European football’s gaze is fixed upon Manchester United. It has only been five completed seasons since Alex Ferguson called time on his glorious reign of nearly three decades at the club, but on Saturday, 22 December, at the Cardiff City Stadium, the Red Devils will welcome a fifth different man attempting to succeed the Scot.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's return to Manchester United, as interim manager to replace the sacked Jose Mourinho, is the major talking point ahead of the upcoming weekend of football action across Europe's top divisions. A look at what's in store:
Man Utd Post SAF, Version 5.0
David Moyes. Ryan Giggs. Louis van Gaal. Jose Mourinho. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Another new era starts for Manchester United on Saturday, and the club is looking to the future by returning to the past.
The former striker is part of United's most fabled legend, having scored the second of the team's two stoppage-time goals to win the 1999 Champions League final. He arrives back with his club of old in strife, closer to the bottom of the table than they are to the summit.
A 3-1 defeat at Liverpool last week left the 20-time English champions trailing the table-topping Merseysiders by 19 points. Basement club Fulham, with nine points, are 17 behind United.
In a quirk of fate, Solskjaer's first assignment takes him to Cardiff City – a club which fired him after an ill-fated nine-month term as boss in 2014. To add further intrigue, Cardiff have won four of their last five home games in the Premier League.
Elsewhere in England, leaders Liverpool take the field on Friday, 21 December, as the Premier League's packed year-end calendar takes them to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Defending champions Manchester City, a point behind the Reds, host Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Third-placed Tottenham Hotspur make the trip to Merseyside to face Everton on Sunday, 23 December. Spurs' London rivals Chelsea, two points behind in fourth, welcome Leicester City to Stamford Bridge, while Arsenal are at home against Burnley.
Can Messi Continue Scoring Spree?
With five goals in his last two Spanish league outings, Lionel Messi will aim to keep up his impressive recent scoring run when Barcelona host Celta Vigo on Saturday. Messi tops the charts in La Liga with 14 goals through 16 rounds. Barca lead La Liga by three points over both Sevilla and Atletico Madrid, and are eyeing a fourth straight clean sheet.
Atletico host Espanyol, who have lost five straight games, and Sevilla visit Leganes on Sunday without top-scorer Pablo Sarabia and playmaker Ever Banega because of an accumulation of five yellow cards.
Real Madrid are not in domestic action this weekend, with their scheduled game against Villareal postponed until 3 January as the European champions compete in the Club World Cup in UAE. Real face Al Ain in the final on Saturday.
Borussian Toppers Clash in Germany
Also Read: Fortuna shock Bundesliga leaders Dortmund
There's a top-of-the-table meeting in the German Bundesliga, and it doesn't involve Bayern Munich. It's the two Borussian teams – Dortmund and Monchengladbach – that lead the league, although Bayern are level on points with second-placed Gladbach.
Dortmund's first league defeat of the season earlier this week, against struggling Fortuna, has reduced the table-toppers' advantage to six points ahead of manager Lucien Favre's reunion with the club he managed from 2011 to 2015, a period when Gladbach went from surviving relegation to qualifying for the Champions League.
The Dortmund-Gladbach clash kick-starts the weekend in Germany on Friday, before six-time defending champions Bayern visit Eintracht Frankfurt – former club of their boss Niko Kovac – on Saturday.
More Roman Joy for Ronaldo?
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored five goals in five games against AS Roma through his career, and his first meeting with them in Juventus colours comes with the Romans in crisis. Roma are 22 points behind Juve ahead of their trip to the seven-time defending Serie A champions, and have lost their last eight away matches against the Bianconeri.
Striker Edin Dzeko will be back for Roma, who ended a five-match winless streak with an unconvincing victory against Genoa last weekend.
Juventus presently lead the Italian league by eight points; second-placed Napoli host Spal, while Inter Milan, in third, travel to bottom-placed Chievo Verona.
All 10 Serie A matches take place on Saturday.
(With inputs from AP)
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