France have confirmed that Kylian Mbappe suffered a broken nose against Austria on Monday but will not need surgery on the injury.

Les Bleus were able to hold onto a 1-0 victory over Ralf Rangnick's side, courtesy of a first-half own goal by Max Wober, who turned in Mbappe's cross.

However, the France captain was involved in an aerial collision with Kevin Danso, hitting his face on the defender's shoulder, and needed lengthy treatment before being forced off in the final minute of normal time.

The French Football Federation (FFF) confirmed on Tuesday that Mbappe had broken his nose and would need to wear a mask for the rest of the Euros but no update was given on whether he would be available for their game against the Netherlands on Friday.

"He has returned to the base camp of the French team," the FFF said.

"He will undergo treatment in the coming days, without undergoing surgery immediately."

Mbappe also took to social media, seeing the bright side to his injury, with a post on X saying: "Any ideas for masks?"

The 25-year-old, who has scored 47 goals in 80 appearances for France, is still yet to find the back of the net at the Euros.

He has had 18 shots at the European Championships without converting, while he registered 12 goals from 39 attempts at the World Cup.

France started their quest for Euro 2024 glory with a narrow 1-0 victory over Austria after Max Wober's first-half own-goal proved decisive in Dusseldorf.

The two-time European Championship winners had to wait until the 38th minute for their breakthrough, with Wober turning Kylian Mbappe's cross into his own net on Monday.

Les Bleus held on in the second half to earn Didier Deschamps his 100th win in charge of France, though there was concern as Mbappe received lengthy treatment for a head injury late on before being withdrawn.

Deschamps will hope Mbappe is passed fit after that issue as France prepare for Friday's clash with fellow Group D leaders Netherlands, who share top spot in the pool after overcoming Poland 2-1 on Sunday.

Deschamps' men settled into their seamless groove early on, with Mbappe racing clear of the Austria defence before seeing his effort repelled by the strong palm of Patrick Pentz.

Yet for all of France's dominance in possession, Austria remained resolute in defence and almost struck first against the run of play 10 minutes before the interval.

Christoph Baumgartner found himself unmarked inside the France box after Marcel Sabitzer's deft knockdown, but was unable to find a way beyond the onrushing Mike Maignan when rushing a glorious chance.

Just two minutes later, Deschamps' deadly attack showed their ruthless nature as Mbappe chopped inside before delivering towards the near post, where Wober inadvertently headed past the helpless Pentz.

Mbappe should have doubled France's lead after the interval but somehow fired wide when one-on-one with Pentz, leaving the Real Madrid-bound forward still waiting for a first European Championship goal.

Les Bleus remained the most likely to find a decisive second goal but Theo Hernandez's teasing delivery just evaded Antoine Greizmann before Marcus Thuram also went close.

Yet the battling victory was marred by the injury to Mbappe, who was forced off in the final minute of normal time after suffering a concerning blow to his nose when challenging for an aerial duel with Kevin Danso.

Mbappe's wait for maiden Euro goal goes on

Mbappe produced an influential display but was far from his clinical best for Les Bleus as his first goal at this tournament continues to elude him. 

The former Paris Saint-Germain attacker has now failed to convert any of his last 17 shots at the competition, in stark contrast to the 12 goals he has managed from 39 attempts at the World Cup.

His one-on-one opportunity in the second half had an expected goals tally (xG) of 0.6, second only behind Griezmann's opportunity (0.75 xG) in the area 11 minutes later. 

Aside from Mbappe, France were wasteful in the final third as a collective, registering just three shots on target in the contest from 14 attempts – underperforming their xG by 1.03. 

Austria down, but certainly not out

Ralf Rangnick's team can be proud of their defensive display against France's star-studded attacking line, with their fighting efforts seeing them make the most tackles (27) of any side at the tournament so far. 

However, their struggles against Les Bleus continued as Austria have now won just one of their last 11 meetings against France in all competitions, with that sole victory coming in 2008. 

Austria will still hope to replicate their last-16 run at Euro 2020, their best-ever finish in the competition, and face Poland in Berlin on Friday before concluding their group campaign against the Netherlands.

Ralf Rangnick says self-belief will be vital as his Austria side hunt a major scalp in their Euro 2024 opener against France on Monday.

France are viewed among the favourites to win the tournament, having won the 2018 World Cup and finished as runners-up at Euro 2016 and the 2022 World Cup under Didier Deschamps.

However, Les Bleus have been tasked with a tough draw, with Austria tipped as potential dark horses and the Netherlands beating Poland 2-1 in Group D's first match on Sunday.

Austria finished just one point behind Belgium in their first qualification campaign under former Manchester United boss Rangnick, who has needed little time to implement his preferred high-pressing style.

Austria allowed their opponents fewer passes per defensive action (8.3 PPDA) than any other team during qualifying, also attacking with the fastest direct speed, moving the ball upfield at a speed of 2.03 metres per second.

Rangnick plans to take the game to France in Dusseldorf, telling his players there can be no inferiority complex if they are to earn a result. 

"That is crucial, that we will be courageous, that we are convinced of our own strength," Rangnick said at his pre-match press conference.

"What's really vital is the way that we perform, not the way that France plays, or whether they are a little bit better or a little bit worse, it's only about us.

"We prepared for over two years for this day. It's finally starting for us. We're really excited. There's joy above everything else."

One of Austria's most pressing tasks will be to shut out Kylian Mbappe, who has scored 12 goals in his last three international tournaments (four at the 2018 World Cup, none at Euro 2020, eight at the 2022 World Cup).

Harry Kane is the only European player to match that figure, and the England man was also the only player from Europe's top five leagues to equal Mbappe's 44 goals in 2023-24. 

However, Rangnick says Austria cannot afford to focus entirely on any one player, such is the strength of the France squad.

"With our style of playing we have to counter him and the whole French team, we have to make sure that he doesn't receive as many balls as he likes," he said.

"We know from our own strengths that we can win this match."

 

Kylian Mbappe will always put the team first and is ready to lead from the front as France prepare to open their Euro 2024 campaign against Austria, says Didier Deschamps.

Having scored 44 goals in his final season with Paris Saint-Germain before sealing his long-awaited move to Real Madrid, Mbappe will captain his country at a first major tournament, following Hugo Lloris' international retirement.

Les Bleus are among the favourites but the same was true when they crashed out in the last 16 at Euro 2020, losing to Switzerland in a penalty shoot-out.

Mbappe failed to score at that tournament, but his coach is certain he is in top condition ahead of Monday's game in Dusseldorf.

"He is always at the centre of things. That won't change," Deschamps told The Athletic of Mbappe. 

"He will not do anything that goes against the collective interest. It won't be any problem. He is in very good shape, very happy, and concentrated on working hard. 

"The most important thing is that he has the greatest possible freedom. My objective is to put him in the best conditions, and put the team in the best conditions, so that he can be as effective as possible."

Asked about Mbappe's leadership qualities, Deschamps continued: "He speaks but he is not there to be overbearing. 

"If you are not with him, you don’t see how he is with his partners on a daily basis. He has always been part of a collective project, even if he is an extraordinary player who is able to make a difference on his own."

Opponents Austria have been touted by some as a potential surprise package after impressing in their first qualification campaign under Ralf Rangnick, finishing just one point behind Belgium.

"If we're complete, then we're a team that is very hard to beat," the former Manchester United boss said. "We're able to compete with anyone at a high level. 

"We saw that during friendlies against Germany and Italy [both 2-0 wins], but also during the qualifiers against Sweden [2-0 and 3-1 victories]. 

"We're not going to the Euros just to participate. We have faith in ourselves and believe we can qualify for the next round."

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Austria – Marcel Sabitzer

Sabitzer was involved in six goals in seven appearances during Euro 2024 qualifying (four goals, two assists), the most of any Austria player.

The Borussia Dortmund man also created the most big chances (four) and accumulated the highest expected assists figure (1.6 xA) of any Austrian.

France – Kylian Mbappe 

Across the last three major international tournaments (2018 World Cup, Euro 2020 and 2022 World Cup), Mbappe has scored 12 goals. Harry Kane is the only European player to match that tally.

However, all of those goals have come at World Cups. He failed to convert any of his 14 shots at Euro 2020 and also missed the decisive spot-kick as France lost to Switzerland on penalties. He will be desperate to atone at this tournament, starting on Monday.

MATCH PREDICTION – FRANCE WIN

France enter Euro 2024 as one of the favourites, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 19.1 per cent chance of lifting the trophy before the tournament began. They are expected to live up to that billing here.

Les Bleus have reached the final at three of their last four major tournaments, being losing finalists at Euro 2016 and the 2022 World Cup and winning the 2018 World Cup.

They plundered 29 goals in their eight qualifiers, with 14 different players getting on the scoresheet for them (excluding own goals) – the largest spread of any nation. 

With the likes of Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann – who has 18 goal contributions at major tournaments since the start of Euro 2016 (11 goals, seven assists) – supporting Mbappe, they should have too much for Austria.

Austria have only won one of their last 10 matches against France in all competitions (two draws, seven defeats), triumphing 3-1 in a 2010 World Cup qualifier in September 2008.

The teams have, however, managed one win apiece from their two previous tournament meetings. Austria claimed a 3-2 victory at the 1934 World Cup, and France won 1-0 at the 1982 competition.

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Austria – 15.5% 

France – 65.8%

Draw – 18.7%

Ralf Rangnick has confirmed he will remain in charge of Austria's national team beyond Euro 2024, having turned down Bayern Munich's interest.

Rangnick confirmed last week that Bayern had been in touch regarding the possibility of him taking over ahead of next season.

Bayern are aiming to fill an impending void, with current coach Thomas Tuchel set to leave the club at the end of the campaign.

But Rangnick has now confirmed he will be staying put, though he insisted he did not "reject" Bayern.

"I am national team coach of Austria with all my heart," he said in a statement released by the Austrian Football Association (OFB).

"This task brings me a lot of joy and I am determined to continue down the road we have started.

"I want to clearly stress that this is not a rejection of Bayern Munich but rather a decision for my team and our common goals."

"We are fully focused on the Euro. We will do everything we can to go far."

There have been calls from some Bayern fans for Tuchel to stay in charge, with some going as far as to sign a petition.

Bayern wanted to appoint Xabi Alonso as Tuchel's successor, but the former midfielder has elected to stay with Bayer Leverkusen.

While Leverkusen stormed to the Bundesliga title to end Bayern's 11-year dominance of the competition, Tuchel's team can still salvage silverware in the form of the Champions League.

Bayern head into the second leg of their semi-final tie with Real Madrid on the back of a 2-2 draw in Munich in Tuesday's first leg.

Bayern Munich's search for coach Thomas Tuchel's successor is not distracting the team from their preparations for next week's Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid or their final Bundesliga matches.

That was the vow from Tuchel before Bayern first face Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday with the league title already secured by Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern will part ways with Tuchel at the end of a disappointing domestic season, a year earlier than his contract.

Austria coach Ralf Rangnick confirmed this week there had been contact with Bayern while several other coaches have been linked with the club.

Tuchel, however, said the team was shutting out any such distractions as they chase a spot in the Champions League final.

"In the next 11 days it can only be football and the goals we can still reach," Tuchel told a press conference. 

"We want to collect points [in the Bundesliga] to get the best result and reach the Champions League final.

"For anything else, there is just no capacity at the moment, whether it is comfortable or uncomfortable despite the many issues."

With no chance of domestic silverware and Bayern battling to hold on to second place, three points ahead of third-placed Stuttgart whom they face in 10 days, Tuchel said it was clear Tuesday's game against Real Madrid was on everyone's mind already.

"I can accept and it is important that we all accept it that there is this background noise against Frankfurt," Tuchel said. 

"We don't have to tell ourselves a fairytale that we are only thinking 100% about Eintracht.

"There is this background noise that the Real Madrid game plays a role. When I get my coffee in the morning people don't say 'good luck for tomorrow' they say 'good luck for Tuesday' to me."

Bayern still have some injury concerns for the coming games with Dayot Upamecano doubtful after twisting an ankle in training and Leroy Sane racing to get fit in time for Tuesday.

Tuchel said: "We have a test [against Frankfurt] and either we are distracted or we find solutions. Put on ear plugs or headphones and study for the test. That is my task." 

The former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain boss was also asked about over 12,000 Bayern supporters signing a petition asking for him to remain at the club.

"Even though this topic is good for me when they [the fans] wish you to stay, it's not something that is a priority and it isn't allowed to be a priority," he said.

"Whether it's pleasant or unpleasant, I don't allow myself to be influenced by it. We're only focusing on every day counting towards our goals and there is no exception here.

"This question is like the neighbour that is noisy at three in the morning, if we're honest! I'll set my headphones to noise-cancelling mode and ignore that. 

"This topic won't help me on Saturday and won't help me on Tuesday - and it is not my topic."

Ralf Rangnick has confirmed Bayern Munich have been in contact over their soon-to-be vacant coaching position.

Bayern are on the lookout for a new coach, with Thomas Tuchel set to depart at the end of the season.

The Bundesliga giants wanted to appoint Xabi Alonso, but the 42-year-old snubbed their advances, and those of Liverpool, to stay at Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern's search has now seemingly led them to Rangnick, the former Manchester United interim boss who is now coach of Austria's national team.

Rangnick, though, is paying full attention to Austria's upcoming Euro 2024 campaign.

"There has been contact from the side of Bayern Munich and I have informed the Austrian Football Association," Rangnick said in an interview with 90 Minuten.

"We have a very trusting relationship. My focus is on the Austrian national team. We are focusing completely on the European championships.

"I feel very well here. At the moment there is no reason to intensively deal with this."

Rangnick has plenty of Bundesliga experience, having previously coached Stuttgart, Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig.

While Bayern's hopes of securing a 12th Bundesliga title have long since been over, they remain in with a shout of salvaging their season, with a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid on the horizon.

According to Opta's predictive model, Bayern only have a 37 per cent chance of overcoming Los Blancos, however.

 

Austria, meanwhile, have been drawn into a Euro 2024 group that also includes Poland, the Netherlands and tournament favourites France.

Rangnick's team will face Les Bleus on June 17, before taking on Poland four days later, and rounding off their group campaign against the Dutch on June 25. 

Erik ten Hag has blamed injuries for ruining Donny van de Beek’s spell at Manchester United and insisted his experience should not put off other players from signing for the club.

Van de Beek, 26, has joined Eintracht Frankfurt on loan until the end of the season, having failed to establish himself under any of three different managers – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ralf Rangnick and Ten Hag – at United since joining from Ajax in the summer of 2020.

The £35million midfielder made only 23 starts during his three and a half years at Old Trafford, and already spent time away on loan when he joined Everton for the second half of the 2021-22 campaign, again being limited by injuries at Goodison Park.

Ten Hag worked with Van de Beek at Ajax but hopes that a reunion in Manchester might revive the midfielder’s fortunes proved misplaced.

“He has had many injuries, first of all,” Ten Hag said. “From the first moment I came in here at Manchester United, he wasn’t the player he was at Ajax because he was injured. So many times he was not available and then he struggled for a long time to recover from that injury.

“That is probably the main reason why he was not playing. We decided for a loan in the summer but it didn’t come and then his opportunities are few because also we make appointments and we make agreements with players and contract players in that position. The competition was high.”

Van de Beek is among a number of players who have joined United in big-money deals in recent seasons but then struggled to live up to the billing, with £72million winger Jadon Sancho also close to leaving on loan in this transfer window after a public falling out with Ten Hag.

But asked if others might look at Van de Beek’s experience and be wary of moving to Old Trafford, Ten Hag disagreed.

“That is always on those players and how much confidence you have in your capabilities,” he said. “But I can tell you one thing – the Premier League is tough. Man United, that is tough to play there because it’s more easy to play in almost any other team than Man United because the pressure is that high always.

“You have to deal with that. But if you have confidence in yourself, this is the best challenge and this is definitely the best club you want to be at as a player. It depends on player to player, and it depends especially on the character of the player, their personality.”

Ten Hag will take his United side to Wigan on Monday night for their FA Cup third-round tie.

Andre Onana will be in the squad and should also be available to face Tottenham next weekend before joining up late with Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations.

But Onana’s back-up Altay Bayindir is yet to make his debut after a summer move from Fenerbahce and the trip to the DW Stadium could be an opportunity to give the Turkey goalkeeper a taste of first-team action before he is needed more regularly.

Ten Hag insisted he had confidence in all of his goalkeepers despite the decision not to use Bayindir in the Carabao Cup before Christmas.

“At some point Andre will go,” he said. “We are totally happy and we constructed this group of keepers because we are comfortable with this. We have confidence in them both and both are very good goalkeepers, both experienced at the highest levels.

“I think we can have a lot of belief that we have coverage, but not only coverage but competition between two or three. We are sure that if Andre has to go that we are good, we are in a good place and have a good replacement to fill that gap.”

Ralf Rangnick believes Julian Nagelsmann could enjoy a "very exciting story" if he becomes the next Tottenham head coach.

Former Manchester United interim boss Rangnick rates Tottenham as a club with huge potential and believes it could be an ideal next step for former Bayern Munich boss Nagelsmann.

It appeared Nagelsmann was a firm contender for the Chelsea vacancy until he pulled out of the running, seemingly paving the way for Mauricio Pochettino to come in.

Having won plenty of admirers during successful spells with Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig before leading Bayern to the Bundesliga title last season, Nagelsmann has impressive credentials considering he is only 35 years old.

Speaking to German broadcaster Sky Sport about Spurs and Nagelsmann, Rangnick said: "It can be a very, very exciting story. There is room for improvement, a lot of room for improvement, and yet this is not a club where you're expected to finish in the top one, two or three right away."

Rangnick is working as head coach of the Austria national team, but he has significant behind-the-scenes experience in the club game as a sporting director and knows Nagelsmann will need support should he be installed at Tottenham.

For that reason, Rangnick says the north London club must be sure to appoint a sporting director, having recently lost Fabio Paratici who lost an appeal against his 30-month ban from football, which stemmed from his time at Juventus.

Regarding Nagelsmann, Rangnick said: "If Tottenham really want him, then I think it would be important if a sporting director was still there to support him."

Rangnick added: "I think Tottenham is an exciting club in many ways. They probably have one of the most modern, beautiful stadiums in the world at the moment. They have one of the best training centres around, and [chairman] Daniel Levy, who has been leading the club for many, many years."

Tottenham's next manager or head coach will want to sharpen up the team's defending.

 Spurs have conceded 51 goals in the Premier League this season, exceeding their expected goals against (xGA) figure of 41.83 by 9.17.

Ahead of Thursday's game against Rangnick's old club, United, that disparity stood as the biggest negative gap between goals conceded and xGA In the English top flight this season.

The xGA figure reflects the quality of the opposition team's chances and likelihood of scoring from those opportunities.

They sit seventh in the table as a result, having conceded the most goals of all among the Premier League's 14 highest-placed teams.

The Cristiano Ronaldo saga at Manchester United is finally over. The forward's bombshell interview with Piers Morgan always looked likely to hasten his departure from Old Trafford, an event which came to pass on Tuesday. 

In a wide-ranging conversation, Ronaldo told Morgan he had been "betrayed" by senior figures at United and, perhaps most shockingly of all, that he had no respect for manager Erik ten Hag.

Asked if he felt he was being forced out of United, Ronaldo said: "Yes, not only by the coach, but by another two or three guys around the club that I felt betrayed me.

"I shouldn't say that [they were trying to get rid of me], I don't know, but yes, I feel betrayed. I felt that some people didn't want me here not only this year, but last year too."

If Ronaldo's exit was truly desired by the United hierarchy, they got their wish when the mutual termination of his contract was announced on Tuesday. 

How did it get to this point? Let's look back at Ronaldo's tumultuous second spell with the club with whom he made his name.

August 27, 2021: United announce an agreement with Juventus to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, reportedly beating Manchester City to the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's signature. On August 31, a two-year deal with an option for a third season is completed.

September 11, 2021: His second debut sees Ronaldo face Newcastle United at home, and he marks it in style with a brace in a 4-1 win.

September 29, 2021: Champions League history for Ronaldo as he breaks the record for the most appearances (178) in the competition and fittingly scores a last-gasp winner as United beat Villarreal 2-1.

November 21, 2021: Ronaldo continued to score important goals for United in the Champions League, however, a 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool and a 2-0 loss to City piled the pressure on boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. After a 4-1 loss at Watford, the man who brought Ronaldo back to the club is sacked.

November 29, 2021: Ralf Rangnick is appointed as United's interim manager until the end of the season, with the club planning to keep him on for two years in a consultancy role. 

Ronaldo said of Rangnick in his recent interview: "They bring in a sporting director Ralf Rangnick, which is something nobody understands. This guy is not even a coach! A big club like Manchester United bringing in a sporting director surprised not only me but all the world."

December 2, 2021: In Michael Carrick's final game as caretaker manager before Rangnick officially took charge, Ronaldo scored twice in a 3-2 win over Arsenal, netting his 800th and 801st goals in his career for club and country.

February 15, 2022: A goal in a 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion ends the longest drought of Ronaldo's career, one that stretched back to a December 30 defeat of Burnley and took in 588 minutes of football.

 

March 12, 2022: Having missed the Manchester derby because of a hamstring injury, Ronaldo scores a hat-trick on his return in a 3-2 win over Tottenham. The treble takes him to 807 goals, past Josef Bican's all-time record of 805. However, the Czech Republic FA claims Bican actually scored 821.

April 16-23, 2022: A hat-trick against Norwich City marks the 50th treble of Ronaldo's career, and he follows that up a week later with his 100th Premier League goal in a loss to Arsenal, which represented an emotional game for the Portugal international after he and his partner announced the death of their baby son.

April 21, 2022: Erik ten Hag is appointed as United's new manager from the 2022-23 season. On May 16, the Dutchman leaves his role at Ajax early to begin preparations for his new job.

May 22, 2022: United's 2021-22 season ends with the Red Devils in sixth, forcing them to settle for Europa League football. Ronaldo does not feature in their 1-0 loss at Crystal Palace, which rounds off a campaign in which he scored 24 goals but never meshed with Rangnick and his style of football.

July 11, 2022: Despite intense speculation around Ronaldo and agent Jorge Mendes trying to force a transfer away from United, Ten Hag insists Ronaldo is "not for sale".

July 31, 2022: Ronaldo leaves early during United's pre-season friendly with Rayo Vallecano, along with some other team-mates. Ten Hag slams that decision as "not acceptable".

October 2, 2022: Ronaldo is left on the bench in the 6-3 loss to City, a game in which United trailed 4-0 at half-time. Ten Hag claims the decision was down to his "respect" for Ronaldo’s career.

October 19, 2022: Having refused to enter the game as a substitute, Ronaldo walks down the tunnel during United's 2-0 win over Tottenham. He is suspended by the club three days later.

November 13, 2022: After missing United's EFL Cup clash with Aston Villa due to an apparent illness, Ronaldo is again absent from their squad for the final game before the World Cup break, a 2-1 win at Fulham. Later that day, the first clips from his bombshell interview are released.

 

November 16-17, 2022: Ronaldo's interview for Piers Morgan uncensored is aired across two days. Alongside his criticism of Ten Hag, Ronaldo declares United's owners the Glazer family "do not care" about the club, hits out at the team's younger players, and says former team-mate-turned-critic Wayne Rooney is jealous of his success.

Former United defender Gary Neville calls for the Red Devils to terminate Ronaldo's contract in the aftermath of his comments.

November 18, 2022: United commit to taking "appropriate steps" in response to Ronaldo's comments, intensifying speculation they could end his stay with the club.

November 21, 2022: As Ronaldo prepares for his fifth World Cup campaign with Portugal, he fields questions about his controversial interview for the first time.

"I don't have to worry what others think. I talk when I want to," Ronaldo told reporters, before describing himself as "bulletproof".

November 22, 2022: Two days before Portugal begin their World Cup campaign against Ghana, United announce Ronaldo is to leave the club with "immediate effect".

"Everyone at Manchester United remains focused on continuing the team's progress under Erik ten Hag and working together to deliver success on the pitch," read a statement from the club.

Whenever Manchester United come up against a team managed by David Moyes, it provides the perfect opportunity to look back on the Red Devils' rather turbulent recent history.

Moyes was, of course, the original successor to Alex Ferguson. The 'Chosen One', as the infamous banner read, and, to many, a harbinger of mediocrity.

That's slightly unfair on Moyes as although United won the title just before he ascended the Old Trafford hot seat, he was left with an aging squad that needed replenishing, plus the club's deep reverence for Ferguson ultimately stopped them moving with the times.

For years, Ferguson essentially operated as a head coach, recruitment director and sporting director rolled into one. The Scot was so effective and influential that, once he'd left, United were suddenly unprepared to meaningfully challenge the best teams.

This past year has arguably seen that gap reach its widest point in the Premier League era, with United posting their worst points total (58) since the competition's foundation in 1992 last season.

But in Erik ten Hag, United might finally have the right manager at the right time.

The succession

While United's woes of the short-lived Moyes era weren't just down to him, nothing over the past eight years has suggested the club was wrong to get rid of him in 2014.

Nevertheless, Moyes and every other post-Ferguson United manager had their strengths.

Moyes had an intimate knowledge of the league; Louis van Gaal brought a defined 'philosophy' and vast experience; Jose Mourinho had the name recognition and a track record of winning trophies; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was already deified by supporters and his management style allowed players to be more expressive than under his pragmatic predecessor; Ralf Rangnick came in with 'club-building' expertise at a time when United's structure was spoken about as their biggest area of concern.

But none of them ever looked likely to be a long-term success for United. Obviously that was the hope for Moyes when he signed his five-year contract, though it quickly became apparent his personality was at odds with much of the team and his lack of tactical imagination made the side predictable, boring and ineffective.

Van Gaal did at least try to put a modern stamp on United, with his possession-based approach initially lauded upon his arrival after presiding over a fine World Cup campaign with the Netherlands. But again, the football was tedious to watch, with the Red Devils often accused of keeping possession for possession's sake rather than being able to work openings.

He's since been very critical of how United are run, perhaps casting light on why he was never quite right – maybe he would've been if there was a credible recruitment structure in place, but there wasn't.

Mourinho might argue recruitment issues were behind his downfall as well. Certainly, if you believe the media reports, United routinely missed out on players considered to be his primary targets.

But fans called his exit two years in advance. The prediction was that he'd be in charge for two seasons and then get the boot in his third, which of course came to pass.

Solskjaer arguably got the most freedom to build a team in his image, which was ironic given he was by far the least experienced of the managers to arrive after Ferguson. Harry Maguire, Bruno Fernandes and Jadon Sancho were all desired by the Norwegian and they duly arrived, but the manager's coaching methods were widely derided from outside the club with few players appearing to improve under his tutelage.

Then the Rangnick-led rebuild ended up being a red herring. Results and performances weren't much better than under Solskjaer, and while his honest appraisals of the club's structure were appreciated by fans, the hierarchy clearly felt differently and swiftly ended his two-year consultancy shortly after Ten Hag's appointment.

Ten Hag's impact

So, what's changed?

Well, in reality we're obviously only going to really know how much United have changed in terms of the general running of the club a few years down the line.

They do at least now have a genuine sporting structure. Granted, it was questioned in pre-season when Ten Hag came in and immediately started demanding players he knew or had previously coached, but all pre-season signings have at least looked encouraging.

As for Ten Hag's management, there have been plenty of examples of him avoiding the mistakes of his predecessors.

Like Van Gaal, Ten Hag has looked to implement a more possession-focused style of play, but this United seem to be playing more on the front foot when out of possession than the LVG vintage.

And yet, Ten Hag's shown the sort of adaptability the likes of Solskjaer and Mourinho were accused of failing to embrace. He's already ditched the insistence on playing out from the back with David de Gea after the Spaniard's struggles in their first two games of the season, while the experiment of playing Christian Eriksen in defensive midfield didn't last long either.

But, arguably most important of all, Ten Hag's shown he's not shy about making tough calls. He dropped Luke Shaw and captain Harry Maguire after two games, and his exclusion of Cristiano Ronaldo from the squad to face Chelsea last weekend after the striker's refusal to come on against Tottenham was a real show of conviction and leadership.

Ronaldo was welcomed back into the starting XI against Sheriff on Thursday, though, evidence of Ten Hag finding the balance between authority and forgiveness, areas that Solskjaer, Mourinho and Rangnick all seemed to fall short in in different ways.

Of course, results are key. While it's still too early to draw any major conclusions here because who's to say they don't lose every game between now and the World Cup, there have undoubtedly been positive signs with wins against the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham. Even the draw at Chelsea was morale-boosting.

Crucially, United need to give Ten Hag time. If Solskjaer can be given three years, Ten Hag surely needs at least that long as well.

The first few months of his reign have certainly suggested United are on the right track with their latest 'Chosen One'.

Manchester United rejected suggestions to pursue the likes of Erling Haaland, Dusan Vlahovic and Christopher Nkunku, claims former interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

Rangnick endured a torrid six-month spell at Old Trafford last season, leading United to their lowest points tally in Premier League history (58) after succeeding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United's woes were exacerbated by a lack of attacking firepower during his final few months in charge, with Anthony Martial being loaned out to Sevilla and Mason Greenwood suspended by the club.

Rangnick has now revealed he suggested several big-name transfer targets to United's hierarchy – including now-Manchester City talisman Haaland, but was overruled. 

"One Sunday, they informed me of Greenwood's troubles, and Martial was already gone," Rangnick recalled when speaking to BILD.

"We needed strikers to play three competitions, I told the board that we should figure out whether to sign some players, but I was told no. 

"I had made realistic names, such as [Josko] Gvardiol and [Christopher] Nkunku of RB Leipzig. 

"Or even [Alvaro] Morata, Luis Diaz, [Dusan] Vlahovic and even Erling Haaland, when he was still on the market. The club decided to rebuild the squad with another coach."

While United have made a decent start to life under Rangnick's successor Erik ten Hag, they will likely be ruing their failure to land Haaland, who has scored 17 goals in 11 league games for City.

Meanwhile, Vlahovic has six goals in 10 Serie A outings for Juventus this season, and Leipzig's versatile attacker Nkunku is reportedly a target for Chelsea after recording 55 goal involvements in all competitions last campaign.

Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud were on target as France picked up their first Nations League victory of the campaign with a 2-0 victory over Austria on Thursday.

Les Bleus faced serious injury difficulties heading into the international break, with Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante among the absentees, and often lacked fluidity at the Stade de France.

But Mbappe stepped up after 56 minutes to drive past numerous defenders and finish past Patrick Pentz before Giroud headed in to help Didier Deschamps' side to victory.

The winners of the last edition, France will now have their Nations League relegation fate in their hands, but cannot progress through Group A1 after leaders Croatia downed Denmark.

Mbappe thought he had curled France into a second-minute lead, only for the offside flag to deny him, before Jonathan Clauss forced Pentz to push over from range.

Jules Kounde was withdrawn as Les Bleus' injury woes continued before Benoit Badiashile's acrobatic effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Pentz, who denied Antoine Griezmann's close-range follow-up.

A smart passing move between Mbappe and Griezmann resulted in Clauss curling narrowly over after the interval, but France were soon ahead.

Mbappe received the ball from a driving Giroud run before powering forward into the area and firing a right-footed effort past the reach of Pentz.

Griezmann provided the second goal as his cross from the right wing found Giroud, who flicked a header into the top-left corner to secure the victory for France.

Erik ten Hag needs to "engage" with Cristiano Ronaldo and seek his input if he is to keep the Portuguese superstar happy at Manchester United, according to Ralf Rangnick's former assistant Chris Armas.

Ronaldo is reportedly eager to leave Old Trafford once again after United failed to qualify for the Champions League last season.

Several clubs have been linked with a move for Ronaldo, but Chelsea apparently decided to focus on other targets; Bayern Munich said such a transfer would not align with their club policies; and Atletico Madrid fans have actively protested the idea of the club signing a Real Madrid great.

For the time being, it would appear Ronaldo is set to remain at the club for the upcoming season, and he belatedly made his first pre-season appearance in the weekend's 1-1 friendly draw with Rayo Vallecano having missed United's tour of Thailand and Australia for "family reasons".

There are certainly those in the fanbase who are keen for Ronaldo to leave as well, despite him top scoring with 24 goals across all competitions last term, as there is a perception his presence will inhibit new manager Ten Hag developing a style of play that requires intense pressing.

But Armas, who assisted Rangnick at the club last season, is adamant Ronaldo has a lot to give.

"It's a hands-on approach, speaking with him, bringing him into the office, asking him questions, so he's part of the solutions and part of the success," he told Sky Sports when asked how to maximise Ronaldo's impacts.

"It was my job to work out how to get all that fire, experience and talent and challenge him as much as I could. I think the most important thing is to engage with Cristiano.

"He's got so much to give, his commitment to winning and scoring, each guy has their different type of leadership. He can be a leader in his way, and my goal like everyone in the squad was to say how can I get the most out of Cristiano.

"When you talk about, at the highest level, seeing a professional and what winning means to Ronaldo, what scoring goals mean to him - he's on the team, a big part of the team and he's a guy who produced."

The 2021-22 season ended up seeing a disappointing United plumb new depths, as they recorded their lowest Premier League points total (58) and failed to record a positive goal difference for the first time in over 30 years in the top flight.

Armas came in with Rangnick when United were attempting to steady the ship following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who paid the price for a rocky start to the campaign.

Rarely were United impressive on the pitch, and issues relating to their performances were exacerbated by leaks to the media, reports of player unrest and generally what Armas considered "noise".

For all the criticism aimed at Rangnick and his team, Armas believes United were effectively on track for a top-four finish until Champions League elimination by Atletico in March derailed their season.

"People who know me know what I care about and how much I value the team. What happens on the inside, as we say," he continued.

"When things are trying to penetrate and negativity is coming from the outside – to be honest, a lot of it was untrue. Who's to say what's true and not, but I can tell you a lot of it was untrue, and that it does create negativity. For those players, and myself included, you can't listen to the noise.

"We were trying to become a team, it's always a process but at Manchester United, at the time we arrived, all of us were trying to come together.

"I think Ralf did a really good job of stabilising things when we got there. You realise what a challenge it was, but after the Champions League exit, not getting the result at home, you can see the air got sucked out a little bit in what we were doing. Then it becomes difficult.

"Did we really move the needle, in the end? We wanted to finish in the top four and play a small part in that, it's disappointing in the end but overall it was an incredible experience for me."

United begin the new season at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli is eager to entrench himself as a club legend, ahead of his side's Serie A title defence.

The Rossoneri only lost one league game from January to claim their first Scudetto since 2011, beating out arch-rivals Inter on the final day of the season.

It was a redemptive achievement for the 56-year-old, who was only hired on an interim basis after Marco Giampaolo's dismissal in October 2019.

This was followed by Milan's chief football officer Zvonimir Boban effectively falling on his sword to keep Pioli at the club in March 2020, with Milan's form improving as Ivan Gazidis negotiated Ralf Rangnick's potential hire.

Pioli is seeking to emulate the club's coaching greats and believes cultivating a diverse squad has been key, as Milan look to restore their status among the best in European football.

"You can see many legends on the walls of Milanello and the opportunity to get there is exciting," the Italian coach said at a fan event.

"The secret is to try to do the best from day one and have the courage to grow day by day. Only after that, one can decide his targets. It's fundamental to identify the path."

"I began my coaching career in 1999 and now I am more focused on priorities. Multicultural dressing rooms are so nice, we must accept everyone's diversity and group with differences. Players become stronger by knowing each other."

The Rossoneri will have their first pre-season run out on Saturday, with a fixture away to Koln.

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