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Manchester United held by Leicester: Five things we learned as Fred saves a point for Ralf Rangnick

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Man United laboured to a 1-1 draw with Leicester City at Old Trafford to effectively kill off their hopes of clinching a top-four finish.

The result leaves United in sixth place, three points behind fourth-placed Arsenal – who have crucially played two games fewer than Ralf Rangnick’s men.

Both sides struggled to make many inroads during a poor first half, with United in particular struggling to move the ball around with any type of conviction. But the game burst into life after Kelechi Iheanacho broke the deadlock on the hour mark, heading home after a rapid counter-attack from the visitors.

Fred was in the right place at the right time to stab home the equaliser for the hosts just four minutes later. James Maddison thought he’d won the game for Leicester in the 80th minute, only for VAR to rule his strike out for a foul. The result leaves United needing a miracle to qualify for next season’s Champions League; particularly with Arsenal and Tottenham finding form in recent weeks.

Here, Express Sport takes a look at five things we learned on another difficult afternoon for Manchester United and Rangnick at Old Trafford…

Ever since joining Manchester United, Fred has struggled to win over his critics; but his resurgence this season has been nothing short of remarkable. The Brazilian midfielder has evolved into a key player for United, and he was in the right place at the right time to bag his fourth league goal of the season to give United hope.

He could hardly have picked a more fitting way to mark his 100th Premier League appearance for the club – even if he didn’t come out on the winning side. Rather than looking the most likely candidate to make way for a big-money midfield signing, the vastly improved 28-year-old now looks like the most likely candidate to star alongside whoever does arrive ahead of next year.

Not for the first time in recent weeks, Rangnick has taken a page out of Manchester City’s playbook by opting to set United up with a false nine rather than a recognised focal point. But once again – just as it did when United were mauled by their rivals last month – the system proved to be of a hindrance than a masterstroke.

United were laborious in their build-up play and completely toothless in the final third as Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba alternated in the advanced role in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo. While Pep Guardiola and City have excelled without a focal point this season, it should be abundantly clear that isn’t a suitable tactic for Rangnick to persevere with if United do harbour any faint hopes of pipping Arsenal to the final Champions League berth.

Rangnick sends clear Rashford message

With Ronaldo ruled out of Saturday’s clash, Marcus Rashford was the most obvious candidate to fill in for Manchester United’s Portuguese talisman – but Rangnick made his feelings on the United academy graduate crystal clear by leaving the misfiring 24-year-old on the bench again.

Although it was clear before Saturday’s clash that Rashford was out of favour at Old Trafford, Rangnick’s decision to start without an orthodox striker for the second time in just over a month underlined just how much work United’s academy graduate has ahead of him if he is to salvage his Manchester United career – weeks after Rangnick backed him to rekindle his form.

 

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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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