Todd Boehly's suggestion for the creation of a Premier League 'All-Star' game attracted plenty of ridicule, but he certainly can't be accused of a lack of vision or creativity.

The new Chelsea co-owner – and chairman and interim sporting director – was speaking at a conference on Tuesday when he proposed the Premier League 'Americanised' (or should that be 'Americanized'?) itself a bit.

A relegation play-off tournament between the bottom four teams was one idea; but the other, which attracted most of the headlines, was for a North v South 'All-Star' game, pointing out Major League Baseball (MLB) in his native United States made $200million from such an event this year.

A potential Premier League 'All-Stars' game was the talk of football media on Tuesday, so at Stats Perform we decided to have a look at who might line up for the North and South.

It was decided the north-south cut-off point would see Nottingham Forest qualify for the North, ensuring each All-Stars team had 10 clubs to select from.

First up, we have unrestricted squads, so essentially the very best teams possible; then, we have squads that are limited to three players from each club and every single Premier League must have at least a single player selected. So, without any further ado, let's see who made the cut…

NORTH ALL-STARS (unrestricted)

4-3-3: Ederson (Manchester City); Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool); Rodri (Manchester City), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Phil Foden (Manchester City); Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Erling Haaland (Manchester City), Luis Diaz (Liverpool).

SUBS: Alisson (Liverpool), Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Raphael Varane (Manchester United), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Fabinho (Liverpool), Casemiro (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United).

You knew the starting XI was going to look like that even before reading, didn't you? Manchester City and Liverpool obviously dominated the first team here, but it feels difficult to argue with almost any selection here.

The goalkeeper choice was probably the toughest, but only because Ederson and Alisson are both so strong and simultaneously significantly better than any other eligible shot stoppers in terms of their all-round game – Ederson ultimately got the nod owing to 13 more clean sheets over the past three-and-a-bit years, but either could've got the gig.

Similarly in defence, many of the North's options pick themselves. The centre-backs, Van Dijk and Dias, have each won the Premier League Player of the Season award in the past four years, while Alexander-Arnold and Robertson have at least 12 most assists than any other defender since the start of the 2019-20 season.

While the defence had a distinctively Liverpool look to it, City dominate the midfield because… well, they tend to dominate the midfield. Rodri provides the control and defensive protection, while Foden and De Bruyne can wreak havoc going forward and towards the flanks.

Salah and Haaland were obvious picks in attack. The Egyptian has been involved in 96 goals (66 scored, 30 assisted) since the start of the 2019-20 season, more than anyone else, while Haaland is arguably the most in-form striker in world football, having already netted 12 times in seven games for City.

Luis Diaz was perhaps the most uncertain one, but he's quickly become a key figure at Liverpool. His ability to cut inside or head for the byline makes him an unpredictable asset, and he's something of a double threat in terms of goals and creativity.

Cristiano Ronaldo's appearance on the bench owes much to his solid goal-scoring form last season.

SOUTHERN ALL-STARS (unrestricted)

4-2-3-1: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham); Reece James (Chelsea), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Kalidou Koulibaly (Chelsea), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal); Declan Rice (West Ham), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea); Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Son Heung-min (Tottenham); Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal).

SUBS: Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Marc Cucurella (Chelsea), Jorginho (Chelsea), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Martin Odegaard (Arsenal), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Ivan Toney (Brentford).

This team has it all. A World Cup-winning goalkeeper, a defence with an ideal blend of youth and experience, a combative midfield and four world-class attackers.

Lloris gets the nod in net. He's been one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the league since his arrival from Lyon 10 years ago, and based on Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded metric, Lloris has prevented 3.8 goals since the start of the 2020-21 season, significantly better than his South All-Stars back-up, Chelsea's Edouard Mendy (-3.8).

Chelsea star James is the right-back, with his 16 goal contributions (six goals, 10 assists) since the start of last season topping the charts for a defender. Koulibaly and Romero are a formidable centre-back pairing, while Zinchenko has four Premier League titles to his name from his time at Manchester City.

James and Zinchenko are brilliant attacking full-backs, but the defence will need screening, and that is where Kante and Rice come into their own. Both super ball-winners, Kante's relentless energy will be complemented by Rice's ability on the ball, as he has demonstrated at West Ham.

That midfield protection will be needed, with a four-pronged attack ready to lay waste to the North's defence.

Sterling might not have made a flying start at Chelsea but is the best pick on the right wing, with Son – who shared the league's golden boot award last season – on the opposite wing. Kane will play a slightly deeper role, behind Jesus, who has had more touches in the opposition box (66), attempted more dribbles (34), more dribbles in the box (8) and won more fouls (21) than any other player in the Premier League this season.


4-2-3-1: Jordan Pickford (Jordan Pickford); Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Vigil van Dijk (Liverpool), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool); Bruno Guimaraes (Newcastle United), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City); Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Pedro Neto (Wolves); Erling Haaland (Manchester City).

SUBS: Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Diego Carlos (Aston Villa), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Renan Lodi (Nottingham Forest), James Maddison (Leicester City), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Jack Harrison (Leeds United), Antony Gordon (Everton), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United).

Our self-imposed restrictions of no more than three players from a given team gives the North All-Stars a distinctly different feel – nevertheless, Van Dijk, Dias, Robertson, De Bruyne, Salah and Haaland retain their places, for obvious reasons.

Probably the biggest casualty is Alexander-Arnold, but the North benefits from having another excellent forward-thinking option at right-back in Trippier, while Jordan Pickford starts between the posts – David de Gea was another option here, but the England international is better with his feet.

Bruno Guimaraes comes into the midfield, offering a valuable combination of bite and craft, while Fernandes will take up the number 10 position with De Bruyne dropping a little deeper – this shouldn't stifle the team's creativity too much given the Belgian is the only player with more chances created (239) than Fernandes (224) since the latter's Premier League debut.

The other new face in attack is Pedro Neto. Perhaps a wildcard choice, but the Portugal international is an exciting winger with lots of pace and trickery. While Salah will cut in off the opposite flank, Neto looks to get crosses into the box, and that could be an effective route to goal knowing the predatory instincts Haaland has.

Again, Ronaldo is held back in reserve.


4-3-3: Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion); Reece James (Chelsea), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal); James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Declan Rice (West Ham), Mason Mount (Chelsea); Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Son Heung-min (Tottenham).

SUBS: Neto (Bournemouth), Ben Mee (Brentford), Tariq Lamptey (Brighton and Hove Albion), Joao Palhinha (Fulham), Lucas Paqueta (West Ham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), Ivan Toney (Brentford).

Robert Sanchez has been a standout performer for Brighton under the now Chelsea boss Graham Potter, and he replaces Lloris now the restrictions have come into play. He has kept 24 league clean sheets since making his debut in November 2020, which trails only four other goalkeepers.

James, Romero and Zinchenko all keep their places in defence, though Koulibaly does not. He makes way for Joachim Andersen, who has been excellent since signing for Crystal Palace in 2021.

We have switched to a midfield three for this side, with Rice staying in the team but playing a deeper, anchoring role. Alongside him are two new faces in the form of England team-mates Ward-Prowse and Mount. Both provide energy and creativity in abundance.

Ward-Prowse's set-piece quality – no midfielder has scored more goals or created more chances from set plays since the start of last season as the Southampton captain – is a huge threat, while Mount has contributed to 21 league goals since the beginning of 2021-22.

Jesus is the unlucky striker to drop out of the starting XI, though he is on the bench, with Sterling, Kane and Son leading the line.

Christian Eriksen is confident Manchester United are on a "good road" and praised the qualities of his fellow Red Devils midfielders. 

Although United lost to Real Sociedad in the Europa League last time out, their Premier League fortunes have seen a vast improvement since Erik ten Hag lost his first two games in charge last month.

A 3-1 home win over Arsenal last Sunday made it four successive league victories for United – their best winning run since April 2021.

Eriksen created a team-high three chances and recorded 33 successful passes (also a team-high) against the Gunners, as well as teeing up Marcus Rashford's second goal.

Only Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes (both 10) have created more Premier League chances than Eriksen for United this campaign (eight). Meanwhile, Fernandes (539) is the only Red Devils midfielder to rack up more Premier League minutes than Eriksen's 532 under Ten Hag.

Speaking to the club's website, Eriksen said United's midfielders were adapting well to the new boss's methods. 

"Everyone has different qualities and it's up to the manager who he's going to put down to play in which games and see what qualities will work," Eriksen said.

"Take Casemiro coming in and showing how strong he is already, being a winner. And Fred and Donny [van de Beek] have played for many years – it's a decent midfield.

"Scott [McTominay] has done very well and I think you can see that from the games. I think in the first few games, we were looking for each other a bit and seeing where we are. 

"But now I think we are starting to get a good connection and a good feeling of where you should be, and also because of the instructions of the manager, as he has the positions he would like us to be in. 

"I think it's gone well, but also when you win games it's just easier to look back and the confidence builds up and you forget the small mistakes you make and remember the good things. 

"There are a lot of things we can improve, but it's a good road we're on."

Last season's 6th-placed Premier League finish means United are competing in the Europa League this campaign, but Eriksen believes the strength of their squad – and the allowance of five substitutions – leaves them well-equipped to cope.

"[The whole squad] is going to be very important," he added. "I think this is a good year to have five substitutions.

"It will help the pressure on a lot of the players, and also I think it will give the manager a few more options. 

"The guys who have come on have done very well – they want to prove themselves. And also the guys that have been starting want to prove themselves. 

"So it's a good and strong push that I think we need, because we have a lot of games and there is a lot of quality in the team. We all have to fight for our places."

Following the Premier League's decision to postpone its weekend fixture programme after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, United are back in action on Thursday, travelling to Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League.

Bruno Fernandes declared Manchester United must make winning a habit after their revival gathered pace with a 3-1 victory over Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday.

Despite being under pressure for long periods, United dealt the Gunners their first defeat of the campaign after Marcus Rashford followed up Antony's debut strike with a second-half brace, with Fernandes laying on the England international's first.

Since Fernandes made his Premier League debut in February 2020, he has recorded 26 assists in the competition – only Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne (29) has teed up more goals in that time.

Meanwhile, United's four-match winning sequence is their longest in the Premier League since last April (a run of five) and has provided welcome relief for Erik ten Hag after he lost his first two games at the helm.

Speaking to the club's media channels, Fernandes called on United to continue their improved form as he declared: "It has to become a habit.

"We know that, playing for this club, [winning] has to be a habit. 

"We have to do that. We know that sometimes we get a result, sometimes we don't, but the fight and the spirit and the togetherness has to always be there to get three points."

United came away with the victory despite managing less than 40 per cent possession against Mikel Arteta's side, and Fernandes was delighted by the resilience the hosts showed.

"I thought everyone was compact," United's stand-in captain added.

"The togetherness was there, the fighting spirit and everything, and that's why we get the three points and that's why we have a performance like that.

"Sometimes you have to be deep, you have to defend, you have to defend your own box because the other team has quality and can cause you problems. 

"If you do like we did today, you don’t concede many and you score more than them.

"We know we can be a threat on the counter-attack, and we can also play a little bit more and we have to play a little bit more, we know that."

Ten Hag will get his first taste of continental competition in the United dugout when the Red Devils host Real Sociedad in the Europa League on Thursday, with a Premier League trip to Crystal Palace to follow three days later.

Erik ten Hag plans to keep Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United after their valuable win at Southampton, as he revealed his club are "alert" to the possibility of incomings.

Bruno Fernandes scored a terrific goal to guide United to a 1-0 win at St Mary's on Saturday, doubling their Premier League points tally for the season and handing Ten Hag his first back-to-back victories at the helm.

As well as claiming their first consecutive league wins since February, when they beat Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United, the Red Devils ended a seven-match away losing run. 

While United offered a glimpse of their potential under Ten Hag with a professional display on the south coast, movement is expected at Old Trafford before the transfer window closes on Thursday.

Ronaldo continues to be linked with an exit after starting just once this season, while Eredivisie duo Antony and Cody Gakpo have been touted as attacking targets.

While Ten Hag is still eyeing further additions, he insists Ronaldo remains in his thoughts, telling BT Sport: "We plan with him, we stick to the plan.

"If a good player is available, we will strike, because we want to strengthen the squad always. We will be alert until the last second of the window."

United have improved dramatically since they were comprehensively outplayed by Brighton and Brentford in Ten Hag's first two games in charge, and the Dutchman was satisfied with their latest performance.

"I think they learned some lessons from Brentford, it's quite clear. We were compact on their long balls, so that was quite good," he added.

"Of course, we are really happy with this result and also the goal we made. We also made two or three more really good chances, but you hope that you keep more control in the last 30 minutes of the game.

"Don't forget that before half-time we already had the biggest chance of the game, and it was three in one play! I was satisfied and at the start of the game, with better decisions and switches of play, we could have created more.

"But it's the start of the season. It's tough. You have to get into the season, and you have to fight and battle and we did that, then you get rewarded."

Fernandes was the star of the show on Saturday, scoring his 37th Premier League goal for United as he donned the captain's armband – only Mohamed Salah (54), Harry Kane (49) and Son Heung-min (45) have outscored the Portugal midfielder in the Premier League since his 2020 debut.

And Ten Hag said his well-worked strike typifies the style of football he wants to implement at Old Trafford. 

"It was a fantastic finish and I'm really happy for him, his first goal of the season, which is really good," Ten Hag said.

"But I think it was the best part from us, straight after half-time. That is what we demand, you get movement around, and straight after half-time we created three really good chances.

"That is how I see football, how I want us to play.

"There is still room for improvement, to control more, break more or keep better positions in some stages of the game. We are not that long in our way, like every team, but there we can improve."

Bruno Fernandes praised Manchester United for picking up where they left off in their win over Liverpool after firing them to a 1-0 victory at Southampton.

Fernandes produced a classy side-footed finish when he met Diogo Dalot's cross after 55 minutes at St Mary's, guiding United to back-to-back wins for the first time since Erik ten Hag took charge.

Since Fernandes made his United debut in February 2020, only Mohamed Salah (54), Harry Kane (49) and Son Heung-Min (45) have scored more Premier League goals than the Portuguese livewire (37).

The creative midfielder has assumed a crucial role in United's improvement this week, taking on the captain's armband for each of their last two games with Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo both starting on the bench.

Fernandes hailed United's attitude after the win on the south coast, telling BT Sport: "We knew that playing against Southampton away is not easy. We have experienced that already in the last three years.

"We did a great game, sometimes you have to suffer. This is the Premier League, every game is tough. Well done to us.

"Massive three points for us. Now we have to carry on.

"It's important because one win doesn't make the league, two wins don't make the league. We have to carry on this sacrifice in the last two games for the rest of the season. This is what this club demands.

"After Liverpool everyone could feel it, we set the standard so we have to carry on now and if we can, improve it."

Asked about his goal, a cultured finish from a bouncing ball just inside the penalty area, Fernandes was keen to highlight the selfless contributions of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

"It was a great ball, even great play from behind. Everything was perfect," he said with a smile.

"I think it was Marcus or Jadon who made the run on the goal and created the space to make it. We did it well, so well done to everyone not just me."

As well as doubling their points tally for the new campaign, United ended a dire run of form on their travels, clinching their first away Premier League win in eight attempts, having last won at Leeds United in February.

Fernandes, who starred as United went an entire Premier League season unbeaten on the road in 2020-21, is simply focused on keeping the Red Devils' improved run going.

"Obviously I think we did two or three seasons ago not losing from home," he added. "But we want to win every game. That's what it's about to play for Manchester United."

Bruno Fernandes guided Manchester United to a 1-0 victory over Southampton at St Mary's as they claimed back-to-back wins for the first time in the Erik ten Hag era and built on Monday's victory over Liverpool.

Fernandes, retaining the captain's armband as both Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo started on the bench, produced a classy 55th-minute finish to hand United the win.

Joe Aribo went closest to a leveller for Southampton with a close-range header, but United produced one of their most composed defensive performances in recent months to secure a first away league win in eight attempts.

After making a dire start to the new campaign, United have now strung together consecutive league wins for the first time since February, giving lift-off to Ten Hag's tenure.

As part of an even first half, United were denied an opener in stunning fashionwhen Gavin Bazunu, Kyle Walker-Peters and Armel Bella-Kotchap all made astonishing last-ditch blocks, as Anthony Elanga, Fernandes and Christian Eriksen all failed to convert from inside the six-yard box.

Bella-Kotchap should have done better when volleying over on the stretch near the half-hour mark, before the lively Che Adams hit a weak effort straight at David de Gea after running in behind. 

Bazunu turned away a right-footed volley from Scott McTominay four minutes after the break, but he was unable to prevent the Saints from falling behind soon after, as Fernandes side-footed Diogo Dalot's bouncing cross into the bottom-left corner. 

United were indebted to De Gea for maintaining their advantage, with the Spaniard producing a fine reflex save from Aribo's powerful header before Ronaldo was introduced.

Casemiro then made his United debut from the bench as the Red Devils clung on for a valuable win despite Sekou Mara twice going close to a last-gasp leveller.

Erik ten Hag is expecting Casemiro to emerge as a leader in his Manchester United team after the Brazil midfielder competed his £60million (€70m) move from Real Madrid.

Casemiro, who won 18 major titles during a trophy-laden nine-year spell with the Spanish giants, was unveiled as a United player ahead of their 2-1 Premier League victory over Liverpool on Monday.

The Brazil enforcer is the fourth arrival of a busy transfer window at Old Trafford, following in the footsteps of Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia and Christian Eriksen, all of whom impressed when starting against Liverpool.

Casemiro will likely have been encouraged by a first glimpse of his new team-mates, as United handed Jurgen Klopp's side their first league defeat of 2022 via goals from Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford.

Ten Hag, who is now the first ever United manager to secure his maiden competitive win against Liverpool, expects Casemiro's big-game experience to be an asset for the Red Devils.

"He has won so many trophies in his career," Ten Hag said. "He knows the road, how you win games and finally how you win trophies.

"We [now] have more players who have won already many trophies in their career. That has to be a guidance for the rest of the team so they know and they understand how to win games.

"We did really well today compared to last week so we make a step [forward], but it is what you have to deliver every day and in every game."

No midfielder has matched Casemiro's tally of 415 tackles won in LaLiga since the start of the 2015-16 season, with the 30-year-old's defensive abilities allowing Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to star throughout one of the most successful periods in Madrid's history.

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the match, Ten Hag referred to Casemiro as "the cement between the stones", adding: "That is what we have been looking for in the summer and found him, [I'm] very happy with his signing."

Ten Hag expects multiple United players to display leadership qualities, and used a post-match interview to hail Bruno Fernandes' performance as captain after dropping Harry Maguire to the bench.

"I think he took the responsibility and I think it encouraged him, the captaincy, and I think he showed leadership together with Rapha Varane," Ten Hag told Sky Sports.

"I think definitely on the pitch, they make a huge difference, but that is what they have to bring, and it’s not just those two, I think we need more leaders.

"When you want to make a winning team, you need more leaders and we need the spirit that we showed today."

United travel to Southampton for their next Premier League outing on Saturday, having collected three points from their first three games of the campaign.

Andy Robertson described Liverpool's start to the season as "really poor" after the Reds failed to win any of their opening three league games for the first time in 10 years, insisting better results "need to come quickly".

Goals from Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford handed Erik ten Hag his first league win as Manchester United boss at Liverpool's expense on Monday, as the Red Devils prevailed 2-1 behind a much-improved performance after losing their previous two games.

The defeat was Liverpool's first in the Premier League in 2022, with Jurgen Klopp's side having previously won 16 and drawn five of their league games this calendar year.

After coming from behind to claim draws against Fulham and Crystal Palace prior to visiting Old Trafford, Liverpool have now failed to win their first three games of a league campaign for the first time since Brendan Rodgers was at the helm in 2012-13.

Left-back Robertson knows Liverpool need to improve sharply, telling Sky Sports: "It's definitely not been the start to the season that we wanted, it's been really poor.

"We give every team a goal start which is the basis of the game, you can’t keep on giving yourself an uphill battle.

"We've conceded an early goal again, we've started slow again and that's what needs to change. We can't keep going one behind. Probably in the warm-up it was the quietest I have ever heard this stadium – they wanted something to lift them and we unfortunately gave them it and then they obviously got behind their team.

"Two points from nine is not the start that we wanted. We need to pick up our performances individually and collectively very quickly. We need to kickstart our season, that's for sure."

Having gone close to winning an unprecedented quadruple last campaign, Liverpool are already five points adrift of title favourites Manchester City after Pep Guardiola's men made an unbeaten start.

While Robertson insists the title race is not on Liverpool's minds, he knows there is little room for error moving forward, adding: "It's early on in the season but even if we were at the top of the league we wouldn't be thinking about the title race.

"We've always been consistent with that every season, you don't really think about it until you get closer to see where everyone's at.

"The start of the season is always a bit messy where you just try to find your feet. This season we haven't done it and yeah, we're not thinking about that.

"We need to get our first win on the board. We need to try to get ahead first in the game and try to put in a good performance, get our first clean sheet and get back to our basics.

"And if we can do that, that's the only way we will win games, it's as simple as that. We've always been a hard-working team, we've always been honest, we've always been passionate.

"We need to keep doing that, but we also need to be clinical in both boxes and if we do that I believe the results will come. But they need to come quickly."

Klopp echoed those sentiments in his post-match news conference, ruing Liverpool's injury problems but acknowledging they should be performing to a higher level.

"It's not the nicest thing to look at, that's clear, but it's our situation. Look, we can talk about all the things but in the end I saw tonight a game," Klopp said.

"So, during the week it is not easy because we have 15 senior outfield players, I think, in training. That's obviously not cool. But for the game tonight, I liked the line-up, saw good performances as well tonight.

"So, our situation is how it is. It's not perfect but good enough to play better tonight, and I think our situation is good enough that we could've won the game tonight if we would have played slightly better."

Klopp moved to play down his post-match confrontation with Bruno Fernandes after appearing frustrated by perceived simulation from United, adding: "It was not animated. It was the most harmless conversation I ever had, with a player who is as emotional as I maybe was!

"It was the situation with the centre-half, [Lisandro] Martinez, when he went down. He was talking to me and said, 'You would do the same', but I said, 'No, I cannot fall like this'.

"It was all fine after the game, he told me he needs these kind of conversations during the game and so I said, 'Fine, use me!'."

Bruno Fernandes hinted he is aware of where Cristiano Ronaldo intends to play his football beyond this transfer window and says his team-mate's decision must be respected.

Ronaldo's Manchester United future continues to be a hot topic of discussion after being named among the substitutes for Monday's 2-1 win over Liverpool.

The 37-year-old, who came on for the final four minutes at Old Trafford, has now been left out of the starting line-up for two of United's opening three games under Erik ten Hag.

A number of clubs continue to be linked with Ronaldo ahead of next week's transfer deadline, with the forward reportedly seeking a team playing in the Champions League.

And close friend Fernandes will be happy for his Portuguese compatriot regardless of whether he stays or leaves Old Trafford after just a year back at the club.

"There is a lot of speculation, but there is no one better than Cristiano to talk about it," Fernandes told Eleven Sports. "I may know a thing or two, but I won't be the one to say it.

"Cristiano is calm. He worked well this week and did the work he has been doing, which he will continue to do so.

"For now he is a United player. I don't know if he will leave or if he will not leave. As he said, he will speak soon and they will have time to hear his words and what he has to say.

"I don't think anyone has shown so far that there was no interest in Cristiano not staying. He can continue at a high level and give us a lot of goals but it's his decision.

"We have to respect what he wants to do, whatever he wants to do. 

"If he's going to stay, we'll be happy about it; if he's going to leave because he thinks it's best for him, I'll be personally happy for him.

"The most important thing is that he's okay, playing at the highest level and making our country proud."

Ronaldo has played just 131 minutes across the first three matches this season – the 13th most of all United players – following on from a disrupted pre-season campaign.

The 24 goals Ronaldo scored in all competitions in 2021-22 were 14 more than next-best Fernandes, with no other United player reaching double-figures in a dire season.

Ten Hag made another huge selection call against Liverpool by omitting skipper Harry Maguire, but the Dutchman suggested both players still have a part to play.

"The demand is for everyone, including the manager," Ten Hag said when asked about the pair at his post-match press conference. 

"We have to deliver. You have an obligation to the club, to the fans. This is a massive club with a huge fanbase, and we have to deliver that. 

"We have to act as a team, and every individual, every day, has to give their best. That is the demand for the manager and also for the team."

Asked specifically about Ronaldo, Ten Hag said: "In his career, under several managers, he has [adapted] to styles and systems. He's always performed, so why not again?"

When pointed out that Ronaldo will turn 38 before the end of the season, Ten Hag responded: "And? His age is not an issue. 

"If you are young, you are good enough; when you are old, if you still deliver the performance, you are also good enough."

It does not feel like it has been away for long, but the Premier League is back.

Just shy of the competition's 30th anniversary, the action gets underway a week earlier than usual as club football attempts to adjust to the upcoming mid-season World Cup in Qatar.

Narratives galore have emerged over the pre-season, but in terms of opening-weekend curiosity, it is fair to suggest Old Trafford will attract more than its fair share of intrigued glances.

Another new era begins at Manchester United on Sunday as Erik ten Hag takes charge of his first competitive match at the club.

There's a long list of managers who have failed to bring sustained success to United since Alex Ferguson's retirement nine years ago – Ten Hag will hope he can buck the trend, and he begins with the visit of Brighton and Hove Albion.

New beginnings

Ten Hag's April appointment came amid gloomy days at Old Trafford. Ralf Rangnick's spell as interim manager was proving tumultuous, with the German as familiar to criticising the club's structure as he was presiding over underwhelming performances.

United had been dumped out of the Champions League by an unimpressive Atletico Madrid side, and that began something of a downward spiral, with hopes of a top-four finish quickly diminishing.

Now, Ten Hag will be the eighth manager – including caretaker/interim bosses – to take charge of United since Ferguson left.

At least the short-term omens are good: of the previous seven managers, only Ten Hag's compatriot Louis van Gaal failed to win his opening match, losing 2-1 to Swansea City.

It will take a lot more than one win over Brighton to bring the good times back to Old Trafford, however.

Ronaldo: A point to prove and a milestone within reach…

Of course, one of the major sideshows for United in pre-season has been Cristiano Ronaldo.

Reports claimed he wanted to leave for a Champions League club and he did not join United on their pre-season tour of Australia and Thailand. This was put down to personal reasons.

But no such move away has so far materialised, and so he was welcomed back into the fold before playing 45 minutes against Rayo Vallecano last weekend. Cue more controversy, as he and several other United players left early, which Ten Hag later called "unacceptable".

Given the circus around Ronaldo in recent times, at any other club you would expect him to be dropped for this game – yet, with Anthony Martial out injured, Ronaldo looks likely to start, and few would put it past him making the occasion about himself again.

After all, he's only three away from his 500th career league goal. He couldn't, could he?

A score to settle

Brighton and United played each other quite recently. Well, recently in competitive action terms, anyway.

The Red Devils' penultimate game of last season was at the Amex Stadium, and Seagulls fans will remember it fondly as they ran out crushing 4-0 winners.

That was Brighton's biggest top-flight win ever in their 356th match at that level, while it inflicted a fifth successive away defeat for United, their worst such run since 1981.

Winning at Old Trafford is another matter entirely, though – Brighton have never won there. If United do lose, they will have suffered three consecutive Premier League defeats for the first time in seven years.

Good habits

While that May encounter was a game to forget for United and Bruno Fernandes, the playmaker does have a good track record against Sunday's opponents.

In five league meetings with Brighton, Fernandes has been involved in six goals (four goals, two assists), which make the Seagulls  his second-favourite opposition, behind Leeds United (eight goal involvements).

Similarly, Brighton's Pascal Gross has done well against United in the past.

His four goals versus United is more than he has managed against any other team, and Gross has netted in all three of Brighton's Premier League victories over the Red Devils, getting the winning goal on two occasions.

Manchester United may be scouring the market for a striker as speculation persists around Cristiano Ronaldo's future, but Salzburg's Benjamin Sesko would come at a heavy price – at least as far as the Austrians' Twitter admin is concerned.

United's tally of just 57 Premier League goals last season was their lowest since they netted 54 times in 2016-17, and Ronaldo's apparent desire to leave for a Champions League club has intensified rumours the Red Devils may seek a new forward.

Salzburg's Sesko is the latest to be linked with a move to Old Trafford, with the 19-year-old having scored 11 goals for the Austrian champions in all competitions last season.

But Salzburg appear to be driving a hard bargain, according to their English-language Twitter account, which addressed the rumours with the demand: "We want 300million and Bruno [Fernandes]", alongside a thumbs-up emoji.

United are not the only side credited with an interest in the striker, with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund also linked.

Needless to say, if Sesko did command such a fee, United supporters would be justified in expecting him to deliver more than Europa League qualification next season.

Bruno Fernandes insists Cristiano Ronaldo was not the reason Manchester United struggled last season, while he expects the "strict" Erik ten Hag to deliver success at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo has reportedly asked to leave United, less than a year after returning to the club, and is yet to report for training with Ten Hag's squad after missing three pre-season friendlies due to family reasons.

Fernandes claimed earlier in the week that he had no knowledge of Ronaldo's future intentions but called for respect for whatever his Portugal compatriot decides to do.

Ten Hag has already made it clear that Ronaldo remains an integral part of his plans after the 37-year-old top-scored with 24 goals in all competitions for United last term.

As United prepare to face Aston Villa in their next pre-season friendly on Saturday, Fernandes again leapt to the defence of the forward, refusing to blame him for the Red Devils' issues last term.

Asked whether Ronaldo's presence caused a change in style and problems for United, Fernandes told Sky Sports: "No I don't think so.

"I am there to serve my strikers and I think we had an amazing start to the season. When Cristiano came in he scored two goals in his first game and I scored one and after that, I scored many goals playing with Cristiano.

"I think all of my goals I was playing alongside Cristiano, so I don't think that was the problem at all.

"I play with him for Portugal and that will never be the problem because good players can fit together at any time at any point."

Whether Ten Hag has Ronaldo to call upon in the upcoming campaign or not, Fernandes lauded the former Ajax coach's training methods as the Dutchman attempts to implement a new style of play at United.

"Nobody can get away with anything with him and the senior players have to play their part too, making sure that everyone is on the same page," he added.

"Everyone knows they have to be pushing to the same side and if not, they will be out of the team. That's a good thing because if you want to be successful as a team you have to be always in the same way.

"He's strict, he's tough, but at the same time, he's a nice and easy guy to chat to. 

"The main thing is following what he wants because I think he has a straight line that he wants to have with the team and I want to follow that straight line because I think we can be successful that way.

"I think everyone will be happy at the end of the season if we can do everything he wants us to do."

Fernandes netted 28 times for United in all competitions in the 2020-21 season, the best return by a midfielder for a Premier League club in a single campaign, surpassing Frank Lampard's 27 for Chelsea in 2009-10.

The Portugal international failed to follow that up in the next campaign, managing 10 goals across all competitions, and Fernandes wants to prove his worth after signing a new five-year contract in March.

"Last season, as a team it was not successful so individually it's difficult to be successful," he added.

"I was trying in the same way to improve the team, but obviously, it was a difficult season for everyone and was tough to be successful individually because the results were not there.

"I know everyone is expecting so much from me because my first season was amazing and last season I only scored 10 goals and 14 assists. I know I can do much better than that.

"So for me, it's about following the rules [Ten Hag] wants, following his demands and my game will come naturally. The main thing for me is that the team is successful."

Bruno Fernandes claims to be in the dark regarding Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United future, as he hit out at criticism of his own performances last season.

Ronaldo has reportedly asked to leave Old Trafford less than a year after returning from Juventus, with United having stumbled to a sixth-placed Premier League finish last term.

The 37-year-old has scored 140 Champions League goals, 15 more than his closest rival Lionel Messi, and his desire to feature in European football's premier club competition has been reported as an important motivation behind his desire to leave.

Ronaldo has yet to train with Erik ten Hag's team ahead of the new season, missing the club's tour of Asia and Australia due to family reasons. 

While United remain steadfast in their desire to keep the forward, Fernandes says any decision made by Ronaldo must be respected, but claims to know nothing of his compatriot's intentions.

"I don't know, obviously Cristiano was our top scorer last season, he added goals to us, but obviously it's not on me, it's the club that has to make the choices and Cristiano makes his own choice," Fernandes said, in comments reported by the Athletic.

"I don't know what's going on in his head, if he wants to leave, it's all news. I didn't ask him that.

"The only thing I asked Cristiano, when he didn't turn up [for pre-season training], was if everything was okay with the family. He told me what was going on, that's it and nothing more.

"We have to respect the decision of everyone. I don't know what Cristiano said to the club, to the manager, I don't know what is going on in his head, but we have to respect his space.

"From everything we know, he had some family problems, so we have to give him some space and that's it."


Ronaldo top-scored with 24 goals in all competitions for United last term, and was the only player to register more strikes than Fernandes (10), who also topped the club's assist charts with 13.

Yet the creative midfielder attracted criticism for a perceived lack of discipline on and off the ball, an assessment he rejects after caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick struggled to implement a high-pressing style.

"I don't understand that type of question of keeping the ball or whatever it is," Fernandes said.

"I keep the ball when I think I have to keep it, I try a pass when I think I have to do it. Sometimes it goes good, sometimes wrong. 

"Obviously when it goes wrong, I know that shouldn't be the one, but sometimes when you play in the number 10 position you have only a few seconds to think and control the ball and make the pass.

"I understand of course that someone has his own opinion, but when I arrived in 2020, I was losing the same amount of balls in those six months, and then the year after I lost the same amount of balls, but I scored 28 goals so people don't complain about that. 

"Last season, because I scored 'only' 10, people start complaining, but I'm okay with that, I don't worry.

"I know I always give my best, I always try to help my team-mates. They know that even when I miss the passes, I'm trying to give something to them, so I'm okay with that.

"Obviously I will have to do what the coach demands from me, and what he demands from me I will do."

United have won on all three of their pre-season outings under Ten Hag to date, and will begin their first Premier League campaign under the Dutchman at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on August 7.

Erik ten Hag said he was already seeing improvements in Manchester United's pressing after a 3-1 friendly win against Crystal Palace, but insisted there remains "a lot of work to do" ahead of the new season.

United maintained their 100 per cent winning record across pre-season with a routine triumph over Patrick Vieira's out-of-sorts side in Melbourne, with Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho netting before youngster Will Fish received a late red card.

In opening the scoring with a neat volleyed finish, Martial became the first United player to score in three consecutive pre-season contests since 2007, when Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney did so ahead of a season in which United won the Premier League and Champions League.

As United finished a lowly sixth in the Premier League under caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick last season, their lack of an organised pressing style came under fire.

United ranked just 12th in the Premier League for possessions won in both the final and middle thirds of the pitch last season, as Liverpool topped both charts, and 37-year-old forward Ronaldo received particular scrutiny over his contributions outside of his clear goal threat.

After Tuesday's win, Ten Hag told MUTV: "We are happy with the improvement we see, but we see also there is a lot of work to do."

Asked specifically about United's pressing, he said: "That is a demand on the team, we press, we press all day. 

"If we can, we do it high on the pitch, if we can't, we do it in a lower block, but we have to do it together, as a team. The timing of the press, I still see switches we can't afford, we can prepare a better press. 

"I think also on the ball [we can improve]. We played well, but you see at 2-0 up or 3-0 up the belief is increasing, then with the ball we can delay, we can postpone so that opponents come out, and then speed up."

While Ronaldo's future at the club remains subject to speculation after he reportedly asked to leave for a Champions League club, Ten Hag is demanding greater off-the-ball work from all his forwards.

"I hope we can convince them [the attackers] to do a lot of work, a lot of running," he added. "You see, they put a lot of energy into the defence and they get rewarded by scoring goals, winning balls high up the pitch.

"No opponent likes to be pressed on the defensive line. I think it's a big advantage when you can do that, but you need the whole team."

Creative midfielder Bruno Fernandes is also relishing United's new, high-octane style, adding: "I think that we're much more aggressive now, firstly with the three guys up front; when they press, they press really strong.

"It makes where we recover the ball much closer to the goal. We are much more fresh to do that, we have more freedom when we recover the ball and we're playing much better on the ball too."

Bruno Fernandes will wear the number eight shirt for Manchester United this season, while new signing Tyrell Malacia takes number 12  at Old Trafford.

Fernandes has donned the number 18 shirt for the Red Devils since joining from Sporting CP in January 2020, subsequently scoring 50 goals in 126 appearances across all competitions.

But the Portugal international has opted to switch to his favourite number, which he has tattooed on his right arm, after the jersey was vacated by Juan Mata following the Spaniard's departure from the club at the end of last season.

Fernandes will be seen in the number eight shirt for the first time during United's pre-season tour of Thailand, with the squad flying out to the Far East on Friday.

The midfielder becomes the sixth different player to wear the shirt at Old Trafford since the introduction of squad numbers in 1993-94, after Paul Ince, Nicky Butt, Wayne Rooney, Anderson and Mata.

Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that Malacia will wear number 12 following his arrival from Feyenoord.

The left-back put pen to paper on a four-year contract with the Red Devils earlier this week, as he became the club's first signing under Erik ten Hag.

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