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Manchester United need to make Bruno Fernandes change to fix recent weakness

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Manchester United’s unexpected 16 day run without a game will have given Ralf Rangnick the chance for some breathing space and an opportunity to take stock.

There aren’t normally many chances to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in December but the Covid-19 enforced postponements of games against Brentford and Brighton have given Rangnick that freedom.

With Carrington closed down for four days over the weekend the German has been unable to work at the training ground, drilling his players in the demands he has for them, so instead he would have been assessing his first three games in charge.

The Premier League wins against Crystal Palace and Norwich City and the Champions League draw with Young Boys have offered some encouragement. 

United looked good against Palace, were much-changed in Europe but were then shaky against Norwich. Most encouragingly, the back-to-back clean sheets they kept in the league enabled them to grind out victories.

But the three games have produced just three goals and there hasn’t really been a pattern to them. Rangnick wants his teams to win the ball back high up the pitch and play quickly and vertically, catching the opposition out of position. So far they’ve scored via Fred’s right foot from 18-yards, a Mason Greenwood scissor-kick and a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.

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Rangnick will know creating chances and scoring goals is an area for improvement and United will expect to score more than three times in three games against opposition of the standard of Palace, Young Boys and Norwich, especially when a goalscorer of the quality of Ronaldo is leading the line in two of those games.

The ability to create chances through pressing and winning the ball in the opposition third will improve as the United players get used to Rangnick’s style, but there are other issues at play.

A change in who plays next to Ronaldo could add more firepower into the side, with Marcus Rashford below par at the moment. Edinson Cavani can improve the United press and has the finishing ability to take opportunities.

See also  Manchester United fans name ideal successor to Ralf Rangnick

But the lack of goalscoring prowess has also come at a dip when there’s been a dip in the form of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker has had an up and down season, even more so than usual for someone who always tries to make something happen when he’s in possession of the ball.

Until this season the 27-year-old was the beating heart of the United team, but the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo has altered that slightly. Now he’s gone from the sole No. 10 and creator-in-chief under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, to splitting that position with Jadon Sancho and having to cover wide areas as well as play centrally.

Fernandes has 35 goals and 45 assists in 102 games for United, but there has been just one assist and one goal in his last seven appearances now. While the burden for goals should be shared more equally, United still need the creativity of Fernandes.

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He could be crucial once this Rangnick has managed to get this team to gel, turning them into the “pressing monsters” he called for in his first week in the job. If United win the ball in the opposition half and have an unstructured team to attack, then there are few better players than Fernandes at exploiting that.

For now, however, his performances remain hit and miss and he struggled to influence the game at Norwich, although he also found Rashford failing to make the right run for him at times.

Fernandes thrived under the responsibility that Solskjaer gave him and Rangnick needs to do the same. There have been some calls for the Portuguese to be dropped, but at his best he clearly still enhances this United team. The challenge for Rangnick is to get him back to his best.

Chelsea

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

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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.

See also  Manchester United fans name ideal successor to Ralf Rangnick

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.

Midfield

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.

See also  Cristiano Ronaldo issues demand to Man United after being substituted in Young Boys defeat

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.

See also  Man United’s different XI if Antonio Conte replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Journalist gives update

Attack

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

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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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Chelsea

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

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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.

See also  Barcelona agree personal terms with second Chelsea star

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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