EPL

'We stand United!' - Ronaldo's message as Man Utd scotch disunity claims with Leeds win

By Sports Desk February 20, 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo sent a pointed "We stand United!" message after helping Ralf Rangnick's Red Devils score a dramatic 4-2 win over old foes Leeds.

The Elland Road victory for Manchester United came at the end of a week when the unity within Rangnick's dressing room has been called into question.

Suggestions of leaks from players to the press have seen criticism aimed at United stars, while it was even claimed Ronaldo and Harry Maguire are in a power struggle over the captaincy.

Interim head coach Rangnick shot down reports he was considering a mid-season change of skipper, saying defender Maguire would keep the job for the rest of the season. The German is in no position to make a longer-term pledge, given he is due to make way for a permanent boss once the campaign ends.

Maguire has also scoffed at the suggestion of such bickering in the squad. It was defender Maguire who headed United ahead in Sunday's Premier League clash in Leeds, while he also won all five of his duels.

Ronaldo was substituted with five minutes remaining, and there was no discontent from the Portuguese at that decision, when in the past he has at times taken issue with being replaced.

The victory strengthens United's hold on fourth place, and Ronaldo later declared: "Very important Premier League win before we change our focus to the Champions League and head to Madrid. Back on track! We stand United!"

The 37-year-old forward sent that message to his social media followers, who number 404 million on Instagram and 97.5 million on Twitter.

Ronaldo was not the only United player to celebrate with fans, as goalkeeper David de Gea told the United faithful in an Instagram post: "I guess you enjoyed as much as I did."

Winger Jadon Sancho also reacted, declaring: "A game we had to win. We delivered together as a team. Have a nice evening Reds."

Midfield general Paul Pogba savoured the occasion, and United's attitude to being pegged back from 2-0 to 2-2, writing: "It's not over until it's over. Great team spirit today, massive three points."

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  • Slovenia 1-1 Serbia: Jovic denies Dragons historic win with final kick Slovenia 1-1 Serbia: Jovic denies Dragons historic win with final kick

    Luka Jovic's last-second header denied Slovenia a first-ever win at the Euros as Serbia snatched a 1-1 draw in Munich on Thursday.

    It looked like the Dragons were going to hold out for a victory after Zan Karnicnik's strike, but Serbia's last push for an equaliser eventually proved fruitful.

    After a bright start, Slovenia came closest to taking the lead when Timi Max Elsnik struck the post with a powerful shot before Benjamin Sesko lifted the rebound over the bar.

    Aleksandar Mitrovic endured a frustrating game, being denied by two big saves from Jan Oblak either side of half-time after the goalkeeper had previously kept out Dusan Vlahovic's glancing header.

    Karnicnik eventually took matters into his own hands, starting his run at right-back before switching it out to Elsnik, continuing his run to scuff a volley past Predrag Rajkovic from close range.

    Mitrovic had the golden chance to equalise for Serbia just moments later, meeting a cross on the half-volley, but the slightest of touches from the Slovenia goalscorer sent his effort against the bar.

    In the dying seconds of the game, Serbia won another corner, and this time, Jovic rose highest inside a crowded six-yard box to thump a header past Oblak for a valuable late equaliser in Group C. 

    Data Debrief: Impact sub Jovic to the rescue

    Jovic came off the bench in the 64th minute and only managed seven touches in the game. He will not care though, as the one that counted got the winner.

    His goal is the latest result-altering goal in a Euros match of all-time (exlcuding extra time), with his equaliser timed at exactly 95 minutes.

    Slovenia have scored six goals at the European Championships, with Karnicnik's strike their fourth against Serbia/Yugoslavia in the competition. Indeed, the Dragons have only ever taken the lead twice in a Euros game, and both times it has been against Serbia/Yugoslavia (also in 2000 in a 3-3 draw).

  • Turkiye v Portugal: Resilience and belief crucial for Selecao, says Martinez Turkiye v Portugal: Resilience and belief crucial for Selecao, says Martinez

    Roberto Martinez praised Portugal's resilience in their Euro 2024 opener against Czechia, and believes that will be key to beating a confident Turkiye side. 

    For both, it was their rising stars who took centre stage during matchday one in Group F, as substitute Francisco Conceicao spared Selecao's blushes with an injury-time winner against Ivan Hasek's side. 

    Earlier that day, it was Real Madrid's Arda Guler who helped Turkiye beat a tough Georgia display, scoring an exceptional goal to earn his nation their first opening day win at the tournament at the sixth attempt. 

    Portugal came from a goal behind to ensure their victory, but decisions will be made on who starts up front, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to score on his landmark European Championship appearance. 

    The veteran forward has never scored against Turkey, despite playing three matches against them. Only against Albania has he ever played more matches (four) without finding the back of the net for his country. 

    Martinez's side won a game from a losing position for the first time under his stewardship and is hopeful his squad can show the same personality against Turkiye in Dortmund.

    "Today it's not about assessing this game from the technical or tactical point of view," said the head coach.

    "We won because we showed resilience, willpower and belief. It's the first time we've come from behind to win [under my tenure]. We believed, we showed incredible personality.

    "It's a game where we had 13 corners; the Czech Republic had none. If we scored early we could have won by three or four goals. The atmosphere was incredible. Our fans did not deserve to lose this game.

    "Nuno Mendes in a back three? He has the physical attributes to play in a three-man defence. It's important to have symmetry in the middle block. The Czech Republic are a physical team. The important thing is not the starting eleven, but how the game ends. We showed we had prepared well."

    Meanwhile, Turkiye head coach Vincenzo Montella celebrated his 50th birthday in style at the Westfalenstadion, 

    While the Italian was keen to enjoy the moment of Turkiye's landmark success, his attention quickly turned to the task of facing Portugal, a side they have only won two of their nine matches against (L7), with their last triumph coming in an international friendly in 2012. 

    "Our dreams were very much focused on this match," Montella told reporters following that game. "We managed to win [our first game of the tournament] for the first time, so there will be a lot of first times."

    A victory would secure qualification to the knockout stages of the competition for Montella's side, and when asked about his chances against the Selcao's star-studded line-up he said: "Then more dreams will emerge."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Turkiye - Hakan Calhanoglu

    While the praise for Turkiye's young stars was warranted, it overshadowed the impressive display of Calhanoglu at the heart of their midfield against Georgia.

    The Inter man completed 88 passes against Georgia last time out, the most by a Türkiye player in a European Championship game, with a passing accuracy of 92.6 per cent. 

    Portugal – Vitinha

    Another midfield maestro had yet another impressive display in their Group F opener, with Vitinha completing more passes under high-intensity pressure (59) than any other player in the opening round of games at Euro 2024.

    Only Toni Kroos (30) made more line-breaking passes than the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder on MD1 (21). 

    MATCH PREDICTION – PORTUGAL WIN

    While Selecao were not at their dazzling best in their Group F opener, they ultimately found a way to win, and that is what title-winning teams always manage to do. 

    And Portugal has often got the better of their opponents when they have squared off at the European Championships. Portugal have won all three of their previous encounters in the tournament, without conceding a single goal.

    Martinez's side are also the only team to reach the knockout stages of the Euros at each of the last seven editions, having only lost one of their last nine group stage games at the tournament (W4 D4), with that defeat coming against Germany in 2021. 

    But Turkiye proved in their opener against Georgia they are not here just to take part, and will be looking to win their first two games at a major tournament for the first time in their history. 

    Montella will be keen to continue his 50th birthday celebrations when he returns to Dortmund on Saturday, with the possibility of equalling their most victories in a single edition of the European Championship (two in 2008). They have only managed more at a major tournament in the 2002 World Cup (four).

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Turkiye - 17.8%

    Draw - 20.3%

    Portugal - 62%

  • Euro 2024 data dive: Records for Guler, Ronaldo and Pepe as Group F begins with a bang Euro 2024 data dive: Records for Guler, Ronaldo and Pepe as Group F begins with a bang

    The first matchdays of each group at Euro 2024 are now over, after the final pool got started in style on Tuesday.

    First, Turkiye and Georgia served up an unlikely classic in Dortmund, before Portugal beat Czechia 2-1 in Leipzig.

    Records were broken in each of those matches, with Arda Guler and Cristiano Ronaldo making history.

    But what other stats standout from Group F's two opening games?

    Turkiye 3-1 Georgia: Guler breaks Ronaldo record

    In Kenan Yildiz (19y 45d) and Guler (19y 114d), Turkiye became just the second nation at the European Championship to start two different teenagers in a game, after Hungary against Denmark in 1964 (Zoltan Varga and Ferenc Bene).

    And Guler, who was on the fringes at Real Madrid in 2023-24, showcased his immense potential with a superb all-round performance, capped off with a stunning, record-breaking strike.

    He is the youngest player in the tournament's history to score on their first appearance, and just the third teenager to do so, after Ronaldo for Portugal against Greece in 2004 and Ferenc Bene for Hungary against Spain in 1964.

    Indeed, Ronaldo was the previous holder of the record, having netted on his debut at Euro 2004. 

    As well as scoring, Guler also became just the third teenager on record to create as many as five chances in a single game at the European Championship finals (since 1980), along with Wayne Rooney against Croatia in 2004 (18y 241d) and Pedri against Switzerland in 2021 (18y 219d).

    Guler's screamer followed on from Mert Muldur's excellent volley, which was just his second international goal, and paved the way for substitute Kerem Akturkoglu to round out a 3-1 victory, but only after Georgia had hit the woodwork twice and seen an effort cleared off the line in what was a thrilling contest.

    Georges Mikautadze made history with his first-half equaliser, bringing up Georgia's first goal at a major tournament, in their first such appearance.

    Turkiye won a Euros opener for the first time, having lost each of their previous five such games, while they have won four of their six encounters with Georgia in all competitions (D1 L1), with this their first win in a competitive game against them since a 5-2 victory in a World Cup qualifier in March 2005.

    Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Records up for Ronaldo and Pepe

    Pepe (41y 113d) and Ronaldo (39y 134d) both started for Portugal, and in the process became the two oldest outfield players to ever appear at the Euros.

    Age truly is just a number for the gnarly Pepe, though. The defender won possession more times than any other player across matchday one (11).

    Ronaldo also became the first player to feature in as many as six different editions of the European Championship finals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2024).

    He could not get on the scoresheet to mark the occasion, though he did see a header rebound off the post before being tucked in by Diogo Jota. However, Ronaldo had strayed offside in the build-up and the would-be winner was ruled out.

     

    Portugal went behind to Lukas Provod's blistering opener, which was the 11th goal scored from outside the box at Euro 2024. That is now just one fewer than in the whole of the group stage at Euro 2020.

    That goal came after Portugal had dominated proceedings. In fact, Roberto Martinez's completed 368 passes in the first half of this match, their most in a single half of football at the European Championship finals on record (since 1980).

    However, this was the first match of Euro 2024 so far to be goalless at half-time, and that dominance counted for nothing until Nuno Mendes' header forced an own goal from 
    Robin Hranac.

    The impressive Vitinha supplied the cross that was met by Mendes. Vitinha made 20 line-breaking passes against Czechia, with only Germany’s Toni Kroos (30 v Scotland) making more across the first round of group stage games.

    Francisco Conceicao proved to be Portugal's hero. He scored just 111 seconds after coming off the bench, becoming the first Portugal player to score as a substitute at the Euros  since Eder in the 2016 final against France.

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