Gary Neville admits he is ‘disappointed’ in Cristiano Ronaldo for putting Manchester United and Erik ten Hag in a ‘messy’ situation on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Ronaldo wants to leave Old Trafford to play in the Champions League this season but, so far, no club has come forward with a suitable offer for the player or United.
The Red Devils kick off their league campaign on Sunday and an injury to Anthony Martial puts new boss Erik ten Hag in the position of having to choose whether or not to play his want-away star.
“The Ronaldo situation is distracting,” said Neville on Sky Sports. You saw Ten Hag in the press conference on Friday having to answer questions about it.
“The fact Anthony Martial has got injured and he is the only other centre forward, and he actually was going to leave the club six months ago.
“The fact they haven’t got Frenkie de Jong in, the fact you haven’t been supported in the way the other managers have and getting the signings early, I think it all means it’s a more difficult job for Ten Hag than it already was.”
Neville was asked if he would play Ronaldo from the start against Brighton: “If Ronaldo is fit you start him, and I hope he stays.
“I’m a little bit disappointed in him because he’s letting the manager go into those press conferences. Cristiano Ronaldo is now a good age. He’s been the greatest player in the world along with Lionel Messi for the last 10 years. He’s got all the experience in the world.
“I don’t think he’s quite got the players that he wants…”
Gary Neville gives his verdict on the current situation and problems facing Erik ten Hag at Manchester United 👀 pic.twitter.com/R1ETreYjdI
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 6, 2022
“Would it be too much to ask for him to come out and do an interview to clear things up, tell us what he’s actually thinking and what actually is happening?
“Would that be too much to ask a senior player? Is he not going to do an interview for the next three weeks? Is he not going to do an interview on Sunday after the game?
“Obviously, Sky are going to ask for him on Sunday after the game. Is he going to come out, stand up, do the interview, and not let everyone else have to answer the questions for him?
“I think that would be something that would be a start.
“So, for me, I am disappointed because that clarity we haven’t got and the reason Ten Hag is getting a bit jumpy in his press conference is because he’s being asked difficult questions. He’s probably not really telling us the truth of it because he can’t.
Keane, Ronaldo love-in over? Man Utd legend urges Ten Hag to ‘put marker down’ – ‘Off you go’
“The reality of it is if a Champions League club comes in for Cristiano Ronaldo in the next two weeks, I think we know he wants to take that move. We know that. It has emerged over the last few weeks.
“At the moment, no-one has come in for him. So, that is why the club are saying at this moment in time that he may stay and we want him to stay, but if someone came in I think he would go.
“Should Manchester United be waiting two to three weeks before the end of a transfer window as to whether their star centre-forward leaves? I don’t think they should be in that position.
“Do they just say no and tell him he’s staying come what may? That would be clarity from the club I suppose but then there’s a big risk that Cristiano in two weeks’ time throws his toys out of the pram and says I’m leaving.
“That is the sort of thing that could happen and that’s why I find it unpalatable.
“There’s a bigger thing for me also because I want his Man Utd career to end well. What he’s achieved at the club and what he’s achieved in the game, is it too much to ask for the next 12 months for him to encourage the young players, be a leader on the pitch and do the interviews when your team win and when they lose.
“Make sure you set the standards that he always does in training in terms of his performance. Score the goals and let everybody be fair and let him leave Manchester with just the highest thoughts.
“This is messy for him, messy for the club. It is messy for everybody.
“We want him to stay. We are desperate for him to stay. We just don’t like these side sagas that drag on.
“They never look good. They always look a little bit distasteful, and I think it needs clarifying. It needs sorting out quite quickly because we can’t have this for another three weeks if you are a Manchester United fan, and certainly if you are Erik ten Hag.
“He does need to be able to concentrate on the whole team, on his performance and on the tactical way of playing. He doesn’t want to be distracted all the time by the star player and if he’s going to stay or go.”
Ten Hag makes his Winners and Losers debut as Gerrard and Liverpool keep him company
In the first of what seems likely to be many appearances in the latter column, Erik ten Hag sits among the losers. William Saliba does not.
The world’s most expensive centre-half might feel justified in saying he and his new teammate had “not played much together” and thus “weren’t on the same wavelength” at all times in defeat. He certainly had a point in claiming that “centre-back partnerships are built over time” and thus gradual improvement was to be expected from a base of conceding twice at home. But William Saliba scoffed at that idea with an imposing performance against Crystal Palace, displacing the £50m element of a solid Arsenal defensive pairing and vindicating three years of questionable career management.
Saliba had enjoyed a full pre-season with his new cohorts, unlike some of the Frenchman’s contemporaries at other clubs. But the ease with which he stepped into an established defence on his Premier League debut at 21, in an away game so difficult that Arsenal lost it 3-0 four months ago, and carrying immense expectation on his shoulders, was remarkable. He was assured on and off the ball, an excellent passing range and assuredness combining with zero fouls against the trickery of Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze and co. The best defenders seem to take it as a personal affront not only to concede, but to allow the opposition within 10 yards of goal; Saliba embodied that trait and will only get better with experience.
Forever the manager who signed Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli for Arsenal. And Stephan Lichtsteiner, Matteo Guendouzi, Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos and Denis Suarez but shut up and be nice for once.
There was always a relatively unfair aspect to his reputation as a typical Championship bully who struggled when picking on defenders his own size in the Premier League. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored 20 goals in 71 games during relegation seasons with Newcastle and Fulham, then three more as the Cottagers went down and the Serb was often either rotated or injured in 2020/21.
While Mitrovic has never been prolific in the top flight, nor is he perennially ineffective. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Virgil van Dijk can vouch for that. Jordan Henderson, too, when he picks himself up off the ground.
With the conditions just right and the unshakable faith of his manager flowing through him, Mitrovic led the line like most suspected he was ultimately able to at this level. The questions have rarely pertained to ability but the temperament and confidence of a centre-forward enigma: one who freely throws elbows but needs an arm around him all the same.
Marco Silva is the perfect manager in that regard and he deserves just as much credit as his star striker for the towering back-post header, the penalty-inducing footwork, the pressing and the impeccable hold-up play. His tactical adjustments were crucial. Fulham averaged 58.1% possession in the Championship last season and created chances for Mitrovic at will. They had 33.1% of the ball against Liverpool and Mitrovic scored from two of his three shots.
The first Manchester City player to score twice on their Premier League debut since Sergio Aguero channelled his spiritual predecessor to silence the preposterous critics. Erling Haaland punished the West Ham defence as many times as he breached the Sky Sports swearing protocols and those hot Community Shield takes were rendered positively glacial by around the hour mark of the Norwegian’s actual competitive debut. No-one could have seen that coming. He was quicker, sharper and more composed than against Liverpool at Wembley, twice snapping into action and invading the sort of space behind the defence that many felt would not be made available to him in England.
Sprinting between Ben Johnson, Kurt Zouma and Declan Rice as Ilkay Gundogan span wonderfully for the first goal, Haaland repeated the trick and complemented his earlier penalty with a finish as cool as they come from Kevin de Bruyne’s second-half through ball. It was a centre-forward masterclass that challenged the prestige of the Premier League, so similar as it was to his regular deconstruction of Bundesliga defences both Austrian and German. His own post-match self-assessment of “a bit sh*t” was ominous when you consider this was him barely breaking into stride.
In the emerging sub-genre of former England international midfielders whose managerial careers carry a vague stench of over-promotion in terms of both roles and media fawning, with coaching acumen that either makes them the greatest minds of their generation or absolute frauds with no in between, Scott Parker has been forced to take a step back from the spotlight. Doubts remain over his aptitude in the dugout but bigger names with grander reputations have taken precedent. Bournemouth dispatched one of those with an impressive victory over Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa, who might have been lured into a false sense of security by Parker’s pre-match claim that his squad was “lacking”, “short”, “light” and generally “much weaker than it was when we got promoted”.
The Cherries scored early and late, weathering the mild winds of Villa onslaught in between by making up for any perceived gulf in quality by doubling their efforts. Bournemouth ranked sixth for tackles, joint-fourth for interceptions and first for fouls of all Premier League teams on the opening weekend and that endeavour – a hallmark of Parker’s playing days – will be required throughout this season.
Barcelona keeper Neto has strengthened the manager’s hand and reports suggest Marcos Senesi of Feyenoord will soon do the same. This scrappy, hard-fought victory laid down a marker as to their bare minimum requirement as part of the team.
He is still, critically in the minds of many a Leeds supporter, both an American person and not Marcelo Bielsa. But Jesse Marsch coaxed and coached a more focused team press while implementing four new signings, fielding the fifth-youngest XI of the opening weekend and inspiring a comeback victory through his substitutions. Most teams would struggle after selling their two best and most influential players but Marsch has proved there is life for and in Leeds after not only Bielsa but Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, too.
It’s mad to think that Harry Kane and Heung-min Son are fighting it out to be recognised as Tottenham’s second-best forward.
The oldest outfield starter on the opening Premier League weekend by two years and four months. And while Jamie Vardy was toiling against Brentford, Thiago Silva enjoyed a late afternoon stroll at Goodison Park.
He’s really sodding good. The best player outside the Big Six and a vast upgrade on many of those in it.
Three managers used their full complement of substitutions. Thomas Frank keeps esteemed company with Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola in that regard, although his prior approach meant five changes were tactically necessary rather than basic rotation.
Brentford were poor early on against Leicester, ponderous and lacking aggression. By the time Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had doubled the hosts’ lead at the King Power Stadium, the Bees had had two shots and little over a third of possession.
They stayed in touch until the hour mark, when Josh Dasilva and Keane Lewis-Potter were introduced. Three minutes later, Ivan Toney scored.
After Shandon Baptiste replaced Christian Norgaard with a quarter of an hour remaining, Frank waited a little longer to make his final changes. Mads Bech Sorensen and Halil Dervisoglu came on. Three minutes later, Dasilva equalised.
Mistakes were made and lessons learned, like not pairing Ben Mee with Pontus Jansson in central defence. All in all, a successful afternoon.
Erik ten Hag was appointed Manchester United manager on April 21, 109 days ago. Their pre-season commenced on June 27, 42 days ago. Their first summer friendly was on July 12, 27 days ago.
Their summer preparations have been relatively uncharacteristically settled, incomings and Cristiano Ronaldo’s future notwithstanding. Yet it took 14 seconds for that familiar sinking feeling to replace any lingering new season optimism.
Danny Welbeck and Leandro Trossard pressed all naive hope and confidence out of their hosts, Lisandro Martinez and Diogo Dalot panicked and Old Trafford had the atmosphere sucked out almost instantly.
It was as if the last few months had never happened. Manchester United slipped back into their old bad habits. Half-time, full-time and the second Brighton goal from Pascal Gross were all greeted by a chorus of boos.
The sliver of a silver lining to this menacing cloud is that it was a performance that might force a change in transfer window approach over the next three weeks. Manchester United’s eternal desperation to sign a central midfielder was common knowledge and this defeat only made it even more painfully obvious, while also highlighting their need for a centre-forward.
Ten Hag has to use this to his advantage. Or he has to realise that Manchester United’s transfer department remains an absolute mess, set the bar accordingly low with 33-year-old Marko Arnautovic and watch them still fail to clear it. That works, too. Chuck in Adrien Rabiot for good measure. That dressing room won’t know what’s hit them.
A common refrain among football supporters is that clubs should get their business done early in the transfer window. Steven Gerrard clearly agreed, completing his most recent signing this summer on July 1. Yet they were fairly beaten by a newly-promoted team that remains under construction and Aston Villa really did look little more than ordinary in the process.
Last season was his free hit. Things were never going to deteriorate to the extent that Villa were in genuine relegation trouble; Dean Smith three places above the relegation zone and Gerrard had copious funds made available to him in January.
But with everyone starting on equal footing, Villa have already stumbled behind the pack. This is their second sequence of five winless games since Gerrard’s appointment and with three months to go until their one-year anniversary, his identity and ethos is no clearer.
There is a confirmation bias factor which must be considered – particularly in light of modern trends – but Liverpool naming the oldest starting XI of the Premier League weekend and subsequently being beaten in the energy and aggression stakes by Fulham felt instructive. It was the first time since February 1994 that more than half of their starters for a Premier League game were aged 30 and over.
James Milner coming on before the hour mark hardly dispelled the sense that Liverpool need a little more fresh blood, especially in midfield.
More worrying for Jurgen Klopp will be those slow, sluggish starts. Liverpool have conceded first in each of their last five league games and while they have the requisite talent to overcome such deficits, it is a counterproductive routine to have settled into. There is a fine line between mentality monsters and basic complacency.
Jose Sa and Rayan Ait-Nouri
The two best Wolves players of last season rather summed up the defeatist feeling surrounding this campaign. Rayan Ait-Nouri’s defending was dreadful for the equaliser, if a little unfortunate when it came to the winner. Jose Sa will have provoked all the right people by being beaten softly at his near post.
Bruno Lage will welcome the Goncalo Guedes developments but it still feels as though Wolves need a little more imported inspiration.
Southampton have conceded at least three goals in 33 of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s 138 Premier League games. That’s once every four matches or so and it honestly feels like that might not be overly sustainable.
It turns out that Jan (Bednarek) plus Yan (Valery) equals minus three. When that comprises two-thirds of your defensive heart, there will be issues. When the other third loses control of their feet in the manner Mohammed Salisu did against Spurs, it is almost pointless trying to resist it.
The first half was better than most expected but Brendan Rodgers and Leicester somehow still contrived to fall back into those negative patterns for the final half an hour at home to a team still wet behind the Premier League ears.
It was a better start than most envisaged for a transfer-less team that attracted a handful of pre-season relegation predictions. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s goal just after half-time seemed to confirm the destination of all three points. Yet it was his removal which completed the reversal of momentum in Brentford’s favour.
Leicester invited needless pressure at 2-1 and a summer of deep breathing has not magically solved their defensive problems. There were eight players behind the ball as Dasilva shaped to equalise, including each of Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi and Jonny Evans occupying the same space within a couple of yards of the Brentford midfielder in forlorn attempts to block his effort. Too many chefs in the kitchen come to mind.
Three of Leicester’s five shots after Dewsbury-Hall’s 46th-minute strike came in stoppage time. The horse had already bolted and the juxtaposition between Rodgers making one substitution and letting a two-goal lead slip, while Frank made five and salvaged a point from a losing position, was telling.
Imagine only beating this Manchester United side 2-1 at Old Trafford. How embarrassing.
Harsh as it is to single out a substitute for 30 damning minutes in a 1-0 defeat, Dele Alli looks an absolute shadow of even his Tottenham worst and it is so weird.
Everton ‘prepared to complete’ £45.5m transfers; ‘optimistic’ as £8.5m deal ‘at final stages’
Everton are reportedly ‘prepared to complete’ the signings of both Conor Coady and Amadou Onana this week and are ‘optimistic’ over another deal ‘at final stages’.
Should all three transfers be completed it would mean six players will have arrived at Goodison Park this summer following the additions of Dwight McNeil for £20m and James Tarkowski for free, both from Burnley, and Ruben Vinagre, on loan from Sporting Lisbon.
MAILBOX: Time to move Alexander-Arnold, and Man Utd lost – but they were better under Ten Hag
Everton are said to have beaten West Ham to the signing of Onana, who enjoyed an impressive 2021-22 campaign with Lille, playing 41 matches across all competitions, including eight times in the Champions League.
The 20-year-old penned a new five-year contract last August after joining from Hamburg for around £6m, but the Hammers have persuaded him to move to the Premier League having reportedly agreed a £33.5m fee with the Ligue 1 side.
The Toffees are also close to announcing a deal for Wolves captain Conor Coady having agreed a fee of £12m plus add-ons.
And Fabrizio Romano claims Frank Lampard’s side are set to complete both signings this week.
Romano tweeted: ‘Everton are prepared to complete both Conor Coady and Amadou Onana signings this week, documents in progress with Wolves for the centre back who’s top of Lampard’s list.’
The transfer expert also revealed the return of Idrissa Gueye to Goodison Park is ‘at final stages’ with Everton ‘optimistic’ of getting a deal for the 32-year-old over the line.
It’s rumoured a fee of £8.5m has been agreed with Paris Saint-Germain for the midfielder.
Everton lost 1-0 to Chelsea on Saturday and Lampard said he was impressed with his side’s performance, before admitting new signings like Onana will better equip them to play the style of football he wants.
“It did please me. We’ll get the balance right,” he said. “At times we were a little bit direct when I didn’t think we needed to be. When we played through the lines we played really well and we gave Chelsea problems.
“I want us to be progressive, we’re not a Chelsea of having passes and passes and building like that. That’s not our style and it’s probably not the style the fans want to see.
“I’m very happy that we moved the ball quickly, but I think getting the balance of changing play and going longer at times with quality or playing through the lines – it’s important for us.
“The lads are working hard on it and I think adding players in midfield – like Onana who can receive the ball, accept it and move through the lines – is a big deal. As a coach you know you need your players to go out on the pitch and implement what you want to do.
“We saw a lot of it today. It’ll be great to watch the game back with the players to look at the little moments we maybe we can have an extra pass to play through, I can’t complain with the performance.
“It was one tiny moment, it was a small penalty but it was a penalty. That was the only difference and I think other than that you expect this game to be a draw against Chelsea, which would have been a decent start for us.”
17 things we loved this weekend: Haaland, Messi, Bale, Raphinha…
The 2022-23 Premier League season is now underway and the opening weekend provided lots of drama, shocks and entertainment.
Elsewhere, Sadio Mane scored on his Bundesliga debut for Bayern Munich and Gareth Bale maintained the impressive start to his Los Angeles FC career.
We’ve rounded up the best of the action on and off the field.
Two goals and a sweary interview? Yeah, he’s definitely arrived now.
— ACMatt 19🏆 (@ACMatt93) August 7, 2022
We’ve already put a bet on him scoring on the opening day of next season.
Most Premier League goals scored on the opening weekend:
◉ 8 – Mohamed Salah
◎ 8 – Alan Shearer
◎ 8 – Wayne Rooney
◎ 8 – Frank Lampard
Mo is inevitable. 🎱 pic.twitter.com/DKlKfjb23O
— Squawka (@Squawka) August 6, 2022
[Insert goat emoji here].
MESSI 🤯 pic.twitter.com/KNLvuMdxdr
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 6, 2022
Messi’s goal wasn’t the best in France on Saturday though. That was scored by Guingamp winger Livolant.
— Yann (@LeBretonDu18) August 6, 2022
Barcelona’s Brazilians really do love to put on a show.
— Vida Blaugrana FCB (@Vida_Blaugrana) August 7, 2022
Robert Lewandowski & Pedri
Lewandowski has already built up an impressive connection with his new team-mates.
Lewandowski ➡️ Pedri
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 7, 2022
It’s fair to say that Mane has settled in at Bayern Munich pretty quickly.
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) August 5, 2022
The Liverpool loanee made a pretty good first impression on his Aberdeen debut.
Leighton Clarkson 🤯 pic.twitter.com/btMsM7WahH
— The Anfield Talk (@TheAnfieldTalk) August 6, 2022
Did this a minute after coming on for his Nice debut, didn’t he? Classic Ramsey.
Aaron Ramsey! pic.twitter.com/mcssVOTYNk
— Mateus (@MateuzerAfc) August 7, 2022
Close those legs, goalkeeper.
🎯 | Not happy with just scoring a beauty on Tuesday night vs Midtjylland, Enzo Fernandéz is back at it again vs Arouca.
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) August 5, 2022
Not a bad way to open his Feyenoord account.
The high priest of shithousery was at it again for LAFC.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 7, 2022
A few minutes after peak Chiellini, we got peak Bale.
Stop it, Gareth. pic.twitter.com/qL1PV83dW5
— Planet Football (@planetfutebol) August 7, 2022
Alessia Russo is a trendsetter.
Chicho Arango, that was tasty 😮💨
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 7, 2022
Hassocks FC’s No.6
The FA Cup’s preliminary rounds have started and this lad was determined not to let the magic die.
The magic of the FA Cup at Hassocks v Lingfield pic.twitter.com/sxkCrqVxOP
— James Dart (@James_Dart) August 7, 2022
Jesse Marsch and Bruno Lage
Everyone loves a bit of handbags in the dugout.
Jesse Marsch and Bruno Lage clash on the touchline at full-time 😡 pic.twitter.com/knZVxuI1dd
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 6, 2022
It’s still early in the season but that’s Carragher 1-0 Neville.
.@GNev2 🗣I think this goal (Kovačić against Liverpool) got a Neville aaaahhh.
ProjectFOOTBALL’s Noah Olaoye “Not many things get a Neville aaaahhh” @Carra23 “Not even Emma” 😳🤣🤣
Looking forward to more goalgasms this season on @SkySports pic.twitter.com/GlgVcPvNIu
— Project Football (@ProjectFootball) August 5, 2022
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