A new striker in January is a priority at Manchester United and reports suggest a familiar face could make a sensational return to England.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has previously said the club will be doing business after Christmas, with a striker still required following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez.

Marcus Rashford has scored three goals in his previous two matches, while Anthony Martial marked his return from injury with a goal against Norwich City last Sunday, but a surprising name could provide the answer to United's depth issues up top.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MAKE CONTACT WITH IBRAHIMOVIC

Manchester United have made contact with former striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to TuttoMercatoWeb.

Ibrahimovic scored 30 goals in MLS for LA Galaxy in 2019, but they were eliminated from the post-season after a 5-3 defeat to cross-town rivals LAFC in the Western Conference semi-finals last weekend.

Interest in the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain striker has increased since the end of LA Galaxy's season with the Swede still believing he can contribute at the highest level.

The 38-year-old is currently a free agent and scored 29 goals at Old Trafford in a brief spell with the club previously.

ROUND-UP

- One player who may create funds for Manchester United's January business is defender Chris Smalling, but Corriere dello Sport claim the Red Devils want double the €10 million price Roma are expecting to pay for him. 

- AS are reporting Edinson Cavani is weighing up his future at Paris Saint-Germain with Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami keeping tabs on the Uruguayan.

Stefano Sensi is currently on-loan at Inter Milan from Sassuolo, but Sport claim Sensi's agent is in Barcelona as speculation of a move to the Spanish champions grows.

- The Daily Mail claims Wolves will turn to Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes in January as they seek reinforcements to cover the injured Willy Boly.

- Chelsea are interested in signing Hertha Berlin winger Javairo Dilrosun when their transfer ban expires, according to Calciomercato.

- L'Equipe say Nantes are among several clubs showing interest in free agent forward Hatem Ben Arfa.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given Manchester United a solid base for an encouraging future, according to Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe.

Scrutiny on Solskjaer's position as United manager has intensified during a mostly disappointing start to the new season.

While he has been praised for promoting academy players into the first-team picture, problems with goalscoring and a failure to replace Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera in the transfer window has led many to fear Solskjaer's long-term plan for the club will come at too great a cost in the short term.

However, a draw with Premier League leaders Liverpool and three subsequent away wins - the most recent a 2-1 defeat of Chelsea in the EFL Cup on Wednesday - has helped to restore confidence in Solskjaer's methods.

Howe has certainly been impressed with the way Solskjaer has begun to reconstruct the team with a view to turning the 13-time Premier League champions back into title-challengers.

"Certainly, looking at their last few games, which I have in great detail, I think they have played very well," Howe said on Friday. "The game against Chelsea was a very strong performance.

"They'll be pleased with their attacking play and defensive structures. Then, looking back at Norwich City, playing them away is a tough game and I thought they were very professional, did the job and got a really good [3-1] win.

"There's positive signs for them. They've got quality players, a very good manager who has given them real stability. He's working to the future to build a new Manchester United.

"I imagine it is [hard to work under that level of pressure]. I think he's handled himself really well and done an excellent job to this point."

United face Bournemouth on Saturday looking to extend a seven-game unbeaten run against the Cherries.

Their most recent visit to the Vitality Stadium was only settled by a 92nd-minute Marcus Rashford goal, though, and Howe is confident they can give United another stern test.

"Last year was a really tight game. It swung their way in the last few seconds, but we gave them a good match," he said.

"The game we won here in our first Premier League season, that was a historic moment for us. That gave us real confidence in a time when we needed it.

"We've had some tough games at Old Trafford, some difficult moments, but here [at home] we've been pretty good against them.

"We need a good start, we need the crowd absolutely with us and we really want this ground pumping."

Manchester United are offering a free flight to Astana for this month's Europa League match for fans whose travel plans were disrupted by the collapse of Thomas Cook.

The travel firm, which folded in September, were commercial partners with a number of Premier League clubs including the Red Devils.

United say Thomas Cook Sport had pre-sold some travel packages for the match with Astana in Kazakhstan on November 28, with the club taking action to offer fans alternative arrangements.

A club spokesperson said: "We have been working through a range of contingency plans to minimise the impact of the Thomas Cook situation for our supporters.

"We are pleased to be able to confirm that Manchester United will be operating a complimentary trip to the forthcoming match against FC Astana in Kazakhstan for those who were impacted by the insolvency of Thomas Cook.

"Beyond the Astana fixture, we are investigating longer-term options around facilitating European travel for our loyal fans."

United took seven points from their first three Europa League group games, beating Astana at home and Partizan Belgrade away in between a 0-0 draw at AZ.

 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer agrees Scott McTominay has become a leader at the club.

McTominay's form has been one of United's major bright spots during a difficult first three months of the season, in which the Red Devils have won only three Premier League matches.

The 22-year-old midfielder produced another standout display in the 2-1 EFL Cup success at Chelsea on Wednesday to help United to a third away win in succession, with Solskjaer's side having shown signs of recovery since their 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

Some supporters have begun to discuss the prospect of a future captaincy for McTominay, who was brought into the first team by Jose Mourinho and even given a special 'manager's player of the year' prize at United's end-of-season awards in 2018.

When asked about the prospect of McTominay wearing the armband, Solskjaer told reporters on Friday: "He's been excellent. Him and Fred, they're working a good relationship, they have played well together.

"They did that last season: Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal, there were quite a few games where they played together when we had some injuries. Now they're working as a pair.

"But Scotty has been excellent. He's a leader, he's a Man United boy, he's come through the ranks – you can see he's been a striker with the goal he scored against Norwich [City], on the half-turn – but he's developing into a very good midfielder."

United's win over Chelsea was secured by two goals from Marcus Rashford – a penalty and then a stunning free-kick.

The England international has now managed four goals in his past four appearances in all competitions, and Solskjaer is happy to see him thriving alongside fit-again Anthony Martial.

"Anthony's come back, Marcus has flourished as well, blossomed," he said. "He is probably happier facing goal, being direct, driving at people, taking players on, instead of being a target man with back to goal.

"But Marcus wants to master all the skills in the end. He's only 22, just turned 22, so I'm sure we'll see him up front as a number nine if he'd like, maybe as a two with Anthony, maybe now as a three like we did against Norwich, or wide like we did against Chelsea… there are different ways of playing with Marcus.

"It was important for him and for me that he stepped up and took that penalty against Chelsea."

United face Bournemouth on Saturday seeking to triumph in a fourth match in a row for the first time since the eight-game winning run they enjoyed when Solskjaer was named caretaker manager last December.

Solskjaer believes a combination of good work in the most recent international break, the return of some stars from injury and the boost from a positive performance against Liverpool have all contributed to their recent upturn in form.

"The international break came at a great time for us," he said. "We did some work and prepared well for the Liverpool game.

"When you get a decent performance and result against the league leaders, that gives you a bit more energy, and from then on the boys have just… they were happy with the work we did, maybe the change of system helped, so the coaches have done a great job.

"Every new game is an opportunity to show what you can do. I didn't play every game, so every game I played for this club was a chance for me to show the manager that I should play the next game. That's what these boys feel like as well now because we're getting players back – we don't just have the 11, 12, 13 fit ones.

"At the moment, the boys look like they're playing on instinct than having that extra split second to think, which I spoke about a few weeks ago."

Manchester United could be without Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof for Saturday's Premier League trip to Bournemouth.

All three players sustained knocks in the 2-1 EFL Cup victory at Chelsea on Wednesday, a result that stretched United's winning run away from home to three games in all competitions.

Rashford, who scored a penalty and then a stunning free-kick to seal the win, was seen with an ice pack on his knee after being substituted at Stamford Bridge, while Lindelof was replaced by Anthony Martial 66 minutes in and Maguire was seen limping in the closing stages.

When asked for an update on the trio on Friday, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told a news conference: "It's still early. Hopefully we can get them back on the pitch tomorrow.

"They had some treatment yesterday, a little more treatment today, a light session. Hopefully, they're ready. I can't tell you exactly now."

United will also be without Luke Shaw, Axel Tuanzebe and Nemanja Matic against Bournemouth, with Solskjaer not expecting them to be available until after the next international break.

"They are not ready for tomorrow. That's the update," he said. "[They will be back] Probably after the international break. That's always the risk, if you push them back too early.

"But if we have the two extra weeks, after the international break, they should be ready for then."

United head into the match in seventh place in the Premier League, ahead of Bournemouth on goal difference.

A win will move them to within four points of the top four before Chelsea's match away to Watford.

Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold admitted he was guilty of underestimating Manchester United star Marcus Rashford and consequently experienced his most difficult outing.

Rashford was deployed wide on the left by Jose Mourinho and scored twice in the first 24 minutes when Liverpool visited Old Trafford and suffered a 2-1 defeat on March 10, 2018.

Alexander-Arnold was making just his 15th Premier League start and had a torrid time against the United attacker but was not replaced until the 80th minute.

The 21-year-old right-back has since lined up against teams including five-time Ballon d'Or winners Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but that battle with Rashford remains his most testing appearance.

"[That match against United was] the toughest in terms of a direct opponent and someone getting on top of me in professional football. I'd say I underestimated him," Alexander-Arnold said of Rashford to The Athletic.

"It was a massive learning curve for me. It was something that I hated happening. As a Liverpool player it's probably the worst game of the season to perform like that. But when things like that happen you have to learn from them.

"It was a wake-up call. You hate days like that. You don't want to experience that. You remember how it felt and that makes you try everything you possibly can to ensure you don't have another one like it."

Alexander-Arnold was key to Liverpool's Champions League success and Premier League title challenge last season, when they finished just one point behind Manchester City. 

Having already conquered Europe, the defender says the Reds have their sights set on dethroning City and ending a 30-year wait for a top-flight crown.

"I want to help this club achieve as much success as I possibly can. We had a taste of it in Madrid and now we want more," said Alexander-Arnold.

"If there was one trophy that would mean the most to the fans it would be the Premier League. It's been too long. It's something all of us are desperate to achieve and hopefully that's the next step for this team. We've put ourselves in a strong position. Now we need to kick on."

City and Liverpool look primed for another two-team tussle for Premier League glory in 2019-20.

Asked if the rivalry with City is bigger than in games against United and Everton, Alexander-Arnold replied: "Traditionally, no, because of all the history with United and Everton. But in terms of intensity, quality, concentration and tempo, they're probably the biggest games of the season now.

"You know that if you step one foot out of line against City you'll get punished. You need to be bang on all the time. The two games last season were so marginal. The 0-0 at home and then the 2-1 defeat away when one went in off the post and one was cleared off the line. Tight as you like. Those sort of games can define a season these days.

"Last season City away was probably the one game when we looked back with disappointment and thought if we had done better there things would have been different [in the title race]."

Barcelona are planning for life after Luis Suarez.

With Suarez now aged 32, the clock is ticking on his career at Camp Nou.

Barca are identifying potential replacements and have their sights on an Argentina international setting Serie A and Europe alight.

 

TOP STORY – MARTINEZ INTERESTS BARCA

LaLiga champions Barcelona are interested in Inter star Lautaro Martinez, reports Mundo Deportivo.

Ernesto Valverde's Barca are looking for a long-term replacement for Uruguay forward Luis Suarez, who turns 33 in January. 

And the front page of Friday's newspaper says Argentina international Martinez fits the bill for Barca amid reported interest from Manchester United.

 

ROUND-UP

Roma have opened talks with Manchester United about signing Chris Smalling permanently, according to the Express. Smalling is on loan from United and the English defender scored his first goal for Roma during the week. The Red Devils are reportedly seeking £17.2million (€20m).

- Remaining at Old Trafford and Sport Italia claims Paul Pogba was close to joining Paris Saint-Germain during the previous transfer window. Pogba was heavily linked to LaLiga giants Real Madrid and former club Juventus .

- Tuttosport says Juventus are ready to make another attempt to sign Real Madrid midfielder Isco. The Spain international has struggled for regular game time and Madrid are reportedly holding out for €70m. The Italian champions have also been linked to Manchester United teenager Tahith Chong, who is out of contract at the end of the season, via the Daily Mail.

- Barcelona's Arturo Vidal is ready to snub the Chinese Super League in favour for a move to Inter, says InterNews. Vidal continues to be heavily linked to a reunion with former Juve boss Antonio Conte at Inter, while Chinese giants Shanghai SIPG are reportedly interested.

United could be set for a raid on Juve. Tuttosport claims the Old Lady will allow Emre Can to leave in January as United, Bayern Munich and PSG eye the Germany international.

- According to the Daily Mail, former Manchester United and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is the front-runner to replace Unai Emery at Arsenal. Emery is under mounting pressure in London.

We are edging closer to the release of Football Manager 2020 on November 19, meaning new elements and features of the game are seeing the light of day.

That also means talk of those precious 'wonderkids' is starting, as managers look to get a head start on which young talents to snap up early instead of forking out massive sums for the same kids a few years down the line.

A player's potential is never a guarantee of future success. Injuries, a lack of faith from the manager or poor mentality can cause havoc with so-called 'hot prospects'.

Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz are all 'wonderkid' certainties, but only a select few clubs will ever be able to afford them.

But, with the right guidance, the following lesser-known players could prove to be similarly smart acquisitions and cost significantly less...

Dillon Hoogewerf - Manchester United

A 16-year-old forward, Hoogewerf was one of the hottest prospects in Ajax's academy before Manchester United snapped him up ahead of this season. A silky dribbler and all-round attacking threat, he promises to be a talent would-be United bosses will want to focus on the development of. On the flipside, youngsters don't always reach their potential at the biggest clubs, meaning he might prove an interesting option to smaller sides… if you're patient.

Pedrinho - Corinthians

The latest - after Vinicius and Rodrygo - in a long line of Brazilian talents to be dubbed the 'next Neymar', Pedrinho looks destined for the top. An outrageously skilful attacker who usually plays out wide for Corinthians, the 21-year-old likes to come in off the right flank and on to his left foot, as he relishes a shot after beating his man. Comparisons with Arjen Robben are understandable, but the quicker you make a move, the less you'll have to stump up.

Sandro Tonali - Brescia

Given Tonali now has a full season of professional football under his belt, he's likely to be one of the hardest to attain from this list. Nevertheless, he is still at Brescia despite links with the big Italian clubs, therefore making him a tantalising proposition if you've got a bit of a budget to play with. Dubbed the 'next Andrea Pirlo', Tonali is a deep-lying midfielder who possesses a brilliant range of passing. He will also be among the very best teenagers right at the start of the game.

Antonio Marin - Dinamo Zagreb

A favourite of many on FM19 due to his immense potential and relatively low cost, left-winger Marin should still be a hot prospect and fairly attainable. He made seven league appearances for Dinamo last season, most of them coming in the final few months of the campaign, so his fee is unlikely to have rocketed just yet. Securing the 18-year-old in a deal that sees him remain in Croatia on loan for a season could be wise for his development, particularly if Dani Olmo is sold in the first few months of the game.

Devyne Rensch - Ajax

As you might expect from an Ajax academy product, Rensch is calm and composed in possession and a fine reader of the game from centre-back. He has already signed professional terms despite being only 16, so you won't be able to poach him like United have done with Hoogewerf, but he certainly shouldn't be considered unattainable. Similarly, Perr Schuurs is another interesting option at centre-back, though at 19 and now exposed to first-team football with the Dutch champions, he could be trickier to acquire.

Julian Aude - Lanus

Although Argentinian football can truly be a treasure trove of promising talent, work permits are often an issue for many players, particularly if they're young. But with Aude you shouldn't have such problems, as the 16-year-old also has Italian citizenship. The Lanus academy product has impressed with Argentina's youth sides due to his remarkable technical wizardry for a full-back, while he's also a tenacious competitor. Obviously, his age makes Aude a gamble, but he'll be affordable for many and there's little doubt about his potential, it's just a case of nurturing him.

Bryan Gil - Sevilla

The production line that nurtured Jesus Navas, Antonio Puerta, Sergio Ramos and Jose Antonio Reyes has gone a little stagnant in recent years, but Bryan arrived on the scene last term and made 11 substitute appearances in LaLiga, making an impact on the left flank in most - if not all - of them. Unless you want him on loan, he'll be difficult to sign initially for smaller clubs, but if he does become a realistic target at any point, he will provide a strong option as an out-and-out, old-fashioned left winger.

Odin Thiago Holm - Valerenga

A technically gifted central midfielder, Holm, 16, is yet to make a splash in the Valerenga first team. However, he is very highly rated in Norway, with his ability on the ball and eye for a pass drawing comparisons – perhaps predictable, given his name – with Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara. Considering his relative unknown status and the fact he is not playing in one of the more fashionable leagues, Holm would likely be a cheap, low-risk purchase that could really pay dividends down the line for managers aiming for a long stay.

Fernando Ovelar - Cerro Porteno

It's still to be confirmed if Ovelar will be on the game, as he is only 15. However, he has already made nine appearances for Cerro Porteno in Paraguay and scored his first goal in November 2018 when he was just 14, making him the Paraguayan Primera Division's youngest scorer and appearance maker. Although it's still early days in his career, he's a skilful and gifted forward, and if you fancy yourself as a manager adept at bringing youth talents through to the first team, he could be a shrewd investment.

Ronaldo Camara - Benfica

Already a regular for Benfica's Under-19s despite being 16, Camara is a potential diamond. A well-rounded attacking midfielder, the Guinea-Bissau native is not your average playmaker. He has a fine range of passing and can certainly dribble, but he is also a tireless worker and loves to tackle. Benfica are famous for selling cheaply acquired talents for huge sums and Camara looks to be of the same ilk… unless you can get him early.

Manchester United have been granted a golden chance to advance to the EFL Cup's semi-finals after being drawn against fourth-tier Colchester United in the last eight.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side won 2-1 against Chelsea on Wednesday and will now host the lowest-ranked team left in the competition.

Manchester City, comfortable 3-1 winners against Southampton in the last round, have a similarly promising path into the final four as Pep Guardiola's men seek to secure the trophy for the third successive season.

The holders are set to visit Oxford United, who sit fifth in League One, at Kassam Stadium.

The other two ties are both all-Premier League clashes.

Liverpool were drawn away to Aston Villa following a see-sawing shoot-out triumph over Arsenal, while Everton and the under-pressure Marco Silva will welcome high-flying Leicester City to Goodison Park.

Each of the four quarter-final ties are scheduled to take place in the week beginning December 16.

European champions Liverpool are simultaneously due to be in Qatar for the Club World Cup, further complicating an already congested fixture list.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp threatened to boycott the next stage of the EFL Cup if an appropriate solution to the logjam cannot be found.

"If they don't find an appropriate place for us, not 03:00am on Christmas Day, then we don't play it," Klopp said after the Arsenal encounter, which ended level at 5-5 after 90 minutes.

"They have to make that decision. You have to think about these things."

EFL Cup quarter-final draw in full: 

Oxford United v Manchester City
Manchester United v Colchester United
Aston Villa v Liverpool
Everton v Leicester City

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham may have been humiliated 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, but he is a target for the German giants.

With Niko Kovac overseeing an inconsistent start to the season in Munich, Bayern are reportedly willing to move on from the former Eintracht Frankfurt boss.

That could open the door for Pochettino, whose Tottenham have struggled to reach the heights of last season following their memorable run to the Champions League final.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN CONSIDER POCH

Bayern Munich are considering Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino as a replacement for Niko Kovac, according to Sport1.

Kovac has found himself under increasing criticism following Bayern's inconsistent start to the season.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag – who previously worked with Bayern's reserve team – has also been linked, but sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has reportedly identified Pochettino as the man to replace Kovac should he depart.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Atletico Madrid are eyeing Napoli's Faouzi Ghoulam. The left-back is out of favour and set to leave the Serie A outfit in January.

- Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are keen to sign Borussia Dortmund's Lukasz Piszczek and Juventus midfielder Emre Can, claims Soccerlink. Piszczek's contract expires at the end of the season, while Can is reportedly eager to leave after being left out of Juve's Champions League squad.

- Sport Bild says Liverpool have joined the race to sign Valencia sensation Ferran Torres. The 19-year-old winger has attracted interest from Dortmund and Barcelona.

Arkadiusz Milik has agreed a contract extension with Napoli, reports Calciomercato. The Poland international's current deal runs out in 2021.

- Former AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso is favourite to take charge of Udinese. It comes as Sky Sport Italia, Tuttomercatoweb and La Gazzetta dello Sport claim Igor Tudor's position is being considered after consecutive 7-1 and 4-0 routs in Serie A.

Dortmund have set their sights on Hertha Berlin's Javairo Dilrosun, according to Bild. As the German side reportedly prepare for life without Jadon Sancho amid ongoing links to Manchester United, former Manchester City youth-team player Dilrosun is on their radar.

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard said N'Golo Kante will resume training "in the next two or three days" as he steps up his recovery from a groin strain.

Kante missed Chelsea's 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the EFL Cup fourth round at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The France international has not featured since injuring his groin during the warm-up ahead of his country's Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland on October 14.

Lampard provided an update on Kante post-match and revealed the Chelsea star is set to return to training before Saturday's clash with Premier League strugglers Watford.

"Training in the next two or three days," Lampard told reporters. "Hopefully [before the international break]. It's important, he's a top player.

"I'd have liked to have given Jorginho and [Mateo] Kovacic a rest tonight because of the work they've put in, but I couldn't today because of N'Golo, Ross [Barkley] and Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] long-term. I couldn't make the changes I wanted to today. It is what it is."

Chelsea succumbed to Marcus Rashford's stunning 73rd-minute free-kick in London, where United moved through to the quarter-finals.

Michy Batshuayi had cancelled out Rashford's 25th-minute penalty after the hour before the United star stepped up and scored a jaw-dropping, Cristiano Ronaldo-esque set piece.

Lampard added: "We've had seven wins on the trot. We've had taxing games in the Champions League. We want to get into the next stage of that. Our form in the league has been really good.

"They're the priorities. But we want to win matches and give everything. Today, I had to look at my squad and who deserves minutes. The young players. The competition has an element of that for us.

"I saw a lot of things that were good for us for the future. A lot of positive things about us. I hate losing. We all do here. But there's a big picture here and a lot of big games to come, and a busy fixture list. Now we focus on what happens next."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer compared two-goal hero Marcus Rashford to Cristiano Ronaldo following his stunning free kick against Chelsea in the EFL Cup.

Rashford's spectacular 73rd-minute free kick sealed a 2-1 victory away to Chelsea and United's place in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Michy Batshuayi had cancelled out Rashford's 25th-minute penalty after the hour before the United star stepped up and scored a jaw-dropping, Ronaldo-esque set piece.

United great Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford, where he netted a number of free kicks as he won three Premier League titles and the Champions League before leaving in 2009.

"It's very Cristiano-like, isn't it?" Solskjaer told MUTV. "The boy has got nerves of steel, takes a penalty, no problem. Steps up and hits the ball like he does and wins us the game, fantastic. I think he works too much on [free-kicks]. I've always tried to get Marcus scoring the simple tap-ins and be inside the box, he always scores great goals Marcus, he practises and today he got his reward.

"Marcus has that strike in him. I've seen him in training so many times and it's got to be hitting the target soon, you think, because he's had a few efforts and finally it goes in. My first ever game when I came back at Cardiff he hit a ball from 30 yards, scored after three minutes, so he's encouraged to do more of that."

United defender Victor Lindelof also compared Rashford to five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo post match.

In a Tweet midweek, Lindelof posted almost identical pictures of Ronaldo and Rashford's free-kick routines, with the caption: "Sure I've seen that somewhere before…"

Wednesday maintained United's good form, which extended to three successive wins following a Premier League victory at Norwich City, having won their Europa League clash away to Partizan Belgrade.

"We're hitting form," Solskjaer told Sky Sports. "Of course, three wins in a row away from home now is good for the boys. We've travelled a lot the last week, but when you get the results, the team spirit, camaraderie, we stay together, so it shows the character of the team.

"We get the games where we want them, or we've been leading 1-0 many, many games this season but we haven't kicked on from there. I thought today we were excellent, counter-attacking football, fast-flowing forward passing, that's Man United and we're trying to get back to that."

Marcus Rashford believes Manchester United are "definitely going places" after their 2-1 EFL Cup victory over Chelsea on Wednesday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side made it three away wins in a row in all competitions thanks to Rashford's double at Stamford Bridge, which secured their place in the quarter-finals.

Rashford, who missed a penalty before scoring in the weekend's 3-1 Premier League win at Norwich City, broke the deadlock from the spot in the first half and secured the win with a spectacular free-kick after Michy Batshuayi had drawn Chelsea level.

The Red Devils appeared to be facing a crisis when they lost 1-0 to struggling Newcastle United on October 6, but they claimed a creditable 1-1 draw with Liverpool before their three-game winning run on the road.

Their upturn in form has left Rashford feeling confident that better times are on the horizon.

"We have been in a tough place," he told Sky Sports. "We are still getting through that phase and the only way to do it is to fight your way through it.

"The main focus for us is just improvement and development because we are definitely going places.

"We have done a lot of good work. The start of the season wasn't exactly what we expected but we have got to get through it and get back to winning games."

Rashford's decisive strike, his fifth career goal against Chelsea, was a stunning free-kick from 30 yards out that dipped and swerved past the helpless Willy Caballero.

The England international says training with the EFL Cup ball gave him the belief to try his luck from distance.

"To be honest, it was the balls," he said. "When we were training with them and we were shooting, there was this up-and-down motion and they can go anywhere. Thankfully, today it went in the top corner. It is a positive day."

Rashford was also relieved to keep his cool from the penalty spot, having been denied by Tim Krul against Norwich.

"You always step forward to take it and when the moment comes it is just about trying to be relaxed. Thankfully, today I was," he added.

"It made the game a little bit easier for us but the second goal was the one that killed the game."

Manchester United moved into the EFL Cup quarter-finals with a 2-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

A penalty and a spectacular free-kick from Marcus Rashford sealed a third away win in a row in all competitions for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

Michy Batshuayi had drawn Chelsea level but Rashford struck in sublime fashion just as the home side looked to be building momentum, inflicting a first defeat on Frank Lampard's side since the 2-1 loss to Liverpool on September 22.

Scott McTominay, booked for an early lunge on Mateo Kovacic, whistled a shot just wide from Daniel James' corner 13 minutes in.

United were growing in confidence and Rashford broke the deadlock with a firmly struck spot-kick in the 25th minute after Marcos Alonso had rather clumsily bundled into the back of Daniel James.

Callum Hudson-Odoi had a quiet first half but should have levelled the scores five minutes into the second, the winger failing to connect properly with Alonso's low cross with the goal at his mercy.

Hudson-Odoi fired over before Batshuayi showed him how it should be done, racing away from Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof and blasting a low shot past Sergio Romero from outside the box.

Solskjaer responded by bringing on Anthony Martial and Andreas Pereira in a tactical shift, but it was Rashford who settled the contest 73 minutes in with a sensational 30-yard free-kick that swerved beyond the helpless Willy Caballero.

 

What does it mean? Momentum building again under Solskjaer

This has been the most encouraging 10 days for Solskjaer since his stunning run of results midway through last season that landed him the post on a full-time basis. A draw with Liverpool and now three consecutive away wins have gone a long way towards restoring some confidence at Old Trafford.

It means United head into Thursday's quarter-final draw, while Chelsea will look to get back on track promptly in the Premier League, having seen a seven-game winning run in all competitions come to an end.

Rashford spot on

Rashford scored twice in the 4-0 Premier League defeat of Chelsea in August and showed a clinical touch again at Stamford Bridge.

His first was a penalty taken with much more conviction than the one he saw saved against Norwich City, while his second was a quite stunning free-kick that will have evoked memories of Cristiano Ronaldo in a red shirt.

Pulisic back off the boil

Christian Pulisic fully deserved to start after his hat-trick against Burnley, but his 70 minutes on the pitch yielded little to trouble United's back line.

What's next?

Chelsea travel to Watford in the Premier League on Saturday, with United heading to Bournemouth earlier on the same day.

Manchester United scored more than once in a Premier League game for just the second time this season in Sunday's 3-1 win at Norwich City.

A first away league victory in nine attempts since February for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men coincided with the return of Anthony Martial, who missed two months of action with a thigh injury prior to returning as a late substitute against Liverpool last week.

Martial started the season in impressive form with two goals and an assist in his first three outings, including a strike in the 4-0 win against Chelsea - the only other occasion United have scored more than once in a game in any competition since April.

Solskjaer this week talked up Martial's importance and is hopeful his relationship with strike partner Marcus Rashford - also on the scoresheet at Carrow Road - will "improve and grow" over time.

With the help of Opta stats, we look at the impact Martial has had since arriving at Old Trafford in 2015 and explore his link-up with Rashford in more detail.


MARTIAL HITS THE GROUND RUNNING

Martial came on as a late substitute against Liverpool last week and made his first start since August in the 1-0 Europa League win against Partizan, scoring the only goal of the game from the penalty spot to mark his return in style.

The France international retained his place in the line-up for the trip to Norwich three days later - the first time he had started alongside Rashford since the opening weeks of the campaign.

And the duo did not take long to show just how dangerous they can be when used in tandem high up the pitch, most notably in the build-up for Martial's 73rd-minute strike to put United 3-0 ahead.

Martial knocked the ball into the path of Rashford, who returned it with an impressive flicked pass for the 23-year-old to beat Tim Krul - who had earlier kept out penalties from both players - with a dinked finish.

It was Martial's 37th Premier League goal since arriving from Monaco in September 2015 - more than any other United player in that period, with Rashford next best on 32.

RASHFORD CAN PROFIT FROM MARTIAL RETURN

Speaking after that first away league win of the campaign at Norwich, Rashford admitted the Red Devils' attacking players need to step up and craft more opportunities for each other in front of goal.

Rashford has now created three chances for Martial in the top flight during the latter's limited time on the field this term, making it one of the most effective link-ups in the side.

In the prolonged absence of Martial, meanwhile, Rashford has had to rely on Paul Pogba (seven) and Daniel James (five) to create chances for him.

With the ex-Monaco ace now back to full fitness and hitting the ground running, it is little wonder why Solskjaer is excited to see how the partnership blossoms.


MARTIAL MATTERS TO UNITED

While Martial was recuperating from his latest injury lay-off, Rashford has been quietly going about his business.

The versatile attacker has been involved in the fifth most goals of any Premier League player in 2019-20, scoring five times and setting up three more.

That puts him level with Raheem Sterling (eight) and Mohamed Salah (eight), while only Kevin De Bruyne (11), Jamie Vardy (10), Sergio Aguero (10) and Tammy Abraham (nine) have been more heavily involved in front of goal.

And on the basis of the 90 minutes in East Anglia last weekend, Rashford's stats - both in terms of goals and assists - will surely only improve following the return of Martial alongside him.

Only a string of fine saves from Krul prevented United from running riot in that most recent league outing, with Rashford and Martial managing eight shots on target between them.

"It's like Teddy Sheringham and Solskjaer!" United's Norwegian boss joked after the match. With Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez no longer around, it is very much down to Martial and Rashford to bring the good times back to Old Trafford.

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