As Newcastle and Shearer take a beating in the press, United are linked to Dzeko, Valencia & Ribery, City track Eto’o, and Barca home in on Robin van Persie

Comment & analysis round-up

Quote of the day: “The first thing I’m going to tell him [Cristiano Ronaldo]: stop acting like a wuss. Seriously, because the fact why his game is kind of down right now is because these guys are picking on him because he’s so soft… Ronaldo’s got to be a little like Rooney, he’s got to be aggressive, then these guys will stop picking on him. If Ronaldo’s aggressive back to these guys, and gets a few red cards, people will stop picking on him.” – Usain Bolt.

Runner-up: “I am still confident and my players are still confident that we can avoid the drop. I am optimistic. We have to get some confidence into the players. I’m trying to get as many positives into them as I can. They don’t want to hear negatives, they want to hear positives. I want the team to be the story. I will try to do everything to deflect everything away from the result.” – Alan Shearer.

Today’s overview: With Manchester United still trying to deflect rumours of Ronaldo’s departure, counter-rumours of future wingers to replace CR7 begin to surface this Sunday. Newcastle and Alan Shearer take another pounding in the press, while there are is a host of transfer gossip with stories also circling over potential managerial moves in the summer.

Manchester United find themselves denying rumours this Sunday. According to Jamie Jackson, Sir Alex has slammed talk of a training ground bust up with Wayne Rooney before the hack repeats “reports yesterday that a deal to take Cristiano Ronaldo from United to Real Madrid this summer is in place. Sources have claimed to Observer Sport that the deal was completed as long ago as September and that both sides signed a confidentiality agreement.”

On the Ronaldo-Real link, the Sunday Times’ Jonathan Northcroft adds “Calderon would reportedly pay Ronaldo a €12m salary and hand Jorge Mendes, his agent, an €8m sweetener for arranging any move. United are expected to sign Antonio Valencia from Wigan this summer.” Not so, according to the NOTW’s Andy Dunn who claims that while Ronaldo will likely move to Spain “Manchester United have already done the deal with Bayern Munich” to secure the services of Franck Rbery next season.

Celebrating Liverpool’s return to the top of the table, Torres and Gerrard are that rarer duality, one forged – like Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, or Romario and Bebeto – between similar types.” But the big news surrounding Liverpool appears in the Sunday Star, John Richardson announcing “Liverpool are edging closer to a £450 million Middle East take-over which would give Kop boss Rafa Benitez more transfer funds.”

Before we arrive at the criticism, The People’s Alan Oliver today brilliantly exposes how Shearer wanted the Newcastle job 15 months ago. “I know this because the Toon’s new caretaker boss called me THREE times from Barbados to tell me so!… On all three occasions the message was clear – let the St James’ Park rulers know that he wanted the chance to manage his beloved Newcastle United. But owner Mike Ashley had always seemed reluctant to consider Shearer, mainly because of his lack of managerial experience. If he had asked I would have told him that Shearer bleeds black and white.”

They hacks are cuing up to take pot-shots at Alan Shearer’s Newcastle. First up is Paul Hayward writing that Saturday’s “performance will hardly encourage Shearer to break his pledge to stay for eight games and eight games only.” On the atmosphere at St. James’ Park, Jonathan Northcroft observed how “hype said it would be a cauldron of seething Geordie noise but reality dictated that Newcastle’s plight, and abysmal run, which now stands at one win in 12 league games, spawned a nervous pessimism around the stadium.”

Michael Walker sat on the sidelines observing how “looking emasculated as his beloved Newcastle United crumbled before his eyes, Shearer was as powerless as any of his predecessors to prevent one of Newcastle’s essential characteristics – dismal defending – from kicking in.”

And there is more. Nick Townsend pondered “whether the Talented Mr Shearer still regarded this decision as the right call at the right time,” while ould any properly run professional sports organisation ever be likely to find itself relying for rescue in a crisis on asking a man to take a brief sabbatical from his regular job to do some temping as a messiah? Obviously not.” And it continues further, Rory Smith writing how a “limp defeat to a sub-par Chelsea proved that belief alone will not be enough.”

With a pompous whiff of self-arrogance, Steve Tongue arrives to tell both Newcastle and Super Al why they all erred in their recent union. “Shearer should have begun lower down and gullible fans must learn Newcastle can’t survive on emotion.” It is left for the king of arrogance, Piers Morgan, to waste his time explaining exactly why Shearer is not the messiah. “One thing Alan Shearer is most definitely not is the Messiah. He is just, as he always was on the pitch, a very crafty git.”

On the mismanagement of Newcastle, Duncan Castles publicises that “Newcastle will continue to pay Dennis Wise’s £1.5m salary despite removing the former England international from his controversial role as the club’s director of football last week.”

Cue Henry Winter to buck the trend. “Predictably Chelsea won, reminding Shearer of the scale of his salvage work… Shearer deserves some slack. Whatever the difficulties of Newcastle’s season, Shearer could mature into an accomplished manager.

On Arsenal, Rob Draper reports that this summer “Stan Kroenke and Danny Fiszman [are to] offer to buy out ousted former director Lady Bracewell-Smith from the club and Cesc Fabregas will be offered a £4million signing-on fee to persuade him to stay.”

Onto the transfer gossip.

Bob Cass farts “Manchester City aim to establish a reputation as a club with serious ambitions by making Samuel Eto’o one of their main summer buys for £20million.” Paul Hetherington is the latest hack to jump on the Edin Dzeko bandwagon, linking the Wolfsburg striker to Manchester United as “a potential £12million target to replace Carlos Tevez.” While David Harrison puts the cat amongst the pigeons writing that “Manchester City striker Daniel Sturridge has paved the way for a summer exit by rejecting a final contract offer… Long-term admirers Chelsea and Aston Villa are on full alert and will make their moves at the end of the season.” And there is more as The People print that “Barcelona are lining up a£ 15million move for Robin van Persie.”

The manager-merry-go-round gets into full spin again. The News of the World claim the Sparky “has been sounded out about replacing Ricky Sbragia at Sunderland.” A slight difference of opinion appears in The People, where we read “Roy Hodgson could be tempted away from Fulham in the summer – with Sunderland keen on the experienced manager.” While dropping into the Championship, The People publish that Dennis Wise “would relish the chance to mastermind QPR’s chase for the Premier League, should under-pressure Hoops chief Paulo Sousa be axed.”

The Three Lions still take up column inches, Paul Wilson is determined to remind the nation that “while things certainly seem to be going swimmingly for Fabio Capello on the road to South Africa at the moment, England are past masters at swallowing dangerous doses of their own publicity.” Jonathan Northcroft adds to the examination of England wondering “Can David James be England’s keeper in South Africa?,” “Do England need new full-backs?,” and “Can England stop counterattacks?”

With the Champions League just around the corner, Duncan White provokes Britons claiming that while “it is surely beyond even the most partisan Premier League enthusiast to deny that Lionel Messi is the best player in the world. What might prove harder to swallow is that English football cannot even lay claim to the next in line: that honour must go to Franck Ribery.”

Changing tracks, Paul Hayward previews Luton’s first Wembley outing in 20 years this Sunday in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Scunthorpe. And staying in the lower leagues, Rod Liddle picks on the plight of Southampton and their bid to avoid administration. “Quite clearly the Saints are utterly skint and deeply in debt and one would expect the Football League, sooner or later, to call the club’s bluff… this is a deeply deluded club, tormented with intimations of grandeur.”