Cristiano Ronaldo has completed a transfer to Al Nassr.

Ronaldo was strongly linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League side after his second spell at Manchester United ended in acrimonious fashion in late November.

After falling down the pecking order at United, Ronaldo – who only scored one Premier League goal this season – told Piers Morgan he had no respect for head coach Erik ten Hag in a controversial interview.

That comment, as well as Ronaldo's declaration that United had "betrayed" him, led the Red Devils to terminate his contact shortly after the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

Al Nassr emerged as frontrunners and on Friday the 37-year-old's transfer was officially confirmed. Reports have suggested Ronaldo has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal and will earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

"History in the making," Al Nassr tweeted.

"This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome @Cristiano to your new home @AlNassrFC."

Ronaldo's move is seen as effectively bringing down the curtain on one of the greatest careers in the history of elite European Football.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has lifted the Champions League trophy on five occasions – four times with Real Madrid and once with United, while his tally of 140 goals is the highest recorded in Europe's premier club competition.

Ronaldo is also Madrid's all-time top scorer with 450 goals, while he became the highest-scoring player in the history of men's international football last year – he now has 118 senior goals for Portugal.

 

However, he has fallen short of those incredible standards in recent months, with a group-stage penalty against Ghana representing his only goal at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, though that did make him the first man to net at five different editions of FIFA's flagship tournament.

Having been relegated to the role of substitute for Portugal's last two games, Ronaldo maintained his unwanted record of never scoring in a knockout fixture at the World Cup before watching his great rival Lionel Messi lead Argentina to their third title.

Al Nassr are coached by former Lyon boss Rudi Garcia and count Cameroon forward Vincent Aboubakar and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina among their squad.

The Riyadh-based side have won Saudi Arabia's top flight on nine occasions – a tally only bettered by Al Hilal, who have 18 titles to their name.

Cristiano Ronaldo has completed a transfer to Al Nassr.

Ronaldo was strongly linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League side after his second spell at Manchester United ended in acrimonious fashion in late November.

After falling down the pecking order at United, Ronaldo – who only scored one Premier League goal this season – told Piers Morgan he had no respect for head coach Erik ten Hag in a controversial interview.

That comment, as well as Ronaldo's declaration that United had "betrayed" him, led the Red Devils to terminate his contact shortly after the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

Al Nassr emerged as frontrunners and on Friday the 37-year-old's transfer was officially confirmed. Reports have suggested Ronaldo has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal and will earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

"History in the making," Al Nassr tweeted.

"This is a signing that will not only inspire our club to achieve even greater success but inspire our league, our nation and future generations, boys and girls to be the best version of themselves. Welcome @Cristiano to your new home @AlNassrFC."

Ronaldo's move is seen as effectively bringing down the curtain on one of the greatest careers in the history of elite European Football.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has lifted the Champions League trophy on five occasions – four times with Real Madrid and once with United, while his tally of 140 goals is the highest recorded in Europe's premier club competition.

Ronaldo is also Madrid's all-time top scorer with 450 goals, while he became the highest-scoring player in the history of men's international football last year – he now has 118 senior goals for Portugal.

 

However, he has fallen short of those incredible standards in recent months, with a group-stage penalty against Ghana representing his only goal at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, though that did make him the first man to net at five different editions of FIFA's flagship tournament.

Having been relegated to the role of substitute for Portugal's last two games, Ronaldo maintained his unwanted record of never scoring in a knockout fixture at the World Cup before watching his great rival Lionel Messi lead Argentina to their third title.

Al Nassr are coached by former Lyon boss Rudi Garcia and count Cameroon forward Vincent Aboubakar and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina among their squad.

The Riyadh-based side have won Saudi Arabia's top flight on nine occasions – a tally only bettered by Al Hilal, who have 18 titles to their name.

Cristiano Ronaldo has finally found his next club.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner joined Al Nassr on Friday, signing a reported two-and-a-half-year contract well over a month after agreeing his acrimonious exit from Manchester United.

News of a lucrative contract offer from the Saudi Pro League club initially broke during the World Cup, with Ronaldo said to be in line to earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

The 37-year-old, perhaps distracted by the ongoing transfer saga, scored just once in Qatar as Portugal bowed out in the last 16. He now leaves Europe for the first time in his storied career.

Al Nassr are not a renowned name but have enjoyed huge success in Saudi Arabia, so what can Ronaldo expect as he heads to Riyadh?

Who are Al Nassr?

Formed in 1955 and winning the Saudi top flight in their very first season, Al Nassr have nine championships to their name – second only to Al Hilal's 15.

Indeed, Al Nassr and Al Hilal have between them won eight of the past nine Pro League titles, although Al Hilal have taken the most recent three in a row.

The two sides contest the Riyadh derby, with the shares spoiled after a 2-2 draw in the most recent edition on December 26.

Ronaldo's new team-mates

Saudi Arabia's entirely Saudi-based World Cup squad included six Al Nassr players, with Sultan Al Ghannam and Abdulelah Al Amri appearing as substitutes in the shock defeat of Lionel Messi's Argentina.

But the better known players in the Al Nassr squad are likely those from foreign shores.

Cameroon's World Cup star Vincent Aboubakar is joined by former Brazil midfielder Luiz Gustavo, along with three-cap Argentina international Pity Martinez.

Goalkeeper David Ospina has represented Colombia at several World Cups, as well as turning out for Arsenal and Napoli, while Talisca was once a highly rated young forward at Benfica and has scored regularly at Al Nassr.

South Korea's left-back Kim Jin-su is out on loan.

Potential debut date

Ronaldo has already missed the derby with Al Hilal, while Saturday's clash with Al Khaleej will come too soon.

The legendary striker could be in the line-up against Al Tai in Al Nassr's first match of 2023 on Thursday, however.

Al Shabab lead the Pro League by two points ahead of second-placed Al Nassr, with a top-of-the-table clash lined up for January 13.

Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly set to complete his move to Al Nassr.

The Portugal forward saw his second stint at Manchester United brought to an early conclusion last month following an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan, in which he revealed his unhappiness with the Red Devils and their manager Erik ten Hag.

Ronaldo has been a free agent since United terminated his deal shortly after the start of the World Cup, at which he scored one goal and was reduced to the role of substitute for Portugal's two knockout games.

Having revealed he rejected a move to the Saudi Pro League ahead of this season, Ronaldo had been strongly linked with Al Nassr since leaving Old Trafford.

While Ronaldo denied a deal had been agreed earlier this month, Al Nassr sporting director Marcelo Salazar said the club would remain patient in their attempts to take him to Riyadh – and that approach looks to have paid off.

On Friday, widespread reports suggested Ronaldo had agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Al Nassr, where it is suggested he will earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

Those reports also claimed Ronaldo had already undergone one part of his medical.

Ronaldo's move will bring the curtain down on his remarkable stint at the top of the European game.

Ronaldo could potentially be available to make his Al Nassr debut on Thursday, when Rudi Garcia's side host Al Ta'ee.

Al Nassr are second in the Saudi Pro League after losing just one of their first 10 games this season.

Manchester United are on the search for a new striker in the January transfer window as they seek a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo and a solution to their goalscoring issues.

While United may have put three past a poor Nottingham Forest side on their return to Premier League action, they have struggled to find the net in general this season.

With 23 goals in 15 matches, at an average of 1.53 per game, 10 Premier League teams are scoring at the same or a better rate than Erik ten Hag's side.

That means half the division are more prolific than United, including the likes of Brentford (1.56 goals per game), Fulham (1.69) and Brighton and Hove Albion (1.73).

Indeed, even in that routine victory over Forest earlier this week, United's profligacy was clear to see prior to eventually killing off the contest with their third goal.

"We have to score more goals," manager Ten Hag said. "We created so many chances and it takes us until just before the end to score the third goal. 

"You can see Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are goalscorers; Bruno Fernandes scores goals. We have a lot of players who can score, but we have to be ruthless."

The Magnificent Seven

"Ruthless" is the key word there. Ten Hag has made it clear he is not after a creative player, or indeed a wide forward who chips in with, say, 10 to 15 goals a season.

What Ten Hag and United need is, as Michael Owen pointed out on Tuesday, "a Ruud van Nistelrooy, a Robin van Persie, a Wayne Rooney who scores 30-plus goals a season".

Finding one of those players is easier said than done, of course, not least in the notoriously difficult-to-negotiate January window.

Taking all competitions into account, seven players from clubs across Europe's top five leagues hit that magic 30 mark last season, led by Robert Lewandowski (50).

It is safe to assume United will not consider negotiating for Lewandowski in January; the same being true for Karim Benzema (44), Kylian Mbappe (39) and Mohamed Salah (31).

Christopher Nkunku (35) would have been a far more attainable target had Chelsea not got there first, with a fee reportedly having already been agreed with RB Leipzig for a future transfer to the Blues.

That leaves Wissam Ben Yedder and Ciro Immobile as Europe's only other 30-plus-goal forwards from last term, having both scored 32 times for Monaco and Lazio respectively.

Ben Yedder and Immobile are still netting regularly this season, averaging a goal every other game, though both turn 33 next year and have no English football experience.

As stated by Ten Hag, who has been honest in his assessment of United's squad since arriving in July, any signings must "match the sporting and financial criteria".

Negotiating fees for under-contract duo Ben Yedder and Immobile, and tying them down to deals lasting into their mid-30s, would certainly not tick the latter box.

So what United actually need to find, then, is a prolific goalscorer who is on the right side of 30, attainable and ready to hit the ground running. What could be easier?

 

Who needs Vlahovic when you can have... Mitrovic?

There is one player – a surprise name on the face of it, perhaps – that ticks every possible box. Yes, that's right – Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Only Erling Haaland (1.3), Lewandowski and Mbappe (both 0.95) are averaging more goals per game among Europe's elite this season than Mitrovic (0.77).

It puts the Serbia international in a similar band to Marcus Thuram (0.76), Nkunku (0.74) and Victor Osimhen (0.71), each of whom have been regularly linked with United.

While it would be easy to dismiss those figures as misleading (he averages 0.31 goals across his Premier League career), he is a player very much for the here and now.

Mitrovic's 10 Premier League goals have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 8.6 – only three others have a higher figure – highlighting his prolific nature.

To put that differential of 1.4 into some context, United's leading scorer Rashford stands at 0.3 for the season – far from the ruthless finisher United crave.

That is not a slight on Rashford, who with 10 goals for the season has double the number of any other team-mate. Rashford is not the problem; a lack of centre-forward is.

Of course, for a club as big as United there is always an added onus to recruit marquee names, especially following the departure of a certain CR7.

That explains links with Enzo Fernandez, Dusan Vlahovic and Cody Gakpo, who starred at the World Cup with the Netherlands but has since agreed to join Liverpool.

A persuasive case can be put forward as to why any of those players still on the market could make the difference for United in the second half of the season.

Again, though, Ten Hag wants a "ruthless" striker. So how about the three names perhaps more synonymous with United and a January move than any other players?

 

The supporters' picks

Goncalo Ramos was still relatively unknown prior to the World Cup, but his hat-trick for Portugal against Switzerland in the last 16 changed all that.

Let us not forget, either, that Ramos was propelled into the side to replace Ronaldo up top. As the Primeira Liga's leading scorer this term, he is a young goalscorer with pedigree.

The aforementioned Osimhen has scored 10 goals in 14 games for Napoli this season, making it clear why many supporters have urged United to make a move.

Mohammed Kudus, too, is enjoying a good time of things at Ajax, and Ten Hag's previous business suggests he favours players with links to his home country.

There are certainly options out there for United, but whether the club can be shrewd enough in landing Ten Hag's top target, or targets, in a limited market is another question.

Yet for all the talk of chasing a star of Qatar 2022 or a possible star of the future, United may well be better off shopping closer to home to fulfil Ten Hag's wish.

Manchester United are set to be busy in the January transfer window following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit in November.

Erik ten Hag's side are in the market to bolster their forward options, having already been linked to a host of players.

But United look set to settle for short-term loan deals with little money available for a transfer fee, limiting their options.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD INTERESTED IN EX-CHELSEA FLOP MORATA

Manchester United have turned their attention to signing Spain international forward Alvaro Morata on loan, according to ESPN.

United missed out on signing Cody Gakpo, who has joined Liverpool, while they face stiff competition to land Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix along with a reported total package worth €22million for six months.

The report claims the Red Devils are hoping Atletico are willing to listen to loan offers, with the 30-year-old having been loaned to Juventus this season.

ROUND-UP

– Media Foot claims Manchester United and Tottenham have both commenced talks with Rennes on £34m-valued striker Martin Terrier.

Chelsea are rapidly closing in on a deal for 21-year-old Monaco defender Benoit Badiashile, according to CBS' Ben Jacobs, with personal terms agreed.

– The Athletic reports that Chelsea have taken positive steps in talks with N'Golo Kante on re-committing to the club on a new deal. Kante's contract expires in June and he has been linked with several clubs in the January transfer window, including Barcelona .

Manchester City will offer Milan forward Rafael Leao a contract worth €12m per season as they bid to lure him to England in January, claims TuttoMercatoWeb.

Borussia Dortmund have joined the race to sign Juventus' United States international midfielder Weston McKennie, according to Tuttosport, with the German club viewing him as a suitable replacement for Jude Bellingham.

– PSG defender Sergio Ramos is being pursued by Saudi Arabian outfit Al Nassr, claims Marca. Al Nassr are trying to convince Cristiano Ronaldo to join the club, which is their priority move.

Cristiano Ronaldo has paid tribute to late Brazil legend Pele following his death aged 82, arguing "a mere goodbye" is not enough for the three-time World Cup winner.

Pele's death was confirmed by his daughter on Thursday following a battle with colon cancer.

His death has sparked an outpouring of grief across football, with players and clubs from all over the world paying respects to the attacker, who fired his country to glory at the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups.

Now Ronaldo, often considered among the game's all-time greats himself, penned his own heartfelt tribute to the former forward.

"My deepest condolences to all of Brazil, and in particular to the family of Mr Edson Arantes do Nascimento," he wrote on Instagram.

"A mere goodbye to the eternal King Pele will never be enough to express the pain that currently embraces the entire world of football.

"[He was] an inspiration for so many millions, a reference from yesterday, today, forever. The affection he always showed for me was reciprocal in every moment we shared, even from a distance.

"He will never be forgotten, and his memory will live on forever in each of us football lovers. Rest in peace, King Pele."

There is perhaps no sporting debate that captures the imagination like that concerning the identity of football's greatest ever player.

The incredible goalscoring feats of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo put them at the centre of the discussion, but what about the greats of yesteryear? 

Does the cunning of Diego Maradona or the ingenuity of Johan Cruyff make one of them the best to have played the world's most popular sport?

The ultimate reference for all those iconic players, however, is Pele. The only player to have won three World Cups, the ultimate personification of "o jogo bonito".

With tributes flooding in after the Brazil icon passed away at the age of 82, Stats Perform delves into the Selecao star's incredible career, asking how it compares to those of the game's other greats.

Pele: The World Cup's finest

While any debate over the greatest player of all time will always be subjective, nobody can deny Pele his status as the ultimate World Cup legend.

His introduction to the global stage came at the 1958 tournament in Sweden, where Brazil exercised the demons of 1950 – when they lost the final on home soil to Uruguay in what became known as the "Maracanazo" – to clinch their first title.

A 17-year-old Pele missed Brazil's first two games at the tournament, but the Santos youngster quickly made the Selecao's number 10 shirt his own after coming in for a 2-0 win over the Soviet Union.

From there, he went from strength to strength, scoring his first World Cup goal against Wales before helping himself to a hat-trick against France in the semi-finals.

As Brazil overcame the hosts 5-2 in a thrilling final, Pele – at the age of 17 years and 249 days – scored twice. Only one other teenager has ever netted in a World Cup final – Kylian Mbappe in 2018.

 

As if one outstanding World Cup campaign was not enough, Pele was key to further Selecao triumphs in 1962 and 1970 – assuming a talismanic role in what many consider to be the greatest international team in history at the latter tournament.

Pele's tally of six assists in Mexico remains the highest tally recorded at a single World Cup since records began four years earlier, and his nonchalant lay-off for Carlos Alberto to finish off a flowing team move in Brazil's final win over Italy remains one of the most iconic moments in the tournament's history.

While modern-day detractors may point to Pele's failure to test himself in Europe, his incredible record on the grandest stage of all dictates that he is remembered among the very best, and there can be no doubt as to his unmatched World Cup legacy.

Johan Cruyff: The innovator

If Pele's legacy can be measured in World Cup accomplishments, Cruyff's must be examined in a very different way.

Cruyff's unbelievable tally of 36 chances created at the 1974 World Cup may be a single-tournament record, but it was not enough for the Netherlands to avoid the first of their three final defeats at the competition.

Eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups and one LaLiga triumph as a player does not exactly do justice to the career of football's great innovator, the man considered responsible for "total football" and by extension, every free-flowing Barcelona or Ajax team that has followed.

If Pele's is best remembered as the World Cup's greatest player, perhaps Cruyff deserves the title of football's finest pioneer.

Diego Maradona: The individualist 

No conversation about football's greatest could be complete without a mention of Maradona, the man who almost single-handedly carried Argentina to football's greatest prize with a perfect blend of skill and cunning.

Astonishingly, Maradona claimed five goals and five assists as Argentina won the 1986 World Cup – a feat no other player has accomplished since detailed data collection began in 1966.

Maradona's quarter-final brace against England, perhaps the most iconic double in history, encapsulated his on-pitch personality perfectly – a mischievous first goal being followed by a truly remarkable second.

Maradona's tendency to carry unfancied sides to success was replicated on the club stage, with his two Serie A triumphs with Napoli earning him a level of adulation that will perhaps never be matched.

A beaten finalist in 1990, not even El Diego could match Pele's World Cup exploits, but the Argentine carved out a reputation as football's finest individualist. 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo: The big-game player

Like Cruyff, neither of the final two players on our list have made their greatest impact at the World Cup, but the incredible goalscoring feats of Ronaldo ensure his place among the game's legends.

In the Champions League – arguably the true pinnacle of the modern game – no player can match Ronaldo's total of 140 goals.

Ronaldo – who scored his 700th goal in club football earlier this season – has also lifted the Champions League trophy on five occasions – a tally no other player has bettered.

The 37-year-old started off the 2022 World Cup by becoming the first male player to net in five different editions of the tournament, though he ultimately ended it in disappointment, making just 10 touches after coming on as a substitute in Portugal's quarter-final defeat to Morocco.

He has been the ultimate big-game player. Whether he is anymore is clearly up for debate. 

Lionel Messi: The Magician 

While some may prefer the efficiency and athleticism of Ronaldo, there is no sight in modern football as joyous as that of Messi slaloming through panicked defences.

Seven Ballon d'Or wins tells you all you need to know, Messi's army of fans may say, while Pep Guardiola's revolutionary Barcelona side – considered by many as the best team to ever take to the field – was built to accommodate the Argentine's incredible mix of elite finishing, dribbling and passing skills. 

 

Until the last two years, the only major blot on Messi's career was a perceived failure to replicate the feats of Maradona, with the expectations of the Argentinian public often seeming to weigh heavily upon the shoulders of the diminutive attacker.

However, having helped the Albiceleste end a 28-year wait to win the Copa America in 2021, Messi then contributed seven goals and three assists to mirror Maradona's achievement of leading Argentina to World Cup glory, with the Paris Saint-Germain forward's campaign in Qatar already regarded as one of the greatest in the tournament's rich history.

While the sight of Messi lifting the World Cup trophy at the Lusail Stadium caused some to declare any debate regarding football's greatest player to be over, the forward's age dictates he will not get the chance to equal Pele's feats on the game's grandest stage.

Everyone has a different opinion on what makes a player the greatest in history, be it their style, their goal record, or their impact on subsequent generations.

The role of football's greatest tournament will always be pivotal, however, and on that basis, Pele will always have a place among the legends of the game.

Endrick has revealed Vinicius Junior and Cristiano Ronaldo played a part in his decision to join Real Madrid.

The 16-year-old forward has agreed to join LaLiga and European champions Madrid from Palmeiras in July 2024.

Endrick had been linked with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea before opting to make the move to the Spanish capital in a deal that could reportedly be worth €70million.

Fellow Brazilian Vinicius and Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer Ronaldo influenced the teenager's decision to make the switch to Los Blancos.

 

He told Marca: "Real Madrid is a very big team, and Vini had sent me messages and gave me more hope.

"Cristiano, who is my idol, also played for Real Madrid. That's why I chose Real Madrid and I think it's the right choice. God has always been with me and he has told me that it is the best way."

Carlo Ancelotti also convinced Endrick that joining Madrid was his best option.

"Yes, I spoke with Ancelotti, with Rodrygo, with Eder [Militao], with the Brazilians," he said.

"I thank God very much for everything that happens in my life and I hope that many good things still come, but you have to keep your feet on the ground, have humility and persevere."

Christian Eriksen is sad to see Cristiano Ronaldo leave Manchester United but insists supporters will soon forget what it was like having the forward at the club.

Ronaldo's second spell at Old Trafford came to an end last month when his contract was mutually terminated after criticising the club and manager Erik ten Hag in an interview.

United have not looked back since, having defeated Burnley 2-0 in the last 16 of the EFL Cup and Nottingham Forest 3-0 in the Premier League on their return to action.

While Eriksen is grateful to have played alongside Ronaldo this season, the Denmark international is glad he and his team-mates can now focus solely on football matters.

"First of all we are sad Ronaldo is not part of it. His legacy and his name at any club is special, for me to be fortunate to play with him in my career was very nice," Eriksen said.

"The football goes on. You feel that the next game after, people will forget what it was like before and now our focus is really like he is not here.

"The atmosphere is good. We have a lot of people coming back from the World Cup, the last guys are coming back and everyone is coming together."

Ronaldo, who started just 10 of United's 21 matches prior to his departure, is reportedly close to joining Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr on a huge-money contract.

United are in the market for a replacement in the January window, despite the form of Marcus Rashford, who has scored 10 goals in 21 matches this season.

That is double the number of any other United player, with Anthony Martial next best with five goals, and Eriksen is hopeful the England international can continue his hot streak.

"He played very well [against Forest]. Luckily I haven't been on the pitch where he has played a bad game yet," Eriksen said.

"I let him continue that. He is looking sharp and confident and you can feel that when he is going forward.

"You feel that in the stadium and you feel that with him and it is a nice thing and I hope he keeps it going. You can see that he came back [from the World Cup] pretty confident. 

"I didn't see as much of his [England] games of course. You guys will have seen more, but he came back in good shape and luckily he has taken that into United."

Following Tuesday's comfortable win over Forest, United have now kept four successive clean sheets at Old Trafford in the league for the first time since June 2020.

United are a point off the top four with a game in hand, a far cry from the opening fortnight of the season when losing to Brighton and Hove Albion and then Brentford in humbling fashion.

"We are in a good place," Eriksen added. "The start of the season is very different compared to now. The football is different now to the beginning.

"It was a bit hit-and-miss in some games but I think after that we picked up, we have been building since.

"You feel that in the group, you feel that the system is working which is something you have to believe in and I think we are doing that."

Erik ten Hag was not entirely satisfied with Manchester United's finishing despite comfortably seeing off Nottingham Forest 3-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

United returned to Premier League action following the World Cup and ultimately cruised to a straightforward victory that leaves them just a point behind fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand.

First-half goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial sent United on their way before Fred rounded things off in the final minutes.

But United wasted several decent opportunities before Fred's Casemiro-inspired goal, with Antony and Rashford spurning particularly good chances.

And that proved to be a key area of focus for Ten Hag after the game.

"It's what I said in the dressing room, we have to score more goals," he told Prime Video.

"We created so many chances and it takes us until just before the end to score the third goal. We need to finish this game in an earlier moment.

"Just after half-time we had two really good chances to finish the game. Life would be more easy.

"There are many games to come, [if you get a third goal then] you can then save energy and it is better for everyone, but also for the progress of the team, we need to be more clinical.

"We have players who can score.

"You can see Martial and Rashford are goalscorers; Bruno Fernandes scores goals. We have a lot of players who can score, but we have to be ruthless."

Ten Hag has already confirmed United are keen to bring in attacking reinforcements during the January transfer window following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.

PSV forward Cody Gakpo was widely considered the most likely to arrive but it emerged on Monday that the Netherlands international is close to joining Liverpool after the two clubs agreed a fee.

Ten Hag was asked about Liverpool's move for Gakpo, though he was unsurprisingly keen to avoid speaking about his compatriot.

"I don't talk about individual cases," he said.

"We are looking for offensive players, we are looking for a striker. It would be good because we have games coming, so many, every third day, and it's tough.

"You want to play in all the competitions we are in, we want to stay in them hopefully until the end of the season, so you need numbers in the squad to cover them all.

"I think we are always in the market, but it has to match the sporting criteria and the financial criteria, and we do what we can to bring in what we need."

While the Red Devils appear to have missed out on Gakpo, the August arrival of Casemiro proves United retain the ability to attract the best in the world.

The Brazil international was central to Tuesday's win, brilliantly winning the ball back near his own corner flag in the build-up to United's second goal before also inspiring Fred's clincher.

Those two incidents fitted into the wider narrative of his all-round brilliance in midfield as he recorded a joint-high three key passes, attempted more tackles than anyone else (five) and was engaged in the most duels (11).

For Ten Hag, Casemiro is a blessing.

"I can't deny that, I can only confirm," Ten Hag replied when Casemiro's importance was highlighted by a pundit. "It's a pleasure to work with him.

"I think everyone can see how important he is. The performance, the level he brings to the team is huge."

Marcus Rashford was the inspiration as Manchester United beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 at Old Trafford on Tuesday in their first Premier League game since the World Cup break.

Rashford played a starring role in the EFL Cup defeat of Burnley last week and was again United's standout performer as they moved to within a point of fourth-placed Tottenham.

The England forward opened the scoring for a dominant United with a goal straight off the training ground before setting up Anthony Martial.

Forest had a goal wiped out just before the break, but it was not a precursor to United coming under greater scrutiny in the second period as they coasted before adding a late third through substitute Fred.

Erik ten Hag was forced to pick a somewhat unfamiliar backline due to illness, with Luke Shaw at centre-back.

But there was no sign of that inhibiting United, and they were deservedly ahead before long, with Rashford providing a wonderfully deft finish from Christian Eriksen's smart corner delivery.

Rashford was key again as United made it 2-0 three minutes later, latching on to Bruno Fernandes' clever pass and teeing up Martial to beat the unconvincing Wayne Hennessey at the end of a counter-attack that stemmed from Casemiro's brilliant recovery.

Willy Boly deflected Ryan Yates' header in on the stroke of half-time, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside.

United should have taken advantage of that let-off early in the second half when Antony spurned a glorious opportunity with only Hennessey to beat.

Rashford also wasted a good chance when scuffing substitute Donny van de Beek's cut-back, but United put the game beyond Forest late on as Casemiro won the ball back, surged into the final third and found Fred for an easy finish.

What does it mean? Red Devils looking free without Cristiano Ronaldo

The mid-World Cup announcement of Ronaldo's exit was generally greeted favourably by United fans, with the Portugal striker resembling a square peg in a round hole in the first part of the season.

While Burnley and Forest may not be the greatest of opponents, United have looked fluid and unshackled going forward with Ronaldo not there to hold them back.

They should have scored more than they did on Tuesday, but there was always a sense they could have cranked things up a notch if needed – that ultimately was not a necessity as they comfortably saw off a mediocre Forest side.

Casemiro shows his class

Rashford will dominate the headlines, but this was a masterclass from Casemiro. He played a crucial role in United's second when winning the ball back near his own corner flag; then he did similar and provided the assist for their third. He was imperious.

Antony a source of frustration

Although he has chipped in with a few goals, United fans are still waiting for Antony to really explode. That certainly did not occur here.

His decision-making was largely poor. He failed to tally a single key pass and wasted a tremendous chance in the second half before being withdrawn.

What's next?

United go to Wolves on Saturday, while Forest are home to Chelsea the following day.

Chelsea are reportedly closing in on a loan deal for Atletico Madrid club-record signing Joao Felix in January.

Felix, 23, was signed in 2019 for €126million after winning the European Golden Boy award with Benfica, shattering Atletico's previous transfer record of Thomas Lemar by over €50m.

However, despite netting 33 goals for his new club, Felix has struggled to consistently earn a spot in their starting XI, with seven of his 12 LaLiga appearances this season coming as a substitute.

Having made such a substantial investment, Atletico are not willing to sell him at a massive loss just yet, and while they have made him available for transfer, a loan move to rehabilitate his value appears far more likely.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO LOAN DEAL TO ADDRESS FORWARD WOES

Chelsea have been actively seeking reinforcements up front, but with significant investment also planned in defence, a cheaper loan deal could be the band-aid solution for their goalscoring issues.

The Telegraph is reporting Chelsea and Atletico are deep in discussions about a deal that would involve either an option or an obligation to turn the loan into a permanent move at the conclusion of the season.

ESPN added Atletico will also demand a loan fee in the range of €9m for the half-season rental.

It remains to be seen if Chelsea can afford to secure a quality forward option in January on a permanent basis, with Fabrizio Romano reporting they are also in the final stages of negotiations for a €35m purchase of 21-year-old Monaco centre-back Benoit Badiashile.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to CBS, Cristiano Ronaldo has a medical scheduled with Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr ahead of signing a contract that will pay him €70m per year.

– The Telegraph is reporting Arsenal have submitted a £55m bid for 21-year-old Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk.

Napoli will look to sign 26-year-old Wolves winger Adama Traore in January as he enters the final six months of his contract, per Calciomercato.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Everton are one of a number of Premier League clubs showing interest in 20-year-old Manchester United winger Anthony Elanga.

– According to journalist Ekrem Konur, Premier League teams including West Ham, Everton and Aston Villa are considering offers for 28-year-old Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United need to sign a striker to replace Cristiano Ronaldo in the January transfer window, though he says they will only move for the right player.

United are targeting attacking reinforcements after terminating Ronaldo's contract last month – a move which came after the five-time Ballon d'Or winner declared he had no respect for Ten Hag in a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.

The Red Devils have scored 20 Premier League goals this season – a tally bettered by 10 teams in the division, while their top goalscorer Marcus Rashford has netted four times.

While a series of forwards have been linked with a move to Old Trafford, Ten Hag says any new arrival must be of a high standard.

"There are two things. First, goals can also come out of our own club; see [Alejandro] Garnacho, see [Anthony] Elanga, see [Facundo] Pellistri, who made a good impression in the World Cup and in the game against Everton last week in training. That is first," Ten Hag said.

"We are aware we lost a striker, so I think we have to get a striker in, but it has to be the right one. 

"The right one will bring quality to the team and not just be an addition to the squad, because that only gives you problems. You know the criteria is high at Manchester United."

Few players have benefitted from Ten Hag's arrival at United more than Rashford, who has equalled last season's tally of four league goals in just 14 appearances this term, but Ten Hag thinks he is capable of more.

"I don't want to pin myself on a number. I said from the start that he is capable of scoring 20 goals in the Premier League, so I am convinced about that," Ten Hag said.

"He now has four but he scored many other goals. He scored three goals at the World Cup, so then you have the potential to score those goals in the Premier League."

One forward who will not be joining United in January is Netherlands international Cody Gakpo, who is set to sign for Liverpool after the Reds reached an agreement with PSV.

Gakpo, who netted three times at the World Cup, is to travel to England in the coming days to finalise a move reportedly worth an initial £37million (€41m) plus add-ons.

Patience is the key for Al Nassr in their pursuit of Cristiano Ronaldo, so says the Saudi Arabian club's sporting director Marcelo Salazar.

Ronaldo is a free agent after leaving Manchester United in November.

The 37-year-old endured a disappointing World Cup with Portugal, scoring just once and eventually having to settle for a substitute role in their knockout games.

Al Nassr were reported to be leading the chase for Ronaldo earlier in December, and though a deal has not yet been struck, Salazar says the club will bide their time.

"I'm not allowed to say yes or no," he quipped to Flashscore when asked if Ronaldo featured in his plans for the immediate future. 

"Let's wait and see how things unfold until the end of the year. As you can see, this is a negotiation of enormous magnitude, not only for the club, but for the country and for world football, and which has to be conducted by higher authorities. 

"What I can say is that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best in football history. He has always been an example for me as an athlete, for the will he shows to win. 

"And then, as a Portuguese citizen, I was always rooting for him. But in time the future will be revealed."

Salazar also believes Ronaldo would not necessarily be taking a step down by moving to Saudi Arabia.

"I've been here for five years now and all the players I've talked to are very positively surprised when they arrive here, especially for the championship level," he said.

"It happened with Luiz Gustavo, who was a Brazil international and had already won the Champions League with Bayern [Munich]. It's normal for those who don't know. 

"Already when David Ospina moved here, they said in Colombia that it was the wrong step, but Saudi Arabia has changed a lot. 

"Even living in Riyadh with families has been a pleasant surprise for the players, with the schools and everything we have here. To this, we add a high sporting level."

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