Mason Greenwood has signed a new contract at Manchester United that ties him to the Premier League giants until June 2025.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he was unconcerned about Anthony Martial's form.

Martial went without a shot at goal as United were held to a 1-1 draw by West Brom in the Premier League on Sunday.

The Frenchman has scored just four league goals in 19 games this season, but Solskjaer backed the forward, who was racially abused on social media after the draw.

"I know Anthony is working hard to get back to where he was. He'll score goals, his work and his attitude is very good," he told a news conference.

"Form is sometimes temporary but class is permanent and the kid's got class.

"And we know that when he works hard, we're going to get a big performance out of him again."

Martial is converting just 33 per cent of his big chances in the Premier League this season, his lowest since arriving at United in 2015.

The draw against West Brom means United are seven points adrift of rivals and league leaders Manchester City, who also have a game in hand.

OIe Gunnar Solskjaer said "someone must have been asleep in the VAR office" and recommended they brew some coffee after Manchester United's draw with West Brom.

United were held 1-1 at The Hawthorns on Saturday, with West Brom taking the lead inside two minutes despite Mbaye Diagne appearing to put his hand on Victor Lindelof's face in the process of scoring.

Bruno Fernandes equalised before half-time with a fantastic volley, but Solskjaer's men were unable to avoid dropping points for the fourth time in their past five games.

Referee Craig Pawson awarded United a penalty in the 62nd minute for Semi Ajayi's foul on Harry Maguire; although the England international appeared to be in an illegal position, the decision was overturned despite there being no check for offside.

While he acknowledged the correct outcome was reached, Solskjaer was baffled by the VAR process in overturning the spot-kick.

"I think we all want consistency and a fair game but then again there is human error that we all expect, that's what happens. But the penalty we could have had it today is a clear foul," said Solskjaer.

"If you only look at the clash between their centre-back and Harry it is a foul, but I see Harry in an offside position.

"Someone must have been asleep in the VAR office. Someone needs to brew some coffee because it could have been easily avoided by saying, 'No, he's offside. Done, let's move on.'"

When asked about the decision to allow Diagne's goal, Solskjaer pointed to Maguire having a goal chalked off for a foul on Erik Pieters against Burnley in January.

"It is more of a foul than what Harry gave away against Burnley, put it that way," said the United boss.

"When that goal is taken away from us, if there is any consistency at all, this is a foul as well. Then again being a striker as I was, it would be harsh to lose a goal like this, so both should have stood for me.

"I've not really looked at it, I just saw it live. But consistency is what we need. It is definitely more of a foul than what Harry did against the Burnley kid."

The result left United seven points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand.

City have won their past 16 games in all competitions and are unbeaten in their last 15 top-flight matches, but Solskjaer does not believe the chasing pack are now in a battle for second place.

"No, I don't think so. No one will give it away this early. This season is so unpredictable, anything can happen. Of course we are not going to settle for second," he said.

He added: "It is disappointing of course. We have come away with two points less than we wanted to.

"The start was difficult. They put us under pressure as you expect when they get the kick-off, and we couldn't clear our lines. Then again, we got 90 minutes plus to score two goals.

"I would rather concede in the second minute than the 92nd. [We] just couldn't get enough big chances."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit a personal milestone as his first Premier League hat-trick saw Arsenal past Leeds United on Sunday.

Aubameyang and Hector Bellerin put Arsenal 4-0 up by the 47th minute at Emirates Stadium, though Leeds did strike back twice to make things a little more uncomfortable for Mikel Arteta's side.

That match followed on from Wolves beating Southampton in the day's early kick-off, and West Brom holding Manchester United to a 1-1 draw – Bruno Fernandes' stunner earning the Red Devils a point.

In the late game, lowly Fulham picked up a much-needed win by seeing off a lacklustre Everton 2-0 at Goodison Park.

ARSENAL 4-2 LEEDS UNITED: DOUBLE CENTURY UP FOR AUBA

On his first league start since January 18, Aubameyang was in sparkling form against Leeds.

Having opened the scoring after 13 minutes, Aubameyang netted from the penalty spot shortly before half-time, bringing up his 200th goal across Europe's "top five" leagues.

It was the 31-year-old's 369th appearance across spells at Lille (two goals), Monaco (two), Saint-Etienne (37), Borussia Dortmund (98) and Arsenal (62).

Since his Ligue 1 debut in 2009, he is one of just nine players to score 200 or more goals across the continent's five leading divisions.

Arsenal scored four (or more) goals at the Emirates for the first time in the Premier League this season, having last done so in a 4-0 win over Norwich City in July of last year.

Leeds, meanwhile, have won just one of their last 24 away league games in London (D6 L17), losing all four such matches this season by an aggregate 14-4 score, and the Whites remain without a win in nine meetings with Arsenal in all competitions (D2 L7).

Aubameyang was also the third player in Premier League history to score a hat-trick on Valentine's Day, after Matt Le Tissier vs Liverpool in 1994 and Michael Owen vs Sheffield Wednesday in 1998.

WEST BROM 1-1 MANCHESTER UNITED: MORE BRUNO BRILLIANCE SAVES LACKLUSTRE RED DEVILS

The Red Devils' only win from their previous five top-flight matches was the 9-0 hammering of Southampton at Old Trafford (D3 L1), while the Baggies have just one win in 11 under Sam Allardyce and have conceded nine more goals than any other team since his first game at the helm.

The ever-reliable Fernandes scored United's leveller just before half-time at the Hawthorns, with the Red Devils now recovering 22 points from losing positions this term – 10 more than any other team.

The Portuguese playmaker has 38 goal involvements in as many games for United – the only player with more in their opening 38 in Premier League history is Andrew Cole (46 in 1993-94 for Newcastle United).

West Brom's goal was scored after just 83 seconds by Mbaye Diagne – the earliest conceded by United in a Premier League game since Christian Eriksen's 11-second strike for Spurs in January 2018. He is the 12th different Senegalese player to score under Allardyce.

United full-back Luke Shaw has five league assists for the season, the most he has managed in a single campaign – he only had seven in total prior to the start of this season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are unbeaten in all 12 away Premier League matches this season (W8 D4), only the fourth time a team has avoided defeat in their first 12 away Premier League games of a season: Arsenal in 2001-02 and 2003-04, and Liverpool in 2019-20, all of whom went on to win the title.

SOUTHAMPTON 1-2 WOLVES: SAINTS MARCH INTO CLUB-RECORD WORST RUN

It has been a miserable time for Southampton recently with Sunday's defeat to Wolves at St Mary's settled by second-half goals from Ruben Neves and Pedro Neto, which cancelled out Danny Ings' 25th-minute opener.

The Saints have now lost six consecutive league matches for the first time in their history, while they have led in each of their last four top-flight matches against Wolves without winning any of them (D2 L2), resulting in 10 points lost – the most points one side have dropped against another since the start of last season.

Only Liverpool (14) and Manchester United (12) have won more Premier League matches after going behind than Wolves' 10 since the start of 2018-19.

Meanwhile, winger Neto has been directly involved in nine Premier League goals this season (five goals and four assists), which represents the most of any under-21 player in the competition this campaign.

On the opposition side, Ings is one of only four players to score 30 Premier League goals since the start of last season, along with Mohamed Salah (36), Jamie Vardy (35) and Harry Kane (31).

EVERTON 0-2 FULHAM: MAJA MAGIC BOOSTS COTTAGERS

It was a first Premier League start to remember for Josh Maja, who is the second-youngest player to score on his full debut for Fulham in the competition, after Collins John versus Blackburn Rovers in April 2004 (18y 178d).

Maja is also the first Nigerian to mark his first Premier League start with a brace since Efan Ekoku for Norwich City back in May 1993 (v Middlesbrough).

It helped Fulham pick up their first-ever away win at Everton in league competition, on what was their 28th attempt. Coming into the game, they had lost each of their last 22 away league games against the Toffees.

The Cottagers consequently have a first Premier League victory since November, ending a run of 12 games without a win in the competition.

Everton have now lost three of their last four Premier League games at Goodison Park (D1), as many defeats as they suffered in Carlo Ancelotti's first 17 home games in charge in the competition (W8 D6).

Harry Maguire and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were left confused as to why West Brom's opener in Manchester United's 1-1 draw on Sunday was allowed to stand after an apparent foul.

United dropped points for the fourth time in five Premier League games, as the Red Devils were unable to make the most of their dominance at The Hawthorns.

Bruno Fernandes got United's goal on the stroke of half-time, taking him to 38 goal involvements for the club in as many league games, a record bettered by only Andy Cole (46) in his first 38 Premier League games.

But United failed to build on that as they struggled to break West Brom's packed defence down, meaning Mbaye Diagne's early goal consigned them to another disappointing result.

But there was more than a hint of controversy around Diagne's goal, which stood despite the striker clearly catching Victor Lindelof in the face with his hand.

The situation left Maguire and Solskjaer baffled.

Maguire, who had a goal of a similar nature disallowed against Burnley, told Sky Sports: "We created a lot of chances - enough to win the game.

"It was tough for ourselves with the goal we conceded - for us it was a foul. We played the game in their half. We can do more and improve but it's disappointing. It was a tough job against a team that defends deep."

Speaking to beIN SPORTS, Solskjaer added: "I'm an ex-forward, so it's not as if I'm going to say it's a big foul against Victor, but why did Harry's goal against Burnley – and I know I'm going back a bit here – [get disallowed] … Where's the consistency here? There's absolutely no consistency in any of these decisions.

"If Harry's against Burnley is a foul, that is miles worse. As a striker you say well done, because if that had been taken away from me I would have been disappointed, so it's just the consistency we're looking for."

The draw put United second again but meant they were seven points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who also have a game in hand.

Manchester United dropped points in the Premier League for the fourth time in five matches as they were held to a 1-1 draw at rock-bottom West Brom, further denting their disappearing hopes of challenging Manchester City at the summit.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men extended their unbeaten run away from home to 19 matches, though it will be seen as another missed opportunity as United are left seven points adrift of City, who still have a game in hand.

United, as they have become accustomed to, fell behind thanks to Mbaye Diagne's controversial early opener, but the visitors equalised through Fernandes on the stroke of half-time, making this the first season since 2012-13 that they have netted 50 times after 20 league matches.

They continued to dominate proceedings in the second half but saw a penalty decision wiped out and former United prospect Sam Johnstone stunningly tipped a Harry Maguire header onto the post deep into stoppage time.

 

 

 

Roses are red, violets are blue, have we got the perfect Valentine's Day content for you!

Questionable rhymes aside (okay, very questionable), love is in the air as long-standing couples and newly formed relationships celebrate the day of romance on Sunday.

The world of football is certainly no stranger to the language of love, so before you crack open a bottle of red and exchange cheap knock-off gifts with your significant other why not get some inspiration for love with our Valentine's Day facts with some help from Cupid!

(Well not Cupid, Opta – but the team at Opta are full of love!)

MATT LE KISS-IER LOVES TO SCORE ON VALENTINE'S DAY

Valentine's Day is of course a day for love (and overpaying for those last-minute flowers and cards you forgot to buy…).

Two players have been particularly good at spreading the joy on February 14th with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier and ex-Liverpool striker Michael Owen each scoring three times in the Premier League on this date – the most of all players.

Here's something even more interesting about that stat, though – each man's tally is a result of scoring a Valentine's Day hat-trick.

Le Tissier registered three against the Reds back in 1994, while Owen took home the match ball with a treble versus Sheffield Wednesday four years later.

Owen's three goals are part of 12 Liverpool have tallied on the day of love – comfortably the most by a team. Arsenal follow on seven, with Aston Villa and Southampton on four.

A ROSE FOR THE LADY?

Flowers are synonymous with Valentine's Day but none more so than the rose.

Two players named Rose have plied their trade in the Premier League – Danny (194 appearances) and Matthew (five appearances). The former, of course, is an England international who with his marauding runs from full-back has often been a, ahem, thorn in the side of opponents…

There are other love-themed names to have featured in the top flight. Valentino Lazaro played 13 times in the Premier League for Newcastle United on loan last term, while Valentin Roberge made 10 appearances for north east rivals Sunderland.

The Black Cats also had Donald Love on their books, the defender having previously represented Manchester United once in the top flight.

FOXES RACK UP THE CARDS

Whether from a partner or a secret admirer, it's always nice to receive a card or two on Valentine's Day.

Unless of course you're playing in the Premier League, in which case you want to see the referee keep their cards in their pockets.

In this regard, Leicester City have not been overly successful – the seven yellow cards representing the most received by a team on Valentine's Day. Arsenal follow closely behind with six, with Manchester City on four.

The Foxes also fare badly when it comes to red cards, having picked up two on February 14th – Danny Simpson and Hamza Choudhury account for those dismissals. The only other player to have been sent off on Valentine's Day is Everton hero Duncan Ferguson ... no, we weren't shocked either.

THE BEST BROMANCES

It goes without saying that we don't need to confine our love sharing to one manufactured day of the year…

No, we should be spreading the joy in our hearts all year round and these strike partnerships certainly succeed in that category.

Going back to the start of the 2015-16 season, no two players have combined for more goals than Spurs duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min (33).

In fact, Kane features three times in the top-five – also ranking third with Christian Eriksen (19), and sharing 18 with Dele Alli.

Manchester City pairing Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne are second with 20, while Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez (18), who fired Leicester to shock title glory in 2015-16, also feature.

If reports are to be believed, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

However, his next destination remains a mystery.

The United States, though, could be next on the list for the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

TOP STORY – MIAMI MOVE ON THE CARDS FOR MESSI?

Lionel Messi could be keen on joining David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS, claims Sport.

Messi, whose contract is set to expire, is tipped to leave Barcelona at the end of the season amid strong links to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could be lured to the United States, where Beckham co-owns Inter Miami.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to The Sun, Manchester United are battling Barca and Real Madrid to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. United are reportedly determined to bolster their defence and Kounde has emerged as a key target.

Liverpool have made Torino defender Bremer their top transfer target at the end of the season, reports the Mirror. Despite the January arrivals of Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies, Liverpool still want to strengthen their defence.

- Spanish journalist Siro Lopez says Sergio Ramos has made his decision to leave Madrid. It comes as the likes of United, PSG, Juventus and Chelsea eye the superstar Madrid captain on a free transfer.

Madrid are interested in Real Betis midfielder Nabil Fekir, reports Estadio Deportivo. Inter, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Napoli are also believed to be eyeing the Frenchman.

Bruno Fernandes has urged Manchester United's emerging stars to seize their moment as they seek to make an impression at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed ahead of Sunday's trip to West Brom that teenage trio Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbr and Amad Diallo would all be involved with the senior side.

Fernandes has been a leading light for United this season, helping to propel the Red Devils into possible Premier League title contention.

The Portuguese playmaker hopes the injection of youth into the United first-team fold will provide a boost, though he urged those making the step up to work hard and stay humble.

"They have to keep their heads clean, because it's easy to come in to the first team and your head goes a little bit, and it's also hard when you have to go back and train and play with the other teams again," he told the club's official website.

"I was in that position some years ago and I know it's hard, but if you work and are humble and you understand that every time you play is a chance, no matter where you are playing, every time is a chance to show you are ready or that you want to make that next step.

"For us as a team, it’s important that when they come [to train with us] that they come to help us and learn from everyone and also give the qualities they have to the team.

"If they come to the first team it's because they have something good and that is something that can help us."

We took a closer look at two of United's most promising prospects, in Mejbri and Shoretire.

 

HANNIBAL MEJBRI, 18 – ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

Many will have had an eye on Mejbri's development ever since he joined the club from Monaco in August 2019 in a deal that could potentially cost €10million (£8.75m).

A France youth international, Mejbri quickly progressed to United's Under-23s last term despite only being 17 and has become a regular.

A technically gifted attack-minded midfielder, Mejbri has impressed not only with his ability on the ball, but his knack of crafting opportunities for team-mates.

In Premier League 2 Division One, his 42 chances created in 13 games is more than any other player, while his six assists is a joint-best for the league.

He has combined his creativity and comfort in possession to good effect as well, as evidenced by the fact seven of his carries (a movement of more than five metres with the ball) have led to chances created, a figured bettered by only five.

Mejbri has also attempted 49 dribbles, the fourth-most in the division, and won a remarkable 94 fouls – almost three times as many as anyone else – two of which secured penalties in the recent 6-3 win over Liverpool's Under-23s.

In fact, Wood recently urged referees to do more to protect him from such rough treatment, concerned Mejbri will suffer a serious injury if it continues.

He can expect similar attention if he does get minutes in the top flight, though Wood is adamant Mejbri does not let it get to him, saying: "I think he's the type that he wants the ball all the time, he's not going to shy away from it and that's what we want, you don't want your top players being worried, he just needs a bit of protection or it could result in him being badly injured."

SHOLA SHORETIRE, 17 – FORWARD

Shoretire joined the United academy in 2014 having previously played for Newcastle United, and for several years now he has looked like one of the next high-potential kids to come off the Old Trafford production line.

He made his debut for the club's Under-18s in 2018, in doing so becoming the youngest player to ever feature in UEFA's Youth League at 14 years and 314 days.

Shoretire – whose name is pronounced 'Shor-ay-ti-reh' – is most-often used as a winger (on either flank) for the Under-23s, but given his excellent dribbling, vision and finishing abilities, he could potentially have a future as a more central striker.

He signed his first professional contract on Monday, just three days after netting a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers' Under-23s.

That took him to five goals in 13 appearances this term, while he also has four assists from 22 chances created.

Where he comes out particularly well is with regards to goal-ending passing sequences, of which he has been involved in 13 – only Mejbri (14) has a better record here.

Like Mejbri, Shoretire also has a penchant for taking the game to his opponents, as showcased by the fact he has created eight chances at the end of ball carries, the fifth-most in the league.

Given United's packed schedule over the next few weeks, with their European campaign set to resume, it wouldn't be a surprise to see these two make their first-team bows.

Even if they don't this season, it is surely only a matter of time.

Real Madrid are considering a move for Kalidou Koulibaly, while Manchester United are targeting Jadon Sancho in a cut-price deal.

Amid uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid, the LaLiga giants continue to be linked with centre-backs.

They seemingly have plenty of options – and Napoli star Koulibaly is among them.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID LIKE KOULIBALY

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane likes Napoli defender Koulibaly, according to AS.

The report says Bayern Munich star David Alaba, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is still Madrid's first option.

With Ramos potentially leaving when his contract expires at campaign's end, AS also says Villarreal defender Pau Torres and Sevilla's Jules Kounde will be expensive.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United opted not to sign Borussia Dortmund star Sancho ahead of 2020-21, and it could pay off. Eurosport reports United could land Sancho for just £50million (€57.1m) in the next transfer window. The Bundesliga club were demanding about £100m (€120m) for Sancho last year.

- Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus is seemingly attracting plenty of interest. Kicker reports Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus are interested in the three-time Germany international.

- Arsenal look set to strengthen ahead of next season. The Sun reports they are close to finalising a deal for 18-year-old Sporting CP forward Tiago Tomas for £20m (€22.8m).

- On loan at Real Betis from Barcelona, Emerson may not return to Camp Nou. CalcioMercato reports Milan are considering a move for the right-back.

- Former Milan and Chelsea forward Alexandre Pato will join Orlando City on a one-year deal, according to Fabrizio Romano and The Mane Land. Pato has been without a club since leaving Sao Paulo in August last year.

Manchester United's FA Cup win over West Ham wasn't the easiest watch for the neutral, but the average armchair fan likely had a better time than Donny van de Beek.

The Netherlands midfielder was granted the chance to impress in the number 10 role in just his 12th start for the Red Devils. With Bruno Fernandes resting on the bench and Paul Pogba out injured, this was Van de Beek's latest opportunity to show his creative mettle.

After 73 lacklustre minutes, he headed ruefully back to the bench. He had completed 28 passes and touched the ball 46 times, the lowest numbers of any starting outfield player for United. Fernandes, on as his replacement, surpassed both those figures in normal and extra time, with fellow sub Scott McTominay scoring the winning goal.

This was the latest unspectacular outing for a player who caught the eye of the world's biggest clubs at Ajax. An initial fee of £34.7million that looked a bargain at first is beginning to seem a bit of a waste as a player so in tune with that wonderful Ajax harmony looks increasingly disconnected in a United shirt.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has certainly not given up on Van de Beek just 25 games into his United career and has repeatedly called for patience as he beds the 23-year-old into his plans. But as Europa League football returns and fixtures pile up again, and with Pogba sidelined at least for a few weeks, Van de Beek is under mounting pressure to prove his worth.

 

BEEN THERE, DON THAT

During his final three seasons in the Netherlands, in which time he had established himself as first choice at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, Van de Beek registered 39 goals and 29 assists in 132 games in all competitions. No Eredivisie midfielder scored more in that time, and only former team-mate Hakim Ziyech had more assists (54).

Ziyech is an interesting comparison. From 2017-18 to 2019-20, the playmaker, now with Chelsea, was consistently the only Eredivisie midfielder with superior attacking numbers to Van de Beek. They were top two in that time for chances created from open play (275 for Ziyech, 192 for Van de Beek); top two for shots (543 and 242); and top two for efforts on target (180 and 101).

Van de Beek was also third for passes ending in the final third on 1,938, while only two midfielders (Ziyech and AZ's Fredrik Midtsjo) started more sequences to end in a shot, underlining his importance when it came to synchronising the Ajax attack. The fact he did all this from a deeper starting position than Ziyech is notable: the majority of his touches came in the left-centre of the pitch, an area that served as a springboard for forays forward that yielded 28 chance-creating carries in the Eredivisie alone.

 

ILL-FITTING

There is a notion that Van de Beek was an opportunistic signing by Solskjaer, who had no guarantees over Pogba's future or the chances of bringing in top target Jadon Sancho.

You can understand his desire to cover that base. Over those same three seasons (2017-18 to 2019-20), Pogba was the United midfielder with the most touches (7,909), the most goals (23), most assists (26), most chances created from open play (163), most passes ending in the final third (2,358) and most shots (180). And, like Van de Beek, Pogba mostly thrived to the centre-left of midfield in that time – nearly 20 per cent of his total touches all came in that general area of the pitch.

Yet a key difference lies in their possession play: during that same time frame, Pogba averaged roughly 20 more completed passes and 32 more touches in each game than Van de Beek, who was happier to let others have the ball as he took up threatening positions. Once it became clear he was spending another season at United, this gave Pogba a distinct advantage in Solskjaer's system.

The arrival of Bruno Fernandes last January more or less prompted the United boss to give up on a 4-3-3 and use a predominant 4-2-3-1, in which the attacking players are afforded relative free reign to produce match-winning moments in front of a stable base. This has often meant Pogba dropping deeper into a position that, while not his favourite, is one in which those ball-playing numbers make him a distinctly valuable asset, just as they did in France's World Cup win three years ago. Van de Beek has proven less adaptable.

 

MAKE OR BEEK

Solskjaer tends to have two versions of deep central midfielders. Playmakers like Pogba and Nemanja Matic are generally used in matches where more penetrative passing is needed to unlock low blocks who are happy to give up the ball. When facing stronger, more possession-hungry sides, the United manager has found comfort – and success – in a double pivot of Fred and McTominay, who bring far greater dynamism without the ball.

Van de Beek has, so far, failed to convince as either.

Among United midfielders to play more than three games this season, Van de Beek has produced just one goal and one assist, with only Fred and Matic yet to have a direct goal involvement. Per 90 minutes, he averages roughly three passes into the final third and just 0.3 shots, comfortably the lowest, while only substitute winger Dan James averages fewer touches (60.95).

He appears little better suited to the disruptive role, either. Per 90 minutes this season, Van de Beek averages less than one tackle, half the number of interceptions as McTominay and fewer successful duels than any midfield team-mates except James and Juan Mata. Pogba is top of that particular chart with eight.

Right now, Van de Beek appears suited neither to the recycling service of United's deep midfield nor to the attacking quartet where spontaneity is king. He must adapt soon if his Old Trafford career is going to take off.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that teenagers Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri will be promoted to Manchester United's senior squad.

The young attackers have been playing for United's Under-23s this season and blossomed in Neil Wood's free-scoring team.

Still just 17 and 18, respectively, Shoretire and Mejbri are seemingly now considered a level above that which United's second team play, with both looking destined for big futures.

Shoretire was spotted training with the United first-team squad last week and Mejbri is set to join him, with Solskjaer confirming it is his plan to integrate both into the senior group.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Solskjaer said: "Yeah, we've moved Shola up with us, Hannibal will probably join us, and we'll keep them with us for a while.

"Of course, it's a decision we have to make – are they going to train with us and travel by themselves and not be a part of the Under-23s group?

"We felt, with Shola, it was time for him to train with us. In the Under-23s games, he's just got to travel by himself; he can't be in the dressing room, but we felt it was the right thing to do for him.

"I think it's the next step in their development and we've just got to take the hit on them when they play in the Under-23s – that they've got to travel by themselves, because they're in our [first-team] bubble."

Shoretire and Mejbri have long been considered among the best prospects in United's academy, but what can they offer?

 

HANNIBAL MEJBRI, 18 – ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

Many will have had an eye on Mejbri's development ever since he joined the club from Monaco in August 2019 in a deal that could potentially cost €10million (£8.75m).

A France youth international, Mejbri quickly progressed to United's Under-23s last term despite only being 17 and has become a regular.

A technically gifted attack-minded midfielder, Mejbri has impressed not only with his ability on the ball, but his knack of crafting opportunities for team-mates.

In Premier League 2 Division One, his 42 chances created in 13 games is more than any other player, while his six assists is a joint-best for the league.

He has combined his creativity and comfort in possession to good effect as well, as evidenced by the fact seven of his carries (a movement of more than five metres with the ball) have led to chances created, a figured bettered by only five.

Mejbri has also attempted 49 dribbles, the fourth-most in the division, and won a remarkable 94 fouls – almost three times as many as anyone else – two of which secured penalties in the recent 6-3 win over Liverpool's Under-23s.

In fact, Wood recently urged referees to do more to protect him from such rough treatment, concerned Mejbri will suffer a serious injury if it continues.

He can expect similar attention if he does get minutes in the top flight, though Wood is adamant Mejbri does not let it get to him, saying: "I think he's the type that he wants the ball all the time, he's not going to shy away from it and that's what we want, you don't want your top players being worried, he just needs a bit of protection or it could result in him being badly injured."

SHOLA SHORETIRE, 17 – FORWARD

Shoretire joined the United academy in 2014 having previously played for Newcastle United, and for several years now he has looked like one of the next high-potential kids to come off the Old Trafford production line.

He made his debut for the club's Under-18s in 2018, in doing so becoming the youngest player to ever feature in UEFA's Youth League at 14 years and 314 days.

Shoretire – whose name is pronounced 'Shor-ay-ti-reh' – is most-often used as a winger (on either flank) for the Under-23s, but given his excellent dribbling, vision and finishing abilities, he could potentially have a future as a more central striker.

He signed his first professional contract on Monday, just three days after netting a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers' Under-23s.

That took him to five goals in 13 appearances this term, while he also has four assists from 22 chances created.

Where he comes out particularly well is with regards to goal-ending passing sequences, of which he has been involved in 13 – only Mejbri (14) has a better record here.

Like Mejbri, Shoretire also has a penchant for taking the game to his opponents, as showcased by the fact he has created eight chances at the end of ball carries, the fifth-most in the league.

Given United's packed schedule over the next few weeks, with their European campaign set to resume, it wouldn't be a surprise to see these two make their first-team bows.

Even if they don't this season, it is surely only a matter of time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauded Fred for building a career for himself at Manchester United after a rocky start, with the midfielder preparing to make his 100th appearance for the club.

Fred joined United in 2018 for a reported £52million from Shakhtar Donetsk, the deal seen as a significant coup for the Red Devils after he had been heavily linked with bitter rivals Manchester City. 

Pep Guardiola was said to have seen Fred as the ideal long-term replacement for Fernandinho, but United fans were left underwhelmed by what they saw in his first season at Old Trafford, making just 17 Premier League appearances. 

But he showed signs of improvement last season and has become one of Solskjaer's go-to players for the biggest matches, highlighting the manager's trust. 

In 2019-20, Fred improved virtually across the board statistically, averaging more passes (66.4 to 69.5), interceptions (1.4 to 1.6) and touches (85.3 to 91.1) per game than he had in his first season. 

He has dropped off in some of those areas this term, but his increase in tackle attempts (3.2 from 2.5) and interceptions (at 1.9 this season) per game, coupled with the fact he is losing possession less often (11.5 occasions, down from 14.5 per 90 minutes) suggests he has become more comfortable with his defensive role and the speed of the English game. 

His 3.2 tackles attempted per 90 minutes is the seventh-most of all Premier League players to have featured at least 10 times this term, and Solskjaer has no doubt where the praise should lie. 

"He's really done well. I've enjoyed working with him these past couple of seasons," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to West Brom. 

"When I came in, he was a boy who was struggling a little bit. I got numerous questions about Fred in press conferences early on. As I said then, players coming into a new country, it takes time to settle - and it took some time for Fred to settle. 

"He has settled now, he's grown in confidence. There's less time in the Premier League than what he was used to. He's quickened up his game, he's not getting caught on the ball.

"I'm not going to take any credit for that, of course. It's the coaches - I think Michael Carrick and Kieran [McKenna], they've been brilliant with him, but it's Fred himself who has had the hunger and humility to learn and want to improve, stick at it and keep working. 

"There are not a lot of people who can say they've played 100 games for Manchester United. Hopefully there will be many more [games] to come - and hopefully he will score from outside the box soon, but I'm not sure it’s going to be with his right [foot]! I've tried to tell him." 

With Solskjaer confirming Paul Pogba remains sidelined with a thigh injury, Fred looks likely to play again this weekend and his most-likely partner behind Bruno Fernandes will be another United midfielder who has attracted praise this season. 

Scott McTominay scored the extra-time winner as United beat West Ham 1-0 on Tuesday to book their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals, taking the Scotland international's tally for the season to seven goals. 

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) and Marcus Rashford (16) have more than McTominay across all competitions in 2020-21, with Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani also on seven each, and Solskjaer is urging the midfielder to reach double figures. 

"Of course, to add goals from midfield is vital," Solskjaer continued. "Last season our three forwards were brilliant and really efficient and scored goals - 60 odd - and Bruno came in and scored goals. 

"We need more goals from midfield and Scott does have that ability to go box-to-box. He's a threat inside the box and he used to be a striker. 

"I think for us to move up the league and be successful in the cups, we need our forwards to keep on firing - getting more goals - and I wouldn't mind some midfielders adding a few.

"If Scott can get into double figures then that would be a very good season for a so-called defensive midfielder."

Manchester City are five points clear at the top of the Premier League after their demolition of defending champions Liverpool last time out.

With Guardiola getting the better of one managerial rival already this term in Jurgen Klopp, City's focus now switches to a clash with Jose Mourinho's Tottenham.

Key to City's superb form has been Ilkay Gundogan, who has scored nine goals this season in the league, three more than his previous best of six from 2018-19.

Given he scored twice at Anfield – while also missing a penalty – it would seem a smart decision for fantasy football managers to back Gundogan again this weekend, though which other players should make the cut?

ROBERT SANCHEZ

Another team in fine form as of late have been Brighton and Hove Albion, who have conceded just one goal in their last five top-flight matches, with goalkeeper Robert Sanchez certainly playing his part.

Sanchez ousted Mat Ryan – now on loan at Arsenal – as first choice earlier in the season, and of all goalkeepers to have played at least 10 Premier League games this season, only Ederson (one every 145 minutes) and Edouard Mendy (114 minutes) have a better minutes-per-goal conceded rate than Sanchez (one every 98 minutes). He has played 12 times, conceding 11 goals.

MATT TARGETT

Going up against Brighton this weekend are Aston Villa, and one defender to look out for could be Matt Targett.

Brighton have not scored more than once in a league match since a 3-3 draw with Wolves on January 2, and Villa left-back Targett has been involved in 11 clean sheets this season – more than any other Premier League defender apart from Ruben Dias.

AARON CRESSWELL

If you are looking for a more attacking option, however, then that player may well be West Ham's Aaron Cresswell.

The full-back has registered five league assists this season, second to only Everton's Lucas Digne (six) in terms of defenders, while only Liverpool's Andrew Robertson (38) and Manchester United's Luke Shaw (36) can better his tally of 34 chances created by a defender.

ILKAY GUNDOGAN

In Kevin De Bruyne's absence, Gundogan has come to the fore for Guardiola's team, and the former Borussia Dortmund man is the highest scorer in the Premier League so far in 2021 with seven goals in eight games.

The German's previous seven goals in the competition came over a period of 62 games, dating back to 2018.

JACK GREALISH

With Brighton's Sanchez in such fine form for Brighton, it could be a tough decision for fantasy managers, especially with Jack Grealish being so prominent in Villa's attack.

Grealish, arguably the league's player of the season so far, has been directly involved in five goals in his last five appearances against Brighton in all competitions (four goals, one assist), scoring in his last two games at the Amex.

PATRICK BAMFORD

Leeds United returned to winning ways as they saw off Crystal Palace 2-0 on Monday, with a trip to Arsenal up next on Sunday.

Patrick Bamford scored Leeds' second at Elland Road against Palace, and he has been involved in five goals in his last three Premier League games, netting twice and providing three assists. Eight of his 12 Premier League goals this season have been away from home (67 per cent).

MARCUS RASHFORD

Another forward who has thrived on the road in 2020-21 is Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.

He has netted eight times in the Premier League this season, with six of those goals – 75 per cent – having come away from Old Trafford. The England international has never scored more in a single campaign on the road.

The race for Premier League glory may have tipped in Manchester City's favour but Liverpool are hoping to beat their title rivals in the race for a new star midfielder.

Germany international Florian Neuhaus is the player in demand and his club Borussia Monchengladbach may not be able to hold on to one of Europe's brightest talents.

The 23-year-old is being closely monitored by five major Champions League clubs and there is set to be a battle for his signature in the off-season.


TOP STORY – GERMANY ACE NEUHAUS WANTED BY CITY AND LIVERPOOL

It is understood that Neuhaus has a €40million (£35m) release clause in his contract with Gladbach, according to German media outlet Kicker.

That means Neuhaus will have the pick of his suitors, believed to be City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Italian champions Juventus.

He has already clocked up 81 appearances in the Bundesliga and the Reds see him as a potential replacement for the outgoing Georginio Wijnaldum.

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