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Priority targets and Ronaldo – the issues Manchester United have to address before the transfer window closes

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Discard the dead wood

United have not negotiated a significant sale all summer (Andreas Pereira spent the last two years on loan in Italy and Brazil). Figures at the club expect more activity with outgoings as deadline day looms and Alex Telles is expected to join Sevilla on a season-long loan.
That United haven’t sold the redundant Telles and Liverpool can bank £17million for fellow full-back Neco Williams highlights the yawning chasm between England’s two biggest clubs and how they operate. Nobody would have guessed Liverpool had changed sporting directors prior to the summer and their major business was concluded before July.

Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tahith Chong are all available for transfer. There has not been anywhere near enough noise around any of them even though it was established months ago all were deemed surplus.

Jones has started two games in two-and-a-half years and has wilfully missed the entirety of pre-season to follow a curated training programme as he manages his knee injury. That is no good to United and Jones is sixth-choice centre-back – at best. If he is serious about prolonging his career then he will accept a hit to his wages and play elsewhere.
The United squad against Brighton could read: De Gea, Heaton, Dalot, Maguire, Lindelof, Malacia, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, McTominay, Fred, Van de Beek, Fernandes, Eriksen, Rashford, Sancho, Martial, Garnacho, Elanga, Ronaldo. That does not scream top four, never mind squad rebuild after the club’s worst season in decades.
United’s antiquated approach of targeting players selected solely by the manager when there is a football director, a deputy football director, a head of recruitment operations and a technical chief scout on the payroll is an early red flag of Erik ten Hag’s reign.

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Enough time has been expended on Frenkie de Jong and Antony and United are not operating with alacrity to line up alternatives. John Murtough met Red Bull Salzburg striker Benjamin Sesko’s agent more than two weeks ago.

If United secure Sesko, nobody could parade him as a priority target. He is 19 and was on loan at FC Liefering last year.

United sources acknowledge they are “light” in attack. Ie. they lack proven options in reserve. Elanga, 20, has not scored since February and Garnacho only turned 18 in July. The alternatives are Tahith Chong, Facundo Pellistri and Amad. Only Chong has not played for United in two years, Pellistri has not made his official debut and Amad has started twice in the Premier League.
Ronaldo: preserve the status quo?

As long as the transfer window is open it is in Ronaldo’s interests to appear coveted. Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Sporting Lisbon – four Champions League clubs – have all been linked but there has been nothing tangible.

No sportsperson has a reach as powerful as Ronaldo’s and he is making power plays through social media, whether it is teasing United supporters of his return by donning their training shorts or confirming his playing return before Ten Hag.

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Ronaldo will not loom over the United manager as he did last season. Ten Hag is a more authoritative figure than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and responded concisely to a question about Ronaldo’s early departure from Old Trafford while United were still playing Rayo Vallecano.

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United cannot give away the game’s greatest goalscorer if there is not an acceptable financial package and he is their most dependable goalscorer. Preserving the status quo, even if it means waking up to back page splashes about Ronaldo, is the sensible strategy.
Ronaldo is likely to be on the bench on Sunday unless there is an injury or illness in attack
Youngsters on loan?

The next four weeks are particularly pivotal for a number of fringe players at United. With one game per week and no opportunities in cup competitions until September, some will get itchy feet and request loan moves and some will sit tight.

As it stands, James Garner is well placed to get fulfilling playing time as one of United’s four central midfielders (if Donny van de Beek is to be included). Should United recruit a midfielder, then that could signal a shift and Garner has already outlined his intention to seek a loan move if he senses he will not get sufficient game-time.

Pellistri and Amad are peripheral forwards and Pellistri needs to remain current if he is to secure a place in Uruguay’s World Cup squad. Charlie Savage and Zidane Iqbal impressed on tour and do not have long to serve in the Under-23s.
United have four games before the window closes and Ten Hag prioritised continuity with his selections in pre-season. The expected line-up against Brighton is the same that started against Atletico Madrid in Oslo, bar Jadon Sancho for Anthony Elanga.

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Sancho, Fernandes, Fred, Dalot, Maguire and De Gea’s places seem assured. A fit and firing Ronaldo ousts one of Martial and Rashford, Christian Eriksen would be the popular pick in midfield while Malacia is arguably level pegging with Shaw at left-back.

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Voodoo new to me – Waldrum

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In the aftermath of the drama that ensued between Nigeria and Cameroon during the penultimate qualifying fixture for the 2024 Olympic games, Super Falcons coach, Randy Waldrum, says voodoo is strange to him.

There was drama at the start of the second half inside the Moshood Abiola National Stadium in Abuja on Monday after a Cameroonian player allegedly attempted to plant ‘voodoo’ inside the Falcons goal post.

Falcons’ goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie, was in fine form as she stopped every shot in her direction to prevent the Indomitable Lionesses from scoring.

However, in the closing minutes of the game, Cameroon sent Annie Enganemben on as they were about to launch a free kick into the Nigerian box with claims that the player was sent on to touch the net in a bid to give Cameroon a saving grace as they were running out of options, and had to resort to diabolical means.

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In a video, the substitute, alongside another striker, were seen trying to run towards the Nigerian goal in an attempt to touch the net, but Asisat Oshoala took it upon herself to prevent that from happening. The drama led to the player being sent off after she hit Nnadozie in the process.

When asked by our reporter about the attempt by the Cameroonians to use voodoo during the game, Waldrum said, “Yes it is true.”

“I have never seen it before but our players wouldn’t let them in our goal to use it.”

The only goal of the two-legged tie came in the early minutes of the first half, with Esther Okoronkwo tapping home from close range after Jennifer Echegini’s clever footwork on the edge of the box.

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Liverpool Win Carabao Cup Title With Late Heroics Thrilling Against Chelsea

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In a thrilling Carabao Cup final clash at Wembley Stadium, Liverpool emerged victorious with late heroics against Chelsea, clinching the coveted title in dramatic fashiion.

The match, highly anticipated by football fans worldwide, showcased the fierce competition between two Premier League giants. Jurgen Klopp’s youthful Liverpool side faced off against Thomas Tuchel’s formidable Chelsea team in a showdown that promised excitement and tension.

Throughout the game, both teams demonstrated their skill and determination, creating numerous scoring opportunities and thrilling moments for the spectators. However, as the clock ticked down towards the end of regular time, the score remained deadlocked in a tense stalemate.

As the match entered extra time, the intensity on the field only intensified, with each side pushing for a decisive breakthrough. It was Liverpool’s star defender, Virgil van Dijk, who ultimately proved to be the hero of the night. In a heart-stopping moment, van Dijk rose above the Chelsea defense to head home a crucial goal deep into extra time.

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The Wembley Stadium erupted with cheers from Liverpool fans as van Dijk’s late header secured the victory and clinched the Carabao Cup title for Klopp’s side. It was a moment of pure jubilation for the Liverpool players, staff, and supporters, marking a memorable triumph in their footballing journey.

The match’s thrilling conclusion highlighted the unpredictable nature of football and the exhilarating drama that unfolds on the grand stage. Liverpool’s triumph with late heroics against Chelsea will be remembered as a testament to their resilience, determination, and unwavering spirit in pursuit of success.

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Boniface named among Bundesliga’s most skilful stars

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Bayer Leverkusen star Victor Boniface has secured a nomination among the most skilful players in the ongoing 2023/24 Bundesliga campaign so far.

After his move from Union SG last July, the Super Eagles striker wasted no time making an impact under the guidance of manager Xabi Alonso.

Boniface’s initial burst in Germany was nothing short of impressive, netting ten goals in 16 league matches.

However, his promising run hit an abrupt halt due to a groin injury, forcing him to miss the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations held in Ivory Coast.

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Despite his current injury setback, the striker’s noteworthy performances have not gone unnoticed.

The spotlight now shines on a particular display of individual brilliance during Leverkusen’s Bundesliga clash against RB Leipzig at the Bay Arena in August 2023.

In that game, Boniface executed a cunning feint, deceiving his marker into anticipating a right-footed shot, only to cleverly pass the ball with his left foot. Although he didn’t find the net, Leverkusen emerged victorious with a 3-2 scoreline.

Boniface shares the skills spotlight with four other notable players: Andrej Kramaric, Jadon Sancho, Felix Nmecha, and Xavi Simons.

To participate in the voting process, fans can visit the Bundesliga’s official website and select their choice among the nominated players.

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At the time of this report, Jadon Sancho leads the polls with an impressive 75% of the votes. Xavi Simons secures the second position with 17%, while Boniface currently holds 5%. Hoffenheim’s Kramaric and Dortmund’s Nmecha trail behind with 1% and 2% of the votes, respectively.

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