Cristiano Ronaldo must have had good reason for walking away from Manchester United's 2-0 triumph over Tottenham on Wednesday, claims former team-mate Nani.

An excellent performance from United saw them dominate Spurs at Old Trafford, as a deflected Fred strike and a sublime finish from Bruno Fernandes gave them an important victory over a top-four rival.

However, unused substitute Ronaldo headed along the touchline and down the tunnel before the final whistle blew. According to a report in the Athletic, the 37-year-old went on to leave the stadium early too, instead of celebrating with team-mates.

Despite his side's superb display, United manager Erik ten Hag was forced to field questions over Ronaldo's premature exit after the game, telling Amazon Prime he would "deal with" the matter on Thursday.

Nani, who played with Ronaldo for United as well as Portugal, defended his former team-mate before suggesting Ronaldo likely had valid reasons for his early departure.

"I don't know what happened in that moment," Nani exclusively told Stats Perform. "Maybe he had to go to the bathroom.

"Everyone knows he is a professional, very big professional."

Nani, now playing in Australia's A-League for Melbourne Victory, did not watch United's game against Tottenham, but he knows how being an unused substitute would feel for Ronaldo, and he suggested the early walk-off was not as significant as some have made out.

"He works really hard to be on the field. Maybe [there can] probably be a little bit of frustration there on not being an option to play," Nani said.

"But this is his desire, to be on the field and play. But I think it's not a big deal because there is a reason probably."

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.

Casemiro declared he is "raring to go" after completing his £60million (€70m) move to Manchester United, while describing the Premier League as "a dream to play in".

The Brazil enforcer became United's fourth major signing of the transfer window on Monday, following Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez to Old Trafford after ending a nine-year spell with Real Madrid.

The five-time Champions League winner was in the stands to watch United pick up their first win of the season against Liverpool, as Erik ten Hag's side inflicted the Reds' first league defeat of 2022.

Casemiro could hardly contain his excitement when speaking to the club's media channels for the first time since his arrival.

"I felt great affection from the moment I arrived and I think it's a new challenge. I'm absolutely delighted," Casemiro said. "I feel like I'm 20 or 18 years of age! I'm raring to go.

"I feel it’s a great challenge and a new challenge for me, so I want to work hard to make it happen. 

"I played in a competition here when I was 15 at Sao Paulo. You come back here to play for Manchester United and not in your wildest dreams would you imagine yourself playing here. I'm the happiest man alive and I can't wait to get on the pitch and help my team-mates.

"The Premier League is a dream to play in. It's a wonderful league. The respect that fans have for players, the players have for fans, the passion of the clubs… when you go from the airport to the city, you feel that the city has football in the air.

"More than a city, I feel it's a footballing nation. I think English football is very physical and without doubt, it's very tough, but what I like most about the players, referees, fans in this country is that they are fair. Everyone is fair. 

"Every game is very tough. All of the teams are equally matched, the top team can lose to the bottom one and that's what the league is like. It's beautiful that it is so competitive."

Casemiro will find several familiar faces in United's squad, chief among them Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane, who both featured alongside the Brazilian in one of the most successful teams in Madrid's history.

The 30-year-old revealed he leaned on Varane for advice before making the move, as he hailed Ronaldo as one of the all-time greats.

"They are two players that I've had the pleasure of playing alongside," he added. "We could spend all day talking about Cristiano, he's one of the best players in the history of football. 

"With Varane, and all his time at Real Madrid, I think we spent seven years together. So it's an honour to play once again with these players, but not just these guys, I'm looking forward to meeting my new team-mates, to helping them and them helping me to.

"I've spoken to Rapha, he tells me he's happy, his family is very happy in Manchester, and I feel Manchester United have a great centre-back in him.

"As we know, Cristiano is up there as one of the best players in the history of football and I think he'll keep achieving things."

Meanwhile, Casemiro will also team up with Brazil international Fred in the Premier League, and he has no doubts over the ability of his fellow Selecao midfielder.

"Well, before coming here I spoke to Fred, he's a friend who I've played alongside in the national team for a good number of games and years," he said.

"He's a great player and that's why he plays for Manchester United and for the Brazilian national team, which is difficult to get into. So, I have a special relationship with him.

"Of course, he's a great player. Fred has a lot of qualities. I think he's a player that has good movement, he's very mobile, passes the ball well, has a good shot on him. He's a very important player at this club and I think he'll help me a great deal as he's Brazilian. Without a doubt, it's important to me."

Having not been registered in time to feature in the win over Liverpool, Casemiro could make his United debut when they visit Southampton on Saturday.

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho believes his Brazil team-mate Fred has come in for an unfair share of heavy criticism amid Manchester United's recent struggles.

The Red Devils are second bottom of the embryonic Premier League table after losing their opening two matches.

Having been outplayed in a 2-1 home loss to Brighton and Hove Albion, United were thrashed 4-0 at Brentford on a chastening day for new boss Erik ten Hag.

Fred has long come in for criticism from United fans and that has only increased after the club's dismal start to the season.

He and Fabinho are likely to come up against each other when Liverpool visit Old Trafford on Monday, and Fabinho thinks his compatriot deserves more respect from United supporters.

"Sometimes I don't really understand the criticism of Fred because he is a regular player, he always plays good football," Fabinho said in the Telegraph.

"In general Manchester United have not been successful in the last seasons so you try to find a solution or you try to put the fault on some of the players and sometimes I think Fred is that player.

"But he is a good player. In the national team, he is always a starter, he always plays good and, yes, sometimes the player needs a little bit more confidence to play good.

"Last season he played really good football, maybe he was one of the best United players. This season United didn't start really good but I hope Fred will play good and United will stay playing like this."

Fred will soon be joined at United by another Brazil international after the Red Devils announced on Friday they had agreed a deal with Real Madrid for the transfer of Casemiro.

Fabinho played with Casemiro for Madrid's second team 10 years ago and believes the 30-year-old is well equipped to deal with the demands of English football.

"Of course, he will be a good signing," Fabinho said. "Casemiro is a smart guy, he is a good player, he is strong, he is good in the air, so it will not be hard for him to adapt to the Premier League."

Manchester United midfielder Fred believes Erik ten Hag is "building something great" at Old Trafford, as the Brazilian targets a "flying" start to the upcoming Premier League campaign.

United won each of their first three friendlies under Ten Hag before ending their tour of Asia and Australia with a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa.

Having recorded their worst ever Premier League points tally (58) and defensive record (57 goals conceded) last term, results appear to be looking up for the Red Devils, for whom a 4-0 thrashing of Liverpool represents the high point of pre-season to date.

Fred has started all four friendlies as Ten Hag looks to implement a positive style of play at Old Trafford, and was effusive in his praise of the team's off-season work.

"I believe the team spirit is getting stronger," the Brazilian told the club's website. "We're working hard this pre-season so we can be flying when the league starts, that's the priority.

"We're building something great here, I hope it all works out over the season.

"Of course, there's a lot of quality with the young players, they've been impressing the manager as well.

"They've been great in training and in matches during this pre-season. I hope they can help us, the older players look to help them to settle into the team as well. Hopefully they can do great things with us in the future."

Only six United players – among them Cristiano Ronaldo, David de Gea and Harry Maguire – played more Premier League minutes than Fred last term (2,035 across 28 games), and the 29-year-old also recorded his best ever goals and assists tallies (both four) in the competition.

But Fred says he is content with playing the role of "piano carrier" next term – a common Brazilian phrase for those who allow others to thrive through their defensive work.

"Last season, I played a bit further forward under Ralf [Rangnick], he gave me a bit more freedom to get in the box to score and assist," Fred added.

"We'll see what Erik asks of me now, he may want me more in the build-up of play.

"As I just said, regardless of scoring, I want to help my team-mates. I want to carry the piano on the pitch for them to score and help the team.

"The most important thing is that we achieve our goals to take us as far as possible."

Manchester United's hopes of finishing in the Premier League top four were further dented as they were held 1-1 by Leicester City, who were denied a winner by VAR.

United were without Cristiano Ronaldo due to illness and Ralf Rangnick's decision to go without a recognised striker did not pay off for large parts of Saturday's contest at Old Trafford.

The hosts found themselves behind when former Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho headed in from a James Maddison cross, but Fred levelled just three minutes later.

Maddison thought he had struck a winner 10 minutes from time, though it was ruled out for an Iheanacho foul on Raphael Varane in the build-up, following the intervention of VAR.

Harvey Barnes was wayward on a few occasions in an underwhelming first half that saw United go closest to scoring when Kasper Schmeichel stretched out a leg to deny Bruno Fernandes.

Rangnick held off from changing things too drastically until introducing Marcus Rashford for Scott McTominay with 55 minutes played, coinciding with the game sparking into life.

Leicester opened the scoring when Iheanacho got in front of substitute Alex Telles and guided in Maddison's delivery.

United's response was a quick one, with Fred lashing into the roof of the net after Schmeichel helped Fernandes' powerful drive into the midfielder's path.

Leicester thought they had won it when Maddison beat David de Gea at his front post, only for VAR to adjudge Iheanacho had kicked Varane's leg from under him.

United came close to making their good fortune count, but Jadon Sancho snatched at a chance before James Justin denied Rashford a stoppage-time tap-in.

Fred suggested Manchester United must develop a long-term plan for success, while the midfielder called for clarity on who will be the next permanent manager at Old Trafford.

United have lost just one of 14 Premier League games since Ralf Rangnick was placed in interim charge following the dismissal of club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

That upturn in form leaves the Red Devils fourth in the league after a 4-2 win at Leeds United on Sunday, four points clear of Champions League chasers Arsenal and West Ham United.

Fred was on target in the victory at Elland Road, but the Brazil international believes a solution must be found for the benefit of United in the longer term.

"It's a bit strange," Fred told TNT Sports Brasil of working under an interim manager. "I know in football it's important to get good results as soon as possible, but it's also important to have a long-term plan.

"I think it's a little bad for us not to have one, at the moment it's all about the short-term goals. We don't know how it's going to be after the end of this season."

Rangnick has repeatedly reiterated that his focus is to secure Champions League qualification next term by finishing in the Premier League's top four.

The German manager has already agreed to stay on as a consultant after his short-term managerial role comes to its conclusion at the end of the season, with Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane reported targets for United on a permanent basis.

But the immediate attention will turn to the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, and Fred suggested the Red Devils are capable of winning the competition.

"I know we're not playing our best football, but we have a lot of quality names in our squad," he added. "I see many other teams playing far off from their best as well.

"[To win it] it wouldn't be crazy, it could happen, but we have to work our socks off because we're far away from being one of the favourites in this competition."

Manchester United midfielder Fred has hit back at what he described as "fake news" amid reports of dressing-room unrest at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils' meek performance in the 1-0 home defeat to Wolves last Monday, their first loss under interim manager Ralf Rangnick, resulted in widespread speculation over the futures of several first-team players.

It has been claimed as many as 17 United players are considering leaving the club, either this month or at the end of the season, with standards falling significantly short of expectation.

Fred's name appeared in some of the reports, with the 28-year-old having only played a minute of his side's previous two league matches despite scoring the winning goal against Crystal Palace at the beginning of Rangnick's tenure.

However, the Brazil international said there was no truth to the rumours he is unhappy at the club.

He wrote on social media: "Over the past few days I have read several fake news involving my name and other MUFC athletes. I'm not in the habit of answering controversial stuff publicly, but this time I will have to.

"I just want to say that I am very happy here and I have never expressed any dissatisfaction and the possibility of leaving the club. Don't get misled by fake news. We will continue to work with great dedication to pursue our goals."

Fred has played 19 times in all competitions in 2021-22, scoring twice.

United are seventh in the Premier League table after 19 games, having already lost six times in the top flight this term, and they face a tricky FA Cup third-round match with Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday.

Ralf Rangnick hailed Fred as a ray of sunshine after a fine strike from Manchester United's much-maligned midfielder gave the interim boss a winning start.

A 77th-minute strike from United's Brazil international clinched a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace as Rangnick took charge from the dugout for the first time.

The former Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig boss watched from the stand when United beat Arsenal 3-2 on Thursday, and it was a first day in the frontline for the German on Sunday.

Among a plethora of likely match-winners, Fred was way down the list, but it was his stylish strike, with his unfavoured right foot, that saw off Patrick Vieira's Eagles.

Fred's deep-lying midfield role has been frequently cited by United observers as a weak point in their team, but on this occasion he was a hero. He has scored twice in 12 Premier League matches this season, as many as he managed in 76 appearances across his first three campaigns in the competition.

Rangnick said: "I think everybody loves Fred. You have to love Fred. I've got to know him for only two days now but he's a sunshine."

A United training session on Saturday had to be brief due to grotty Manchester weather, reducing Rangnick's already limited opportunity to work on the pitch with his new players.

The 63-year-old still managed to piece together a tactical plan that just about paid off, with United pressing heavily at times and showing a subtle change in shape, Marcus Rashford, Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes given fresh instructions.

Rangnick made the point in his Friday news conference that a priority would be to keep the opposition away from United's penalty area, and he felt his players came good on following that instruction.

The outcome means United have lost just two of their 25 Premier League matches against Palace (W18 D5), keeping a clean sheet in their last two league games against the Eagles.

In an interview on United's official website, Rangnick said: "Obviously it was about keeping them away from our goal, keeping them consistently under pressure and chasing balls and winning balls.

"We decided to go for a slightly different formation but only slightly different. We played with two strikers, Marcus and Cristiano up front with Jadon and Bruno on the 10 position and for the rest of the team it was the same position as usual. I just thought it might be better to have control in the centre of the pitch with Cristiano having a partner up front and I think it worked out well."

United nudged up to sixth place in the Premier League and have taken seven points from three games since being thrashed 4-1 at Watford, the result from which there was no coming back for former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Rangnick added: "In quite a few games I saw on TV and also against Arsenal, we were a bit shaky in certain times of the game but today we had the feeling that we controlled the game."

Ralf Rangnick praised Cristiano Ronaldo's work-rate and admitted he was surprised by Fred's match-winning strike after Manchester United beat Crystal Palace in his first game in charge.

United looked set to be held to a frustrating and goalless Premier League draw until Fred picked out the far corner of the net with a sweet right-footed strike after 77 minutes at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Red Devils had swarmed all over the Eagles in the first half with an intense high-press approach that interim manager Rangnick will demand during his tenure.

They struggled to break down a well-drilled Palace though, until Fred came up with the only goal of the game, the 1-0 win moving United up to sixth – three points behind fourth-placed West Ham.

Questions have been asked over whether Ronaldo would put in the sort of shift Rangnick will expect off the ball, but the German doffed his cap to the prolific forward as he delivered his verdict on United's performance.

"I am very happy with the way the team performed, especially the first half-hour, with the pressing, it was exceptional. The only thing missing was the 1-0 or 2-0," Rangnick told the BBC's Match of the Day.

"The way we defended, we had control of the whole game, the clean sheet was the most important part. These are the things we must improve. We need to keep clean sheets. With just the one training session, I was really impressed. We did much better than expected.

"We always tried to be on the front foot. We were never not, apart from maybe the last five minutes. At all other times we were trying to keep them away from our goal.

"We wanted to play with two strikers, especially in the central position. By the way, Cristiano Ronaldo's work off the ball, chapeau."

Rangnick had to be patient for the first goal of his tenure and he raised eyebrows over Fred's decisive strike.

"I had to ask my assistant coach if that was Fred's right foot. I thought he could only shoot with his left. I'm happy for him," Rangnick said.

"It's always easier to build on things after you're successful. We must produce further clean sheets and get better at creating chances for our attack. Overall I was very pleased with the way we played today."

Fred scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United started Ralf Rangnick's reign with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.

United made a blistering start to their first game under interim manager Rangnick, but they were frustrated by a well-drilled Palace side for much of the game.

Alex Telles struck the crossbar before Fred's clinical finish secured all three points for the Red Devils on Sunday.

Victory for United boosted their bid to secure a Champions League spot as Palace suffered their first defeat at Old Trafford for over four years.

United showed the intensity Rangnick demands from the start with a high-press approach and Telles flashed an early shot narrowly wide.

The Red Devils were relentless as they continued to pen Palace in, James Tomkins blocking a well-struck drive from Fred before Vicente Guaita denied Bruno Fernandes.

Patrick Vieira's side weathered the storm but Diogo Dalot wasted a chance to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time, failing to hit the target when he let fly with his left foot from inside the penalty area.

United did not muster such a threat early in the second half and Rangnick replaced Jadon Sancho with Mason Greenwood just after the hour mark.

Telles clipped the top of the crossbar with a whipped free-kick from wide on the right and Jordan Ayew missed a glorious chance to put Palace in front from close range.

Fred produced the quality in the final third that had been lacking to send the United fans into raptures, finding the far corner with a measured right-foot finish from just outside the box.

Brazil have summoned eight Premier League players for October's World Cup qualifiers – and former Middlesbrough star Juninho is hopeful a deal will be struck to avoid more quarantine chaos.

Coach Tite called nine English-based stars for the last batch of internationals at the start of September, but none travelled, with top-flight English clubs refusing to release a number of players travelling to countries on the United Kingdom's travel red list.

Anyone returning from those countries would have been required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days upon their return, regardless of vaccination status, which was an unacceptable situation for the clubs.

There are hopes that a deal can be struck to allow footballers to travel in bubble conditions, with Juninho pointing to talks involving the Premier League, world football's governing body FIFA and British government officials.

At one point last month it appeared the players who did not join their national teams could be obligated to miss club games, effectively as a punishment, but that threat eventually receded.

Some Premier League players did travel to their national teams, however, and Tottenham's Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, plus Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez, joined up with Argentina. They were then at the centre of incredible scenes in Sao Paulo when Brazilian health authority officials stormed onto the pitch to stop the Selecao's game against Argentina proceeding.

Brazil's travel rules demand individuals to isolate if they have been in the UK within 14 days of their arrival in the country.

The English-based contingent selected by Brazil for October's games includes captain Thiago Silva, goalkeepers Alisson and Ederson, Fred, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino. Everton's Richarlison misses out due to a knee injury, but Leeds United's Raphinha and Tottenham's Emerson Royal are in the squad.

Juninho, now a co-ordinator of the Brazil national team, said the players were selected this time because of the belief a solution could be found.

"There have been several meetings with FIFA, the Premier League and the British government," Juninho said, quoted on Brazilian sport website Lance.

"We trust that next week there will be a resolution on these cases."

Brazil travel to play Venezuela on October 7 and Colombia three days later, before a home clash in Manaus against Uruguay on October 14.

The players are due to assemble in Bogota, Colombia, on October 4. Brazil's eight wins from eight have put them firmly at the front of the race to qualify for next year's finals in Qatar.

 

Brazil squad: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras); Danilo (Juventus), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Guilherme Arana (Atletico Mineiro), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Lucas Verissimo (Benfica); Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Gerson (Marseille), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fred (Manchester United), Lucas Paqueta (Lyon), Edenilson (Internacional); Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Antony (Ajax), Raphinha (Leeds United), Gabi (Flamengo), Matheus Cunha (Atletico Madrid), Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid).

Central and South American players who were barred from travelling to World Cup qualifiers by their Premier League teams will be available this weekend after their countries backed down from a request to ban them under FIFA rules. 

Players from Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Paraguay are cleared to play as their national federations agreed late Friday to waive a measure that would have compelled the players to sit out after their clubs refused to release them for international duty. 

Premier League teams last month decided to prevent players from nations on the United Kingdom's COVID-19 "red list" to participate in Qatar 2022 qualifiers, citing the UK's requirement that people who have travelled to those countries quarantine for 10 days upon their return. 

There had been some indications earlier Friday that the players might be available, but official word did not come down until shortly before midnight London time. 

Brazilians now available to their clubs Saturday include Ederson and Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City, Chelsea's Thiago Silva and Manchester United's Fred. 

Among players from other nations involved, Wolves can use Mexico's Raul Jimenez on Saturday, while Newcastle will have Paraguay's Miguel Almiron available, and Watford can play Chile's Francisco Sierralta 

Liverpool will be most relieved, with Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino cleared to face Raphina and Leeds on Sunday. 

Earlier Friday, Jurgen Klopp said at a news conference that he hoped a solution could be reached for the benefit of all parties involved. 

"It is a really difficult situation and really tricky for all the clubs, and the players especially," Klopp said. "We should not forget at this moment that the players wanted to play these games, the clubs wanted to let the players go but it was not possible."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit out at the "farcical" situation that could prevent Brazil international Fred from playing for Manchester United this weekend.

United blocked Fred from joining up with his national side for their triple-leader of September World Cup qualifiers due to Brazil being on the United Kingdom's travel red list amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That would mean players having to isolate in a hotel for a minimum of 10 days upon their return, ruling them out for at least three matches.

However, the ​Brazilian Football Confederation has asked FIFA to enforce a law that would block players not released from representing their countries for at least five days.

Should that be the case, Fred will not be available for selection to face Newcastle United on Saturday, although United are still waiting on official confirmation.

Solskjaer has now joined Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, who are also set to be without some key players over the coming days, in calling on FIFA to show some common sense.

"It is a lose, lose, lose situation for everyone, national teams, players, clubs," he said at a pre-match news conference on Friday. "It has been a farce. 

"The players want to play. We know the situation we find ourselves in. We've had to try and find a way, but all the decisions have gone against the players.

"I'm disappointed with the whole thing. We need to prepare without Fred but fingers crossed some sense can come into it and we can use him."

Fred has started all three games for United so far this season and is second only to defender Harry Maguire (152) for successful passes (133), while only Aaron Wan-Bissaka (five) has intercepted the ball more times than the Brazilian (four).

While the 28-year-old's availability remains uncertain, Solskjaer confirmed returning forward Cristiano Ronaldo is in line for his second debut this weekend.

In further good news for United, who have seven points from the first nine on offer, Jadon Sancho is also available despite withdrawing from the England squad with a knock.

"Jadon has come back in with a minor problem but he's trained the last couple of days," Solskjaer said. 

"He's disappointed he couldn't play for England but determined to be fit and he’s available. So that's a positive. 

"The international break, we didn't get anyone injured.

"Luke [Shaw], Harry [Maguire] and Victor [Lindelof] played late on Wednesday night so they've not had a lot of recovery but they will be available, I think."

United have lost just one of their last 36 home league games against Newcastle (W26 D9), with that defeat coming in December 2013 when David Moyes was in charge.

The Red Devils have scored at least once in each of their last 14 Premier League home games, meanwhile, netting 40 times in total (2.9 per game).

Manchester United had a "great season" in 2020-21 despite their trophy drought stretching to four years, midfielder Fred said.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side finished in the top two of the Premier League for only the second time since Alex Ferguson retired after securing the title in 2012-13.

However, the Red Devils were 12 points adrift of Manchester City, who also defeated them in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, while their FA Cup campaign was ended by Leicester City at the quarter-final stage.

After dropping out of the Champions League following defeats in their final two group games to Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig, United reached the final of the Europa League, ending a run of four consecutive semi-final defeats in cup competitions under Solskjaer.

They could not end their wait for silverware, though, goalkeeper David de Gea missing the crucial penalty in a shoot-out with Villarreal following a goalless draw in Gdansk.

That failure to win the final prompted questions over Solskjaer's long-term suitability to the manager's job despite the Norwegian having improved United's league campaign compared with 2019-20, when United won three games fewer, scored seven fewer goals and finished on 66 points, a massive 33 behind champions Liverpool.

Fred sees reason to be optimistic about the future, insisting United can be happy with their efforts given their involvement in last term's rearranged Europa League semi-finals meant they had no proper pre-season.

"We had the Europa League semi-final, which prolonged last season," he told United's website. "We didn't have a pre-season and got better and better over the season and reached the final.

"I think overall the team's had a great season, we could have achieved more, we wanted to win more trophies, but I think generally it's been a great season."

Fred, who is with the Brazil squad preparing for the Copa America, made 48 appearances in all competitions in 2020-21, a tally surpassed by only six United players.

"It's really important to me to be starting in games, to be in the 11," he said. "I've played and started in a lot of games this season. I'm really happy with this, happy to have been in good form and having a great season together with the entire team.

"As I've already said, I want much more, more trophies with United, I want to achieve a lot here and I'm sure there's a lot more to come."

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