Cristiano Ronaldo was the only reason Manchester United defeated Tottenham according to Alan Shearer, who stated "God only knows" where the Red Devils would be without the Portugal superstar.

Ronaldo struck the 49th hat-trick of his sensational club career to help see off Antonio Conte's side 3-2 at Old Trafford, moving United into the Premier League's top four ahead of Arsenal's clash with Leicester City on Sunday.

With Harry Kane's penalty and a Harry Maguire own goal twice pegging United back in an absorbing contest, Ronaldo also became the first player to give United the lead three times within a single Premier League clash.

Writing for BBC Sport, Shearer – the Premier League's all-time leading goalscorer – was effusive in his praise for the 37-year-old, labelling his performance "staggering".

"There are some people who think Cristiano Ronaldo is a problem for Manchester United," wrote the Newcastle United great. "But God knows where they would be without him.

"I said a few weeks ago that, if it wasn't for Ronaldo, United would be far worse off than they are, and Saturday's game against Tottenham summed up why in a nutshell.

"He was quite simply the only reason they beat Spurs. His hat-trick was phenomenal and his overall performance was so good, it was staggering.

"This was some response to his critics and all three of his goals were special in their own way. His third goal was my favourite, though. Ronaldo had to get every part of it right, and he did.

"From the way he reads the flight of the cross to the way he attacks it and times his jump, then meets the ball with accuracy and power, it was all absolutely perfect. A textbook header."

Shearer was not, however, impressed with United's overall performance, claiming Ronaldo "got them over the line" after a "terrible" defensive display, and cannot be blamed for their below-par season.

"United have still got a heck of a lot of work to do to get a top-four finish from here, but if they do miss out then there is no way on earth you can pin the blame on Ronaldo," he added.

"They would not be in a position to challenge for the Champions League places if it wasn't for him, so I don't buy that as the reason their results have not always been good enough.

"Their big problem is defensively - they are terrible at times, and we saw that again against Tottenham despite the end result this time.

"Yes, United deserve some credit for the way they responded to what happened to them in the derby last weekend [a 4-1 loss at Manchester City] and this was a huge result for them, but they had no control of the game whatsoever and it was Ronaldo's brilliance that got them over the line."

Ronaldo, who has 12 Premier League goals this term, has now scored in each of his last seven appearances against Tottenham in all competitions, and has netted more career goals against Spurs than he has against any other English side (14).

Manchester United are not a stronger team without Cristiano Ronaldo and cannot think about discarding the forward, according to Rio Ferdinand.

Ronaldo brought an emphatic end to a barren run in front of goal with a hat-trick in Saturday's 3-2 Premier League win over Tottenham at Old Trafford.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner had just one goal and no assists in his previous 10 games for United in all competitions prior to his impressive treble.

That led to questions whether the Red Devils would be better off without Ronaldo in their side, with the Portugal international having been left out at times by Ralf Rangnick.

But after bagging his 49th hat-trick at club level, including at least one in 13 consecutive seasons, Ferdinand rejected claims his former team-mate weakens United in any way.

"Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Man United would not still be in the Champions League," Ferdinand told The Mirror.

"Are United a stronger team without him? I cannot agree with that at all. If he is not playing with Man United then they would have gone out in the group stage.

"A player with his ability and his talent, who is as decisive as he is, who has shown it over the years and this season that he can make the difference.

"Man United are not a team who are in the position to think, 'OK, we are too good to have someone like that in our team'."

Ronaldo has now found the net 18 times in 31 games since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in August – double that of any other United player.

That includes 12 goals in the Premier League, making the 37-year-old the competition's joint-second highest scorer this term, albeit 12 goals behind runaway leader Mohamed Salah.

Commenting on Ronaldo's display against Tottenham, Rangnick said it was the best performance he has seen from the ex-Real Madrid player during his time in interim charge.

"At least since I arrived, his best performance," Rangnick said. "Not only because he scored three goals, two brilliant goals... he was also energetically good.

"He was part of the whole team when we had to defend, and we had to defend a lot. Top performance by him, but also by the rest of the team."

Cristiano Ronaldo said there are "no limits" for Manchester United after hitting a superb hat-trick to guide the Red Devils to a 3-2 win over Tottenham.

Ronaldo netted his second Premier League treble to boost United's hopes of Champions League qualification, doing so 14 years and 59 days after scoring three in a 6-0 win against Newcastle United, marking the longest gap between a player's first and second hat-tricks in the competition's history.

After his 49th career hat-trick, the Portuguese legend has also scored a treble in each of the last 13 seasons of his club career, a run which stretches back to the 2009-10 campaign.

The Old Trafford victory lifted United into the Premier League's top four, albeit having played four games more than fifth-placed Arsenal, and Ronaldo said he was "tremendously happy" with his performance in a social media post.

"Tremendously happy with my first hat-trick since I came back to Old Trafford!" the 37-year wrote on Instagram.

"Nothing beats the feeling of being back on the pitch and help the team with goals and effort. 

"We've proven once again that we can beat any team in any given day, as long as we work hard and stand together as one.

"There are no limits for Man United! No matter what! Let's go, Devils!"

Despite United's struggles this term, the former Real Madrid and Juventus star has hit 12 league goals since returning to the club last summer, placing him top of their goalscoring charts.

However, interim manager Ralf Rangnick joked that his top goalscorer should always prepare in that fashion after his superb showing, also praising his work ethic in training.

"We were just joking a little bit," Rangnick laughed. "Maybe it makes sense to send him to Portugal for three days, then have him not train for two days, then have him back in training on Thursday!

"By the way, he performed on a similar kind of level on Thursday in training, that's why I decided after that training session, although he had been out from a week, to play him from the start. 

"Maybe we have to do that for the rest of the season."

United became the first team to hit 400 Premier League home wins after beating Spurs, against whom they have enjoyed 23 Old Trafford victories in the competition. No side has beaten another opponent more often at home in the league's history.

Paul Pogba believes Cristiano Ronaldo's return to form was just what Manchester United needed after the Portuguese star hit a hat-trick in the Red Devils' 3-2 win over Tottenham on Saturday.

Having been left out of the squad for their 4-1 drubbing at Manchester City last week, Ronaldo returned with vigour and got United off the mark on 12 minutes with a trademark strike from distance.

The 37-year-old provided timely goals for Ralf Rangnick's side, which was in need of a response as much as points. The Old Trafford crowd fed off it, which was something Pogba acknowledged afterwards.

"Ronaldo was brilliant. I think that's all we needed - a reaction," the France international told Sky Sports. "We scored beautiful goals. Even when we conceded a goal, we came back and scored again. The mentality was there again today.

"Everybody knows Cristiano - there's no need to talk about him. That's what he does. He didn't play in the last game, but he comes back and scores three goals. Everybody's happy.

"It was good today. You can hear the fans. They were pushing us and feeling it. I think today was a very good performance as a team and a very good reaction from the City game.”

Despite Ronaldo's hat-trick, it was nevertheless a volatile 90 minutes from United, with Tottenham managing to draw level twice via Harry Kane from the penalty spot and a Harry Maguire own goal.

According to Pogba though, United's mentality was definitive, especially in context of the Premier League's top four race.

"We kept believing. In the second half, we didn't get the nice passing, and the movement I think wasn't there," he said.

"We gave them a bit of confidence, that's why they scored. But we got a corner and scored the winning goal.

"It's a boost. We needed it to go again. We want the top four and they were opponents who are looking for the top four also. It was a good win and a good performance."

The win puts United in fourth spot on 50 points, two points clear of Arsenal, who have four games in hand on them.

Antonio Conte hinted Cristiano Ronaldo was the only thing separating Manchester United from a poor result after his hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Tottenham.

The Portugal star gave United the lead three times at Old Trafford on Saturday, his 81st-minute header ultimately deciding what could prove to be a key contest in the race for the Premier League top four.

The Spurs head coach lavished praise on Ronaldo and said his legendary status in football is unquestionable.

In customary Conte fashion, however, his compliments for the 37-year-old individually were laced with reproval for United collectively.

"We are talking about a player that not only this night showed to be a top, top player. Don't forget Cristiano and [Lionel] Messi are the best two players in the world in this era. Before it was [Diego] Maradona and then Pele," Conte told Sky Sports after the match.

"You know very well that when you play against this type of player, they are decisive. I think honestly that without Cristiano Ronaldo tonight for United it wasn't a good night.

"It's a difficult stadium, a difficult atmosphere and I guess a strong team like United, I think we didn't deserve to lose the game. We have to understand where we can improve."

Ronaldo got the Red Devils off the mark on 12 minutes, with a trademark screamer from outside the penalty area as the Tottenham defence backed off.

Conte's side equalised through a Harry Kane penalty and, after Ronaldo struck again from Jadon Sancho's cross, they levelled for a second time through Harry Maguire's own goal.

Ronaldo was eventually on hand to provide the winner, though, heading in from an Alex Telles corner as Conte bemoaned Spurs' inability to manage the game.

"I think we played a good game, but at the same time I think we needed to show more experience to manage some situations," he said.

"The experience you don't buy. You improve your experience after these types of games. We have many young players in the team and hopefully after this game they have the possibility to learn.

"We have to continue to work in many aspects and improve our level if we want to reach the level where we fight for a top place and for sure we have to improve."

Cristiano Ronaldo has spent so much of his career rewriting the history books that a hat-trick against Tottenham on Saturday was just another reminder of his "genius".

Genius was the word used by Roy Keane after Saturday evening's treble at Old Trafford secured a 3-2 win that could yet be a major lift for a United side who still face a tall order to finish in the Premier League top four.

Arsenal, two points behind fourth-placed United with four games in hand, remain favourites for that slot, but Ronaldo's performance against Spurs was a signal the Red Devils could still force their way into those positions at the season's end.

Keane said on Sky Sports after the final whistle: "Scoring goals is the hardest part of the game. To score that many goals at the highest level - international goals, big games in the Champions League... today obviously it was Spurs. What more can you say? The guy's a genius."

There is a theory that Ronaldo is now the world's all-time record goalscorer, overtaking Josef Bican, an Austrian-Czech striker who was prolific in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Official records from that time can be difficult to ratify, and Czech FA experts have previously put Bican's figure at 821 goals rather than the often-stated figure of 805.

Nevertheless, there is much that can be stated with conviction, and Opta data outlines just what a performance this was from Ronaldo.

– He has now scored a hat-trick in each of his last 13 seasons, and this was his 49th club career hat-trick.

– Having spent nine years at Real Madrid, and then three with Juventus, Ronaldo has reacquainted himself with the English game this season. It had been 14 years and 59 days since he scored what was his only previous Premier League hat-trick, against Newcastle United, making it the longest such gap in the competition's history.

– Teddy Sheringham is the only player to have scored a Premier League treble later in life. Sheringham was 37 years and 146 days old when he scored three for Portsmouth against Bolton Wanderers in August 2003. Ronaldo was 37 years and 35 days, so to break Sheringham's record he will have to remain in the Premier League next season.

– Tottenham boss Antonio Conte was quick to praise Ronaldo after the final whistle, and it was little wonder; Ronaldo became only the second player to score a top-flight hat-trick against a team managed by the Italian, following in the footsteps of Giuseppe Rossi in October 2013 for Fiorentina against Juventus. Rossi, coincidentally, was a United player for a large part of Ronaldo's previous spell at Old Trafford.

– Ronaldo has scored in each of his last seven appearances against Tottenham in all competitions. Indeed, he has netted more goals against Spurs than he has against any other English side in his career (14).

– At 2-2, there was a threat to United's astonishing run of 301 Premier League games without defeat when they have held a half-time lead at Old Trafford. Ronaldo's intervention staved that off emphatically.

– United have now won exactly 400 Premier League home games, becoming the first team to reach that milestone. Some 23 of those wins have been against Tottenham, which is more than any side has beaten another at home in the Premier League.

– Ronaldo is now the joint-second top scorer in the Premier League this season with 12 goals, albeit he is a distant eight behind runaway leader Mohamed Salah of Liverpool.

Ralf Rangnick admitted it is "a challenge" to manage Cristiano Ronaldo after he savoured the Manchester United striker's hat-trick in Saturday's 3-2 win against Tottenham.

Ronaldo gave United the lead on three occasions, and they eventually managed to cling on after a thumping header from the 37-year-old in the 81st minute again tilted the game the way of the hosts.

He struck an opener from 25 yards, sprinted to get on the end of Jadon Sancho's cross for his second, and delivered a performance that left Ronaldo's admirers purring in appreciation.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner was imperious, but it has not always been that way during his first season back at Old Trafford.

Before this game, Ronaldo had just one Premier League goal in 2022, and there have been questions raised about whether he will remain a United player next season.

Rangnick was asked about what it takes to manage such a superstar figure, who reached 807 career goals on the way to sinking Antonio Conte's visitors, who twice equalised through a Harry Kane penalty and Harry Maguire own goal.

"It is challenging, and it is a challenge with a player like him," the United interim manager told Sky Sports. "But he showed today that he's still got the quality to play for a club like Manchester United.

"But he's also a part of the team and if we want to be successful at the end of the season, we can only do it together."

Ronaldo missed the Manchester derby last week with a hip flexor injury. Former United captain Roy Keane was among those who asked whether there was perhaps more behind Ronaldo being sidelined for that game, a suspicion Rangnick has denied.

The German was floored by how good Ronaldo was against Tottenham, a real throwback to his peak years at Real Madrid.

"At least since I arrived, his best performance," Rangnick said. "Not only because he scored three goals, two brilliant goals... he was also energetically good.

"He was part of the whole team when we had to defend, and we had to defend a lot. Top performance by him, but also by the rest of the team."

There is a theory that Ronaldo is now the world's all-time record scorer, overtaking Josef Bican, an Austrian-Czech who was prolific in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Official records from that time can be difficult to ratify, and Czech FA experts have previously put Bican's figure at 821 goals rather than the often-stated figure of 805.

Rangnick is more concerned with what Ronaldo is achieving in the present day.

"I didn't expect him to score three goals, but I expected him to score, that's why I decided to play him even though he only resumed training on Thursday," Rangnick said.

"His training session on Thursday was so good, that's why I [decided to] bring him from the start and not have him on the bench, and in the end, it was the right decision.

"He didn't train for a week, and I wasn't sure if his hip flexor was good enough to let him play.

"I had a conversation with him before the training session on Friday, and he told me that he's fully fit and he can play, and that's why he started."

Manchester United great Roy Keane hailed Cristiano Ronaldo's superb display after the 37-year-old's hat-trick downed Tottenham at Old Trafford.

United were twice pegged back by their rivals for the top four during an absorbing contest, but Ronaldo's 81st-minute header sealed just his second treble in United colours and a crucial 3-2 win for the hosts.

The Portugal legend has now scored in each of his past seven appearances against Tottenham in all competitions, and his 14 goals against Spurs represent his highest tally against any English club.

Speaking on Sky Sports after the match, former United captain Keane labelled the striker a "genius" and said Ralf Rangnick's team needed to keep their talisman beyond the end of this season.

"Ronaldo looked angry today, he played with a lot of aggression," Keane said. "He's obviously upset with whatever happened last week [missing United's 4-1 loss to Manchester City], but he showed today what we have seen over the years. 

"The guy's a genius, his three goals were fantastic. He brings so much to the team, why people think he cannot bring goals or value...

"For as great as he is, the next challenge for Ronaldo is to make this United team compete again for league titles. 

"Ronaldo is a huge part of the rebuilding of the club. When he's producing like that, you need Ronaldo in your team. 

"Ronaldo has been doing this throughout his career, he's been doing it for years. I think he can do it for another season."

One-time Old Trafford team-mate Gary Neville called Ronaldo's performance "magical", but he did not hold back in his criticism of United's "awful" defensive performance, having now conceded 40 times in the Premier League this season.

"Manchester United are not very good, I have to say," Neville said. "But there are moments in the game that are magical.

"The fans are buzzing because they've seen Ronaldo, they feel like they've seen something special.

"But in terms of the performance, if Spurs get a late winner, United fans are going home and saying how bad we are today. It wasn't a great performance.

"Manchester United's biggest problem is not Cristiano Ronaldo. Their defending is awful. Every team that comes here creates bags of chances."

Cristiano Ronaldo sank Tottenham with the first hat-trick of his second Old Trafford spell as Manchester United won 3-2 to boost hopes of a top-four finish.

At 37 years and 35 days, Ronaldo became the second-oldest player to score a Premier League treble, with only Teddy Sheringham having managed the feat later in life.

After missing the Manchester derby last week, Ronaldo was back and in the mood for this one, opening the scoring with a stunning long-range finish before giddily restoring United's lead after Harry Kane levelled from the spot.

A twist arrived with 18 minutes remaining when United captain Maguire turned the ball into his own net, but a thumping Ronaldo header spared his skipper any post-match apologies.

Cristiano Ronaldo was back in the Manchester United team to face Tottenham on Saturday after missing the derby drubbing, but there was no Bruno Fernandes.

The absence of Ronaldo for last Sunday's 4-1 defeat to Manchester City sparked a fresh wave of speculation about the 37-year-old's United future.

It was put down to a hip problem by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, but former United captain Roy Keane was among those who questioned whether that told the full story.

Ronaldo's Manchester derby absence came after a run of one goal and zero assists in 10 games for United in all competitions this calendar year. That compares to 12 goals and three assists in his opening 19 games upon returning to United from Juventus at the end of August.

He was restored for the visit of Spurs, but Portuguese compatriot Fernandes was surprisingly not involved, three days before United tackle Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

Rangnick said: "Bruno is ill, unfortunately. He couldn't train yesterday and is therefore not available for the game. Hopefully, he will be back for Tuesday but, today, he is out."

NFL legend Tom Brady, a friend of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, was at Old Trafford for the game.

There was a United start for Marcus Rashford, whose own future has been cast into doubt by reports suggesting he could seek a move at the end of the season. He replaced Anthony Elanga, while Edinson Cavani was named on the bench after recent fitness worries.

Goalkeeper David De Gea featured for the home side after a COVID-19 false positive, while Raphael Varane was back from a coronavirus absence to start alongside Harry Maguire in central defence.

Rangnick told MUTV: "We had a false positive test on David De Gea last night. We then decided to have a second test that was negative and then a PCR test that was negative again, and that's why we can play him after all."

Cristiano Ronaldo is available for Saturday's Premier League meeting with Tottenham, but Ralf Rangnick is unsure if the forward is happy at Manchester United.

The Portugal international was left out of United's squad for last weekend's 4-1 defeat to rivals Manchester City after sustaining a hip injury in training.

However, United great Roy Keane questioned if that was really the reason why Ronaldo was absent at the Etihad Stadium amid reports he had been dropped by Ralf Rangnick.

Ronaldo flew to Portugal to work on his fitness and Rangnick confirmed on Friday that the 37-year-old is now back in training and is expected to play a part against Spurs.

"He resumed for training yesterday," Rangnick said at his pre-match news conference. "He trained the whole training session and I expect him to train today as well. 

"He trained well, like the rest of the group. I would've thought he was available tomorrow.

Ronaldo's Manchester derby absence came on the back of a run of one goal and zero assists in 10 games for United in all competitions this calendar year.

That compares to 12 goals and three assists in his opening 19 games upon returning to United from Juventus at the end of August.

Asked about reports that Ronaldo travelled to Portugal without informing the club, having grown frustrated at Old Trafford, Rangnick attempted to draw a line under the matter.

"It doesn't make sense to look back on what happened the last six or seven days," Rangnick said. "For me what is important is what happens today and tomorrow. 

"I haven't asked him if he's happy at Manchester or at this club. For me it's important he's fit again.

"He resumed training yesterday and we shall see which formation and which will line-up we will play with tomorrow."

Ronaldo has been involved in seven goals in his last five league games against Tottenham, both scoring and assisting against them in three different matches in this run.

As well as having the five-time Ballon d'Or available, Rangnick confirmed Edinson Cavani is back from injury and Raphael Varane has recovered from coronavirus.

However, full-back Luke Shaw will miss out after again testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, while central midfielder Scott McTominay is doubtful due to a calf injury.

United have won just two of their last six league games, seeing them drop out of the top four at the expense of Arsenal, who are one point better off with three games in hand.

They will be aiming to get back on track as they seek a third straight league win against Spurs for the first time since a run of four between April 2009 and October 2010.

"We are fully aware about the importance of tomorrow's game and the game on Tuesday against Atletico Madrid," Rangnick said. 

"The most important game is the game tomorrow against Tottenham – we have to win that game. 

"We've had a good week of training and the players are fully aware about the importance of the game. The focus has been there, as well as the togetherness in training."

Paris Saint-Germain's latest quest to win the Champions League was ended by Real Madrid on Wednesday.

The Ligue 1 leaders squandered a 2-0 aggregate lead with just half an hour of the tie remaining, losing 3-1 in the second leg and 3-2 on aggregate thanks to Karim Benzema's hat-trick.

It means head coach Mauricio Pochettino could already be looking ahead to a change of scenery.

 

TOP STORY – POCHETTINO SET FOR PSG SACK AND COULD TURN TO MAN UTD

Mauricio Pochettino's job is "hanging by a thread" at PSG, according to the Telegraph.

It is claimed the Argentine can expect to leave the club at the end of the season following their Champions League collapse against Real Madrid.

Pochettino has long been linked with the Manchester United manager job and could now start to prepare for the prospect of taking over at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

Cristiano Ronaldo has spoken with agent Jorge Mendes over his future at Manchester United, claims the Sun. Meanwhile, Bild reports the Red Devils are interested in signing Robert Lewandowski.

Paul Pogba is another who could be leaving Old Trafford this year, but Juventus are not yet certain whether to try to re-sign him on a free transfer or offer a new contract to Paulo Dybala, Tuttosport claims.

Barcelona are close to concluding an agreement with Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen, according to Sport.

Arsenal want to sign two new strikers and a midfielder as part of a major squad overhaul, the Standard says. Alexander Isak, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Jonathan David and Darwin Nunez are among the forwards being tracked.

- A consortium led by British businessman Nick Candy is working on a £2.5billion bid to buy Chelsea from Roman Abramovich, the Guardian reports.

Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United may be coming to a premature end.

The Portuguese forward has struggled since Ralf Rangnick's arrival as interim manager in December.

United are also battling to finish in the Premier League's top four.

TOP STORY - RONALDO COURTS MOVE TO MESSI'S PSG

FootballTransfers claims that Ronaldo has decided that he will leave Manchester United if they do not qualify for the Champions League, with a move to join Lionel Messi at Paris Saint-Germain on his agenda.

Speculation about Ronaldo's future at Old Trafford ramped up after he missed Sunday's Manchester derby due to a hip flexor injury and flew to Portugal.

The report that claims that Ronaldo returning to Juventus has been ruled out, along with his original Portuguese club Sporting CP, with the five-time Ballon d'Or courting a move to Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Defensa Central reports that Newcastle United have commenced talks with Real Madrid over a move for 31-year-old ex-Chelsea forward Eden Hazard who has had an underwhelming spell with Los Blancos.

- Manchester United's Marcus Rashford has a list of clubs circling for his services with Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham all interested, according to 90Min.

- The Mail claims that PSG will make a move for Rashford too, should Kylian Mbappe leave the French capital to join Madrid.

- Manchester City and Madrid are in the lead to sign Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland ahead of Bayern Munich and Barcelona claims The Athletic.

- RB Leipzig midfielder Christopher Nkunku is being tracked by Chelsea and Man City according to FootMercato.

Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland are the natural heirs Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, so says Gonzalo Higuain.

Both players have been linked with moves to Real Madrid, and Mbappe recently scored a superb solo goal to give Paris Saint-Germain a 1-0 lead over Los Blancos in their Champions League round-of-16 tie.

Madrid had multiple bids for Mbappe turned down in August. The 23-year-old will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Reports had suggested that Mbappe could miss Wednesday's return leg in Spain after suffering a knock in training, but with PSG hoping that he will be fit for the trip, former Madrid forward Higuain claims the forward is one of the two heirs apparent to Messi and Ronaldo.

The Inter Miami forward, who scored 107 goals in 190 LaLiga appearances for Madrid between 2007 and 2013, also believes Mbappe's arrival could take his old club back "to the top" of European football.

"[Mbappe] has all the characteristics," Higuain told Stats Perform.

"I believe that Leo and Cristiano at some point will stop playing, because life is like that, and Mbappe and Haaland will be their successors. 

"Of course, Mbappe has all the characteristics to take Real Madrid to the top."

Mbappe recently moved level with Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the joint-second highest goalscorer in PSG's history, with his tally of 156 goals for the French giants bettered only by Edinson Cavani, who scored 200 goals for the club.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti called Mbappe "unstoppable" after he downed the Spanish giants at the Parc des Princes last month.

PSG sporting director Leonardo, meanwhile, recently referred to Mbappe as the "best player in the world today", hinting the in-demand striker could yet elect to remain in the French capital.

Mbappe was suspended for PSG's 1-0 Ligue 1 loss to Nice last time out, and is the only player in the French top flight to have reached double figures for both goals and assists this season, with his 24 goal contributions (14 goals, 10 assists) helping the Parisians to a 13-point lead at the summit. 

Haaland, meanwhile, is one of the most prolific forwards in European football, and it has been reported that Madrid and Manchester City are leading the chase for the 21-year-old.

Since making his debut for Borussia Dortmund in January 2020, the Norway international has netted 80 times in all competitions, a tally which ranks behind that of only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (112) in the same timeframe of players in Europe's big five leagues.

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick defended his medical team after Roy Keane questioned Cristiano Ronaldo's absence for Sunday's crushing 4-1 derby defeat to Manchester City.

Reports late on Saturday suggested Ronaldo would not feature at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, with Rangnick confirming before kick-off that the Portugal forward was suffering from a hip problem.

United were also without Edinson Cavani, who was missing for a sixth consecutive game due to injury as they fell to a humiliating loss at neighbours City.

Former United captain Keane, speaking on Sky Sports before the game, suggested Ronaldo's omission may be down to other reasons after being left out for such an important fixture.

Keane insisted the decision did not "add up", with Rangnick citing a hip flexor problem that kept the forward out of training on Friday, and the German responded to the comments after the match.

"I have to believe my medical department," Rangnick told reporters when asked about Keane's thoughts on the Ronaldo situation.

"Our doctor came to see me Friday morning before training and told me that Cristiano could not train because of some problems with his hip flexor and the same was true on Saturday and that's why he couldn't be a part of the squad."

Rangnick appeared frustrated to be without Cavani once more ahead of the clash with Pep Guardiola's side, suggesting the Uruguay international ruled himself out of contention.

After the game, the former RB Leipzig boss again commented on Cavani being ruled out of the derby, insisting he could not make a player feature if they did not feel fit enough.

"What does it help if I tell you it is frustrating? It is just a fact. If players tell the doctor and the medical department they are injured and cannot play, I have to accept it," he added. 

"I cannot force a player to play if he's not available because of an injury."

Pressed for an answer on whether Cavani decides when he is available, Rangnick responded: "Edi trained in the last three days, he trained well but he still felt after those three training sessions yesterday afternoon that he is still not fit to play.

"This is a fact. As a manager, I cannot force a player if he does not feel fit enough or well enough to play.

"We have to be – and I am – happy with the players we have. This is clear. We lost two, if not three strikers since Christmas, everybody knows.

"But this is a fact and we have to deal with it. I am not complaining about that."

The defeat at local rivals City leaves United a point adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal, who were 3-2 victors at Watford earlier in the day and have played three games fewer.

But Rangnick wants to focus on his team's push in the Champions League and hunt for a place in England's top four in the coming weeks, despite continued questions over who will take over at Old Trafford when his short-term contract concludes.

"Look, I'm still the manager of this team for another 10 games in the Premier League and hopefully a few more games in the Champions League," he continued.

"It doesn't make sense now to start speculation about how many players would we need and in what positions, this is my issue.

"Right now it's about preparing the team for the Tottenham game and after that, for a very important game against Atletico [Madrid] in the Champions League."

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