Edinson Cavani says he has struggled "mentally" with missing so much football due to injury problems this season.

The Uruguayan has made only 19 appearances for Manchester United in his second campaign at the club, with his regular absences becoming a source of frustration among fans.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick suggested last week that Cavani ruled himself out of the Manchester derby, which was not the first time the German alluded to such a situation.

Rangnick also said last month that Cavani "said he's just not available" for the Premier League game with Southampton after noticing a groin problem in training.

Certain sections of the United support and media have accused the club of pandering to the Uruguayan, with Cavani allowed to miss the start of the season and then granted permission to return late from international duty in early February.

But the thigh injury Cavani has suffered with in recent weeks has also seemingly been frustrating for the striker, who Rangnick confirmed on Friday is in contention to face Tottenham this Saturday.

Speaking to United's official website, Cavani said: "Yes, I've been unfortunate to be out through injury, and for a longer period than I'm used to.

"I've never been used to spending this length of time on the sidelines. It's something that I'm finding very difficult, something which is very tough.

"Mentally, it's not easy either, because when you're not used to it, it really is extremely hard to take on board what is happening and seeing your team-mates each game going out on to the pitch, either for training or to play in a match, and you can't be joining them out there.

"It's hard to take, and it's really frustrating that you're feeling like that, and it makes you a bit anxious and really keen to be wanting to be fit and ready as quickly as possible."

Cavani last played for United on February 8 in the 1-1 draw at Burnley. He has scored just two goals this season.

Marcus Rashford must transfer his training-ground displays into matches if he is to hold down a starting spot for Manchester United, interim manager Ralf Rangnick has said.

The England international has this week been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, where he has spent his seven-year career to date, after reportedly growing frustrated.

He has struggled for playing time and was left out of United's XI for last weekend's defeat to Manchester City, despite the absence of a recognised centre-forward in the squad.

Rashford is pushing for a recall when United host Tottenham in the Premier League on Saturday, but Rangnick has not offered the academy product any assurances.

Instead, the German has challenged Rashford to prove his quality on the pitch when the time arrives.

"Marcus has to play on the same level he trains. This is all," Rangnick said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Marcus is training well, he's got an abundant amount of talent, almost everything you need for a modern striker.

"It's now about transforming the performance of the training sessions into the regular games."

Rashford has scored five goals and assisted two more in 24 appearances for United in all competitions this term, the forward having contributed to 0.49 goals per 90 minutes.

That compares to 0.69 for Jesse Lingard, who leads the way among United players, albeit having played far fewer minutes than most.

Bruno Fernandes, Cristiano Ronaldo (both 0.66) and Paul Pogba (0.62) are the other United players to rank higher than Rashford, with Edinson Cavani (0.48) marginally behind.

The 24-year-old's 145 minutes per goal involvement in the league this term is way down on his average of 111 in 2019-20 – his best season in terms of goals and assists.

Cristiano Ronaldo is available for Saturday's Premier League meeting with Tottenham, but Ralf Rangnick is unsure if the forward is happy at Manchester United.

The Portugal international was left out of United's squad for last weekend's 4-1 defeat to rivals Manchester City after sustaining a hip injury in training.

However, United great Roy Keane questioned if that was really the reason why Ronaldo was absent at the Etihad Stadium amid reports he had been dropped by Ralf Rangnick.

Ronaldo flew to Portugal to work on his fitness and Rangnick confirmed on Friday that the 37-year-old is now back in training and is expected to play a part against Spurs.

"He resumed for training yesterday," Rangnick said at his pre-match news conference. "He trained the whole training session and I expect him to train today as well. 

"He trained well, like the rest of the group. I would've thought he was available tomorrow.

Ronaldo's Manchester derby absence came on the back of a run of one goal and zero assists in 10 games for United in all competitions this calendar year.

That compares to 12 goals and three assists in his opening 19 games upon returning to United from Juventus at the end of August.

Asked about reports that Ronaldo travelled to Portugal without informing the club, having grown frustrated at Old Trafford, Rangnick attempted to draw a line under the matter.

"It doesn't make sense to look back on what happened the last six or seven days," Rangnick said. "For me what is important is what happens today and tomorrow. 

"I haven't asked him if he's happy at Manchester or at this club. For me it's important he's fit again.

"He resumed training yesterday and we shall see which formation and which will line-up we will play with tomorrow."

Ronaldo has been involved in seven goals in his last five league games against Tottenham, both scoring and assisting against them in three different matches in this run.

As well as having the five-time Ballon d'Or available, Rangnick confirmed Edinson Cavani is back from injury and Raphael Varane has recovered from coronavirus.

However, full-back Luke Shaw will miss out after again testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, while central midfielder Scott McTominay is doubtful due to a calf injury.

United have won just two of their last six league games, seeing them drop out of the top four at the expense of Arsenal, who are one point better off with three games in hand.

They will be aiming to get back on track as they seek a third straight league win against Spurs for the first time since a run of four between April 2009 and October 2010.

"We are fully aware about the importance of tomorrow's game and the game on Tuesday against Atletico Madrid," Rangnick said. 

"The most important game is the game tomorrow against Tottenham – we have to win that game. 

"We've had a good week of training and the players are fully aware about the importance of the game. The focus has been there, as well as the togetherness in training."

There really isn't much to split Manchester United and Tottenham right now.

Ahead of Saturday's game at Old Trafford, the Red Devils are two points better off in the Premier League table but having played two matches more. Just a single goal separates them in the goal difference column, too.

They have each won three of their past seven league games, they are heavily reliant on two players scoring the vast majority of their goals, and even their managers, although on very different contracts, are facing uncertain futures. If you stood between the dressing rooms prior to kick-off, you wouldn't be surprised to hear "Lads, it's Tottenham" and "Lads, it's United" bellowed simultaneously behind the closed doors.

Of course, this could be a hugely important fixture beyond deciding which team is playing slightly less mediocre stuff. The top-four race in the Premier League looks likely to run into the deciding matchdays in May, and a win this weekend for either side would give them a huge boost.

It could also offer some clues as to which of Ralf Rangnick and Antonio Conte has so far done a better job, because that, too, is a very difficult question to answer.

Since Rangnick replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager in late November, United have played 14 in the Premier League, won seven, drawn five and lost two, giving them an average of 1.86 points per game. They have scored 21 goals and conceded 14.

Their victories have come against Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Leeds United, Norwich City and West Ham. Just two of these teams are currently in the top 10 in the table.

Roughly a month earlier, Conte stepped in for the sacked Nuno Espirito Santo, who lost his job after Spurs were beaten 3-1 at home to United. 

In 16 games under the Italian, Spurs have won nine, drawn three and lost four, averaging 1.88 points per game. They have scored 31 times and conceded 16.

Their wins have come against Leeds United, Brentford, Palace, Everton, Leicester City, Manchester City, Norwich and Watford. Just two of these teams are currently in the top 10 in the table.

We told you it was difficult.

Such distinctly average form has not helped to paint a clear picture of either manager's efforts. Spurs will go into this game in a better mood, of course, given they just thrashed an awful Everton side 5-0, while United were humiliated in a 4-1 loss to Manchester City. Still, it's only been a couple of weeks since Conte suggested he might have to resign as he just couldn't handle the thought of more defeats, while United had just scored six across consecutive wins over Brighton and Leeds. Inconsistency is the only constant where United and Spurs are concerned.

There have been definite improvements, though. For one thing, despite Raphael Varane's injury troubles and the overbearing scrutiny on Harry Maguire every time he draws breath, United's defence has got better since the shambolic final weeks under Solskjaer.

In their opening 14 league games this season, United conceded 22 goals – the fifth-most in the division – and kept only two clean sheets. Under Rangnick, they have let in 16 goals – four of those coming at City last weekend – and kept five clean sheets (we are excluding own goals here). They are facing a similar number of shots, roughly 13 per game, but their expected goals against figure has improved from 21.43 to 18.35, suggesting that, under Rangnick, they have limited opponents to more speculative attempts. They have also cut down a deeply worrying number of mistakes: before Rangnick, they committed a league-high 12 errors leading to shots, which has fallen to just three since the German took charge.

Defensive improvement has not been quite as clear under Conte. Although they have conceded as many goals (16) in Conte's 16 matches in charge as they did in 10 under Nuno, Spurs' xGA figure has increased from 15.48 to 19.01, indicating that their seven clean sheets have owed something to Hugo Lloris and a little luck (again, that figure ignores own goals). And while United's error count has dropped, Spurs have committed 11 leading to shots, the second-worst figure in the Premier League since Conte's return. It would be enough to make the former Chelsea boss tear his hair out, if... no, we won't go there.

What about at the other end? A much-discussed issue under Rangnick, and the reason behind all those draws, has been United's inability to take chances. Cristiano Ronaldo, for instance, has only scored one goal in 2022. The numbers highlight an obvious problem: in the league under Solskjaer, United exceeded their expected total this season by just over four (excluding own goals); under Rangnick, they have underperformed by 4.4.

Yet their problems in attack are not for the want of opportunities. Since Rangnick's arrival, only Man City and Liverpool have created more chances and attempted more shots in the Premier League, and only Man City and Spurs have generated more 'big' chances. The problem is that only 68 of United's 208 most recent shots have been on target, and only Liverpool have attempted more from outside the box in that time. When the going gets tough, the shooting gets desperate.

Over the same period, they are fourth for xG and expected goals on target, which measures the quality of an attempt itself. However, the difference between the two is nearly 4.0, and 3.03 if you exclude penalties. Only relegation battlers Burnley (3.53) have had a worse such difference during Rangnick's time in England, which tells you a lot about the standard of United's recent finishing even before you take the opposition goalkeeper's performance into account. They can at least make the argument that, should they keep creating chances at this rate, their luck should begin to turn... eventually.

Spurs' attacking fortunes have felt a bit mixed under Conte. In their past five matches, they have scored three at Man City, four at Leeds and five at home to Everton but drawn blanks away to Burnley and Middlesbrough.

Excluding own goals, they have scored 28 times in the league under Conte from 30.4 xG, giving them pretty similar figures to those under Nuno (eight goals from 10 xG). The average xG value of their shots has increased a touch, though, so they can argue their attacking play is sharpening up.

That's a good sign given Spurs are chasing a couple of milestones at Old Trafford: they could score at least four goals for the third league game in a row for the first time since February 2004, while Harry Kane needs only one away goal to match Wayne Rooney's competition record of 94.

It would be quite the result if Spurs could beat both Manchester clubs away in the same season, and it would give their Champions League hopes a significant shot in the arm. As for which side is showing the best progress... well, perhaps we should let this top-four chase run its course first.

Manchester United great Paul Scholes was once again left questioning the club's wisdom in hiring Ralf Rangnick as interim manager after Sunday's 4-1 derby humiliation by Manchester City.

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez got two goals apiece at the Etihad Stadium, as City restored their lead at the Premier League summit to six points over Liverpool.

United – without Cristiano Ronaldo due to a hip injury – started the game well and were good value for their 22nd-minute equaliser by Jadon Sancho, but thereafter it was one-way traffic as Rangnick suffered only his second Premier League defeat in 14 matches.

Despite that record, Scholes cannot get past Rangnick's lack of recent experience in coaching, having only actually been in charge of a team for two of the previous 10 seasons, instead spending much of his time as a sporting director.

Rangnick was hired as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's replacement at the end of November until the end of the season, at which point he will move into a consultancy role.

The move was initially widely praised as it seemed to suggest United were looking to establish an on-field identity that Rangnick would subsequently be able to influence with big-picture decisions, but Scholes is struggling to see the reasoning behind hiring him as the interim manager.

"What do we expect? We've brought in an interim coach who hasn't coached at an elite team," he told Premier League Productions.

"He hasn't coached a big team, he hasn't coached at a big football club like United where there's so much expected of Manchester United, whoever you're playing against, it doesn't matter. He's never been at a top club. He's coached a club for two years out of the last 10 years.

"How have United behind the scenes come to the conclusion that this man is going to be the right man for six or seven months? It baffles me. The players are lost on the football pitch.

"The first 20 minutes I was surprised, they played really well, they were comfortable on the ball, [Paul] Pogba up front looked alright. His [Rangnick's] subs have worked the last few weeks don't get me wrong, but it was a deflated team.

"As much as you can have a go at United, they were playing against possibly one of the best teams we've seen. In the second half, the players looked lost. They looked like they didn't have a clue what they were doing."

Prior to the weekend, Rangnick had been praised for improving United defensively. Before Sunday's hammering, they had conceded 10 goals in 13 league games under the German, having let in 21 in 12 with Solskjaer at the helm – only Norwich City and Newcastle United (27 each) had worse records at the time of the Norwegian's sacking.

But Scholes believes their change in fortunes at the back is a red herring, and the data seems to back him up to a certain degree.

David de Gea's saves since Rangnick's arrival have accounted for the prevention of six goals the average goalkeeper would not be expected to prevent, second only to Jose Sa (6.1).

Sa (192) is also the only keeper to face more shots than De Gea (180) in that time as well, suggesting United are not much better defensively than before – they are just relying on their goalkeeper's improved form.

"They were lucky it's not five or six. Again the goalkeeper, five or six saves," Scholes continued.

"We spoke before the game saying defensively since Ole's gone [Rangnick]'s shored things up – he hadn't. Never in a million years.

"He's kidding himself if he thinks that. The keeper has stopped him from getting batterings for a long time. [Sunday] was exactly the same."

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick defended his medical team after Roy Keane questioned Cristiano Ronaldo's absence for Sunday's crushing 4-1 derby defeat to Manchester City.

Reports late on Saturday suggested Ronaldo would not feature at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with Rangnick confirming before kick-off that the Portugal forward was suffering from a hip problem.

United were also without Edinson Cavani, who was missing for a sixth consecutive game due to injury as they fell to a humiliating loss at neighbours City.

Former United captain Keane, speaking on Sky Sports before the game, suggested Ronaldo's omission may be down to other reasons after being left out for such an important fixture.

Keane insisted the decision did not "add up", with Rangnick citing a hip flexor problem that kept the forward out of training on Friday, and the German responded to the comments after the match.

"I have to believe my medical department," Rangnick told reporters when asked about Keane's thoughts on the Ronaldo situation.

"Our doctor came to see me Friday morning before training and told me that Cristiano could not train because of some problems with his hip flexor and the same was true on Saturday and that's why he couldn't be a part of the squad."

Rangnick appeared frustrated to be without Cavani once more ahead of the clash with Pep Guardiola's side, suggesting the Uruguay international ruled himself out of contention.

After the game, the former RB Leipzig boss again commented on Cavani being ruled out of the derby, insisting he could not make a player feature if they did not feel fit enough.

"What does it help if I tell you it is frustrating? It is just a fact. If players tell the doctor and the medical department they are injured and cannot play, I have to accept it," he added. 

"I cannot force a player to play if he's not available because of an injury."

Pressed for an answer on whether Cavani decides when he is available, Rangnick responded: "Edi trained in the last three days, he trained well but he still felt after those three training sessions yesterday afternoon that he is still not fit to play.

"This is a fact. As a manager, I cannot force a player if he does not feel fit enough or well enough to play.

"We have to be – and I am – happy with the players we have. This is clear. We lost two, if not three strikers since Christmas, everybody knows.

"But this is a fact and we have to deal with it. I am not complaining about that."

The defeat at local rivals City leaves United a point adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal, who were 3-2 victors at Watford earlier in the day and have played three games fewer.

But Rangnick wants to focus on his team's push in the Champions League and hunt for a place in England's top four in the coming weeks, despite continued questions over who will take over at Old Trafford when his short-term contract concludes.

"Look, I'm still the manager of this team for another 10 games in the Premier League and hopefully a few more games in the Champions League," he continued.

"It doesn't make sense now to start speculation about how many players would we need and in what positions, this is my issue.

"Right now it's about preparing the team for the Tottenham game and after that, for a very important game against Atletico [Madrid] in the Champions League."

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick acknowledged "there is a gap between the two teams" after suffering a 4-1 thrashing at local rivals Manchester City.

United headed to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday unbeaten in 11 games in normal time across all competitions, but came unstuck against Pep Guardiola's Premier League leaders.

Kevin De Bruyne needed just five minutes to open the scoring and became the first player to score a league brace in the Manchester derby since Sergio Aguero in April 2015, after Jadon Sancho's first-half equaliser.

De Bruyne then turned provider for Riyad Mahrez to put the game beyond doubt at 3-1, before the Algeria international capped a sumptuous derby display with a late fourth goal for City.

That leaves United a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who defeated Watford 3-2 on the same day and have played three games fewer than Rangnick's side.

Rangnick pointed to the difference in quality between his team and City as he looked ahead to an important period, with United vying for Champions League success and a top-four push in the league.

"I think we played a good, if not decent first half. We were competitive. It is difficult to concede an early goal," he told Sky Sports after the game.

"We came back, scored a brilliant goal ourselves then conceded another on the counter. It was a very difficult game against one of the best teams in the world. We conceded a fourth in the last minute of the game. It is a difficult game that shows we have a long way to go to close that gap."

Pressed for an answer on whether the gulf between the two Manchester clubs showed, Rangnick added: "In the second half it did but the first half was a competitive game.

"Everyone knows how good they are. They are one of the top teams in the world and there is a gap between the two teams.

"We are fully aware we need to win games. This is one of the most difficult. It is accepting they were the better team today.

"But we look ahead to the next games and we need to win the next two home games - they are essential to us."

United's first-half display did offer some hope, with Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes acting as strikers and Scott McTominay, Fred, Sancho and Anthony Elanga doing the hard yards in behind the front pair.

But the Red Devils' task was already made more difficult before kick-off, when it was confirmed they would be without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani.

"I don't know. I was hoping to have them available for this game," Rangnick responded when asked when Ronaldo and Cavani could return.

"We have two important games coming up against Spurs and Atletico and we have to put our full focus on that."

Meanwhile, City manager Guardiola was delighted with what he saw from the Citizens - who restored their six-point lead at the Premier League summit, albeit Liverpool do still boast a game in hand and make the trip to the Etihad in April.

"It was excellent from the first minute. We played really well and had to be patient in the first step," he told Sky Sports.

"Ralf [Rangnick] tried to change the mentality for Man United to be more aggressive but we made space, especially in the second half, to play behind [Scott] McTominay and Fred.

"Football is emotions. It's tactics, definitely, but it's also emotions. Without the ball, we are a team with desire and passion to regain the ball from the first minute to the 90th.

"We also want the ball as much as possible and, especially, second half we used it very well."

Guardiola also reserved special praise for Jack Grealish, who was preferred ahead of Raheem Sterling on the left flank.

"He was excellent. [At one] moment he will understand in the final third, 'this ball is from me'. He is very generous," Guardiola said of the former Aston Villa man.

"When you see Phil [Foden] and Riyad [Mahrez] in that moment, it is their ball. This is the next step for Jack, but in terms of decision-making, and using players in space, he was exceptional."

Roy Keane has questioned why Cristiano Ronaldo was omitted from Manchester United's squad for Sunday's derby showdown with Manchester City.

Ronaldo leads the scoring charts for United this term with 15 goals across all competitions, but he played no part against Premier League leaders City at the Etihad Stadium.

Ralf Rangnick put the Portugal international's absence for the contest down to a hip flexor injury that kept him out of training on Friday.

But former United midfielder Keane suggested there may be other reasons behind the five-time Ballon d'Or winner being left out by Rangnick for such an important game.

"There seems to be more to the Ronaldo story when a manager comes out and talks about a hip flexor... I don't get it," Keane told Sky Sports ahead of the match. 

"We talk about Ronaldo being a machine and very rarely getting injured but every now and again he comes out with that... a hip flexor? It doesn't add up to me.

"It's a surprise to hear Ronaldo has a hip injury but United have pace, quality. They still have important players and they still have to come out and play with pride."

Ronaldo had played in 30 of United's 37 games this term prior to the City game, a tally bettered only by Jadon Sancho (31), David de Gea (35) and Bruno Fernandes (36).

United had won 11 of the 20 Premier League games Ronaldo had featured in before Sunday, compared to two wins from the seven games he has not played a part in.

Luke Shaw and Raphael Varane also missed the City match after testing positive for coronavirus, while Edinson Cavani failed to recover from injury in time.

Manchester United stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani and Raphael Varane were all ruled out of Sunday's derby clash with Manchester City.

Ronaldo, who is United's top scorer with 15 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions, was absent for the trip to the Etihad Stadium, while Cavani was also not fit enough to make the squad.

While the Portugal star leads the scoring charts for the Red Devils, he has managed just one goal in 2022 – a second-half strike against Brighton and Hove Albion on February 15.

Earlier reports suggested injuries were behind the absences of Cavani and Ronaldo, and Ralf Rangnick confirmed the latter hurt his hip in training on Friday.

While that left Marcus Rashford as Rangnick's only recognised striker, the England international was named on the bench with Bruno Fernandes leading the line and flanked by Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga.

Rangnick also was again without Luke Shaw, with Alex Telles operating at left-back, while Scott McTominay replaced Nemanja Matic, and Harry Maguire came in for Varane from their last outing against Watford.

Shaw and Varane were missing due to testing positive for COVID-19.

Ralf Rangnick has not spoken to Manchester United about his replacement, though the German has an opinion on who his successor should be.

The German takes charge of the Red Devils in his first derby against Manchester City on Sunday, after succeeding Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in December on a short-term deal through to the end of the season. 

Several names have been floated about as the next permanent occupant of the managerial hot seat at Old Trafford, including Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax's Erik ten Hag.

But speaking ahead of his side's trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Pep Guardiola's Premier League leaders, Rangnick told Sky Sports: "So far, we've not spoken about that.

"Not with [sporting director] John Murtough or anyone else, we've not spoken about this topic over the last weeks and months since I've been here.

"I know my opinion but so far we've not spoken about that so it's all I can tell you."

On Ajax boss Ten Hag, the German had nothing but kind words, adding: "I don't know him to start with as a person, but I've seen how Ajax have developed since he's been there.

"I know about the work he did while he was at Bayern Munich and it's obvious he's one of the top coaches in Europe but there are a few others.

"We've not spoken about any new manager so far and therefore we've not spoken about him."

United face City in a contest that could seriously shake up both of their respective campaigns, with the former seeking to strengthen their top-four hopes and the latter needing to consolidate their spot at the summit.

Rangnick is under no illusions over the magnitude of the match, and drew comparisons to his own previous experience with local rivalries.

"One of the biggest derbies is Schalke against Dortmund and I managed in quite a few of them in the two times I was head coach at Schalke," he added.

"I'm fully aware of what that means for the supporters of both teams. Similarly, the Manchester derby is a game of high importance for both teams and we'll be ready.

"We want another good away performance as so far we are unbeaten in three months away from home. We're fully aware we will need a top performance to get anything out of this game."

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick says the club's transfer strategy needs to improve and is one of the key reasons why they have fallen behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

United trail Sunday's Premier League opponents Manchester City by 19 points and have not finished above their Mancunian neighbours on the table since 2012-13 when Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

The Red Devils have spent more than £1 billion on players since Ferguson's departure yet have not been genuine title contenders in that time.

"It’s a question of consistency, continuity, knowing exactly how I want to play as a club, as a manager," former RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg head coach Rangnick told reporters.

"Having a clear transfer strategy, signing players who fit into that system and that’s what both clubs have been doing in the last five or six years.

"If I look at their transfer success, they haven’t had many players who after one or two years somebody would have said, ‘maybe that wasn’t the right signing’. They’re pretty successful, both clubs and this is where I think Manchester United has to go again.

"Under Sir Alex they were there until 10 years ago but since then, there’s been quite a few different managers here at the club and in order to close the gap towards those two clubs, I wouldn’t say we have to do the same thing.

"We have our own identity, Manchester United as a club, we should always go down our own pathway but in total, professional football is pretty easy.

"You have to have a clear identity of how you want to play, how even the supporters want to see you play and this has always been attractive, offensive, proactive, entertaining football and then from there, make sure that the recruitment is right, that you get the best possible players, that you’re quick enough in the transfer market, knowing the transfer market and then signing the right players at the right moment.

"Then, on top of that, having the best possible manager, head coach, coaching staff who can develop those players.”

Angel Di Maria, Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Donny van de Beek, Jadon Sancho and Harry Maguire are among the big-money transfers United have made since Ferguson's exit.

Pep Guardiola hailed the "attractive" high-intensity philosophy that German-influenced managers have implemented in the Premier League, but insists he will stick with his own principles.

There are several Premier League bosses whose experiences include coaching stints in Germany, with Jesse Marsch, Ralf Rangnick, Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp and Ralph Hasenhuttl among them.

The fast-paced style of play, designed to profit from regaining possession high up the pitch, has many advocates, with current Manchester United interim boss Rangnick a key figure behind its success.

New Leeds United head coach Marsch was Rangnick's assistant at RB Leipzig, where Southampton's Hasenhuttl took charge when the current short-term Old Trafford chief departed in 2016.

Chelsea boss Tuchel pinpointed Rangnick as a mentor after playing under him at Ulm, while Liverpool's Klopp has utilised similar ideas to challenge Guardiola's Manchester City for the Premier League title.

Going into the weekend, City sat six points clear of Liverpool, who had the chance to cut the gap to three when they played West Ham on Saturday. The Manchester derby awaits City on Sunday.

"With Jesse Marsch arriving at Leeds it is already a tendency," Guardiola told Sky Sports of the Bundesliga influence. "Five teams, important ones, playing this way, it is because what happened in Germany arrived here.

"Five important teams and managers all playing this way. Transitions, playing inside, high pressing, everybody together, it doesn't matter if we lose the ball because I recover the second one and attack you again, you lose it again and you lose it again.

"This incredibly good methodology, it is the deep tendency here in England."

Asked whether the approach was for him, the Spaniard said: "It is so attractive when they do it well. It is so attractive for the spectators, and they have had success.

"Of course, I learn a lot in Germany. I adapt. Listen, I am from Catalunya, you know. My education, my football education, comes from there. And I learn a lot here, I learn a lot in Germany, but my principles come from there."

Guardiola's emergence through the Barcelona system means he is indoctrinated in that way of playing. Regardless of the trophy achievements of the likes of Klopp, the Spaniard says that when it comes to his method, he "cannot change it because they have success".

He expects a difficult task against United, who entered the weekend on the longest current unbeaten run in the Premier League (eight games), as City eye a league double over the Red Devils for just the second time under Guardiola.

But the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona chief insists he is learning that, whatever the result, he must be more patient on the touchline whichever way the game goes.

"I understand more that the players can make mistakes," he said. "Before, I was more anxious, more angry. Sometimes I am, but I understand because I know they want to do well. I know they want to win against Manchester United.

"I know they want to win the Premier League. I know they want to win the Champions League."

He spoke of always being "anxious and angry".

"But after the action is done, it is gone. I cannot correct this action. So why am I shouting about how they have behaved?" Guardiola said.

The 51-year-old City boss is learning that his players are not automatons, and that while he might complain that "they don't listen to me", he is reconciled to the limitations of his pitchside influence.

Guardiola added: "I have to understand at the end that as much as I want to change, I will not change."

Ralf Rangnick has identified the "secret" that has allowed Manchester City and Liverpool to streak so far ahead of Manchester United.

United's interim manager sends his team out to tackle City in Sunday's derby, knowing the once-mighty Red Devils are again not a factor in the Premier League title race.

Their best hope appears to be clinging to fourth place and making progress in this season's Champions League, with Rangnick expected to vacate his position at the end of the campaign.

The 63-year-old German is a wily campaigner who can see what United are so obviously missing is the stability that City and Liverpool have enjoyed in recent years.

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are firmly established in their posts, having received extensive backing, and their teams are the clear big two in England for now.

Rangnick said of United's rivals: "They have a very clear identity and a clear idea of how they want to play, and I know Jurgen in person and I also know Pep from those three years in Germany when he was at Bayern Munich, and he also has a clear idea of how he wants to play.

"This idea is the headline for everything that happens in the club. This is the secret behind their success: that they exactly know how they want to play.

"They have a clear identity, or you could call it a corporate identity and this is their guideline for everything they do, not only for new players but also for staff members and experts in different areas of the game that have become more important in the last 10-15 years.

"This is what all clubs in Europe have in common. This is something that also at Manchester United needs to be developed and improved in the next couple of years."

Rangnick may yet have a role to play in establishing such a structure and ethos at United, with an advisory role potentially waiting for him.

For now, his focus is on the current first team and delivering short-term results. United's current eight-game unbeaten run is a positive trend, and if they stretch that to nine after Sunday's derby there will be considerably more cause for cheer.

The German boss said he has had no input so far regarding who the next manager might be, and played down his previous remarks that he might recommend himself to the board. He said he made those remarks "with a twinkle in my eye", suggesting they were not entirely serious.

Rangnick labelled Guardiola and Klopp "the two best coaches on the planet" and said: "You need to have the best possible people, and you need a clear idea of football, and then stick to that idea and take your decisions always with having in mind, 'what do we want to be, how do we want to play?'."

The former RB Leipzig boss said United would need to show "tactical discipline" to stand up to City's threat.

"It will be a lot of defensive work necessary, a lot of sprinting, running, against the ball and with the ball, waiting for transitional moments and taking our chances," he said.

"This is what it's all about I think. We created enough chances in the last 10-11 games, and at times we converted them, like at Leeds where we scored four goals, but it's correct we should have scored more goals, especially in the last match against Watford."

That clash with the Hornets at Old Trafford finished goalless, which was hardly the morale-boosting result United might have wanted before facing the Premier League leaders this weekend.

Chelsea have enjoyed an unrivalled period of success across Roman Abramovich's near two decades as owner at Stamford Bridge.

From their five Premier Leagues and two Champions Leagues, plus last month's Club World Cup triumph, the Blues have won it all under the Russian billionaire.

But amid mounting political pressure following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich is reportedly open to selling Chelsea for the first time.


TOP STORY – THREE PARTIES INTERESTED IN BLUES 

According to The Telegraph, at least three parties are circling Chelsea in the belief that Abramovich is ready to walk away.

Abramovich announced on Saturday, a day before the Blues' EFL Cup final loss to Liverpool, that he is taking a step back from his duties as owner.

The report indicates that Chelsea are bracing themselves for bids as early as this week as a changing of the guard at Stamford Bridge becomes a realistic possibility.


ROUND-UP

- Manchester City have ramped up their interest in Borussia Dortmund's in-demand striker Erling Haaland, according to The Express. City chief Txiki Begiristain is said to have recently met with agent Mino Raiola to discuss the signing of Haaland.

- Ralf Rangnick has been ruled out of the running to become Manchester United's next permanent boss. The Sun claims that Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag, in charge of Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax respectively, are the two men being considered.

- Sky Sports News reports that Antonio Rudiger's representatives remain in constant dialogue with Real Madrid and PSG over an end-of-season transfer. Chelsea want to keep hold of the defender, but they have been unable to agree fresh terms. 

- According to football.london, Arsenal are eager to reward Bukayo Saka with a new deal at the end of the campaign. The England international is already under contract at Emirates Stadium until July 2024.

- Atletico Madrid midfielder Hector Herrera will see out the remainder of the 2021-22 LaLiga campaign before making the switch to Houston Dynamo in MLS, Fabrizio Romano suggests. Herrera has made 14 appearances this term and is a regular for Mexico.

Manchester United have to be "dreaming" of landing players like Erling Haaland says Dimitar Berbatov, who also defended Cristiano Ronaldo's recent performances for the Red Devils.

Interim boss Ralf Rangnick was recently filmed on a video clip posted to social media saying "Who? What are you dreaming at night?!" in response to a fan asking if United were going to sign Borussia Dortmund star Haaland.

The Norway striker certainly has no shortage of suitors with the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona all heavily linked with the superstar forward.

With United way off the pace in the Premier League and firmly remaining outsiders in the hunt for the Champions League, Rangnick was perhaps not too far wide of the mark when suggesting Haaland is out of reach for now.

But former United striker Berbatov believes Haaland is the kind of player United have to once again think about signing to restore their standing among the elite clubs in Europe.

"I saw the video going around social media of Ralf Rangnick laughing off Erling Haaland signing for United," Berbatov told Betfair, in quotes reported by several British newspapers.

"He told a fan that they 'must be dreaming' about signing him, maybe that's a sign that they can't afford him or it's not possible for him to move to the club at this moment in time when they aren't producing good enough football to get his interest, maybe that's what he meant.

"For me they need to go back to those high standards of performance that they used to set, so that they can attract big players.

"Everybody wants him in summer and maybe Rangnick was being realistic. It's not a great look, though, and in this day and age you have to be careful because you can end up in a moment where you need to explain yourself.

"You must be mad to not want a player like Haaland in your team, so maybe Ralf Rangnick should start dreaming."

One superstar whose future at United remains a little unclear is veteran forward Ronaldo, who made a sensational return to Old Trafford in August.

Ronaldo is United's top scorer this season but he has netted only once in 2022, while his comeback has coincided with a campaign that saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked and persistent rumours of dressing room unrest among the squad.

Berbatov, though, suggested the 37-year-old is allowed to have bad games and said the onus is on his team-mates to produce the goods when he is not playing at his best.

"When teams have a bad result the star players always end up with the blame, and at the minute with Manchester United, that's Cristiano Ronaldo," said Berbatov, who played alongside Ronaldo during his four years at Old Trafford.

"At the moment he's got just one goal in 10 games and that seems problematic for everybody, but not for me.

"There are eleven players on the pitch and the blame should be shared. Ronaldo is an icon in the world of football and people need to remember that he's 37.

"So, from time to time he is allowed to have a couple of bad games. But I don't think that is the problem here.

"People need to be realistic with him and they need to know that it's totally different when you're 37 to being 27.

"He is going to have moments when he needs his team-mates to produce more for him, that's normal in football. Ronaldo is a total professional and he will speak to the manager and he will want to produce more.

"Everybody in the United team needs to produce more, the standards should be a lot higher than they are.

"Ronaldo is also a realistic guy, he will know that his performances aren't where he wants them to be, even though he's older and his game is totally different, he sets very high standards. I don't think that needs explaining to him."

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