Jadon Sancho has not yet returned to Borussia Dortmund's starting line-up since the Bundesliga's restart, but his stunning season shows no signs of slowing.

For the second week running, Sancho was named among the substitutes at Wolfsburg ahead of Dortmund's huge midweek clash with title rivals Bayern Munich.

But the England winger was introduced in the second half on Saturday as BVB protected a one-goal lead secured by the in-form Raphael Guerreiro.

With 12 minutes remaining Sancho slid in Achraf Hakimi to double Dortmund's lead and register his 16th Bundesliga assist of the season.

That figure represents a new record for Dortmund players since detailed data collection began in 2004-05, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan's 15 in 2015-16 the previous benchmark.

Only Bayern's Thomas Muller has as many assists this term as Sancho, with the 20-year-old also scoring 14.

The Bundesliga record belongs Kevin De Bruyne after his 20 assists for Wolfsburg in the 2014-15 season.

Mauro Icardi seemingly has no future at Inter.

But Icardi is wanted in Paris, where the Argentina international has spent the 2019-20 season on loan.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly looking to sign Icardi permanently.

 

TOP STORY – PSG LODGE ICARDI BID

Paris Saint-Germain have offered Inter €50million to secure loanee Mauro Icardi on a permanent basis, according to Sky Sports.

Out of favour at Serie A outfit Inter, the forward was loaned to Ligue 1 champions PSG at the start of the season.

Icardi's loan deal included a €70m purchase option but PSG are determined to negotiate, with Juventus reportedly interested.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports Barcelona full-back Nelson Semedo is prioritising a move to Manchester City. Semedo has been linked with a switch to City – a transfer which would see Joao Cancelo swap clubs. Juve are also reportedly eyeing Semedo but the Portugal international wants to leave Camp Nou for the Premier League.

Lucas Hernandez to Newcastle United? Bild says the Premier League outfit are considering a move for the Bayern Munich defender ahead of their proposed takeover.

- According to ESPN, Bayern are eyeing Manchester United target and Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho. The England international has also been linked to Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barca.

Juve, Chelsea, City and Bayern are interested in Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, says Sport. However, the German is poised to sign a contract renewal with the LaLiga holders.

- Calciomercato claims Milan are moving closer to signing Marseille's 20-year-old defender Boubacar Kamara.

- Everton and Newcastle are both tracking Napoli forward Hirving Lozano, according to Corriere dello Sport. The Mexico international only arrived from PSV at the start of the season.

Inter remain interested in Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa, says Calciomercato. While Brescia's Sandro Tonali is at the top of the list for Inter, Chiesa has not been forgotten about in Milan.

Giovanni Reyna was denied a first senior start after sustaining an injury in the warm-up ahead of Borussia Dortmund's Revierderby against Schalke.

The 17-year-old was named in the starting line-up at an empty Signal Iduna Park as the Bundesliga returned from its enforced two-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Dortmund posted on Twitter shortly before kick-off to confirm he was unable to play, with Thorgan Hazard taking his place.

"Gio Reyna will be replaced by Thorgan Hazard in the Starting XI as a result of an injury sustained during warm up," Dortmund wrote.

"Get well soon, Gio."

Jadon Sancho was named among the Borussia Dortmund substitutes, while Giovanni Reyna received a first senior start against Schalke on Saturday.

England international Sancho was not included in the starting line-up for the Revierderby at an empty Signal Iduna Park as the Bundesliga returned from a two-month break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reyna, 17, and Julian Brandt were selected in support of striker Erling Haaland, with Thorgan Hazard and Mario Gotze on the bench and Marco Reus missing out through injury.

With Axel Witsel and Emre Can also unavalible for selection due to injury, Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud were drafted into midfield by Lucien Favre.

The hiatus in the season meant Schalke were able to welcome Suat Serdar back from a broken toe, while Salif Sane, who last played in November, returned from a knee injury.

Former Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak said there is "absolutely no reason" why Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland should leave the Bundesliga side.

Sancho has been tipped to join Premier League giants Manchester United, while the Dortmund star is also reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Liverpool and Barcelona.

Haaland – who only arrived at Dortmund from Salzburg in January – is apparently coveted by LaLiga powerhouse Real Madrid following his stunning start to life at Signal Iduna Park.

Langerak spent five years at Dortmund, winning two Bundesliga titles among other honours under Jurgen Klopp, and the Australia international believes there is plenty of time for Sancho and Haaland to eventually move on – pointing to the examples of Robert Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan.

"There's absolutely no reason why any of them should leave," Langerak, who now plays for Japanese side Nagoya Grampus, told Stats Perform. 

"For example, Lewandowski left Dortmund [in 2014] at around 24-25. [He was] smashing it at Dortmund and he's been smashing it at Bayern Munich. Went there as the absolute starting striker. The same as Gundogan. He came at 21 and left at 24-25 [in 2016]. Went to Manchester City and he's killing it.

"There's no rush for those guys to leave when they have the perfect situation. Haaland could go 10 games without a goal and the fans would celebrate him like no tomorrow. They'll never get on his back or criticise him.

"It's the perfect scenario where he has the blessing or support of the whole club and city. It's sort of engrained in Dortmund's tradition to have good, young, hungry players. 

"When the time is right, maybe they will leave, but I don't see why they should when they'll be playing Champions League regularly, hopefully advancing to the latter stages, and pushing for Bundesliga titles. There's only a handful of clubs who are bigger and better than Dortmund."

There is also uncertainty over Mario Gotze's future at Dortmund, where the 27-year-old German is out of contract at the end of the season.

World Cup winner Gotze, who managed just 502 minutes of Bundesliga action prior to the coronavirus pandemic, has been linked to Serie A sides Milan, Roma and Lazio.

"Mario is a really good friend of mine. He was my very first room-mate when I arrived at Dortmund [from Melbourne Victory in 2010]. He is a fantastic, fantastic guy," Langerak said.

"The most professional player – he is up there with Lewandowski in terms of professionalism. It's really good to see two of the absolute players in their prime and they're the most professional, doing the extra work.

"It's difficult for him now. Hopefully he can find a good solution, whatever that might be. I don't think it's been ruled out that he won't stay at Dortmund. That's how it goes with different coaches, systems and players – things change fast. 

"It could be that Mario starts the next couple of games, does well again and the world looks completely different for him. Whatever path he goes down in the future, I'll be following it. I'm sure he will do really well because is very humble, hardworking that wherever he goes, he will make a good impression."

Gotze may get a clearer picture of what the future holds when the Bundesliga resumes on Saturday, with Dortmund hosting bitter rivals Schalke behind closed doors amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Germany's Bundesliga was postponed in March with defending champions Bayern four points clear of Dortmund through 25 matches atop the table.

Langerak, who believes Dortmund can win the title this season, added: "It's positive the Bundesliga is getting back underway because everyone wants to watch some football. Me personally, I can't wait until it kicks off. So, I'll be all over it, like the rest of the world watching every minute.

"Behind closed doors, the atmosphere will be lacking. We played a couple of friendly games maybe two months ago in a big stadium with no fans and it really is a different atmosphere.

"It not only shows to the fans but to the players, far out, football without fans really is nothing. It's going to be a huge challenge for Bundesliga players because they won't be used it. It's a massive, massive difference.

"I can only imagine the first game back for all the players and clubs in front of full stadiums, it's going to be the biggest party and the most exciting thing."

After more than a two-month pause, top-level European football returns on Saturday with the Bundesliga's resumption – and EA Sports have released their 'Team of the Season So Far' on FIFA Ultimate Team ahead the German top-flight's return.

Undoubtedly the highlight of the first weekend back will be the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, while pacesetters Bayern Munich go to Union Berlin.

For many football fans out there, gaming will have played a significant role in filling the void left behind by the real thing over the past two months – and FIFA 20 is giving Bundesliga fanatics extra reason to stick around with its boosted cards.

Featuring the likes of Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz, Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Timo Werner, all of whom have boosted ratings in the 90s, fresh TOTSSF cards are now available in FUT.

Check out the full release below.

TEAM OF THE SEASON SO FAR

GK: Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 94

RWB: Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund) – 91

CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CB: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) – 93

LB: Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) – 92

RF: Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund) – 96

CDM: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich) – 96

CAM: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen) – 94

ST: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig) – 97

ST: Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 99

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Lukas Hradecky (Bayer Leverkusen) – 91

CB: Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 88

CB: Matthias Ginter (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 92

CM: Suat Serdar (Schalke) – 88

CM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) – 95

RW: Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich) – 93

LM: Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 94

CAM: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) – 95

ST: Florian Niederlechner (Augsburg) – 89

The Bundesliga is coming back with a bang on Saturday, with Borussia Dortmund and arch-rivals Schalke meeting in the 180th Revierderby.

As the first major European league to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic, the clash at Signal Iduna Park provides a tantalising treat for sport-starved fans – even though the game will be played behind closed doors.

Dortmund will be unable to rely on the famous 'Yellow Wall' when they attempt to avenge a 4-2 home loss to Schalke in April 2018, which put a huge dent in their title ambitions.

It remains BVB's only home Bundesliga defeat under Lucien Favre and they will fancy their chances of avoiding a repeat when they face a team that are winless in their past seven Bundesliga games – the worst record in the division.

Minimal goalscoring experience

Daniel Caligiuri struck twice for Schalke in that game to take his Revierderby goal tally to four in six matches; he has only scored 16 in total for the Royal Blues.

No player in either team has scored as many as Caligiuri in this fixture, with Mario Gotze (two) the only player to have found the net more than once.

Lothar Emmerich's record of 10 goals in this rivalry does not consequently look like being surpassed any time soon.

Caligiuri's six appearances in the derby is the most in David Wagner's ranks, while Dortmund boast plenty of experience in Mats Hummels (16), Marcel Schmelzer (14) and Lukasz Piszczek (13).

The overall appearance record is held by Klaus Fichtel and Roman Weidenfeller of Schalke and Dortmund respectively. They both featured 24 times in this game.

Midfield concerns

Dortmund will be without Axel Witsel, Emre Can and Marco Reus.

With Witsel on the pitch, Dortmund have won 67 per cent of their Bundesliga games. In four matches without him, they have been victorious only once.

After losing his first game as a starter, Can racked up four straight wins at the heart of Dortmund's midfield.

The duo will be sorely missed, but if Favre's men can keep Amine Harit quiet they stand a good chance of taking maximum points.

Harit has been involved in more Bundesliga goals than any of his team-mates (six scored, four assisted) but has not done so in his past nine outings.

Schalke have not won any of those games, while the seven matches in which he has been involved in a goal have all ended in victory.

Fire it up

Jadon Sancho has had a hand in more Bundesliga goals (14 scored, 15 assisted) than any other player this season and will be hoping to improve his record in the Revierderby.

The England international has scored one and set up another in four games against Schalke, though his solitary strike was the winner in a 2-1 victory in December 2018 - Dortmund's only success in the past eight meetings of these teams.

BVB's January signing of Erling Haaland has made them more dangerous in attack, too.

Haaland's nine Bundesliga goals are over twice the amount Schalke have managed since the mid-season break (four). Furthermore, Wagner's team have found the net just once in their past 387 minutes of Bundesliga action, with Dortmund getting 10 in the same time frame.

One for Schalke on Saturday would see them reach 2,500 Bundesliga goals, while failure to do so will mean they have gone five straight games without scoring for the first time since 1998.

A new target

Sancho and Haaland will be hoping to get the better of potential Revierderby debutant Markus Schubert in the Schalke goal.

In Schubert's six Bundesliga matches he has produced a save percentage of 76.

That is a better rate than Alexander Nubel (71 per cent), who has been marginalised since agreeing to join Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

Schubert, 21, will be hoping to continue impressing and deny Dortmund what would be their 800th Bundesliga win when football finally returns.

Christian Pulisic has hailed Jadon Sancho for the "amazing job" he has done at Borussia Dortmund and says his former club are reaping the rewards for showing faith in the youngster.

Sancho joined Dortmund from Manchester City in 2017 as a 17-year-old, believing that a move to the Bundesliga side would give him a clearer path to regular first-team football.

The England international's decision soon paid off and three years on he is regarded as one of the hottest properties in world football, earning links to a number of big-name clubs.

Pulisic also made a name for himself at Signal Iduna Park before joining Chelsea ahead of the 2019-20 season and is glad Dortmund are continuing to embrace young talent.

"It's one of the big reasons why I was really drawn there when I was very young," he told Sky Sports News. "I think they give younger players opportunities and it's a great club to go and develop.

"Sancho was given an opportunity, just like I was, at a very high level, and they show you right away that they trust you and they're going to give an equal opportunity to all the players.

"He's done an amazing job since he came in and has obviously shown what abilities he has."

Pulisic has endured a mixed debut campaign at Chelsea, with boss Frank Lampard admitting in December he expects to see "a lot more" from the reported £58m signing.

And the 21-year-old, whose last appearance came on New Year's Day, has acknowledged that there are certain aspects of his game that need improving.

"I want to learn to be even more clinical in front of goal continue to boost my numbers, get more goals and assists," Pulisic added.

"I want to be stronger on the ball, being able to hold off players and those are two areas that I'm definitely working on."

Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to swap Inter for Barcelona.

Martinez, though, has emerged as a target for Paris Saint-Germain.

But, LaLiga champions Barca reportedly remain calm about the situation.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DON'T FEAR PSG AMID LAUTARO PURSUIT

Barcelona remain confident in their bid to sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Martinez has been heavily linked with a move to the LaLiga champions, who view the Argentina international as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

Recent reports have claimed Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain have emerged as suitors but Barca believe Martinez is committed to moving to Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Milan have contacted Real Madrid about signing Luka Jovic. The Serbia forward has struggled since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt at the start of 2019-20. The report claims Milan are ready to spend €40million, while a two-year loan deal with a redemption obligation could happen. Meanwhile, Tuttomercato says Milan are eyeing a €20m move for Lyon star Memphis Depay, who is out of contract in June 2021.

Mauricio Pochettino is poised to become Newcastle United's next manager, according to Le10Sport. The former Tottenham boss has been linked amid Newcastle's prospective takeover.

- The Telegraph reports Manchester City and Bayern Munich are set to clash over Leroy Sane. The Germany international has reportedly agreed to join the Bundesliga champions, however, City are insulted by the £35m (€39.9m) valuation.

Juventus have opened talks with Jorginho as Maurizio Sarri looks to reunite with the Chelsea midfielder in Turin, says ESPN.

Manchester United are considering the prospect of delaying their move for Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho due to the coronavirus pandemic, reports The Mirror.

News the Bundesliga is set to return this month means fans will soon be able to enjoy the next chapter of Jadon Sancho's rapid rise.

Football's hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped the England winger being linked with big-money moves to the Premier League, but his immediate focus will be Borussia Dortmund's bid to unseat long-reigning champions Bayern Munich.

In terms of his output, particularly when it comes to goals and assists, he is rivalling Europe's elite players and compares favourably to Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe in 2019-20.

With the help of Opta statistics, we have reviewed some of the most interesting numbers from Sancho's career to date.


IMPROVING EVERY YEAR

Sancho has averaged a goal or assist every 82 minutes in his Bundesliga career.

His first season in 2017-18 saw him either score or create a goal every 137 minutes, but that rate improved spectacularly to 95 minutes in 2018-19.

This term, Sancho has racked up a sublime tally of 14 goals and 15 assists, and has scored or set up one of his team-mates every 62 minutes he spends on the pitch.

Sancho's tally of 15 assists in 23 league matches this season is already higher than the 14 he managed when playing all 34 top-flight games in the previous campaign.

The same can be said for his goal tally of 14, given he managed 12 in the entirety of 2018-19.

That improvement can also be seen in his shot conversion rate, which was 10 per cent in his first season before improving to 30 and 31 per cent respectively.

In an ideal combination, his accuracy is going in the right direction at a time where he is taking more attempts, with Sancho having attempted 45 shots this season in 1,806 minutes, compared to 40 in 2,459 a season ago.


RIVALING EUROPE'S ELITE

Only two players in Europe's top-five leagues have a better record than Sancho when it comes to goals and assists this season.

Ciro Immobile has produced 34 (27 goals and seven assists), with Lionel Messi on 31 (19 goals and 12 assists), just ahead of Sancho's 29.

Timo Werner, Robert Lewandowski, Kevin De Bruyne, Ronaldo and Mbappe have all enjoyed fine campaigns but they rank behind Sancho.

Stretching the timeframe back to the start of last season, when Sancho became a first-team regular, he again sits near the top of the charts.

The England international has 55 goal involvements over that timespan, with 26 goals and 29 assists.

Barcelona's Messi is out on his own at the top with 80 (55 goals and 25 assists), with Mbappe (63) and Lewandowski (57) the only other players above Sancho.

That means the 20-year-old is above the likes of Ronaldo (53) and Mohamed Salah (52) over an extended period.

Barcelona are reportedly looking at Jadon Sancho as an alternative if they cannot land Neymar.

Neymar is linked with a return to Camp Nou from Paris Saint-Germain, where he arrived from Barcelona for a world-record €222million in 2017.

But the LaLiga giants have options.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO AN ALTERNATIVE TO NEYMAR FOR BARCELONA

Borussia Dortmund star Sancho is an alternative to Neymar for Barcelona, according to Sport.

The cover of the Spanish daily says Barca are thinking of Sancho if they are unable to bring Neymar back to the club.

Sancho was enjoying an incredible season with 14 goals and 15 assists in 23 Bundesliga games when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Linked with a move for RB Leipzig star Timo Werner, Liverpool may not be trying to sign the forward. The Mirror reports the Premier League leaders look almost certain not to do any transfer spending in the close season.

- Lyon forward Moussa Dembele has enjoyed another good season with the Ligue 1 club. The Manchester Evening News reports Dembele would find it hard to turn down a move to Manchester United in the next transfer window.

- Miralem Pjanic could be set for a Juventus exit. Marca reports the pieces are falling into place for the midfielder to join Barcelona. It says another player could enter the deal if Arthur does not agree to leave the LaLiga giants.

- Staying at Barcelona and Sport reports the door is open for the club to land Layvin Kurzawa on a free at season's end with Porto's Alex Telles seemingly nearing a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

- Gianluigi Donnarumma is out of contract at Milan in 2021, but La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the goalkeeper could extend his deal by a year and plan a path forward, with the coronavirus pandemic likely to impact the upcoming transfer window.

- Rayan Cherki, 16, scored three goals in 12 games for Lyon this season, seemingly leading to some interest. AS reports the teenage forward is being watched by Real Madrid.

Trent Alexander-Arnold would love Jadon Sancho to join Liverpool, hailing the Borussia Dortmund star as a special talent.

Sancho, 20, has been linked with a move back to the Premier League, although Manchester United are reportedly in pole position to land the England international.

But international team-mate Alexander-Arnold would be keen to play alongside Sancho, who joined Dortmund from Manchester City in 2017, at club level.

"If he came to us, he'd make our team better," the Liverpool right-back told Michael Dapaah during an Instagram Live chat on Thursday.

"So, I'd be more than happy for him to come because I played with him at England and he's a special, special, special, special talent."

Sancho was enjoying an incredible season before the campaign was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The attacker had scored 14 goals and provided 15 assists in 23 Bundesliga games when the season was paused.

Timo Werner does not have a shortage of suitors.

The RB Leipzig forward and Germany international is reportedly wanted in his homeland, England, Spain and Italy.

However, Werner reportedly only has his eyes on one team in the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – WERNER WANTS TO JOIN LIVERPOOL

Timo Werner is not interested in joining Bayern Munich as the RB Leipzig star wants to team up with Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, according to BILD.

Werner is wanted by Bundesliga champions Bayern, who have targeted the Germany international previously.

But Werner – also linked to Barcelona, Manchester United and Inter – is prioritising a Liverpool transfer.

ROUND-UP

United have offered Jadon Sancho the famous number seven jersey as they try to prise the Borussia Dortmund sensation to Old Trafford, reports The Mirror. Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid have also been linked to the England international.

- Calciomercato says Juventus and Barca are continuing to negotiate a deal that would see Miralem Pjanic and Arthur swap clubs.

Barca and Manchester City are in advanced talks over a swap deal. SPORT says the two clubs are close to reaching an agreement that would see Nelson Semedo join City, with Joao Cancelo moving in the opposite direction.

Milan are dreaming of signing Brescia star Sandro Tonali, according to Calciomercato. With Lucas Biglia and Giacomo Bonaventura set to leave, the Rossoneri are eyeing Tonali – who has been linked to the likes of Barca, United, City, Juve and Inter. Rennes midfielder and Madrid target Eduardo Camavinga and Arsenal's Lucas Torreira are also on the list.

- Will Lautaro Martinez make the move to Barca? SportMediaset claims Inter want €90million plus two players – Arturo Vidal permanently and Antoine Griezmann on loan.

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc does not believe any club will risk a big-money offer for Jadon Sancho this year.

England star Sancho has been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea following another exceptional season in the Bundesliga.

It had been reported the 20-year-old would command a fee of at least €100million to persuade Dortmund to sell.

However, with clubs across the world facing a significant loss of earnings due to the football shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the likelihood of Sancho leaving for such a fee appears reduced.

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward stated last week that suggestions of nine-figure sums being paid for players in 2020 were ignoring "the realities that face the sport", with the Red Devils having also been linked with a bid for Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

Zorc, too, appears to expect Sancho to be beyond the reach of even the wealthiest clubs, revealing Dortmund remain "totally relaxed" over the situation.

"There is no new situation [on Sancho]," he told Sport1. "Currently, no club will risk anything in making a big-money move - not even in England.

"We have a long-term contract with Jadon Sancho and that is why we are totally relaxed."

Sancho managed 14 goals and 15 assists in his first 23 Bundesliga appearances of 2019-20.

His contract is not due to expire until 2022.

Manchester United must ensure they do not sign players who are only "coming for the money", Rafael says.

United have invested huge sums in the playing squad since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, yet they have failed to get close to winning the Premier League in that time.

A lack of clear direction from a director of football figure and four changes in permanent manager have left United's transfer policy mostly disorganised, with significant money in fees and wages spent unsuccessfully on the likes of Angel Di Maria and Alexis Sanchez.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the club's transfer approach has shown marked improvement, with the former United striker making it clear he will only sign players who possess the right ethos as well as suitable talent.

The arrivals of Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes in the past year have all proved to be positive, with Solskjaer ensuring youngsters from the academy system are still given the opportunity to play alongside expensive signings.

Despite concerns around the viability of the market during the coronavirus crisis, United have been tipped to try to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho and Tottenham striker Harry Kane this year.

Rafael, a three-time Premier League champion with United, is a fan of both players but nonetheless wants his former employers to be sure they sign only those who want to move to Old Trafford for the right reasons.

"It has taken too long to get back on track," the Lyon full-back told ESPN. "It's been seven years [without the title]. We did some things wrong. We started signing expensive players and giving them a lot of money. I don't agree with that. Just because a player costs 150million does not mean he's good for the team. It depends on the character of the player.

"They should go for the players who want to play for Manchester United, not just because Manchester United are going to pay you. Look at Chicharito [Javier Hernandez]. How hard did he play for Manchester United? He wanted to play. How much did Manchester United pay for him? Not much. You have to be clever. You have to see that the player wants to play for Manchester United.

"Harry Kane is a great goalscorer and Jadon Sancho is very, very good," he says. "But first of all you have to see the character of the player and see if they really want to do well for United, not just coming for the money. We have made some mistakes, but I hope now that we can get back on track. In this Manchester United, I see more of how they played before and I think soon we will be back where we belong."

United have been well off the pace set by Premier League leaders Liverpool this season, but Rafael is in no doubt that Solskjaer is the right man to lead his old club forward.

"I love Ole. I love the person he is and the manager he is," he said. "Of course, there is a lot still to do but I think he's doing it the right way. He's a person who loves Manchester United and he's going to do everything to help the club. I saw it when I was with him when he coached me and it is important.

"He's a guy who is going to think about Manchester United first rather than himself. A lot of coaches are never going to do that, they are going to think about them and after about the club."

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