You wouldn't necessarily know it given some of the scrutiny, but things aren't going all that terribly at Manchester United.

With four wins and two draws from their first seven games of the Premier League season, they are just two points behind leaders Chelsea. It's a solid improvement from 2020-21, when, at the same stage of the campaign, they were four points worse off and with a negative goal difference.

Exiting the EFL Cup was frustrating, as was losing to Young Boys, but that last-gasp win over Villarreal means their Champions League fate remains firmly in their own hands. It also ensured their challenge for the two biggest trophies on offer are very much alive, and it's why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's job is not currently under threat.

Their next 10 games could change that. It's very hard to predict United results and quality of performances from week to week, but their coming fixture list looks seriously daunting on paper. Before the end of November, they must face league visits to Leicester City, Tottenham and Chelsea, home games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, a Champions League double-header with Atalanta and a trip to Villarreal, LaLiga's only remaining unbeaten side.

Solskjaer could approach the third anniversary of his return to Old Trafford on the back of a buoyant run of results, with a renewed spring in his step ahead of the festive season. Alternatively, December may bring about a deafening clamour for a change of management, just as Jose Mourinho faced in 2018.

Hallowe'en season makes for scary reading

One thing that's marked Solskjaer's time in charge is a tendency to pull out big results when the pressure is on. He's lost just one of five league games against Pep Guardiola and is the only United manager to win all three of his first league visits to the Etihad Stadium. He is unbeaten in five against Chelsea and has been beaten just once by Tottenham.

With two wins in six matches before the international break, the Norwegian will need to summon something similar in the coming seven league fixtures. The trouble is, these games did not go according to plan last time.

United's next league fixtures are Leicester City away, Liverpool at home, Spurs away, Man City at home, Watford away, Chelsea away and Arsenal at home. Last season, the only one of those same games that resulted in a United victory was the trip to Spurs and the embattled Mourinho. Of course, Watford weren't in the top flight last season, but United's last visit to Vicarage Road in December 2019 ended in a miserable 2-0 defeat.

In the Champions League, Solskjaer's men face Atalanta at home and away before heading to Spain to play Villarreal. They edged out Unai Emery's side at home thanks to a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo goal at the end of a contest in which the visitors had 2.31 expected goals to United's 1.07 but were thwarted by goalkeeper David de Gea.

While that was an important result, it didn't gloss over wider concerns. United have kept only one clean sheet in 12 Champions League games under Solskjaer, losing seven of them in total. That's only one defeat less than predecessors David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho suffered in 30 matches combined in the competition.

In short, it would take a serious optimist to expect United to get through this run of matches in overwhelmingly positive fashion.

What's the plan, Ole?

But hang on: two points off the top, only one defeat... United's Premier League form isn't that bad, surely?

Well, it's certainly not awful. United have scored more open-play goals than anyone else this season (14) and conceded four, a figure bettered only by Man City (three), Brighton and Hove Albion (two) and leaders Chelsea (zero).

There is often criticism around United's perceived lack of control over games, but that is perhaps not as bad as some think. Only Man City (63.4 per cent) average more possession per game than United (60.7 per cent), while their tally of 55 open-play shots against is the same as Liverpool's and only five down on Chelsea. Indeed, their expected goals against figure in open play (5.5) is slightly lower than that of Jurgen Klopp's men (5.9).

The problem is, as injury-time Ronaldo goals and De Gea penalty saves will tell you, United are treading a fine line between success and disappointment.

Those league-high 14 open-play goals came from 86 shots, a figure only bettered by Man City (94) and Liverpool (97), but one worth just 7.9 expected goals. That differential of 6.1 between goals scored and xG is by far the biggest in the league, and will almost certainly begin to level off at some stage.

That xG figure is in spite of United registering 1,256 passes ending in the final third, a tally only beaten by Man City (1,340). They also rank just fifth for passes into the box (234) and are well behind Liverpool (270) and Man City (273) for touches in the opponents' penalty area (206). Despite having lots of the ball, those clear-cut chances are scarce.

That relatively high possession figure apparently doesn't offer the security at the back that it should, either. But United have still faced 77 shots this season and are on an 11-game run without a clean sheet at home, their worst such sequence since 1964. Champions City, meanwhile, use keeping the ball as their first line of defence: they have only faced 42 shots, just 10 of which have been on target compared to United's 24.

At least United can't generally be accused of a want of trying. There are only two teams – Southampton (997) and Leeds United (1,210) – who have tallied more team sprints than United (991), which is impressive given the length of time they keep the ball rather than scurrying around trying to win it back.

Plus, only Liverpool (147) and Man City (127) have attempted more shots overall than United (120), while there are four United players among the top 18 in the division for attempts at goal this season. Those four – Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood, Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba – have also created 50 goalscoring chances between them. In fact, Fernandes leads the league when it comes to shots attempted and chances created combined.

Solskjaer's ethos, it seems, continues to be based on individual inspiration: put enough talented attackers on the pitch, and, more often than not, they'll do enough to win you a game. But that tactic did not work against Everton, or Aston Villa, or Young Boys, or Southampton. Will it be enough against the rest of the 'big six' between now and December?

Will it be enough, indeed, to keep the wolves from Solskjaer's door?

Julian Nagelsmann fired a warning to defences across Europe by claiming Robert Lewandowski has a long time left at the top level – insisting the Ballon d'Or should come his way this year.

Although Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski turned 33 in August, there is no indication age is catching up with the Poland international.

His record haul of 41 Bundesliga goals last season came at a rate of one every 60.07 minutes.

That was the fastest rate of scoring across a campaign, in terms of minutes per goal, for any player with 10 or more goals in a Bundesliga season since the league was founded in 1963.

After missing out on Ballon d'Or recognition last year, when the award was cancelled due to the pandemic's impact on the global game, there is little doubt Lewandowski is a serious contender this time.

Bayern did not match up to their 2019-20 treble-winning feats, but they carried off a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title and Lewandowski was their spearhead.

"He deserves the Ballon d'Or – and in my opinion he has to win the award, because he has played more consistently than anyone else over the past three years," Bayern head coach Nagelsmann said.

Speaking to Munich newspaper Abendzeitung, Nagelsmann predicted Lewandowski would continue to thrive at the highest level into his late thirties.

"If Robert Lewandowski's body stays like this, it is far from over," said Nagelsmann.

"He is extremely dynamic, has no injuries, he can train a lot: I definitely trust him to play at the top, top level for a few more years – also because he aligns everything in his life accordingly, to be in the best physical condition."

 

In Bayern's triumphant 2019-20 Champions League campaign, Lewandowski netted 15 times, scoring on average once every 59.13 minutes. This term, he has four goals already in that competition from just 169 minutes on the pitch.

Lewandowski has said it "would mean a lot" to scoop the individual honour, and after being shortlisted his chief rival appears to be six-time winner Lionel Messi, who helped Argentina to Copa America glory.

Nagelsmann, meanwhile, is sitting tight when it comes to the future of Bayern defender Niklas Sule, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

Sule has been linked with Chelsea and Newcastle United, and Nagelsmann is taking a wait-and-see approach to what comes next for the Germany international.

"It depends on his development and also on the market situation whether he wants to extend the contract or not," Nagelsmann said. "Then we'll see if it works for both sides.

"Niki still has to develop a little with his potential and then make the most of it as a very good central defender."

Raphael Varane is set to be out for "a few weeks" after sustaining an injury in France's Nations League final win, Manchester United have confirmed.

Varane had to be replaced by Dayot Upamecano just before half-time in Les Bleus' 2-1 victory over Spain.

The centre-back went to ground off the ball and was quickly withdrawn from the match, with United now confirming he sustained a groin injury.

A brief statement read: "Raphael Varane sustained a groin muscle injury in the Nations League final and has commenced rehabilitation at the club.

"He will be out for a few weeks."

It comes as a massive blow to United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ahead of a potentially pivotal few weeks.

While it is unclear exactly how many games Varane will miss, the central defender will be absent for a chunk of what looks set to be a gruelling run of matches.

United face Leicester City, Atalanta twice, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City all in the next four weeks.

After a rather erratic start to 2021-22 consisting of just five wins from 10 matches across all competitions, Solskjaer heads into the upcoming run under pressure.

To make matters worse, there was already uncertainty over the condition of captain – and Varane's regular centre-back partner – Harry Maguire, who missed the clashes with Villarreal and Everton due to a calf injury before the international break that prevented him from linking up with England.

Whether Maguire will be fit to face former club Leicester at the weekend is yet to be determined, meaning the rather haphazard Eric Bailly and the dislodged Victor Lindelof could form an unfamiliar partnership at the back.

Although United have come in for criticism so far this term, Varane's early form has largely been considered positive and he has performed an important function in getting the team on the front foot, with his 7.6 passes into the final third per 90 minutes the most among the club's defenders.

Kalidou Koulibaly says "it is a real shame" Senegal team-mate Edouard Mendy is not in the running to win this year's Ballon d'Or after an impressive first year at Chelsea.

Mendy joined Chelsea from Rennes last September and did not take long to oust Kepa Arrizabalaga as first choice between the sticks at Stamford Bridge.

He played a key part in the Blues' 2020-21 Champions League triumph, the 29-year-old's nine clean sheets the most by a goalkeeper in their debut campaign in the competition.

That includes a clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Manchester City in the final as Mendy became the first African goalkeeper to lift the famous trophy.

Mendy's 19 shutouts in all competitions this calendar year, meanwhile, has been bettered only by Manchester City's Ederson (20) among keepers in Europe's top five leagues.

He was not included on the 30-player Ballon d'Or shortlist last week, however, and Koulibaly has suggested that could be down to his nationality.

"It's a real shame that Edou isn't included. He is the first African goalkeeper to win the Champions League," Koulibaly told reporters while away on international duty with Senegal.

"We must continue to work and move forward. We have to do the double [the work] of some people to be well judged.

"Edou is a very positive person. We talked about it together. He will continue to fight to be part of it. For me, he has a place among these 30 players."

Gianluigi Donnarumma is the only goalkeeper in contention to win football's most prestigious individual accolade after helping Italy to Euro 2020 success.

The Paris Saint-Germain star's save percentage of 70.8 in 2021 is considerably lower than Mendy's 77.23 at club level when taking all competitions into account.

Indeed, only Keylor Navas – who Donnarumma is battling with for a starting spot at PSG – boasts a better save percentage (78.38) than Mendy among those to have played at least 15 times since January 1.

Napoli defender Koulibaly is also not part of the shortlist for the award, with Mohamed Salah and Riyad Mahrez the only African players selected.

Five of Mendy's Chelsea club-mates were included in the shortlist, however, with Mason Mount, Romelu Lukaku, Cesar Azpilicueta, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho nominated. 

Lionel Messi is still adapting to life in Paris after his switch from Barcelona to the French capital.

Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain in an astonishing free transfer after the Catalan giants' financial difficulties prevented him from signing a new, pre-agreed contract.

The 34-year-old has claimed several clubs were in contact, but his move to PSG was swiftly completed as he spearheaded a star-studded collection of arrivals at the Parc des Princes over the recent transfer window.

Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma also joined Messi in bolstering Mauricio Pochettino's squad, with Portugal full-back Nuno Mendes subsequently joining on loan late in August.

Messi has not exactly hit the ground running, however. He came agonisingly close to opening his PSG account in a Champions League match against Club Brugge when he struck the woodwork, before then hitting the crossbar with an outstanding free-kick against Lyon in Ligue 1 a few days later.

The Argentine forward was substituted off in that clash with Lyon, missing PSG's next two matches before returning to score a sublime goal against Manchester City in the Champions League, only to then play the full match in a 2-0 defeat at Rennes last Sunday.

While there is still no doubting Messi's stellar quality, he acknowledged he is feeling somewhat "lost" in Paris, as he continues to adapt to the city, culture and his new club.

"At the moment I have to admit that I am still a bit lost," Messi told France Football in an interview published on Saturday.

"It was very painful for me to leave Barcelona after all these years. I had made up my mind, and my family too, that I was going to end my career in Barcelona.

"I had the idea to sign my contract and resume training immediately. I thought that everything was settled and all that was missing was my signature.

"But, when I arrived in Barcelona, ​​I was told that it was no longer possible, that I could not stay and that I had to find myself another club, because Barca did not have the means to extend [my deal]."

However, Messi has no regrets over joining PSG, as he linked up with former Barca team-mate Neymar and France star Kylian Mbappe in a fearsome attacking unit.

"[I am] very happy to be here today," said Messi, who has once again been nominated for the Ballon d'Or, an award he has won a record six times.

"We were very motivated, we really wanted to come. PSG have a fantastic team, with which we can aspire to win lots of titles, which is my goal for the years to come.

"We have great individualities, but we still have to get to know each other well to form a team. This will perhaps avoid falling into certain traps, such as the one set last weekend by Rennes."

While Messi continues to adapt to Parisian life, his sons are seemingly finding the transition to be a smooth one.

"They go to school and learn [French] there," Messi said. "They pick up the words and remember them immediately. They are better than me at that!"

Liverpool have more chance of winning the Champions League than the Premier League, according to former Red Jose Enrique.

Jurgen Klopp's side found themselves in a tough European group, with Milan, Porto and Atletico Madrid standing between them and the knockout stages.

However, the Reds edged past Milan 3-2 before crushing Porto 5-1 – their fifth win in their last six away group-stage games – and sit top of Group B ahead of their double-header with Diego Simeone's side.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are the only side yet to lose in the Premier League this season and have recorded 15 points from their opening seven games – one fewer than leaders Chelsea.

But Jose Enrique, who was speaking exclusively to Stats Perform, sees a Champions League triumph as more probable than domestic success, given the struggles of some European heavyweights this campaign.

"We couldn't have had a better start in what is probably the hardest group in the Champions League and we are doing really well now," Jose Enrique said.

"We have everything on the right path to go through and it's a competition that maybe we have more of a chance.

"Paris Saint-Germain are underperforming, Barcelona are underperforming, Real Madrid are underperforming. So maybe it's a season that we can really go for the Champions League again.

"The Premier League is longer, we have a lot of games. In the Champions League, it depends on the injuries.

"If you ask me what title that I believe we can win, I will go more for the Champions League over the Premier League."

Liverpool twice squandered the lead in a 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Sunday, meaning they have failed to beat Pep Guardiola's men in six out of the last seven top-flight meetings.

Given City's embarrassment of riches, along with Thomas Tuchel's impressive Chelsea squad, Jose Enrique believes – against his best wishes – that squad depth could cost the Reds in the Premier League title race.

"I really hope it's Liverpool but if I'm honest with you, the problem with us is the lack of strength in the squad," Jose Enrique responded when asked who would win the league.

"I believe we [Liverpool] are missing players up front. Look, I know we have four players that can perform there with [Roberto] Firmino, [Diogo] Jota, [Mohamed] Salah and [Sadio] Mane, but you cannot just rely on them the whole season.

"We obviously have strength there but if one of them gets an injury we may very well be struggling there, you know that's reality.

"These kinds of teams like Chelsea and [Manchester] City, they do have it. The season is very long, we play Champions League, we play the two cups, it is not going to be easy.

"I hope it's Liverpool, but I don't know. I don't want to say another team to be honest! Let's say Chelsea."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has defended his decision to leave Donny van de Beek on the bench during Manchester United's dramatic 2-1 win over Villarreal in the Champions League.

The Dutch central midfielder was filmed throwing his chewing gum and having to be calmed down by team-mates as Fred and Jesse Lingard were chosen to come on with the scores tied at 1-1 and one minute of normal time remaining at Old Trafford.

The 24-year-old has played just 141 minutes of football this season after being denied the chance to leave the club in the most recent transfer window.

Solskjaer argues, however, that with a squad so stacked full of talent, it is impossible for him to keep everyone happy, and insists that he is satisfied with Van de Beek's professional conduct.

"You know, I manage a squad full of international footballers, competitive footballers who want to make a difference, who want to play," Solskjaer said to the media. "They all want to be on the pitch, of course they do.

"Donny was ready to come on, as all players should be. I've been a sub more than anyone in this club probably - I must have a record [for] appearances as a sub - and you have to be ready all the time. I've been not very happy a few times but that is the decision the manager makes.

"Alex [Telles] was coming off as a left-back and Fred did that job well. So I understand the frustration, of course, every player is keen to play, that's got to be built into energy and determination for when you get on and show me.

"It's not just Donny, I've got a squad of internationals and if we're going to be successful we need positive energy, no energy sappers or soakers.

"Donny has never affected his team-mates negatively. As soon as I see players affecting the team negatively then that's a different scenario and I'll probably be firmer."

United's next challenge is their upcoming fixture with Everton at Old Trafford on October 2.

Romelu Lukaku needs more support from his team-mates at Chelsea, according to former France international David Trezeguet.

Lukaku made the move back to Stamford Bridge in August for a club-record £97.5 million fee from Inter, having scored 24 goals in 36 Serie A games during the Nerazzurri's title-winning 2020-21 campaign.

The Belgium forward has scored four times in eight games across all competitions for the Blues, including the winner against Zenit in their Champions League opener.

His header against the Russian Premier League outfit made him just the second player to score for two English clubs on debut in the competition but Lukaku fired a blank in the following 1-0 loss to Juventus on Wednesday.

Former Bianconeri star Trezeguet believes Lukaku needs more help from his Chelsea colleagues if Thomas Tuchel's side are to get the best out of the 28-year-old.

"Lukaku has proved to be competitive, but the world changes without [Antonio] Conte," Trezeguet told Italian outlet La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Chelsea’s playing style is not as direct. I think he is a strong number nine, but he needs support from the team."

Federico Chiesa proved the thorn in Chelsea's side in their Group H clash, scoring the earliest second-half goal in the competition as he turned past Edouard Mendy just 10 seconds after the restart.

Operating up top for Massimiliano Allegri's team, Chiesa caused chaos and Trezeguet was impressed with the alternate option the Italy forward can provide Juventus.

"[He is] not a classic centre forward, that’s for sure," he continued.

"He loves spaces, he likes to start wide, he will never be a player like [Victor] Osimhen. For me, he is a winger or a support striker.

"Federico is having fun, even when he makes mistakes, he seems to have fun.

"He must learn how to manage himself during the game, move on the pitch and understand what his team-mates do. He'll get there."

Mohamed Salah is already a Liverpool legend and the Reds must tie the forward down to a new contract whatever the cost, according to Jamie Carragher.

Salah recently became the fastest Liverpool player to 100 top-flight goals, achieving the feat in 151 matches – one game fewer than the late, great Roger Hunt took to reach the landmark.

The Egypt forward also became the 30th different Premier League player to hit a century of goals since the competition began in 1992 as he poked in against Leeds United on September 12.

However, the 29-year-old's future remains in doubt, with his current contract due to expire in 2023 and no signs suggesting a new deal is imminently forthcoming.

Former Reds centre-back Carragher, who made more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, explained in the Telegraph how the situation with Salah needs to be resolved quickly.

"The heartfelt tributes to Roger Hunt following his passing are a reminder that the best footballers are often most appreciated long after they stop playing," Carragher wrote.

"Jurgen Klopp said recently you cannot be called a legend until after retirement. There is a tendency to hesitate before recognising true greatness when it is in front of us, and the bittersweet reality is that sometimes only in death is a player's legacy fully acknowledged. 

"Occasionally, we must take more pleasure from those in the modern era who are so freakishly good, they deserve to be spoken about as reverentially as the greats of the past.

"Mohamed Salah is such a footballer.

"There is no sign that [a new contract] is imminent. Worryingly, it is possible Salah will leave on a Bosman free transfer.

"It would be a serious mistake to let the situation drag on that far.

"I understand it is not as straightforward as saying 'just give the player what he wants' without thoroughly considering the financial consequences. The cash has to come from somewhere.

"It is well documented how Liverpool run their business, and they do not want to set precedents that will cause long-term financial damage by agreeing wages in excess of £400,000-a-week.

"My counter-argument is that exceptional players warrant being treated as an exception."

Indeed, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, Alisson, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk have all secured new long-term deals at Anfield.

But Salah remains in wait to seal a new contract with Jurgen Klopp's side and Carragher, who believes the former Roma and Chelsea forward has already achieved legendary status, implored Liverpool to complete negotiations.

"Klopp vowed captain Jordan Henderson's deal would 'get sorted' after a brief stalemate and it immediately was, yet says he is 'not involved' with Salah's negotiations," he continued.

"That seems odd. If there is a sound reason for not resolving the Salah contract situation with the same urgency, it is yet to be satisfactorily explained.

"Whenever we talk about Liverpool's renaissance, we often focus on the influence of Van Dijk and Alisson, taking the team to another level.

"That’s fair, but we should not forget that the foundations were in place because of the immediate impact of Salah, who was already on his way to scoring 44 goals in his first season when Van Dijk signed.

"Twenty-five years from now, fans will examine this era and consider how lucky they were to witness Salah’s goal feats. They will rewatch the videos and see his statistics with a sense of awe.

"I hope they will not look back and ask this: Why on earth did he leave before he had a chance to beat Roger Hunt’s record?"

Trepidation has been a common feeling among Manchester City fans when it comes to the adaptation of new signings under Pep Guardiola.

That's not necessarily down to doubts over the players generally, or Guardiola, but rather how those two factors will come together.

After all, it's been noted for a while now just how common it seems to be for Guardiola's signings to perhaps underwhelm in their first season at City, only to then kick on and really make an impact in their second season.

While it's hardly an exact science, numerous players fit into that category; Riyad Mahrez, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are certainly among them, and there's even a case to be made that Ferran Torres could qualify given he's made a solid start to 2021-22 after an up-and-down 2020-21.

Jack Grealish probably wouldn't have had too many supporters concerned, though you could argue the pressure on him to succeed straight away was far greater and that in itself might've been a burden.

Yet his transition from key man at Aston Villa to a similarly central figure has been impressively seamless.

If it ain't broken…

Much of the focus around Grealish's £100million move to City centred on where he would be deployed by Guardiola.

There were a lot of suggestions that he was actually set to be tried in more of a central position, perhaps with the idea being to make the most of his ball-carrying abilities.

While Grealish's name has seemingly been spotted in various starting positions on line-up graphics and the like, he's still unmistakably been more prominent out on the left flank – 73 per cent of his actions have been localised to the left side of the pitch in the opposition's half, up from 51 per cent at Villa last term.

Of course, at City he is in a team that spends more time on the front foot and in possession than Villa in 2020-21, so such an increase isn't exactly a surprise, but it does suggest Guardiola hasn't tried to make major changes just yet.

Instant influence

Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain was probably Grealish's trickiest game yet for City – as one might expect.

That's not to say he played especially poorly, as he did manage to record a couple of key passes, but generally he was frustrated. Achraf Hakimi's athleticism helped the Moroccan do a good job on Grealish, while referee Carlos del Cerro Grande was rarely sympathetic to the England international.

It wasn't a huge surprise when Guardiola opted to withdraw him with 22 minutes remaining, but despite that blip, there has been plenty to be optimistic about Grealish's settling-in period at City.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Grealish's trademark comfort on the ball has been a particular factor, and his start at City speaks to his own self-belief.

He's averaging 25 carries (defined as movements of at least five metres in possession) each game in the Premier League, more than any other player, while his total carry distance of 1,787.5 metres is second only to a man who seems to know no other skill, Adama Traore (1,844.5m).

His forays on the ball are helping to drive City forward as well, with Traore (55) and Allan Saint-Maximin (48) the only players to record more progressive carries of at least 10m. The one other City player with more than 34 is Aymeric Laporte.

Additionally, those carries have led to 11 goalscoring opportunities, with three ending in a shot by Grealish or eight leading to a key pass. Again, only five have been more effective with their end product when running with the ball.

To come into the champions' team and instantly become such an influence is an impressive feat in itself.

More than meets the eye

Of course, some might be tempted to point towards Grealish's rather modest return of two goal involvements (one goal, one assist) in six Premier League appearances this term, but that would be too reductive.

Having a solitary assist, for example, certainly doesn't tell the whole story. After all, his 2.9 chances created per 90 minutes is second only to Bruno Fernandes (3.0) in the league, while Grealish's 0.26 expected assists (xA) each game is bettered by just five players.

It's also worth pointing out his xA per 90 is greater than his assists per 90 (0.17), suggesting he's actually being let down by the finishing of his team-mates.

As for his goalscoring efforts, we all know Grealish is capable of the spectacular but his shot selection at City has seemingly been focused on ensuring maximum threat to the goalkeeper, with all but one coming from inside the box. With his shots averaging 0.12 xG as opposed to 0.09 last season, there's every reason to expect greater long-term results.

Furthermore, there is evidence to support the idea Grealish is slightly more involved in general build-up play as well, his open-play sequence involvement going up from 43.7 per 90 to 47.8 – though City do see more of the ball, so it is probably too soon to make any meaningful conclusions from that.

Nevertheless, it is another example of how Grealish has quickly become a key influencer in the City team. While those early reports of him literally playing a central role may not have quite come to fruition, he has at least in a figurative sense, with Rodri the sole City player involved in more sequences (53.8) each game than him.

It's already been a hectic period for City, given they've faced Chelsea and PSG in less than a week, and it will ramp up again with another big test in their attempts to become early runaway leaders when they face Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

The following day will be exactly a year on from Grealish's devastating display in Villa's 7-2 win over the Reds, during which he had a hand in five goals (three assists, two goals), a haul that has only ever been bettered twice in a single Premier League match.

While no one will be expecting quite an astonishing performance this time, it's at least evidence of what Grealish is capable of if Liverpool cannot keep him under wraps.

Bayern Munich CEO Oliver Kahn lauded Julian Nagelsmann's fast start to life at the German giants following their 5-0 Champions League rout of Dynamo Kiev.

Robert Lewandowski scored twice while Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting were also on target in Wednesday's crushing Group E victory.

Nagelsmann has now won nine of his first 10 games in all competitions since replacing Hansi Flick – the best start by a Bayern coach.

Bayern have kept five clean sheets across all competitions this season to top the Bundesliga and Group E, and former goalkeeper Kahn hailed their stability under highly rated boss Nagelsmann.

"I think it has happened very, very quickly and we can already see his handwriting," Kahn said of former RB Leipzig coach Nagelsmann.

"We conceded too many goals in the past two years. We weren't optimal defensively.

"Now we can keep clean sheets again, which is the basis for success.

"We already saw that against Barcelona. We could see his [Nagelsmann] handwriting, the quality that he has.

"He knows how to teach our players a few changes relatively quickly."

Bayern enjoyed their biggest home Champions League win since February 2018, when they humbled Turkish giants Besiktas 5-0 in the last 16.

Since losing 3-2 to Manchester City in December 2013, Bayern have only dropped two of a possible 66 points available at home in the Champions League group stages, winning 21 of their 22 matches (D1).

On Bayern's latest clean sheet, star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer told reporters: "I like that very much as a goalkeeper or as a defensive player, just like our defenders.

"I think it's also important for us as a team to be stable defensively. That's what we've been working on. And I think it's very important for all of us that we have a lot of games with a clean sheet.

"Then, of course, we gain confidence in our defending we and can show our opponents that we can defend really well."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri highlighted the importance of beating Chelsea after his underperforming side topped the Champions League holders to preserve their 100 per cent record in Group H.

Federico Chiesa scored the earliest second-half goal in Opta's Champions League records as Juve overcame Chelsea 1-0 in Turin on Wednesday.

Juve came into the blockbuster showdown with just two wins from their first six Serie A fixtures this season, though they did ease past Malmo in their Champions League opener.

It is only the fourth time Juve have won their first two matches of the Champions League group phase without conceding a single – the last two (this season and 2018-19) have been under Allegri.

Allegri revelled in the result as Juve continue to grow in his second stint at the Italian giants, having replaced Andrea Pirlo in the off-season.

"It was important to get the three points, this victory is a step forward to pass the group stage," Allegri told reporters.

"It is also important for the lads because they won against the European champions. This victory is good for all of us as it boosts the morale of the team.

"We played well against a very physical team; the team was very organised defensively. We did not concede much, we had also some chance and in some moments we could do better when managing the ball.

"This helps us understand that you also achieve big objectives through this kind of games."

Juve are unbeaten in their last four Champions League encounters against Chelsea (W2 D2), winning their last two without conceding.

The Bianconeri have won 12 of their last 13 Champions League group-stage games (L1), winning each of the last four without conceding a goal.

Allegri added: "There are no turns. It is a game that allows us to go to six points and certainly look at the champions with more optimism to try to go through. Then the championship is another thing.

"The team understood: because when you manage to have possession of the ball, to have dominion over the field, then we keep the ball. When you have an opponent who still does not allow it, it is normal that you have to adapt and you have to play a defensive game." 

Juve finished the match with just 26.9 per cent possession and passing accuracy of 74.6 per cent, while they mustered only one shot on target.

After nullifying Chelsea star Romelu Lukaku, Juve and Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci said: "I see it more as a game that should serve as a lesson. But as mentioned it was a bit of matches we were looking for that attitude that we had lost a bit in recent years and that had only been seen in fits and starts.

"It must be the demonstration, it must be an example, it must not be the exception. The mental intensity and the desire to be a team on every ball: that made the difference tonight because the qualities are there.

"Sometimes maybe we are technically wrong too much, but with this mentality, with this intensity that we had tonight, the victories in certain games come as a consequence."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed David de Gea as the "best goalkeeper in the world" following his heroics in the stunning Champions League win over Villarreal.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck in the 95th minute to lift United past Villarreal 2-1 in a last-gasp comeback at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

United were fortunate to be on level terms at half-time – De Gea producing a number of saves to thwart Villarreal in a rematch of last season's Europa League final.

Paco Alcacer did find a way past De Gea in the second half, but Alex Telles' sublime volley and Ronaldo's stoppage-time winner ensured United opened their Group F account following the club's matchday one defeat.

Following a difficult 2020-21 campaign, criticism in the wake of the Europa League final loss to Villarreal and doubts over his future after Dean Henderson's return to the Theatre of Dreams, Solskjaer lauded De Gea.

"A very difficult game against a very good team. First half, we had lots of possession, but they counter-attack really well, transition, attack quickly and created some big, big moments in the game," Solskjaer said during his post-match news conference.

"Thankfully, we had the best goalkeeper in the world tonight. David was fantastic and very happy with his performance. Second half. They had more of the ball. It was still open and they deserved to lead.

"But, you know, Old Trafford is magic, Champions League, Old Trafford, sometimes that history can help us. And tonight, Cristiano [Ronaldo], of course, came up with a good goal. And Alex [Telles] scored a fantastic goal."

On De Gea, who made six saves, Solskjaer added: "You are probably right that he had a difficult summer after that [final with Villarreal]. Of course, he went to the Euros, didn't play there, but he's really come back with a determination and work rate that I've enjoyed. And today he got this again.

"He got a deserved outcome because he's saved us. Tonight, we have to be realistic and say that without David, of course, we've got two very good keepers with Tom [Heaton] and Dean [Henderson], but today David deserves the man of the match."

United have lost only once in their last 13 home games in all European competition (W10 D2), with Ronaldo the first Red Devils player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Champions League since Marouane Fellaini against Young Boys in November 2018.

Ronaldo (36 years and 236 days) became the second oldest United player to score a goal in European competition at Old Trafford after Bryan Robson (36y 282d) against Galatasaray in 1993.

No player has scored more 90th-minute winning goals in Champions League history than Ronaldo (three) – level with Sergio Aguero.

It comes after United superstar Ronaldo, who made his 178th Champions League appearance, broke the record for most games played by a single player.

Diogo Dalot said: "When you add Cristiano to the team, it's always a plus. Like I said, many times, he's a fantastic player on and outside the pitch. He gives us energy. But we are a proper team.

"We give to Cristiano as well to help have these moments. Like we saw many times he can be very decisive until the end. But today was a team effort until the end. And we're so glad that Cristiano could score that goal at the end."

Cristiano Ronaldo repeated his desire to make history with Manchester United after his stoppage-time strike helped the Red Devils sneak past Villarreal 2-1 in the Champions League.

Paco Alcacer had given Villarreal a deserved lead at Old Trafford before Alex Telles' stunning volley preceded Ronaldo's 95th-minute winner in front of the Stretford End on Wednesday.

With the late strike, Ronaldo became the first United player to net a 90th-minute winner in the Champions League since Marouane Fellaini in November 2018.

And Ronaldo, who surpassed former Real Madrid team-mate Iker Casillas to become the Champions League's outright appearance holder in his 178th match, expressed his delight at being back in Manchester.

"Everything is open and we believe we can go through [the group]," five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo – who won the Champions League with United in 2008 – told BT Sport.

"This is why I came back because I miss this club, I made history here and I want to do it again.

"I have to say thank you not only from me but from all the team for pushing the team so far this season."

Ronaldo became United's second oldest scorer at home in European competition (36 years and 236 days) after Bryan Robson (36y 282d) against Galatasaray in 1993.

Ronaldo's late heroics also ended a run of four draws against Villarreal, who suffered their first defeat in 18 games – having won 12 and drawn five of their previous matches.

The win gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United their first win in Group F following the matchday one defeat at Young Boys.

United are due to meet leaders Atalanta in their next Champions League fixture on October 20.

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