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Bayern Munich move ahead of Arsenal, Tottenham in race for Roma’s Cengiz Under

Check out the five best goals from Matchday 14 in Serie A, including Cengiz Under’s long-range strike against Inter.
The FC crew answer your tweets on whether Arsenal should set their focus on the EPL or UEL, the best candidates to replace Jose Mourinho and more.

Bayern Munich have moved ahead in the race to sign Roma forward Cengiz Under but Premier League duo Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have also registered their interest, sources close to the player have told ESPN FC

Bayern view the 21-year-old as the man to replace Arjen Robben, who will leave the reigning Bundesliga champions at the end of the season.

However, sources added that Under — who is valued at €50 million by Roma — is keen on a move to the Premier League.

Sources told ESPN FC earlier this month that Manchester City and Manchester United have also scouted the Turkey international, but neither club has established contact with the player’s representatives.

Under have been in impressive form for Roma this season with four assists and two goals in 14 Serie A appearances, while he has registered three goals and two assists thus far in the Champions League.

Roma are seventh in Serie A and will face Porto in the round of 16 of the Champions League.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s side are keen to keep hold of Under until next summer in order to help seal a place in Europe’s top competition for next season.

Under is happy at the club but is currently one of the lowest paid players in the squad, earning approximately €1m per season from a contract that runs until 2022.

His representatives have been trying to negotiate a pay rise on an improved deal but the Giallorossi have been reluctant to reach an agreement. The Serie A outfit are willing to wait until later in the season to make a final decision.

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Bayern star Arjen Robben subject of turnip truck campaign by Groningen fans

Arjen Robben’s Groningen truck displayed in all its glory.

Bayern Munich star Arjen Robben has become the subject of an unusual campaign by fans in the Groningen province of his native Netherlands as they seek to land his signature.

Robben, 34, is set to leave German champions Bayern on a free transfer next summer but has yet to announce his future plans. Eredivisie clubs PSV Eindhoven and Groningen have told ESPN FC that they would welcome back their former player for the final few years of his career, but fans of Groningen have gone one step further.

The “Arjen – Volge Je Hart” (Arjen – follow your heart) campaign started by the Groningen supporters’ club now includes a turnip truck which carries the player’s name on its trips from the municipal’s fields into the city centre and has seen a huge level of support.

“Maybe the whole north of the Netherlands is dreaming of a return,” Jacco Fluk, who came up with the idea of dedicating a truck to Robben, told ESPN FC.

The fan-driven campaign also has the backing of the entire municipal.

“Where we can help, we will help,” the city’s mayor office told ESPN FC amid the wave of enthusiasm over a possible Robben return. “But, of course, the decision is entirely up to Robben.”

Local agriculture service HS Agri BV have dedicated one of their trucks carrying turnips from the local fields to their plant in the city of Groningen for the campaign.

At the weekend, Robben’s father, Hans, met with company owner Bas Schrage, who is also the founder of the Boeren Box (the Farmer’s Box) — an agricultural themed sky-box at Groningen’s stadium.

The Groningen fans are hopeful that Robben will return.

“Mr. Robben wanted to meet the man who dedicated one of his company’s trucks to his son. He highly appreciated our actions for the supporters’ campaign,” Fluk said. “But he couldn’t say anything about the effect it had on his son or his decision.

“I believe we can say that whole province of Groningen, maybe the whole north of the Netherlands is wishing for a Robben return.”

At the age of 16, Robben made his debut for his hometown club and went on to make a total of 46 first team appearances before setting out on an impressive career which saw him play for PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea, Real Madrid and, finally, Bayern Munich.

In 2013, Robben’s late goal sealed Bayern Munich’s 2-1 win in the Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund. But Groningen supporters don’t expect him to replicate this at Groningen’s Groene Hel, the club’s 22,329 capacity stadium, they only hope to see one of his trademark goals again.

“We don’t expect that you will bring us the championship, and we don’t expect any miracles,” an open letter to Robben by the campaign reads. “All we hope for is that one moment when you receive a pass in front of the Piet Fransen stands, and you pick up pace and cut in from the outside to curl the ball past the keeper. We’ll embrace you like no-one else on this planet can embrace you.”

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Tottenham don’t have money to spend in January window

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino plays down the ‘rumours’ suggesting he’s in the running to replace Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has suggested the club will have little or no money to spend in January.

On Tuesday, sources told ESPN FC that Pochettino was Manchester United’s preferred choice as new permanent manager following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.

Pochettino, who has Spurs third in the Premier League and in the knockout stages of the Champions League, said in October that he wanted to add to his squad after the club failed to bring in a player during the summer.

But asked whether he planned to spend in January, he pulled out the lining of his pocket to show it was empty. “He asks me if I’m going to spend money,” he said. “I don’t have money!”

When the reporter said: “As a club?” Pochettino again showed his empty pocket and said, laughing: “As a club.”

While Spurs chairman Daniel Levy told the club’s supporters’ trust in October that delays to Spurs’ new stadium would not directly impact transfer policy, he also confirmed that costs had been rising. 

“One thing you need to understand is that Tottenham have built the new training ground and one of the best stadiums in the world with our own resources,” Pochettino said.

“It’s not like people came from I don’t know where and said: ‘What is the cost of the new stadium and new facilities? Here’s £100 million, £200m, £500m — and then what does the manager want? Five players? OK, we’re going to invest £200m or £300m more.’

“The difference to another project is we’re doing all these fantastic things with our own resources. That’s why it’s massive credit for Daniel because, what he’s doing and being competitive like we are, it’s tough.”

The financial picture is one reason for Pochettino prioritising the top four and Champions League success over domestic silverware as Spurs await their first trophy since 2008.

“I think for the perception, the confidence and self-belief, it would be fantastic to win a trophy like the Carabao Cup,” he said ahead of Wednesday’s quarterfinal against North London rivals Arsenal.

“But how it will affect the financial side, attract big players or change the dynamic of the club and the business, it’s only going to be a trophy.

“For us at the moment, it was and is so important to set the club in a very good position in the Premier League, with access to play in the Champions League. That is massive for the club.

“When we move to the new stadium, we need to create another strategy if we want not only to play in one of the best stadiums in the world but to try to win and compete with the same tools as other clubs.”

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Champions League Fantasy Team of the Group Stage

UEFA Champions League Fantasy Football Team of the Group Stage

The team is made up of the highest-scoring players in the six group stage matches in the official UEFA Champions League Fantasy game, presented by PlayStation. Let us know your thoughts @ChampionsLeague using #UCL.

Fantasy Football Team of the Group Stage

Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczęsny (Juventus) – 33 points

Defender: Jordi Alba (Barcelona) – 31 points
Defender: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus) – 32 points
Defender: Nicolás Tagliafico (Ajax) – 30 points
Defender: Raphaël Guerreiro (Dortmund) – 38 points

Midfielder: Carlos Soler (Valencia) – 30 points
Midfielder: Nikola Vlašić (CSKA) – 35 points
Midfielder: Cengiz Ünder (Roma) – 34 points

Forward: Moussa Marega (Porto) – 36 points
Forward: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern) – 46 points
Forward: Dušan Tadić (Ajax) – 37 points


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Lowdown on new United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær

“Manchester United is in my heart and it’s brilliant to be coming back in this role,” said Ole Gunnar Solskjær as he confirmed his return to Manchester United as manager. “I’m really looking forward to working with the very talented squad we have, the staff and everyone at the club.”

Given the 45-year-old’s reputation at Old Trafford, plenty of his charges will be very much looking forward to working with him. Here’s why.

UEFA Champions League record (all for Manchester United)

  • 77 appearances (1996–2007)

Sixth on list of UEFA Champions League appearances for United after Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney. Level with David Beckham.

  • 19 goals

United’s fourth highest UEFA Champions League scorer after Rooney, Giggs and Scholes.

Best performance: winner (Manchester United, 1999)

If you don’t remember him …

It is no coincidence that Solskjær’s time at Old Trafford brought unprecedented success for United. Over the course of 366 games the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ weighed in with 126 goals, often decisive and often from the bench, earning the forward a reputation as reviver of lost causes.

1999 final highlights

None of his finishes was more famous than the prod that completed United’s remarkable comeback in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern, a divine intervention from the man described by Sir Alex Ferguson as “the substitute from hell”.

Knee injuries forced Solskjær, who once scored four in 12 minutes after coming on against Nottingham Forest, to hang up his boots in 2007. The Norwegian international had a few months earlier wrapped up a sixth Premier League title.

What happened next

Final super-subs

Under Sir Alex’s gaze, Solskjær took over United’s reserves in 2008, impressing enough to be offered the Norway national-team job the next year. He politely declined, reasoning that it was not the right time.

Solskjær did return to Norway in 2011, leading a Molde side that had never won the Tippeligaen to titles in his first two seasons, followed by a domestic cup in 2013. A spell in the Premier League followed at Cardiff, but Solskjær was unable to avoid relegation.

Following a year off, he rejoined Molde, steering them through their 2015/16 UEFA Europa League group, a campaign including home and away wins against Celtic, before bowing out to Sevilla in the round of 32. His Molde team were runners-up in the league in 2017 and 2018.

What they say

Solskjær: My perfect No10

“Ole was absolutely ridiculous from the bench. He was a connoisseur of the game and he used to watch from the bench to see how he could hurt people. He picked out weaknesses to exploit.”
Andrew Cole, former team-mate

“You are Solskjær, my Ole Solskjær, you make me happy when skies are grey.”
Old Trafford song

“Oh what a night, late in May 1999, Ole scored a goal in injury time. What a feeling, what a night …”
Old Trafford song

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