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Manchester United have been proven right about Raphael Varane transfer decision



Ralf Rangnick barely had time to familiarise himself with his new surroundings before he’d already spotted a glaring Manchester United weakness.

It was less than 12 hours after the full-time whistle had been blown at the end of United’s thrilling 3-2 win over Arsenal and Rangnick was tasked with the challenge of presenting his pitch to the world’s media for the first time as interim manager.

He said: “Yesterday’s game was exciting for the fans but for myself those are not the kind of games that we need every day because football is to minimise the coincidence factor and have control.

“The major target for me in the next couple of weeks is just to bring more balance into the team. Even yesterday, we conceded two goals and needed three goals, in the end, to win the game.

“If you look at the total number of goals conceded, it is almost two, on average, per game, and this is just too much.”

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It became immediately apparent that the German’s first objective, like for most managers when they are hired to arrest a sinking ship, would be to tighten things up defensively. United had conceded nine goals in the four Premier League games that proceeded Rangnick’s maiden press conference and it was a run that could not continue.

Armed with his pleas for United to have control in matches and to stop leaking goals, the players appeared to be buying into his methods with two clean sheets from his first two Premier League games at the helm, stopping both Crystal Palace and Norwich from scoring.

United secured both of those clean sheets without the help of star-name centre-back Raphael Varane. The Frenchman was edging closer and closer towards a return following a spell on the sidelines with a groin injury, which robbed him of yet more opportunities to make his mark in a United shirt following his arrival from Real Madrid.

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But his return against Newcastle the day after Boxing Day — even if United failed to record a third successive clean sheet — gave everyone a lift. Varane is a figure that his team-mates look up to and seek inspiration from. After all, why wouldn’t you when you’re playing alongside someone who has won pretty much everything that football has to offer?

And the statistics suggest that United’s players have benefited from when Varane has played this season and not been consigned to the treatment table. Of the 12 Premier League games the France international has featured in this season, United have lost just twice, those being narrow 1-0 defeats to both Aston Villa and Wolves.

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In comparison, United have lost four of the eight Premier League games he has missed through injury since joining the club, winning on three occasions.

Varane’s influence cannot be overstated, even if United have only kept three clean sheets when he’s been present in the Premier League this season.

But while his injury issues have hindered his start to life at Old Trafford, the Frenchman has quietly, perhaps even under the radar, gone about shoring up United’s defensive troubles, with his most recent performances, in particular, at the standard United’s supporters would have expected from him when he walked out onto the hallowed Old Trafford turf, clutching his No.19 shirt, for the first time ahead of the season opener against Leeds at his official unveiling.


Tuchel hands 22-year-old his first Chelsea start – predicted starting XI against Leeds this weekend



Chelsea will look to get back to winning ways in Sunday’s game against Leeds United at Elland Road.

The Blues dominated proceedings in the London derby against Spurs last week, however only came out of things with a point following Harry Kane’s late equaliser.

Thomas Tuchel operated a fluid and unique system at Stamford Bridge, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount especially thriving in the new look system.

However, the Blues could turn back to the recognised back three this weekend, with our predicted lineup for the game against Leeds.

GK and Defence

Edouard Mendy made a brilliant save just before Spurs’ late equaliser at the end, and his position in the squad is more than secure for this one.

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With there still being no breakthrough on the Wesley Fofana front, Cesar Azpilicueta will return to the starting lineup as captain at Elland Road.

Fixtures are yet to pick up in the early stages of the season, so Thiago Silva should still be fresh and okay to participate again.

The centre-backs will be completed by Kalidou Koulibaly, who showed his quality again in an emphatic display against Spurs.


Reece James scored almost instantly after being moved back to wing-back on Sunday, and the Blues will look to get the attacking best out of him on Sunday.

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Jorginho may have been at fault for the first conceded goal last week, although his great performance will still see him start again against Leeds.

Injuries have ruled N’golo Kante and likely Mateo Kovacic out of the game, there is a big choice to be made to partner the Italy internatonal. While Ruben Loftus-Cheek starred against Spurs, Conor Gallagher will be chosen to partner in midfield, being handed his first start for the club.

Marc Cucurella will look to build on his impressive performance last week with another start against Leeds, with Ben Chilwell still not quite at match fitness.

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The Chelsea attack will have a familiar look to the last two weeks, with Mason Mount occupying the free-roaming role in the attack against an opponent he has had a lot of success against before.

Raheem Sterling will try again in his quest to open his Chelsea league account, with him missing a glorious chance last week.

Kai Havertz is another man who missed a great opportunity to win the game for the Blues at the weekend, although his work in the front three was enough to see him start again.

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Atletico Madrid do not want to pay €40 million for Barcelona attacker



Atletico Madrid are in a precarious situation in regards to their ownership of Antoine Griezmann.

The Spanish giants had signed the Barcelona forward on a two-year loan deal last summer. The contract included a mandatory purchase option worth €40 million if the player features in 50% of the matches with a minimum of 45 minutes between the games across two seasons.

Last season, Griezmann featured in 82.5% of the matches, meaning Atletico Madrid may have to virtually leave him out on the bench throughout the 2022/23 campaign if they are to avoid paying the fee for the Frenchman in 2023.

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However, with Luis Suarez leaving the club, Atletico Madrid consider Griezmann a viable part of the club’s attacking unit and Los Colchoneros must get the best out of him, if they are to regain their lost status in the title race in this new season.

At the same time, the club are not too keen on meeting the mandatory €40 million purchase clause set on Griezmann’s contract. This has been reported by Mundo Deportivo which suggests the club are looking to reduce the overall valuation of the clause.

While Barcelona are yet to respond to Atletico’s overtures, there is a clear indication that the capital club have no intention to pay anywhere near the €40 million for the services of Griezmann, who was barely even a starter for Diego Simeone’s men last season

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The Frenchman was even left out on the bench in Atletico’s opening game against Getafe. However, coming on as a substitute in the final half an hour, the attacker was able to break his scoring duck by netting the third goal in a 3-0 victory.

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It will be interesting to see whether the little cameo compels Simeone to start him in future matches, although his performances should not deter Atletico Madrid from their attempts to lower the price tag of the star striker.

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Barcelona star’s move to Chelsea is now ‘heating up’ – report



Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be close to securing a move to Chelsea from FC Barcelona, with the move now heating up, reports Victor Navarro on COPE.

Aubameyang joined Barça only eight months ago, arriving as a free agent from Arsenal in January. He helped the Catalans finish second in La Liga last season and finished the campaign as the club’s joint top scorer in all competitions along with Memphis Depay

And, Barcelona could now lose both their top scorers this summer. Depay is closing in on a move to Juventus, having reportedly agreed a two-year contract with the Italian giants.

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And now Aubameyang could be on his way to Chelsea imminently, with the move ‘heating up’ recently. The Blues have made the 33-year-old Gabonese striker their top target after losing both Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel enjoyed a successful relationship with Aubameyang during their time at Borussia Dortmund and is now pushing for a reunion.

Reports earlier on Thursday indicated that Chelsea were planning to submit a formal offer for the former Arsenal captain imminently.

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Now, Victor Navarro is claiming that the two clubs are negotiating over the transfer of the 33-year-old, with all parties intent on getting the move over the line.

Barcelona need to get rid of players so that they can register Jules Kounde and make more additions, with a new right-back and left-back on the club’s agenda.

The departure of Depay alone will not be enough to register Kounde. And with Frenkie de Jong unwilling to leave and no offers arriving for Sergino Dest yet, Aubameyang’s exit seems the best option for Barça.

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The ex-Arsenal superstar has fallen down the pecking order at Camp Nou this season following the arrival of Robert Lewandowski. A move to Stamford Bridge could see him become the first-choice striker and enjoy regular game-time.

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