Harry Kane faces a race to be fit for Tottenham's clash with Manchester City in the EFL Cup final after missing training on Tuesday.

The striker looks certain not to be involved in Wednesday's Premier League home match against Southampton after suffering an ankle injury in last Friday's 2-2 draw with Everton.

Caretaker head coach Ryan Mason, who took over from the sacked Jose Mourinho on Monday, could offer no guarantee the England captain would be ready for Sunday's Wembley trip.

Mason said in a news conference: "I'm not sure currently. He didn't train today. It's one of those cases of taking it day by day. We're still not sure about the weekend just yet.

"What we do now is Harry's working extremely hard to get over this injury."

Kane has scored 31 goals and had 16 assists across all competitions this season, making him the only player from Europe's 'top five' leagues to score 30 or more times and add at least 15 assists.

Handed the job until the end of the season, rookie coach Mason is a former Tottenham player who had to retire three years ago due to a head injury sustained while at Hull City.

The 29-year-old said he was "very proud" to be chosen to lead the team, and rallied the players by declaring: "I want us to be brave and aggressive and play like Tottenham Hotspur."

Chairman Daniel Levy proposed Mason should succeed Mourinho as interim boss after dismissing the former Chelsea and Manchester United manager.

"We had a very long conversation," Mason said. "I took training, we had another conversation and he asked me if I wanted it."

Former Charlton Athletic and England defender Chris Powell and ex-Watford man Nigel Gibbs will be assistants to Mason.

Mason said he and former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino had "exchanged a few messages" since the dramatic upheaval. He also said he had not spoken to Mourinho.

Mason was in the line-up the last time Saints won at Spurs in the Premier League, a 2-1 victory in May 2016, but Tottenham have typically had Southampton's number in north London, winning eight of their past nine at home in this fixture.

Tottenham's impressive record in home Premier League games on Wednesday is another positive omen as Mason seeks a winning start. Since a 1-0 loss to Leicester City in January 2016, they have won 10 of their 11 such matches (D1), scoring 25 goals and conceding just four.

Son Heung-min scored four goals in Tottenham’s 5-2 win against Southampton in the reverse fixture earlier this season, with all four assisted by Kane. That remains the only occasion in Premier League history when a player has scored four goals in a match with each of them assisted by the same player.

Mason will have plenty to think about as he prepares to boss a team in a Premier League game for the first time, a situation he had not seen coming and described as "crazy".

The man who joined Tottenham's academy as an eight-year-old, going on to reach first-team level and England selection, is determined to take the change of circumstances in his stride.

"It's football," he said. "Anything can happen. You just have to be ready for what football can throw at you at times."

Tottenham should have kept Jose Mourinho in charge for the EFL Cup final as he knows how to set up a team to play against Manchester City, says Wayne Rooney.

The day after confirming their involvement in the 12-club breakaway European Super League, Spurs announced the departure of Mourinho after less than 18 months in charge.

A 2-2 draw away at Everton last week further damaged Tottenham's hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League, while they were knocked out of the Europa League after failing to hold on to a 2-0 first-leg lead against Dinamo Zagreb at the last-16 stage.

However, they do have the possibility of securing silverware on Sunday when they take on City at Wembley, making the timing of Mourinho's departure a surprise to Rooney.

"I think it's crazy doing it before a cup final - strange timing anyway," the Derby County boss told the media.

"Surely they could have waited until after the cup final if that's the direction they wanted to go in? Jose is a fantastic manager, one of the best managers the game has seen.

"Unfortunately, his time has come to an end at Tottenham, but I'm sure he will bounce back. There will be a lot of top clubs out there looking to bring him in."

Rooney worked with Mourinho during his final season as a Manchester United player, including making a brief cameo appearance off the bench in the Europa League final win over Ajax in 2017.

The former England international feels the Portuguese coach could have helped Spurs produce an upset against City, who saw their hopes of a quadruple ended at the weekend when they exited the FA Cup with a semi-final defeat to Chelsea.

"I just think before a cup final, Mourinho is a manager who loves to win trophies, it's clear to see, he's won a lot of trophies throughout his career," Rooney continued.

"I think if there was one manager to set a team up to play against [Manchester] City, in a cup final, it's Jose Mourinho.

"Now, obviously, Tottenham haven't had the best of seasons, so I think from that point of view, I think it's a bit crazy and is a massive risk.

"I'm sure Daniel Levy could have waited until the day after the game because I think that would have made more sense if they wanted to get rid of Mourinho."

Mourinho had replaced Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs during the previous campaign, steering them to a sixth-placed finish in the league.

Rooney expects the former Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid boss to be in demand around the world, despite his latest ill-fated spell in charge of a club.

"I'm sure there are a lot of teams in England who would love to see him managing their clubs," he said on Mourinho's future. 

"So, that's purely up to him if he wants to go into another club in England. I'm sure there are a lot of clubs around the world who would love to have him."

This month's EFL Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham at Wembley will be attended by 8,000 spectators as part of a government test event.

The clash was pushed back from its original February 28 date to April 25 in the hope that supporters would be allowed to attend in some capacity.

With less than three weeks to go until the showdown between City and Spurs, the game has been confirmed as a pilot event to test the return of big crowds.

A proportion of tickets will be made available to both Premier League clubs, with the rest given to local residents in Brent and NHS staff.

The plan is to ensure the safe return of mass gatherings as coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease in England.

It has already been announced that 4,000 locals will be present for the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton on April 18, while 21,000 could be in attendance for the FA Cup final on May 15.

Rick Parry, Chair of the EFL, said in a statement on Sunday: "The Carabao Cup is a prized asset of the EFL, a great competition for clubs to win and always a fantastic occasion so we are absolutely delighted to see supporters back for the 2021 final, in what will hopefully be another important milestone along the way to a full return of fans.

"Football has lots of expertise in crowd management so we welcome the opportunity to support the government in its Events Research Programme and will also take great pride in hosting NHS staff at the final to whom we owe so much for their momentous efforts throughout the pandemic.

"The EFL's broad objective has always been to seek fans return to stadia as soon as it is safe to do so and we welcome the opportunity to play our part working collaboratively with Wembley Stadium, local authorities and specialists overseeing the research programme. 

"These collective efforts will be crucial as we seek a return for fans of EFL clubs for the play-offs and start of the 2021-22 season, so that our members can plan with confidence."

The World Snooker Championship, which runs from April 17 to May 3, will be the first sporting event to be included in the trial and up to 1,000 spectators will attend each day.

Manchester City should still be "very cagey" over their prospects of winning the quadruple, even as the dream moves ever closer.

That is the view of City's former influential captain Richard Dunne, as Pep Guardiola's men sit 14 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

They are away to Leicester City in the top-flight on Saturday, while an EFL Cup final against Tottenham, an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea and a Champions League quarter-final with Borussia Dortmund are all fast approaching this month.

Dunne has relished City's return to peak form in 2020-21 but still thinks it is more likely than not that they come unstuck in one of the three cup competitions, particularly after seeing them lose the derby to Manchester United.

Asked by Stats Perform News about City's hopes of winning the quadruple, Dunne said: "It is very hard.

"When you watch Man City like we have over the last couple of months, you look and go like, 'Nobody is going to stop them'. They just seem like they are wiping everybody away.

"And then the Manchester derby came along, and you could see how United set up and showed a platform of how to beat Man City.

"They showed how to do it, they attacked them, they pressed them high up the field.

"Other teams will try to do it, and some obviously won't be capable of it, but if you talk about Tottenham who are capable of it, then Chelsea are too and certainly Dortmund are as well.

"So if Manchester City aren't 100 per cent in any of those games, then all of the hopes and dreams of a quadruple go out of the window overnight."

It will become increasingly difficult for the players to ignore the prospect of a historic quadruple with every match that passes, according to Dunne.

He added: "I know the manager doesn't want to talk about it. But it is on everybody's mind. It really goes back to taking every game, and every minute of the game, as it comes.

"If they start thinking too far ahead and switch off, the teams in the Champions League are too good to switch off against.

"Certainly Chelsea have proven since Thomas Tuchel has come in that they are a really good side.

"It's great for City as everybody and all the fans want to dream and hope, but you have to be very cagey because there are some tricky games to come."

Dunne hailed the impact of Ruben Dias, a £51million signing from Benfica who has helped to transform City after some major defensive issues last season.

"I think it's been brilliant," Dunne said of City's improvement at the back.

"It's Leicester this weekend, and it's probably going back to Leicester at the Etihad, when they lost 5-2 in September, that they've started to adjust things.

"Ruben Dias has come on in that game. They've started to form a partnership [between him and John Stones], developed a structure in the team that worked.

"Because they became solid and a strong defensive unit, there's no longer that need to score five or six goals and win games. Now they can win games 1-0, and grind games out which we've seen this season.

"It's given them another sort of level to what they've already got.

"We've known for many years about the talent that's in the squad going forward, the ability, but there was always that little fear that there would be a mistake in defensive areas.

"That seems to be completely eradicated this season. The defence is giving them a stronger opportunity to succeed in Europe this year than they had before.

"Pep Guardiola will be very impressed, he'll be delighted with how things are going.

"He's built a side a couple of years ago who scored hundreds of goals, they got 100 and odd points. This side is obviously different, but probably more suited for bigger success than the previous sides."

Manchester United have been let down by "sloppy results" this season but are constantly improving under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to midfielder Scott McTominay.

Solskjaer's side were eliminated from the FA Cup by Leicester City in the last match before the two-week international break – their first domestic away loss in 30 matches.

United were also knocked out of the EFL Cup by Manchester City at the semi-final stage and exited the Champions League in the group phase earlier in the campaign.

However, the Red Devils have advanced past Real Sociedad and Milan to reach the last eight of the Europa League, where Granada await, while they sit second in the Premier League.

United may be 14 points adrift of leaders Manchester City, albeit with a game in hand, but McTominay believes they are heading in the right direction.

"We've got a good group of players with top, top quality," he told ESPN.

"People are quite quick to forget how well we've done at times. It's the sloppy results that have let us down. This team is evolving. It's not a time to panic."

McTominay has appeared 39 times for United in all competitions this season, which is the most times he has featured for his boyhood club since making his debut in 2016-17.

He ranks particularly highly among United midfielders in the Premier League this term for duels won, his average of 6.54 per 90 minutes behind only Paul Pogba (8.08).

The Scotland international's game has also improved in other areas since last season.

McTominay's average of 46.54 successful passes per game in the top flight is an increase on 41.59 from last season, while his passing accuracy has gone from 80.91 per cent in 2019-20 to 87.58 this term.

Meanwhile, his tally of four goals puts him behind only Bruno Fernandes (16) in regards to United's highest-scoring midfielders.
 
"'I'm not perfect every game and I know that," McTominay said as he looked ahead to the future. "I've got a lot to improve on but there's also things I do well so I'm just trying to improve and kickstart my game to another level. 

"I just want to do my best. It's about consistency and playing well over the course of a season."

United return to action on Sunday with a Premier League meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford, where they will be aiming to make it six wins in a row against the Seagulls in all competitions, netting exactly three times in the last four.

Jose Mourinho "would love" to bring silverware to Tottenham to mark two decades at the helm for chairman Daniel Levy.

Spurs face Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday, which will mark 20 years since Levy assumed the role following ENIC's takeover in 2001.

While Levy's reign has proven a huge commercial success, on-field glory remains scarce, with the 2008 EFL Cup triumph providing the only exception.

Premier League title tilts have floundered, while the 2018-19 campaign ended with a Champions League final loss to Liverpool.

Mourinho, a serial trophy-winner, was brought in to replace Mauricio Pochettino a matter of months after that defeat in Spain, and he has his heart set on success.

As well as the Europa League, Spurs have an EFL Cup final with Manchester City on the horizon, and Mourinho – who is approaching a milestone of his own – is hoping to make some additions to the trophy cabinet as reward for Levy's work.

"I would love to help and be part of the work that will deliver a trophy. I would love it," he said.

"I don't think sometimes it's fair for an owner, CEO or president to be judged on trophies. Many times they depend on others too.

"I think there are many ways to look at work in football and the work has been done in this club, independent of the trophies the club didn't get.

"The work is in other aspects. It's a big club now in many aspects and that's down to the work he's done and the structure he has put in place.

"But trophies are the salt and pepper of football and I would love to, not just for him but for the players and fans and everyone, help.

"I'm not a big guy on stats but my 1,000th match arrives this season and it would also be nice to celebrate that with a trophy with him."

In between the two legs of their Europa League showdown with Dinamo, Spurs take on Arsenal in the north London derby, but Mourinho urged focus on the immediate task at hand.

"I am not thinking about the Arsenal match," he said.

"I am thinking about his one. We will make changes the same way we made changes between the Fulham and the Crystal Palace match.

"The team is playing well and the team is winning, so you could say no changes, but we change.

"We won't play with the same team that played against Palace but the team will be equally strong."

One question mark is over the involvement of the in-form Gareth Bale, who has scored six goals in as many games and provided three assists, with Mourinho insisting the Wales forward's playing time needed to be carefully managed.

"I want to keep the momentum going but I need to manage him," he said.

"The communication is very good and I think he trusts me. In this moment we are deciding together what to do.

"He's playing very well. The relationship with him is very good I think and, of course, I would like him to play 90 minutes in every game, but he can't."

Manchester City made history on Wednesday as they cruised to a routine 3-1 FA Cup fifth-round victory at Swansea City.

It was the 15th consecutive win across all competitions for Pep Guardiola's Premier League leaders – setting a new record for any top-flight team in English football.

Sunday's comprehensive 4-1 triumph over Liverpool at Anfield brought them level with Arsenal's 1987 vintage and Preston North End back in 1892, who won 14 in a row.

Goals from Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus in Wales ensured City now hold the record outright.

In 2017-18, they prevailed in 20 consecutive matches, although there was a penalty shoot-out win over Wolves in the EFL Cup during that run and Opta classifies such matches as draws.

Given their recent record from the spot, it is perhaps handy that City have not required penalties in their current streak.

Here, we look at the numbers behind a dominant run unprecedented in scope.

Gundo in the goals

Sterling scored the goal that set City on their way into the record books, netting decisively in a 1-0 win at Southampton on December 19.

His goal at Swansea takes him to six in 10 starts during the period in question, the same as England colleague Phil Foden, who has played 905 minutes to Sterling's 856.

But it is Ilkay Gundogan who leads the way. The Germany international's brace against Liverpool improved upon what was already the most prolific season of his professional career.

In 13 appearances and 12 starts during the winning run, Gundogan has eight goals at an average of one every 124.5 minutes.

Jesus had to reckon with a positive coronavirus test during City's prolific stretch, although he now has five goals from seven starts, with a strike every 139.8 minutes second only to Gundogan in terms of frequency.

Kev the creator

PFA Players' Player of the Year Kevin De Bruyne was typically influential before suffering a hamstring injury during last month's 2-0 win over Aston Villa.

Despite being restricted to eight appearances and 621 minutes on the field, his five assists are more than any of his team-mates have managed during this period.

Foden, Bernardo Silva (who also has three goals) and defensive midfielder Rodri are up next on three assists.

Extra time on the pitch has allowed Foden to rack up 28 chances created, ahead of De Bruyne with 24.

Gundogan's all-round importance is highlighted by his 21 opportunities laid on for others, while Joao Cancelo and Riyad Mahrez have crafted 18 and 17 respectively. All three have two assists apiece.

 

Dominant Dias

Ruben Dias was the only ever-present during the winning run until Guardiola allowed him to sit out the trip to Swansea.

The Portugal centre-back has been a transformative presence since joining for a club-record £62million from Benfica last September and was involved in nine clean sheets over the course of the 15 matches – one more than his centre-back partner John Stones and first-choice goalkeeper Ederson.

Dias' 21 interceptions are the most during this time from any City player, as are his 1,141 passes at a completion rate of 92.81 – better than any colleague to have played three games or more.

Headed clearances and aerials won are also categories where Dias performs strongly, although Rodri leads the way here with 18 and 41 respectively.

The Spain international has won 31 one of his aerials, level with Aymeric Laporte and no one can better his 27 tackles – a stock in trade for a man operating at the base of the midfield.

Rodri's importance to the cause means the sight of him limping off during the second half at the Liberty Stadium could compromise City when the look to swagger on this weekend against Tottenham – the last side to beat them competitively, 23 matches ago.

Kevin De Bruyne created his 100th goal for Manchester City across all competitions with a stunning cross that teed up John Stones' opener against Crystal Palace.

Having previously gone close to hitting the landmark when he attempted to set up Raheem Sterling, De Bruyne reached a century of assists in supreme style in the 26th minute on Sunday.

After Palace failed to clear their lines from a corner, De Bruyne floated in a wonderful right-wing cross with the outside of his foot, dropping the delivery precisely onto the head of Stones, who celebrated his second Premier League goal and his first for City.

It means the Belgium playmaker has now created 31 more Premier League goals than any other player since he made his debut for City in 2015.

Of his 100 assists, 75 have come in the Premier League, from 165 appearances, while the 29-year-old has crafted 15 goals in the Champions League, from 37 games played.

A further five have come in the FA Cup, with four in the EFL Cup – which City have won four times during De Bruyne's time with the club – and one assist has come in Champions League qualification.

Paul Pogba has warned Manchester United they will continue to fall short of winning the "big stuff" if they do not improve on "details" after losing to Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final thanks to two set-pieces.

City became only the second side to reach four successive finals in the competition on Wednesday, while it was a third semi-final elimination in four EFL Cup campaigns for United.

On top of that, it was a fourth consecutive semi-final defeat for United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer across all competitions, having fallen to City in the same competition in 2019-20 as well as losing to Chelsea and Sevilla in the FA Cup and Europa League respectively.

United have made undoubted progress under Solskjaer, as evidenced by the fact a point against Burnley next Tuesday will take them top of the Premier League for the first time since the opening day of the 2018-19 season – their 2-1 win over Leicester City was the only game that day.

But Pogba has warned United they will not win the biggest matches if they do not sharpen up around certain situations, with City's two goals on Wednesday coming from dead-ball situations.

Speaking to MUTV, the France international said: "It is disappointing because it is not the first one against City at home. We are disappointed with the result, obviously, with the two goals from set-pieces.

"It is very annoying to lose because there is a trophy behind all of this. We have to do better, we have to do better for sure. It is about details.

"Details make the difference all of the time and now when it is big games like this, it is details and at set-pieces we lost. We have to learn because it is not the first time.

"We have to learn, we have to get through this because, after this, there are big games coming up. Next time, we will do better, we will do better.

"We are improving. Last year they [City] were obviously more dominant and they dominated us [in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final]. That wasn't the case [this time], so obviously we are improving.

"We are improving in the league and, even though we lost in the semi-final, we are still going far and that is what we want. But now it is about details. It is good to improve but we have to go to the next step now, all of us."

Up next for United at the weekend is an FA Cup clash with Championship side Watford, before then going to Burnley for their rearranged fixture from the start of the season on Tuesday, and a top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool follows that.

Pogba looked to remind the team that they cannot afford to mope in the wake of defeat to City given the importance of the games on the horizon.

"There is no time to be disappointed for a week because we know where we are. We are in a good position now. We don't have time to be disappointed. We don't have the time. We will get through this and we will go again," he added.

"It is difficult, and it is going to be difficult, and you learn from these games. It is going to hopefully help us to get through, to get better and to have a positive result in the next games.

"Football and playing for Man United is not easy, it will never be easy, but it makes the victory prettier and more beautiful when we get through a tough time, then we get through this.

"It is beautiful, and you get the emotion. That is all we want. That is what the fan wants, that is what the team wants, everyone wants this. The club is built on winning and big things, so that is all we want to get – the big stuff."

Pep Guardiola said John Stones had proven he belongs at Manchester City after a derby win over United in the EFL Cup semi-finals.

Stones scored his first City goal since November 2017 and Fernandinho sealed a 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Wednesday as the three-time defending champions booked a spot in the final against Tottenham.

The City defender, who was relieved to see the flag raised after the ball bounced off him and into his own net during the semi-final, has been in good form this season, and his six possessions gained against United were the equal best for his side.

City manager Guardiola was full of praise for Stones, who had appeared on the outer at the club before beginning to impress.

"He came back and he made another outstanding performance – but the most important thing is he can do something he hasn't been able to do – play four, five, six games in a row. This is important," he told a news conference.

"He had to handle [Marcus] Rashford, who is dangerous and clever, and the quality of his passes to Joao [Cancelo] were outstanding. All the team, Fernandinho, our captain, what a performance again. He read the game incredibly well, he moved the team. Outstanding.

"All the players – [Ilkay] Gundogan, Raheem [Sterling], Phil [Foden] ... all the team."

Guardiola added: "All credit [to Stones]. Football is a long career – it is up and down, sometimes bad moments. He was out longer than we expected but he came back and he absolutely belongs here.

"We can help him but when someone plays like this, it's credit to him. Hopefully he can continue in this way."

Pep Guardiola dedicated Manchester City's 2-0 EFL Cup semi-final win over Manchester United to club great Colin Bell.

Former City and England midfielder Bell died on Tuesday after a short illness, aged 74.

City's players wore retro shirts bearing Bell's number eight before kick-off at Old Trafford, where a minute's silence was observed.

When the action got underway, an absorbing contest at odds with a dour 0-0 draw between the sides in the Premier League last month ensued, with City prevailing thanks to second-half goals from John Stones and Fernandinho.

"It's for him and, of course, for his family," Guardiola told Sky Sports in a post-match interview which he conducted wearing a t-shirt featuring Bell's likeness.

"This person helped to build something special for this club that doesn't have many, many trophies in the cabinet. But that is not important.

"What is important is the legacy that players provide from the past and some of these players in the future. That is the club we have now.

"It is an incredible victory for us to beat United away and be in another final.

"But especially today, it is for him. Absolutely."

City might be considered to have "many, many" EFL Cups if they are able to claim a fourth in a row against Tottenham in April's final.

Guardiola praised his players for a notable upturn in form of late after they followed up Sunday's swashbuckling 3-1 win over Chelsea in impressive fashion, despite Scott Carson and Cole Palmer taking the number of positive COVID-19 tests among his squad to eight since Christmas Day.

"You are frustrated when you play bad. When the team don't run, don't help, don't celebrate every defensive action," he said, rejecting the suggestion he was unhappy after a goalless first half.

"The team is ready. That is why we came here with an outstanding performance.

"We suffered a little bit in the second half because we were tired after the game at Stamford Bridge. They had two more days off to rest but when a team has the mentality to do it we achieve something incredible.

"I know the Carabao Cup is not the Champions League but four times in a row reaching the final is incredible. I am so impressed by the quality of this team."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put Manchester United's latest semi-final heartbreak down to facing "probably the best team in England" rather than a psychological issue after their derby defeat to Manchester City.

John Stones scored his first City goal since November 2017 early in the second half and Fernandinho sealed a 2-0 EFL Cup victory seven minutes from time at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

United had just two shots on target as they suffered a fourth semi-final defeat out of four since Solskjaer took over as manager.

City looked ominous once again as they extended their unbeaten run to 12 matches, setting up a showdown with Tottenham at Wembley, where they will be favourites to win the competition for a sixth time in eight seasons on April 25.

Solskjaer was disappointed by the way United conceded but gave great credit to Pep Guardiola's in-form side.

"Manchester City can score many great goals. You can accept that. When you concede two simple set-plays, it's very disappointing. Just not good enough in those moments," he told Sky Sports.

"We didn't create enough big chances. They didn't either. We didn't have the extra finesse we've had in the games lately, we weren't good enough.

"We played against a very good Manchester City team, they played well. When they play well you have to play very well to beat them. We were just lacking that little bit."

Yet Solskjaer does not see any need to read too much into the Red Devils' record in semi-finals during his reign.

"We're getting closer. This is a much better version of United than a year ago in those semis," he added.

"It's not psychological [losing another semi-final]. Sometimes you meet good teams in the semis. At the moment, City are probably the best team in England."

As Manchester City's players huddled around the centre circle in number eight shirts to pay a poignant pre-match tribute to Colin Bell, it occurred a Pep Guardiola team might never have been so fittingly dressed.

England international Bell, widely revered as the finest player in City's history, passed away after a short illness on the eve Wednesday's 2-0 Manchester derby win the semi-final of the EFL Cup.

Bell, according to the loud and often repeated refrain of the Kippax Stand at City's old Maine Road home, was the greatest inside forward that the world had ever seen.

A technically gifted all-round midfielder, somehow simultaneously graceful and powerful, Bell thrived in those dangerous pockets between winger and centre-forward to cause maximum damage in Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison's celebrated City teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The inside forward had long gone out of fashion before Pep Guardiola ushered in his era of "free eights". From Xavi and Iniesta, through Thiago Alcantara and Toni Kroos to David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, City's former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss delights in filling his side with such players.

During Sunday's swaggering 3-1 win over Chelsea, De Bruyne was joined in the line-up by Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva. That quartet of playmakers probably would have resumed duties together at Old Trafford had Silva not been suspended.

After paying tribute to City's eternal eight, Guardiola's team of number eights got to work. Where the league fixture on this ground a month ago was as stodgy as the pitches Bell graced in his heyday, the pop and fizz to the early passing was much more in "Nijinsky's" image.

John Stones ended his long goal drought as holders Manchester City secured a 2-0 derby win over Manchester United to set up an EFL Cup final showdown with Tottenham.

Stones has been outstanding at the heart of the City defence since forcing his way back into the side this season and he scored his first City goal in 1,162 days at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

The in-form centre-back had earlier put the ball in his own net early on but Marcus Rashford was offside, summing up how his fortunes have changed.

United were unable to respond following Stones' goal early in the second half and Fernandinho doubled City's lead seven minutes from time with an excellent finish.

Pep Guardiola's side were worthy winners, dumping their neighbours out at the same stage they did 12 months ago as they aim to win the competition for a fourth consecutive season.

 

 

Manchester City have confirmed Scott Carson, Cole Palmer and one staff member have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Premier League club have been massively impacted by COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, with six first-team squad members being forced to sit out Sunday's 3-1 win at Chelsea.

Ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final clash with Manchester United, City have announced three more positive cases in the latest round of testing.

"Manchester City FC can confirm that Scott Carson, Cole Palmer and one member of staff have tested positive for COVID-19," a club statement read.

"Both personnel will now observe a period of self-isolation in accordance with Premier League and UK Government protocol on quarantine.

"Everyone at the club wishes Scott, Cole and all of our other colleagues a speedy recovery ahead of their return to work, training and competition."

Teenage academy product Palmer has featured twice for City this term in cup competitions, while third-choice keeper Carson has yet to make an appearance.

City previously had to shut their training centre following last month's initial coronavirus outbreak, which led to their trip to Everton being postponed four hours before kick-off.

Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker and Eric Garcia are all confirmed to have contracted the respiratory illness, while Ederson previously confirmed he was self-isolating.

Defender Benjamin Mendy was named among the substitutes for the Chelsea match, despite breaching coronavirus regulations by hosting a New Year's Eve dinner party.

Meanwhile, four Manchester City Women players tested positive on Tuesday.

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