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Jeff Stelling confirms retirement as Sky Sports host to end 27-year Soccer Saturday run

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EPL news 2021, Manchester United, next manager, Mauricio Pochettino, Ernesto Valverde, PSG, Zidane, Erik ten Hag, latest, update

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Manchester United’s executives breathed a huge sigh of relief on Wednesday morning (AEDT) as interim manager to the interim manager Michael Carrick oversaw a 2-0 win at Villarreal to see the Red Devils into the last 16 of the Champions League.

But no one is screaming ‘Michael’s at the wheel’ this time, like they did when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a great start to his life as Manchester United caretaker boss.

Instead they’ve sounded out another option as an interim boss, while still trying waiting to see if it’s possible for their No.1 choice, Mauricio Pochettino, to leave PSG mid-season, rather than wait until the end of the current campaign.

According to the Daily Telegraph, United have held talks with former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde about taking over as their interim manager – although he is just one of a number of candidates currently being considered.

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(Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)
(Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)Source: AFP

Valverde has been out of work since being sacked by Barcelona in January of last year following a two-and-a-half year spell at the club where he won successive La Liga titles and a Copa del Rey.

Although he has no Premier League experience, Valverde has also managed La Liga sides Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, Villarreal and Espanyol.

However, Manchester United would abandoned their initial plan of bringing in an interim coach should Pochettino’s situation change, with reports suggesting he is open to moving to Old Trafford now.

Pochettino faced the media for the first time since Solskjaer’s sacking – ironically in Manchester as he prepares his PSG side to take on Man City in the Champions League on Thursday morning (AEDT) – and insisted he was happy at the club.

However, multiple reports state that tensions have developed between Pochettino and PSG’s sporting director Leonardo, while it’s already known he wants to head back to the Premier League when his time in Paris does end.

“I am very focused on football. I am not a kid; I am not a child. I have spent my whole life playing football and now it’s my 12th year as a coach.

Will Zidane be the next United manager? | 06:18

“We are in a business that the rumours are there, I completely understand what is going on – sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative way. This type of thing cannot distract. They are rumours. Rumours are there and we need to live with that.

“I’m not going to make the mistake at all. You know very well that everything we say will finish in a way… In the past I said when I was in Espanyol my dream was to know, to meet Ferguson. All that until now is going to be misunderstood or is going to be out of context. I am so happy at Paris St Germain and I am focused to try to be at my best, like we are doing.”

When asked if he intended on seeing out his contract with PSG, Pochettino answered carefully: “In football it is about living the present, not about living the past or the future.”

PSG are reportedly relaxed about the situation and are well aware of Zinedine Zidane’s interest in filling any vacancy they may have.

According to Spanish outlet MARCA, PSG’s players feel that Zidane is on his way into the club to succeed Pochettino in the next couple of weeks and are privately discussing it amongst themselves.

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UEFA Champions League 2021, Manchester United vs Villarreal, result, score, Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Carrick, next manager latest news

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is gone and there will be a number of players in the Manchester United squad now believing they have a second shot at reviving their careers at the club.

By the end of Solskjaer’s reign, a large number of players were under performing with perhaps only David De Gea and Cristiano Ronaldo able to say they delivered what was expected of them.

Bruno Fernandes, who saved Solskjaer’s skin on more than one occasion, had seen his performances drop off, while Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire also saw massive declines from the previous season.

Donny van de Beek and Jesse Lingard never got a look in, Jadon Sancho struggled to adjust to the Premier League and Anthony Martial had become more erratic that ever before in his performances.

As for the central midfield quartet, Scott McTominay and Fred remained first-choice despite their obvious struggles, Nemanja Matic was deemed too old and immobile to play and Paul Pogba continued to be a square peg in a team full of round holes.

So now Solskjaer has departed Old Trafford, with an interim manager set to be appointed until the end of the season in the coming weeks, we’ve looked at the players who are set to receive a reprieve under Michael Carrick and an opportunity to show why they deserve to continue their careers at Manchester United.

Carrick made a number of big calls for his first game in the hotseat, including dropping Fernandes. Here’s what his first teamsheet means for the Manchester United squad.

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(Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)
(Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)Source: AFP

THE MAIN CAST

Ronaldo started and once again scored a vital goal for United to continue his Champions League scoring streak to five consecutive matches. But his overall play was much improved too. His link-up play was impressive and he even pressed slightly more than usual as he took on a greater leadership role within the team.

De Gea was also very impressive and made a string of stunning saves which meant that another Champions League comeback was not necessary as the teams trudged in at half time. He and Ronaldo will continue to be the first two names on the teamsheet each week, with Raphael Varane closely behind them when he returns from injury.

Fernandes was very much an auto-pick for Solskjaer but Carrick used the game against Villarreal to drop United’s talisman, who has now gone 14 games without scoring. However, when he came on after 65 minutes with Marcus Rashford, the game changed and United became a lot more comfortable and confident and improved massively. A game or two out of the team may be what he needs to refocus on what he is best at but he will definitely be a key cog for the manager(s) to come.

As will Rashford, who was overlooked for a surprise start for Martial, but looked lively when he came on and nearly scored on a couple of occasions. He has been in good form since coming back from a shoulder injury and should get a good run in the team.

Through sheer lack of options, the midfield duo nicknamed McFred will continue to work in tandem together and be the first choice pairing – especially now Pogba isn’t expected to return from injury until the new year. This is the position the club most need to strengthen in but unless Carrick – or whoever comes after him – can be the first United manager to work out how to get the best out of Pogba there, McFred will continue. Fred’s pressing to set up Ronaldo’s opener was a pleasing sight for the new boss.

Pochettino linked to United top job | 01:13

THE BIGGEST IMPROVERS

There is no doubt who was the biggest improver now he is free of Solskjaer and that was Jadon Sancho. He took a while to settle as United struggled to maintain possession in the first half with Van de Beek forced to do the dirty work and help out in midfield rather than prioritise his attacking responsibilities. But when United were able to get to ball to him, he was excellent. He played a lovely one-two with Fernandes which nearly resulted in a goal before he finally found the next with an emphatic finish in stoppage time. It was his first goal for the club but coupled with the performance, it is a great platform for him to build upon from here.

Harry Maguire was also much improved, albeit it the only was up for him after some torrid performances of late, culminating in a red card in Solskjaer’s final game in charge. He seemed to have collected himself for the trip to Villarreal after admitting he had to take “a big responsibility” after his former boss’ dismissal. He still looked vulnerable next to Victor Lindelof but will improve once Varane returns. A clean sheet – only United’s third of the season – will be a huge relief for him and the rest of his defensive strugglers.

Red Devils defeat Villarreal 2-0 in UCL | 00:52

THE SECOND CHANCERS

Donny van de Beek is the biggest winner from Solskjaer’s sacking and he was immediately thrust into the first team at the first opportunity by Carrick.

However, it was only his first start in two months and this was a reminder of how far the former Ballon d’Or nominee had fallen under Solskjaer. He wasn’t afraid to do the hard yards as United were overrun in midfield in the first half, but that meant he was starving Ronaldo, Sancho and Martial of his playmaking. He deserves credit for his workrate but was clearly short of match fitness when he was taken off after 65 minutes. It’s when he is fully up to speed with starting matches again that we should be able to see his true potential at United.

Alex Telles, the left-back brought in to fight Luke Shaw for his place by Solskjaer, also started and was impressive in his attacking. He made a fine run which he won a free kick on the edge of the area for at one point and also deliver a wicked cross for Ronaldo to attack as he showed off what he can do when given a chance. He will likely remain Shaw’s understudy for the season but he showed that unless the Englishman improves, he is capable of stepping up in his stead.

Nemanja Matic was also brought on at the end to shore things up and is likely to play a bigger role under a manager who himself was once an ageing central midfield with an eye for a pass but a lack of mobility.

Villarreal gift Ronaldo a goal! | 00:51

THE NO CHANCERS

Jesse Lingard was on the bench again but still didn’t manage to get onto the pitch. When the game was crying out for attacking ingenuity, Carrick turned to Fernandes and Rashford, rather than the England international, who is set to leave in January.

Lingard was persuaded to stay by Solskjaer only to be given very little game time – despite making two excellent substitute appearances at the start of the season. But a change in manager doesn’t look like it will signal a change in fortune for Lingard, who is desperate to play again. As a result he will either leave the club on a free at the end of the season or United will try and get any fee they can for him in January.

De Gea’s understudy Dean Henderson is also unlikely to get a chance, through no fault of his own but merely down to the Spaniard’s brilliance so far this season. The Englishman did challenge De Gea at the start of last season but De Gea ultimately won out and will continue to remain Manchester United’s No.1.

Eric Bailly will likely get a chance as the fourth centre back against Chelsea on the weekend with Varane injured and Maguire suspended, but that’s about as high in the pecking order as he will get it appears. Similarly, with Diogo Dalot, who still wasn’t given a chance at right back despite Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s poor start to the season and obvious attacking flaws.

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Man Utd interim boss Michael Carrick makes Bruno Fernandes admission after star is dropped

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Manchester United interim boss Michael Carrick has explained why Bruno Fernandes was dropped against Villarreal.

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