Pep Guardiola praised Jack Grealish for "starting perfectly" at Manchester City but is unsure if the playmaker will be fit to feature against former club Aston Villa on Wednesday,

Grealish has featured in 15 of City's 21 matches since joining the club from Villa in a £100m British record transfer from Aston Villa in August, starting 13 of those.

The 26-year-old was an unused substitute for the derby win over Manchester United on November 6 and has not played since due to a knock sustained on England duty.

He returned to training on Monday and will be monitored ahead of Wednesday's clash at Villa Park, where he spent 20 years – seven as a first-team regular – prior to joining City.

Grealish has a lot of work to do in order to repay his hefty price tag, but Guardiola has been pleased with the attacking midfielder's impact thus far when fit and available.

"He has started perfectly," Guardiola said of Grealish at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"It's easy because of our English players and the other guys here are nice people. He's played good but needs more time to settle." 

Grealish has scored two goals and assisted three more this term, while his tally of seven big chances created is the joint-most of any City player alongside Joao Cancelo.

However, the 3.15 chances Grealish has created per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season is down on the 3.34 managed in his final campaign with Villa.

He is also attempting fewer dribbles (3.39 compared to 4.53) for City and is being fouled less frequently (down from 4.53 to 2.66), a sign that he is getting at opponents less.

Guardiola puts down that down to the contrasting styles of City and next opponents Villa.

"If you analyse games, he hasn't played badly. The way we play and our expectations are different to Villa," Guardiola said.

"He did incredibly well at Villa. His commitment to the club to stay and get promoted was amazing. 

"Now he has come back from the international break injured. Hopefully he comes back and step by step finds his form. 

"We have six, seven months ahead of us. I don't think we will have to wait until next season to see the best Jack Grealish – I'm thinking this season."

Providing an update on City's other recent absentees, Guardiola confirmed Kevin De Bruyne has returned a negative coronavirus test but has yet to train.

Phil Foden remains doubtful having trained only once, while Ferran Torres is a long-term absentee and Aymeric Laporte is suspended.

"All the people who have had coronavirus say it drains them and Kevin needs time to show his form," Guardiola said. 

"Phil and Jack are still in the same situation. Maybe tomorrow they can play but not a lot of minutes – we're going to see after they train today.

"The rest, we have just 14 or 15 players. But I trust this squad a lot. If one is out, another comes in.

"December is the toughest month of the year for us and we are in trouble because we have so few players available."

Wednesday's match at Villa Park will be the first managerial encounter between Guardiola and new Villa boss Steven Gerrard.

Guardiola has lost just three of his 64 Premier League games against English managers, coming against Roy Hodgson (December 2018), Frank Lampard (June 2020) and Graham Potter (May 2021).

Gerrard has won his first two Villa games since arriving from Rangers – no manager in the club's history has won their first three matches – and Guardiola is expecting a tough test in the Midlands.

"He's managing in the Premier League, so he is already a good manager," Guardiola said. "I don't believe there's a manager in the Premier League, even the Championship, who isn't good. 

"They can train good players in good clubs to punch for the titles. There are incredible managers in all aspects and maybe they win titles because they are lucky to train a good team.

"I can imagine with a new manager everybody steps forward for training sessions and methodology to convince the manager. 

"They have had two good results against tough teams like Brighton and Crystal Palace. It will be the toughest game possible tomorrow."

Saturday provided no shortage of talking points as the Premier League returned after the international break.

Manchester United suffered another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of Watford, and it will likely be one too humiliation too many for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

There was also a harsh dose of reality fed to Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, as they were given a bruising by Liverpool at Anfield.

But two new managers began their respective tenures with victories, as Aston Villa and Norwich City each hope to enjoy a prolonged 'new manager bounce'.

Below, Stats Perform looks through the pick of Saturday's Opta facts…

Watford 4-1 Manchester United: Writing's on the wall for Solskjaer

Another week, another humiliating defeat for United and Solskjaer – Watford were the latest side to toy with the Red Devils.

United's loss was their biggest league defeat to a promoted side since a 5-1 reverse to Manchester City in September 1989, and it took them to 20 goals conceded this season already.

Only in 2001-02 (11 games) have United conceded 20 or more after fewer than in 2021-22 (13 games), while this is the first time Watford have ever beaten them in successive home league games.

United were still in with a shout at 2-1 until Harry Maguire's first red card in 121 appearances for the club, but it all fell apart thereafter.

It looks set to be the result that costs Solskjaer his job.



Leicester City 0-3 Chelsea: Foxes intimidated by pacesetters again

Most would have expected Chelsea to get a proper examination of their title credentials here – who knows, maybe this was a real statement.

Either way, Thomas Tuchel's men saw off Leicester City with great authority, or so it seemed.

In reality, Leicester actually have a dreadful record against teams starting the day top of the table. Granted, the side at the summit is usually fairly handy, otherwise they wouldn't be setting the pace, but Leicester's run is particularly poor.

They are now winless in 17 league games against the team that started the day top of the table, conceding 40 goals at a rate of 2.35 per game.

In the process of winning here, Chelsea moved level with Tottenham and Manchester City with the most away wins (five) at the King Power Stadium in the top tier.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: Gunners come crashing back to reality as Reds continue domination

Although Arsenal came into the weekend in good form, having not lost any of their previous 10 matches in all competitions, there was more than a hint of predictability about their Anfield defeat and the manner of it.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool have scored more Premier League goals against Arsenal (37) than any top-flight side has against another opponent since October 2015, which in itself is a fairly damning indictment of the Gunners' fall from grace.

Mohamed Salah got Liverpool's third goal of the game, which was also their 100th against Arsenal in the Premier League, a haul they can only better in meetings with Newcastle United (105).

It was the fifth time this season Arsenal have failed to score in a league game, with only Norwich and Watford (both seven) having a worse record.

The Gunners aren't "back" yet.

Aston Villa 2-0 Brighton and Hove Albion: Gerrard off to winning start

Steven Gerrard began his tenure as Villa boss in positive fashion, seeing off Graham Potter's Brighton.

It was a largely unspectacular bow for Gerrard but Villa eventually got the job done with two goals late on, making the Liverpool legend only the club's third permanent manager to begin with a win in the Premier League.

Ollie Watkins was the man to get the first goal of the Gerrard era, taking his tally to a club-high 17 strikes since the start of last season in the top flight.

There was also a first assist of the season for Ashley Young, who set up a Villa goal for the first time in 10 years and 189 days.

Norwich City 2-1 Southampton: Smith lifts Canaries off the foot the table

The man who made room for Gerrard at Villa, Dean Smith, also began the latest chapter of his career with a victory.

Norwich initially trailed to Che Adams' goal, but they turned things around as the Canaries came from behind to win a Premier League game for the first time in five-and-a-half years, or 36 matches.

But if they were going to end that run against anyone, the Saints would have been a good bet – since Ralph Hasenhuttl took charge in December 2018, they have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the Premier League (67).

Grant Hanley got Norwich's winner, his first Premier League goal in nine years and 324 days since netting for Blackburn Rovers against Manchester United in December 2011.

Steven Gerrard enjoyed a positive first Premier League game as a manager as Aston Villa beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0.

A superb run and finish from outside the box courtesy of Ollie Watkins six minutes from the end of normal time put the hosts ahead at Villa Park on Saturday.

Tyrone Mings then converted a loose ball from six yards out to secure the victory and end a run of five consecutive defeats for Villa, a sequence of results that spelled the end of Dean Smith's time in charge.

Gerrard, who took over after a strong spell in Scotland with Rangers, became only the third Villa manager out of 13 in the Premier League era to win his first match in charge. The others were John Gregory (in February 1998) and Gerard Houllier (in September 2010).

The result put Villa four points above the relegation zone after 12 matches.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists his reign is "far from being over" and he appreciates Steven Gerrard's comments after taking over at Aston Villa this week.

Former Anfield star Gerrard, often tipped as a future Liverpool manager, has left Scottish champions Rangers to join Villa in his first Premier League job.

But Gerrard rejected a suggestion he had taken the role as a stepping stone to managing Liverpool in the future.

He then claimed he would be happy if Klopp signed a lifetime contract, given how well he has done with the Reds.

Klopp is under contract at Anfield until 2024 and while he has not thought about a new deal, he was grateful to Gerrard and reiterated there is plenty of time left for him in his current job.

"I thought Stevie said a lot of nice things, a lot of smart things," said Klopp, whose side host Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday, when he was asked about his contract.

"I don't have to think about these kind of things at the moment - thank God - because we are in the middle of the season.

"I think I spoke before about this, but no other manager gets asked so often about things that could happen in two or three or four years.

"I didn't think about it, I don't want to think now about it, it's all fine how it is. It's over when it's over, but it's far from being over."

Gerrard will face Brighton and Hove Albion in his first match at Villa, in the hours before the Liverpool v Arsenal clash.

Klopp revealed he had been in touch with Gerrard, with their two respective teams due to do battle next month.

"After he signed the contract we sent messages," said Klopp. "And they are messages, otherwise I would have posted them [online], which I don't do, because they are private. 

"I'm looking forward to meeting him, I'm really happy for him. But what we said will stay private."

Liverpool are hoping to keep up a strong track record against Arsenal this weekend – they have won their last five home Premier League matches against the Gunners, netting at least three goals in every victory.

And since Klopp took charge of Liverpool in 2015, Arsenal have won just one of 11 Premier League games against the Reds, with three draws and seven defeats part of that sequence.

Steven Gerrard insists he does not see the Aston Villa job as "a stepping stone" towards becoming Liverpool manager.

The Reds legend took the top job at Villa Park last week, agreeing terms on a deal that runs until 2025 after calling time on his Rangers stint.

Gerrard had guided the Gers to their first Scottish Premiership title success in 10 years last season and left with the Ibrox club four points clear of rivals Celtic.

The 41-year-old takes over a Villans team who lost their last five in a row under Dean Smith, with Gerrard seeking to lead a revival that would enhance his own reputation as a manager.

But he does not see his new club as a stopping-off point en route to a potential return to Liverpool.

"I'm all in, and I will give this job everything that it needs for it to be a success. I'll be 100 per cent committed and so will my staff," Gerrard said at his first Villa media conference on Thursday.

"[It's] very unfair, and you'll never hear me saying it's a stepping stone. For me, I'm really honoured and proud to be in this position.

"There is nothing wrong in football with having dreams and aspirations, but Liverpool have got a world-class coach [in Jurgen Klopp] that they are very happy with.

"If he was to sign a lifetime deal right now, then I would be very happy for them and him."

Gerrard won 125 of his 193 games in charge of Rangers for a win rate of 64.8 per cent, with his longest winning run being a nine-game streak that ended in November 2020.

His first game at the Villa helm is at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, while his return to Anfield will come on December 11.

The former England international is third on the list of all-time appearance makers (710) for Liverpool, and he has been tipped as the likely man to replace Klopp one day.

"He's a great man and a great coach," Gerrard added. "I think Liverpool are very lucky to have him at the helm, and I'm a Liverpool fan, so long may that continue.

"He sent me a message and said he's looking forward to a big hug on the side on 11 December, so it's something for me to look forward to."

Real Madrid are well-known admirers of Kylian Mbappe.

The Spanish giants have been linked with a January move for the winger.

Mbappe has indicated he will leave Paris Saint-Germain in the near future.

 

TOP STORY – REAL TO REMAIN PATIENT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid will not chase a deal for Paris Saint-Germain's Mbappe during the January transfer window, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Los Blancos have been pursuing the 22-year-old France international who is out of contract at the end of this season.

There had been speculation about when Madrid would move for Mbappe, given his contract status, but it is anticipated they will patiently wait until the off-season when he is a free agent.

ROUND-UP 

- Sky Sports Germany claims that Juventus could make a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel in January. The report claims that Witsel is keen on a quick move.

- Philippe Coutinho is set to snub cashed-up Newcastle United in January as he does not want to leave Barcelona, claims Sport.

- Barcelona are set to table a €40million offer for Red Bull Salzburg forward Karim Adeyemi according to Sport1, although Dortmund remain favourites to sign the teenager.

- Wolverhampton are ready to cash in Spanish winger Adama Traore in January with Barcelona circling to rival Liverpool for his signature, reports 90min.

- Former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is not in consideration for the vacant Rangers head coaching position following Steven Gerrard's exit, reports Sky Sports.

Steven Gerrard accepts he is taking a risk by swapping Rangers for Aston Villa but says a new challenge in the Premier League was too big an opportunity to turn down.

The 41-year-old was confirmed as Dean Smith's successor as Villa head coach last Thursday on a reported three-and-a-half-year contract.

Gerrard guided Rangers to a couple of second-place finishes before ending the Glasgow club's 10-year wait for Scottish Premiership title success last season.

He departed Ibrox with the Gers four points clear of Celtic in top spot and with their Europa League knockout-stage hopes still in their own hands with two group games to play.

The Liverpool midfield great is taking on a different challenge in his second senior coaching role, tasked first and foremost with guiding Villa away from the relegation zone.

While fully aware of the task on his hands, Gerrard is relishing the opportunity to manage in a league he spent 17 seasons playing in with Liverpool.

"Aston Villa sells itself – an iconic football club," he told VillaTV. "I know it well from the outside and I'm very much excited to get involved inside and start building relationships.

"I like a challenge. I like a risk. It's something I'm really looking forward to getting into. 

"This club will suit me because I know the fans are very passionate and there's a demand and pressure to win. That's something I've lived with since I was 17.

"I was first aware of Aston Villa's interest last Wednesday. I had a call from my representation, and when the phone call sunk in, I wanted this to happen very quickly, because first and foremost the opportunity was too big."

Gerrard won 125 of his 193 games in charge of Rangers for a win rate of 64.8 per cent, with his longest winning run being a nine-game streak that ended in November 2020.

That compares to a 39.6 per cent win rate for Smith across his 139 Villa matches, but Gerrard admits managing in the English top flight will provide a sterner test.

"I have to respect that the leagues are very different in terms of level, but I've learned a lot over the past three-and-a-half years," he said.

"I've lived under that pressure and demand to win. There was a big building job to be done, and I can walk away with my head held high.

"Going into another league, that's something we'll adapt to. I've played many years in the league, and I've got an experienced group of coaches who are a real rock to me. 

"We'll also use existing staff, so I look forward to building relationships."

Gerrard, whose first Villa game is at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday, faces an emotional return to Anfield on December 11.

The former England international is third on the list of all-time appearance makers (710) for Liverpool and he has been tipped as the likely man to replace Jurgen Klopp one day.

However, Gerrard's sole focus for now is on new club Villa, who are two points above the relegation zone following a run of five defeats in a row.

"I don't think me or anyone else will be able to control the noise [regarding Liverpool]," Gerrard said.

"For me that's not important. What's important is the chance to go to Anfield and win. That's the attitude we'll have going into every game. 

"It is what it is. I want to win every game that I play in, now my priority and focus – and everything I will give on a daily basis – will be for Aston Villa.

"One thing I can guarantee the supporters, the players and the staff here: when I commit to something, I'm all in."

Former Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov has hailed Steven Gerrard's "winning mentality" and believes the Liverpool legend is an "exciting appointment" for his old club.

Gerrard, who led Rangers to their first Scottish Premiership title in a decade last season, left his post and replaced Dean Smith at Villa Park on Thursday, handed a reported three-and-a-half-year deal.

Petrov was a Villa player between 2006 and his retirement in 2013, having signed from Rangers' rivals Celtic.

The 42-year-old had a keen eye on developments in Scotland and expects Gerrard to set a high bar at his new club in his unrelenting pursuit of success.

"[Gerrard brings a] winning mentality," Petrov told Stats Perform. "I mean, you can see the way he manages, you can see the way he demands from the club.

"He made Glasgow Rangers a very solid, competitive, aggressive team, which was very hard to beat. Everybody they played against found it really difficult. So I'm sure he's going to do that with Aston Villa.

"The way he manages, the demands he has through the work process, on the training ground and in the games, will set the high targets for not just for the club but for the players, because sometimes you need that kind of manager to demand and set up different targets, a different voice in the club.

"And he showed that he won't stop until he succeeds, and his managerial journey has started very well so far."

Petrov feels Gerrard's character as a player is evident in his approach as a manager and that the 41-year-old's stature and demanding nature can turn Villa's fortunes around in the same way he transformed Rangers.

"It is an exciting appointment, I think," Petrov said. "I think everybody knows Steven Gerrard as a player [and] what he achieved as a player in the Premier League. He became an icon for the Premier League as a player, and he started his coaching journey in a completely different way.

"He wanted to become the best. He took on an incredible project at Glasgow Rangers. I think he kind of succeeded. 

"He managed to change the mentality and the way the club is thinking now is as a club, and he's been given an opportunity to manage another huge team, which is a great opportunity to go back to the Premier League and show what he can do."

Petrov added: "He was a leader. He was a captain. In every interview, he was talking about preparation. He wanted to be the best. He was going through a different mentality in training.

"He was there to compete, to push others to be the best. And I think all these values from being a player, he's kind of implementing it into his coaching abilities because you can see he coaches the same way he was as a player.

"The demands are very high. He demands from himself first, for people that work with him and the players as well, and he makes sure he gets involved in a good project.

"He got involved in a project, Glasgow Rangers, they had a target. They have to stop [Celtic's] 10 in a row. They have to change their mentality, and they have to become successful again.

"He managed to do that in the space of three years. So now we have a completely different task at Aston Villa and I believe that he analysed and he managed to understand what the club stands for and what the targets are."

Gerrard's first game as Villa boss comes after the international break against Brighton and Hove Albion on November 20.

Jamie Carragher does not believe former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard will use Aston Villa merely as a "stepping stone" to the top job at Anfield.

But Carragher also knows Gerrard would love to become Liverpool manager one day if he first made a success of his new role with Villa.

Gerrard was confirmed as Villa's latest head coach on Thursday, replacing Dean Smith at the helm at Villa Park after a five-game losing streak.

Smith led his boyhood club back into the Premier League and reached an EFL Cup final, winning 39.6 per cent of his 139 games in charge in all competitions.

Gerrard has had a rather different task at Rangers in the meantime, finally cutting short Celtic's run of consecutive Scottish Premiership titles at nine by triumphing in 2020-21.

Rangers were unbeaten in the league in that campaign, which included a career-best nine-game winning streak in all competitions for Gerrard between September and November 2020.

At one of Scotland's two premier clubs, the former Liverpool captain had an outstanding 64.8 per cent win rate across 193 games going back to 2018.

This success has prompted talk of a return to Merseyside, where Jurgen Klopp is under contract until 2024 but Gerrard is seen as a viable long-term successor.

Yet Carragher, a prominent Liverpool star alongside Gerrard, does not believe his old friend is simply waiting for that job to open up.

"I think it's disrespectful to Stevie and I think it's disrespectful to Aston Villa that this comes up," Carragher told Sky Sports.

"I know this is the question for everyone, but I can assure you that Aston Villa as a football club are no stepping stone for anyone. They've won a European Cup, the biggest club in the midlands, one of the biggest clubs in the UK.

"I'm sure everyone is well aware that one day, if it worked perfectly, Stevie would like to manage Liverpool, but I can guarantee you Stevie would only want to manage Liverpool if he merited it, and also the club's supporters would think that and the football club themselves. 

"Liverpool are not in a position to give a job in the future to someone just because they had a great playing career.

"If Stevie does amazingly well at Aston Villa and is qualifying for Europe, maybe could add a Carabao Cup, maybe that would put him in the equation then for Liverpool.

"But Liverpool, along with Manchester United, along with Man City, Chelsea, they will be attracting the best managers in the world. That's obviously a challenge for Stevie to make himself one of the best managers in European or world football and then, I'm sure, he'll have a great shout.

"But if he doesn't get there, I don't think Stevie would be wanting to take a job if he felt that maybe someone else could be better at Liverpool, and I don't think the club would either.

"For Stevie, I think it's just focusing on Aston Villa and don't worry about anything else."

Whether Gerrard should use his Villa opportunity to put himself in position for a Liverpool move or not, Carragher does not believe the 41-year-old would have been considered had the Reds been looking for a new boss now.

Gerrard won 26 of 53 European games at Rangers, including 12 of 30 in the Europa League proper, but the lack of domestic competition makes Villa a step up, let alone title-chasing Liverpool.

"It's his first job in the Premier League, and when you go into the Premier League for the first time, to get a job as big as Villa is fantastic for Stevie, it really is," Carragher said.

"It gives him a fantastic opportunity to push for European places.

"No manager is ever going to get one of the real plum jobs just on the back of what Stevie's done at Rangers. In the Premier League now, it's a league where every manager in the world wants to manage."

Liverpool great Steven Gerrard has left Rangers to take over as Aston Villa head coach.

Villa parted ways with Dean Smith on Sunday after a run of five straight Premier League defeats.

Determined to make a swift appointment, it quickly became apparent that Gerrard was Villa's leading candidate, and that move has now been confirmed.

Villa did not announce the length of their new coach's contract, although it is reported to be a two-and-a-half-year deal.

"Aston Villa is a club with a rich history and tradition in English football and I am immensely proud to become its new head coach," Gerrard said.

"In my conversations with Nassef [Sawiris], Wes [Edens] and the rest of the board, it was apparent how ambitious their plans are for the club and I am looking forward to helping them achieve their aims.

"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to everybody associated with Glasgow Rangers for giving me the opportunity to manage such an iconic football club.

"Helping them secure a record-breaking 55th league title will always hold a special place in my heart. I would like to wish the players, staff and supporters the very best for the future."

The former Liverpool and England midfielder, who also played for LA Galaxy, was handed his first senior job in management when he took over at Ibrox in 2018.

Gerrard guided Rangers to second in each of his first two seasons, before they cruised to the Scottish Premiership title last term.

Rangers' success was their first in a decade and ended Celtic's hopes of a 10th consecutive crown.

The Gers are four points clear at the top of the Premiership and still in contention to make the Europa League knockout stage, but Gerrard has decided to swap Glasgow for Birmingham.

Villa have won just three league games this season and sit 16th, having sold talisman Jack Grealish to Manchester City for £100million.

Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia were brought in to help replace Grealish, but fitness issues have meant the attacking trio have rarely featured together so far.

Villa nevertheless have a strong squad, and Gerrard will be hoping to push for Europe in his first venture into Premier League management.

"It has been very clear in our discussions with him that Steven's coaching ambitions, philosophy and values entirely match those of Aston Villa," Villa CEO Christian Purslow said.

Gerrard's first reunion with Liverpool will come on December 11, when Villa visit Anfield, while his first game in charge will be against Brighton and Hove Albion after the international break.

Xavi has his work cut out at Camp Nou following his appointment as Barcelona head coach.

Barca have struggled on the pitch amid off-field turmoil and financial problems.

But Xavi wants to make Barca great again and he reportedly has his eyes on some players across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYE TRIO

RB Leipzig star Dani Olmo and Manchester City pair Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling are transfer options for Barcelona, according to Thursday's Mundo Deportivo.

Xavi is now at the helm of Barca and the club great is tasked with restoring the fortunes of the embattled LaLiga giants.

The Barca head coach is keen to reinforce his squad in either January or at the end of the season.

Barca have also been linked with Chelsea forward Timo Werner and Manchester United veteran Edinson Cavani.

 

ROUND-UP  

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Paul Pogba is set to leave United and Juventus are trying to re-sign the Frenchman, though his salary is proving problematic. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and he has been linked with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

Inter are pressing Marcelo Brozovic to sign a new contract by Christmas, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. The Croatia international is reportedly wanted by Barca, Liverpool, PSG and United.

Steven Gerrard is expected to join Aston Villa as their new manager, reports Fabrizio Romano. The Rangers boss is set to be joined by his backroom staff at Villa.

Fiorentina are trying to sign River Plate striker Julian Alvarez as Dusan Vlahovic prepares to leave but Juve are also interested, according to Corriere dello Sport. Vlahovic has no plans to renew in Florence and the Serbia international has been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Tottenham, Juve and Inter.

- The Mirror says United are confident of landing Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers as their new manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under mounting pressure at United and former Liverpool boss Rodgers has emerged as a target for the struggling Red Devils due to a release clause in his contract.

Aaron Ramsey has become an issue for Juventus, being on a bumper contract but having fallen out of favour.

Ramsey signed with Juve in 2019 on a four-year deal from Arsenal.

The 30-year-old has only made 70 appearances across almost two-and-a-half seasons, including only five this term.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE PAIR KEEN ON RAMSEY

Juventus are shopping around Aaron Ramsey with Premier League pair Everton and Newcastle United in the mix, claims Goal.

The Bianconeri are keen to find a buyer for the Wales international midfielder in January although his salary may be a stumbling block.

No formal offers have been tabled yet for the ex-Arsenal star.

ROUND-UP  

- The transfer saga involving Paul Pogba continues to twist and turn with The Star claiming Manchester United are willing to sell him in January, with his contract expiring at the end of the season. Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus have been linked with the French midfielder.

- AS claims Manchester United are hoping to win the race for Sevilla's Jules Kounde , with Chelsea 's admiration long known.

- West Ham will turn down any approaches for England international Declan Rice , reports The Sun. The midfielder has been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea .

- Newcastle are angling to land Ousmane Dembele as a free agent if he refuses to pen a new deal with Barcelona, reports Express.

- Internazionale could also seal a free transfer for Andre Onana from Ajax according to Fabrizio Romano, who claims a verbal agreement was reached months ago. Barcelona have also shown an interest in Onana.

- Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah has interest from German club Monchengladbach for a January move according to The Sun.

- Goal claims that Liverpool legend and current Rangers manager Steven Gerrard is Aston Villa 's first choice to take their vacant managerial role following Dean Smith's dismissal.

Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard should be in strong contention to replace Dean Smith at Aston Villa, according to former midfielder Paul Merson.

After suffering a fifth straight defeat by going down 1-0 to Southampton on Friday, Smith became the fifth Premier League manager to lose his job this season.

The former Brentford boss spent three years at Villa Park, guiding his boyhood club back into the Premier League at the first attempt before establishing their top-flight status with a creditable 11th-place finish last term.

However, the 50-year-old ultimately paid the price after the Southampton defeat left Villa just two points and two places above the relegation zone.

Merson, who spent four years at the club between 1998 and 2002, sympathised with Smith and believes his impressive work warranted the opportunity to turn their fortunes around.

But the former Arsenal man has urged his old club to consider replacing Smith with either Lampard and Gerrard.

While Merson acknowledges it would be difficult to persuade Gerrard, who guided Rangers to the Scottish Premiership title last season, he feels the lure of the Premier League would be tough to turn down.

Merson told Sky Sports: "I would like to see a Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard get the job.

"It's going to be hard to prise Steven away, he's managing a massive club in Rangers.

"He's got them buzzing again; he stopped Celtic winning 10 in a row, they are in the Europa League, and they've got a chance of winning the Scottish Premiership.

"Everyone wants to manage in the Premier League; that is no disrespect to the Scottish Premiership. Rangers and Celtic are bigger clubs than probably half of the teams in the Premier League.

"But it's the Premier League, and when you start out managing, I'm sure in the back of people's minds if you could get a job like Aston Villa – wow."

Merson also highlighted the credentials of former Chelsea boss Lampard who, though restricted by financial sanctions imposed on the club, guided the Blues to the 2020 FA Cup final and Champions League qualification.

The 43-year-old, who previously steered Derby County to the Championship play-off final, also regularly gave youth the opportunity to shine at Stamford Bridge, the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Reece James all stepping up to the plate. 

Merson feels that quality would certainly complement the scenario at Villa.

"I think you have to put Frank's name in the hat as well," he added. 

"He's managed Chelsea, where he did a great job in steadying the ship at the time.

"If you look at all the kids who have come through at Chelsea since, and then look at Aston Villa's academy, it's very good as well.

"On Friday night, Dean Smith had five or six players from the academy in the squad for what was his final game."

Steven Gerrard says Rangers were close to perfect as they claimed an important victory over Brondby in the Europa League.

First-half goals from Leon Balogun and Kemar Roofe sealed a 2-0 win at Ibrox – and the hosts' first points of this season's competition.

That helped Gerrard's team move off the bottom of Group A at the halfway stage, while closing the gap on second-placed Sparta Prague to just a single point.

The Rangers boss admitted the pressure was on his side, who began their campaign with defeats against Sparta and runaway leaders Lyon.

But he was ultimately delighted with the way his players rose to the occasion on Thursday.

"I thought it was a strong home performance in Europe," Gerrard told BT Sport.

"We've kick-started our Europa League campaign. The first two results haven't been good enough, which put a lot of pressure on us tonight.

"But we've got to go and replicate this performance and result [away at Brondby] in a couple of weeks' time.

"I thought the fans were magnificent. The game plan we set out to do, the players have delivered.

"It's really close to the performance we're looking for. 

"We've played well for halves and 60 minutes, but tonight was really close to a perfect 90-minute performance."

Gerrard also hailed the display of Joe Aribo, who provided a constant threat to the reigning Danish Superliga champions with his pace and power.

No Rangers player was involved in more duels (15) than the winger, who also completed 58 of his 62 passes and only James Tavernier (111) among the hosts' team bettered his tally of 93 touches.

The 25-year-old has recently been linked with a move away from Ibrox, with Gerrard admitting it will be difficult to retain his services should he continue to perform to a high level. 

"He's a great kid; he wants to learn and he wants to grow," the Rangers boss added.

"What I've said to Joe is: 'you're a much better player when you play angry in a nice way. You're a big strong lad; go and put yourself about' and when he does, he's a joy to watch.

"I thought his first 45-minute performance was outstanding. That's probably the reason why he tired a little bit, but he's played a lot and he's been away on international duty [with Nigeria]. 

"But if he can find that performance consistently over 90 minutes, we'll be lucky to keep hold of him."

UEFA will not open a disciplinary case against Sparta Prague after finding insufficient evidence of discriminatory behaviour in their Europa League match with Rangers.

The game, won 1-0 by the Scottish champions, was originally due to be played behind closed doors following the racist abuse of Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni in August but around 10,000 school children and accompanying adults were allowed to attend.

The contest was marred by the booing of Rangers' black players, with Glen Kamara seemingly subjected to particularly vocal taunts.

Last March, UEFA ruled Kamara had been the victim of a racist slur from Ondrej Kudela in Rangers' fixture against Sparta's Czech rivals Slavia Prague.

However, following an investigation by a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector, European football's governing body said no further action would be taken.

A statement confirmed: "In accordance with Article 31(4) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations, a UEFA Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector was appointed to conduct a disciplinary investigation regarding potential discriminatory incidents which allegedly occurred during the 2021-22 UEFA Europa League group stage match between AC Sparta Prague and Rangers FC played on September 30, 2021.
 
"The investigation has now concluded that there was insufficient evidence of racism or discriminatory conduct at the match to warrant the opening of disciplinary proceedings against AC Sparta Prague."

After the game, Sparta issued a statement to insist any allegations of racism were unfounded.

"It is absolutely unbelievable that after a match we have to watch innocent children being attacked and face unfounded accusations of racism," the club said. 

"You are describing the behaviour of children incorrectly, arrogating to yourself the right to judge the expression of emotions of six-year-old children who have no idea what racism is. It's an impertinence."

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