Jose Mourinho doubts Dele Alli will leave Tottenham before the transfer deadline despite links with Paris Saint-Germain.

Alli has played only four times in the Premier League this season, those appearances amounting to just 75 minutes.

Having once looked like a future star of English football, the 24-year-old's career now appears to be at a major crossroads, with Mourinho seemingly unconvinced by him.

Mauricio Pochettino's appointment at PSG earlier this month seemed to be a lifeline for Alli, as a reunion with his former coach appeared to be on the cards.

But now Mourinho is not expecting any movement on that front, with Alli looking set to remain at least until the end of the season.

"I expect [Alli to stay] and I am saying that since the beginning of the window," Mourinho told reporters ahead of Thursday's clash with Liverpool.

"I was not expecting anyone to leave or expecting anyone to come. We are almost at the end of the window. I don't believe that anything will happen but it is open still."

When pressed on the matter, asked if there was still a chance Alli could leave, Mourinho added: "Football is football and the transfer window is open and sometimes unexpected things can happen but I don't expect it."

It was under Pochettino's guidance that Alli initially exploded in the Premier League, with his 63 top-flight goal involvements bettered by only six players across the attacking midfielder's first three seasons in the division.

He was proving a real weapon for Spurs in his role behind Harry Kane, and his 26 assists over the same period was the fifth highest in the Premier League – Alli found such consistency despite being significantly younger than those he was competing with.

But his form began to suffer towards the end of Pochettino's time at the club, scoring just two goals before the Argentinian was sacked last season in November 2019.

He then enjoyed something of a resurgence initially under Mourinho, adding another four goals to his tally by the end of January.

But after the Premier League's hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic, he made just one more domestic start and has been firmly out of the picture in 2020-21.

However, Tanguy Ndombele is living proof that Mourinho's perception can be changed, with the Frenchman now a key part of the Spurs side despite his days appearing numbered last term - his 14 Premier League starts in 2020-21 is already two more than the entirety of 2019-20.

"It was him, his responsibility," Mourinho said. "We always showed him the right way and demand a lot from him. If I did anything positive with him I believe it was not to play him when he was not in real conditions to play.

"I believe that we used some matches last season to expose his fragilities at the time. His physical condition was not especially good as an example but always his responsibility.

"He trains very hard, plays very hard with the ball and without it, tactically he understands what the team needs from him. He's feeling great and feeling very positive. It's his responsibility."

No one at Liverpool will ever rush to take comfort from any defeat to Manchester United.

But, amid the rubble of Sunday's 3-2 loss at Old Trafford in the fourth round of the FA Cup, there were signs the Premier League's most-celebrated frontline of recent times were clicking back into gear.

Mohamed Salah scored both Liverpool goals and will hope to end a top-flight drought stretching back to December's 7-0 shellacking of Crystal Palace when Tottenham host the defending champions on Thursday.

Perhaps more significantly, each of Salah's strikes were laid on by Roberto Firmino.

Aside from trying to work out who on earth will play at centre-back on any given week, it feels like Jurgen Klopp has spent more time on public defences of the Brazil centre-forward than anything else this season.

The Reds boss claimed he would be "embarrassed" to list all of Firmino's qualities and said "I can't help these people, sorry" when asked to explain the player's worth to the doubters.

Later in November he labelled Firmino "a complete footballer", not to mention a pretty impressive musician, who "plays something like 12 instruments in our orchestra".

However, since the symphonic grandeur of their display at Palace, Liverpool have not been able to move for bum notes in front of goal.

Firmino has not found the net in any competitive game since that trip to Selhurst Park, and former Anfield favourite Jamie Carragher singled him out after the 0-0 top-flight draw against United earlier this month.

"I'm still confident Sadio Mane and Salah will start scoring goals again," he said on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football. "I must say I am worried for Firmino."

Again, Klopp went in to bat for the former Hoffenheim man. But is it fair for the 29-year-old to repeatedly receive such scrutiny? Conversely, is Klopp motivated by anything more than loyalty to a diligent servant by this point?

Bobby's strike rate not dazzling

Firmino's five Premier League goals this season have come from 46 shots with an expected goals (xG) value of 6.9. He is yet to score in the Champions League.

Under-performing his xG is not exactly new territory for him. When widely hailed as a key member of a dominant title-winning team last season, his nine league goals from 99 shots came in well below an xG of 14.

When Spurs and Liverpool met at Anfield last month, Firmino netted a 90th-minute winner to snatch a 2-1 victory. These are the sort of "heavy goals" that will endear a player to a manager.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season, when the Salah-Mane-Firmino trident first came together, 16 of Firmino's 41 Premier League goals have been winners, or 39 per cent.

Mane (56) and Salah (86) have scored more often and netted more winners (17 and 26 respectively) but their percentage of decisive goals is slightly lower at 30.

Salah heads into Thursday's game as the Premier League's top scorer with 13 goals – one ahead of Spurs duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min on 12 apiece – and 19 in all competitions.

Given goalscoring has never been hailed as Firmino's forte, perhaps it is Mane's drop off inside the penalty area that should be a greater cause for concern.

The Senegal international's six Premier League goals have arrived from 52 attempts with an xG value of 7.4. Amid a career-best run of form on the way to the title, Mane's 18 top-flight goals comfortably outstripped an xG of 13.7.

Diogo Jota's perceived importance to Liverpool has skyrocketed during his injury absence and the former Wolves man's nine goals across the Premier League and Champions League from an xG of 4.9 give him a solid argument to be picked ahead of either Mane or Firmino when fitness allows.

Old Trafford sea change?

As mentioned above, Firmino showcased a key facet of his game at the weekend by laying on both Salah strikes and creating four chances overall – his most in a game this season.

He now has five assists in all competitions this term, set against four for Salah and three from Mane.

However, he has created notably fewer chances – 28 compared to Salah's 41 and Mane's 40.

Indeed, using Opta's expected assists (xA) metric, we can see that in the Premier League and Champions League combined, Firmino has created a lower quality of chances cumulatively.

The trio have three open play assists apiece in those competitions, although Salah's open play xA is four, with Mane's 2.9 and Firmino's 2.3.

Heavy metal football for the multi-instrumentalists 

Outside of their goal involvements, the collective work rate of the Liverpool front three, their willingness to do the dirty work and set the tone for Klopp's gegenpressing machine has become a trademark.

Firmino is particularly celebrated in this regard. Per 90 minutes, his tackles (1.24 > 1.06), interceptions (0.3 > 0.24) and instances of winning possession in the final third (1.08 > 0.82) are all down on last season. With 1.52 tackles per 90 and 0.4 interceptions, he is being outperformed by Mane in these aspects.

However, in the context of a condensed Premier League schedule placing extra strain on players, this is not an especially alarming drop.

Liverpool's high turnovers per game are down to 8.9 from 10.7 last season, meaning they have swapped positions with Manchester City at the top of those rankings.

They remain second to City in terms of shot-ending high turnovers. Pep Guardiola's team have managed to maintain their level in this regard, averaging 2.2 high turnovers per game compared to 2.1 in 2019-20. Liverpool's per 90 drop is from 1.7 to 1.3.

Regarding pressed sequences per game, Klopp's men are holding steady as the best team in the league – 17.5 compared to 18.1 from the season gone.

They are also allowing slightly fewer passes per defensive action (PPDA) in the Premier League, with 10.1 in 2020-21 compared to 10.3. On this metric, possibly due to poor early-season form and some atypically cautious performances that followed, City have dropped from 10.1 to 11.4.

Creating and hustling

Of course, the Liverpool front three's work off the ball would not be so notable without them doing the business once it's at their feet.

Looking a little deeper than goals and assists data, Salah and Mane ranked in the Premier League's top 10 when it comes to involvement in open play sequences ending in a shot before the start of this midweek round.

Firmino came in 11th with 89 involvements, behind Mane on 100 (sixth) and Salah with 102 (fifth). Of those sequences to yield goals, Salah has featured in 12, compared to nine and six for Mane and Firmino respectively.

The Brazilian has suffered from some poor finishing at the end of his involvements. The cumulative xG for the sequences he played a part in is 12.3, slightly better than Mane (11.6) and Salah (10.8).

An Opta metric where Firmino certainly lives up to his reputation is the seven times he has started a period of possession that ended in a shot this term. That puts him joint seventh in the Premier League overall as the highest ranked striker in a category where Rodri, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and N'Golo Kante are among the high flyers – defensive midfielders whose primary role is winning the ball back to get their teams on the front foot.

The pain of Kane - the perfect hybrid

The temptation before Thursday might be to point towards Kane as the centre-forward Liverpool would love Firmino to be. The England captain's incredible alliance with Son demonstrates being a scorer or a provider is not an either/or equation.

Kane has 12 Premier League goals and has laid on 11 more. Firmino's best assist tally over the course of an entire top-flight season was eight en route to glory last time around.

Unflattering comparisons are easy to reach for but, as the numbers above demonstrate, Firmino and Liverpool's front three as a collective have not fallen too dramatically from the performance levels that made them the most feared attack in Europe.

Virgil van Dijk's injury, influential midfielders being deployed in defence in his absence and the knock-on in terms of both midfield balance and the effectiveness of attacking full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson look like more plausible explanations for Liverpool's malaise.

Even so, a fifth goal against Tottenham and a third consecutive winner in this fixture would be the best way to stop Klopp making another weary argument in Firmino's favour.

Jurgen Klopp insists Liverpool still have the potential to fight for the Premier League title, though he continues to take a long-term view regarding the reigning champions' recent form. 

Liverpool are stuck on a five-match winless streak in the league, while hopes of an extended FA Cup run came to an end on Sunday with a 3-2 defeat at rivals Manchester United. 

Klopp saw some positives in the fourth-round tie but is not interested in the idea of the United game acting as a turning point in the campaign, particularly with a trip to top-four rivals Tottenham up next. 

Ahead of Thursday's game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the Reds boss made clear he wants his team to be "really annoying" to play against as they look to rediscover a winning formula.

"I want it [the Manchester United game] to be the turning point, but the turning point with the result would be nice," Klopp told the media. "There was a lot of good stuff but, of course, we conceded three goals. This is not what we want. 

"The general situation is a challenge – but a challenge is good. I'm not the person who sits here and thinks my life should be perfect and my team has to win all the football games.  

"If something is going wrong you have to work on it. That's what we are doing.  

"If I say it's the turning point and then against Tottenham we don't play like that, people say we have to start again. We can't consistently start new, we started already a while ago. 

"We will stay on track, we will do that, be really annoying and fight hard. We will be positive for the positive things and critical of the not-so positive things – that is what we do.  

"I know people expect me to be in a bad mood or whatever, but I'm not. I take the situation like it is and make sure we are ready to go out and fight. We will be ready for one tomorrow night. Where it will lead us? I don't know. 

"We cannot change the last month. I'm not only a good-weather coach. In all circumstances, you need to have the right answers. The right answer to this is: Respond. Choose some things, keep those that are really good."

Klopp was asked in his pre-match press conference on Wednesday if the mental approach from his players had changed, considering their success in the previous campaign. 

Liverpool won the title at a canter to end a 30-year wait to be crowned champions again, but while they are off the pace right now, the German coach made clear it is not due to a lack of effort. 

"Of course, things are different," he said. "Because the results are different people may say it's worse, but that's not true. You cannot judge them because of the short-term results.  

"We make all decisions for the long term. We will give our absolute everything this season. It's not about defending the title, it's about winning football games. It was always like this. Defending or attacking the title, we have to say that because you ask me. 

"This club and this team has the potential to fight for the title. We will see if we can make that happen, make it closer again this year. If not, we will try next year.  

"We give our absolute everything this season, especially for the next game. With all the difficulties we've had, we try really hard all we can. We get judged for that, that's how it is.  

"I understand 100 per cent people think we don't try hard enough, but I tell you we will continue to do so."

Thomas Tuchel has been gifted such a talented squad at Chelsea, according to Jurgen Klopp, who described the decision to sack Frank Lampard as "really harsh". 

Having confirmed Lampard's departure on Monday, Chelsea announced Tuchel's appointment just over 24 hours later, initially on a contract that runs through until the end of the 2021-22 season. 

Chelsea's spending in the previous transfer window, including bringing in Bundesliga talents Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, certainly gives their new head coach plenty to work with. 

Still, Klopp felt Lampard deserved more time and hopes the former England international can go on to enjoy a fresh start elsewhere in his managerial career, free from the pressures of being in charge at a club where he has such a deep personal history. 

"Two things have happened. One is that Frank Lampard lost his job and I have to say, that's a really tough one, to be honest," Klopp told the media. 

"I think Chelsea did an incredible job in the transfer market in the summer, bought in really good players. Things like this need time – it's completely normal. 

"I think it's really harsh to make that decision that early, but Mr Abramovich gives you some chances – money, players, whatever – but is not the most patient person in the world, obviously.   

"I feel for Frank because he's a young, really talented manager. I wish him only the best. He will be fine, I'm sure. It's a hard one if it's your club, and obviously Chelsea was Frank's club.  

"Maybe it's good now the story is over. He can go everywhere and be completely fresh and without any history."

As for the new man in charge at Chelsea, Klopp knows all about his fellow German's qualities - Tuchel replaced the current Liverpool boss at Borussia Dortmund in 2015 - and expects him to have an impact at Stamford Bridge. 

"For Thomas Tuchel, it's great. Unfortunately, a really good, good manager," Klopp joked. "I've known him a long [time] and respect him a lot.  

"This Chelsea squad is a present, eh? I'm pretty sure Thomas sees it like that. They will be good." 

Klopp and Tuchel will go up against each other in the Premier League in late March when Chelsea visit the reigning champions. 

However, it will not be Tuchel's first experience of being in the opposing dugout at Anfield. He was in charge of the Dortmund team that famously lost 4-3 in the second leg of a Europa League quarter-final in April 2016, while he also suffered defeat there with Paris Saint-Germain in a Champions League group game in September 2018.

The battle to sign David Alaba continues among European giants, while Thomas Tuchel is eyeing Dayot Upamecano at Chelsea.

Alaba, 28, is set to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season and it was reported this month the defender had agreed a deal with Real Madrid.

But it seems the race to secure the Austria international's signature remains on.

 

TOP STORY – EUROPEAN GIANTS FIGHT FOR ALABA

Real Madrid have offered Alaba €11million per year and Manchester City are prepared to give the Bayern Munich star €14m, according to AS.

The report says Manchester United, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are also battling to sign Alaba.

Alaba has won nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Bayern.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuchel's appointment as Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday, and the former PSG boss is already looking to strengthen. Bild reports Tuchel wants RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano at Stamford Bridge. It comes as The Guardian reports Chelsea's interest in West Ham midfielder Declan Rice is likely to end following Frank Lampard's sacking.

- Real Madrid have work to do before the end of the season. Marca reports Luka Modric has agreed a new contract with Madrid, while Sergio Ramos and Lucas Vazquez are yet to accept offers. The report says Karim Benzema, Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez are their next priorities.

- Eric Garcia is linked with a move to Barcelona. Sport reports the next president of the Catalan giants must ratify the defender's five-year deal if the Manchester City defender is to arrive ahead of next season.

- Out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain the end of the season, Angel Di Maria's future is uncertain. L'Equipe reports the attacker, though, is on track for an extension with the Ligue 1 giants.

- Staying at PSG and the club are still pushing to sign Dele Alli on loan, according to Fabrizio Romano, who reports Tottenham are unwilling to let the midfielder go until they sign a replacement.

- Jordi Alba turns 32 in March and Barcelona are considering the left-back's successor. Mundo Deportivo reports Valencia's Jose Gaya and Chelsea's Marcos Alonso are candidates.

For so long, Real Madrid have been linked with Kylian Mbappe but will the LaLiga champions bring the French forward to the Santiago Bernabeu?

Mbappe is reportedly open to the idea of making the move to the Spanish capital.

However, Liverpool could be ready to hijack any transfer.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE TO MADRID?

Kylian Mbappe dominates the front pages of Tuesday's Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo as Real Madrid try to sign the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid at the end of the season.

While the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic impacts Madrid, the Spanish giants are still working on a deal to prise the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu, with Vinicius Junior a possible makeweight.

Mundo Deportivo says Premier League champions Liverpool are ready to pounce should Madrid fail to sign Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

- Onda Cero reports PSG have offered Madrid captain Sergio Ramos a three-year deal worth €15million a season. Ramos is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the superstar has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Juventus.

- Both Madrid and Barcelona are considering a shock move for Roma striker Edin Dzeko, according to Mundo Deportivo. Dzeko has had a falling out with under-fire head coach Paulo Fonseca, prompting links to Juve and Inter.

Thomas Tuchel is set to be named Frank Lampard's Chelsea replacement, with Fabrizio Romano claiming an announcement is "just a matter of time". Tuchel was sacked by PSG in December.

- The Athletic says Juve have identified Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres as a long-term replacement for veteran Giorgio Chiellini. Torres has also been linked with United, Manchester City, Barca, Madrid and Chelsea.

Tottenham have approached PSG's Angel Di Maria, who is out of contract at the end of the season, according to L'Equipe. Di Maria has history in England, having spent a difficult season playing for United in 2014-15.

- Sport 1 says Borussia Dortmund are interested in Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli. The likes of Juve and City have also emerged as suitors.

Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes insisted he does not need to be rested after coming off the bench to secure FA Cup victory over rivals Liverpool.

Fernandes was among the substitutes in Sunday's 3-2 FA Cup fourth-round triumph at Old Trafford, where he was introduced in the second half and scored the match-winning 78th-minute free-kick.

The Portugal international has now scored 28 goals for United in all competitions since his debut in February 2020 – more than any other player for a Premier League club.

Fernandes has helped rejuvenate United, who have gone from struggling to qualify for the Champions League to topping the Premier League table through 19 matches in 2020-21.

But Fernandes dismissed claims he is tired, saying: "Tired? With 26 years old I can't be tired. If I'm tired now, when I arrive at 30, 32, I will not play.

"I will play one game in five [days] so, no, I'm not tired."

Fernandes, who dropped out of the starting line-up for Donny van de Beek against Liverpool, added: "Of course the coach knows what is better for the team and he chose to play with Donny to give some freshness to the team.

"I think it's fair enough because Donny is training really well, he's been important for us and will be more and more important in the future."

Former Sporting CP captain Fernandes is determined to lead United to silverware, following three semi-final appearances last season in the Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United, who last won the Premier League in 2012-13, also lost in the semi-finals of this season's EFL Cup.

"I don't conform with [the idea that] losing games is normal stuff," said Fernandes. "For me, losing is not normal so my mentality comes from that, you know? I always was like this. I don’t like to lose, so maybe the mentality is more like I don't like to lose.

"Also playing whatever it is, when I was playing with my friends, my brother, my neighbours, I never wanted to lose, I want to win every time. This mentality will be with me for the rest of my life, I think."

United – two points clear of neighbours Manchester City, who have a game in hand – face Sheffield United on Wednesday, are through to the FA Cup fifth round and will meet Real Sociedad in the Europa League last 32.

Fernandes said: "I came to the club because I knew this is a club who wants to win everything. So you have to be confident, you have to trust your team-mates, you have to trust yourself, and you have to believe.

"And I will believe until it's not possible. Like when I see someone get the trophy before me [only] then I will [have] lost my belief."

Liverpool's shock home defeat to Burnley was sort of emblematic of the odd times football, and indeed wider society, continues to live through.

The Reds had not suffered defeat in a Premier League fixture at Anfield since April 2017 – a staggering run of 68 home matches – prior to Ashley Barnes' penalty securing a famous three points for the Clarets.

It leaves Jurgen Klopp's defending champions six points adrift of the top at a time when rivals Manchester City and Manchester United – who beat the Reds in the FA Cup on Sunday – are absolutely flying.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic means this season has been another strange one, with congested schedules, hastily rearranged fixtures and empty stadia becoming the norm.

It has meant that the dominance City and Liverpool have had in their recent title wins has been difficult to replicate this term and thrown the race for the trophy wide open.

Fans and pundits will continue to have their say on who will sit top come the end of the season, and the Stats Perform AI team have also crunched the numbers to predict the champions for the 2020-21 campaign.

With the majority of the 20 teams having reached the halfway stage of the league season, they have simulated how the rest of the season may play out.

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model - with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

CITY TRIUMPH WITHOUT THE DOMINANCE OF PAST TITLE WINS

The results in our model show City have an 82.1 per cent chance of winning the title, and doing so with 84 points. 

By recent standards that would represent a rather modest total. City won back-to-back titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19, the former seeing them rack up a competition record 100 points and following up with 98 in the latter.

Indeed, it would represent the lowest tally since Leicester City's famous triumph in 2015-16 when the Foxes earned 81, but there have been eight occasions of teams topping the table with fewer than 84.

City are on a 17-match unbeaten run across all competitions and if they can continue that form, Guardiola's serial winners will take some stopping.

UNITED PIP REDS AND SPURS TO SECOND AS FOXES SLIP AWAY

While the model tips City to ultimately win the title relatively comfortably, the "race for second" is certainly not clear cut.

According to our predictor, Manchester United – currently top of the table having played a game more than City – will fall off the title pace but still finish second on 75 points (a 40.2 per cent chance).

Liverpool are in a poor run of form but are tipped to recover from their recent malaise to secure a third-place finish on 73 (while the simulator still gives the Reds a 26 per cent chance for second and a five per cent shot at retaining the title).

Interestingly, Jose Mourinho's Tottenham side came fourth in our outcome on 70 points, three above Brendan Rodgers' Leicester City side who are only two adrift of United in the real-life table.

Frank Lampard's future at Chelsea is sure to face more scrutiny if a predicted finish of sixth, 22 points adrift of City, comes to fruition.

Everton, Arsenal, West Ham and Aston Villa completed the top 10 in the sim.

BLADES NOT THE WORST EVER AS BAGGIES, FULHAM HEAD BACK DOWN

It has been a miserable first half of the season for Sheffield United, who have taken only five points from 19 matches.

Should Chris Wilder's side replicate that over the next 19 they would record the lowest tally ever in a Premier League season.

Our predictor has the Blades finishing rock bottom, but fans can take some solace from the fact they are tipped to do so on 24 points. Indeed, our sim still gives them a three per cent chance of finishing 17th and a 0.1 per cent of the dizzying heights of 15th...hey, you never know!

The reading is no better for two sides promoted from the Championship last term in West Brom and Fulham.

Sam Allardyce was the man drafted in by the Baggies to replace Slaven Bilic and continue his record of never being relegated from the Premier League, but under this model West Brom are headed for a 19th-place finish on 26 points.

In our league, Fulham – promoted by the playoffs last term – pick up 28 and return immediately to the second tier as well. That would at least be two more than the 26 they gained when relegated in the 2018-19 campaign.

West Brom's chances of reaching 17th and survival are rated at just 5.6 per cent, while Fulham are given a little more hope at 11.2 per cent.

Brighton and Hove Albion (37), Newcastle United (41), Burnley (42) and Crystal Palace (44) are all tipped to safely beat the drop, while Leeds United – champions of the Championship last term – are predicted for a 12th-place finish and 49 points.

Bruno Fernandes can fully understand Donny van de Beek's unhappiness and says his midfield team-mate's lack of playing time highlights Manchester United's strength in depth.

Netherlands international Van de Beek was handed his 10th start of the season in United's FA Cup fourth-round win over Liverpool on Sunday.

He struggled to make much of an impact at Old Trafford, however, as he touched the ball just 23 times and attempted 18 passes before being substituted with 66 minutes played.

Fernandes was brought on for the Dutchman and once again proved the difference for United by scoring a free-kick 12 minutes later to earn a 3-2 victory.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted on the eve of the game that Van de Beek is not happy with his lack of minutes and Fernandes has sympathy for the £40million close-season signing.

"Donny had a great game," he told MUTV. "Playing in the position I play, watching him he moves really good and played really well. 

"It's important for us. If I was in the position of Donny I would not be happy at all but the most important is doing what he does today, coming in and helping the team.

"We have a really good squad and we have options. If you look at the bench and the first XI today and the ones at home we have a really good squad.

"It will not be a problem if we change the team or someone is tired because we have really good players."

Fernandes has now scored 28 goals for United in all competitions since his debut in February 2020, which is more than any other player for a Premier League club.

His latest strike sets up a home tie with West Ham in the fifth round next month and, with United also top of the Premier League, Fernandes has his sights set on silverware.

"They're all important competitions for us," he said. "We have to go in the same way whatever the competition.

"We play in them all to win. Everyone knows winning the league is more special but for us players, it's about winning trophies regardless and this is a trophy we want to win."

United have now eliminated Liverpool from the FA Cup proper on 10 occasions - only the Reds themselves have knocked out a single team more often, beating local rivals Everton 12 times.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the Red Devils made a "statement" with their uncompromising performance in the FA Cup win over Liverpool.

United's 3-2 victory at Old Trafford was clinched by a stunning 78th-minute free-kick from substitute Bruno Fernandes, after earlier goals from Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford on Sunday.

A double from Mohamed Salah had kept Liverpool firmly in the game before Fernandes cracked a sublime shot into the right corner, having spent extra time honing his technique on Saturday.

What most pleased Solskjaer was how United were able to thrive while playing their natural attacking game against Premier League champions Liverpool, rather than make special allowances for the opposition.

"We've found a way we believe in, the players believe in, and we're getting stronger and stronger," Solskjaer said.

"We look at the difference from a year ago or six months back. You can't take too many big strides at one point but we're gradually, layer by layer, getting better, winning tight games, so you have the morale and the confidence of course is very good.

"It's a good feeling to play on our terms."

Solskjaer said United have previously adopted "different systems to nullify opponents", but that was not the case in this fourth-round battle.

"Of course, that's a statement to ourselves," Solskjaer added. "That's a confidence boost that we can match the best with our style of football."

Everything the Norwegian boss appears to be turning to gold just now, with United top of the Premier League and through to a fifth-round cup tie against David Moyes' West Ham.

Even the decision to start with Fernandes on the bench proved a masterstroke, regardless of the fact replacement Donny van de Beek struggled at times.

The effect of Solskjaer's decision, relayed to his players on Saturday, meant Fernandes was granted more time to practise his set-pieces ahead of the game, and how that worked out.

Since his United debut in February 2020, Fernandes has scored more goals than any other play for Premier League clubs with 28.

Greenwood (19 years and 115 days) became the youngest United player to score against Liverpool since Wayne Rooney in January 2005, while the Manchester club eliminated Liverpool from the FA Cup for the 10th time – only the latter (12 against Everton) have knocked out a particular team on more occasions.

"Whenever he starts, I tell him to go straight in [from training] and he can't do extra free-kicks," Solskjaer said.

"Yesterday, I told him he wasn't playing so he stayed out practising for half an hour, 45 minutes. It worked and it paid off."

Rashford came off in the second half with a knee complaint, and Solskjaer said the forward would have a scan to determine if there is anything to worry over.

Attacking midfielder Jesse Lingard, not part of this matchday squad and a peripheral figure this season, could yet leave Old Trafford during this transfer window.

Solskjaer said he would "sit down with Jesse and decide what we're going to do", but did not exclude the possibility of him staying, suggesting Lingard could well come back into the first-team picture.

On a day when Donny van de Beek hoped to show why he deserves more minutes for Manchester United, up stepped Bruno Fernandes to show why that simply isn't happening.

The eye-catching selection of Van de Beek ahead of Fernandes for this FA Cup clash of giants at Old Trafford was all about "rotation", according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United's manager clearly felt his team could combat a faltering Liverpool team without their star man, albeit leaving him on the bench in case of emergency.

"Donny needs to be playing games as well and it's a big game for Donny to come into," Solskjaer told the BBC.

Van de Beek has not started a Premier League game since he was hauled off with United trailing at half-time at West Ham in early December, and he might not be starting any soon either given how this game transpired.

A 66th-minute switch of the Portuguese for the underwhelming Van de Beek proved pivotal, and the delightful free-kick from Fernandes that settled an absorbing game 3-2 in United's favour was one that had been conceived on Saturday.

"I think he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free-kicks, so I was quite confident that he was going to hit the target," Solskjaer said.

Solskjaer, the erstwhile supersub, knew the calibre of replacement that was up his sleeve, and the rotation worked in a roundabout way. Are we looking at more proof that United's once-maligned Norwegian boss is actually a tactical master?

Liverpool's season, meanwhile, takes another negative turn.

Donny fluffs his big chance

With a mere 18 passes and 23 touches, Van de Beek was peripheral in a midfield where Paul Pogba shone and Scott McTominay fought for every ball.

The former Ajax man had a glorious early chance to stamp his mark on the game when he burst into space on the right and looked sure to dart towards the penalty area, as Edinson Cavani waited for a pass in the centre.

But no. Van de Beek paused and decided to go backwards, and the chance was gone.

This game was a world away from the Anfield snore draw seven days previously in the Premier League, yet Van de Beek largely let it pass him by.

By the time Fernandes cracked his sublime winner into the right corner, Van de Beek must have been wondering when such an opportunity will arise again.

Salah shows he must start

Like Fernandes, Salah has seen his form and contribution questioned in recent weeks, and just as United's match-winner dispelled such criticism, so did Liverpool's main man.

After all the talk about front threes, and which of these sides had the most deadly attacking trio, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp went with a two-man strikeforce, Salah and Roberto Firmino linking up and Sadio Mane on the bench.

Both Salah and Firmino had been substitutes on Thursday for the defeat to Burnley, but they were a combination that United struggled to contain at times here.

Salah struck twice, the first a sublime chip, and Firmino set up both. The Brazilian has now assisted Salah for 18 goals during their time together at Liverpool, the most any player has set up another during Klopp's reign.

Unlike Firmino and Mane, Salah has exceeded his expected goals (xG) in the Premier League this season, with eight non-penalty goals from an xG of 5.3, and if Liverpool are to resurrect their season, the bench is surely no place for the Egyptian.

Glorious Greenwood

Mason Greenwood has not scored in the Premier League since that West Ham game, when he helped United turn their half-time deficit around and earn a 3-1 victory.

Here he looked lively from the early stages, albeit with one too many lollipops and insufficient tasty final product until he cancelled out Salah's opener.

The way the 19-year-old ended an 10-game barren spell spoke volumes of his belief, with Marcus Rashford's sweeping pass over the Liverpool defence finding his wing twin on the right and allowing Greenwood to thump a low shot past Alisson.

With Rashford also on target, this was quite a day to savour for the hosts.

Liverpool "wanted it too much" against Manchester United on Sunday and left themselves exposed, claimed Jurgen Klopp.

On the back of their colossal home record in the league coming to an end at the hands of Burnley on Thursday, Liverpool suffered a second successive defeat as they went down 3-2 in the FA Cup at Old Trafford.

Bruno Fernandes came off the bench to score a stunning free-kick to settle a contest that delivered the quality which the league meeting between the two bitter rivals one week earlier had been severely lacking.

Mohamed Salah scored both of Liverpool's goals in an impressive return to form, with Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford on target for United prior to Fernandes' winner.

United had 41.6 per cent possession but managed to equal Liverpool's tally of attempts (14) and shots on target (six).

For both of United's first two goals, Liverpool were caught cold on the counter.

Klopp believes that was a result of his side being slightly overzealous in their desire to arrest a dismal run of form which has seen them win just once – against Aston Villa's youngsters – in their last seven matches across all competitions.

"There was a lot of good things and some mistakes around the goals. If you want to win here you have to be absolutely top and we were not," Klopp told reporters.

"For the first goal we had no protection, we wanted it too much. Things like this should not happen but they can happen.

"We can take things out of this game, we try to learn from every game. It's good for Mo Salah, good for the confidence. It was a tough game. We want it hard but tonight it was not enough.

"If you win a game there are negatives, if you lose a game too, but I saw the boys really, really wanted it. We had problems on the counter-attack, it was intense, but there were positives."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side will face West Ham – and former United manager David Moyes – in the fifth round of the cup, while they also sit pretty at the top of the league as it stands.

After seeing his side fall behind to Salah's 18th-minute chip, Solskjaer was delighted with United's response.

"Brilliant – you know when you go a goal down, the reaction of everyone was really good," he told BBC Sport.

"We played some really good stuff, good goals, we have to defend well against them and we managed to react well and of course towards the end there were some moments but we kept them away."

Fernandes ultimately made the difference, scoring with his only attempt, while he also crafted a chance for Edinson Cavani with a wonderful cross – the experienced forward heading against the post.

"Great goal, good free-kick," Solskjaer said of Fernandes' impact. "When you leave him out like I did today, he stayed about 45 minutes after training yesterday shooting free-kicks so I was pretty confident he could score one if he got the chance.

"He's never happy with me when I tell him to go inside after training when he's playing the next day so he got some practice yesterday."

United are now unbeaten in their last eight home games against Liverpool in all competitions (W4 D4) since a defeat in March 2014.

Bruno Fernandes came off the bench to settle a thrilling FA Cup fourth-round encounter as Manchester United overcame Liverpool 3-2 at Old Trafford.

Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford turned the game in United's favour after Mohamed Salah had put Liverpool ahead in the 18th minute.

Salah's second of a pulsating contest levelled matters once more with Liverpool looking the more likely to prevail thereafter.

However, the introduction of talisman Fernandes proved a masterstroke as he arrowed a low free-kick into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area to set up a fifth-round tie with West Ham.

 

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah

 

Kobe Bryant’s legacy is alive and well.

On Tuesday, it will be one year since the news broke that Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, six other passengers and the pilot were passengers in a helicopter that crashed in the hills of Calabasas, California, killing everyone on board.  For so many, Bryant was an influential presence ripped away from his family and the world just as he was making a mark post-basketball career.

Bryant was an icon who won five NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVPs during his a 20-year career.  I was a child when I first saw Kobe play. I was utterly impressed. The other children I was around would launch paper balls at bins yelling “Kobe!”.  Everyone wanted to be him.

As a sports journalist his I was fascinated by his work ethic. The way he knew what he wanted and went about ensuring that he got it.  Even now, I find myself turning to old Kobe interviews and listening to him for self-motivation. I hope his family and loved ones continue to find the inner strength to deal with his tragic passing.

 

West Indies can take a page out of India’s book.

It is true that the West Indies’ poor form did not start with this Bangladesh tour. However, they can take a page out of India’s book following a second disastrous batting display losing to Bangladesh by seven wickets in the second ODI at the Mirpur Stadium in Dhaka on Friday.

A few days before this latest Windies defeat, India ended Australia’s record of being unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988 with a team that lacked key senior players.

Like India, coming into the Bangladesh series the Windies were not favourites. What worked for India was its ability to capitalize on their strengths. Much of their success can be attributed to the system that in place to allow new cricketers to emerge and thrive.

 Every successful team needs good structure and foundation. India’s “A” team programme has reaped its intended benefits. Take the case of Thangarasu Natarajan, who is the first Indian to make this international debut in all three formats on the same tour. He ended the Australia series as the highest wicket-taker.

There was also the case of 21-year-old Shubman Gill, who had been on the fringes of the Test side patiently awaiting his call and took his chance when it came

 He would go on to finish his maiden Test series with an average of 51.81. Rishabh Pant was another player that came through the Indian development system and is now reaping the rewards. The 23-year-old was left out of the first Test but in the series-decider was unbeaten on 89 and hit the winning runs that also won the series.

 

No Kohli, no problem.

Leadership is another area of India’s game where the Windies can look to India for inspiration. Like the Windies when Kieron Pollard opted not to tour due to Covid 19, India’s captain Virat Kohli returned home to witness the birth of his first daughter.

However, Ajinkya Rahane stepped up to the task at hand. Again, this reiterated the work being done behind the scenes to allow for ease of transition. I was impressed by how Rahane handled the resources at hand and worked with the team to unlock their full potential.

 

REDS-

 It is not too late for a Premier League turnaround. Liverpool has now gone four matches in a row in the Premier League without a goal. They are now six points away from league leaders Manchester United.  Despite struggling in the Premier League this season it is not too late for a turnaround.

Liverpool is a club that knows how to win and do so in style. Despite this, they have been lacking in confidence this season and it is evident in the errors that they are making on the field. There is a major lack of efficiency and energy. Once the club can find the rhythm that everyone admired last season they can get back to their winning ways.

It is evident that Jurgen Klopp is frustrated and not handling the pressure. Klopp’s frustration has been filtering to the players and emboldening the opposition. It is wise that the manager sticks to his principles and steers his players in the right direction. At this point, there is absolutely no need to make rash decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left Bruno Fernandes out of his starting line-up for Sunday's FA Cup clash with Liverpool.

Fernandes, who has been United's shining light since arriving from Sporting CP almost 12 months ago, was only a substitute for the fourth-round game.

This season he has scored 15 goals and supplied nine assists in 28 games across all competitions from his advanced midfield role, but there have been questions asked about his form in recent weeks.

He has just one goal and no assists in four Premier League appearances since the turn of the year.

Into the United team went former Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek as Solskjaer decided the game presented a chance to rotate his squad, making five changes to the side that won 2-1 at Fulham on Wednesday.

Solskjaer explained why Fernandes did not start, saying on BBC One: "It's rotation in the squad.

"Donny needs to be playing games as well and it's a big game for Donny to come into.

"He's done nothing wrong when he's been around the club so I'm looking forward to seeing him in there."

Premier League leaders United also brought in goalkeeper Dean Henderson, centre-back Victor Lindelof, midfielder Scott McTominay and forward Marcus Rashford, as David De Gea, Eric Bailly, Fred and Anthony Martial dropped out.

Liverpool also showed five changes as Jurgen Klopp looked for a response to Thursday's shock 1-0 home defeat to Burnley, which ended a 68-game unbeaten run at Anfield in the Premier League.

Teenage centre-back Rhys Williams came in for the absent Joel Matip, while James Milner and Curtis Jones were selected as Xherdan Shaqiri and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dropped to the bench.

Sadio Mane and Divock Origi were also substitutes as Klopp gave starts to Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, with the Old Trafford clash coming a week on from these two sides battling out a dreary goalless draw at Anfield in the league.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.