Christian Eriksen's quick emergence as a key player at Manchester United has not surprised former Red Devils midfielder Michael Carrick.

Denmark international Eriksen joined United on a free transfer in pre-season after playing the second half of the 2021-22 campaign with Brentford.

It was initially unclear how United would fit Eriksen into the team given the importance of Bruno Fernandes, but Erik ten Hag's inability to land key transfer target Frenkie de Jong seemingly made the decision for him.

Eriksen has generally featured slightly deeper than Fernandes and the pair's collective creativity has been a real asset for United in midfield.

That was particularly plain to see in the impressive 3-1 win over Arsenal, as Eriksen's passes to Fernandes were crucial in the build-up to two of United's goals.

Of the United players to feature for more than 190 minutes in the league this season, no one has averaged more passes (50.4), successful passes ending in the final third (11.2) or passes into the box (5.6) on a per-90-minute basis than Eriksen, highlighting how quickly he has managed to stamp his personality on their style of play.

"I'm not surprised one bit," Carrick told United's official website.

"I played against him a lot; I've watched him a lot. I like him a lot. He's a fantastic footballer. He's clever, he's smart.

"It almost doesn't matter what position he plays, he can adapt. He's just a clever, intelligent footballer with great quality.

"I was pleased when we signed him, and he's not surprised me one bit. He's a top player."

Eriksen carried his encouraging United form – which earned him their Player of the Month award for September – with him into the international window, impressing for Denmark over the course of their two games.

He scored a stunning long-range effort in the 2-1 defeat to Croatia before producing a wonderful performance in Sunday's 2-0 win over France as he remarkably laid on eight chances for team-mates.

To put that into context, Eriksen has only registered more key passes in a single club match twice (nine both occasions) since joining Tottenham from Ajax in 2013.

Phil Foden has been a revelation since breaking into Manchester City's first team and the Premier League champions are eager to reward him with a new deal.

The England midfielder is under contract under 2024, but City are set to keep in at the club for the long term.


TOP STORY – CITY REACH FODEN AGREEMENT FOR BUMPER DEAL

Manchester City and Foden have reached an agreement in principle on a £78million deal according to Football Insider.

The mega-money deal is worth around £250,000 per week for the 22-year-old, pushing him close to the money Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland are earning.

The length of the contract is six years for the Stockport-born star, who came through the academy at City.

ROUND-UP 

Arsenal have moved on from Dusan Vlahovic , according to Fabrizio Romano, who claims the Gunners are not interested in re-visiting a potential move for the Serbian who joined Juventus in January.

Manchester United will dangle a five-year contract for striker Marcus Rashford as they look to tie him down long term, reports The Express. Rashford's current deal expires at the end of this season.

– Calciomercato claims Alex Sandro will depart Juventus when his contract expires at the conclusion of this season. The Brazilian has previously attracted interest from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain .

Romelu Lukaku has no plans to return to Chelsea when his season-long loan with Inter expires at the end of this season, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Chelsea are ready to pay £30million for Fulham's 17-year-old midfielder Luke Harris , claims The Mirror. Harris was called up to Wales' Nations League squad, but is yet to debut for the Cottagers.

Liverpool and Arsenal are both considering a move next year for Villarreal's 21-year-old winger Alex Baena , reports the Daily Mirror.

Former Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic believes criticism of Harry Maguire has been over the top, likening it to a "disaster".

United made Maguire the most expensive defender of all time when they signed him from Leicester City in 2019 and he quickly established himself as a key player, even becoming captain.

But after a fairly promising first couple of years, Maguire's popularity among supporters has decreased significantly, with the England centre-back's performances routinely questioned last season.

The situation turned particularly ugly in April when Maguire received a bomb threat to his home.

Maguire was dropped by new manager Erik ten Hag after United lost their first two matches of the new Premier League season, but Matic – now at Roma – feels his former colleague has been treated dreadfully by the average fan on social media, suggesting the criticism comes from a place of jealousy.

"What people are doing to him, it is a disaster," Matic told The Times.

"Everything has to have limits and some of these people writing on social media, they don't have their own lives so they just have to write bad things about someone else."

Individual criticism of Maguire over the past year or so has also come against a backdrop of flak aimed at the United team in general, as they slumped to a sixth-placed finish last season with their worst points total (58) in the Premier League era.

Former United captain Roy Keane is among the most vocal television pundits when it comes to analysis of the Red Devils, and he also went on something of a rant about Matic towards the end of his time at Old Trafford.

Shortly after Matic confirmed he was to leave United, Keane took umbrage with the Serbian making such a decision before the end of the season and saying former club Chelsea also still had a place in his heart.

Matic provided a measured response, saying: "I have respect for what he has done but he needs to understand that football has changed.

"If I played for Chelsea, I cannot say I hate them. I cannot be angry when I'm talking to the press after the game.

"The way he behaved on pitch, 70 per cent of it is a red card today. You cannot throw a punch when all the cameras in the world are there.

"The real hero is when you go out on the street and say something, but he was always very nice with me, so what he says in public, to be honest, I don't really care.

"I know what I've done in my career and I'm very happy."

Rafael Leao has plenty of admirers, having scored three goals in six Serie A appearances for Milan this term.

The 23-year-old provided an assist for Portugal's first goal in Saturday's 4-0 win in the Czech Republic.

The forward was voted the Serie A Most Valuable Player last season as the Rossoneri won the Scudetto.


TOP STORY – MILAN EAGER TO EXTEND RAFAEL LEAO DEAL

Milan have put forward an offer to tie down Manchester City and Chelsea target Rafael Leao on a new contract, reports Calciomercato.

The report claims that the Rossoneri are willing to increase his salary beyond the €2million he currently receives, up to €6.5m, as they look to fend off rival interest.

Milan understand that it may be difficult to convince the Portuguese to stay at the San Siro, although he is contracted until 2024.


ROUND-UP 

Barcelona will cut their losses with Antoine Griezmann on a deal to sell him back to Atletico Madrid, according to Mundo Deportivo. The initial agreement included a purchase clause of €35-40m but Atletico have avoided triggering that, creating a stand-off. The Blaugrana are now prepared to lower their asking price with Atletico set to offer €25m in January.

– The Mirror claims Atletico are considering a move to sign Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez as Jan Oblak's successor, with the Slovenian out of contract at the end of this season.

– The race for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham's signature continues, with The Sun claiming Manchester City are confident they will beat Liverpool and Manchester United to him. It is understood Dortmund are willing to sell the 19-year-old for £83m.

– Manchester United are weighing up whether to move to extend goalkeeper David de Gea's contract another year, reports the Sunday Telegraph. The Spaniard is out of contract at the end of this season.

Raphael Varane confirmed players in the France camp are concerned after Paul Pogba's brother was charged and detained over an alleged extortion attempt against the midfielder.

Pogba is absent from the France squad at present due to injury, and his chances of playing at the World Cup hang in the balance.

However, it has been off-field matters that have grabbed the attention recently regarding the Juventus player.

An investigation was opened in August into allegations Pogba was the target of an extortion plot by brother Mathias and childhood friends demanding a €13million sum.

Mathias, who is a free agent after a spell with French fourth-tier side Belfort came to an end in April, threatened to share "explosive revelations" in a video posted on social media.

The 32-year-old has denied taking part in extortion attempts against his brother, but he and four others were recently charged in relation to the matter.

New videos from Mathias Pogba were released on Friday, making various claims that were not substantiated, with the story remaining high on the news agenda in France.

Asked whether the France players are talking about the Pogba issue, Varane said: "Unfortunately there is lots of non-sporting news at the moment. We try to be focused on the pitch.

"As a player, that is what must take precedence, but we are not insensitive to what is happening around us. Especially when it involves someone you know. We also feel concerned in a certain way.

"Internally, we're going very well. We are focused on our objective, and we try to be as professional as possible."

Varane and Pogba were club-mates at Manchester United last season, before Pogba moved on at the end of his Old Trafford contract to embark on a second spell at Juventus.

France head coach Didier Deschamps said he would not be distracted by external events, as he prepares his team to face Denmark on Sunday in the Nations League.

"There is nothing and no one to disturb my tranquillity," Deschamps said. "If there are fewer non-sporting debates, it is better."

Varane is set to face United team-mate Christian Eriksen in Copenhagen, and he continues to be impressed by how the former Tottenham and Inter playmaker has returned to football following the cardiac arrest he suffered at last year's European Championship.

Acquired from Brentford in the off-season, Eriksen has quickly become a key figure at United, and defender Varane said: "He managed to integrate quickly into the squad.

"He has a lot of qualities. We are very happy to see him playing at this level after what he has been through. He's a player that I appreciate."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been charged by The Football Association (FA) over an incident involving an Everton fan following Manchester United's loss at Goodison Park last season.

A video emerged on social media of United forward Ronaldo appearing to smash a supporter's phone as he left the field after Everton's 1-0 Premier League win in April.

The Portugal captain was questioned by Merseyside Police in relation to an alleged assault and criminal damage and received a caution last month.

The FA confirmed on Friday it has now charged the 37-year-old for breaching Rule E3, which relates to "improper and/or violent conduct".

Ronaldo issued an apology on Instagram at the time, stating: "It's never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments such as the one we are facing.

"Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game.

"I would like to apologise for my outburst and, if possible, I would like to invite this supporter to watch a game at Old Trafford as a sign of fair-play and sportsmanship."

Ronaldo has endured a disappointing time of things on the field for United this season, having started just one of their opening six Premier League matches.

He is currently away on international duty with Portugal, who face the Czech Republic on Friday ahead of hosting Spain next week in their Nations League double-header.

Big-spending French club Nice have struggled to start the new Ligue 1 season, with only eight points from eight games.

Ambitious Nice are sitting 13th in the table, leading to pressure on head coach Lucien Favre.

The Ligue 1 outfit finished fifth last term and have recently signed Aaron Ramsey, Ross Barkley, Alexis Beka Beka and Kasper Schmeichel.

TOP STORY – NICE KEEN ON PARKER WITH POCHETTINO NOT INTERESTED

Nice are interested in a surprise move for ex-Fulham and Bournemouth boss Scott Parker, claims Foot Mercato.

Favre is under pressure, with ex-Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino reportedly their first choice to replace him.

The Evening Standard claims Pochettino is not interested in the Nice role and instead will wait for a head coaching position with a top club in England, Spain or Italy. 

ROUND-UP

– 90min reports Manchester United will offer fresh deals to Marcus Rashford and Diogo Dalot. The pair's contracts are both due to expire in mid-2023, albeit with the option of one-year extensions, but United want to lock them down beyond that.

– Erik ten Hag will decide on Donny van de Beek's future at United in October, according to the Manchester Evening News. The Dutchman has only managed three appearances this term.

– Fabrizio Romano reports Tottenham target Kim Min-Jae has a release clause in his Napoli contract after joining the Italian club from Fenerbahce in July, but it cannot be triggered in January. Napoli are happy with the centre-back's impact and are not interested in letting him go.

Chelsea target Anthony Gordon is in the midst of contract talks with Everton that are "progressing well", claims inews. Gordon is set for a substantial pay rise.

Leicester City are set to offer manager Brendan Rodgers more time to turn around the side's poor start to the new season, although the reception of fans towards him at their next home game will be a factor for key decision makers, reports The Athletic.

Gareth Southgate is ready to stake his reputation on the continued selection of Harry Maguire, insisting the out-of-favour Manchester United defender remains one of England's most important players. 

Maguire has been dropped to the bench for United's run of four consecutive Premier League victories, having started their back-to-back defeats to open the campaign last month. 

The defender has only started one of United's past five games in all competitions – a 1-0 Europa League loss to Real Sociedad – leading to criticism of Southgate's decision to call him up for England's remaining Nations League fixtures.

But speaking ahead of England's meeting with Italy at San Siro, which is followed by the visit of Germany on Monday, Southgate insisted Maguire remains central to his plans.

"Whatever reputation I have I'm putting it on there," Southgate said. "I think you always have to back your judgement, and we feel he is an important player.

"Clearly, it's not an ideal situation. You want your best players playing regularly so that they're physically in a good place and mentally in a good place. 

"But he is an important player for us. I think it's important to back our best players.

"I haven't felt the need to speak to him any differently to the rest of the players. Look, he understands that he's at a big club, big transfer fee and captain of the club so I think that's why the spotlight has been on him more. 

"But he's focused on training well every day and getting himself back in the [United] team."

While Southgate acknowledges a lack of alternatives contributed to his decision to stand by Maguire, he also highlighted the ball-playing ability of the defender and his partner John Stones.

"If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a level above, there would be a different consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition in that way," Southgate said. "He is our most dominant aerial centre-back.

"Him and John are incredible with the ball really – the amount of pressure they have taken for the team in tournaments we have played because we don't always have that midfield pivot player who can progress the game.

"It means there is a huge amount of pressure on our centre-backs to use the ball well and those two are as good as any in world football at doing that."

England have only lost two of their past 26 matches, both against Hungary in June's Nations League fixtures (W18 D6). 

However, the Three Lions are also winless in their past four games (D2 L2), their longest such run since June 2014 (five), and a defeat to Italy in Milan would condemn Southgate's side to relegation from the Nations League's top tier.

Manchester United football director John Murtough says the club are "ahead of schedule" with their recruitment plans as they posted big losses for the 2021-22 season.

United lost £115.8million last season, despite revenues rising by 18 per cent to £583m.

The club's debt rose from £419.5m in 2021 to £514.9m this year, an increase of more than 22 per cent, while transfer activity saw wages leap by 19.1 per cent to £384.2m.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho were among United's recruits last year, with the Red Devils then spending heavily ahead of the current campaign following the appointment of Erik ten Hag.

Murtough says such an outlay was necessary, after a sixth-place finish in the Premier League last term saw United miss out on Champions League football, but the level of spending will be reduced for future windows.

"During the summer we made significant investment in the first team squad with the permanent addition of five regular starters, including a balance of experienced international players and younger, emerging talent," he said on Thursday.

"We also saw a higher-than-usual number of departures, and this was an equally important part of refreshing the squad after the disappointing 2021-22 season.

"We will continue to support Erik in ensuring he has players with the right quality and characters to achieve success, while ensuring that investment remains consistent with our commitment to financial sustainability.

"Overall, we are ahead of schedule in our recruitment plans as envisaged at the start of the summer, and we do not anticipate the same level of activity in future windows. As always, our planning focuses on the summer window."

United signed Lisandro Martinez, Anthony, Casemiro, Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Martin Dubravka following the appointment of Ten Hag from Ajax.

The cost of terminating previous boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's contract, as well as that of interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who did not take up a two-year consultancy role at the end of last season, and their coaching staff amounted to £24.7m.

Giorgio Chiellini believes Manchester United "require too much" from Harry Maguire due to the centre-back's hefty price tag.

Maguire has been named among the substitutes for United's past four Premier League games after being dropped by Erik ten Hag.

The England international, who joined United for a record £80million fee for a defender in August 2019, paid the price for defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.

While Chiellini does not regard Maguire as being in the same category as legendary United defender Rio Ferdinand, he feels the ex-Leicester City player is unfairly judged.

"I am sad for Maguire's situation because he's a good player," Chiellini, who retired from international duty in April with 117 caps to his name, told The Times.

"They require too much of him. Just because they paid £80m for him, he has to be the best in the world every match? It's not right.

"The value of the market is dependent on many aspects you can't control. It's not your fault. Okay, Maguire maybe is not Rio Ferdinand but he's good enough."

Maguire has played 190 minutes for United across their six matches in all competitions this season, which is only the 13th most of all their players.

Despite his lack of playing time, the centre-back is part of Gareth Southgate's England squad for the upcoming Nations League matches with Italy and Germany.

England's clash with Italy in Milan on Friday is a repeat of the Euro 2020 final, which the Azzurri won 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

The Three Lions enter the game out of form, though, having failed to win any of their first four Nations League matches – their longest winless run since June 2014 (five games).

That includes a heavy 4-0 loss to Hungary last time out – their worst home defeat for 94 years – but Italy head coach Roberto Mancini rates Southgate's side highly.

"I think England are one of the best teams in the world. They're full of talent, especially the forwards," said Mancini, whose side played out a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture.

"They have many players apart from Harry Kane, who is an extraordinary player, but the young players around him can make a difference. So it will be a very hard match for us."

England are bottom of Group A3 ahead of facing Italy, who are three points better off in third despite a heavy 5-2 loss to Germany in their most recent match.

Mancini added: "It's a game we face at a particular moment for us. They are in better shape, but we have the enthusiasm and we can play a good game."

Marcus Rashford and Erik ten Hag have been nominated for the Premier League's Player and Manager of the Month awards respectively for September. 

Manchester United's upturn in form continued thanks to two wins from two this month ahead of the international break.

Rashford was directly involved in a league-high four goals in September, assisting Jadon Sancho in the 1-0 win over Leicester City before scoring twice and setting up another in the 3-1 win over Arsenal. 

The 24-year-old faces competition from Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who assisted three goals and created 10 chances – both league-high tallies – in his side's two fixtures.

Belgium international De Bruyne has now been involved in 150 goals across 217 Premier League appearances, scoring 58 and assisting 92.

Phillip Billing, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Jacob Ramsey, of Bournemouth, Tottenham and Aston Villa respectively, are also in the running for the award, as is Alex Iwobi after impressing in a deeper central-midfield role for Everton.

In the Manager of the Month category, Ten Hag is up against Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte and Bournemouth interim manager Gary O'Neil.

O'Neill steadied the ship by helping Bournemouth go unbeaten in their three games this month, collecting five points in the process on the back of last month's 9-0 loss to Liverpool that led to the departure of Scott Parker.

Like Ten Hag's United, Tottenham took a maximum six points in September to match their best ever start to a Premier League season.

The winners of the awards will be announced next week. 

Raphael Varane has hailed Ousmane Dembele's "extraordinary qualities" and believes the 25-year-old is finally "blossoming" at Barcelona.

Dembele has been a player reborn since Xavi took charge in November 2021, with his 17 assists in all competitions bettered only by Lionel Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time represent a league high.

The former Borussia Dortmund man also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga.

Dembele signed a new two-year deal with Barca in July, and Varane thinks the best is still to come from his compatriot.

"I'm very happy to see him at this level," he said. "We see him blossoming. He has extraordinary qualities.

"As a person, I always find him with the same joy of living, he brings this freshness to the group.

"He is also more calm, always quiet. He has managed to find the recipe for physical recovery, to feel better, and we are very happy.

"He had some difficult moments with some injuries that followed one another, but now we have the chance to see him having fun and enjoying himself on the field, so we are all very happy."

 

Varane also praised the impact of France team-mate Aurelien Tchouameni at his former club Real Madrid.

Tchouameni, who joined from Monaco in June for a fee that could rise to €100million, has started the season in impressive form for Carlo Ancelotti's side, and Varane believes he has the maturity to keep on getting better.

"I think we can welcome his lightning adaptation in a club like Real Madrid," the Manchester United defender said.

"I know from experience how difficult it is. He has the maturity and the qualities for it, so hats off to him. He is a very complete player. He has the ability to defend well, protect the defence, and also the ability to organise the game.

"He does not hesitate from his first selections to ask for the ball, to impose the tempo in midfield. For his young age, he is already very mature, and I wish him to stay the course, to continue like this, because what he is doing is already extraordinary."

Frenkie de Jong "always wanted to stay at Barcelona" despite heavy interest from Manchester United during the transfer window.

Netherlands international De Jong was the subject of a long-running saga, with the midfielder's former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reportedly desperate to build his new-look United side around him. 

A move looked likely after it was suggested De Jong was owed €17million in deferred wages and had been asked to sign a new contract with a salary reduction of around 40 per cent.

The switch never materialised, though, with United instead signing Casemiro from Real Madrid in a bid to strengthen their midfield.

Speaking on international duty this week, De Jong acknowledged not everything has gone smoothly between himself and Barca, but he never thought about leaving Camp Nou.

"I always wanted to stay at Barcelona, and this is why I always remained calm in the summer," the 25-year-old said.

"I can't give too much details away. But look, the club has its own ideas, and I have my own ideas, too, and sometimes this clashes with each other. But at the end of the day, things went okay."

De Jong is part of the Netherlands squad for the upcoming Nations League matches against Poland and Belgium. 

Cristiano Ronaldo intends to continue with Portugal until Euro 2024, shutting down any notion the 2022 World Cup could be his last major international tournament.

The veteran attacker has struggled for form this season at club level with Manchester United, dropped by Erik ten Hag and mostly kept on the sidelines by a positive upturn in results.

But his place in Fernando Santos' Portugal squad has never been in doubt, with the 37-year-old leading his country in their Nations League matches with the Czech Republic and Spain this week.

Speaking at the Quinas de Ouro awards, where he was feted, Ronaldo revealed his ambitions to remain with the national set-up for another major tournament cycle, taking him through to the age of 39.

"I hope to be a part of the national team for a few more years," he stated. "I still have the motivation, and my ambition is high.

"My path here is not over. We have many quality youngsters. I will be at the World Cup, and I want to be at the European Championship, too.

"It has been a long road and I want to take the opportunity to say that the road is not over yet. You'll still have to put up with me for a little while longer!"

Ronaldo's only major honour at international level came at Euro 2016, albeit he missed most of the final victory over France following an injury.

Portugal will hope for a successful tournament in Qatar, where they are the top-seeded nation in Group H, alongside Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana.

Arsenal teenager Ethan Nwaneri has captured the imaginations of England's top clubs after becoming the youngest player in Premier League history, with Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool all reportedly interested.

Nwaneri broke the record when he came on as a substitute in stoppage time of Arsenal's 3-0 win against Brentford on Sunday, becoming the first 15-year-old to appear in the competition.

His appearance – and subsequent praise from manager Mikel Arteta – did not go unnoticed, and it seems he is set to become one of English football's most talked-about youngsters.

TOP STORY – 15-YEAR-OLD NWANERI CATCHES THE EYE OF CITY, UNITED AND LIVERPOOL

With Nwaneri still classified as a schoolboy and not set to receive a scholarship with Arsenal until he turns 16 in March, The Times says he is being tracked by United, City and Liverpool.

The report suggests the interest being shown towards him by the country's most decorated clubs may have had some bearing on Arsenal's decision to hand him his debut, although Arteta was adamant it was only due to injuries limiting his bench options.

Whether he remains with the first-team set-up when healthy reinforcements return is unknown, and Arteta's messages were mixed. 

As well as saying "we need to create as many scenarios as possible for him to put his talent to the service of the team", Arteta also added Nwaneri should not expect his meteoric rise to continue at the same pace, adding: "After this, maybe he needs three [steps] backwards to go another forward."

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting Juventus officials will meet on Friday to discuss the future of Massimiliano Allegri, with the club sitting eighth in the Serie A table with two wins from seven matches.

– According to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, Chelsea target Rafael Leao would like to remain with Milan and is working on a contract extension. 

– Marseille loanee Arkadiusz Milik is impressing during his stint with Juventus, who are interested in activating a €7million buy option in his loan agreement, according to Calciomercato.

Nice are hoping to hire Mauricio Pochettino to replace coach Lucien Favre after two wins from their first eight games, per ESPN, although The Telegraph claims Pochettino has no interest in the role.

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