Gareth Southgate should rest Harry Kane for England's final Group B match against Wales, according to former Three Lions captain Alan Shearer.

Kane claimed the Golden Boot after scoring six goals in the 2018 World Cup, becoming the first England player to win the award since Gary Lineker 32 years earlier.

The Three Lions skipper did not register a shot on target in the Three Lions' 6-2 thrashing of Iran or the goalless draw with the United States in Qatar.

Shearer thinks Callum Wilson might start instead of Kane against Wales on Tuesday, when Southgate's side will be expected to seal their place in the round of 16.

H said in his BBC column: "I am not overly concerned about that statistic [Kane not having a shot on target], because we know the provider role Harry plays for this England team, even when he is not scoring himself. But watching him against the United States, it was clear something wasn't right. 

"He came through that scare about his ankle before the US game but, after playing a big part in an impressive team performance in the Iran game with two assists, he looked very tired and very leggy to me.

"It might be time to think about getting him right for the knockout stages, and I have a sneaky feeling Callum Wilson might come in to face Wales on Tuesday instead.

"England need to freshen things up anyway, to get the feel-good factor back after the disappointment of our draw with the US, and restore a bit of confidence."

England were fortunate to escape with a point against the USA on Friday, with Southgate raising eyebrows by keeping Phil Foden on the bench.

Shearer added: "I can understand why Gareth stuck with the same team that had stuck six goals past Iran. But, after that, I can't see him doing the same again in our final game in Group B.

"After the euphoria of our first game, everyone was expecting, wanting and hoping that it would be a similar story against the US. It wasn't, it was actually really flat.

"You have to give great credit to the US, because they stopped us from playing, as well as playing well themselves.

"But of course, it was disappointing that we were not able to change the direction of the game with the attacking options we had on the bench.

"I was quite surprised one or two players did not come on at half-time because we were playing poorly. Our plan wasn't working and one or two players looked tired.

"There are going to be games at this tournament where, for whatever reason, we need to change our personnel or tactics, or both, to try to win them."

Despite their disappointing display, England would seal top spot in Group B with victory over a Wales side that that must win to have any chance of progressing.

And Shearer is confident a similarly positive display to that in the opening game against Iran will get Southgate's side back on track.

"The last team to go through a World Cup and win all seven games was Brazil, 20 years ago," he stated.

"Everyone who goes deep into the tournament usually hits a bump in the road during the group stage and, while that performance wasn't great, we are still in a very strong position.

"I'd really expect us to beat Wales and go through as winners of our group, which was always the aim.

"It won't be easy, of course. Wales' situation means they have to win to have any chance of getting out of the group, and then you have the rivalry you encounter whenever the home nations play each other which adds another element to the game.

"It's pretty obvious what I want to see now - the same attacking outlook, ideas and energy we showed in the Iran game. If we do that, we will be back on track for the next part of this World Cup."

Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany joked he would not sign Cristiano Ronaldo as Burnley "need players who can run".

Ronaldo is preparing for the World Cup with Portugal ahead of Thursday's Group H opener against Ghana, though the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will lreturn to club football as a free agent in January.

Manchester United and Ronaldo parted ways by mutual agreement on Tuesday after the forward's exclusive interview with Piers Morgan caused a global stir.

The Portugal captain said he felt "betrayed" by United and had no respect for manager Erik ten Hag before the fractured relationship at Old Trafford came to an abrupt end.

Kompany, now manager of Championship side Burnley, offered a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the situation, suggesting the Clarets would not be interested in signing the 37-year-old.

Asked on the BBC's World Cup coverage whether he would want Ronaldo at Turf Moor, Kompany joked: "We need players who can run."

After discussing Ronaldo's future in a jovial manner, Kompany claimed "everybody loses" after an uncomfortable situation at Old Trafford, barring Ten Hag.

"I think in the end everybody loses except perhaps the Man United manager," added Kompany, who lifted four Premier League titles with fierce rivals City.

"I think it is a problem that has been resolved and they will move on from this."

Fellow pundit and former England striker Alan Shearer believes it will be interesting to see what move Ronaldo takes next, with Chelsea reportedly among the favourites.

"It is a sad end to his Man United career," Shearer said. "He's got his wish, it is what he did the interview for. It was inevitable it was going to happen after that.

"I think it is going to be really interesting to see if a Champions League club comes in for him. Maybe Man United aren't that disappointed either, that was never going to be a match, Ten Hag and him."

Alan Shearer expects Erling Haaland to break his record for the number of goals scored in a single Premier League season – should the Manchester City striker remain fit.

Having made a big impact during spells in Austria and Germany with Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund respectively, Haaland has already set a number of records at new club City.

The Norway international became the first player in Premier League history to score hat-tricks in three successive home matches with his latest treble against Manchester United on Sunday.

The 22-year old has 14 goals in his first eight appearances in the competition, which is just one fewer than City's top-scorer Kevin De Bruyne managed across the entirety of last season.

Haaland is averaging a goal every 48 minutes in the Premier League – the best rate of any player to have scored more than once in the competition's history.

One long-standing record which may now be in his sights is Shearer's return of 34 goals in the 1994-95 campaign, which matched the record set by Andy Cole the previous season.

While Haaland will have two games fewer to chase down that 34-goal tally, Shearer accepts his – and Cole's – record is now under threat.

"If he stays fit, he's breaking it," Shearer told the Premier League's official website after naming Haaland in his Team of the Week.

Shearer also selected James Maddison in that team after the midfielder scored twice in Leicester City's 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest on Monday.

Maddison has been directly involved in 26 Premier League goals since the start of last season, a tally only Harry Kane (34) can better among English players.

Newcastle United great Shearer suggested the 25-year-old should be part of Gareth Southgate's World Cup plans, having not featured for his country since November 2019.

"Are you watching Gareth Southgate?," asked Shearer, who scored a record 260 goals across his Premier League career.

Harry Kane expressed his pride after moving to joint-third in the Premier League's all-time goalscoring charts with a brace in Tottenham's entertaining win over Nottingham Forest.

Kane scored the 200th league goal of his career after just five minutes at the City Ground, and although he saw a second-half penalty saved by Dean Henderson, the England captain atoned by nodding home a late second to secure a 2-0 win.

In doing so, Kane joined Andy Cole on 187 Premier League goals. Only Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208) have now scored more in the competition's history.

Kane described that duo as two of the all-time greats as he looked to take his goalscoring exploits even further after firing Spurs to victory on Sunday.

"It's still a long way away, for sure, but I still feel fit, I feel I have many more years left in the locker," Kane told Sky Sports of Shearer's record.

"Every season I want to score goals, I want to be amongst those names, and I'm excited for the challenge.

"Alan and Wayne are two of the best strikers England have ever had so to even be in that category is nice for me. 

"But for sure, I want to keep pushing myself, see how far I can go, and so far it's been a good start to the season."

Kane's talismanic display followed another record-breaking performance last week, when he surpassed Sergio Aguero to become the highest Premier League goalscorer for a single club in a win over Wolves. 

Meanwhile, having taken 10 points from their first four Premier League games, Spurs have made their best start since they opened the 2009-10 campaign with four consecutive victories.

They have also gone unbeaten through their first four league matches for just the second time in 13 seasons. The last time they did so, in 2016-17, Mauricio Pochettino led them to a second-placed Premier League finish.

And Kane believes Antonio Conte's men are well placed to push for major honours, adding: "I'm not going to rule anything out, but also I know there's a lot of top, top teams in the Premier League and the Champions League.

"Of course, we're aiming to be successful and win something, as I've said for a long, long time now. We just can't get carried away," he added.

"We've started really well, we've got a great squad and a great manager. I can feel amongst the fans a lot of excitement, which is great, but it's a marathon, not a sprint.

"There's a lot of games to play and we've just got to make sure we keep knocking them off and when we're not playing well, keep winning games.

"Obviously we've still got a World Cup, so after the World Cup, we'll see where we're at and go from there."

Kane was assisted by Dejan Kulusevski for the opener before nodding home Richarlison's terrific outside-of-the-boot cross for his second, as the former Everton man impressed after replacing Son Heung-Min from the bench.

With Son failing to find the net this season despite Tottenham's impressive form, Kane hailed the newfound competition in their attack. 

"If you want to be a top team, you're going to have to compete for every position. I think that's what we've created with the squad that we have now," Kane added.

"Richie, whenever he's had an opportunity to play, whenever he's trained, he's done really, really well. He's biting at the bit to play. We have a lot of games coming up so we're going to need everyone.

"I know Sonny might be frustrated with not scoring yet this season, but Sonny's a really important player for us and if we're going to achieve anything this year, we need him to keep doing what he's doing, working for the team. He'll pop up with goals, no doubt.

"When players are maybe not quite at it, you need players from the bench to make an impact and Richie's doing that.

"I think we've got a fantastic manager, we've got a really strong squad. I think we're going to need that squad over the next period until the international break because we've got a game every three or four days.

"It's really important that players coming in who haven't quite started a lot of games yet are ready, but yeah, we're in a good place."

The Premier League is officially 30 years old.

On Saturday, August 15, 1992, the Premier League's inaugural season began with a packed schedule of 15:00 kick-offs.

Its foundation came as a result of clubs in the old First Division breaking away from the Football League in order to maximise their earning potential, with much of that initially focused around the possibility of lucrative TV rights deals.

As the Football Association (FA) had a strained relationship with the Football League at the time, the FA backed plans for the formation of the breakaway league, and in July 1991 the Founder Members Agreement was signed by the top-flight clubs.

While the Premier League fell under the auspices of the FA, the league was given economic independence from the governing body and the Football League, and that has been a major contributing factor in it becoming the behemoth we know in 2022.

Thirty years on, many believe it to be the best league in world football, and on this day it only seems right to take a trip down memory lane with a look at key records, stats and figures from the competition's three decades...

Managing expectations

This is classic 'pub quiz' territory: which manager has presided over the most Premier League games?

You know it's either Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, don't you? You probably end up going for the Manchester United icon because of his sheer longevity.

Alas, you'd be wrong.

Wenger took charge of 18 more Premier League games (828) than 'Fergie' before he brought his long Arsenal career to a close.

Nevertheless, Ferguson's 13 titles look unlikely to ever be matched. His closest rival in that respect is Pep Guardiola (four), with Wenger joined on three by Jose Mourinho.

Play on, player

Over the first 30 seasons of the Premier League, 4,488 players appeared in the competition at an average of 149.6 debutants per campaign.

If we ignore the inaugural and ongoing seasons for obvious reasons, the campaign with the most debutants was 2015-16 when 162 players made their Premier League bows.

Of the nearly 4,500 individuals to feature in the competition up to the start of the 2022-23 season, Gareth Barry sits clear with the most appearances (653), the last of which came during the 2017-18 season with West Brom.

It's a record that will take some beating, but if anyone's got a chance of toppling him, it's his former Manchester City team-mate James Milner.

The 36-year-old, now of Liverpool, is fourth on the all-time list with 589 outings.

Forever young

Everyone loves a 'wonderkid'. The Premier League has seen more than its fair share over the years, and some got started very, very young.

Mark Platts was the first 16-year-old to ever play in the Premier League when he made his Sheffield Wednesday debut in February 1996.

When Matthew Briggs came along 11 years later and featured for Fulham at 16 years and 68 days old, you'd have been forgiven for thinking his record would stand the test of time.

It lasted 12 years until another Fulham player shaved 38 days off Briggs' record – that player was Harvey Elliott. Now at Liverpool, the young midfielder looks set for a glittering career.

The name of the game

Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Wayne Rooney – when you think of Premier League goalscorers, these are probably the names that immediately spring to mind.

Well, you're wrong. You should be thinking about Andrew Johnson, Glen Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Bradley Johnson, Roger Johnson et al.

Why? Because there are more players with the surname Johnson to have scored in the Premier League than any other surname.

There have been 21 of them to be exact, two more than the Williams clan.

Synonymous.

Get to the points

It's been a frustrating few (nine?) years for Man United fans, and this season has started in horrific fashion. But don't worry, folks, if you just look at the big (massive) picture, it'll definitely all feel much better.

United still sit top of the overall Premier League table with 2,366 points, giving them a healthy 219-point cushion over second-placed Arsenal.

Manchester City may have won four of the past five league titles, a feat only United had achieved before them in the Premier League, but the real story is that they're way back on 1,635 Premier League points.

Yo-yo with the flow

To be fair, almost every single one of you knows what's coming here.

You guessed it, Norwich City's relegation from the last season makes them the yo-yoingest (yes, we've just made that up) club in Premier League history.

That was their sixth relegation to go with their five promotions to the top flight since 1992, taking them one clear of West Brom, who have the same number of ascensions but only five demotions to their name.

I love goals, goals, goals, goals

Of course, Shearer remains the Premier's League all-time leading scorer with 260, 52 more than Wayne Rooney in second.

But Harry Kane looks to be in with a chance of usurping both England greats – in fact, another solid season could take him beyond 200 as his header against Chelsea on Sunday took him to 184.

Kane also appears among the very best goalscoring combinations in the competition's history as he and Son Heung-min have linked up for 41 goals – that's five more than Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard as the next-best.

As for high-scoring matches, there have been three Premier League games that have finished with a nine-goal margin – two were achieved by Man Utd (9-0 v Southampton in February 2021, and v Ipswich Town in March 1995) and Leicester City managed it in October 2019, also crushing Saints 9-0.

Do call it a comeback

Your team's trailing 2-0, you're despondent and bereft of hope. But then, out of nowhere, you've got a goal back. Then the equaliser. And then, just when you'd convinced yourself "this draw feels like a win", a third goes in, and it's pandemonium.

There are few more satisfying situations in football than when you team produces such a turnaround – the despair you were feeling earlier only makes your full-time jubilation that bit more intense.

The biggest such turnarounds that led to wins all involved teams coming back from three goals down. Leeds United, Wimbledon and Wolves have all managed it in 4-3 victories, while Man United beat Spurs 5-3 from 3-0 down.

No team have done so since Wolves in October 2003, although Newcastle United certainly deserve a special mention – they are the only team to find themselves 4-0 down and avoid defeat. Their 4-4 draw with Arsenal in February 2011 remains a Premier League classic.

Stop the clock!

Here's another for the pub quiz enthusiasts: who scored the quickest goal in Premier League history?

Netting just 7.69 seconds into an April 2019 game between Southampton and Watford, Shane Long opened the scoring to break a 19-year record that had been set by Spurs defender Ledley King.

To put that into context, it'd take you longer to read that sentence. It was also quicker than Usain Bolt's world-record time in the 100 metres (9.58 seconds).

The latest goal ever is maybe a less notable record, but it nonetheless belongs to Bruno Fernandes, who in September 2020 scored a penalty after 99 minutes and 45 seconds to seal United a dramatic 3-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion – yes, that's the game when the Seagulls hit the woodwork a record five times.

As for the quickest hat-trick, that was scored by Sadio Mane for Southampton against Aston Villa in May 2015, with his first and third goals separated by just two minutes and 56 seconds.

The Premier League is approaching a landmark age: on August 15, the competition will be 30 years old, with that date ultimately ushering in a golden era for English football.

Although we may be 10 days away from that particular milestone, Friday sees the latest edition of the Premier League kick off with Crystal Palace and Arsenal contesting the opening game of the 2022-23 campaign at Selhurst Park.

As such, it only seems right to jump the gun a little and look back on the first 30 years of what many believe has become the greatest league in world football.

So, buckle up as Stats Perform takes you on a trip down memory lane…

Managing expectations

This is classic 'pub quiz' territory: which manager has presided over the most Premier League games?

You know it's either Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, don't you? You probably end up going for the Manchester United icon because of his sheer longevity.

Alas, you'd be wrong.

Wenger took charge of 18 more Premier League games (828) than 'Fergie' before he brought his long Arsenal career to a close.

Nevertheless, Ferguson's 13 titles look unlikely to ever be matched. His closest rival in that respect is Pep Guardiola (four), with Wenger joined on three by Jose Mourinho.

Play on, player

Over the first 30 seasons of the Premier League, 4,488 players have appeared in the competition at an average of 149.6 debutants per campaign.

If we ignore the inaugural season for obvious reasons, the campaign with the most debutants was 2015-16 when 162 players made their Premier League bows.

Of the nearly 4,500 individuals to feature in the competition, Gareth Barry sits clear with the most appearances (653), the last of which came during the 2017-18 season with West Brom.

It's a record that will take some beating, but if anyone's got a chance of toppling him, it's his former Manchester City team-mate James Milner.

The 36-year-old, now of Liverpool, is fourth on the all-time list with 588 outings.

Forever young

Everyone loves a 'wonderkid'. The Premier League has seen more than its fair share over the years, and some got started very, very young.

Mark Platts was the first 16-year-old to ever play in the Premier League when he made his Sheffield Wednesday debut in February 1996.

When Matthew Briggs came along 11 years later and featured for Fulham at 16 years and 68 days old, you'd have been forgiven for thinking his record would stand the test of time.

It lasted 12 years until another Fulham player shaved 38 days off Briggs' record – that player was Harvey Elliott. Now at Liverpool, the young midfielder looks set for a glittering career.

The name of the game

Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Wayne Rooney – when you think of Premier League goalscorers, these are probably the names that immediately spring to mind.

Well, you're wrong. You should be thinking about Andrew Johnson, Glen Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Bradley Johnson, Roger Johnson et al.

Why? Because there are more players with the surname Johnson to have scored in the Premier League than any other surname.

There have been 21 of them to be exact, two more than the Williams clan.

Synonymous.

Get to the points

It's been a frustrating few (nine?) years for Man United fans, but don't worry, folks, if you just look at the big (massive) picture, it'll definitely all feel much better.

United still sit top of the overall Premier League table with 2,366 points, giving them a healthy 225-point cushion over second-placed Arsenal.

Manchester City may have won four of the past five league titles, a feat only United had achieved before them in the Premier League, but the real story is that they're way back on 1,629 Premier League points.

Yo-yo with the flow

To be fair, almost every single one of you knows what's coming here.

You guessed it, Norwich City's relegation from the last season makes them the yo-yoingest (yes, we've just made that up) club in Premier League history.

That was their sixth relegation to go with their five promotions to the top flight since 1992, taking them one clear of West Brom, who have the same number of ascensions but only five demotions to their name.

I love goals, goals, goals, goals

Of course, Shearer remains the Premier's League all-time leading scorer with 260, 52 more than Wayne Rooney in second.

But Harry Kane looks to be in with a chance of usurping both England greats – in fact, another solid season could take him beyond 200 as he begins the 2022-23 campaign on 183.

Kane also appears among the very best goalscoring combinations in the competition's history as he and Son Heung-min have linked up for 41 goals – that's five more than Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard as the next-best.

As for high-scoring matches, there have been three Premier League games that have finished with a nine-goal margin – two were achieved by Man United (9-0 v Southampton in February 2021, and v Ipswich Town in March 1995) and Leicester City managed it in October 2019, also crushing Saints 9-0.

Do call it a comeback

Your team's trailing 2-0, you're despondent and bereft of hope. But then, out of nowhere, you've got a goal back. Then the equaliser. And then, just when you'd convinced yourself "this draw feels like a win", a third goes in, and it's pandemonium.

There are few more satisfying situations in football than when you team produces such a turnaround – the despair you were feeling earlier only makes your full-time jubilation that bit more intense.

The biggest such turnarounds that led to wins all involved teams coming back from three goals down. Leeds United, Wimbledon and Wolves have all managed it in 4-3 victories, while Man United beat Spurs 5-3 from 3-0 down.

No team have done so since Wolves in October 2003, although Newcastle United certainly deserve a special mention – they are the only team to find themselves 4-0 down and avoid defeat. Their 4-4 draw with Arsenal in February 2011 remains a Premier League classic.

Stop the clock!

Here's another for the pub quiz enthusiasts: who scored the quickest goal in Premier League history?

Netting just 7.69 seconds into an April 2019 game between Southampton and Watford, Shane Long opened the scoring to break a 19-year record that had been set by Spurs defender Ledley King.

To put that into context, it'd take you longer to read that sentence. It was also quicker than Usain Bolt's world-record time in the 100 metres (9.58 seconds).

The latest goal ever is maybe a less notable record, but it nonetheless belongs to Bruno Fernandes, who in September 2020 scored a penalty after 99 minutes and 45 seconds to seal United a dramatic 3-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion – yes, that's the game when the Seagulls hit the woodwork a record five times.

As for the quickest hat-trick, that was scored by Sadio Mane for Southampton against Aston Villa in May 2015, with his first and third goals separated by just two minutes and 56 seconds.

Alan Shearer claims England will be happy with their group for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with the Three Lions facing the United States, Iran, and the final European play-off winner.

The draw means Gareth Southgate's men could face a clash against rivals Wales or Scotland, with the Scots due to face Ukraine for a place in June's play-off final in Cardiff.

It also threw up a repeat of England's 2010 clash with the United States, with whom they shared a 1-1 draw in their opening game at the tournament in South Africa.

England have never faced Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine at the World Cup, but did face a home nation in each of their last two European Championship campaigns, beating Wales 2-1 at Euro 2016 and drawing 0-0 with Scotland at Euro 2020. 

Former England captain Shearer felt his nation should be pleased to have avoided many of the bigger nations, and spoke of his excitement at the prospect of facing a rivalry match.

"Gareth will look at that and think it could have been a lot more difficult," Shearer said to BBC Sport. "I am sure he and his players will be happy with that. 

"This is the one thing in not having that 'group of death', it [the tournament] is pretty much open.

"I have to say that I am pleased Scotland, Wales or Ukraine got put in England's group. It adds that little bit more excitement. If it is Wales or Scotland it makes it a bit tougher.

"Gareth Southgate would have taken that - deep down, without a doubt. 

"He just can't come out and say it just in case. He's too professional to say it, but he'll be more than happy with it."

"It's a big enough incentive to get to the World Cup but to be in a group with England is great and that will motivate the players," he said.

"We've got play-offs we have to worry about first. It won't be easy against Ukraine. If we manage to get through that and play Wales in the final then that is a huge game. 

"Scotland don't have a bad record against Wales and Scotland are in a good place at the moment.

"Our performance at Wembley in the Euros showed the potential of this Scotland team. They've responded well to going out in the group stage at the Euros and there's competition for places all over the pitch."

Former Wales skipper Ashley Williams was also pleased with his nation's draw, but insisted that Rob Page's team would be desperate to reach their first World Cup since 1958 for their own reasons.

"No disrespect to anyone, all the teams are good, but it could have been a little bit more daunting in another potential group," he said.

"I'm quite happy but there's a lot of work to do before then. 

"They [Wales] just want to get there anyway for their own reasons [not purely to face England]. One of Wales or Scotland usually draw England!"

England will begin their 16th appearance at the World Cup against Iran on November 21, before facing the United States on November 25 and wrapping up their group campaign on November 29.

Harry Kane has broken the record for most Premier League goals scored away from home after netting in Tottenham's clash at Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old put Spurs 2-0 up at the Amex Stadium, and in the process moved to 95 goals from 139 away appearances, and ahead of Wayne Rooney's 94 in the competition.

Kane surpassed the former Manchester United and Everton striker's benchmark despite having played in 104 fewer such games in the competition.

The next four from the England captain in the ranking - Rooney, Alan Shearer, Frank Lampard and Andrew Cole - all made over 200 appearances in the EPL.

With the goal, Kane also moved to 12 goals in the Premier League and 22 in all competitions for the year.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the only reason Manchester United defeated Tottenham according to Alan Shearer, who stated "God only knows" where the Red Devils would be without the Portugal superstar.

Ronaldo struck the 49th hat-trick of his sensational club career to help see off Antonio Conte's side 3-2 at Old Trafford, moving United into the Premier League's top four ahead of Arsenal's clash with Leicester City on Sunday.

With Harry Kane's penalty and a Harry Maguire own goal twice pegging United back in an absorbing contest, Ronaldo also became the first player to give United the lead three times within a single Premier League clash.

Writing for BBC Sport, Shearer – the Premier League's all-time leading goalscorer – was effusive in his praise for the 37-year-old, labelling his performance "staggering".

"There are some people who think Cristiano Ronaldo is a problem for Manchester United," wrote the Newcastle United great. "But God knows where they would be without him.

"I said a few weeks ago that, if it wasn't for Ronaldo, United would be far worse off than they are, and Saturday's game against Tottenham summed up why in a nutshell.

"He was quite simply the only reason they beat Spurs. His hat-trick was phenomenal and his overall performance was so good, it was staggering.

"This was some response to his critics and all three of his goals were special in their own way. His third goal was my favourite, though. Ronaldo had to get every part of it right, and he did.

"From the way he reads the flight of the cross to the way he attacks it and times his jump, then meets the ball with accuracy and power, it was all absolutely perfect. A textbook header."

Shearer was not, however, impressed with United's overall performance, claiming Ronaldo "got them over the line" after a "terrible" defensive display, and cannot be blamed for their below-par season.

"United have still got a heck of a lot of work to do to get a top-four finish from here, but if they do miss out then there is no way on earth you can pin the blame on Ronaldo," he added.

"They would not be in a position to challenge for the Champions League places if it wasn't for him, so I don't buy that as the reason their results have not always been good enough.

"Their big problem is defensively - they are terrible at times, and we saw that again against Tottenham despite the end result this time.

"Yes, United deserve some credit for the way they responded to what happened to them in the derby last weekend [a 4-1 loss at Manchester City] and this was a huge result for them, but they had no control of the game whatsoever and it was Ronaldo's brilliance that got them over the line."

Ronaldo, who has 12 Premier League goals this term, has now scored in each of his last seven appearances against Tottenham in all competitions, and has netted more career goals against Spurs than he has against any other English side (14).

Newcastle United's owners are glad they were snubbed by Unai Emery as they now hope Eddie Howe can be "the next Alex Ferguson" at St James' Park.

Having sacked the unpopular Steve Bruce in October – one match after the club's takeover by a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund – Newcastle identified Emery and Howe as leading candidates for their head coaching role.

Emery was approached first, only to back out, leaving Howe to take charge of a struggling team threatened with relegation.

Gradually, Howe has turned the tide on Tyneside, with Newcastle entering Saturday's match at Brentford on an unbeaten run that spans six league matches and more than two months. They are the only top-flight team without a single defeat since Christmas Day.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Athletic, Newcastle director Mehrdad Ghodoussi said chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan wanted Howe "from day one".

And Al-Rumayyan's fellow board members are now convinced Howe was the right choice.

In the same interview with The Athletic, Amanda Staveley, Ghodoussi's wife and business partner, said: "It would have been wrong [to appoint Emery].

"We made the right decision with Eddie. He's come in, no airs or graces, no ego, and we're there to support him. I've really grown to care a great deal about him and his coaches.

"We talk to Eddie multiple times a day. I'm fascinated by what he does. He's so detailed, so hard working. You don't know when you're interviewing someone what they're going to be like but he's got huge integrity."

Howe is just 14 games into his Newcastle tenure, but Ghodoussi added: "I would love Eddie to be the next Alex Ferguson."

The Newcastle directors also discussed the January transfer window, claiming Sven Botman and Jesse Lingard each wanted to join the club. Botman could yet sign at the end of the season.

Kieran Trippier was one new arrival and had an instant impact, scoring two goals and being handed the captain's armband within four league appearances before sustaining a foot fracture.

Trippier has certainly impressed the Newcastle board, as Staveley said: "He's so professional, so fit. I've been so impressed.

"To be honest, Kieran isn't someone we'll ever sell. I've said to him, 'You're with us and that's it. You can be our Alan Shearer. You'll be a standard-bearer for Newcastle for many years to come'.

"If he can play, he will stay, and I believe you might find he'll still be playing in five years' time because he's capable of it. He's got something extraordinary."

Joe Willock's hugely successful loan spell with Newcastle United concluded in typically impressive fashion on Sunday as he matched an Alan Shearer record.

The midfielder signed from Arsenal in January until the end of the season and has enjoyed an outstanding run of form.

Willock had scored only once in 40 Premier League appearances for the Gunners, but struck 16 minutes into his Newcastle debut against Southampton.

The loan man saved his best performances for the run-in, though, netting in consecutive appearances against Tottenham, West Ham, Liverpool, Leicester City, Manchester City and Sheffield United.

The goal against the Blades, securing a 1-0 win on Wednesday, made Willock the youngest player ever to score in six in a row in the competition.

And that run continued on Sunday against Fulham, as Willock's powerful run from deep on the right was only briefly disrupted on the edge of the area before he steered a low shot into the net.

Shearer, the Premier League's record goalscorer, is the only player to previously net in seven straight appearances in the competition for Newcastle. He did so between September and November 1996, shortly after his £15million world-record move from Blackburn Rovers.

Shearer responded to the latest goal in Willock's streak by posting on Twitter: "Yesssssss @Joewillock again. 7 on the spin."

Willock, who now has eight goals in 14 games for Newcastle, is expected to be a target for the Magpies in the transfer window, but Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said this week: "He will be back with us, we will have those conversations with him and plan the next step then."

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

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