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Manchester United have been proven right about Raphael Varane transfer decision

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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.”

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.

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.

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.

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Rio Ferdinand issues major warning about Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag

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Former centre-back Rio Ferdinand believes it is still too early to judge whether Erik ten Hag is the right man to lead Manchester United back to the top, despite their unquestionable improvement under him this season.

United head into tomorrow’s Manchester derby against City at Old Trafford with the knowledge that a win will lift them to within a point and place of their neighbours in the Premier League table.

The Reds have lost just one of their last 18 matches since being battered 6-3 by City back in October, featuring a current run of eight wins on the bounce.

The Reds, such is the level of progress they have made under Ten Hag this season, are now considered as one of the favourites to qualify for the Champions League for next season.

They have made significant strides in a relatively short space of time and victories over the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur already this season have proven that they are capable of competing in the upper echelons of the table again.

However, despite heading into the second half of the campaign with form in their sails, Ferdinand insists the jury is still out on Ten Hag, despite him reaching 20 wins as United manager quick than any of his predecessors.

“I think it’s too early to say,” said Ferdinand to the Mirror. “We’ve been here with previous managers when it looks like we are onto something.

“We’ve got to be patient and give the man time. I think all the signs are very positive at the moment. He’s come in and seen what is happening, assessed how things are, looked at individuals and looked at the shape of the team.

“These were a bunch of players that were quite low. They were shot to pieces and he’s had to build, not only footballers, but men back up again. He’s had to build a lot of human beings back up and that takes time.

“The fact he’s now talking about qualifying for the Champions League so positively, he can sense a confidence coming back into this team. There’s a consistency of performance from the team that wasn’t there before and the signals and signs are all very promising.

“But they’re still not where they want to be. City are way ahead of where United are. The distance is a bit closer, but it’s still not anywhere near where we want it to be. There’s still work to be done.”

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Manchester United takeover bids ‘expected imminently’ with serious interest in Club

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Manchester United are expecting takeover offers from across the world as they are set to invite bids ahead of ‘mid-February deadline’.

The Telegraph have reported that the club have received ‘serious interest’ from consortiums based in the Middle East, Asia and the United States.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also weighing up an offer, as the Glazers hope to the sell one of the biggest clubs in the world for over £5billion.

The report also adds that parties who had been interested in taking over Chelsea, before Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn takeover, are set to return with approaches for the Red Devils.

It’s expected that potential investors will go public with their attempts to buy United in the coming weeks with the clock ‘now ticking on a deal’.

Senior United figures will issue a mid February deadline for formal offers in order to help get get the takeover completed before the end of the season.

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Confirmed: Chelsea ready to make late bid to hijack another Arsenal transfer

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Chelsea will make a late attempt to scupper Arsenal’s hopes of finally signing Mikhailo Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Gunners have submitted their third bid for the Ukraine international winger and hope an offer of £62m before add-ons, which take the deal closer to £70m, will be enough to break the deadlock between the two clubs.

Chelsea’s interest in the 21-year-old winger was earlier this week described only as ‘exploratory’ but ESPN now claim that Todd Boehly will test the waters and attempt to throw a spanner in the works for the Premier League leaders.

Shakhtar’s technical director Darijo Srna was pictured at Stamford Bridge last week as he watched Chelsea’s defeat against Manchester City and Boehly would have little issue with meeting an asking price which is closer to £88million.

Arsenal are said to be confident that their latest bid for Mudryk will be enough to finally secure the services of their No.1 January target, but have already been beaten to the punch once this month by their west London rivals.

Chelsea won the race to sign Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid amid competition from Arsenal and Manchester United, but the Portugal international’s promising debut ended in devastating fashion when he was sent off just shy of the hour mark for a dangerous challenge on Fulham’s Kenny Tete.

Felix will now miss the next three games through suspension as the problems mount for Chelsea’s under-fire manager Graham Potter.

‘It sums up where we are at the moment – everything that can go wrong, is going wrong,’ Potter said after Chelsea’s 2-1 west London derby defeat.

‘It was a forward’s tackle from Joao, there was no malice in it but I understand why it was a red. It is another blow the hits keep coming at the moment.

‘He was really good you could see his quality in the game so it is doubly disappointing for us because he was looking dangerous throughout.

‘I don’t think there was too much malice in it and it is an unfortunate action and we are going to lose him now for three games.’

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