MANCHESTER UNITED have been given a boost in their pursuit of Erling Haaland with the Dortmund sensation reportedly snubbing a move to Chelsea.
On the pitch, the Red Devils drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace on Wednesday evening in a torrid game, while we've the very latest on David De Gea and Lautaro Martinez.
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Follow our LIVE blog below to get the latest from around Man Utd…
Woodward said: “This has been an extraordinarily challenging year for Manchester United, for football, and for society as a whole.
“It is almost 12 months since the pandemic began and we were required to close Old Trafford to supporters.
“Their absence has only highlighted the importance of fans to the fabric of football, and we can’t wait to welcome them back.
“Our focus remains on preparing for the return of fans to Old Trafford.
“The successful rapid rollout of vaccines and falling rate of infections in the UK makes us optimistic about the Government’s roadmap out of the lockdown, including plans for the gradual reopening of sports stadia to spectators beginning this spring.
“Initially this will be with limits on capacity, but we are hopeful of crowds ramping back up to full capacity next season.”
ED FOR THE HILLS
Manchester United are STILL making money - despite the Covid crisis.
The pandemic has shut Old Trafford for 12 months, costing United around £6million in revenue every matchday.
But qualifying for this season’s Champions League helped plug the money gap, even though United exited at the group stage to go into the Europa League.
United banked £108.7m in broadcast cash for the first three months of the season, up £34m from the same period in 2019.
That more than made up for gate revenue falling off a cliff, with United taking just £1.5, compared to £33.1m 12 months earlier. The club’s total revenue stood at £172.8m, up £4.4m, bringing a profit of £63.9m - although the club's net debt stands at £445.5m.
Unveiling the club’s latest financial results, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward conceded the club was still in the middle of an unprecedented situation, although he believes there is 'light at the end of the tunnel'.
SEALED WITH A CRIS
Khabib Nurmagomedov has had his say on football’s GOAT debate.
The reigning UFC Lightweight champion is a passionate fan, and recently attended Barcelona’s clash with PSG in the Champions League.
Real Madrid is the club closest to his heart, however, and it is a former Bernabeu hero that he ranks as the game’s No1.
The Dagestani fighter told Russian YouTuber Krasava: “Well, I would place Cristiano first.
“Cristiano is the best. Zlatan can also be called a great player in his own way. And in terms of results – Messi is the best.
“So: Cristiano, Messi, Zlatan.”
'YOU NEED TO ARGUE'
Former Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov has revealed he used to tell team-mate Rio Ferdinand how to defend.
He told Betfair: “In the match against Crystal Palace things got a little heated with Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire, but I like that.
“It’s good in a game to have that fire and passion to fight. Aggression shows you are passionate, and you care about the game. You don’t want to be silent, because that tells me you don’t care.
“These things happened to me when I was playing. I’d tell defenders how to do their job and defenders would tell me how to do my job when I wasn’t scoring goals.
“Rio [Ferdinand] used to always run his mouth and tell everyone what to do, I used to give it back to him by telling him how to defend and to pass it to me, to my feet, instead of clearing the ball high.
“It’s always good to put a bit of fire in your team-mates, it’s a two way street and when you play on that to help you win it’s a good thing.”
RONNIE CALLS A KHAB
Khabib Nurmagomedov has opened up about his friendship with ex-Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.
The reigning UFC lightweight champion has previously been pictured hanging out with the Juventus star. And he has revealed that they talk ‘almost every day’, with Cristiano Jr’s prospects one of the topics that they’ve covered.
Khabib, 32, told Russian YouTuber KraSava: “We talk many times, almost every day, but when we met we had a conversation about where we got our motivation from.
“He told me that he wants his son to be his successor. When Cristiano was a kid, he could only dream of having a simple pair of boots. But his son has everything.
“He fears that his son will not feel the same hunger, the same will. People are guided by that will. Feel the desire to achieve things. When you have everything, it’s hard to find the right motivation.
“When he told me that, I’m not going to say I was surprised, but I enjoyed listening to him. I realised that he’s a person who is not content with one, two or three titles.”
Rio Ferdinand has revealed he nearly came to blows with former Manchester United team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy over his treatment of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Speaking on his YouTube channel FIVE, Ferdinand said: “It was mad at United, things could just switch just like that [clicks fingers] in training. I think all training grounds are the same, there’s a lot of testosterone flying about.
“It never really got to that. It’s funny, because I’ve got the biggest mouth on the training ground. I used to always be shouting and screaming and I used to love jokes.
“Obviously I got serious in training, with the games and that, especially on a Friday before the game on a Saturday, everyone’s playing, it would be hard games, fast games.
“One time something happened with Ruud. He smashed Ronaldo a couple of times, and went down his Achilles. And then the ball went into Ruud and I smashed Ruud. I said, ‘What you doing? Why you kicking him?’
“And then Ruud got up and he was [not happy] and all the players just got in the way, so nothing happened. But that’s the way it used to be in training. I was thinking, ‘Ronnie’s a young kid man, leave him alone, what you doing?’ but Ruud was an animal, an animal player."
NOT SHARPE ENOUGH
Manchester United legend Lee Sharpe has revealed he is 'still not quite sure' about Bruno Fernandes.
The 26-year-old Portuguese midfielder has netted 34 times and added 21 assists in 62 games since joining in January 2020.
Yet despite his talismanic performances for the Red Devils over the past 12 months, Sharpe - who won three Premier League titles with United - is still not sold on Fernandes' contribution to the team.
He told Ladbrokes: "Over the last few months I'm not really sure you could say Bruno Fernandes has performed in the big games. I know everyone is raving about him, and I'll probably get slagged off for it, but I'm still not quite sure about Bruno.
"He did come in and set the world alight but since then - apart from penalties - he's not really done anything. For me, he seems to give the ball away far too cheaply and he's not getting as involved as I'd like.
"Whether it's down to where the manager is playing him or Ole's instructions on what he wants him to do, he just doesn't seem to be getting involved anywhere near as much as he used to."
Arsenal are after RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate, according to reports.
The Frenchman, 21, has also attracted interest from the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid with his stellar displays for the German side.
And the Gunners believe that they can muscle in to seal his signature under their rivals' noses this summer.
According to the Standard, Arsenal are 'tracking' Konate in the hope that he becomes available for transfer at the end of the season.
Boss Mikel Arteta has been ruthlessly reshaping his squad this season, with defenders Sead Kolasinac, Shkodran Mustafi and William Saliba having all been allowed to leave either permanently or on loan last month.
And the Spaniard has this week confessed that Arsenal are already planning ahead for the summer window.
Manchester City and Real Madrid reportedly lead the race for Manchester United target Erling Haaland.
Bild claims they are two of just six clubs the Norwegian, 20, is willing to join this summer. But City believe they can lure Haaland to the Etihad having signed his dad Alf-Inge over 20 years ago.
Haaland has continued his incredible form this season with 27 goals in 27 games for Dortmund. He netted 16 in 18 games last term, and before that plundered 28 in 22 outings for RB Salzburg.
There are numerous teams competing for his signature, including City and Real. Liverpool, Manchester United, Barcelona and Juventus are also interested.
And those six sides are the only ones Haaland will consider joining should Dortmund accept bids this summer.
That means Chelsea could be out of the picture, even though reports on Thursday claimed Thomas Tuchel has NOT been put off by Haaland’s stance.
TALE OF TWO CITIES
It's really been a tale of two Cities this season.
Between the start of 2020-21 to New Year’s Day, Pep Guardiola’s squad had picked up just 26 points from their opening 14 games.
Simply put, their season was looking bleak with reigning champions Liverpool seven points clear of them and rivals Manchester United four points ahead in second.
But since the turn of the New Year, Manchester City have been utterly rampant. Unstoppable, in fact. Incredibly, Guardiola and Co have won ALL 13 of their Premier League games since January 1, picking up a maximum available 39 points.
For context, West Ham have picked up the second-highest points tally in 2021… with just 22 from their ten games. Man Utd, meanwhile, have earned just 21 points from 12 matches – a mere 1.75 points per game.
That has seen City move from four points behind to a staggering 14 points ahead – an 18-POINT swing.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is out of his depth at Manchester United, according to ex-Red Devil Lee Sharpe.
The Norwegian has been in charge at Old Trafford since 2018 but Sharpe thinks his old club would have been better going for a more experienced name.
He told Ladbrokes: "I have to say I've never really thought Solskjaer was the right man for the Manchester United job. Yes, he's done a good job, but I think he's done as well as he can do, to be honest.
"The board have backed him, they've given him money to spend, but he'd never have been my first choice, purely because of that lack of experience.
"If you're one of the biggest companies in the world outside of football, you're not going to employ someone for such a big role the way United have done with Ole.
"If you look at his experience of the Premier League, he managed Cardiff - then he went to Molde in Norway for a little bit. So to then come in to one of the biggest clubs in the world off the back of that record, I think he's a little bit out of his depth."
Former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo's mother Dolores has revealed she thought she was going to die when she suffered a stroke this time last year.
The 66-year-old was rushed to hospital on March 3, 2020, in her native island of Madeira after suffering an ischemic stroke.
Captioning a photo of her on Instagram in the hospital captured 12 days after her stroke, she said: “A year ago today I saw my life almost running between my fingers.
“And luckily I managed to hold on to a light, a light that pulled me up, a light that stubbornly insisted that it was just another obstacle to be overcome and another story of overcoming to tell.
“I never spoke openly about what actually happened, just because I recovered to almost 100 per cent people think that nothing happened or that the scare I gave my children and those who really love me was small.”
Former Manchester United star Lee Sharpe thinks his old side are too reserved against the big teams.
The ex-midfielder was speaking to Ladbrokes ahead of United's trip to Manchester City on Sunday and urged Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be a bit more attacking.
He said: "I think against the big teams, Man United are just too reserved; they don't seem to really go for it.
"They show far too much respect to their opponents and Solskjaer generally plays two holding midfielders or has an extra player sitting a little deeper so there's less of an emphasis on going forward.
"I'd really like to see them go for it more and attack against the bigger teams, but equally they've got to start scoring more against the smaller sides in the division."
WHO'S GUNNAR PLAY
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is sweating over who to play at centre-back against Manchester City on Sunday.
United travel to the Etihad in the Manchester derby and their manager will wait until Sunday to decide whether Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly plays alongside Harry Maguire.
Lindelof was an unused sub for the Red Devils' 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace yesterday and Solskjaer refused to confirm whether his back injury would keep him out against City.
After the Palace game, Solskjaer said: "Victor struggled with his back, you know when he plays on a Sunday night, that was a demanding game, he did really well and I didn’t want to play him if I didn’t have to.
"And Eric is more than capable and he’s played really and he’s played really well tonight as well.
“So [I'll make a] decision on Sunday, I’m not giving [it] you now. Hopefully Victor’s back is OK, [now] that he’s had that rest that he needs.”
Marcus Rashford has been getting involved in World Book Day by reading an old Manchester United club captain's book.
Dean Henderson is set to start the next five games for Manchester United with David De Gea out for a month due to personal reasons.
The Red Devils shot-stopper was omitted from the matchday squad that drew 0-0 against Crystal Palace on Wednesday due to a private matter.
Speaking prior to the match on why De Gea and Anthony Martial were missing, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: "With David, it's personal reasons.
"Anthony got a knock on Monday on his knee, so he’s not ready for this game."
Commenting on the ex-Atletico Madrid ace after the clash at Selhurst Park, Solskjaer added: "That’s a private matter. [His return] will take the time it takes."
According to the Manchester Evening News, Henderson was told prior to the fixture in South London to prepare for potentially starting the next six games.
They claim that De Gea may not be in action for the rest of the month, meaning Henderson could be between the sticks for crucial games.
THAT'LL BE DE GEA
Gary Neville has cast doubt over David De Gea's Manchester United future after revealing a 'big decision is coming soon'.
SunSport exclusively revealed last month that United plan to let either the Spaniard or Dean Henderson leave in the summer.
De Gea, 30, missed last night's drab 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace for 'personal reasons', with Henderson stepping in.
It was the £120,000-a-week keeper's first clean sheet in what was only his fourth Premier League appearance since being recalled from Sheffield United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thanked Henderson after the game for getting him 'one point, not zero'.
When pressed on De Gea's absence, the United boss would only say: "That’s a private matter. [His return] will take the time it takes."
Neville also chose his words carefully when asked on Twitter before the game if 'time is over for De Gea in a United shirt?'. The former Red Devils skipper simply replied: "A big decision is coming soon."
Manchester United keeper Dean Henderson kept his tenth clean sheet in 14 games this season against Crystal Palace.
The former Sheffield United loanee stood firm against The Eagles in yesterday's 0-0 draw.
Henderson started the game after David De Gea was ruled out through personal reasons.
And he could now be set for an extended run as the Red Devils No1.
Four Manchester United youngsters including Arnau Puigmal are set to be released this summer.
The MEN reports Puigmal, Paul Woolston, Max Taylor and Connor Stanley are all likely to leave when their contracts expire in June.
Keeper Woolston, 22, joined the club in 2018 but has struggled for game time in the Under-23s.
Spanish ace Puigmal, 20, is set to move home with centre-back Taylor, 21, set to leave after spending this season on loan at Kidderminster Harriers.
Wideman Stanley, 19, is another due to be released from the fold.
RED LIST COUNTRIES
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed it will be 'hard' to let his players go on international duty and face a ten-day stint in quarantine if they travel to red-list countries.
The Norwegian told reporters: "We’ve not sat down and made a proper call on that one, but it doesn’t make sense if you lose your player for 10 days’ isolation, of course it doesn’t.
"We’re the ones paying the players and from what I understand that’s the rule. Fifa have given us the rule that they don’t have to be released.
"So I would think that’s going to be a hard call to make, to let them go and play in red-list countries."
EARN-BRU - EXCLUSIVE
Bruno Fernandes is in line for a double-your-money pay rise at Manchester United at the end of the season.
The Portuguese midfielder has been the best player in the last two campaigns for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's stuttering side but is way behind in the earnings charts.
SunSport understands he is expected to be handed a boost to his £100,000-a-week flat-rate wage.
He does earn more in incentives and bonuses, but is still way behind David De Gea, Paul Pogba and Co.
Fernandes is one of the lowest paid first-team players at Old Trafford, and is keen on a pay rise.
It is expected his money will go up to around £200,000-a-week flat, with extras on top of that for appearances, goals and trophies.
The ex-Sampdoria ace is only the seventh highest paid player, and earns only £20,000-a-week more than axed Juan Mata.
ASH IN A PAN
Former Manchester United skipper Ashley Young reportedly has his heart set on an emotional return to Watford this summer.
The Inter Milan star, 35, is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and came through the ranks at Vicarage Road before joining Aston Villa in 2007.
But according to the Mirror, the ex-Red Devil ace is keen on returning to Hertfordshire where his family home is.
The report states he is desperate to help Inter win a first Serie A title since 2010 with Antonio Conte's side three points clear at the top of the table.
And he would then seek a dream return to Watford - whether the club are plying their trade in the Premier League or Championship.
Watford are currently third in the Championship table - ten points behind leaders Norwich and only behind Brentford on goal difference.
Young featured in 110 games for the Hornets between 2003-2007, scoring 22 goals including 15 strikes in the 2005-06 season.
Manchester United have announced legendary former striker Phil Chisnall has died aged 78.
The late star was the last player to be transferred between the Red Devils and rivals Liverpool in 1964.
His cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
A United statement read: “We are saddened by the passing of our former forward, Phil Chisnall.
“Phil was a product of our famed youth system and represented the club during Sir Matt Busby's tenure.
“Our deepest sympathies are with his loved ones.”
FER THE GREATER GOOD
Manchester United could BLOCK Bruno Fernandes from playing for Portugal this month with the Premier League set to hold crisis talks.
Portugal have three World Cup qualifiers – against Azerbaijan, Serbia and Luxembourg – later in March.
Bruno Fernandes could be blocked from playing for Portugal
But Fernandes, 26, could miss all of them, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believed to be considering banning him from taking part.
Portugal is one of the countries on the ‘red list’ – which would force Fernandes to quarantine in a Government-approved hotel for ten days on his return to the UK.
Fifa recently relaxed rules regarding clubs releasing players for international duty due to coronavirus.
But Premier League clubs are still worried about placing their stars in the middle of a club versus country row – with 16 of the 20 clubs having players from ‘red list’ countries on their books.
Inter Milan still owe Manchester United £43million for Romelu Lukaku but Old Trafford chiefs could waive the cash in return for players.
Corriere dello Sport have now alleged the San Siro side have missed an agreed upon bonus payment, worth around £4.3m, for the Belgian striker.
Under the terms of the initial Lukaku deal, it's alleged Inter must now pay the remaining £43m fee in full or accept United's request for compensation.
According to the report in Italy, Man Utd have told Inter they're willing to waive the outstanding balance in return for one of their star players.
Centre-back Milan Skriniar and striker Lautaro Martinez are the two players mentioned by name by the Italian outlet, with United desperate for star reinforcements in both positions.
However, SunSport understands United would not accept any player as a makeweight.