Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will look to rekindle the old magic when he features in Manchester United's reunion match against Bayern Munich to celebrate 20 years since the club's treble-winning campaign.

The Norwegian famously scored a last-gasp winner at Camp Nou as United rounded off a landmark season in memorable fashion, beating the Bavarian giants 2-1 in the Champions League final after being a goal down heading into injury time. 

In May, Old Trafford will host a clash between Manchester United Legends – featuring many of the stars from that 1998-99 vintage – and their Bayern counterparts, with new full-time Red Devils boss Solskjaer joining the likes of David Beckham, Peter Schmeichel and Teddy Sheringham in the home squad.

With Solskjaer having only been brought on inside the final 10 minutes of the match in Barcelona two decades ago, he is hoping to be named from the start as Alex Ferguson returns to the dugout. 

"I am delighted to be part of this very special reunion," said Solskjaer, who signed a three-year deal on Thursday. "Over the coming weeks, I will be training hard to make sure the boss has me in the starting 11 this time around!

"In all seriousness, it will be a great match and a chance to catch up with some old team-mates, whilst raising vital funds for our foundation."

Manchester United's decision to hire Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their manager on a permanent basis surprised few when it was announced on Thursday, as the Norwegian got his just reward for a brilliant spell as caretaker boss.

Given fan perception of Solskjaer's interim reign, the announcement seemed a formality – it was only a question of when it would come, rather than if.

Much has changed in the three months since Solskjaer replaced the dishevelled, joyless and tiresome Jose Mourinho, under whom United's top-four chances were increasingly bleak.

United are now in the Champions League quarter-finals, just three points adrift of third place in the Premier League and the form team in the top flight, having collected 32 points under Solskjaer. However, they need more than just their new boss to enjoy long-term success.

 

Players meeting expectations, but one problem lurks

On top of United's general improvement, there can be little doubt that the former striker has got the best out of United's key players, with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba all in exceptional form.

From a coaching perspective, United are clearly moving in the right direction, with Solskjaer's ideals in line with the club's.

But until the structure of the club is finally brought out of the dark ages, they will be working with a handicap.

When Mourinho was dismissed in December, strong reports suggested United planned to install a new "head of football" by the end of the season, and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward confirmed last month it was something they were exploring, despite everything going a rather quiet on that front.

That poses the question; who has been making the so-called "football decisions" in years gone by?

 

"A commercial club, not a football club"

Former manager Louis van Gaal shed light on the structure of United's football operations in a recent interview with the BBC.

He said: "At the moment there is a structure with a scouting division and above that is someone at Woodward's right hand. The structure is not so bad, but the right hand has to be a technical director with a football view, not somebody with a banker's role. Unfortunately, we are talking about a commercial club, not a football club."

A reported confidentiality agreement has restricted Mourinho from saying a great deal about United since his departure, though his time at the club was fraught with speculation suggesting friction with those above him when it came to transfers, supporting Van Gaal's comments.

Woodward may have done exceptional things for United commercially, but he does not have a background in a technical role at football club.

 

No obvious transfer policy

A glance at United's player incomings over the last few years gives no indication of them having even a semblance of a specific transfer policy.

Although a few younger players – such as Romelu Lukaku, Fred and Victor Lindelof – have been brought in, so have Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Matic and Alexis Sanchez.

The latter three were approaching 30 or beyond that when signed, while Sanchez's signing smacked of wanting to flex their financial muscle and outdo Manchester City.

It is a scattergun approach which shows limited forward-thinking. Alex Ferguson was no stranger to bringing in experienced players, but rarely could you accuse him or United of planning poorly in that era.

 

Is it any wonder David Moyes, Van Gaal and Mourinho all failed?

While results have generally been excellent for Solskjaer, it is important not to forget that Mourinho led United to second in the table last season before everything fell apart. Without a structure to help the manager, a club is relying on ingenuity or putting blind faith in money.

Bayern Munich are a prime example of a club working to a transfer policy and carrying it out with impressive efficiency. It's not even April, yet they have already secured transfers for Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez, half of the back four that won France the World Cup last year.

When the initial feel-good factor surrounding Solskjaer's appointment dies down, there's undoubtedly a risk of United heading into the close-season transfer window in an identical position to last year, just with a manager who – for now – smiles more.

Niko Kovac confirmed Lucas Hernandez has undergone a successful surgery on his knee injury and should be fit for the start of the 2019-20 season.

The France defender, who can play at left-back or centre-back, was announced as an €80million signing from Atletico Madrid on Wednesday after Bayern triggered his buyout clause to smash the Bundesliga's transfer record.

Lucas will not play again for the LaLiga side as he went under the knife to resolve damage to the medial collateral ligament of his right knee.

The 23-year-old will undergo rehabilitation in Germany under the watch of chief medical officer Dr Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt but Kovac cannot guarantee Lucas will be ready for pre-season.

"Dr Muller-Wohlfahrt is in contact with the surgeon," Kovac told a news conference on Thursday.

"And if everything goes well, then he should be fit for matchday one. That does not mean that he will inevitably be [ready] on the first day of training.

"He is a world champion and is young, he can take many different positions, he will certainly strengthen us.

"He was operated on yesterday, that sounds weird, but our doctors thought that the surgery was very, very good.

"He will do the rehab under the supervision of our physios and in consultation with Atletico here in Munich."

Bayern, clear of Borussia Dortmund on goal difference, will be without wingers Alphonso Davies and Arjen Robben for Saturday's trip to Freiburg.

Robben is set to leave Bayern at the end of the season and Kovac is unclear when the 35-year-old could return.

"It's difficult, I tried once to name a date, but I was wrong, so I cannot say it," Kovac said of the Dutch winger. 

"Because at the moment he does not feel that he can participate in team training, or even play games.

"We still have eight Bundesliga games and could play three cup games, I would like him to be able to play not just one or two, but also several games.

"Everything depends on health and you cannot always control everything."

Bayern Munich will splash out a Bundesliga-record €80million on Lucas Hernandez after agreeing a deal with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Lucas is to join Benjamin Pavard in moving to Bayern for the start of next season as the Bavarian giants look to improve on a disappointing 2018-19 season under Niko Kovac.

But having spent such a huge amount on the Atleti star - almost double the previous league record - what are Bayern getting for their money?

With the help of Opta data, we take a look at how France international Lucas compares statistically to Europe's other elite defenders.

 

GOALS CONCEDED

Lucas has played just 14 times in LaLiga this season, yet his tally of only eight goals conceded is still mightily impressive. New Bayern team-mates Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng have played 15 and 17 times respectively this term, conceding 14 and 15 goals.

With the France international on the field, Atleti have conceded 0.57 goals per game. Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk has been on the pitch for 0.58 goals per game.

 

TACKLES

Lucas averages a huge amount of tackles compared to his peers, making 35 in total this season - or 2.5 per game.

That figure is more than double the number per match from Hummels (1.2), Boateng (1.12) or Van Dijk (1.06). Leonardo Bonucci averages only 0.59 and Thiago Silva just 0.68, although Milan Skriniar is a little closer with 2.0.

PASSES

One area in which Lucas might need some time to adapt is in how Bayern's defenders work on the ball. Playing for the pragmatic Diego Simeone at Atleti, the 23-year-old plays just 36.36 passes per match. Team-mate Diego Godin averages 33.86.

Unsurprisingly, those at other elite clubs make far more. Aymeric Laporte plays a massive 85.67, with Silva on 80.27 and Van Dijk on 79.68. Bayern pair Hummels (82) and Boateng (78.24) are also among the most prolific passers.

 

ERRORS

What cannot be questioned is Lucas' reliability at the back. He might have made only 14 league appearances in 2018-19, but he has not made a single error leading to a shot. The same is true of Boateng and Skriniar.

Van Dijk has made one, while Gerard Pique has been guilty of a concerning five.

Lothar Matthaus backed Bayern Munich's spending ahead of next season and thinks it can stop the Bundesliga giants slipping further behind the rest of Europe's elite.

Bayern on Wednesday announced Lucas Hernandez will arrive from Atletico Madrid for a fee of €80million at the end of the season, while the club in January shelled out a reported €35m to secure the signature of Benjamin Pavard from the 2019-20 campaign.

The Bavarian side have won six consecutive Bundesliga titles but are being pushed harder by Borussia Dortmund this term, while Niko Kovac's men were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool at the last-16 stage.

Bayern were outclassed in a 3-1 loss at home to the Reds on March 13 and club great Matthaus identified a clear gap between the teams.

However, he feels Bayern moving for a pair of World Cup-winning defenders represents a step in the right direction.

"I believe it is right to invest in players who can make the difference," he said. "Bayern failed to get this quality in the transfer market before this season.

"They realised against Liverpool that they need to invest. That's why I think it's right that the club is now spending money to get new, high-quality players to compete internationally with the big English, Spanish and Italian clubs."

Despite the supposed limitations of the class of 2018-19, however, Matthaus is still backing Bayern – who only sit top of the Bundesliga on goal difference – to pip Dortmund to the title.

"Dortmund still have to replace Bayern after six championships in a row," he said. "But I believe more in Bayern, because the team has more experience and knows such situations.

"Above all, they have successfully prevailed during such situations. The pressure that you must deal with in such a situation is very large and the experience speaks for Bayern.

"That's why I think - despite the lead Dortmund had - that the greater experience of Bayern means their seventh championship in a row will be achieved."

After months of speculation, Bayern Munich confirmed on Wednesday they had smashed the Bundesliga transfer record to sign Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid for £68million (€80m).

The versatile defender had emerged as a target towards the end of last year, with Bayern not making any secret of their desire to bring him in.

A January move was not possible, and Atletico attempted to ward off Bayern's interest by offering him a new contract at the Wanda Metropolitano.

However, Lucas' head had already been turned and he will join up with the Bavarian giants at the end of the season.

Bayern are paying almost double the previous Bundesliga transfer record of £35m (€41.5m), which they shelled out on Corentin Tolisso, but Lucas is not quite the most expensive defender of all time...

 

VIRGIL VAN DIJK - Southampton to Liverpool, £75m

Liverpool were fended off Van Dijk in June 2017 after being accused of tapping him up by Southampton, but the defender's absence from several matchday squads thereafter meant a departure was never far away.

The Reds gave their fans a late Christmas gift in December of the same year, confirming the Netherlands international's arrival and he has looked worth every penny since making the switch to Anfield.

LUCAS HERNANDEZ – Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich, £68m

Having featured as France's first-choice left-back in their triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign, it did not take long for other clubs to begin being linked with Lucas. Bayern were reported to have things tied up with the defender by the end of the year, though it was said they were trying to avoid paying his full release clause.

As it happened, Atletico received the €80m required to trigger Lucas' exit at the end of the season, meaning Bayern have secured themselves a player who could cover two positions at the very top of the sport for the next decade. 

 

BENJAMIN MENDY – Monaco to Manchester City, £51.75m

Pep Guardiola broke the record for a defender when he signed Mendy from Monaco in July 2017, the left-back having quickly established himself as one of Europe's most exciting attacking full-backs as his side won the 2016-17 Ligue 1 title and reached that season's Champions League semi-finals.

His arrival was part of a spectacular overhaul of the City backline, which saw them spend close to £165m on three defenders and goalkeeper Ederson, but two serious knee injuries curtailed what looked to be a promising start to life in England. 

 

DAVID LUIZ – Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain, £50m

Paris Saint-Germain paid a whopping fee to sign Brazil international David Luiz from Chelsea in 2014.

He won Ligue 1 in both of his seasons at PSG and made it three top-flight titles in a row after he surprisingly returned to Chelsea for £34m in August 2016, claiming his first Premier League winners' medal.

 

KYLE WALKER – Tottenham to Manchester City, £50m

When Walker joined Spurs from hometown club Sheffield United for £5m in 2009, few would have guessed he would one day become the most expensive English player ever.

He quickly established himself as a key component at the back following his July 2017 arrival and has won two EFL Cup titles and the Premier League. The Champions League and FA Cup could yet be added to that list this season.

 

JOHN STONES – Everton to Manchester City, £47.5m

City have certainly shown a willingness to pay large amounts for English talent, with Stones having joined the club from Everton in 2016.

The 24-year-old had a difficult first campaign as Guardiola's side under-performed, but his displays have since improved considerably, despite a few injuries. 

 

EDER MILITAO – Porto to Real Madrid, £42m

Another transfer set to go through at the end of the season, Madrid caught many by surprise when it was announced earlier in March they had paid the release clause of Porto's Brazil international Militao.

The 21-year-old was only brought to Europe from Sao Paulo in 2018 and appears to represent something of a gamble by Los Blancos.

 

DAVINSON SANCHEZ – Ajax to Tottenham, £36.6m

Spurs waited several weeks to make their first signing of the close-season transfer window in 2017, but they did so in some style, smashing their club record to bring Sanchez to north London.

The former Atletico Nacional man reportedly caught Barcelona's attention during Ajax's run to the Europa League final in 2016-17 and has looked a solid addition to the Premier League since arriving.

 

LEONARDO BONUCCI – Juventus to AC Milan, £35.2m

A row with Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri led to Bonucci being allowed to join Serie A rivals AC Milan in 2017, who splashed the cash in a bid to return to the Champions League.

Bonucci won six Serie A titles at Juventus but such success did not follow at San Siro. His form suffered until he secured a return to Turin just a year later.

 

SHKODRAN MUSTAFI – Valencia to Arsenal, £35m

Arsenal are not normally known for their big spending, with former boss Arsene Wenger one of world football's more parsimonious managers, but they forked out £35m to sign Mustafi from Valencia in August 2016.

The Germany international had a solid first campaign at Emirates Stadium, but the Gunners missed out on Champions League qualification for the first time in 20 years in 2016-17. He seems to have regressed since, often receiving criticism from supporters.

 

(*Prices are as reported at the time of transfers being completed.)

Bayern Munich shattered the Bundesliga transfer record on Wednesday when they agreed a deal for Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez.

The World Cup winner will join Bayern at the end of the season for a massive €80million - almost double the previous incoming record when the Bavarian giants signed Corentin Tolisso two years ago.

Bayern have typically spent the biggest fees in Germany, but the Bundesliga lagged behind Europe's other top leagues in this regard.

We take a look at the largest deals in the league's history after Lucas shook things up.

 

LUCAS HERNANDEZ (€80m - Atletico to Bayern, 2019)

After establishing himself as a star at both centre-back and left-back for club and country, Lucas will leave his first club Atleti for a five-year deal at Bayern.

CORENTIN TOLISSO (€41.5m - Lyon to Bayern, 2017)

Lucas' international team-mate Tolisso was long linked with a move away from Lyon before finally joining Bayern in 2017, scoring six goals in his first Bundesliga season.

JAVI MARTINEZ (€40m - Athletic Bilbao to Bayern, 2012)

Another big Bayern signing from overseas, the versatile Martinez has become a key man since leaving Athletic, winning the Bundesliga in each of his six seasons at the club.

MATS HUMMELS (€38m - Borussia Dortmund to Bayern, 2016)

Another example of the expenditure Bayern have committed to boosting their backline, Hummels left Dortmund as they lagged behind the champions in the Bundesliga three years ago.

ARTURO VIDAL (€37m - Juventus to Bayern, 2015)

Juventus reached the Champions League final in 2014-15 but then lost Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez and Vidal in quick succession, with the Chile international joining Bayern before moving on to Barcelona.

MARIO GOTZE (€37m - Dortmund to Bayern, 2013)

Hummels was following a well-trodden path when he left Dortmund for Bayern. Gotze had made the same switch in 2013 - the season before his World Cup heroics - although he later returned and said he regretted the transfer.

JULIAN DRAXLER (€35m - Schalke to Wolfsburg, 2015)

The first player in this list not to join Bayern, Draxler's performances for Schalke took him to Wolfsburg, but he was soon seeking another move. He transferred to Paris Saint-Germain 18 months later.

BENJAMIN PAVARD (€35m - Stuttgart to Bayern, 2019)

The full-back on the opposite side of the field in France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Pavard, like Lucas, has agreed to join Bayern ahead of next season.

RENATO SANCHES (€35m - Benfica to Bayern, 2016)

With Sanches starring for Portugal at Euro 2016, this looked set to be a smart move by Bayern. It has proved anything but, with the midfielder struggling in Germany and during a loan stint at Swansea City.

ANDRE SCHURRLE (€32m - Chelsea to Wolfsburg, 2015)

Wolfsburg's first big spend in 2015 saw Schurrle join the club in the window before Draxler's arrival. Schurrle too was soon on the move, though, joining Dortmund the following year.

Lucas Hernandez thanked Atletico Madrid after turning down a new contract to seal a switch to Bayern Munich and start a "new challenge" in Germany.

Months of speculation ended on Wednesday when France defender Lucas finalised an €80million move to the Bundesliga giants from the end of the season, meaning he will leave Atletico after 12 years at the club.

The 23-year-old refused an offer of an extension at the Wanda Metropolitano to sign a five-year deal in Bavaria but stated it was difficult to depart after an "unforgettable" spell at the club. However, Lucas is confident he has made the right choice.

"This is the most difficult and important decision I have had to make in my sports career," he said in an Atleti statement.

"Atletico mean a lot to me because this is where I grew up as a player, as a person and I have become the player that I am. It has been difficult for me to say no to Atletico, but my decision is to undertake a new challenge at Bayern Munich.

"I want to thank all the Atletico officials, coaches, team-mates and fans for these 12 incredible and unforgettable years in which I have been part of the club.

"Atletico will always be in my heart."

In a release issued by Bayern, Lucas added: "Today is a very important day in my football career. Bayern Munich is one of the best clubs in Europe and the world. I am proud to be able to fight for all titles for Bayern in the future."

Lucas made 110 appearances for Atleti and was part of the side that won the Europa League last term and reached the Champions League final in 2015-16.

He came into the first team the season after their incredible 2013-14 campaign in which Diego Simeone's men won LaLiga and lost to rivals Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

Lucas played all seven matches for France as they won the 2018 World Cup and will link up with international team-mates Benjamin Pavard, Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso at Bayern next season.

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid for a fee of €80million.

Lucas will join the Bundesliga giants on July 1 after they met the release clause in his Atletico contract and he has signed a five-year deal at the Allianz Arena.

However, the 23-year-old appears to have played his last game for Atletico, with Bayern stating he will have an operation to repair ligament damage in his right knee prior to his arrival.

The France international emerged as a potential target for Bayern towards the end of last year, having impressed during his country's triumphant World Cup campaign.

Bayern and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic made no secret of their interest in the versatile defender and reports had linked him with a January switch.

The Bavarian side were unable to secure a deal at that point, but they have succeeded in luring him to the club from next season.

Salihamidzic believes Bayern have secured one of the finest defenders in the world.

"I am very happy that in Lucas Hernandez we have been able to sign one of the best defensive players in the world and a world champion," Salihamidzic said in a statement.

"Lucas can be used both in central defence and at left-back. In addition, Lucas will continue our tradition of outstanding French players and strengthen our team."

Regarding Lucas' knee injury, Bayern club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt said: "In my experience, Lucas Hernandez will be available to Bayern for the start of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season."

The signing of Lucas means Bayern will have half of France's World Cup-winning back four available to them next year, with the Atletico youth product to team up with Benjamin Pavard, who is due to join from Stuttgart.

The first Madrid derby to be played outside of Europe has been confirmed for this year's International Champions Cup.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid is one of 18 matches that will take place across North America, Europe and Asia in July and August. 

Joining the Madrid clubs in the seventh edition of the competition are reigning champions Tottenham, Manchester United, Arsenal, Roma, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter, Bayern Munich, Benfica and Chivas.

Madrid's clash with their city rivals will take place on July 26 at MetLife Stadium, the home of the New York Giants and Jets, while other eye-catching fixtures include Bayern v Milan, Tottenham v United and Juventus v Inter.

In addition to New Jersey, the United States will play host to games in Los Angeles, Landover, Chicago, Charlotte, Santa Clara, Houston, Arlington, Kansas City and Foxborough. Cardiff, London, Stockholm, Singapore and Shanghai will serve as the venues for the Europe and Asia matches.

Each team will play three matches and the club with the most points at the end of the tournament will lift the trophy. Games that end in a draw go straight to penalties with the winner receiving two points and the loser one.

Fixtures:

Roma v Chivas: July 17 – Chicago, Illinois
Arsenal v Bayern Munich: July 18 – Los Angeles, California
Manchester United v Inter: July 20 – Singapore
Arsenal v Roma: July 20 – Charlotte, North Carolina
Benfica v Chivas: July 20 – Santa Clara, California
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid: July 21 – Houston, Texas
Juventus v Tottenham: July 21 – Singapore
Real Madrid v Arsenal: July 24 – Landover, Maryland
Bayern Munich v AC Milan: July 24 – Kansas City, Missouri
Chivas v Atletico Madrid: July 24 – Arlington, Texas
Juventus v Inter: July 24 – China
Roma v Benfica: July 25 – Harrison, New Jersey
Tottenham v Manchester United: July 25 – Shanghai
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid: July 26 – East Rutherford, New Jersey
AC Milan v Benfica: July 28 – Foxborough, Massachusetts
Manchester United v AC Milan: August 3 – Cardiff
Tottenham v Inter: August 3 – London
Atletico Madrid v Juventus: August 10 – Stockholm

Didier Deschamps has backed Kingsley Coman to bounce back from his latest injury setback after the Bayern Munich winger was ruled out of France's Euro 2020 qualifier with Iceland. 

Coman had been expected to start France's opening match of Group H against Moldova on Friday but injured his back in the warm-up, and it has forced him to withdraw from the squad.

An ankle injury saw Coman miss the first three months of the Bundesliga season and he was sidelined with a hamstring problem last month.

Despite the latest frustration, Deschamps does not believe there is too much to worry about for Coman.

"It's unfortunate for him," Deschamps told a news conference. "He is obviously sad. 

"I am not worried. It's not a big injury. He has already had two bigger injuries to his ankle and then his body has compensated.

"This time it's a back issue which brings a little tug on his buttock and thigh. He left us sad this afternoon. He was already sad he was not able to play in Moldova as was planned.

"He will take care of himself. He is still young but obviously his repeated injuries are not ideal. But he has quality and he is strong mentally, so I hope he would be spared [of injuries] in the future."

While Coman has left the squad, Samuel Umtiti is in line to play two games in quick succession despite his own injury problems.

A knee issue has limited the defender's game time with Barcelona but Deschamps is confident the 25-year-old will be fit to face Iceland having played the full 90 minutes in Friday's 4-1 win over Moldova.

"I think he can do it," Deschamps added when asked about starting Umtiti at the Stade de France. "But I won't hide that I will take time to decide tonight.

"It's true he's not had a lot of time to play with his club so I will ask him how he feels to see what we can do. 

"Even though he played 90 minutes in Moldova, athletically it was not very tiring, especially for a defender in terms of runs, efforts. So on Friday, Samuel was not pushed a lot even if it was a hard game. 

"Let's see today after the training session how he feels, I would decide afterwards."

Kingsley Coman has been ruled out of France's Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland due to back pain, Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

Bayern Munich winger Coman will return to his club as he is not fit to take part in Monday's Group E game at the Stade de France.

Coman had been set to start the opening match of France's qualifying campaign against Moldova but was injured in the warm-up.

The 22-year-old's career has been regularly affected by injury and he missed three months of action for Bayern after damaging ankle ligaments on the first weekend of the Bundesliga season.

Deschamps told a news conference no replacement would be called up for Coman, with Blaise Matuidi having taken his place in the side for a 4-1 win in Moldova.

World champions France are already without left-back Lucas Digne after he returned to Everton having sustained a thigh injury.

Renato Sanches is "not happy" at Bayern Munich and suggested he is open to leaving for another club.

Sanches joined Bayern in 2016 to much fanfare after breaking through at Benfica and helping Portugal to victory in the European Championships the same year.

Bayern shelled out a reported €35million on the midfielder and expectations were sky high, but after a difficult first few months he was sent on loan to Swansea City in the Premier League.

At Swansea, Sanches failed to rekindle his Benfica form and, although Niko Kovac seemed optimistic about the Portugal international's future when he returned at the start of the season, things have not gone to plan.

The 21-year-old has made just four Bundesliga starts and now appears to be angling for a move away.

"I'm not happy here, I work a lot, but I'm not allowed to play," Sanches told Kicker. "I want to play more, maybe at a different club, I have to worry about that."

Germany fans thanked Mats Hummels, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng prior to Wednesday’s friendly against Serbia after Joachim Low said they were no longer in his plans.

Head coach Low shocked German football earlier this month when he announced the three Bayern Munich players were to step aside at international level.

The experienced trio all played an important role in Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph, but following an embarrassing title defence in Russia last year that saw them dumped out in the group stage, followed by a dismal Nations League campaign, Low opted to make radical changes.

Many have come out in support of the ostracised trio, criticising Low for publicly ending their careers for the national team instead of just dropping them, while the players themselves have voiced their displeasure.

Germany’s supporters showed their gratitude at the Volkswagen Arena, creating a display before kick-off that said "thank you" and included the respective squad numbers for Hummels, Muller and Boateng underneath.

Trent Alexander-Arnold believes Liverpool's resilient attitude has shone through during a week of three close-fought victories.

The Reds went behind against Burnley on March 10, despite appeals for a foul on goalkeeper Alisson, but recovered to win 4-2 thanks to doubles from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Jurgen Klopp's side then saw a lead erased against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, but second-half goals from Virgil van Dijk and Mane, who had got the opener, led them to a 3-1 Champions League triumph.

They wrapped up a perfect week thanks to a late James Milner penalty, clinching a 2-1 win at Fulham after a 74th-minute howler from Van Dijk almost cost them victory.

 

This guy has nerves of steel @JamesMilner Big win today reds #YNWA pic.twitter.com/T0NQAckAS7

— Trent Arnold (@trentaa98) March 17, 2019

"To be able to bounce back and show our character was good for us," said Alexander-Arnold.

"These are the ones that maybe go unnoticed during the season, but they are vitally important for us.

"And I think we will probably look back at the end of the season and think that, whatever the outcome may be, [the Fulham] game was important for us.

"The full week – the goals we have conceded at home to Burnley, when we went down at home, it was tough going to Bayern, and then conceding a late equaliser against Fulham was tough.

"Mentally we have been through a lot of tests this week, but come out with three wins and that's all you can ask from the lads."

Liverpool sit two points clear of title rivals Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, although Pep Guardiola's side have a game in hand.

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