Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the arrival of Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United has "given everyone a boost" after the midfielder scored his first goal for the club in a 3-0 victory over Watford at Old Trafford.

Fernandes was outstanding throughout on Sunday as United clinched a second consecutive victory in a run of three unbeaten Premier League matches and moved them up to fifth in the table.

After scoring from the penalty spot to give United the lead, Fernandes created the opening for Anthony Martial to score their second and got the assist that teed up Mason Greenwood for a stunning third.

Solskjaer later paid tribute to the 25-year-old's pace and his uplifting effect on the Red Devils squad after he followed up an impressive outing in Monday's 2-0 win over Chelsea.

"Bruno Fernandes is quicker than he looks," the United manager told BBC Sport.

"[We're] very excited by having him in. He has come in, given everyone a boost and wants to conduct a game."

Solskjaer continued: "[Bruno] loves playing football, he wants the ball, he's got the personality and character to demand it all the time, wanting to take the penalty.

"He takes it the way he does to show he is a Man United character, not just a very, very good footballer."

"[It was] a very good win, two good wins and two clean sheets, some goals to celebrate. Now, we want to kick on," added Solskjaer, whose side entertain Club Brugge in the Europa League on Thursday ahead of their trip to Everton in the Premier League three days later.

"There are big games coming up now."

United defender Luke Shaw said the victory had given his team-mates hope of catching Chelsea and qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Chelsea are fourth in the table, three points clear of United, after following up their loss to the Red Devils with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham.

Shaw told Sky Sports: "We got what we needed and that was three points. Let's keep pushing.

"The most important thing is we closed the gap to Chelsea.

"This club is known for playing in the big competitions. We all miss the Champions League nights so much – that is what we want next season.

"We need to fight and earn it."

Bruno Fernandes is determined to propel Manchester United back into the Champions League after he scored his first goal for the club in an impressive 3-0 victory over Watford at Old Trafford.

The Portugal international was inspirational for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side on Sunday, scoring their first from the penalty spot and then having a hand in goals for Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as the Red Devils moved up to fifth in the Premier League table.

Fernandes, who sent Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster the wrong way with a skip in his run-up, was delighted to get a first home triumph with his new club – and hopes there are plenty more to come this season.

"This is the day every player wants to have," Fernandes said. "I had the luck to score and win the game. We all gave our best and gave an excellent game, finally my first win at home.

"Everyone knows we want to take a Champions League place. It's not new for anybody. I'm just here to help the team to conquer this place and keep winning games."

On his penalty technique, he added: "It's the way I shoot a penalty. I feel confident shooting this way. I don't shoot just in that way but today I think it was the best way to score, so I just tried and was lucky enough to score."

Fernandes aimed a friendly dig at team-mate Martial, who denied him an assist in the process of scoring United's second.

Martial received the ball from Fernandes and fired a shot that Foster saved, only for the France international to chip the ball beyond the keeper at the second attempt.

Fernandes did set up Greenwood to score with a rocket of a shot, and he pointed out that it could easily have been two assists.

"I hope Anthony scores more goals when I pass the ball to him and not him miss the goal and take the ball again, because if he scores it's two assists," said Fernandes.

"Last week he said he never scores on my assist, but I think it's not my fault!"

He added: "I just need to help the team. This is what I want to do and what I need to do."

Bruno Fernandes scored his first goal for Manchester United and created two more as the Red Devils extended their unbeaten run to six matches in all competitions with a 3-0 Premier League victory over Watford.

The £62million January signing from Sporting CP put in a performance that made his fee look like a bargain, winning and scoring a first-half penalty to break the deadlock against a battling Watford team before creating superbly taken goals from Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

United survived some nervous moments and Watford had an equaliser ruled out for handball before Martial doubled their advantage, but the invention and craft of Fernandes has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men an edge they lacked for so much of this season.

Defeat leaves Watford in the relegation zone and without a win in six matches in all competitions, but manager Nigel Pearson will take some comfort from a strong attacking performance that might have delivered a different outcome but for some poor finishing.

Troy Deeney might have put Watford ahead after three minutes when Nemanja Matic and Harry Maguire allowed Victor Lindelof's blocked pass to run through to the Hornets captain, but he hesitated, and Luke Shaw dispossessed him just in time.

Abdoulaye Doucoure hit the side-netting from a tight angle as Watford continued to prise open a faltering United defence and, when the hosts countered, Aaron Wan-Bissaka missed from 12 yards after Ben Foster parried Dan James' angled drive.

The pace of the game slowed before exploding into life five minutes before half-time when Fernandes burst into the Watford box where Ben Foster sent him sprawling, and the Portuguese midfielder's hopping run-up and cool low finish put United ahead from the spot.

Watford had the ball in the net five minutes after the restart when Maguire lashed it into the roof of his own net under pressure from Deeney, but Craig Dawson playing the ball with his arm in the build-up meant the goal was ruled out.

Six minutes later, Fernandes turned provider, threading a pass through to Martial whose drag-back fooled Etienne Capoue before his immaculate chip saw him beat Foster at the second attempt.

United's third was the pick of the goals, Greenwood starting a move that ended with Fernandes rolling the ball to him just inside the box and he cracked an unstoppable shot into the top corner of the net off the frame of the goal.

Solskjaer sent on Odion Ighalo for his home United debut against his former club and he hit the post six minutes from time but by then the game was comfortably won as hopes of a possible Champions League return continued to grow around Old Trafford.

 

What does it mean?

One win in three home league matches hardly feels like great form but United are just three points behind fourth-place Chelsea, while Watford, who are 19th, remain one point adrift of safety and still without a league win at Old Trafford in their history.

Fernandes brings out United's best

The arrival of Fernandes has given the likes of James and Greenwood a creative lynchpin and, after showing his finishing prowess, the 25-year-old brought the best out of Martial and Greenwood.

Deeney made to rue early miss

Sluggish and sloppy in the opening 20 minutes, Deeney eventually grew into the game but only after he had missed Watford's best chance of the game.

What's next?

Watford host champions elect Liverpool at Vicarage Road on Saturday before United's trip to Everton on Sunday. The Red Devils are in Europa League action against Club Brugge at Old Trafford three days earlier.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Anthony Martial to reach 20 goals for Manchester United this season but wants the striker to toughen up.

Martial scored for the 14th time in all competitions on Thursday to earn a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the Europa League last-32 tie with Club Brugge.

That goal came just three days after the forward's expert header put United ahead in their 2-0 Premier League win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

No United player has reached 20 in a single campaign since Romelu Lukaku in 2017-18 and, although Marcus Rashford is on 19 for 2019-20, his back injury is likely to see him miss almost all of the rest of the season.

Solskjaer thinks Martial is showing signs of getting used to playing as a centre-forward after time spent as a winger, and he expects to see the 24-year-old keep up his form.

"I think Anthony can step up and get a few more and get to the 20-mark, definitely," Solskjaer said.

"He's got quality, of course. He's a very good finisher, he takes his chances really well, good technique in his finishing, and he's good receiving the ball at times, dropping off, he can play almost like a false nine at times.

"Sometimes, I'd like him to be stronger physically."

Describing Martial's header against Chelsea as "a 1980s centre-forward goal", Solskjaer added: "I'm encouraged by his attitude this season as well, wanting to do those things that are not natural to him. But you've got to make him a number nine again after playing wide for so many years. Marcus and Anthony have played wide until the last 12 months, really."

Solskjaer wants to see a more clinical United against Watford on Sunday, having been deeply disappointed with the performance of his players in a 2-0 defeat at Vicarage Road in December.

The United boss hopes January arrivals Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo – who spent three years with Watford – will add a greater cutting edge to his side.

"That was a very disappointing game. We should have won that one. We gifted them the two goals and we had chances to pull away ourselves, but you can't win games if you don't take your chances," he said.

"I feel that with Bruno coming in, with Odion coming in, we'll get more goals. That's been lacking in the games we've lost: West Ham, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, we've had chances and not taken them. You can see that Bruno gives us another dimension."

United could be boosted by the return of Scott McTominay at Old Trafford, the midfielder having been sidelined since December 26 with a knee injury.

"I think he might be in the squad," Solskjaer said.

"I'm not surprised [by his quick return] because that's the type he is. He's a physical specimen, he's a leader, he never shirks a tackle and he brings everyone with him. And he can sit with Nemanja [Matic] or Fred or be one of the runners in midfield.

"We were talking here today how we don't have enough runs past the striker. He used to be a striker, so he's used to being in the box."

Thursday's draw in Brugge was another match where Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes were not involved, the youngsters instead having played in a youth game.

The future of the pair is unclear as they enter the final stages of their United contracts, but Solskjaer appears keen for them to stay.

"We're still in talks with them," he said. "Tahith scored today. He'd rather play a game than sit in the stands here, so it's making sure he's ready when he gets a chance. He played really well against Wolves in the FA Cup.

"The boys have got great attitude, they're absolutely top-class boys and we're doing what we can to keep them. In a few years, you can see them being very, very good players."

Anthony Martial struck a potentially important away goal as Manchester United drew 1-1 with Club Brugge in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

The France international cancelled out an opening goal from Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis to give Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side a slight advantage heading into the return game at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer made six changes to the team that won 2-0 at Chelsea on Monday, and it was one of the fresh starters, goalkeeper Sergio Romero, who was at fault for the opening goal.

Brugge, who drew 2-2 at Real Madrid in the Champions League group stage and only narrowly lost to Paris Saint-Germain, were good value for their lead until Martial capitalised on a defensive mistake and a fast pitch to run through and make sure the game finished all square.

Andreas Pereira had United's first attempt after 14 minutes, with Simon Mignolet pushing his low effort past the right-hand post.

The Red Devils found themselves behind just a minute later. Dennis raced onto a Mignolet goal kick and, with Romero having strayed foolishly far from his line, the forward lobbed the ball over the United keeper, who could only watch it bobble into the net.

United were stuck in first gear and Romero had to be well-positioned to deny Dennis a second from close range after the visitors failed to clear from the edge of the box.

Brugge's lead looked comfortable until they handed United an equaliser. Maxim De Cuyper's throw-in from inside the opposition half bounced away from Brandon Mechele, and Martial pounced, driving towards goal and slotting the ball past Mignolet.

Martial nearly scored a second before the break, shrugging off De Cuyper before blasting a left-footed shot that Mignolet just tipped onto the post.

Chances were scarcer in a second half mostly bereft of quality, although Odilon Kossounou scuffed wide from eight yards out when he really should have at least tested Romero.

United finished strongly but could not carve out a chance for a winner, leaving the tie nicely poised ahead of next Thursday's return fixture.

 

What does it mean? United will be thankful for draw

Having played just three days ago and been met with dreadful weather conditions in Bruges, this is a result with which Solskjaer will likely be quite content.

It was a game short on quality throughout, not helped by the playing surface, but Martial's excellent finish will leave the Red Devils feeling as though they have the edge.

Martial leading from the front

Martial's clinical finish put United ahead at Chelsea, and he showed similar composure to snatch an away goal just when Brugge looked to be in control of the first leg.

Williams looking weary

Brandon Williams had plenty of defending to do against a Chelsea team that targeted United's left, so it was surprising to see him keep his place. He looked as though a rest might have done him good.

What's next?

The second leg takes place on February 27. Before then, United host Watford in the Premier League on Sunday, while Brugge face Sporting Charleroi at home.

Manchester United closed ground on the Champions League places as Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire struck to claim a vital 2-0 win over Chelsea, who were twice denied by VAR.

Despite heading into Monday's meeting at Stamford Bride having taken just four points in 2020, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side moved to within a win of their opponents as they completed a Premier League double over Chelsea for the first time.

Martial continued his excellent form against Chelsea to get United off the mark, with the Blues denied an equaliser through Kurt Zouma by the video review system.

United made their luck count in the 66th minute with captain Maguire – who was perhaps fortunate to be on the pitch after an earlier clash with Michy Batshuayi – heading in Bruno Fernandes' corner and United held firm to secure valuable points after Olivier Giroud also saw a goal disallowed.

Chelsea were inches away from taking a sixth-minute lead when Reece James lashed wide, but Frank Lampard's side were dealt a blow when N'Golo Kante was forced off through injury in the 12th minute.

Maguire was lucky to go unpunished for kicking out at Batshuayi, who subsequently squandered a brilliant chance after terrific work from Mason Mount.

Yet for all Chelsea's threat, it was United who had the lead when Martial headed in Aaron Wan-Bissaka's excellent cross.

Chelsea thought they had equalised when Kurt Zouma tucked home from a corner, only for VAR to disallow the goal for Cesar Azpilicueta's push on Brandon Williams.

And, after Fernandes had struck the woodwork with a superb free-kick, Chelsea's frustrations were compounded as Maguire headed beyond Willy Caballero.

Giroud's header seemed to have set up a grandstand finish, but VAR again came to United's rescue. Mount then hit the post as the Blues' efforts proved fruitless, with Caballero preventing substitute Odion Ighalo netting a debut goal in stoppage time.

 

Toby Alderweireld will not be absent from Tottenham's squad for Sunday's trip to Aston Villa despite his wife giving birth to their son on Friday, Jose Mourinho confirmed.

Belgian defender Alderweireld revealed on his official social media channels that his wife Shani gave birth to the couple's second child on Valentine's Day.

But Alderweireld will not be spending a first weekend with his son, Jace, as Mourinho confirmed he is expected back with Spurs on Saturday.

Mourinho offered his congratulations to the former Atletico Madrid centre-back, but seemed bemused when asked if Alderweireld would be given some time away from the team.

"For what? Time away for what?" Mourinho responded at Friday's news conference.

"His wife takes care of the baby. That is a top professional. His wife takes care of the baby. He was there in the moment, he stays there one more day with his wife and baby, enjoying a big moment for the family. Tomorrow [Saturday] back to his job."

Mourinho clashed with Anthony Martial during their time together at Manchester United when, in 2018, he felt the Frenchman spent too long with his family after the birth of his second child.

Martial left United's pre-season tour of the United States to be with his partner during labour, but after just three days away, Mourinho criticised him, adamant the France international "should be here and he is not here".

Each close-season transfer window has a defining 'saga' and everything points to the next revolving around Jadon Sancho and Manchester United.

Media reports began to circulate on Wednesday claiming Sancho is set to leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, having emerged as one of world football's next great hopes since joining from Manchester City.

The England international seems likely to return home later this year and United are rumoured to be leading the chase, ready to pay £120million for his signature.

United's issues on the flanks are nothing new. For several years they have seemingly operated with a bizarre square-pegs-round-holes policy, assigning numerous players who clearly aren't wingers to wide roles.

We looked at the data to understand how Sancho stacks up with United's current attacking options.

A PROLIFIC CREATOR

It's difficult to imagine Sancho joining United and not having a swift and decisive impact. The only other genuine winger in their squad is Daniel James, and while the Wales international has enjoyed a solid debut season after a shock move, he has faded recently and clearly lacks a certain presence.

After Andreas Pereira (31), Fred (30) and Marcus Rashford (24), James (23) has created the most Premier League chances for United this term and his haul of six assists isn't matched by any of his team-mates.

By comparison, Sancho has laid on 47 opportunities for team-mates in the Bundesliga this season, the fifth-highest in the division, and his haul of 13 assists is the same amount as James, Anthony Martial and Rashford combined.

SUBTLETY IN THE FINAL THIRD

The United squad isn't exactly blessed with lots of physical attackers renowned for their aerial ability, which suggests hooking hopeful crosses into the box does not represent a fertile route to goal.

For the most part, United forwards aren't desperate to cross, with Pereira (28), Rashford (19) and Martial (7) often looking for alternative ways to penetrate the box, but James (79) is the 11th most-frequent crosser in the league, even if he's some way off Trent Alexander-Arnold (159).

Sancho fits in more with the former group, supplying only 22 crosses this season. Perhaps such a low figure is justified by the fact only five per cent were accurate.

Nevertheless, this does suggest Sancho is more subtle and deliberate with his creativity, and given he has crafted comfortably more chances and goals than the United contingent, it is difficult to argue he should alter his style.

A KEY INFLUENCE

As someone who creates so many opportunities, it wouldn't be unusual to expect Sancho to be somewhat wayward in possession, given the necessity to take risks.

But 80 per cent of his 496 passes into the final third have been accurate. Of the 284 Bundesliga players to play at least 50 passes into that part of the pitch, only 11 have greater accuracy than Sancho, though none of those attempted more than 308.

Martial, Fred, Mason Greenwood, Luke Shaw, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all been more accurate in the final third, but Sancho has attempted far more passes, while none of them have got anywhere close to the Dortmund star's chance creation record.

DEADLY WHEN IT MATTERS

Sancho's not just a creator, however.

As well as his 13 assists, Sancho has also chipped in with 12 Bundesliga goals this season, a figure bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (22) and Timo Werner (20).

Those 12 goals came from 37 attempts, meaning he is averaging almost a goal every three shots, comfortably better than Martial (17 per cent of 48 shots) and Rashford (19 per cent of 74 shots).

A complete player in attack, Sancho offers an all-round threat that United simply do not possess.

He also appears to be the ideal player for United stylistically, with his attributes and dynamism similar to the likes of Martial, Rashford and Greenwood, around whom club seem intent on building their future.

Will Sancho be the next to join that trio?

Anthony Martial recounted how he was determined to prove Jose Mourinho wrong after falling out of favour during the Portuguese coach's second season at Manchester United.

Martial's United career has been plagued by inconsistency, particularly while Mourinho was in charge.

After a promising debut season at the club, Martial seemed to take a step back during the 2016-17 campaign, starting 18 Premier League matches compared to 29 the previous year and his goals haul also dropped significantly from 11 to four.

Transfer speculation surrounding Martial was rife before the 2017-18 season and he made only three Premier League starts prior to November, but he got himself back into more regular contention, scoring nine times and setting up another five goals.

Mourinho's motivational methods are well-known, as he has never been afraid to criticise his players publicly to get a reaction, and while it seemed to work with Martial, he says he would have preferred alternative treatment.

"It is true that I prefer to be told to my face," Martial told RMC Sport as part of a documentary about Mourinho.

"There is no need for it to be said in front of everybody. Certainly, after that, you want to prove him wrong.

"He did not play me during the first matches of the season. Each time I came on, I scored, and he eventually said to me, 'you see, now you understand what I am after.'

"It can sting, but you just want to show him that you should be on the pitch."

Martial started the 2019-20 season well under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but he has struggled to find form of late after being moved into a central role due to the absence of Marcus Rashford.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer launched a passionate defence of misfiring forward Anthony Martial.

Martial has struggled for form, scoring just one goal in his past six appearances across all competitions – against League Two side Tranmere Rovers in the FA Cup last month.

The 24-year-old failed to fire for United in Saturday's goalless Premier League draw at home to Wolves, but Solskjaer backed the Frenchman.

"He's giving us everything. I think he's started the last eight games in this month, and he's running probably 20 per cent more than what he did when I came here," Solskjaer said.

"That shift goes with all the other players as well, by the way. So it's not just mental robustness and tactical, it's that physical side we've had to work with, because they are making strides. But the difference in that, compared to when I came in, the squad weren't right.

"We'll give him [Martial] more support, give him rest when he deserves it. If he does have that rest, if he plays a little bit less - because he's been asked to play too much as well, especially now when Marcus [Rashford] is injured - as a striker, if you don't just get there that split second, that's a big, massive difference.

"I've praised him, I've sat down with him and I'm delighted with him. I know that he's tired, but he's never ever dodged a training session. He's training, he's available for every game, so I’m delighted with the boy."

Martial has scored eight Premier League goals in 19 matches, and 12 in all competitions this season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told Manchester United supporters unhappy with the club's owners that the Red Devils must "stay together" after his players disappointed those hoping for an FA Cup upset by thumping Tranmere Rovers 6-0 to reach round five.

United arrived at Prenton Park having lost back-to-back Premier League games against Liverpool and Burnley and the club's plight prompted some in the away end to reprise the disgruntled atmosphere that filled Old Trafford after defeat to the Clarets four days earlier.

Goals from Harry Maguire, Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood lightened the mood among the United faithful as Solskjaer's men breezed past League One opposition, and the manager praised his side's approach after they avoided a potential banana skin.

"If you go into the trap of playing long balls and making this game a fight, we're not used to that," Solskjaer told BT Sport. "They would have been better suited than us. We just asked our players to play and it went well.

"I think the players played football the way it should be played. It was an exceptional performance at times. It was a very difficult pitch.

"It wasn't just the Tranmere people who wanted an upset, there were a lot of others. We've just got to stay together and keep working.

"Every game you win is a good one for your confidence. Every time you score a goal and perform well, it's good.

"The attitude was spot on. That's all you can ask for. When the attitude is right, you can't fault them."

Maguire, who opened the scoring for United with a powerful 20-yard drive, and then provided the assist for Lingard to score their third in a display full of guile and attacking intent, said his first goal for the club was long overdue.

"It's been a long time coming," said Maguire. "I've had a lot of chances this year without finding the back of the net. It’s nice to help the team get into the next round.

"It was really important to get the win, coming off the back of a bad performance and result against Burnley.

"We set our stall out to put in a positive performance for the fans. We're in the next round, which is what we came to do."

Diogo Dalot scored his first goal for Manchester United and there were rare strikes from Harry Maguire and Jesse Lingard as the Red Devils routed Tranmere Rovers 6-0 to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.

A goal glut and a morale-boosting victory was just what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men needed after suffering back-to-back Premier League defeats, and the United boss watched a fluent performance from his charges despite a cut-up pitch at Prenton Park.

Maguire opened the floodgates with a long-range strike into the top corner and goals from Dalot and Lingard soon followed to put the visitors 3-0 up inside 16 minutes.

Phil Jones headed United's fourth and Anthony Martial's deflected shot made it 5-0 before Mason Greenwood scored a penalty in the second half to wrap up a win that affords under-pressure Solskjaer some breathing space.

After 10 cagey opening minutes, United found space to exploit around the Tranmere box and Maguire strolled forward with the ball before cutting onto his right foot and sending a crisp drive into the top right corner from 20 yards, a slight deflection helping it on its way.

Three minutes later Dalot played a one-two with Martial and skilfully cut inside his marker before hammering an angled drive low into the far corner of the net to double his side's advantage.

Maguire continued his attacking forays and created space on the edge of the box for Lingard to curl United's third into the bottom corner with aplomb, and five minutes before half-time Jones met an Andreas Pereira corner with a looping far-post header over goalkeeper Scott Davies.

Martial rendered the second half a formality when he scored from the left corner of the Tranmere box with a shot that took a wicked deflection and curled just inside the right post.

Substitute Tahith Chong was scythed down by Davies early in the second half and Greenwood rolled his penalty into the bottom left corner.

Dalot broke down the right and lashed a shot towards goal that Davies could only parry away at the near post before Morgan Ferrier missed a one-on-one with Romero at the other end.

Lingard might have scored what would have been just his third goal in 42 games when he tried a bending shot from the edge of the box, but it flashed narrowly wide as a seventh strike eluded United.

 

What does it mean? Trouble averted - in some style

Any sort of victory would have suited Solskjaer here, with anything less likely to have ramped up the pressure on the manager's position towards breaking point.

But in tricky conditions he coaxed a display full of energy and invention from his side in difficult conditions against a side who were not without goal threat despite their lowly status.

Maguire leads by example

United's slow starts have been a problem for them this season, but captain Maguire led the charge into attack from the early stages and showed his team-mates how to take the game to their hosts.

Danns goes missing

The experience of former Leicester City man Neil Danns helped Tranmere beat Watford three days earlier, but United found it all too easy to breeze past the 37-year-old in the middle of midfield.

What's next?

United will hope to be as sharp in front of goal on Wednesday as they aim to overturn a 3-1 deficit in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final against Manchester City, while Tranmere entertain Sunderland in League One on the same evening.

Roy Keane believes Anthony Martial's costly miss against Liverpool showed he is "not quite good enough" to play for Manchester United.

Martial, signed from Monaco in a reported £36million deal in 2015, has 11 goals in all competitions this season.

But he passed up a golden chance for United to equalise at Anfield in their 2-0 defeat to Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday.

Trailing to Virgil van Dijk's early header, Martial controlled on his chest on the left-hand side of the penalty area in the second half but blazed over the crossbar with just Alisson to beat.

Mohamed Salah wrapped up a Liverpool victory in stoppage time and former United captain Keane, speaking in his role as a Sky Sports pundit, bemoaned Martial's inability to hit the target.

"Martial has come to Man Utd, and the big strikers score in the big moments," Keane said. "But that miss sums up his career at Man Utd in a nutshell.

"You hit the target. Excellent build-up play, but you have to hit the target. No excuses.

"The big strikers who are remembered by those supporters hit the target and the back of the net.

"That's why that guy is not quite good enough for Man Utd. That moment summed him up."

United are set to be without Martial's strike partner Marcus Rashford - who missed the Liverpool game - for more than six weeks with a double stress fracture in his back.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to see Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood take up the mantle of Manchester United's last ruthless front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney.

One of United's finest modern forward lines led Alex Ferguson's side to two league titles, an EFL Cup, the Club World Cup and back-to-back Champions League finals, one of which they won, between 2007 and 2009.

Ronaldo and Tevez left for Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively that year and United have struggled since to form a similarly effective trident in attack.

However, there are encouraging signs around Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, who have scored more goals combined in all competitions this season than Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Solskjaer thinks it will take time to match the understanding of the Premier League leaders' attacking players but, ahead of Sunday's trip to Anfield, he believes in the potential of his forwards.

"The front three that they've got have been playing together for ages, not ages, but for seasons now," he said. "You can see the rotations, movements, the understanding between them, and we hope that our three get that understanding. I've probably only started them once together, the Newcastle United game, so we've got a way to go to get to the level of the three [at Liverpool], the understanding and consistency they have. But we scored four goals in that game [against Newcastle], so it's probably something I've got to look at more often.

"I believe in ours. We're going to add to them as well, definitely, but in the years to come I'm sure we'll see lots of them three. But Liverpool have scored more goals than us outside the front three so I'm not going to say ours are better than theirs or theirs are better than ours.

"We've got them on long contacts, developing into a very, very exciting front three. Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney were different, floating, but that's what we want as Man United supporters - you want to see them express themselves, go to places like Anfield and put fear into their defenders. But we've got Dan James as well, who adds to that, so I'm very excited about it."

Solskjaer agrees that United's goalscoring threat belies the insinuation made by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, after the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in October, that the Red Devils are overly defensive against their fierce rivals.

"I don't think it's an accusation. You take it as a compliment that they didn't create chances against us," Solskjaer said. "When the opposition manager is frustrated, that's a good sign for you as a manager. Of course, I think we've been closer to winning both those games, so I don't know what the problem has been."

Ashley Young is set to join Inter provided he passes a medical on Friday and Solskjaer confirmed there were no plans to sign a replacement full-back.

For now, the United boss is putting faith in young Brandon Williams to rise to the challenge of playing at Anfield.

"Does he look like I need to speak to him? I don't think so," Solskjaer replied when asked if Williams might need guidance ahead of a traditionally tempestuous match.

"He's been absolutely outstanding since he's come in. Every challenge we've put in front of him, he's tackled head on and he's only 19, had 10, 11 starts. He reminds me so much of the mentality of Gary Neville and I think he'll enjoy going to Anfield, put it that way."

There is continued speculation United are trying to finalise the signing of midfielder Bruno Fernandes, but Solskjaer would only say: "I can't tell you about any players that play for other teams. We're focusing on this game at the moment. That's my only concern."

With United's arrival expected to be greeted by Liverpool fans outside the ground, Solskjaer says he has no particular concerns about a hostile atmosphere.

"No safety fears, no," he said. "They want to try to intimidate us but as long as it's within the boundaries. I've been sat in a coach going into Europe or Anfield and whatever they shout and scream at you, you don't really notice.

"We need a very, very good performance to go there and win, but we beat Manchester City last month, we had the Paris Saint-Germain game – we need to get to the level of those performances definitely when you go away to a team that's top of the league.

"The last two performances we've had against Liverpool, we've played at Old Trafford twice, drawn twice and been closest to winning both those games, so we've got games to look back at that will give us lots of belief.

"if we perform to our best, we've got a chance to win."

With Liverpool looking likely to end a title drought stretching back to 1990, Solskjaer thinks such an unexpectedly long gap between league triumphs for their bitter rivals should serve as a warning to United.

"We're working hard to make sure it doesn't happen," he said when asked if he feared United, who last won the title in 2013, could experience a similar dry spell. 

"Let that be a lesson for us. They've been close a few times and we can't let ourselves for another 24 years without winning the league. I'm sure we won't. I believe in this club. We've started something that takes a little bit of time, but we'll get there."

This Sunday sees Premier League leaders Liverpool host Manchester United, rivals who sit 27 points below them in the table.

There has been a clear gulf in class between Jurgen Klopp's side, who have accrued a whopping 61 points from a possible 63 across 21 fixtures, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, who have suffered defeats at Watford, Bournemouth and Newcastle United already this term.

Yet one bright spark for United has been the form of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, an attacking duo who have combined for more goals than Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Rashford faces a battle to be fit for the game having come off against Wolves in Wednesday's FA Cup replay due to a back injury, but just how do the quartet compare when fully fit, and how have they evolved in 2019-20? We crunched the numbers to find out.

 

RASHFORD AND MARTIAL: FROM PROFLIGATE TO POTENT

Salah (10) and Mane (11) have combined for 21 league goals (42 per cent of Liverpool's 50 goals), while Rashford (14) and Martial (8) have scored 22 (61 per cent of United's 36 goals).

The United duo's success in front of goal has come thanks to their ability to convert big chances. Excluding penalties, Rashford has scored eight of his 15 big chances, converting 53.8 per cent compared to 23.8 per cent last season.

Martial, with five goals from nine big chances, is even more efficient (55.6 per cent) and both United forwards have better big-chance conversion rates than Salah (50 per cent) and Mane (30 per cent).

Mane has had more big chances than the rest of the quartet, but having scored 15 of his 26 big chances in the 2018-19 league campaign he has netted only six of 20 this time around.

 

RASHFORD'S LEAP FORWARD

It is not just in front of goal where Rashford has shown an improvement and become a greater focus of United's attack.

The England international is averaging more touches per game this season (43.68 to 37.18), more touches in the opposition box per game (5.45 to 4.81) and has taken more shots (74) than any of Salah (66), Mane (49) or Martial (40).

Rashford switched between central and wide berths last term but is now firmly established on the left side of United's attack with a clear purpose.

The one statistic that perhaps outlines that most is that Rashford has attempted an astonishing 57 more dribbles than Salah this season.

 

ALEXANDER-ARNOLD ALTERS SALAH'S ROLE?

Last season only four players - Eden Hazard, Wilfried Zaha, Nathan Redmond and Raheem Sterling - completed more dribbles than Salah's 81, but in this campaign it's a different story.

The Reds forward has attempted just 49 - far fewer than Mane (67) - while he has completed fewer dribbles (23) than team-mates Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino.

Salah led the Premier League for touches in the box in 2018-19 (322), and only Sterling is ahead of him this time, but he has had far fewer touches overall than Mane (764 to 1,000) having led the Senegalese (1,820 to 1,807) in the previous campaign.

That might have something to do with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold's ascent. Alexander-Arnold leads the league in touches (2,137) and is second in assists, showing that he, and not Salah, is now the focus of attacks down the Liverpool right.

A 27-POINT GAP, BUT SIMILAR ATTACKING STATISTICS

One glance at the table suggests there are few similarities between Klopp's runaway leaders and Solskjaer's Jekyll and Hyde outfit.

However, a more in-depth dive into the numbers shows there has actually been little to separate the two in many attacking senses.

Liverpool have created 258 chances to United's 241, and have only conjured up five more from open play and 10 from set-pieces.

The common theory is that United are far more effective on the counter attack, yet both teams have scored four times from fast breaks, with Solskjaer's men having 20 fast breaks to Liverpool's 18.

A big difference between the two is the quality of opportunities created, Liverpool accumulating 56 big chances to United's 34, which points to a clear lack of creativity in Solskjaer's ranks. Couple that with their defensive fragility (United's four clean sheets to Liverpool's eight) and it becomes more obvious just why the two are miles apart in the table.

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