Manchester United will today step up their preparations ahead of Saturday’s Premier League encounter against Aston Villa on Saturday. – Media Sport

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Manchester United will today step up their preparations ahead of Saturday’s Premier League encounter against Aston Villa on Saturday.

Ralf Rangnick will be without suspended duo Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay for the match but is hopeful that Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho, Harry Maguire and Phil Jones could all return after missing Monday’s game against the same side with minor knocks.

Meanwhile, United are not expected to sign Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria this month.

United have run the rule over a number of midfielders with Ralf Rangnick keen to strengthen in that area after taking over as interim manager, and Zakaria is someone recruitment chiefs at Old Trafford have monitored.

The 25-year-old is out of contract in the summer and sources in Germany believe he would be allowed to leave Borussia Park this month for a cut-price fee of around £6million.

But United sources are still expecting a quiet January transfer window with regards to incomings and it is understood there have been no talks with Borussia Monchengladbach or Zakaria’s representatives over a deal at this stage.

Aston Villa have announced the signing of left-back Lucas Digne from Everton.

The highly-rated French international became available for transfer following a high-profile fall out with manager Rafael Benitez earlier in the season.

Digne wasn’t happy with the constraints put on him by the new Everton boss who wanted the 28-year-old to prioritise defensive solidity over more expansive attacking football.

His potential availability in this window led to tentative links with Manchester United. The Reds do, of course, have full international left-backs already at the club in the forms of Luke Shaw and Alex Telles.

Manchester United’s FA Cup fourth-round clash with Middlesbrough will take place on Friday, February 4, it has been confirmed.

The fixture will kick-off at 8pm and will be televised live on ITV1.

Centre-back Eric Bailly will stay at Manchester United this month despite mounting transfer interest from AC Milan, a report by Sky Sports claims.

The Italian giants have reportedly identified the Ivorian as the ideal candidate to replace the injured Simon Kjaer. It had been claimed that Milan were in discussions with United in a bis to secure to his signature.

However, it is now reported that Bailly will stay at Old Trafford in this month’s window.

Jude Bellingham was earning £145 one week at Birmingham and £60,000 the next at Borussia Dortmund.

That’s certainly quite the salary increase. Bellingham was just 17 when he swapped St. Andrew’s for Signal Iduna Park but he had already outgrown his home club at that age through his exceptionally precocious talent.

The news of Dortmund’s £25m deal to sign Bellingham in the summer of 2020 took some by surprise, but staff at Manchester United were not among those in the dark.

United had tracked Bellingham’s progress and they were huge admirers of the player. United even attempted to act on that interest, giving the youngster a tour of Carrington, but it didn’t prove to be enough. Bellingham’s decision had already been made.

It is well known that Manchester United need to strengthen their midfield.

All too often, United’s central midfield has let them down and is change is needed, if not in January then in the summer.

Could that make AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, who could be available for free, the ideal man for United?

It is well known that Manchester United need to strengthen their midfield.

All too often, United’s central midfield has let them down and is change is needed, if not in January then in the summer.

Could that make AC Milan’s Franck Kessie, who could be available for free, the ideal man for United?

Marcus Rashford perhaps regrets one of his last acts as a Manchester United player on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s watch.

United were 2-0 down at the end of a farcical first-half and Mike Phelan approached Rashford. Just going off his body language, Rashford’s reaction was inherently negative and he was hooked at the interval. That was a jolt, given the loyalty he retained under Solskjaer and he had been the only respectable outfield performer, denied an equaliser by the alert Ben Foster.

Phelan now loiters where Alan Keegan, the stadium announcer at Old Trafford, used to stand. As defeatist as Rashford looked at Vicarage Road, you could hardly blame him for giving Phelan short shrift. He is an assistant manager barely seen on the pitch at Carrington, so how are players supposed to respond to his in-game demands when he struggles to command respect.

United coaches were concerned by Rashford’s body language before then. In bursting onto the scene as spectacularly as he did Rashford, once photoshopped dripping in gold like Jill Masterson in Goldfinger , is the golden boy who some have accused of having an inflated air of entitlement.

Reports have been circulating that Manchester United have a ‘strong interest’ in Brighton and Hove Albion full back Tariq Lamptey.

The Mail has suggested that there is some interest from the Red Devils and it is easy to see why following the 21-year-old’s impressive spell on the South Coast.

Lamptey has already shown he has the right attitude to help Manchester United succeed.

Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand was full of praise for Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele after the Frenchman’s side were defeated by Real Madrid.

Despite losing 3-2 after extra time, Ferdinand believes that Dembele is ‘unplayable’ on his day.

United have been linked with the former Borussia Dortmund man in the past.

Manchester United are not expected to sign Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria this month.

United have run the rule over a number of midfielders with Ralf Rangnick keen to strengthen in that area after taking over as interim manager, and Zakaria is someone recruitment chiefs at Old Trafford have monitored.

The 25-year-old is out of contract in the summer and sources in Germany believe he would be allowed to leave Borussia Park this month for a cut-price fee of around £6million.

But United sources are still expecting a quiet January transfer window with regards to incomings and it is understood there have been no talks with Borussia Monchengladbach or Zakaria’s representatives over a deal at this stage.

United reportedly have a strong interest in Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey.

Rangnick is said to want to add an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot, according to the Daily Mail, and it’s suggested that the German views Tariq as a candidate for such a move to Old Trafford.

Solskjaer wanted to sign Kieran Trippier in the summer – the right-back has now joined Newcastle instead – as he was left bemused with Wan-Bissaka’s poor attacking output.

United will battle Chelsea for the signing of Aurelien Tchouameni, according to reports.

Thomas Tuchel’s side are said to be interested in the Frenchman.

But L’Equipe (via GFFN) say the Reds will look to snap the midfielder up in the summer, with a move this month unlikely after Monaco supposedly making it clear he will be staying put.

It seemed certain Manchester United would trim their squad early in the January transfer window, yet as we approach the halfway mark, they don’t appear any closer to even sanctioning the first exit.

United had a bloated squad heading into the last summer transfer window but only managed to shift one player on a permanent basis as Daniel James left for Leeds in a £25million move, becoming the fourth-record sale in the club’s history.

This minor win was one celebrated by the club. In fact, Ed Woodward even labelled it a highlight of the financial quarter during an investors’ meeting, such was the rarity of United actually making good money on a periphery squad player.

James’ departure might have been the only permanent sale last summer, but he wasn’t the only senior player who attracted attention, most notably with West Ham’s pursuit of Jesse Lingard.

Borussia Dortmund are interested in signing Amad on loan.

That’s according to Sky Sports who report the German club are considering making a loan offer for Amad, who has yet to make a proper breakthrough into the first team after his arrival last year.

It’s said Dortmund could face competition from Derby for Amad on loan.

Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo has insisted that anything less than a top-three finish in the Premier League is unacceptable.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned to Old Trafford in the summer after nine years away from the English top flight, having enjoyed trophy-laden spells at Real Madrid and Juventus.

His signing, along with the arrivals of Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, looked set to underline the Reds as title contenders after last season’s second-place finish.

However, such form never materialised and, now under the guidance of interim boss Ralf Rangnick, United face a tough task to finish in the top four, falling short of Ronaldo’s minimum requirements.

Newcastle have ‘discussed’ a loan move for Van de Beek, according to The Telegraph.

Van de Beek struggled for game time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick also seems to prefer other midfielders over the Dutchman, so the player has only made four starts this season.

The former Ajax star is unhappy with this lack of game time and he wanted to leave in the summer. Newcastle are now the ‘richest club in the world’ and could plot an ambitious loan move for Van de Beek.

Ralf Rangnick will be keeping his fingers crossed for some injury returns this weekend as Manchester United head to Aston Villa in the Premier League.

Having knocked Steven Gerrard’s side out of the FA Cup on Monday, United will head to Villa Park on Saturday in the league as they look to get their top four aspirations back on track.

Whether they’ll be at full strength for the trip is another matter though, after some big names were forced to sit out of Monday’s 1-0 victory.

Harry Maguire and Phil Jones both missed out as Victor Lindelof returned for his first game in a month, while Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo were also sidelined and played no part in the game.

Anthony Elanaga is at an awkward crossroads in his promising Manchester United career.

On Monday night, the 19-year-old made another appearance for the first-team, his seventh in total, as he replaced the misfiring Marcus Rashord in the final five minutes of the match.

Despite only being on the pitch for a brief spell, Elanga managed to light it up, dazzling the Old Trafford crowd with his fearless approach and desire to get on the ball at every opportunity.

Whereas, Elanga’s role model Rashford looked uncomfortable with the ball at his feet and the expectation that came with it. The younger player, meanwhile, offered an innocent alternative — a youngster who relished the limelight and another opportunity to live his first-team dream.

Manchester United are not expected to sign Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria this month.

United have run the rule over a number of midfielders with Ralf Rangnick keen to strengthen in that area after taking over as interim manager, and Zakaria is someone recruitment chiefs at Old Trafford have monitored.

The 25-year-old is out of contract in the summer and sources in Germany believe he would be allowed to leave Borussia Park this month for a cut-price fee of around £6million.

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