Paul Pogba will not be a big loss to Manchester United should he leave, according to club great Paul Scholes.

Pogba announced at the end of the 2018-19 season that he wanted to depart Old Trafford, with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez recently confirming he tried to sign the France midfielder.

But a move failed to materialise and Pogba started the new Premier League campaign at United, though he is currently injured.

Scholes suggested the club may have asked Pogba to give them another year, similar to before Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed to join Madrid in 2009.

"I think it's quite clear he wants to move on," said Scholes, a 13-time Premier League winner during his career-long association with United.

"He wanted to go to Real Madrid, for whatever reason it didn't happen.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the same offer had been made like with Cristiano when he was at United.

"If they've asked him to stay for a year we'll see what happens, but I don't think he'll be a big loss to United.

"I don't think his form has been great anyway, over the two or three years he's been there. I'm sure there are more players who can do just as good a job."

United play their opening Europa League match against Astana on Thursday.

Pogba is expected to be sidelined by an ankle injury that caused him to miss international duty with World Cup winners France.

Victor Lindelof has signed a new long-term Manchester United contract, the club have confirmed.

Sweden defender Lindelof has committed his future to the club to 2024, with an option to extend the contract by a further year.

The centre-back joined from Benfica two years ago and has started all five Premier League games for United this term, forming a partnership with new signing Harry Maguire.

"Since the day I arrived at United it has felt like home," Lindelof told the club's official website.

"I have grown significantly both as a player and as a person in the last two years and for that I am grateful to everyone at the club for their help and support. I love playing football and my aim now is to help the team to win trophies and repay the fans for their unrivalled support.

"I know that everyone at the club shares this vision and will give everything to get Manchester United back to where it belongs.

"I'm still young and know I can improve further but with the help of the boss and his coaching staff, I believe that only good things are ahead for this great club."

The 25-year-old has made 74 appearances in all competitions for United, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer delighted to have secured the defender's future.

"Victor has established himself here and has become a very important part of our team," Solskjaer said. "He brings calmness on the pitch and I can see that he is determined to help this club and to be successful here.

"I'm extremely happy that he has committed his future to Manchester United. We're all looking forward to working together to deliver the success and get United back to where we know the club belongs."

Lindelof commits his future to United in the same week Spain goalkeeper David de Gea finally signed a new long-term contract at Old Trafford.

United begin their Europa League campaign at home to Astana on Thursday.

Virgil van Dijk says he is not in talks with Liverpool over a new contract.

Reports have suggested the Netherlands defender is close to signing a six-year deal at Anfield.

With Real Madrid and Barcelona said to be interested in the centre-back, fresh terms would see Van Dijk commit his long-term future to the European champions.

Van Dijk, though, has denied talks over a new contract are ongoing.

"There is nothing going on, so that's it," the 28-year-old told Sky Sports News.

Asked if he wanted a contract extension, Van Dijk added: "That's not on me. I saw some reports in the media that I was agreeing a new deal and stuff. But I'm not even discussing anything at the moment.

"The only thing I want to do right now is focus on the games and we'll see in the future what may happen."

Liverpool are five points clear atop the Premier League but lost the first game of their Champions League defence, going down 2-0 away to Napoli on Tuesday.

"Difficult night last night and disappointing result but we must put it behind us and now it's about how we react," Van Dijk wrote on Twitter.

"It's time to stand up, be positive and focus on putting in a big performance against Chelsea. Thanks to all of the travelling Reds who came out to support us."

Barcelona great Xavi believes Raheem Sterling is on course to emerge as the world's best player when Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo leave centre stage.

Manchester City star Sterling has started the new season in scintillating fashion, scoring eight times for club and country.

His goal return and overall effectiveness has markedly improved with Pep Guardiola's guidance and the 24-year-old is now one of the first players chosen for the Premier League champions.

Sterling won Europe's Golden Boy award in 2014 - given to the continent's brightest young talent - and Xavi thinks the England international is on course to replace Messi and Ronaldo at the front of the queue for further honours.

Xavi told The Mirror: "Messi is the best ever for me, and even though they're both still playing at a very high level, there will come the day not so long away when somebody else must step into those shoes.

"You look at young players who can be crowned the future best in the world and you still think of Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Mohamed] Salah and of course Sterling. I look at the moment and Sterling is winning that race.

"He's always been a good player, a dangerous player, but under Pep he [has] become one of the best in the world.

"I know how Pep works - he would have worked closely with him since his arrival - where he needs to improve and what he needed to work on.

"We're now seeing the results of that. He's still young and can be the world's best."

Barca captain Messi, 32, and Juventus forward Ronaldo, 34, have dominated the game's top awards for the past decade, winning the Ballon d'Or five times apiece since 2008.

One of the more interesting subplots of any Premier League season is the race for the Golden Boot.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah were joint recipients of the title last season after all finishing on 22 goals.

That figure could be comfortably exceeded this time around, with a number of familiar names – such as Aubameyang, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling – starting the campaign in prolific form.

They are joined at the top of the scoring charts by two players who excelled in the Championship last season: Tammy Abraham and Teemu Pukki.

Using Opta data, we take a closer look at the records of those five in the opening five games of the season and compare their stats from the same period in the 2018-19 campaign.  

 

SERGIO AGUERO (MANCHESTER CITY) - SEVEN GOALS

Aguero has started the season in blistering form and sits atop the scoring charts with Abraham on seven goals.

It is a marked improvement on his tally of three at the same stage last season; a period in which he played an additional 32 minutes.

It is little surprise that Aguero is finding the net regularly, given his superb record since joining City in 2011, but it is his ruthless efficiency this season that has caught the eye. The Argentina international's seven goals have come from just eight shots on target.

Aguero has been far from selfish so far this term, however, carving out seven chances for his team-mates; one of which has been dispatched.

TAMMY ABRAHAM (CHELSEA) - SEVEN GOALS

Chelsea's transfer ban might well have forced Frank Lampard to use Abraham more than he had planned, but the 21-year-old has well and truly taken his chance.

His electric beginning to the campaign is in contrast to a comparatively sluggish start to life on loan with Aston Villa in the Championship last season where he scored just twice in the club's opening five games.

He has played 80 minutes fewer in the top flight so far this season but has scored seven goals from just eight shots on target.

His hat-trick against Wolves at the weekend made him the third player in Premier League history to score two or more goals in three consecutive appearances aged 21 or younger.

TEEMU PUKKI (NORWICH CITY) - SIX GOALS

The Finland international has been one of the surprise packages of the season, plundering six goals for the newly promoted Canaries.

He scored a whopping 29 goals to help his side win promotion last season but started slowly, scoring just two goals in his first five appearances.

There has been no such slumber at the start of this campaign, however.

He took just three shots in his opening five games last season, but Daniel Farke's aggressive approach to life in the top flight has clearly benefited Pukki, who has already attempted 12 shots.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (ARSENAL) - FIVE GOALS

It is hardly a surprise that the Gunners striker is among the deadliest strikers so far this season.

Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (53) has been directly involved in more goals in the competition (37 goals and nine assists).

The bad news for defences across the country is that he might be getting even more prolific.

He scored just once in his opening five games last season, but his brace against Watford on Sunday means he already has five to his name this campaign. Given that start, it will not be a surprise to see him comfortably surpass last season's tally of 22 goals.

RAHEEM STERLING (MANCHESTER CITY) - FIVE GOALS

Sterling set his stall out this season with a hat-trick in City's resounding opening day victory over West Ham.

It marked the continuation of a stunning few seasons for the former Liverpool man, who is now firmly considered to be one of the Premier League's deadliest finishers.

With 49 touches in the opposition box already this season – 18 more than his nearest rival in the top five – it is hardly surprising that he has five goals to his name; two more than he had in the same period last term.

He has also been a consummate team player, laying on eight chances for his team-mates.

There could be a fight to prise Fabian Ruiz from Napoli.

Fabian has established himself as one of Europe's premier midfielders and the Spaniard is reportedly attracting interest.

Two LaLiga giants and the Champions League holders are said to be eyeing Fabian.

 

TOP STORY - THREE-WAY BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool are chasing Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to the Daily Mail.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and the Spain international has quickly become one of Europe's most sought-after midfielders.

Now three of the biggest clubs in the world are reportedly eyeing the 23-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports Manchester United are preparing a January move for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. The Red Devils have limited options up front following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Wilson, who has already scored three goals this season, fits the bill at Old Trafford as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes talented English players.

Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester City are all interested in Real Madrid playmaker Isco, claims Calciomercato.

Barcelona are set to offer 16-year-old sensation Ansu Fati a new five-year deal to fend off interest from European rivals, claims the Daily Mail.

- League One side Southend United want to hire former Celtic, Barca and Manchester United striker Henrik Larsson as their manager, says the Daily Mail. Southend are second bottom in the league after eight games, while Larsson was last in charge of Helsingborg before quitting in August.

- According to Globo Esporte, Flamengo are negotiating to bring Fredy Guarin to the club. The 33-year-old former Inter midfielder is a free agent after leaving Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

Jadon Sancho said he does not know what the future holds but the Borussia Dortmund star wants to win titles with the German side amid growing links to Manchester United.

Sancho has reportedly emerged as United's top transfer target following previous speculation over a move to Old Trafford during the off-season.

The 19-year-old England international produced another impressive display as Dortmund drew 0-0 with Barcelona in their Champions League opener on Tuesday.

Asked about his future post-game, Sancho told Viasport: "I can't tell the future. I just take it game by game. I just wanna give 100 per cent for Borussia Dortmund.

"I really wanna do well with Dortmund. Obviously I want to win titles and give everything."

Sancho has established himself as one of Europe's best talents after leaving Premier League champions Manchester City in 2017.

He scored 12 goals and supplied 14 assists as Dortmund finished runners-up to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga last season, while Sancho already has two goals and four league assists this term.

"It's crazy. Everything has come so fast," Sancho told Viasat. "But I have a great team. They keep me humbled. I just take it game by game and give 100 per cent."

Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc was asked about Sancho prior to the goalless draw against LaLiga champions Barca on Tuesday.

"We didn't talk to them [United]," Zorc told Viasport. "They were asking us for a meeting [during the off-season]. Sancho is not for sale."

David de Gea insists Manchester United's players have complete faith in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The Red Devils have endured a mixed start to the 2019-20 campaign but returned to winning ways on Saturday with a slender 1-0 victory over Leicester City.

De Gea – who signed a new deal at Old Trafford until June 2023 on Monday – has dismissed suggestions some in the United camp are unhappy with Solskjaer, stating his belief the Norwegian is the right man for the job.

"From the moment he arrived here, he showed his faith in me, right from minute one," the Spain international told the official Manchester United app. "I think he had a massive impact with the team. Everyone has faith in him, that's the most important thing.

"The fans are behind him and he's a manager who knows the club really well and the people who work here, and I reckon that is essential.

"He also shows a lot of confidence in the younger players, which is important for us, and so he's a really great manager."

While United have won just two of their opening five Premier League games, they do look more solid at the back following the arrivals of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

They have conceded four goals in those games and De Gea is pleased with the enhancements in defence.

"I think we have improved a lot defensively," he added. "We are conceding fewer goals than last season. I think that, last year, we were letting in too many goals, but we are defending better and, from there, the team is improving.

"Of course, when you defend well, the team is bound to improve. We have some great players up front and we just have to keep on improving.

"There are lots of things we can work on, so, little by little, we can try and build a very strong team, a team which can dominate games more and dictate the play and, with that, win games."

John Stones has been ruled out for a month with a muscle injury, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

City's defensive options had already been hit by Aymeric Laporte being ruled out for six months by a knee injury, while no replacement was signed for departed club captain Vincent Kompany.

That left Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as City's only senior centre-backs and the pair looked shaky last time out as the champions went down to their first Premier League defeat since January, losing 3-2 away to promoted Norwich City.

City will be further stretched for the upcoming period after Guardiola told reporters ahead of a Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk that Stones was injured in training on Tuesday.

"A month, four or five weeks," Guardiola said when asked how long Stones would be out.

Guardiola previously indicated full-back Kyle Walker and defensive midfielder Fernandinho - an unused substitute against the Canaries - could be options in the heart of City's defence.

The City boss said he could also turn to teenage duo Eric Garcia and Taylor Harwood-Bellis to address the growing injury crisis at the back.

"[It is a] Big challenge. For me as a manager, it's an incredible challenge: just one central defender in Nico," he added.

"But I believe a lot. People don't know the spirit and resolve to solve this problem. The players are going to come back with Fernandinho, Garcia, Harwood-Bellis.

"It's happened, but what we are not going to do is complain. If they are not able, they are not able. We have to have 11 players on the pitch, and I like it, finding a solution."

Stones will likely miss Premier League games against Watford, Everton and Wolves at least as well as an EFL Cup trip to Preston North End and a Champions League home game against Dinamo Zagreb.

City will also be without Phil Foden against Shakhtar, with Guardiola confirming: "He has a virus, a problem with the stomach. He's not able [to play] this game or I think the next."

John Stones has been ruled out for a month with a muscle injury, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

City's defensive options had already been hit by Aymeric Laporte being ruled out for six months by a knee injury, while no replacement was signed for departed club captain Vincent Kompany.

That left Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as City's only senior centre-backs and the pair looked shaky last time out as City went down to their first Premier League defeat since January, losing 3-2 away to promoted Norwich City.

City will be further stretched for the upcoming period after Guardiola told reporters ahead of a Champions League trip to Shakhtar Donetsk that Stones was injured in training on Tuesday.

"A month, four or five weeks," Guardiola said when asked how long Stones would be out.

Liverpool can cope with the pressure of being considered leading Champions League contenders, according to midfielder Fabinho.

The holders commence their trophy defence with a tough Group E fixture away to Napoli on Tuesday.

Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi scored as Jurgen Klopp's men edged Premier League rivals Tottenham in last season's final and secured the club a sixth European crown.

Liverpool had suffered heartbreak at the last hurdle 12 months earlier, losing to Real Madrid, but are now very much one of the teams to beat in Europe.

"[We are] one of the favourites, I think," Brazil international Fabinho told the club's official magazine.

"The reigning champion is always the favourite and given Liverpool's run of form over the last two competitions we must be considered one of the main contenders.

"But it doesn't put any additional pressure on us, we know how to deal with it, we know how to handle the pressure. It won't be a problem.

"The Champions League is the toughest competition in Europe with all the best teams involved. We'll do everything to qualify for the round of 16. It's a case of taking things step by step."

Liverpool enter the Napoli encounter at Stadio San Paolo fresh from a 3-1 defeat of Newcastle United in the Premier League.

The victory, along with Manchester City's shock loss to Norwich City, moved them five points clear at the summit.

The Reds claimed 97 points while juggling their Champions League run last term and Fabinho thinks competing on both fronts remains a realistic objective.

"It is possible, but it's very, very difficult, all the players have to be prepared and focused," he said.

"The team has shown that it is focused, has ambition and is prepared for this challenge."

Bernd Leno believes Arsenal must continue to take risks at the back despite that approach contributing to a disappointing collapse at Watford at the weekend.

The Gunners gave up a two-goal lead in an error-strewn second half to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

The most egregious gaffe was the misplaced pass from Sokratis Papastathopoulos that gifted Tom Cleverley a goal and the hosts a way back into the game.

Centre-back Sokratis attempted the pass from inside his own penalty area but goalkeeper Leno, signed last year in part for his ball-playing ability, does not think Arsenal should discard their tactics.

"That's our style to play," Leno told reporters.

"We try to take the risk because if we beat the press of Watford, then there is a lot of space for our strikers.

"In the first half we did it very well but in the second we didn't create too many chances from playing out from the back. It is still a process we have to work on. Everybody was angry and disappointed after this game.

"The manager is a very positive guy. He wants to be positive and he said we will analyse this game with time. Now everybody was with emotions, very mad and crazy.

"But that is normal after the game. He said 'calm down and then on Tuesday we analyse this game and then on Thursday we have another game'."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's quickfire brace had given Arsenal a comfortable buffer but David Luiz's late foul on Roberto Pereyra enabled the Watford winger to seal a share of the points from the spot.

Leno said: "It was very frustrating because we controlled the game but also in the first half, you could see that we made two easy mistakes and then at the end we conceded two goals from these kinds of mistakes and we were lucky we didn't lose this game.

"I think in the second half we completely lost the control of the game. The distance from the midfield to the strikers and all the distances from the players were too big.

"Watford deserved at least the draw."

Arsenal, now seventh in the Premier League, are winless in three games.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears set on his determination to bring young British talent to Manchester United.

There are four English names on the United manager's radar, apparently, as he looks to rebuild the team into a title-winning force once more.

The end of the season could potentially see a spend of a similar magnitude to the £150million, more or less, that he spent on Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James this year.

 

TOP STORY - MADDISON AND SANCHO TOP SOLSKJAER'S WISH LIST

As per ESPN, Manchester United will pursue deals for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho and Leicester City's James Maddison in 2020.

Manager Solskjaer is set on his policy of recruiting young, hungry British talent and remains keen on signing Sancho, who was reportedly a target this year.

United believe Leicester could sell Maddison for around £70m and are also interested in Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff, Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson and Stoke City's Nathan Collins.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona have been ordered by a judge to pay a €300 fine or play a match behind closed doors as part of Atletico Madrid's complaint against the transfer of Antoine Griezmann, Marca say. Atleti believe they are owed more than the €120m Barca paid to activate his release clause.

- The Daily Mail report Napoli are interested in Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard, a player they value at around €34m (£30.1m). 

- A handful of reports in Italy suggest Bernard Arnault, the billionaire owner of Louis Vuitton, is interested in buying Serie A giants AC Milan

- Back with Manchester United, and Calciomercato say JuventusInter, Milan and Borussia Dortmund are all keeping an eye on Nemanja Matic, who has grown frustrated at his reduced role in Solskjaer's plans.

West Ham survived the second-half dismissal of Arthur Masuaku to draw 0-0 with Aston Villa in a lifeless Premier League encounter on Monday.

With just three wins from their combined eight matches before the meeting at Villa Park, neither side looked especially threatening in a game of few opportunities.

Manuel Pellegrini's visitors were the stronger for the first hour but forced Villa goalkeeper Tom Heaton into only one save, and Masuaku's unfortunate second yellow card for a foul on Ahmed El Mohamady left them facing an uphill battle.

Wesley spurned a good opening in the first half but offered little threat in the closing stages as Villa chased a winner, with Jack Grealish wasting the best opening when he made a mess of Douglas Luiz's excellent cross.

Villa had penalty shouts waved away in injury time when Wesley tumbled to ground in a crowded box, before Tyrone Mings - who was earlier involved in an ugly argument with team-mate Anwar El Ghazi - was spared after a risky challenge on Ryan Fredericks as the full-back broke forward.

Dean Smith's side move onto four points from five games and are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference, while the Hammers are one of six teams in the top half on eight points.

Jurgen Klopp dismissed his agent's talk of the weather in Liverpool as a joke that had been misunderstood, clarifying he would not leave Merseyside simply for a warmer climate.

The Reds boss' future was brought up as friend and agent Marc Kosicke complained to DAZN of the gloomy weather during Liverpool winters, suggesting it had hindered contract talks in the past.

But Klopp, facing the media ahead of playing Napoli in the Champions League, sought to set the record straight.

While making repeated light-hearted comments about the temperature of the sweltering media room in Naples, Klopp explained: "He wanted to make a joke so I have to be serious.

"I could make a lot of jokes about the weather - especially sitting here sweating like crazy... I'm not sure I could work here.

"It was obviously the German humour and nobody got it. The weather was never a reason for me to choose a city.

"Liverpool is not always nice but, between March and September, it's nicer than I imagined. I came in October and you could say not to move to Liverpool in October because, until March, it's not too cool.

"It was a bit harsh and I spoke a lot about the weather, but it was long ago. Now, when I speak about the weather, I speak about the wind, which has an affect on football, but that is not allowed as well in England.

"It's not a reason for me to leave the country. I'm fine with the weather. Maybe, at the moment, it's the most healthy weather in the world - we have enough rain, wind is there, it's pretty much the opposite of this room.

"I enjoy that quite often. There's nothing in that story. Obviously it was a bump - he said something and they all went for it.

"He's not only my agent, he's my friend; friends say what they want and he did that and nobody got his joke. That's how it is."

Meanwhile, preparing for the first match of Liverpool's title defence, Klopp remained in jovial mood as it was put to him that his side might be the best in Europe.

Laughing as he heard the question, the manager said: "We cannot be the best team in Europe as Man City are the best team in the world. That's the same planet, I heard.

"There are a lot of good teams out there and you have to prove it constantly. Last year, we were really good. I'm not sure we were the best team in Europe, but we were really good at the right moments. That's why we won the Champions League."

Captain Jordan Henderson similarly was not interested in talk of being considered favourites for the Champions League.

"It's too early to be saying stuff like that," he said. "We have started the season really well and just want to continue that.

"We still feel we can improve and get better - that's what we will try to do tomorrow night. We will try to give everything and start the campaign off really well."

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