Rumour Has It: Man Utd job priority for Conte, Serie A duo eye Vlahovic

By Sports Desk October 25, 2021

What does the future hold for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer?

His position as Manchester United manager is becoming more uncertain after an embarrassing loss to Liverpool.

A former Premier League-winning boss, Antonio Conte, is believed to be waiting in the wings.

 

TOP STORY – CONTE EYEING UNITED ROLE?

The Manchester United job would be a priority for Antonio Conte should the Red Devils part with embattled manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Sportitalia journalist Gianluigi Longari.

Solskjaer is facing fierce criticism following Sunday's humiliating 5-0 defeat to Premier League rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Former Inter and Chelsea boss Conte has been linked with Newcastle United following talk of a pre-season move to Tottenham, while the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag and Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino could reportedly be considered for the United role.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is in talks with Manchester City, Tottenham and Juventus, per Gianluca Di Marzio. The Germany international is available on a free transfer at season's end amid reported interest from Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Marcelo wants to leave Madrid for Fluminense in 2022, claims El Nacional. Marcelo is out of contract at the end of the season.

- El Nacional says Barcelona have decided to sell United States international Sergino Dest. The 20-year-old has struggled for form at Camp Nou and he has been linked with Bayern.

Inter and Juve both identified Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic and Sampdoria's Mikkel Damsgaard, per Calciomercato. Vlahovic has also been linked with City, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

- Calciomercato claims Serie A high-flyers Milan are eyeing Brest midfielder Romain Faivre.

 

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  • Tuchel expresses admiration for Barca outcast Dembele Tuchel expresses admiration for Barca outcast Dembele

    Thomas Tuchel has spoken of his admiration for Ousmane Dembele amid reports the Barcelona outcast could be a transfer target for Chelsea.

    Dembele looks to be on his way out of Barca due to a contract stand-off that has turned sour.

    The France winger warned the Catalan giants that he would not be "giving in to any blackmail" after Barca director Mateu Alemany ordered him to find a new club "immediately".

    Dembele is only under contract with the Blaugrana until the end of the season and Alemany declared he expects the 24-year-old to move on before the transfer window closes at the of this month as "we want to have players committed to the project."

    Tuchel saw Dembele's talent first-hand when he played under the Blues boss at Borussia Dortmund in the 2016-17 season before the former Rennes man joined Barca for an initial fee of €105million.

     

    The Barca contract rebel's chances created per game average of 2.36 this season is better than any of the Chelsea squad who can play in the same position, while his dribbles completed (6.69) also compares favourably.

    Dembele has also had more shots per game (4.46) and made more crosses from open play (6.69) than the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic.

    And while Tuchel stopped short of declaring his interest in his former player, the Chelsea head coach is well aware of what he is capable of.

    "He is a very good player when he is at his top level," Tuchel said. "I am very fortunate to have trained him in my time at Dortmund.

    "It was only one year; it should have been longer. I needed to leave and he decided to leave. From there we are not in closest contact.

    "We met here and there because of his duties for the French national team and of course I was in Paris so this was more or less when they were preparing for national duties."

    Chelsea face a big Premier League derby with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

  • Ronaldo neck injury leaves Man Utd with striker shortage for West Ham clash Ronaldo neck injury leaves Man Utd with striker shortage for West Ham clash

    Cristiano Ronaldo has emerged as an injury doubt for the Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham on Saturday.

    The Portugal star played 71 minutes of the 3-1 win at Brentford on Wednesday before being substituted - a decision with which he was clearly annoyed.

    Interim manager Ralf Rangnick insisted he had no problem with the player becoming frustrated at going off and that it would not affect his chances of facing the Hammers at Old Trafford.

    However, Rangnick later confirmed Ronaldo suffered a neck injury during the victory over Brentford that could keep him out of the game.

    "Cristiano is a question mark because he has a problem with his neck," he said to MUTV on Friday.

    "He received treatment yesterday [Thursday] for two, three hours and we will have to wait to see how he feels today."

    Edinson Cavani missed the match at Brentford Community Stadium and he too is facing a race to be fit for the visit of David Moyes' men.

    "Edi hasn't been training with the team yet and will hopefully resume training today and then we'll take the final decision after the training session, [around] if he will be available for the game," Rangnick said.

    Losing Ronaldo and Cavani presents United with a possible striker shortage given Anthony Martial is attempting to secure a move away from the club.

    Rangnick left Martial out of the 2-2 draw at Aston Villa, saying the France international had told him he did not want to be involved – a claim Martial later disputed.

    Jesse Lingard will be available to face the club for whom he excelled on loan last season, while Jadon Sancho, who missed the Brentford match due to a family funeral, could be involved.

    "We need to see where Jadon stands," said Rangnick. "He didn't train yesterday. As you know, he attended a funeral on Wednesday and didn't want to train yesterday as he is still affected by that. We will have to see.

    "I will see him for training today and speak with him after the training session, to see if he is in the state of mind, and also his energy [is there], so he can be available for tomorrow."

    Aaron Wan-Bissaka will also be missing again with illness, while Victor Lindelof will sit out the game after a burglary of his family home, but midfielder Scott McTominay hopes to be involved after battling a back problem.

  • Guardiola doubles down on Ward-Prowse wizardry: 'He's the best free-kick taker in the world' Guardiola doubles down on Ward-Prowse wizardry: 'He's the best free-kick taker in the world'

    Pep Guardiola reiterated his admiration for the free-kicks of James Ward-Prowse, insisting the Southampton midfielder is the world's best over dead balls.

    The Manchester City manager described Ward-Prowse as the best free-kick-taker he had ever seen in December 2020 after his side won 1-0 at St Mary's Stadium.

    The England international scored a spectacular long-range goal in the 3-1 loss to Wolves last week that took him to 12 goals from direct free-kicks in the Premier League, a tally bettered only by David Beckham (18) in the history of the competition.

    Since the start of 2012-13, Ward-Prowse's first in England's top flight, only Hakan Calhanoglu (14), Miralem Pjanic (15) and Lionel Messi (33) have scored more often directly from set-pieces. His 12 goals have come from just 90 attempts, though, giving him a 13.3 per cent conversion rate, a figure only bettered by Paulo Dybala (13.5 per cent) among players to score at least 10 such goals in that time.

    Ward-Prowse's repertoire goes beyond spectacular goals, though: he has created 224 chances from set-pieces over the past 10 seasons, providing 19 assists, numbers only beaten by Calhanoglu and Dani Parejo in Europe's top leagues.

    Ahead of Saturday's match on England's south coast, Guardiola again drew attention to the threat the 27-year-old poses.

    "He is the best taker I have ever seen, right now in the world," he said. "No player is a better taker than Ward-Prowse.

    "He is so good, maybe we miss a little bit this quality of a football player: a guy who adapts in the same position, a team player, great quality without the ball, with the ball, understanding the game.

    "Set-pieces and corners are exceptional. We need to pay more attention."

    Beating Southampton away on the final day of the 2017-18 season saw City win their first Premier League title under Guardiola and become the first side in England's top tier to score 100 points in a single season.

    Their latest visit offers the chance of another moment of history, as a draw will see Guardiola reach 500 points since he took charge in 2016. City have already accrued at least 38 more than any other team in the competition in that time, and 108 more than Manchester United.

    However, when asked about the milestone, Guardiola said: "I'm not thinking of this when it hasn't happened. It will happen sooner or later. Southampton.

    "We struggled in the first game last season when we played there. When we played home, we won, but we struggle in the actions. Southampton are a tough team. A real tough team."

    Guardiola, who confirmed Riyad Mahrez has been given a week off after Algeria exited the Africa Cup of Nations, has seen his side build up an 11-point lead at the top of the table with one game to go until the Premier League takes a two-week break.

    He said there will be no warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi during that interval due to concerns around coronavirus.

    "We spoke with the club and it’s not safe to go all together with the virus," he said. "Instead, we decided everyone to go for themselves with family and friends."

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