Pep Guardiola quickly turned his focus towards Manchester United after Manchester City thrashed Fulham 4-0 in the FA Cup fourth round.

The game as a contest was effectively over inside the opening eight minutes, with visiting captain Tim Ream dismissed for a foul on Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan converting the consequent penalty.

Bernardo Silva doubled the hosts' and holders' advantage before the interval at the Etihad Stadium, with Jesus' quickfire second-half double putting the gloss on things.

Next up for City is the visit of bitter rivals United in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final, with Guardiola's side boasting a 3-1 aggregate lead.

Reflecting initially on the clash with Championship promotion hopefuls Fulham, Guardiola said: "For a few moments, I thought it would be a tough game.

"They're a team with a lot of courage but it was a bit different after the red card. They still tried to play but the game was over at 3-0.

"The determination was always there and we will fight to win each competition.

"Always we score goals and have the ability to score. The problem this season has been conceding some goals, but it's always good to score goals."

Casting his mind ahead to Wednesday's derby, he added: "Next is United and a chance to get to the final and that is our next target."

Fulham boss Scott Parker conceded his side's hopes of an upset were dashed by Ream's moment of madness, the skipper left "devastated" by his curtailed afternoon.

"Everything we planned for we had to change after six minutes because of the red card," he told BBC Sport.

"Tim Ream is obviously devastated. He has been immense for us this season. He made a mistake today. In the heat of the moment, you make decisions and sometimes you make the wrong ones."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to be linked with a move from Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are the latest European heavyweight reportedly interested in the forward.

Aubameyang, 30, is reportedly a target for Barcelona after scoring 16 goals in 26 games for struggling Arsenal this season.

However, with Edinson Cavani potentially leaving, PSG are also eyeing the Gabon international.

 

TOP STORY – PSG INTERESTED IN AUBAMEYANG AMID BARCELONA LINKS

PSG are considering a move for Aubameyang, according to Foot Mercato.

Cavani may leave the Ligue 1 giants for Atletico Madrid during this transfer window and Aubameyang could be his replacement, the report says.

PSG are reportedly discussing a loan with an option to buy Aubameyang.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal are close to a deal for Flamengo defender Pablo Mari, according to ESPN and other reports. The Premier League club will reportedly pay £8.4million (€10m) for the Spaniard.

- Marcos Rojo could be on his way out of Manchester United. After just three Premier League appearances this season, the defender is heading back to Estudiantes – where he started his career – on loan, according to the Mirror.

- Carles Perez is set to join Roma. Sky Sport Italia reports the Barcelona forward will join the Serie A club on loan until the end of the season, with a mandatory purchase option for €13m to be part of the deal.

- Inter are already preparing for a period of dominance, including next season. Sport Italia reports Napoli star Lorenzo Insigne has been offered to Inter, who may land the forward ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

- Inter and Napoli seem to have a decent relationship. CalcioMercato reports Matteo Politano will swap Milan for Naples, where he will sign a deal until 2024 with a medical set for Monday.

- Mauricio Pochettino remains without a job after being sacked by Tottenham in November. The Mirror reports Spurs will be entitled to £10m in compensation if the Argentinian finds another job before the end of the season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he held no fears over his job at the helm of Manchester United, but accepted results were needed.

Solskjaer is under increasing pressure at Old Trafford, with United having won just two of their past seven games ahead of visiting Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday.

But the Norwegian said he was unworried about his position, although he knows United – who are fifth in the Premier League – must improve their form.

"When we sat down we all agreed, the club and I, that the culture had to change," Solskjaer told UK media.

"It's not like I've been told without my consent what we're doing, because we agreed to things when we signed contracts and we agreed on a plan. I don't fear for my position in that respect, I just keep on working.

"Of course you know you need results and show you're doing the right things but I won't spend big money on someone to come in here now if they're not right for the club."

United have come under fire amid their poor run of form and an inability to thus far strengthen in January, particularly as they reportedly struggle to land Sporting CP star Bruno Fernandes.

But Solskjaer said signing the right players was the key, suggesting the Premier League giants had failed with their more recent moves in the transfer market.

"It's a skill to look yourself in mirror sometimes and not just blame others as well. That's what some of us do – blame others," he said.

"For me, it's about understanding. We have to spend wisely, that's one of the keys. We've spent loads of money in the past five or six seasons, since Sir Alex Ferguson left.

"I've got to make sure that when we spend the money now it's on the right players and the right types, who will be here in the long run and will add quality now."

Manchester United, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund are hoping to sign Juventus midfielder Emre Can.

Can, 26, is out of favour in Turin and has made just two Serie A starts this season.

The former Liverpool midfielder will reportedly be allowed to leave during this transfer window and three European giants are eyeing the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD, TOTTENHAM AND DORTMUND EYE EMRE CAN

Manchester United, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund are chasing Juventus' Can, according to SPORT1.

With Euro 2020 coming up later this year, Can wants regular playing time to earn a spot in the Germany squad.

Can made 37 appearances in all competitions for Juve last season, but has played just eight times in 2019-20.

Sportmediaset reports Juve are working on a move for Napoli midfielder Allan to replace Can.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter will wrap up a deal for Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen early next week, according to Sky Sport Italia. The Serie A club will pay €18million (£15.2m) plus €2m (£1.7m) in bonuses for Eriksen, who is out of contract at season's end.

- Staying at San Siro and Inter are targeting Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud after recognising it would be difficult to sign Napoli's Fernando Llorente, according to Sky Sport Italia.

- Barcelona are making progress in their bid to land Valencia forward Rodrigo, according to Sport. While working on a loan move, Barcelona want an option to buy at season's end, while Valencia want it to be an obligation to purchase for around €60m. The report says Barca are willing to pay Valencia a "penalty fee" if they do not make the loan permanent.

- Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Lemar is close to signing with Premier League club Arsenal, according to El Chiringuito. Lemar has made just nine LaLiga starts this season.

- Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are in talks over a swap deal. Goal reports the clubs are discussing swapping full-backs Mattia De Sciglio and Layvin Kurzawa.

- With Marcus Rashford injured, Manchester United have looked at signing Shanghai Shenhua's Odion Ighalo and Monaco's Islam Slimani, who is on loan from Leicester City, according to Sky Sports.

Rebuilding Manchester United cannot be a quick fix and the club must avoiding reacting to outside noise, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after a week in which the pressure on the Red Devils boss intensified.

After suffering a 2-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield, United were stunned at home by Burnley, who won by the same scoreline in what marked the Clarets' first league victory at Old Trafford since 1962.

United remain six points adrift of the top four and have yet to make a breakthrough in the transfer window, with negotiations with Sporting CP over Bruno Fernandes reported to have hit an impasse.

Solskjaer, though, continues to try to keep matters at the club in perspective, again insisting that a turnaround in United's fortunes will take time.

He told a media conference ahead of Sunday's FA Cup clash at Tranmere Rovers: "I think our fans know what we have started on, and I've been trusted to do that job by the club. For me that rebuild doesn't go one way all the time.

"It doesn't go 'we're doing great, we're doing great, we're winning games'. I've said it so many times, ups and downs.

"The foundation has to be laid and the culture has to be properly set and laid down. With this group I feel I have a good core of players that believe in themselves and believe in what we're doing and I trust them to be the good lads carrying us forward, with some signings, with some players coming back from injury.

"You don't just take your roof off when you're going to rebuild a house, you need to knock your house down and put the foundation in. You don't start with the roof. For us we've had a couple of rainy days and we wish that roof was on but you can't hide."

Asked why United are apparently unable to spend vast sums of money like neighbours Manchester City, Solskjaer replied: "For me, we do have a way of doing things, you can see other teams have done well.

"You can see [Liverpool manager] Jurgen [Klopp] spent four years building his team and they're doing well now.

"It's not gonna be a quick fix, and it's not eight or 10 players in in one transfer window. We've had one transfer window, proper one, because the Januarys, they are difficult, but we are still trying to do something now."

It was put to Solskjaer that predecessors such as David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were not afforded the time to implement long-term plans, but he has heard nothing to suggest he will not be allowed to continue the rebuild.

"When you start on something you stick to that plan. I'm not going to change six eight, or nine or 10 months after I got the job and start believing in a different way," said Solskjaer.

"I'm gonna stick to what I've been trusted to do by the club and hopefully that'll be good enough and that they can see what we're doing is right. We know how football is nowadays, but all my conversations with the club have been positive.

"We can't react to all the noise outside, there's always going to be criticism, you've got to take the criticism at this club, you've got to be stronger mentally probably than anywhere else in the world.

"I feel I am [strong], the club is strong, the staff I've got with me they're very strong mentally, so we're sticking to what we believe in. I've got full faith in what we're doing."

Manchester United have been fined £20,000 by the Football Association for failing to control their players during the 2-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

Having gone ahead in the 14th minute through Virgil van Dijk's header, Liverpool thought they had a second when Roberto Firmino curled home soon after.

However, the goal was subsequently disallowed following a VAR check, with Van Dijk having been deemed to foul United goalkeeper David de Gea prior to Firmino's strike.

Referee Craig Pawson did not initially blow up for a foul, with United's players - including goalkeeper De Gea, who received a booking - gathering around the official to protest prior to the video review.

The FA has now taken action against United after finding them guilty of a breach of rule E20(a).

"Manchester United FC has been fined £20,000 after admitting a breach of FA Rule E20 and accepting the standard penalty," read a statement.

"The club failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 26th minute of a Premier League fixture against Liverpool FC on 19 January 2020."

Rebuilding Manchester United cannot be a quick fix and the club must avoiding reacting to outside noise, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said after a week in which the pressure on the Red Devils boss intensified.

After suffering a 2-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield, United were stunned at home by Burnley, who won by the same scoreline in what marked the Clarets' first league victory at Old Trafford since 1962.

United remain six points adrift of the top four and have yet to make a breakthrough in the transfer window, with negotiations with Sporting CP over Bruno Fernandes reported to have hit an impasse.

Solskjaer, though, continues to try to keep matters at the club in perspective, again insisting that a turnaround in United's fortunes will take time.

He told a media conference ahead of Sunday's FA Cup clash at Tranmere Rovers: "I think our fans know what we have started on, and I've been trusted to do that job by the club. For me that rebuild doesn't go one way all the time.

"It doesn't go 'we're doing great, we're doing great, we're winning games'. I've said it so many times, ups and downs.

"The foundation has to be laid and the culture has to be properly set and laid down. With this group I feel I have a good core of players that believe in themselves and believe in what we're doing and I trust them to be the good lads carrying us forward, with some signings, with some players coming back from injury.

"You don't just take your roof off when you're going to rebuild a house, you need to knock your house down and put the foundation in. You don't start with the roof. For us we've had a couple of rainy days and we wish that roof was on but you can't hide."

Asked why United are apparently unable to spend vast sums of money like neighbours Manchester City, Solskjaer replied: "For me, we do have a way of doing things, you can see other teams have done well.

"You can see [Liverpool manager] Jurgen [Klopp] spent four years building his team and they're doing well now.

"It's not gonna be a quick fix, and it's not eight or 10 players in in one transfer window. We've had one transfer window, proper one, because the Januarys, they are difficult, but we are still trying to do something now."

It was put to Solskjaer that predecessors such as David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were not afforded the time to implement long-term plans, but he has heard nothing to suggest he will not be allowed to continue the rebuild.

"When you start on something you stick to that plan. I'm not going to change six eight, or nine or 10 months after I got the job and start believing in a different way," said Solskjaer.

"I'm gonna stick to what I've been trusted to do by the club and hopefully that'll be good enough and that they can see what we're doing is right. We know how football is nowadays, but all my conversations with the club have been positive.

"We can't react to all the noise outside, there's always going to be criticism, you've got to take the criticism at this club, you've got to be stronger mentally probably than anywhere else in the world.

"I feel I am [strong], the club is strong, the staff I've got with me they're very strong mentally, so we're sticking to what we believe in. I've got full faith in what we're doing."

The Christian Eriksen saga could reach an end point as soon as Monday.

Reports in Italy indicate the midfielder's move to Inter is all but complete and a medical has been scheduled.

Eriksen's uncertain future has troubled Tottenham since well before Mauricio Pochettino's departure, with the Denmark international due to become a free agent at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – ERIKSEN DEAL AGREED

Eriksen, 27, will undergo a medical in Milan at the beginning of next week, according to various reports in Italy.

CalcioMercato claims Tottenham owner Daniel Levy has accepted an offer from Inter worth €15million (£12.6m), plus €5m (£4.2m) in add-ons.

Eriksen's new contract will reportedly run through to 2024 as the playmaker looks for a fresh start after growing stale in the Premier League.

If the move goes ahead, he will become Antonio Conte's third signing of the January transfer window after wing-backs Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United could face frustration in their long-running negotiations for Bruno Fernandes, which The Sun says have "collapsed" due to Sporting CP's valuation.

- United, meanwhile, are considering a shock move to bring Boca Juniors striker Carlos Tevez, 35, back to Old Trafford, claims Tuttosport. The Red Devils are in need of attacking reinforcements after losing Marcus Rashford to injury.

- Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has given LaLiga giants Barcelona the green light to begin transfer talks, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Bayern Munich have commenced "concrete discussions" with Lyon over 19-year-old winger Yaya Soumare, reports L'Equipe. Salzburg and Bayern's Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig are also said to be interested.

- Brazilian attacking midfielder Lucas Paqueta asked Stefano Pioli to be left out of Milan's match against against Brescia because he is keen to leave the club, claims CalcioMercato. Paris Saint-Germain are said to be interested.

Manchester United will face Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup fourth round on Sunday after the League One side defeated Watford 2-1.

With their initial replay called off due to a waterlogged pitch, Tranmere - who came back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Vicarage Road - and Watford met at Prenton Park on Thursday - just two days after the Hornets' Premier League defeat to Aston Villa.

Nigel Pearson subsequently made wholesale changes and, though Kaylen Hinds' 68th-minute effort cancelled out Emmanuel Monthe's first-half opener, Watford succumbed in extra-time.

Substitute Paul Mullin, who scored a late spot-kick in the first meeting between the sides, was Tranmere's hero - heading in the winner to set up a mouth-watering tie with 12-time winners United.

Liverpool's march towards the Premier League title shows no sign of slowing down, as the Reds claimed a hard-fought 2-1 win over Wolves.

Manchester United are clinging to a top-six position after they slid to a 2-0 home defeat to Burnley, the latest in a string of wretched results this season that have sparked an angry reaction from supporters.

While United toil, neighbours Manchester City ground out a 1-0 win at Sheffield United that continued their resurgent league form, with a winning combination delivering the goal for Pep Guardiola's side.

Leicester City might have expected a challenge from the big clubs behind them by now, but the Foxes continue to sit pretty in third place, and a 4-1 win over West Ham continued to make them look immovable from the top four this season.

The midweek Opta data offers detailed insights into the stories behind those results, revealing a string of telling trends and match facts.

 

MANE INJURY DOES NOT DERAIL LIVERPOOL'S CHARGE

Liverpool lost Sadio Mane to injury during the first half in Thursday's clash with Wolves, yet Roberto Firmino struck late on to claim the win as the Reds became just the fifth side in English Football League history to go 40 straight matches unbeaten.

Jurgen Klopp's side have amassed 67 points from a possible 69 in the Premier League this season; this is at least five more than any side in English top-flight history has ever previously had after as many games of a campaign.

Raul Jimenez drew Wolves level after Jordan Henderson's opener, and the Mexican's header ended a run of 725 minutes without conceding a Premier League goal for Liverpool since Richarlison scored for Everton at Anfield in December.

Jimenez also became the third Premier League player to net 20+ goals in all competitions this season, after Sergio Aguero (21) and Raheem Sterling (20).

Since the start of last season, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold has assisted 22 Premier League goals, at least five more than any other player, with 10 of those coming from dead balls, also a league-high.

Firmino, meanwhile, has scored six goals in his last eight games for Liverpool in all competitions, as many as he had in his previous 32 appearances for the club, and all of his 10 Premier League strikes this season have come away from home.

UNITED IN TURMOIL AS CLARETS PUT NEGATIVE SPIN ON OLE REIN

Manchester United may sit fifth, but in terms of points tallies Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's are closer to 14th-placed Newcastle than they are to fourth-placed Chelsea after 24 games.

The league standing is highly vulnerable, given Tottenham, Wolves and even Sheffield United are breathing down United's necks.

Wednesday's 2-0 defeat to Burnley means United now have a negative Premier League win-loss record since manager Solskjaer was given the job on a full-time basis in March.

They had impressed during his caretaker spell, but since Solskjaer went from being a stand-in to the chosen one, their record shows 11 wins and 12 defeats in the Premier League.

United's Old Trafford setback followed their 2-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield, meaning they have suffered back-to-back league defeats for the second time under their Norwegian boss.

Burnley looked to be in freefall just days ago and relegation was becoming a serious concern, but wins over United and Leicester City have lifted them to 30 points - just four adrift of the Red Devils.

PASSPORTS AT THE READY, LEICESTER LOOK BOOKED IN FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RETURN

Catch them if you can! Leicester City had a wobble with defeats to Southampton and Burnley, but Brendan Rodgers' men now sit 14 points clear of fifth place and surely their destiny is a second season in the Champions League.

In the absence of anything approaching a charge from teams outside the top four, it would take a spectacular collapse for the Foxes to miss out, with a 4-1 win over West Ham on Wednesday emphasising their quality.

Leicester have racked up eight wins in 12 Premier League home games so far, their best record at this stage of a season, and the 52 goals they have banged in amounts to their most in the top flight from their first 24 games since the achieved the same tally in 1930-31.

Rodgers and West Ham boss David Moyes were once rivals on Merseyside, in charge of Liverpool and Everton respectively.

While Rodgers eyes success towards the top of the table, Moyes has taken on a relegation battle with a West Ham side who are outside the bottom three on goal difference alone.

Since the start of October 2019, no team have gained fewer points (11) or lost more games (11) in the Premier League than West Ham, and it gets no easier: Liverpool are their next opponents.

At least that game is a home fixture for the Hammers. Moyes' away record in matches against teams starting the day in the Premier League top four is diabolical, winning just one of 50 such games.

KEVIN KEEN TO HELP - DE BRUYNE IS KING OF THE ASSISTS

When Sergio Aguero turned in a cross from Kevin De Bruyne to give Manchester City a 1-0 victory at Sheffield United, it was more than merely two Premier League greats combining to deadly effect.

History, in fact, was made in that motion, with De Bruyne becoming the first player in the Premier League era to provide 15 or more assists in three different seasons.

The Belgian had 18 in 2016-17, 16 the following season, and after an injury-wracked 2018-19 campaign he already has 15 from 23 appearances this term.

The scale of De Bruyne's achievement can be better appreciated by considering the likes of Ryan Giggs, Cesc Fabregas, Dennis Bergkamp and his own City colleague David Silva have been unable to produce at that level so consistently.

Former Wolfsburg playmaker De Bruyne has entered the top 20 of all-time assist providers in the Premier League, and there is no keeping Aguero down either.

Aguero has been directly involved in 43 goals in 43 Premier League appearances against newly promoted teams - scoring 35 goals and assisting in eight more.

It took City until the 73rd minute to make their breakthrough at Bramall Lane, and a lot of the credit for the hosts' resilience went to goalkeeper Dean Henderson, whose first-half penalty save from Gabriel Jesus means he has stopped four of the last eight spot-kicks he has faced in English league football.

Sporting CP have announced the signing of striker Andraz Sporar, while talks with Manchester United over Bruno Fernandes have reportedly collapsed.

The Portuguese side were said to be eager to generate significant income this month, but a deal with United over midfielder Fernandes appears to have been stalling for some days.

According to the latest reports, United co-chairman Joel Glazer has stepped in to make it clear the Red Devils will not match Sporting's asking price of €80m.

Despite their need for funds, Sporting have still invested in Slovenia striker Sporar, who has signed a five-year contract with the club that contains a €60m release clause.

Reports in Portugal say the 25-year-old has joined in a €6m deal from Slovan Bratislava, having passed his medical after arriving in Lisbon late on Tuesday.

Sporar had been linked with Scottish champions Celtic and Turkish giants Besiktas.

Manchester United fans do not need telling that the team is in a rut. The thousands who left Old Trafford early during Wednesday's miserable 2-0 home defeat to Burnley made that abundantly clear.

The loss is United's second in a row in the Premier League – the first time that has happened since last April – and means they have won just twice in all competitions since the turn of the year.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded their performance was not up to scratch but, given their overall from since he took permanent charge, questions are being asked as to how much longer these defeats can be accepted as minor bumps on the road to a more promising future.

United have endured some difficult days since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but how does the current malaise stack up against those rotten moments under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho? And are there any signs of progress under Solskjaer?

We delve into Opta data to find out...

OLE'S AT THE WHEEL, BUT THE HANDBRAKE IS ON

Nobody can deny the impact Solskjaer had as interim manager. He lifted the gloom around Mourinho's final days in charge and led United to 14 wins and two draws from 17 matches, scoring 39 goals and conceding only 13. That's a win ratio of 82 per cent.

They also took 32 points from 12 league matches, which represents the best haul of any manager in his first 12 games in the competition at a single club.

Such was the lift felt by everyone at Old Trafford that Solskjaer was handed the job on a permanent basis on March 28, since when everything has turned rather sour.

From March 10 last year to January 23 of this year, United have played 48 games, won 18, drawn 12 and lost 18, giving them a win ratio of 37.5 per cent. They have scored 62 goals and conceded 58.

In the Premier League, United have lost more games (12) than they have won (11) since Solskjaer took permanent office – a truly damning statistic in an era of worrying numbers. In that time, eight teams have picked up more points than United (42), while league leaders Liverpool have amassed almost double (85) despite playing three fewer games.

 

THE WORST POST-FERGIE SEASON YET

United are fifth and somehow just six points off the top four, but that should come as scant comfort to supporters.

A return of 34 points from 24 games is their lowest since 1989-1990 (25 points), when they ended up finishing 13th. They have six points fewer after the same number of games than they did under David Moyes in 2013-14 and Louis van Gaal in 2015-16.

It means Solskjaer has the worst points-per-game ratio (1.64) than any of the other three permanent managers in the post-Fergie era, with Mourinho on 1.89, Van Gaal on 1.79 and Moyes on 1.68.

In all competitions, Solskjaer was won 49.2 per cent of games as United manager, which is the worst ratio of anyone in the Old Trafford dugout since Dave Sexton (40.3) between August 1977 and April 1981.

A SIGN OF HOPE?

It might not seem credible given their blunt display against Burnley, but Solskjaer has adopted a more attacking ethos than his predecessors.

Under the former striker, United have averaged 14.8 shots per game in the league, giving them an Expected Goals rating of 1.71 per match. Both of those figures are higher than under Moyes, Van Gaal or Mourinho.

Where Solskjaer's United fall down is in taking their chances. Their shot conversion rate of 10.8 per cent is the lowest since Ferguson's departure, and it means they average 1.6 league goals per game, with only Van Gaal managing worse (1.46).

United's 36 league goals this season is the sixth highest tally in the competition, while their 10.1 per cent shot conversion rate puts them at a lowly 14th. They have also converted only 38.5 per cent of certified 'Big Chances', which is 10th best in the league.

When you consider they are third for total shots (357), fifth for Expected Goals (40.25) and fifth for creating Big Chances (52), that underlines the problem: Solskjaer's United simply aren't clinical enough.

In other words, they need a ruthless goalscorer, which makes the decision to let Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez leave without signing replacements look all-the-more baffling, while Marcus Rashford's serious back injury means those numbers are not likely to improve quickly.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed Manchester United's dreadful defeat to Burnley was not "a fair reflection" of his players as they were "mentally" drained 10 days out from a mid-season break.

United are fifth in the Premier League but remain six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea after slumping to a shocking 2-0 loss to Burnley at Old Trafford.

Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez got the visitors' goals, while United, after passing up promising first-half chances, scarcely threatened a fightback.

Manager Solskjaer does not want United to wallow in the aftermath of the loss, yet he believes his players are struggling.

They face Watford or Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup on Sunday, before an EFL Cup semi-final second leg against rivals Manchester City - who lead 3-1 on aggregate - and a Premier League clash with Wolves.

United can then enjoy a mid-season break before returning to action at Chelsea on February 17.

"For us, we've just got to stick to our values, stick to our beliefs, knowing it's no use feeling sorry for yourself," Solskjaer told a news conference. "You know you've got to go out there tomorrow, the day after, getting ready for Sunday.

"We know we've had X amount of games since the beginning of December and they are very stretched. Some of these have probably played more than they should have and expected.

"More mentally than physically, I think, they need the mid-season break. So we just need to get over that line, get these three games not out of the way but look forward to Sunday.

"FA Cup against who knows who still. There's a chance then to get some belief back."

Solskjaer added United have sporadically been "fantastic" but the Burnley game was an indication of "where we're at" in terms of squad depth, with Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford all out.

"I wouldn't say today was a fair reflection on this group and the season they've been through," he said. "They've done fantastic at times.

"Of course, I can't sit here and do anything but hold my hands up and say that's not good enough for Manchester United.

"But that's where we're at at the moment in terms of players. It's not like we had 10 players on the bench we could have rotated. They've played and they've done fantastic."

Rio Ferdinand slammed Manchester United's direction following the "embarrassing" Premier League loss to Burnley at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Goals from Chris Wood and Jay Rodriguez condemned a woeful United side to a deflating 2-0 home defeat in Marcus Rashford's absence.

The result left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men six points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea and some 30 points behind leaders Liverpool, who beat them 2-0 at Anfield three days earlier.

Ferdinand, a vocal supporter when Solskjaer was named manager on a full-time basis in March, admitted the Norwegian deserves scrutiny and was scathing in his assessment of the club's transfer market moves since Alex Ferguson's retirement.

"I have played with Ole, he is an ex-team-mate of mine, but the results have not been good enough," the former Red Devils defender told BT Sport.

"He has had some key players get injured but, with the big amount of money spent on this squad, you would expect more in reserve.

"You look at some of the players that have come in – [Marcos] Rojo, [Radamel] Falcao, [Marouane] Fellaini, [Morgan] Schneiderlin, [Memphis] Depay – were these players ever Manchester United players, really?

"Who is buying these players? The manager coming in who wanted them for now, or the club buying for now but also future-proofing?

"£600m roughly has been spent on this squad and the most impressive players this season have been the homegrown talent. That speaks volumes about the recruitment. It tells you how shoddy it has been.

"Look at Liverpool, they buy the best players to fit in their system. It is not a short-term fix. Total opposite end of the scale here."

United have now won just two of their past seven matches in all competitions, and the mood at Old Trafford was summed up by the sight of supporters pouring through the exits before full-time.

"I'm embarrassed. It's embarrassing to be here," Ferdinand continued.

"Not just about the team performing, I don't see what's coming next, I don't see a pathway, I don't see a target being set on the wall and saying we're going to get to that and this is how we're going to get there."

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