.

Bissouma won possession on 271 occasions – a number only bettered by Tottenham's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (296), Southampton star James Ward-Prowse (288) and Manchester City's Rodri (285) among midfielders.

He also ranked fourth for duels won (227), behind West Ham's Tomas Soucek (364), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (264) and former Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish (231).

His 64 interceptions were only eclipsed by Burnley midfielder Josh Brownhill (69) and Wolves star Ruben Neves (65) in 2020-21, while Bissouma had the fifth most recoveries (271).

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