Kenny McLean says Arsenal "didn't have to be good" to thrash beleaguered Norwich City 5-0 on Boxing Day.

Bukayo Saka scored in each half, with Kieran Tierney, Alexandre Lacazette and substitute Emile Smith Rowe also finding the net at Carrow Road as Arsenal recorded their joint-biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match.

McLean, however, feels that Norwich did not make Arsenal work for their win and warned the bottom-of-the-table Canaries must make life much more difficult for opponents.

"That's the worst result we have had recently for sure against a good Arsenal team who didn't have to be good," McLean said to the BBC.

"We gave them everything. We need to show some character. We're not here to complain about injuries and Covid-19.

"Everyone has got those issues. We need to be doing more."

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta heaped praise on his side after they eased to a fifth consecutive win.

"It's a very satisfying result because in this festive period we have to keep performances to a high level," Arteta said to the BBC.

"We looked really sharp and committed. It's a big win for us. I am really pleased. The amount of chances we create is pleasing.

"We go to every ground to try and impose our game. Today was a really good example. The unity we have around the club and with our fans is very pleasing."

The 39-year-old was evasive when asked about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's continued absence - with the forward not featuring since a substitute appearance against Everton on December 6 - and insisted that his side can beat Wolves on Tuesday despite the short gap between matches.

"[Aubameyang] wasn't selected for today's match," Arteta said. "We'll take it game by game. That was the decision.

"We will try and recover as well as we can and try and win the game [against Wolves]."

The Gunners have scored more goals in their last two Premier League away games (nine) than they managed in their first eight on the road this season (six), also netting four or more goals in consecutive away games in the competition for the first time since April 2009.

Bukayo Saka scored twice as Arsenal recorded a hefty 5-0 win over Norwich City at Carrow Road to secure their fourth consecutive Premier League victory.

Saka's early opener was followed up with a goal from Kieran Tierney just before the break as Arsenal dominated from the start.

Arsenal sealed the win in the second half as Saka notched his second goal of the game, before Alexandre Lacazette netted a late penalty and substitute Emile Smith Rowe added gloss in stoppage time.

The resounding victory saw Mikel Arteta's side close the gap on third-placed Chelsea, who play later on Saturday against Aston Villa, to three points.

Arsenal have announced that Cedric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have all tested positive for coronavirus.

The trio were not included in Arsenal's squad for Sunday's Premier League clash with Norwich City as they are serving a period of self-isolation.

Cedric, Tomiyasu and Maitland-Niles follow team-mates Albert Sambi Lokonga, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers in contracting COVID-19 over the past fortnight.

Mari and Chambers were back among the substitutes for the trip to Carrow Road, but Chambers remained absent from the matchday squad.

Despite the rise in positive cases in their squad, Arsenal have yet to have a match called off due to coronavirus-related reasons this season.

Jurgen Klopp might consider the Christmas and New Year programme an "impossible" task for his stricken Liverpool team, but the Premier League has challenged its clubs to get games on over the coming fortnight.

These games can throw up season-shaping drama, with the packed calendar meaning the stakes are high and stress levels higher, and any manager that chooses to rotate his squad does so at his own risk.

Nobody wants to offer up gifts, despite Santa delivering three goals for Blackburn Rovers in 2007 – Roque Santa Cruz scoring twice in a 2-2 draw with Manchester City on December 27, and adding another in a 2-1 win over Derby County three days later.

Manchester City lead the way in the English top flight this season, ahead of Liverpool and Chelsea.

The 12 days of Christmas are traditionally considered to run from December 25 to January 5, and Stats Perform has looked at that period, assessing prospects for some of this year's games, along with a lesson or two from history.

You're top of the tree, but what makes you think you'll stay there?

In the first 10 seasons of the Premier League, from its launch in 1992-93, the eventual champions were only top at Christmas on three occasions – Manchester United in 1993-94, Blackburn Rovers in 1994-95 and United again in 2000-01.

Norwich City were the leaders on Christmas Day in that inaugural campaign, but Mike Walker's classy Canaries finished in third place in May as champions Manchester United and Aston Villa swept past the Canaries. Norwich had lost to United and derby rivals Ipswich Town in their two games leading up to the Christmas run, and back-to-back goalless draws with Tottenham on December 26 and Leeds United two days later further stifled their progress. The winless run ultimately extended to six matches, with the high-flying Canaries having their wings clipped just as the title began to look possible.

Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United famously led by 10 points on Christmas Day in 1995 and looked for all the world like runaway champions-in-waiting. Yet a 2-0 defeat at Manchester United on December 27 was an omen of what was to come as the Magpies were barged off top spot by the Red Devils come the end of the season.

Aston Villa were top at Christmas in 1998 but fell away to finish sixth, the lowest final position by any team to have sat top of the Premier League tree on December 25. They lost 2-1 at Blackburn on Boxing Day in that year, Tim Sherwood scoring a late winner, and although Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu netted to earn a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday two days later, Villa's form was far from championship-winning from that point on.

As the Premier League has evolved and an elite crop of teams has developed, it has been a safer bet that the pace-setters by December 25 will go on to capture the trophy. In fact, over the past 10 seasons, the future champions have held top spot on that date on seven occasions, with Liverpool the only team to fall away from the summit in that time, dropping to second place in 2013-14 and 2018-19, and to third in 2020-21.

They climbed the mountain as snowflakes fell

Manchester United were fifth at Christmas in 1996-97, seven points behind leaders Liverpool, but Fergie's fledglings went on to win the league, and their results in late December were a big factor. They had beaten Sunderland 5-0 on December 21 and followed that with a 4-0 win at Nottingham Forest on December 26 (goals from David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Andy Cole), before sinking Leeds United two days later at Old Trafford thanks to an Eric Cantona penalty. A New Year's Day goalless home draw with Aston Villa followed, but United had a verve about them again and swept past Liverpool's 'Spice Boys' in the closing weeks.

Arsenal were sixth at Christmas in 1997-98 and 13 points behind United, but it was the Gunners who pulled off a startling comeback in this season. They launched an 18-game unbeaten run as they beat Leicester City 2-1 on December 26 and followed that by coming from behind for a 1-1 draw at Tottenham two days later. Arsene Wenger's team did not lose again in the league until their final two games of the campaign in May, to Liverpool and Villa, by which time the title had been secured. That remains the biggest Christmas Day deficit to be overhauled by a team that went on to be champions.

Manchester City were eighth on December 25 last year and still won the league, but Pep Guardiola's team were only eight points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand at that stage, with no team having played more than 14 games due to a delayed start to the season. City were 2-0 winners at home to Newcastle on December 26 and followed up with a 3-1 victory at Chelsea on January 3, their charge to glory gathering pace.

Merry Christmas? It's no guarantee of a happy new year

This year, there are three rounds of Premier League games spread across the 12 days of Christmas. In the past there have been as many as four, and there have been 13 occasions when teams have snaffled 10 points or more during this period.

Liverpool were the first to win all four of their games in this hectic spell, as they saw off Leicester, Manchester City, Leeds and Norwich by a combined 10-1 aggregate in 1994, only to trail home fourth in May. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea then achieved 12 days of Christmas clean sweeps in their title-winning 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

All the other teams to rake in double-figure points hauls from their four festive period games managed 10 points from three wins and a draw.

Only one of those 10 sides went on to capture the title: Manchester United in the 2010-11 season. United also had a 10-point tally from 2004-05, and two other sides have hit that mark twice: Arsenal (1993-94 and 2004-05) and Sheffield Wednesday (1993-94 and 1994-95). Tottenham, Wimbledon, Liverpool and Manchester City are the other teams to have done so.

They delivered the goods

Manchester United have the best per-game record at this time of year, pulling in 2.19 points on average in the Premier League era. Of teams to have spent more than one season in the top flight, Arsenal are next (1.99), followed by Liverpool (1.96) and, surprisingly, Blackburn (1.88). United's legendary former manager Alex Ferguson reeled in a league-leading 135 points from 61 games during the 12-day run, with a hearty plus-74 goal difference, while his great rival at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, earned 132 points from 62 matches.

Ferguson and Jose Mourinho lead the way with an average of 2.21 points per game over the 12 days, among managers with more than 20 such games behind them.

Befitting his status as the Premier League's all-time top scorer, Alan Shearer is ahead of all the rest in the goals stakes, having hit 23 during this period, five clear of next in line Robbie Fowler.

A bad Christmas? It doesn't mean your goose is cooked

A diabolical 12 days of Christmas can be a retrievable mid-season mishap.

There have been 49 instances of teams losing all of their games over this period in a season. Among those, Everton in 1993-94 and West Brom in 2010-11 have played the most games in the 12 days – four games each for a zero-point return. The snowballing run of defeats almost proved hideously costly for Everton, who needed a famous 3-2 win over Wimbledon on the final weekend of the season to survive, but West Brom finished in the relative comfort of 11th place after their bleak midwinter, albeit following a February change of boss as Roy Hodgson replaced Roberto Di Matteo.

The bottom three from Christmas Days past have gone on to be relegated three times, with Derby County, Leicester City and Ipswich Town suffering that fate in 2001-02, Wigan Athletic, QPR and Reading sliding into the Championship after the 2012-13 campaign, and last season’s turkeys – Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United – also sinking into the second tier.

The good news for Norwich, Newcastle and Burnley – the current top three – is that clearly this rarely happens. Bottom side Norwich have history to wrestle with, given only three of 26 last-placed teams on December 25 in the 20-team era (since 1995-96) have avoided the drop.

There have been 37 instances of teams being in the Premier League relegation zone on Christmas Day but finding a way to survive.

Newcastle face Manchester United, Everton and Southampton in their festive games this year, and it may be a concern that manager Eddie Howe has a career points average of just 0.87 in games played from December 25 to January 5 (W2, D7, L6).

Burnley boss Sean Dyche can better that, taking an average of 1.12 points per game (W5, D4, L8) into assignments against Everton, Manchester United and Leeds.

Norwich will hope Dean Smith can summon his Aston Villa festive form, having achieved 1.67 per game at this time of year while in his former job (W3, D1, L2). Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Leicester await Smith's men this year.

Canaries knocked off their perch

A morsel from Norwich's Premier League past might serve as a salutary tale for mid-table clubs that feel secure about their Premier League status by now.

Norwich were seventh on Christmas Day in 1994, far from trouble, but their season imploded and they finished 20th, suffering relegation from the then 22-team league.

They had a crummy 12 days of Christmas, losing 2-0 at home to Tottenham and 1-0 at Nottingham Forest on successive days – December 26 and 27 – before undoing some of that damage with a 2-1 home win over Newcastle on New Year's Eve, only to be thumped 4-0 at Liverpool on January 2. They would not win another Premier League game until they beat Ipswich 3-0 on March 20.

Nightmares can occur after Christmas, as well as before.

Only five Premier League fixtures are scheduled to be played this weekend after four more were postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks.

The league had already confirmed Manchester United would not play Brighton and Hove Albion as the Red Devils do not have enough players to name a team.

A further four postponements have now been confirmed: Southampton v Brentford, Watford v Crystal Palace, West Ham v Norwich City, Everton v Leicester City.

Despite calls for the season to be put on hold, the Premier League said: "All other fixtures due to be played this weekend are currently scheduled to proceed as planned."

Brentford and Watford have both had to close their training grounds, with the Hornets also short of players to fulfil their match against Palace.

Norwich cannot put out a team either, with injuries and illnesses contributing to their absences alongside COVID-19.

Leicester have also now closed their training ground as they attempt to manage an outbreak that has ravaged their squad.

In the midweek round of matches, only seven games went ahead. United and Brentford had been set to meet, while Watford and Leicester were involved in the other postponed matches.

Paul Pogba's club future continues to be a major topic of speculation.

The 28-year-old is into the final year of his Manchester United contract.

Pogba has flirted with the idea of an extension but has been stalling on a decision.

 

TOP STORY – REAL AND PSG HOME IN ON POGBA

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are both ready to ramp up the race to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, claims Marca.

Pogba is running down his United contract, meaning he will be a free agent in mid-2022.

Real and PSG will rekindle their interest after new United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said Pogba should not need to be convinced to stay.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani has offered his services to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. The Uruguayan veteran has also been linked with Barcelona.

- Barcelona are plotting moves for Chelsea's trio Cesar Azpilicueta, Christian Pulisic and Antonio Rudiger, reports Mundo Deportivo.

- Milan are circling to sign Liverpool's super-sub Divock Origi as they seek a long-term replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, claims Tuttomercato. Atalanta are also interested.

- Calciomercato reports that Roma are considering a move for Spezia midfielder Jiulio Maggiore. The 23-year-old is out of contract in 2023 and valued at €8m (£6.8m).

- Roma are also interested in a move for Norwich City's Max Aarons, according to Corriere dello Sport. Tottenham and Everton are also in the race.

- Lyon are interested in a move for Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma, claims Todofichajes. Manchester United and Barcelona are also tracking the ex-Bournemouth winger.

Manchester United have seen their preparations for the Premier League clash with Brentford disrupted by a COVID-19 outbreak.

Stats Perform understands the Red Devils saw a small number of positive tests returned among players and staff after they returned from the 1-0 win at Norwich City.

The entire group that travelled to Carrow Road for Saturday's match had tested negative in a round of routine testing.

The individuals who returned positive lateral flow test results on Sunday were sent home before training, which was then adjusted to consist of outdoor individual and non-contact sessions.

The club are understood to have notified the Premier League, with their match against Brentford coming up on Tuesday.

Sunday's game between Brighton and Hove Albion and Tottenham was postponed after Spurs suffered a COVID-19 outbreak that also led to their Europa Conference League game with Rennes being called off.

The Championship match between QPR and Sheffield United on Monday has been postponed too, after the London club said they would be unable to fulfil the fixture due to "a number of positive COVID-19 cases within their squad".

The United Kingdom government announced in the past week that fans attending sporting events with crowds of more than 10,000 people will need to provide proof of having had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine or a negative test result.

The change in rules, which is due to come into effect on December 15, is among measures aimed at reducing the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.

The UK's COVID-19 alert level has also been moved from three to four. Authorities said community transmission of the virus was high and, while mostly driven by the Delta variant, the emergence of Omicron "adds additional and rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services".

The Premier League provided its usual drama on Saturday with decisive penalties awarded in all but one of the fixtures.

Chelsea left it late against Leeds United in a game that saw referee Chris Kavanagh award three penalties, while Manchester United earned a narrow win thanks to another Cristiano Ronaldo spot-kick.

Liverpool also profited from the penalty spot as Steven Gerrard made his return to Anfield with Aston Villa, and another conversion from 12 yards aided Manchester City at home to Wolves.

Elsewhere, Arsenal cruised past Southampton, who are yet to win at Emirates Stadium in 23 Premier League attempts – the longest winless run for one club away to another in the competition's history.

With tons of action to unpack, Stats Perform takes an in-depth look at the pick of Opta facts from Saturday's clashes.

Manchester City 1-0 Wolves: Jimenez moment of madness gifts Citizens win

Raheem Sterling reached a century of Premier League goals as City scraped by 10-man Wolves, who could not hold on after Raul Jimenez's bizarre red card for two yellows in a matter of seconds.

Jimenez became the first ever Mexican player to receive a red card in the Premier League, making Mexico the 76th nation to have a player dismissed in the competition.

Sterling then scored from the penalty spot after Joao Moutinho was adjudged to have handled, becoming the 32nd player to 100 Premier League goals and the eighth-youngest at 27 years and three days.

Pep Guardiola's side held on to that slender lead and have now won 32 of their 40 league games in 2021 (D2 L6) – only Liverpool in 1982 (33) have won more matches in a single calendar year in English top-flight history.

Chelsea 3-2 Leeds United: Spot-kick drama condemns Whites to another London loss

Leeds have a miserable record in London and that was extended to just two wins in their past 33 matches in all competitions in the capital despite Raphinha finding the net when a first penalty was awarded in the visitors' favour at Stamford Bridge.

Mason Mount cancelled out that opener, before Raphinha became the 13th player – and first Leeds star – to both score and concede a penalty in the same Premier League game when he brought down Antonio Rudiger, allowing Jorginho to score.

Although Joe Gelhardt netted Leeds' first top-flight goal by a teenager since James Milner versus Everton in April 2004 to level the match again, Rudiger won a second penalty – the first Chelsea player to earn two in a Premier League game since Yuri Zhirkov against Aston Villa in March 2010 – deep into stoppage time.

Jorginho settled the result with his second from 12 yards after 93 minutes and 11 seconds, the Blues' latest winning goal in the competition since Florent Malouda's strike against Stoke City in September 2009 (93:36).

Liverpool 1-0 Aston Villa: Salah downs shot-shy Villans

Returning hero Gerrard was greeted with a standing ovation back at Anfield, but the latest king of the Kop ensured his Villa side went away empty-handed. 

Mohamed Salah again made the difference, the Egypt international converting his 15th straight Premier League penalty – the second-longest ever such run in the competition after Matt Le Tissier (23 between 1994 and 2000).

Salah is also now just one game away from Jamie Vardy's record of either scoring or assisting in 15 straight Premier League matches between August and December 2015.

This was Liverpool's 100th 1-0 win in the competition and their second in a row for the first time since December 2015, requiring just the one goal as Villa failed to register a single shot on target in a league match for the first time since December 2019 against Sheffield United.

Norwich City 0-1 Manchester United: Another Ronaldo rescue act for Red Devils

Ralf Rangnick has pinpointed United's defensive issues as a key area to fix and there were more positive signs on that front – at least on the stats sheet.

Rangnick became just the second Manchester United manager to register a clean sheet in his first two league games after Ernest Mangnall in 1903.

United were far from convincing in either defence or attack, though, again relying on David de Gea and match-winner Ronaldo, who won and scored United's 50th successful away Premier League spot-kick – only Liverpool (60) have netted more such goals in the competition's history.

Ronaldo also became only the third player to score for three different United managers in a single season after James Hanson and Joe Spence both did so in 1926-27.

Ralf Rangnick questioned Manchester United's lack of physicality in their narrow 1-0 win over Norwich City and accepted his side have further room for improvement.

United made it back-to-back Premier League victories since Rangnick succeeded Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on a caretaker basis thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's 75th-minute penalty.

Ronaldo scored United's 50th spot-kick away from home in the competition – only Liverpool (60) have netted more – after Max Aarons was adjudged to have pulled him down.

The Red Devils laboured for long periods at Carrow Road and required a couple of fine saves from David de Gea to deny Teemu Pukki and Ozan Kabak late on.

United only marginally edged possession (53 per cent) and the pass count (492 attempted to Norwich's 426), and Rangnick was not entirely pleased with his side's performance.

"It was an away game, a very physical, intense game," he told Sky Sports. "I've already told Dean [Smith] they played extremely well, they didn't at all play like a bottom team.

"They played like we did against Crystal Palace. In the first 15 minutes, we were struggling tactically, but then it was better. We didn't allow them many chances in the first half. 

"In the second half, we had a better body language up front but still allowed them too many chances and corners. In the end, it was De Gea that made sure it was a clean sheet.

"It's about intensity of the game, physicality, body language. On this kind of level, you need to be physically present, and this was not always the case. 

"In some situations it was the case, but not always. If you want to keep control of a game like this, you have to be physically present, and this was not the case in all positions."

United finished the match with an expected goals (xG) return of 2.04, scoring from one of their 13 shots, five of which were on target – the same number Norwich managed.

Rangnick added: "Some of our players are technical players, and today there was not so much space for technical solutions. 

"Then you need to be physically brave and compete on that kind of level with regard to physicality, and that was something we didn't do in all positions."

Asked if his side played with less physicality than was on show in last week's 1-0 win against Crystal Palace, Rangnick said: "That was not deliberate. 

"It was an away game today and the other team played much more aggressive than Palace did against us, therefore we need to raise our level of intensity in games like that.

"It's not only a question of individual players, it's how we play together as a team. But it's also a question of who wins balls, what about the second balls? 

"Do we get the second balls? As I said, in each position, it was not the same.

"You learn with every game, but at least we got the three points, another clean sheet. We need to improve, we need to get better, that's for sure."

Rangnick is just the second United manager to register a clean sheet in his first two league games in charge of the club after Ernest Mangnall in 1903.

Harry Maguire, who played a full part in both games and led the way against Norwich with a game-high six clearances, was happy to come away from Norfolk with three points.

"It was a tough game," he told Sky Sports. "We didn't play as well as we'd like to play. It was tough conditions to play in. But it's an important three points and a clean sheet for us.

"When you're playing week in week out, some performances aren't going to be at the highest. 

"We had to dig deep and stick together. We had to show spirit and we got three points. But we have to play better than that if we're going to achieve what we want to achieve.

"We've been very disappointed with our defensive record this year. David pulled off two or three big saves to keep a clean sheet. 

"They were top saves from a top keeper and that's what we expect. Two on the bounce we need to build on and go again on Tuesday."

Cristiano Ronaldo's controversial penalty gave Ralf Rangnick a second successive Premier League win as Manchester United claimed an unconvincing 1-0 victory at Norwich City.

United laboured for long periods at a sodden Carrow Road but were given a chance to break an unexpectedly long deadlock when Max Aarons was adjudged to have pulled down Ronaldo.

The Portugal forward stepped up to convert the spot-kick 15 minutes from time, his emphatic finish proving the difference despite a spirited effort from the league's bottom club.

United are fifth, level on points with fourth-placed West Ham but with an inferior goal difference, while Norwich remain three points adrift of safety.

Alex Telles saw a free-kick deflected onto the crossbar, but United struggled to break down the division's leakiest defence in the first half and were frustrated by Tim Krul in the Norwich goal.

Ronaldo was thwarted by a diving save from the Dutchman while Harry Maguire saw a header tipped over in the closing stages of the first 45 minutes.

Norwich provided more of an attacking threat in the second half and only a flying save from David de Gea prevented Teemu Pukki from firing the opener into the top-left corner.

But they were left aghast when Darren England pointed to the spot despite Ronaldo appearing to go down easily under contact from Aarons.

There was no doubt about Ronaldo's effort from 12 yards, which he lashed into the bottom-left corner – two stunning saves from De Gea to deny Ozan Kabak and the kind of United defending that was often lacking during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's tenure ensuring it was enough for all three points.

Ralf Rangnick has earmarked improving the defence at Manchester United as the main priority for success at Old Trafford.

The former RB Leipzig head coach has overseen two games since his arrival in Manchester, winning his first against Crystal Palace – becoming the first of six German managers to win their opening Premier League game – before a 1-1 draw against Young Boys.

While Rangnick fielded a youthful side against the Swiss team, United have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five home group-stage matches – their longest run in the Champions League.

United also went 15 consecutive home matches without a clean sheet, their longest run without a shutout since a 21-game spell between 1958 and 1959, before keeping Palace at bay in the 1-0 win last Sunday.

That poor period of defensive form has left them 11 points off the early pace of leaders Manchester City and Rangnick explained that he is prioritising finding a solution to be more resolute at the back.

"So far, I'm more than happy with their attitude again and their eagerness to learn information that will help them get better, not only against the ball but also with the ball," Rangnick told Sky Sports on Friday.

"We had only two clean sheets until the Crystal Palace game and no clean sheets since last April at Old Trafford, it was very clear for me where our focus should be for the first few days and weeks.

"With this group of players we can produce more clean sheets regularly, we are making sure we don't concede goals or even allow them to shoot on our goal.

"The more we do that, the more I am convinced that we can win games because with this group and players we are always going to create chances and opportunities to score ourselves."

United travel to Norwich City on Saturday in Rangnick's first away Premier League fixture, with none of the last four permanent Red Devils managers losing their maiden such game since Alex Ferguson in 1986.

New Norwich head coach Dean Smith is looking to become the first manager since Andy Aitken in 1908-09 to defeat United with two different clubs in a single season, having already tasted victory with former club Aston Villa.

But Smith has revealed the club are waiting anxiously on coronavirus tests for a couple of players ahead of the game at Carrow Road.

"We have got a couple of knocks and have got a couple of Covid-related issues that we are waiting on results for," said Smith.

"I can't really let you in on any names, but there's a couple of players who we are worried about, so we have tested and we will wait for the PCR results.

"They are just feeling a little bit unwell, but it is not likely to be linked to the game last week with Tottenham."

Ralf Rangnick has been in contact with the injured Paul Pogba as he continues to get to know his Manchester United players and instil his methods.

Rangnick defeated Crystal Palace 1-0 in his first game in charge last Sunday, becoming the first of six German managers to win their opening game in the Premier League.

A youthful United side, which featured six teenagers for just the fifth time in Champions League history, were then held to a 1-1 draw by Young Boys at Old Trafford and the Red Devils now prepare to visit Norwich City on Saturday.

They will do so, however, without Pogba – who is currently in Dubai in an attempt to recover from a thigh injury – but Rangnick explained he has spoken to the France international as he continues to outline his plans with the squad.

"We spoke over the phone two days ago or on Tuesday," Rangnick told reporters at Friday's news conference. 

"He was still in Dubai, he's expected to come back today and we will get to know each other in person on Sunday. We had a telephone call for around 10 or 15 minutes and he told me he was getting better. 

"Obviously, he still isn't fully fit and from what I've heard it will take another couple of weeks until he's fit for training again. He has been out for quite some time so it will take another couple of weeks to get him match fit."

Rangnick faces his first away game in the Premier League against Norwich, with none of the last four permanent United managers losing their first league game on the road since Alex Ferguson in November 1986.

However, Norwich head coach Dean Smith has already beaten United this term with Aston Villa.

He is aiming to become the first manager since Andy Aitken in 1908-09 to beat United with two different clubs in the same top-flight season.

Rangnick, though, has been satisfied with his side's work ethic so far as he looks to build on a pleasing showing against Palace.

"In the first instance, it was about getting to know the players," he added. "We did quite a lot of video footage with them in order to tell them how we want to play. 

"As we all saw, they did well in that game. Not everything was perfect, but quite a few things worked out well. We were always on the front foot, we had control of the game. 

"Now it's about taking the next steps. What we showed against Crystal Palace was good. We didn't allow them to score or give them too many opportunities.

"[Norwich] have improved since the change of managers. They play a little bit more direct, a little bit more vertical than they did with Daniel Farke, so it will be a challenge to play at Carrow Road.

"But we want to improve our performance, we want to build on what we showed against Crystal Palace and hopefully get the next win tomorrow."

Chelsea slipped from first to third in the Premier League over the weekend after a costly defeat at West Ham, which included a bizarre late winner for the hosts.

Divock Origi was told to "Be Divock" by Jurgen Klopp, so duly went and scored a 94th minute winner for Liverpool at Wolves, while Ralf Rangnick achieved something his fellow German didn't in his first game as interim boss at Manchester United.

Antonio Conte and Steven Gerrard also continued their positive starts to respective gigs at Tottenham and Aston Villa in a sentence that feels like it's straight from your favourite football management simulation game rather than real life.

With all that and more, here are some of the weekend's quirky stats from the Premier League...

 

Chelsea Hammered

Did he mean it? Arthur Masuaku says no but your West Ham supporting mates say yes.

Masuaku's kick of the ball in the 87th minute at the London Stadium flew past Edouard Mendy to inflict Chelsea's second league defeat of the season, toppling them from the summit of the Premier League.

It was the Frenchman's first Premier League goal in his 96th appearance for the Hammers, from his 29th attempt at goal, if you can even call it that.

The 3-2 defeat was Chelsea's first in the Premier League after leading at half-time since December 2018 against Wolves under Maurizio Sarri – they had been unbeaten in 48 league games when ahead at half-time before Saturday (W40 D8).

It is no time to panic for Blues fans, though. The future looks bright with all their talented young players, accompanied by Brazil's answer to Steve Buscemi with a skateboard over his shoulder.

Aged 37 years and 73 days, Thiago Silva became the oldest player to score for Chelsea in the Premier League, breaking Didier Drogba's record from April 2015 against Leicester City (37 years, 49 days).

The Late Late Show with Divock Origi

You could say there was an air of inevitability about it as Divock Origi arrived on the Molineux pitch in the 68th minute on Saturday.

The Belgian is a man who arguably deserves a statue more than a starting place at Anfield, having scored just once in the league prior to this game since the last day of the 2019-20 season, but who has famously bagged late goals just when his team has needed them.

His dramatic strike in the closing seconds of this game was Liverpool’s 39th winner scored in 90+ minutes in the Premier League, at least 13 more than any other side. It was also his 10th as a substitute in the Premier League for the Reds, with no player having netted more from the bench for the club in the competition.

It felt harsh on Wolves, though they had hardly done much to bother their opponents at the other end of the pitch, having just three shots in this game, their fewest in a Premier League match since March 2019 (two vs Chelsea).

One particularly sore loser will have been skipper Conor Coady. Although a former Liverpool player, he will have been hoping his heroic goal-line block of Diogo Jota's effort, with an xG of 0.604, would have at least secured a point for his team, particularly as the ball hit him square in the Divocks.

 

King Ralf

There had not been such anticipation about the future of Manchester United since that bloke Ole was at the wheel. Remember him?

United's interim gaffer Ralf Rangnick became the sixth German to manage in the Premier League as he stood in the Old Trafford dugout to see his new team beat Crystal Palace, and he was the first to win his debut game in charge in the competition (Felix Magath, Klopp, Jan Siewert, Daniel Farke and Thomas Tuchel all failing to do so before him).

Following the 1-0 success, six of the last seven managers (including caretakers) have won their first game in charge of the Red Devils in all competitions, with Louis van Gaal being the only exception (he suffered a 2-1 loss against Swansea City at Old Trafford in August 2014).

United also kept their first clean sheet at home in all competitions since April against Granada in the Europa League, having conceded in 15 consecutive home matches prior to Sunday.

Fred's impressive winner was his second goal of the season in 12 Premier League matches, as many as he scored in 76 appearances in his first three seasons in the competition beforehand.

More capital chaos for Canaries

After their 3-0 defeat at Tottenham, Norwich City have now lost 12 of their past 13 Premier League games in London (W1), conceding 29 goals and scoring just three.

Antonio Conte became the third Spurs manager to win his first three Premier League home games, after Ryan Mason and Harry Redknapp, but will be hoping that Kane will start to find the net again soon, with the England captain having only scored once in 13 league games this season.

Norwich manager Dean Smith felt his team were hard done by, and perhaps he had a point when you consider how close the xG of the contest ended, with Norwich's 1.33 only just behind Spurs' 1.52. It was little surprise that Conte's men were more deadly in their finishing though, particularly with Son Heung-min about.

The South Korea forward has been directly involved in 50 per cent of Tottenham’s league goals this season (six goals, two assists), with only Teemu Pukki (63 per cent) and Emmanuel Dennis (55 per cent) being involved in a higher share of their side's tally.

Son both scored and assisted in a single Premier League game for the 19th time. Since 2015-16, only Mohamed Salah (22) has done so more often in the competition.

 

Steve Gerrard, Gerrard, seems management isn't hard

Doing a stellar job at Rangers is one thing, but Steven Gerrard's management capability was really going to come under the microscope when he moved south to the Premier League.

It is still early days of course, but so far, the former Liverpool and England midfielder must be wondering what all the fuss was about as he saw his Aston Villa side win again with a 2-1 victory against Leicester City and his former boss Brendan Rodgers.

Having only won three of their first 11 Premier League games of the season under Dean Smith (D1 L7), Villa have since won three of their first four under Gerrard, with the only failure coming in the narrow 2-1 defeat at home to champions Manchester City.

Gerrard emphasised on his arrival that he wanted to improve the defence, but Ezri Konsa must have thought he meant at the other end as he bagged a brace on Sunday. In his 216th professional appearance in all competitions, Konsa scored twice in a game for the first time. In doing so, he was the first defender to score a brace for Aston Villa in a Premier League match since Ciaran Clark against Arsenal in November 2010.

Leicester, meanwhile, are now the first side to both score and concede a goal in 15 consecutive away games in England's top flight since Burnley from April 1961 to March 1962 (16 in a row).

As always, there was plenty of drama as the Premier League continued on Sunday.

Ralf Rangnick made a winning start to life in the Old Trafford dugout as Manchester United saw off Crystal Palace.

Tottenham and Aston Villa, meanwhile, continued their resurgences under Antonio Conte and Steven Gerrard respectively.

Spurs enjoyed a commanding win over bottom side Norwich, with Villa coming from behind to defeat Leicester City.

And despite Patrick Bamford's last-ditch goal, Leeds United dropped more points from a winning position against Brentford at Elland Road.

With lots to reflect on, Stats Perform takes an in-depth look at the pick of Opta's post-match facts from Sunday's action…

Manchester United 1-0 Crystal Palace: Rangnick makes winning start

Fred's second Premier League goal of the season gave Rangnick the perfect start to life in the Old Trafford dugout.

Including caretakers, six of the last seven managers have now won their first game in charge of the Red Devils in all competitions.

Rangnick, though, became the first German manager to win his maiden Premier League match; succeeding where Felix Magath, Jurgen Klopp, Jan Siewert, Daniel Farke and Thomas Tuchel failed.

It also marked United's first clean sheet at Old Trafford in 16 attempts, having last kept out Granada in the Europa League back in April.

Leeds United 2-2 Brentford: Last-gasp Bamford denies Bees

Brentford were denied only a second league victory at Elland Road in 15 attempts as Bamford marked his return from injury with a dramatic 95th-minute equaliser.

Tyler Roberts' first home Premier League goal put Leeds on course for a ninth successive win over a promoted side.

But the Bees bit back. Shandon Baptiste became only the third Grendian to score in the English top-flight, before Sergi Canos completed the turnaround.

Bamford ensured a share of the spoils for the hosts, who have now scored three Premier League goals in the 90th minute or later this season – more than any other side.

Nevertheless, Marcelo Bielsa's men have now dropped 12 points from winning positions this term – already twice as many as they did in the whole of last season.

Tottenham 3-0 Norwich City: Three out of three for Conte

After Harry Redknapp and Ryan Mason, Conte became the third Tottenham manager to win his first three Premier League home games following a commanding victory over Norwich.

Son Heung-min scored and assisted in a single game for the 19th time since arriving from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015, with only Mohamed Salah (22) doing so more often during that time.

The South Korea international has been directly involved in 50 per cent of Tottenham's Premier League goals this season, with only Teemu Pukki (63 per cent) and Emmanuel Dennis (55 per cent) involved in a higher share of their side's goals.

There was also a rare goal for Davinson Sanchez. Indeed, it was 1,029 days since the defender last found the net in this competition; doing so against Leicester in February 2019.

Norwich became the first side since Arsenal in 2008-09 to name five players aged 21 or under in their starting 11 for the third time in a single season.

However, the Canaries remain bottom of the table following a 12th defeat in 13 Premier League games in London.

Aston Villa 2-1 Leicester City: Gerrard continues to revitalise Villa

Villa made it three wins in four games under Gerrard – as many as they managed in their first 11 matches of the campaign.

Though they took the lead, Leicester lost having scored first for only the second time in 13 Premier League away games.

Ezri Konsa was the unlikely hero for the hosts. In his 216th professional appearance in all competitions, the centre-half scored twice in a game for the first time.

He also became the first defender to score a brace for Villa in a Premier League match since Ciaran Clark against Arsenal in November 2010.

One of his goals was provided by Emiliano Buendia. It was the Argentine's 37th assist since arriving in England in 2018, with only Trent Alexander-Arnold (39) registering more in the top four divisions during that time.

Lucas Moura senses Tottenham are building a formidable mentality under Antonio Conte after recording their third straight Premier League win.

Spurs leapfrogged rivals Arsenal to move fifth in the table following a commanding 3-0 victory over bottom side Norwich City.

Lucas got the ball rolling with his first league goal of the season courtesy of a thunderous 25-yard strike, while Davinson Sanchez and Son Heung-min sealed the points.

Conte became only the third Tottenham boss to win each of his opening three home Premier League games in charge – after Harry Redknapp and Ryan Mason.

Brazilian Lucas, whose goal was only his second from outside the box in the league since arriving in 2018 from Paris Saint-Germain, believes the club’s upturn in fortunes is testament to the Italian's influence.

"I'm very happy that I finally managed to score my first goal in the Premier League this season," Lucas said. "What a goal, what a feeling!

"It's very natural for me; I tried to dribble and when I found space, I decided I was going to shoot.

"I think with Tottenham, it's in my top three [goals]. I don't score many goals like Son or Harry, but I've scored some nice goals. I'm happy to help the team."

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Lucas said: "It was a solid performance. I think we are building a very good mentality and just need to keep going this way. Every day, we work very hard and try to put on the pitch what Antonio asks of us.

"I think our style of play is very clear; we are very aggressive with a lot of intensity and I think we are doing very well."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.