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Barcelona and AC Milan are at the front of the queue to sign Jesse Lingard on a free transfer next summer

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Barcelona and AC Milan will be at the front of the queue to sign Jesse Lingard if he leaves Manchester United on a free transfer next summer.

Lingard rejected the offer of a new contract from United last month so he could weigh up his options before making a decision on his future.

The 28-year-old England midfielder wanted to see how much playing time he was given by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following the signings of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, having spent the second half of last season on loan at West Ham.

However, Lingard has made just one start this season – against West Ham in the Carabao Cup – and has spent more time on the pitch for his country than he has for his club.

Lingard wants to maximise his chances of being in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the World Cup next year after narrowly missing out on the Euros this summer.

It now appears as though he will see out the rest of his contract until June and leave on a free transfer, ending an association with United stretching back more than 20 years.

Solskjaer wants to keep Lingard and United could yet make an improved offer – or even try to sell him in January – but the final decision will lie with the player.

He can open talks with foreign clubs from January 1 and it’s understood that Barcelona and Milan have both expressed a strong interest in signing him as a free agent.

Meanwhile, United captain Harry Maguire on Wednesday confirmed that he has not trained since suffering a calf injury last month, meaning Solskjaer will definitely be without his two first-choice centre-backs at Leicester on Saturday.

Raphael Varane has already been ruled out with a groin strain and Maguire said: ‘It’s getting there but I still haven’t trained yet with the squad. It’s obviously a frustrating injury for me, but I’m progressing and I will be back on the pitch soon.’ 

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Every Premier League player expected to be at AFCON and games they will miss

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Premier League players expected to be at 2022 AFCON and games they will miss

The Africa Cup of Nations is set to hamper Premier League clubs up and down the country in and around the New Year.

The continental tournament is always held midway through the season and sees established stars head away for a number of weeks.

Around 40 players will depart after the games on Boxing Day with some not returning until the second week of February.

Premier League clubs have contested the laws around players jetting off to represent their nations during the pandemic, but any hopes of keeping their players for the entirety of the Festive period looks slim.

FIFA rules state “players must be released and start travel to their representative team no later than Monday morning the week preceding the week when the relevant final competition starts.”

The African Cup of Nations officially begins on January 9 and concludes on February 6.

Cameroon kick off the tournament against Burkina Faso which means December 27 – 13 days previous – is the date players will be leaving their clubs.

A heavily stocked schedule means team’s with players whose countries go deep into the tournament may miss up to eight games across the Premier League and FA Cup.

There is an apparent grey area, based on certain nations beginning their tournament after the official January 9 start dates.

In those circumstances there is hope that agreements can be met which could see players stay for an extra day or two, which in some cases may be crucial.

Jurgen Klopp will be without the duo for festive games at Leicester and Chelsea – played across the space of five days.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace and Leicester will also lose key players for the duration of the tournament.

The Blues will see Edouard Mendy leave in what is a major blow whilst the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Thomas Partey, Wilfred Ndidi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will all jet off.

Mikel Arteta will therefore have to endure a game with Manchester City and a north London derby minus some of his leading lights.

The Foxes meanwhile could be without Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho for both their games with Liverpool, such is the proximity of the two fixtures.

Here are Premier league players that will feature in the competition:

Arsenal

Thomas Partey (Ghana)

Mohamed Elneny (Egypt)

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon)

Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast)

Aston Villa

Mahmoud Trezeguet (Egypt)

Bertrand Traore (Burkina Faso)

Marvelous Nakamba (Zimbabwe)

Brentford

Julian Jeanvier (Guinea)

Frank Onyeka (Nigeria)

Tariqe Fosu-Henry (Ghana)

Brighton

Yves Bissouma (Mali)

Burnley

Maxwel Cornet (Ivory Coast)

Chelsea

Edouard Mendy (Senegal)

Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)

Crystal Palace

Cheikhou Kouyate (Senegal)

Jeffrey Schlupp (Ghana)

Jordan Ayew (Ghana)

Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast)

Everton

Jean-Philippe Gbamin (Ivory Coast)

Alex Iwobi (Nigeria)

Leicester City

Daniel Amartey (Ghana)

Nampalys Mendy (Senegal)

Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria)

Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria)

Liverpool

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Naby Keita (Guinea)

Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Manchester City

Riyad Mahrez (Algeria)

Manchester United

Eric Bailly (Ivory Coast)

Amad Diallo (Ivory Coast)

Southampton

Moussa Djenepo (Mali)

Mohammed Salisu (Ghana)

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Jose Mourinho uses Man Utd excuse after Roma suffer European embarrassment

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Thursday night was a low point in the managerial career of Jose Mourinho as his Roma crashed to a humiliating 6-1 defeat against Bodo/Glimt.

Mourinho’s side were strong favourites going into the Europa Conference League encounter but were humbled by the Scandinavian hosts, who blew them away in the second half.

It was the first match of Mourinho’s entire managerial career – which has spanned over 1,000 matches – that he had overseen his side concede six goals or more in one match.

That it came against a team who had significantly fewer resources than his own and were huge outsiders for the match, made it all the more painful.

Striker Erik Botheim and midfielder Patrick Berg had given Bodoe/Glimt a two-goal advantage in the first half, but Carles Perez pulled one back for Roma – who were then expected to launch a fighting comeback.

Instead, the Italian side collapsed in the second half as Botheim added two more goals to complete his hat-trick while goals from Amahl Pellegrino and Ola Solbakken piled the misery on the visiting team.

The Portuguese boss was predictably in an awful mood after the defeat and did not hold back on his criticism of the players that he selected for Roma.

Mourinho explained on Sky Italy: “The initial XI of today of Bodo Glimt had better quality than us. Now you can stop asking why we play always the same players.

“I did it with good intentions, to give an opportunity to those who work hard and to rotate the squad on a synthetic pitch in cold weather. I decided to rest many players.

“If I could always play with the same XI, then I would. It’s risky, because we have a huge gap in quality between the two groups of players.

“I knew the limits of this squad, it is not new to me, but I still expected a better response.

“As I said, it’s my choice to play them, so my responsibility.”

This is the same excuse that the Portuguese boss used during his tenure at Old Trafford, when he claimed that a poor loss for United away against Brighton actually vindicated his approach.

The trip to the South Coast saw United without their regular striker Romelu Lukaku, who was injured for the game having been a virtual ever-present for the side in attack over the course of that season.

Lukaku has played the entire 90 minutes in 30 Premier League games that season to indicate how not only was he preferred in attack over others, but that he was never rested in matches.

Instead, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were given rare starts under Mourinho but the side went down to a 1-0 defeat, leaving the manager to aim a thinly-veiled dig at the two forwards.

He suggested that neither of those players deserved to be in the strongest side at United and their performances were the reason why he did not trust them above the Belgian striker.

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EPL: Chelsea facing striker crisis with Lukaku, Werner injured

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Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel is facing a striker crisis after Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner both went off injured against Malmo on Wednesday night.

The Blues went on to win 4-0 in the Champions League clash, thanks to goals from Jorginho (2), Andreas Christensen and Kai Havertz.

However, their emphatic victory was marred by the knocks picked up by their key frontmen.

Lukaku was forced off with a suspected ankle injury in the 20th minute, as he went down under a challenge inside the box.

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