Bruno Fernandes being hailed as the signing who turned around Manchester United's fortunes would have been difficult for Paul Pogba to take, according to Nani.

Fernandes has received rave reviews for his incredible performances since arriving at Old Trafford from Sporting CP just over a year ago.

The attacking midfielder has recorded 40 goal involvements – 23 goals and 17 assists – in 41 Premier League appearances, leading him to be touted as the player who can lead United back to the top.

Former United winger Nani, a four-time Premier League winner, thinks every United squad member would have had to take stock after Fernandes' stunning impact.

And adapting would have been particularly tough for Pogba, who was previously established as the star man.

Nani feels Pogba and the rest of the United players have adjusted well over the past year to increasingly incorporate Fernandes' individual brilliance into better team performances and results.

But he believes the connection between World Cup winner Pogba and Portugal international Fernandes must get stronger still.

Nani told Stats Perform News: "There are different [types of] players on the field - you have Bruno Fernandes, a smarter attacking player, and Pogba who can do a little bit of both [attacking and defending].

"Pogba can handle the game a bit for Bruno to go a little bit up [the pitch]. They have to try to have the connection. 

"It is not easy, when you [Pogba] are the player for the club, the midfield star, and another player arrives to the team and starts performing so well.

"And then [it is not easy] that everyone starts talking just about the player and, 'He made the team change, he made everything'. 

"All of that could have a little bit of an impact in every head on the team. 

"But what I see in the last games, the players adjust to that. They have confirmed [in ther minds] a little bit what Bruno can give to the team.

"And Bruno is part of the team so now they look like more of a strong team. 

"So I'm very confident about the next games until the end of the season. I think there will be a surprise to the end of the season because they are still in the Europa League. Let's see."

Pogba has just over one year left on his current contract and agent Mino Raiola said in December his client wanted to leave United.

While Raiola later backtracked somewhat during the January transfer window, he insisted he would still push for a transfer at the end of the season, though the club have talked about a new deal.

Nani was asked whether Pogba's continued presence in the headlines meant he had become a distraction for United.

"At this moment, I see him as one of the important players at Man United," Nani said about Pogba.

"But I don't know what he has on his mind, if he wants to leave or if all this news is making some problems in his head.

"I don't know if he has full concentration on the team, on the games, on the goals of the team. 

"I saw him when he was struggling with some injuries and then he came back and started playing, he was improving his performance. He was doing well. 

"He was helping the team, but we know Pogba can do much better, he can do much more because he is a top player in this position. He's not using all his strength, all his qualities. 

"But if he wants to stay at the club, for sure he will perform much better very soon. He needs to continue to improve his game, his confidence and try to help the team in the way he can."

Pogba has been out of action for a month since suffering a thigh injury in the dramatic 3-3 draw with Everton.

While United are unbeaten in seven games without him, four of those contests have been draws, including Wednesday's goalless encounter at Crystal Palace.

That was their sixth goalless Premier League draw of the season, their joint-most ever in a season, along with 2004-05 and 2016-17.

It is also the first time United have drawn three consecutive matches 0-0 in all competitions since October 2015, when they were playing under Louis van Gaal.

Erling Haaland can be a star for the next decade but only 10 clubs are realistically in the running to buy the striker when he leaves Borussia Dortmund, according to Mino Raiola.

The Norway international has been prolific since joining the Bundesliga club midway through the 2019-20 season, soring 43 goals in as many appearances in all competitions.

Only Robert Lewandowski (56) at Bayern Munich and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo (50) have managed more for a team in the top five European leagues since the start of January last year – and Haaland is still only 20. His minutes-per-goal average of 79.51 is better than both, though.

Haaland's contract at Dortmund is rumoured to include an agreement allowing him to leave for a €75million fee at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

In an interview with BBC Sport, Raiola - who is the player's agent - explained why the list of potential buyers only just reaches double figures, with four possible destinations in the Premier League.

"It is obvious that everybody is looking at Erling as one of those potential new future stars because it's so difficult to do what he does at his age at his level," Raiola said.

"He will be one of the future stars of the next decade because we see that stars such as [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi are coming to an age where everyone asks themselves: 'How long can we still enjoy them?' So everyone is looking for the new generation.

"Only a maximum of 10 clubs can afford to buy [Haaland] and give the platform you would like after you've been in Dortmund… and four of those clubs are in [England].

"I don't think there's a sports director or trainer in the world who would say 'not interested'. It's like saying: 'Is there a Formula 1 team who would not be interested in having Lewis Hamilton?'"

Raiola made clear he does not expect the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic to have an impact on "extraordinary talents" such as Haaland and Paul Pogba, another of his clients.

He caused a stir in December when suggesting ahead of Manchester United's crucial Champions League game with RB Leipzig that the midfielder was not happy at Old Trafford, making a contract extension appear unlikely.

United lost that game in Germany, a result that saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side miss out on the knockout stages of the competition.

"I don't think that it destabilised anybody, because they had a fantastic run and they were even first, for a period, in the league," Raiola said of his comments.

"You think big players like Pogba - or Solskjaer, who won everything in his life - get destabilised by what Mino Raiola says? Come on, please."

Paul Pogba will not play again in February, with the Manchester United midfielder still needing a couple of weeks to recover from a thigh injury.

Pogba has not featured for United since sustaining the injury in their 3-3 draw with Everton on February 6.

He seemingly faces a race against time to be fit for the derby with Manchester City on March 6, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ruling him out of Premier League games against Newcastle United and Chelsea as well as the two legs of the Europa League last-32 tie versus Real Sociedad.

Speaking ahead of the first leg of that tie, Solskjaer told a media conference: "Paul, his recovery, he's starting the treatments, it'll still be a few weeks.

"He won't be playing in February that's for sure. Still a few weeks until we see Paul, definitely.

"Apart from that we have a couple of doubtful ones if they'll be fit enough [to face Sociedad].

"Anthony [Martial] and Scott [McTominay], we'll have to check them tomorrow and Donny [van de Beek] and Edinson [Cavani] definitely not travelling."

Muscle injuries will keep Van de Beek and Cavani out of the away leg against Sociedad on Thursday, which will take place in Turin rather than San Sebastian because of coronavirus concerns.

Though the away leg will be played at a neutral venue, Solskjaer still sees a side fifth in LaLiga as the toughest opponent they could have been given.

"You've got to be very, very good against Sociedad, it's probably the hardest you could pick from our unseeded group," he said.

"They were top of LaLiga for a while, now they're still in the hunt for the Champions League for next year, got some top players, some very experienced players, some quality players, some young very good ones.

"We have to play at a high level to get a result, of course we do, because the Spanish league is a quality one."

United are winless in their past nine meetings with Spanish opposition since beating Celta Vigo 1-0 in the semi-finals of the 2016-17 Europa League.

They have lost six of those matches, but Solskjaer is not concerned by the history that appears to be against them.

"It's probably down to the level of teams we've played against," Solskjaer said of that record. "Spanish teams are good, make no mistake about that, and we haven't performed well enough, that's for sure.

"We have to perform very well to beat a Sociedad team who are aggressive defensively, they're very good on the ball, good possession team, got good pace, got most of the ingredients of a top team.

"We don't go into games worrying [about that record], but we know we have to perform well to get a good result."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Pogba's agent Mino Raiola said he will work on the future of the Manchester United star in the "shadows" amid links to former club Juventus.

Pogba's future has been a subject of discussion since Raiola claimed his client's time at United was "over" in December, prompting speculation of a possible return to Serie A holders Juve or move to LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The World Cup winner has started 15 of United's 23 Premier League matches during his fifth season since returning to Old Trafford from Juve in 2016.

Pogba's contract is set to expire in 2022 and United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has explained an "open dialogue" about a new deal for the Frenchman is ongoing.

But after stoking the speculation over Pogba's in the past, Raiola now wants to keep the 27-year-old's business behind closed doors.

"Pogba must also be left alone," Raiola told tuttomercatoweb.com

"When I speak people get nervous, he doesn't sleep at night, so I don't speak anymore.

"I will do what I have to do not in front of you, but in the shadows, as I always have."

Pogba has been in inspired form since the New Year, scoring a pair of crucial winning goals in away games against Burnley and Fulham in the Premier League.

However, Pogba limped off in the 39th minute of United's last outing against Everton with a thigh injury and has been ruled out for "a few weeks".

Paul Pogba will miss "a few weeks" for Manchester United, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed in concerning news ahead of a key month.

World Cup-winning midfielder Pogba returned to United's starting line-up to face Everton at the weekend but lasted just 39 minutes of the 3-3 draw.

The 27-year-old appeared to suffer a thigh injury and was quickly deemed a doubt for Tuesday's FA Cup fifth-round clash with West Ham on Tuesday.

Solskjaer has since revealed the extent of the issue, which could keen Pogba out of a series of big matches.

United play Real Sociedad home and away in the Europa League in February, before visiting Chelsea in the Premier League at the end of the month and Manchester City on March 6.

"It's an injury that will take a few weeks to heal," Solskjaer told MUTV. "He's just started his recovery, working with the medical staff and we'll get him back as soon and safely as we can.

"Of course, Paul has been very important for us and we're not going to take any risks. [It will be] a few weeks, definitely.

"You never want to be injured and, especially, now Paul was really finding his form and enjoying his football. For us, we just have to take as many points and wins as possible, when you lose players.

"We've been very healthy and strong for a long period so we can't moan too much."

Pogba scored winning goals at Burnley and Fulham in January, although United's form has since suffered a little, allowing City to build a five-point gap at the summit with a game in hand.

Meanwhile, Solskjaer suggested that captain Harry Maguire could be given a rest against West Ham, having sat out just two games since the campaign started.

"Of course I think about if he needs a rest, if he physically can keep going and going," said the United boss.

"The nature of a centre-back position is a different position compared to full-backs and wide men or even central midfielders, or any other position on the pitch. The centre-backs are the ones who are protected mostly from the real fatigue because you're working less.

"Then again, he's never injured, Harry. He's never been really badly hurt, touch wood, and hopefully he'll be able to carry on. But I'm not sure if he'll play on Tuesday or not. I've not decided yet."

United have scored 12 goals across their past two games and although Mason Greenwood did not find the net in the 9-0 win over Southampton or the draw with Everton, Solskjaer has been impressed by his recent displays.

Greenwood created two chances – one of which ended in an assist – and had two efforts on target against Southampton, while he also completed three dribbles. Versus Everton he failed to hit the target or supply a key pass, but was again successful with three of his five attempted dribbles.

"Mason was different class [against Everton]. I thought he was the standout performer on the pitch - he just didn't get the goal that his performance deserved," said Solskjaer.

"I think the last few games, if you look at him closely - yeah, I know we scored nine against Southampton - but if you look at his performance, I thought his performance was top.

"He's improved and matured immensely, and he's working with some of the top forwards in the country, of course. He's learning off them, and it's exciting to see that he's come over his blip and is playing really well."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is awaiting the results of a scan to determine the severity of Paul Pogba's thigh injury after the star midfielder was substituted in the first half of a last-gasp 3-3 draw against Everton.

Pogba hobbled off the field with six minutes remaining prior to half-time as United capitulated at Old Trafford, where Everton sensationally salvaged a point in the 95th minute on Saturday.

United were in control when Pogba succumbed to injury – leading 2-0 at the interval thanks to Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes – before two goals in the space of three minutes to start the second half restored parity for Everton.

Scott McTominay put United ahead again with 20 minutes remaining, but just as the Red Devils looked like securing maximum points, Dominic Calvert-Lewin silenced the hosts in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Asked about Pogba post-match, Solskjaer told reporters: "It seemed like a muscle injury, his thigh.

"We will check him tomorrow, give him treatment and a scan, see how bad it is. We hope it's not too bad.

"He couldn't carry on, we had to take him off."

United's collapse dented their Premier League title hopes, with rivals and neighbours Manchester City – who have played two matches less – two points clear atop the table ahead of Sunday's showdown against champions Liverpool.

Saturday's result was just the fourth time in Premier League history United failed to win a fixture in which they led by two-plus goals at half-time, and just the second time at Old Trafford – 2-2 at Tottenham in December 1998, 2-2 at home to West Brom in October 2010 and 5-5 away to WBA in May 2013.

It was also just the fourth time United led a Premier League home game by at least two goals and failed to win, with Everton responsible for the last two occasions (also 4-4 in April 2012).

Fernandes scored a memorable long-range goal on the stroke of half-time to put United 2-0 ahead of Everton, following Cavani's opener.

Since his debut in the Premier League, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (22) has scored more Premier League goals than Fernandes (21). Meanwhile, only Southampton star James Ward-Prowse (five) has scored more outside the box than the Portuguese (four).

Paul Pogba lasted only 39 minutes on his return to the Manchester United starting line-up against Everton on Saturday.

World Cup winner Pogba, who has rediscovered something approaching his best form in recent months, was left on the bench for the midweek 9-0 rout of Southampton at Old Trafford.

The France international replaced Fred against Everton in the only change to that side, yet it ended up being merely a temporary switch.

Fred was called from the bench shortly before half-time when Pogba pulled up immediately after playing a simple pass, seemingly indicating an issue with his thigh.

The midfielder was helped off the pitch and headed for treatment, dealing a blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his 100th match as a Premier League manager.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Paul Pogba is happy at Manchester United and said an "open dialogue" remained over a possible extension.

The France international's future has been a constant talking point amid links with Real Madrid and a possible return to Juventus.

Pogba, 27, is contracted at United until 2022, but his agent Mino Raiola said late last year the midfielder was unhappy at Old Trafford and had to leave.

United manager Solskjaer said Pogba was happy at United and suggested a fresh deal was possible.

"We've got a good open dialogue with Paul so what we talk about and how we see that situation remains between us," he told reporters.

"I'm just happy he's focused and playing really well. He's happy within himself and that's important. You can see Paul enjoying football himself with a red shirt on.

"Our conversations remain private, of course. But for example, Paul is a Manchester United player through and through. He's been here in two spells. He came as a kid, he's learnt about the history of the club, the passion of the club.

"He wants to do the best for United when he's here and I think we've seen that – that he really cares for his team and he's trying to be as successful as everyone else."

While some of Pogba's passing numbers are down, his possession won in final third (0.8 per 90 minutes) and interceptions (1.2) in the Premier League are at their highest since he returned to United in 2016.

Pogba also scored match-winners against Burnley and Fulham last month and Solskjaer praised the midfielder's recent performances.

"The answer is Paul has really knuckled down, he's worked hard, he's got his fitness," he said.

"I have said this many a time he had a bad season last season with injuries and he had COVID this season and an injury, but he really works hard and is playing in a team that plays well and he's a big inspiration for everyone."

United can move level on points with Premier League leaders and rivals Manchester City with a win over Everton on Saturday.

Paul Pogba has leapt to the defence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, saying his former team-mate is "the last person I'd think of as racist" after his clash with Romelu Lukaku.

Ibrahimovic and Lukaku traded insults in heated exchanges during Inter's 2-1 Coppa Italia quarter-final derby win over Milan on Tuesday.

Both players were booked following a confrontation late in the first half and they had to be separated as the furious row continued after the whistle for half-time was blown.

Ibrahimovic, who was sent off in the second half for a second bookable offence, appeared to tell Lukaku to "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey."

The Milan striker on Wednesday denied he was guilty of racially abusing Inter's leading scorer Lukaku, who equalised in the second half before Christian Eriksen scored a late winner.

He tweeted: "In ZLATAN's world there is no place for RACISM. We are all the same race – we are all equal!! We are all PLAYERS some better then [sic] others."

Pogba, who played alongside the prolific Swede and Lukaku at Manchester United, later stated there is no way Ibrahimovic would subject anybody to racial abuse.

"Zlatan... racist? He loves me too much so he's the last person I'd think of as racist! Come on, don't joke with that one!" the United and France midfielder posted on Twitter.

Paul Pogba believes Manchester United stars are no longer "cheating" each other by expecting others to work hard, a change that is propelling their title charge.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side will return to the top of the Premier League if they beat Sheffield United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

At this stage of 2019-20, the Red Devils were eighth in the table and 24 points behind leaders Liverpool, but they have gained an extra 12 points from the same number of games this term.

Pogba has been key to their recent run of 10 wins and three draws from their past 13 Premier League matches, having recovered form and fitness following time out with coronavirus.

Since December, he is in the top three United players for completed passes, tackles, interceptions, dribbles completed and goals, while he has won back possession 67 times, more than any team-mate.

It is that level of hard work without the ball that has been crucial to United's improved performances under Solskjaer, according to the 2018 World Cup winner.

When asked by former United star Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport what has changed within the squad, Pogba said: "I would say the mentality. We play more as a team, defending much better, pressing much better together.

"No one is cheating. What I mean is no one is running less, or not making the effort to come back."

Asked if that was a problem previously, he said: "I think yes, it's always been a problem. When you're all together, it's always going to be easier. If someone is making less effort, it's going to be a little problem for the team.

"When we're all together, we have the same mentality, we work hard, it's better and you see the results."

Pogba is now determined for United to deliver on their promising run of results and end a trophy drought stretching back to 2017, when they won the EFL Cup and Europa League.

The midfielder would be far happier to claim silverware this term by playing an attractive brand of football.

"From last year, this year, it's surprising [to be so close to the top] but we were expecting that, to get closer," he said. "That's the goal, it's the challenge to get there at the top, the level of Manchester City, Liverpool - that's what we want to do.

"I don't want to say that we're here yet, because we're not. They won trophies; we didn't. We're still behind them.

"We have to keep putting in the work and improving. We've been doing well. In six months, we want to say the same thing: 'Man United, they've been great this season, the best team in the league'. That's what we want to hear at the end of the season. We don't want to hear, 'oh, they're playing well, but they didn't win anything'. We have to keep working as we haven't won anything yet.

"That's what we want to do: play well and win trophies. We don't only want to win trophies and playing ****. We'd still be happy but we're trying to get back the winning mentality."

Pogba admits he would rather be playing in a more advanced role but certainly accepts his form has improved through speeding up his use of the ball.

"In this league, I don't get as much time as I want," he said. "I like to have touches of the ball and people press me more, the [opposition] team leaves some players on me.

"Now, I just try to play quicker, so I can limit the space behind me, playing more as a team than an individual, even though sometimes I like to hold the ball and pass the player. But it would be better to play one, two-touch and get in the box.

"When I play like that, I see the difference, I won't lose the ball or anything so I feel more comfortable. It's good, it helps the team, it helps me, because, mentally, when you lose the ball, some people cannot get on the ball again. Me? You know me. I like to be on the ball.

"I try to play just, to do the right thing at the right time. I think it's right to play faster."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Manchester United's dressing room is being "driven to success" by Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba.

United sit top of the Premier League table on 40 points, six clear of defending champions Liverpool, who Solskjaer's team face in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday, seven days on from a 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Liverpool have been eliminated from the FA Cup by United more than they have any other opponent in the competition's history, though the Red Devils have lost two of their past three against the Reds in the competition.

Integral to United's recent success has been the form of Fernandes, who has scored 19 league goals and created a further 14 from 33 top-flight appearances since joining from Sporting CP last year.

Veteran campaigner Cavani, meanwhile, has netted five times in all competitions since arriving as a free agent in October, while United's club-record signing Pogba has enjoyed a resurgence after a difficult start to the campaign, and scored a superb winner against Fulham last time out.

Buoyed by the performances of Fernandes, Cavani and Pogba, Solskjaer sees his squad having experienced a drastic shift in mentality, comparing the trio's influence to that of his former United team-mates Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs.

"I think that runs through the squad and that's part of my thinking when you bring players in," Solskjaer told a news conference.

"You don't just bring big talents in, you research their character as much as you can to have the right types.

"Because there are always players who think 'there's a game next week and I'll still get my wages'. That's the mentality we had to get away from.

"I wanted players to come here to push the boundaries, the levels and drive it on from the inside. It can't come just from the outside. With players like Bruno, Edinson and Paul Pogba, I feel I have a dressing room that is driven to success. That makes my job easier – 100 per cent.

"When you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. We had players here when I played – Roy Keane, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs – they drove it on.

"When they spoke you knew you had no leg to stand on to ­argue, because you knew that they did it every single day.

"That's what we need from our players. Many of us in the game have been in dressing rooms where people talk – but you think what are you ­talking about? 

"They talk the talk, but don't really walk the walk. But the players we're talking about – Pogba and Cavani and Bruno – they've been there, they know what it takes and they ­demand it off their team-mates."

The omens are good for United ahead of Sunday's encounter with their bitter rivals, who have reached the FA Cup fifth round only once during Jurgen Klopp's tenure.

United are also unbeaten in their past seven home games against Liverpool in all competitions (W3 D4) since a 3-0 loss in March 2014. They last had a longer unbeaten run against the Reds at Old Trafford between 1990 and 2000 (12 games).

Zinedine Zidane's future at Real Madrid is being questioned, while Paul Pogba could be set to stay at Manchester United.

Madrid were stunned by third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, sparking fresh talk about Zidane's position at the helm.

Zidane is under fire, but the Frenchman may get more time.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE BEING QUESTIONED AS REAL MADRID BOSS

Zinedine Zidane is being questioned more than ever as Real Madrid head coach, according to AS.

The report says he will remain at the helm until the Champions League, which will resume in February, and former star forward Raul is the top candidate to replace him.

Madrid are second in LaLiga, seven points behind Atletico Madrid, who also have a game in hand.

ROUND-UP

- Pogba may be happier at Manchester United. The Daily Star reports United are increasingly confident the midfielder will see out his contract, which runs until 2022, despite interest from Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

- Christian Eriksen looks set to leave Inter, but it remains to be seen where he ends up. The Telegraph claims Leicester City have ruled out a loan move for the midfielder due to his wage demands.

- RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano is set to be the subject of speculation for months to come. Goal reports Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have shown interest in the defender, who is also wanted by Bayern Munich.

- Dele Alli wants to reunite with Mauricio Pochettino at PSG. 90min says the Tottenham midfielder has asked chairman Daniel Levy not to block a potential switch this month.

- Arsenal appear set to strengthen in January. Sport reports midfielder Martin Odegaard is very close to joining the Premier League club on loan from Real Madrid.

Paul Pogba can make the difference for Manchester United and help them win the Premier League title this season, according to club legend Wayne Rooney.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side overcame an early deficit to defeat Fulham 2-1 on Wednesday, a result that moved them back to the top of the table. 

While Manchester City and Leicester City are just two points adrift – and defending champions Liverpool are six back with a game in hand - Rooney feels his former side have the strength in depth to last the distance. 

United's all-time leading scorer pointed to Bruno Fernandes and Edinson Cavani helping to add a winning mentality to the squad, though Rooney feels Pogba is key to their hopes of success.

"Over the last few years Man United haven't been ready to challenge for the title," Rooney, now appointed as permanent boss at Derby County, told the media on Thursday. 

"Where I think now, they've built a squad of players. Fernandes coming in has helped massively. Cavani, with that winning mentality, has helped massively - now the squad is challenging for the Premier League title.  

"I said six weeks ago to the coaches in the office that I felt Man United will win the league. I still feel that today - and Paul Pogba will have a massive part to play in that. 

"They have bought players in who have a winning mentality, who will relieve a bit of the pressure on Paul and let him do what he does best in showing his quality on the pitch."

Victory at Fulham means United are now unbeaten in their past 17 Premier League away games, equalling their longest ever such run on the road in top-flight history. 

Pogba scored the winner in the 65th minute, his sixth in the competition from outside the penalty area in his career but just the third he has managed with his left foot.  

Having lined up wide on the right in the 0-0 draw with Liverpool at the weekend, the France international was utilised in a deeper central midfield role at Craven Cottage, though still made the most passes in the opposing team's half of any player on the pitch, demonstrating his influence on proceedings.

Pogba, whose long-term future with the Red Devils still remains in some doubt, also managed the only goal of the game in the recent 1-0 triumph at Burnley.

Harry Maguire has paid tribute to Paul Pogba following his match-winning goal in the 2-1 victory at Fulham, commending him for his form.

It was not so long ago that Pogba's United future appeared to amount to little, as his form at the start of the season was poor and his agent Mino Raiola claimed he was "finished" at Old Trafford.

Raiola's comments came as recently as December 7, two days after Pogba had played a pivotal role in a 3-1 comeback win at West Ham and on the eve of a crucial Champions League trip to RB Leipzig, that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men ultimately lost and suffered elimination.

At the time, that West Ham game was Pogba's first Premier League start in over a month due to a foot injury, but since then he has rarely been out of the team, the time off seemingly doing him some good after Solskjaer had suggested his slow start to the season was caused by his contracting of coronavirus.

He almost won the weekend game against Liverpool as he saw a fine opportunity thwarted by Alisson, but he did deal the decisive blow at Fulham on Wednesday, a wonderful left-footed strike from distance leaving Alphonse Areola helpless, and United captain Maguire was thrilled.

"Paul doesn't have a weak foot," Maguire told MUTV. "You can see Paul, over the last month or so, he's starting to get his fitness back and credit to Paul.

"Coming back into the team and doing what he's doing at the moment is great for us. He's a big part of the dressing room, he's a big player for us.

"We know he can produce moments of brilliance. For sure, I hope he carries on and I'm sure he will."

POGBACK IN BUSINESS

Opta data backs up Maguire's assertion that Pogba is proving himself a "big player" for United at the moment.

Since kick-off in the West Ham win, only Marcus Rashford (five) and Bruno Fernandes (four) have scored more than Pogba's three in the Premier League, but two of those have also been winners.

Pogba is stepping up when others are not, dragging United over the finish line in some cases, while his influence in the aforementioned West Ham win was significant. He took the game by the scruff of the neck with a glorious equaliser that set the tone for one of many United turnarounds this term.

There has been more to him than just scoring the occasional goal, however. The Fulham win showed how his overall influence has grown, as his 85 passes was a high among United players and his 106 touches of the ball was second only to Aaron Wan-Bissaka (109).

Since December 5, he is averaging 53.2 successful passes and 84.9 touches per 90 minutes played in the Premier League – the only United players with better averages in those metrics (Nemanja Matic and Alex Telles, respectively) have played less than half as many minutes as Pogba.

Before December 5, Pogba was making 46.1 accurate passes every 90 minutes and having 79.4 touches on average – while not a huge increase in the latter, there were several players seeing more of the ball than him, now there are not.

While Pogba's future is bound to become a bone of contention again sooner or later and provide another irritating distraction in the soap opera that has been his association with United, for the time being at least he is giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a dependable alternative to Bruno Fernandes in midfield.

With the Portugal star's performances on the wane a little lately amid suggestions of fatigue, Pogba's resurgence is a timely boost as the Red Devils look to firmly plant themselves atop the Premier League table.

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