When Manchester United forked out a reported £80million to sign Harry Maguire, the comparisons to Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk started almost immediately.

Van Dijk has been credited as one of the best signings of Jurgen Klopp's tenure, with the Reds becoming Champions League winners and genuine Premier League title contenders with the towering centre-back at the heart of their defence.

The arrival of Maguire, whose breakout performances for Leicester City in the 2017-18 campaign coincided with Van Dijk's switch to Anfield, was supposed to have a similar effect on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils.

United have struggled badly for form this season, though, and the pressure is on the team and Solskjaer to deliver a performance against the table-topping Reds, who have won eight from eight in the Premier League this term.

Ahead of Sunday's clash at Old Trafford, Omnisport has crunched the Opta numbers behind Van Dijk and Maguire's statistics dating back to the former's move to Liverpool in January 2018.


VIRGIL'S A WINNING MACHINE

Prior to Van Dijk's arrival, pundits and fans alike were calling for Klopp to sign a commanding centre-back. Many baulked at the reported £75m Liverpool paid Southampton for his signature, but that fee looks a snip when you look at the impact Van Dijk's arrival has had. He has played in 60 Premier League games since signing, winning 45 of those and losing just four – giving him an astounding win percentage of 75. In the same time period, Maguire has played fewer matches – 56 – winning 19 and losing 25, with a win percentage of 34.


NONE SHALL PASS!

Earlier in the season, much was made of Van Dijk's astonishing run of Premier League games without being dribbled past. Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe eventually ended a stretch of 50 dating back to March 2018 and incredibly it has happened just three times to Van Dijk since January of the same year. Maguire has been caught on his heels nine times in the same period, but both players are remarkably consistent when it comes to errors leading to goals – each committing just one gaffe that resulted in the ball rattling the back of the net.


CLEAN SHEETS AND A CLEANER DISCLIPINARY RECORD FOR VAN DIJK

One statistic that really does leap out is Van Dijk's exemplary record when it comes to receiving yellow cards. Incredibly for a centre-back, he has been cautioned just twice since January 2018 and is yet to see red in the Premier League for Liverpool. Conversely, Maguire has 10 yellows and one red in the same period. Van Dijk is just shy of clean sheets in half of his games, keeping shut outs in 29 of 60 matches – with Maguire having 13 in 56. Teams Maguire has played in have also conceded double the amount those including Van Dijk have, 76 to 38. At the other end, each player has contributed but Van Dijk also holds the advantage in that regard with five goals and two assists to Maguire's respective three and zero.


HOW'S THIS SEASON SHAPING UP?

As you would expect, Van Dijk's numbers in the early stages of the Premier League campaign are pretty impressive. He has a flawless win percentage through eight games, although he has conceded in six of those. Encouragingly for Maguire and United, while the team are struggling his statistics compare pretty well to Van Dijk's with as many clean sheets and just two more goals conceded. Maguire has also only been dribbled past once compared to Van Dijk's two, while neither player has yet committed an error leading to a goal or even a shot.

Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling were among the England players to react on Twitter after racist chanting marred their 6-0 win over Bulgaria in Sofia.

Play was temporarily halted twice during the first half of Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier at the Vasil Levski National Stadium after visiting players were subjected to racist abuse.

An announcement over the public address system was made during the first stoppage, while the second saw a section of home fans ejected from the venue.

Gareth Southgate's side opted to return to the field following discussions in their changing room at half-time, while Bulgaria captain Ivelin Popov seen talking with some Bulgaria supporters during the break.

"Not an easy situation to play in and not one which should be happening in 2019. Proud we rose above it to take three points but this needs stamping out," Rashford wrote on social media, along with a picture of him celebrating scoring the opening goal.

The Manchester United forward also thanked the travelling support as well as Popov, insisting his actions should not go unnoticed.

"Thankful to the brilliant England support. You got behind us in the most meaningful way possible tonight and we are all very grateful. Have a safe journey home and take care," Rashford tweeted, to which he replied: "Also been told what the Bulgaria captain did at half-time. To stand alone and do the right thing takes courage and acts like that shouldn’t go unnoticed. #NoToRacism"

Club colleague Harry Maguire described the fan behaviour as "disgraceful" - and insisted action must be taken to make sure it does not happen again.

"The best way to bounce back. Proud of the team. There's no place in football for that - disgraceful behaviour. Something must be done," the defender tweeted.

Sterling quote-tweeted a story about Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov declaring prior to the match how England had a bigger racism problem than his own country, replying: "Mmmmh ... Not sure about this one chief".

The Manchester City forward added in another post: "Feeling sorry for Bulgaria to be represented by such idiots in their stadium. Anyway.. 6-0 and we go back home, at least we did our job. Safe travel to our fans, u guys did well."

Captain Harry Kane praised the way the England team remained united, as well as congratulating debutant Tyrone Mings.

"Great performance and I’m proud of the togetherness we showed in some disgraceful circumstances," Kane wrote. "Racism has no place in society or football. It needs stamping out for good. Also a massive congrats to @OfficialTM_3 on a great debut."

Former England international Rio Ferdinand, meanwhile, called on UEFA to take action. He wrote: "Let's see punishment...", which was followed by the governing body's official Twitter handle.

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire suggested England's backline has been affected by poor form at club level.

England crashed to a shock 2-1 defeat away to the Czech Republic in Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday, leading to questions about the country's defence.

The Three Lions have conceded five goals in their past two qualifiers in Group A and Maguire – the world's most expensive defender who has endured a difficult season with United languishing in 12th position in the Premier League – addressed the situation.

"Yes, maybe," Maguire said when asked if England's defence is lacking confidence ahead of Monday's trip to Bulgaria.

"We bring our club football into international level. It was a difficult game. Don't get me wrong, we started sloppy. We took the lead in the game but we didn't deserve to.

"The second half we controlled the game a lot more than the first half but we gave them a sloppy goal to win the game. We do need to improve on that.

"Obviously you are wanting to develop partnerships. Sometimes in international level you can't really do that.

"You have players who aren't playing for their clubs so they don't get selected, and you have players that pick up injuries.

"You've got to adapt. That's one of the tricky parts of playing international football, every camp you're normally playing alongside different players - you don't want to be - and need to develop new partnerships.

"But listen, there's no excuses. We need to be better than Friday night. We need to be better going forward. We need to be better on the ball. And we certainly need to be better at keeping the ball out of the net."

 

Harry Maguire is working on becoming more vocal but is not concentrating on the prospect of becoming Manchester United captain.

United agreed a reported £80million deal with Leicester City last month to make Maguire the most expensive centre-back of all time.

The England international has already been talked up as a future skipper by boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after making a steady start to life at Old Trafford, even if results have been disappointing.

However, Maguire is aware that he needs to improve on certain aspects of his game if he is to be considered for the role further down the line.

"It's something I still want to improve on, my leadership qualities on the pitch and, especially, my talking," he told United's official website.

"I want to demand more from the players, demand standards, but I'm obviously not concentrating on that at the moment.

"I am fully focused on improving the team and getting this club back to where it should be."

Maguire has been used regularly since joining in the close season, playing alongside Victor Lindelof in every minute of United's Premier League campaign to date.

Solskjaer's men lost 2-0 at West Ham last weekend to make it six goals conceded in those six matches, but Maguire is confident he will build up a better understanding with his new team-mates.

"My game will improve the more I know them and the more experience I have of playing with them - the position they take up, the way they want to receive the ball and the areas in which I receive the ball," he said.

"So I know where my team-mates will be, without having to look and try to find them.

"It will improve and I'm sure I'll improve throughout the season, playing with my team-mates more and improving my relationship with Vic. We will improve as a team as well and we've got to improve."

United are 11th in the Premier League ahead of their meeting with Arsenal on Monday.

Juan Mata believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can turn Manchester United around despite their poor start to the 2019-20 season.

United lost their last Premier League game 2-0 at West Ham and needed a penalty shoot-out to beat League One side Rochdale in the EFL Cup at Old Trafford this week.

Ahead of Monday's visit of Arsenal, United are eighth in the Premier League table, level on points with clubs including Burnley and Sheffield United.

United have lost three of their last six Premier League home games and have not won a competitive away game since March, when they shocked Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Mata, however, has faith Solskjaer is the man to get United back on the right path and played down the importance of the figure in the dugout.

"I believe in him. I believe in how he really puts his life into the project that he's got in front of him.." Mata told The Times. "He knew it was difficult when he came. He knows how our rivals are doing, but he wanted to take it anyway.

"The manager's position is sometimes exaggerated, for good and bad. Carlo Ancelotti won the Champions League with Real Madrid [in 2014], when they equalised in the 90th minute with the Sergio Ramos goal.

"If Luka Modric doesn't take the corner quick, and they lose? Is Ancelotti a worse manager? For me, no. I feel sorry for managers when I miss a chance, we lose and they get criticised and they did 'a bad plan'. It’s the same plan except I missed. It's me, not them.

"Of course, there are certain individuals that change a team: Diego Simeone, Jurgen Klopp, Pep [Guardiola]. Sir Alex [Ferguson] changed the history of this club. But sometimes we try to justify everything with the manager.

"Managers are very important but I like when I've heard Zinedine Zidane or Pep say, 'I'm good only because my players do the things I tell them to but I'm not the last connection with the ball'."

United midfielder Paul Pogba remained at Old Trafford despite telling reporters he was ready for a new challenge, with Mata glad the World Cup winner was retained.

"Paul is a very important player for us. He has fantastic qualities: physically, his vision's very good, his passing's very good," Mata added. 

"He's a complete midfielder. He's got many things around him, social media life, but when you're face to face with him, he's very humble, a very nice guy, he has a good heart. I like him."

Pogba was overlooked in midweek when instead Axel Tuanzebe wore the armband in the EFL Cup win over Rochdale, but Mata feels Harry Maguire could be the club's permanent captain in the future.

"Why not?," Mata said. "He has experience, his physical presence is important, centre-back is a good position to be a commanding personality in the team and he has international experience.

"He's come to a big club, really having a chance to make that next step towards to even more."

Jose Mourinho blasted Manchester United's performance in their 2-0 defeat at West Ham and said he sees no improvement in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side since last season.

Goals in either half from Andriy Yarmolenko and Aaron Cresswell condemned United to their second Premier League defeat in six matches and it was the lacklustre performance at London Stadium that drew criticism from Mourinho.

While admitting that the side he managed in the early part of 2018-19 before Solskjaer replaced him were "bad", Mourinho said they looked no better than the one that recorded a disappointing sixth-place Premier League finish last team, despite Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James all arriving at Old Trafford in the close season.

Asked on Sky Sports whether he could find any positives in United's performance, Mourinho said: "No… I can't find.

"We were bad last season but I don't see any improvement this season, even with three new players – and I have to say players with a positive impact. I like these three and I think they are bringing some good quality to the team.

"But the team as a team, I don't like at all. I am not surprised by the result and I don't think Ole can take any positives from the game."

Former United midfielder Roy Keane weighed in with similarly damning comments, pointing to a lack of leadership as one of United's problems.

Solskjaer ended the game with Jesse Lingard as a lone striker after Marcus Rashford went off with a groin problem and, with the club facing something of an injury crisis, Keane underlined the scale of the challenge ahead for the manager.

"I don't know where to start," said Keane. "I knew they weren't in a great place but I'm shocked and saddened by how bad they were today.

"I know you can lose a game of football but everything about United [was] lacklustre, low quality, a lack of desire, lack of leaders, lack of characters.

"It's a long way back for United. It's scary how far they've fallen."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Scott McTominay as one of Manchester United's leaders after his performance in the 1-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday.

United ended a three-game winless Premier League run thanks to Marcus Rashford's eighth-minute penalty at Old Trafford.

McTominay produced a standout display in midfield in the absence of the injured Paul Pogba, shackling James Maddison while triggering United's counter-attacks as they kept Leicester comfortably at bay.

"He's improving, isn't he?" Solskjaer said of the 22-year-old. "Today, I thought he was excellent. He lost the ball a couple of times, which you'd expect because he's learning his new role as a sitting midfielder.

"He goes into tackles, challenges, fights... if there are teams trying to intimidate us, he's there, he's a leader. I wouldn't want to go into a 50-50 with him, put it that way."

While McTominay impressed in midfield, United centre-backs Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire, playing against his former club, also performed well to keep Leicester striker Jamie Vardy on the fringes of the action.

"I thought they did excellent," said Solskjaer. "They read the game well. I've got loads of admiration for Vardy, he's my type of centre-forward: runs in behind, harasses and you've got to be spot on with your decision-making.

"Both of them proved their worth today. There were a couple of races and Harry did well against him."

While Solskjaer acknowledged the overall performance was not of the highest quality, he was happy for his players to be given a boost after three matches without a victory.

"When you play, when you coach, you don't get carried away when you win a game that we maybe don't deserve to win but we don't get down in the dumps when we don't win games we should win," he said.

"The performances have been miles better than this. We just have to wake up with a smile and have the day off and relax a bit."

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers felt Rashford's penalty was harsh, although probably correct, but he believes Caglar Soyuncu will learn from the incident after a careless shove on the United forward.

"It was a soft penalty, harsh, but I think it was [correct]," he said. "For young Caglar, he'll learn to have that wee bit of patience. Marcus is cute, he's bright, waiting for the contact, and he gets the penalty. We reacted well to it in the end, it's just a little frustrating we didn't take something from it.

"[Soyuncu] has been fantastic, stepping in since Harry went, and I thought he was dominant in the game today. There's a lot of young players in the squad and they'll make mistakes.

"In the game as a whole, there weren't so many chances. We're a bit frustrated: we didn't start the game well, we put ourselves on the back foot and conceded a penalty early on."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted Manchester United "didn't play a great game" as they battled to a 1-0 victory over Leicester City at Old Trafford.

Marcus Rashford's eighth-minute penalty settled a contest that was not always high on quality, as Leicester's unbeaten start to the season came to an end.

The visitors enjoyed 58 per cent of the possession but did not create much by way of meaningful opportunities, although David de Gea did make good first-half saves from James Maddison and Ben Chilwell.

Rashford, who missed a penalty in the loss to Crystal Palace last month, took his spot-kick well before United opted to sit deeper and threaten on the counter-attack.

Solskjaer was not overly impressed with the performance in the final hour, but he was delighted with a clean sheet and the way in which his players worked.

"Three points, clean sheet, the camaraderie and togetherness, the work rate," he said when asked what pleased him most about the win.

"Let's not kid ourselves - we didn't play a great game. The first 20, 25 minutes were fantastic but then we gradually lost control of it. Towards the end, I felt we were in control again.

"It was probably the first time this season apart from spells against Chelsea that we've had to defend as a team for longer periods. I was pleased to get a clean sheet; David got a couple of good saves.

"This stadium, they love effort and attitude and energy. For the penalty, Andreas [Pereira] wins a tackle inside the box, Marcus sprints and just gets in front of him [Caglar Soyuncu] - the fans love that.

"People are talking about our lack of clean sheets. We've had Chelsea and Leicester here, two good teams who are going for the top four, and we've kept clean sheets against them."

Harry Maguire was booed by the travelling support even before kick-off but produced a fine display at the heart of the defence to keep his old team-mates at bay.

"It didn't look like he missed them too much!" Solskjaer said. "He did really well. He stuck his head in and he was so calm on the ball for us and we needed that in the second half."

On Rashford's penalty, Solskjaer added: "He's been practicing. Everyone can miss a penalty - I've seen [Diego] Maradona, I've seen [Lionel] Messi, all the best ones miss penalties. He was calm and just wanted it to come his way."

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Daniel James to continue his flying start to life at Old Trafford.

Winger James, 21, joined United from Swansea City in June for a reported £15million in a deal that caught many by surprise given he had been close to signing for Championship side Leeds United a few months earlier.

Of United's three close-season signings – Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire being the others – James was the least heralded, but the rapid forward has arguably made the greatest impact, scoring three times in four Premier League appearances as well as being named the club's Player of the Month for August.

A goal against Leicester City on Saturday will make James – who also netted on international duty with Wales on Monday – only the second United player to score in his first three Premier League games at Old Trafford and Solskjaer has great expectations.

"He's had a great start and transferring that into the Wales games is great for him and great for Giggsy [Wales boss Ryan Giggs]," Solskjaer told United's official app.

"I just hope he [James] feels that there's more to come. We feel there's more to come. He's had a great start, but it's just the start of his career."

Saturday's clash will see Maguire come up against his former club for the first time since leaving them to become the world's most expensive defender and Solskjaer is confident he will thrive despite the impressive form of Jamie Vardy and James Maddison.

"They're creative, they have pace, there's a good link-up between the two of them," Solskjaer said of Leicester's star duo.

"We know from last year that Maddison created loads of chances and to have Vardy's energy and penetration and running in behind all the time is great for any creative player.

"I know he [Maguire] will be fine, because he's a top character and a top player. I'm sure he'll look forward to playing against his old team-mates.

"He'll know them and they'll know him. I'm sure we'll see the best of Harry in that game."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains hopeful David de Gea will sign a new contract with Manchester United and see out his career at Old Trafford.

The Spain international is into the final season of his existing deal and has yet to commit to fresh terms despite months of discussions.

De Gea has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid in the past and can open talks with foreign clubs from January over a pre-contract agreement.

Solskjaer rates the 28-year-old as the best goalkeeper in the business and is keen to get him tied down for the long term.

"I want David to stay here," Solskjaer said at a news conference on Friday. "He knows that and he's the best goalkeeper in the world - we've seen that over the years and I hope I can make sure he'll finish his career at Man United at the highest level.

"And there have been loads of talks, lots of discussions between David and the club and hopefully we can get it done."

De Gea appears certain to retain his place in goal for Saturday's visit of Leicester as United aim to end a three-match winless run.

Another regular at the back this season has been Harry Maguire, who joined from Leicester in an £80million transfer in August and Solskjaer sees the England centre-back as a future United captain.

"I think he's been brilliant," Solskjaer told reporters. "I think he's come into the dressing room and been a leader. He's also a leader on the pitch and I'm sure he's looking forward to playing against his old team. 

"Now he's here he's gonna be a big part of the future of this club, we've watched him enough to know he's the guy we wanted that's why we spent the money we did on him. 

"He's a definitely a character and personality that can be captain of a big club. In the dressing room, he's a leader both by performances, presence, stature and behaviour, he's a character you say you'd like to follow."

Another player rated highly by Solskjaer is Wales winger Daniel James, who has started the season in stunning fashion with four goals in six matches for club and country.

"After scouting him and speaking to [Wales boss Ryan] Giggs, I'm not surprised," he said. "Daniel's come in and when you score in your first performance at Old Trafford you get confidence and he's been great for us.

"There's more to come - he's got that X-factor with his pace, explosivity in and around the box. He's been practising right foot, left foot and he'll score more goals."

Solskjaer has confirmed United will be without midfielder Paul Pogba for Saturday's match, while Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka may also miss out.

Europe's transfer window closed on Monday evening and the continent's top clubs avoided the temptation of breaking the bank for last-minute deals.

Most had their business all wrapped up comfortably before the deadline, while the widely floated return of Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain to Barcelona sank in the Seine.

But it was a transfer window in which there was plenty of lavish spending, and it was a familiar crop of clubs doing the biggest deals.

Here is a look at the most expensive signings made by European clubs during the window - including two of the world's most talented youngsters.

Matthijs de Ligt - Ajax to Juventus

This Dutch prodigy was a huge hit in the Champions League and Eredivisie for Ajax last season, and the powerful centre-back captained the Amsterdam giants before he was inevitably courted by Europe's leading clubs. Juventus won the battle for his signature, with De Ligt, who was 19 at the time of the move, making a €75million leap to Serie A, signing a contract until 2024. He turned 20 in August.

Nicolas Pepe - Lille to Arsenal

Arsenal were often accused of over-cautious frugality during Arsene Wenger's reign as manager, but the club backed Unai Emery with a big-money move for Lille's exciting forward Nicolas Pepe, who arrived at Emirates Stadium in a £72m deal. He was brought in to give Arsenal a fearsome forward line, teaming up with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

Romelu Lukaku - Manchester United to Inter

Red Rom reached the end of the line at Manchester United, where it was becoming increasingly obvious he would not be a preferred pick of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But United got back almost all their money for the former Everton frontman when they sold him on to Inter for a fee understood to be €80m.

Lucas Hernandez - Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich

Bayern had this deal in the bag before last season ended, announcing the €80m signing way back in March. Hernandez arrived at the Allianz Arena from Atletico at the campaign's end, and after recovering from knee surgery the 23-year-old made his debut on the second weekend of the new Bundesliga season. Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic described Hernandez as "one of the best defenders in the world".

Harry Maguire - Leicester City to Manchester United

Jose Mourinho wanted him 12 months earlier, but Manchester United finally landed Maguire from Leicester City in an £80m deal, making him the world's most expensive defender. Maguire was a standout performer for England at the 2018 World Cup and has come a long way since his days at Sheffield United and Hull City, with a six-year contract at United showing the club see him as a cornerstone figure for the new Solskjaer era.

Eden Hazard - Chelsea to Real Madrid

Hazard had made no secret of his wish to join Real Madrid, and the Belgian's ambition was realised when Zinedine Zidane came calling during the close season. After seven years at Chelsea, Hazard moved to the Santiago Bernabeu for an initial fee of around €100m - with the possibility of more cash to follow in add-ons. Injury has prevented Hazard making an early impact in LaLiga.

Antoine Griezmann - Atletico Madrid to Barcelona

A year on from winning the World Cup with France, Griezmann swapped Atletico Madrid for Barcelona in one of the most contentious moves of the European summer. Barcelona coughed up €120m  to release Griezmann from his contract, infuriating Atletico who claimed talks had been taking place behind their back, at a time when the player had a higher buy-out clause, and demanded a higher fee be paid. Once he - and the dust - settles at Camp Nou, Griezmann has what it takes to be a big hit.

Joao Felix - Benfica to Atletico Madrid

With Griezmann on his way, Atletico made sure they would have a top-class replacement by reinvesting in Benfica's star teenage forward Joao Felix. The 19-year-old cost the Rojiblancos €126m, immediately inherited Griezmann's number seven shirt, and his prodigious talent is already winning plenty of admirers in Spain.

Harry Maguire wants Manchester United to become more arrogant and imposing on the ball following Saturday's draw with Southampton at St Mary's.

United were forced to settle for a second successive away point after Jannik Vestergaard cancelled out Daniel James' first-half opener.

Kevin Danso's dismissal gifted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men a numerical advantage for the final 15 minutes but the visitors failed to capitalise on the opportunity.

Their winless run now stands at three matches leading into the international break.

"It's another game we deserved to win," centre-back Maguire told reporters. 

"We created the majority of the chances and we've dropped two points.

"We are playing attacking football but don't get me wrong, we can still improve a lot - especially on the ball.

"We gave the ball away far too much, especially towards the end of the first half and in the second half we need to improve on that and show arrogance on the ball and be confident on the ball.

"We're Man United and we want to control games."

Maguire believes United "did enough" to find a winner amid a series of attempts on goal throughout the closing stages.

Saints goalkeeper Angus Gunn made one particularly smart stop from Marcus Rashford, who was otherwise muted in the absence of injured forward Anthony Martial.

Though he has fired three blanks since the home win over Chelsea on the opening weekend, Solskjaer remains confident England international Rashford can be trusted with key chances. 

"He'll get it. He's getting there," the United boss said.

"We keep on practising them finishes and crosses and if we can build the pressure as we did today I'm sure we'll be okay."

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique believes Harry Maguire can help lead Manchester United back to the top of the Premier League.

Maguire replaced Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk as the world's most expensive defender when he left Leicester City for United before the Premier League transfer window closed.

Not since Alex Ferguson's final season in 2013 have United won the Premier League but former defender Pique backed Maguire to help the Red Devils challenge for silverware.

"It happened before with Van Dijk and before about 10 years ago with Rio Ferdinand [when he joined United from Leeds]," Pique told Express Sport.

"Culturally they invest a lot in good defenders and Harry Maguire is a great defender.

"I hope that they can be at the top again. Manchester United in the last few years they have been fighting to qualify for the Champions League but they have to be trying to win the Premier League.

"I hope with this signing they can return to the top."

United have experienced a mixed start to the 2019-20 campaign in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first full season as manager.

After routing Chelsea 4-0 in their Premier League opener, United drew at Wolves before suffering a shock defeat against visiting Crystal Palace last week.

Pique spent four years at United – where he was in the same squad as Solskjaer – before returning to boyhood club Barcelona in 2008.

The 32-year-old Pique, who won the Premier League and Champions League during his time at Old Trafford, was asked about Solskjaer and he added: "I saw him last year in the Champions League tie and I think he's a great lad and a great guy.

"He is doing a very good job at Manchester United, let's see this season how it goes for him and the team."

Phil Neville has called for the football community to boycott social media for six months after the latest instance of high-profile racist abuse.

England women's manager Neville was reacting to Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba being targeted online after he had a penalty saved in Monday's 1-1 Premier League draw at Wolves.

Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham and Reading's Yakou Meite have also been subjected to similar abuse over the past week following their own penalty failures.

United issued a statement branding the slurs directed towards Pogba as "disgusting" and called for social media companies to take action as they work to identify the perpetrators in this instance.

However, Neville has little faith in the likes of Twitter and Instagram making a meaningful difference and called on those within the game to take a stand.

"I've lost total faith in whoever runs these social media departments, so I just wonder whether now as a football community, in terms of really sending a powerful message, is: come off social media," he said at a news conference ahead of his team's matches against Belgium and Norway.

"Six months – let's come off social media. Let's see the effect that it has on these social media companies, whether they're really going to do something about it."

Neville also spoke out last October after former England and Chelsea star Karen Carney received rape and death threats on Instagram.

"We talk to them all the time because my players get that kind of abuse all the time, whether it’s racist, whether it’s sexist, whether it’s homophobic,” he continued.

"They get that kind of abuse. Nothing gets done about it, but we experienced it earlier in the season.

"It's not going away, I think there’s some fantastic campaigns, initiatives, messaging that goes out, particularly in the Premier League, through the FA, about trying to stamp out racism.

"And at times, you feel as if you're making inroads, and then you get probably a massive reminder that actually we’re probably not.

"It’s a problem not just in football – it’s a problem in society, but football now is at the forefront of everybody’s minds in terms of, we’ve got the power to do something about it. I think the football community will.

"I think we try, but it’s getting to the point now where I think we need to make a real strong message, and I say to every single footballer out there, and to every club, and to the PFA: why don't we make a big stand? Come off social media. Boycott all social media now and see if that makes a big enough impact."

Pogba's United team-mate Harry Maguire called for all social media accounts to be verified and Neville suggested he would support such an approach.

"Maguire said this morning about being verified, giving passport details and addresses to be hold accountable for posting such disgusting things," he added.

"You can be an egg on Twitter and no one knows who you are."

Anti-discrimination pressure group Kick It Out has lamented the "increasingly predictable" nature of online attacks.

"This is a call to action – we want to know what they [social media companies] are going to do to tackle this insidious problem," a Kick It Out statement read.

Manchester United defender Harry Maguire has urged social media platforms to strengthen identification protocols after "pathetic trolls" aimed racial abuse at Paul Pogba.

United midfielder Pogba became the latest subject of discriminatory posts online after failing to convert a penalty in the 1-1 draw against Wolves at Molineux on Monday.

Chelsea youngster Tammy Abraham and Reading striker Yakou Meite faced similar abuse within the past week.

United described the offensive comments as "disgusting" and called on social media companies to take action, supporting the public stance taken by anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out.

England international Maguire took to Twitter to recommend a stricter authentication process for users.

"Disgusting," Maguire wrote. "Social media need to do something about it. 

"Every account that is opened should be verified by a passport/driving licence. Stop these pathetic trolls making numerous accounts to abuse people."

In a statement, Kick It Out shone a light on the growing volume of "unwarranted and vile racist abuse" directed towards players.

"The number of posts such as these since the start of the season highlights how discriminatory abuse online is out of control," the statement read.

"Without immediate and the strongest possible action these cowardly acts will continue to grow."

Marcus Rashford echoed the sentiment as he backed team-mate Pogba.

Tagging Twitter, the forward posted: "Enough now, this needs to stop. Manchester United is a family. Paul Pogba is a huge part of that family. You attack him you attack us all."

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