--

Carrington, December 31, 2009. Alex Ferguson is spending his birthday, again, looking out at the training pitches.

United have just thrashed Wigan Athletic 5-0 to move to within two points of leaders Chelsea. They won't win the league this season. But they did the last. And they will the next.

Ferguson has no idea what will come in the next decade. Failure for United is second place, not three years without a trophy. The idea of three seasons out of the Champions League is preposterous. Finishing seventh is unimaginable. It's Manchester United, for goodness' sake.

There is no way they could get to that point. Someone would notice. Someone would do something.

--

FERGIE TIME RUNS OUT

The years between 2009 and 2020 will forever mark United's crashing fall from their perch, unable to extricate themselves from a cesspool of anti-Glazer protests, mismanaged managers, dividends and transfer misfires.

The signs were there for Ferguson, even as he lifted the Premier League for the 13th time in 2013. Manchester City had been spending hitherto unseen sums to revolutionise what it meant to run a football club, while only four United signings between January 2010 and that day in May - Robin van Persie, David de Gea, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez - can be considered entirely successful.

United underestimated City, as they underestimated Ferguson's power to turn average teams into winners and the damage of losing CEO David Gill at the same time as the manager. Any fear about David Moyes and the longer-term future was dismissed as idle scaremongering, an inconvenient truth to be squashed under silverware.

The result is there are matchgoing United fans born this decade who have never seen them get close to winning the league. Hearing grown-ups talk of Moscow, Barcelona, trebles, double-doubles and '20 times, Man United' must sound like a Netflix fantasy series. It's not hard to imagine a seven-year-old gazing up at the Alex Ferguson statue, outside the Alex Ferguson stand, and turning to her parents to shake her head in defiant incredulity, much like a future child staring at the world's last surviving polar bear at the zoo might exclaim: "But, mummy, the arctic was never REALLY frozen over, was it?"

--

Carrington, December 31, 2019. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks out at the training pitches.

Marcus Rashford and team-mates have been hard at work, buoyed by a battling win at Burnley but thinking of Arsenal on New Year's Day. The mood is positive, but trepidation lurks in their minds. They are fifth in the Premier League and were never even in the title race. The next setback never feels far away.

Solskjaer sighs, pensively. It wasn't always like this.

--

'WE WILL LOOK BACK ON IT AS A GIGANTIC FALSE ALARM'

Solskjaer the United manager is the product of three failures.

First came The Chosen One in 2013. David Moyes was Ferguson's preference, had worked wonders at Everton and earned a chance on a grander stage.

Moyes later said he was promised Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Cesc Fabregas for his first season by new executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, while Cristiano Ronaldo had also been a target. It was a bold statement from one new man to another, a chest-out assurance United would swat away the competition. What Moyes got was deadline-day Marouane Fellaini, an elbow-flailing augur of doom.

Moyes bemoaned a lack of world-class players as United suffered their worst start to a league season for 24 years. By Christmas, fans were disquieted. By March, home humiliations against Liverpool and City had them angry. After plane banner protests and a 2-0 loss to Everton, Moyes was gone, nine months into a six-year contract.

United's aura had splintered like an ice shelf. They needed a real expert, a man of facts, figures and a matchday folder.

In came Louis van Gaal on a wave of positivity after taking Netherlands to third place at the World Cup. Woodward, having almost failed to sign anybody the year before, tried to sign everybody. In came British record signing Angel Di Maria and pricey loanee Radamel Falcao in a huge squad upheaval. The 'Gaalacticos' had assembled. United fans found their belief. Then, Van Gaal lost his.

A 5-3 defeat to Leicester City, noteworthy for a sublime Di Maria goal and the beginning of the end of Tyler Blackett's Premier League career, seemed to shake the manager's faith in how to play matches. Over the next 18 months, his team would shrink from 'attack, attack, attack' like a melting glacier, the players terrified of trying anything that might prompt one of those telling-off emails from Van Gaal. It seemed amazing Van Gaal's team could be so predictable, so boring when the man himself was a source of constant entertainment, decrying "sex-masochism" on live television, diving on the touchline against Arsenal and presenting the press with mulled wine, mince pies and "Mr Mike Smalling".

A single, short Champions League campaign and an FA Cup triumph were not enough. Leicester (Leicester!) had won the league and Pep Guardiola was going to City. This was a full-blown crisis. United put up the flood defences.

TO THE TIPPING POINT

"I want everything: I want to win matches; I want to play well," Jose Mourinho vowed in 2016. United spent big again on Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the best players in Italy, France and Germany the previous season. In 2016-17, they won the EFL Cup and Europa League but only finished sixth in the league, and Mourinho was not wholly content. United still had obvious concerns; they denied them.

United were second in 2017-18, their highest league position since their last title, as champions City obliterated the record books. Mourinho waspishly claimed it was his greatest achievement. He had begun warring with Woodward over transfers, sniping Pogba and Anthony Martial in training, and sulking through news conferences in which he said as little as possible when he wasn't reminding the room how good he used to be.

Mourinho's verbal microplastics had seeped into Old Trafford and turned it toxic. A 3-1 loss at Anfield was the last straw. Desperate, United put the battle for their very future in the hands of a bright-eyed, baby-faced Scandinavian and an emboldened band of youngsters up for the fight.

"There have been ups and downs," was Solskjaer's assessment last week, with stunning early form and a famous win in Paris undermined by 2019 defeats to Everton, Bournemouth, Watford, Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Cardiff City. But with six wins in eight, victories over City, Chelsea (twice) and Tottenham and the chance of trophies in early 2020, maybe, at last, United have taken decisive action.

"I think we're on the right track," he added. " We will come strong this decade, definitely. That's just in the nature of this club."

Nature can be fickle, though.

--

Carrington, December 31, 2029. The Manchester United manager looks out at the training pitches.

Led by captain Marcus Rashford, player spirits are high. They're the champions of Europe and top of the league. It's been a good 10 years.

The manager sighs. It wasn't always like this. Manchester used to be cold in December.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects Paul Pogba to be fit to play for Manchester United in their New Year's Day clash with Arsenal as he continues his comeback from a foot injury.

Pogba was a surprise omission from the United squad in Saturday's 2-0 win over Burnley, having previously made substitute cameos against Watford and Newcastle United following almost three months on the sidelines.

The World Cup-winning midfielder has made just seven league appearances for the Red Devils this season after starting all but four of their Premier League games in 2018-19.

Solskjaer said Pogba was not far away from being fit to face Burnley, and indicated the France international will be involved at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday after not being risked at Turf Moor.

Asked whether Pogba is in contention to play, Solskjaer told reporters: "Yeah, I would think so.

"When you've been out for such a while, it's always going to take time to be 100 per cent [fit].

"He just needed another day, probably, of recovery."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not looking for any quick fixes in the January transfer market and will resist the urge to adopt short-term thinking just to bolster Manchester United's Champions League push.

There have been signs of improvement from United in the month of December, Solskjaer's side winning six matches across all competitions and climbing to fifth in the Premier League ahead of the New Year's Day meeting with Arsenal.

The club's injury list is shortening, too, with Paul Pogba back in the fold, yet it still appears likely there will be at least one new arrival at Old Trafford in the next month.

Although Solskjaer's side have already missed out on one potential "long-term" option after Salzburg teenager Erling Haaland instead joined Borussia Dortmund, they will be looking out for similar players who can offer more than merely a short, sharp impact.

"I'm a striker. By nature, I've always been optimistic. I'm optimistic we can keep players fit," Solskjaer said ahead of facing Arsenal. "And if the right ones become available, we do have the resources, and I do have the backing from the board.

"But it's all about getting the right ones - it has to be. There's no point bringing someone else in now just for the sake of three or four months.

"That could disrupt the chemistry in the group. The chemistry in the group is really good. It has to be the right type, it has to be a good investment for the club for the long term."

The manager believes the easing of an injury crisis has already ably boosted his squad heading into January, though.

"If we can keep this lot fit and if we can keep on improving, one or two additions [could make a difference]," he said. "It's competition for places - that's what you've got to deal with at this club.

"We haven't had enough because we've had so many injuries, but now we're getting more and more players fit, so I've got to leave players out that I maybe should have played."

Even before Haaland's swift ascent this term, United were linked with strikers after Romelu Lukaku left for Inter.

But Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are all now firing in attack, meaning Solskjaer believes the club were right not to invest before the campaign.

He said: "We always believed Anthony and Marcus were going to score goals, but Mason's filled a big void. He's chipped in with goals. I'm not worried about goals from the forwards.

"Romelu's a good striker and he'll always score goals, but it was time for him to move on and we didn't find the right one outside of our club. We had Mason."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes 2020 can be a year of personal success as he attempts to deliver his first trophies as Manchester United manager.

United end 2019 in fifth place in the Premier League table, their 2-0 win at Burnley leaving them four points adrift of the top four.

That relatively comfortable victory at Turf Moor concluded a turbulent decade for the Red Devils, in which they have appointed four permanent managers but failed to win the domestic title since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

Solskjaer's side have been frustratingly inconsistent this season, but they have won six of their past eight games in all competitions and head into the new year with a chance of winning the EFL Cup, the FA Cup and the Europa League.

The former United striker thinks his young team are getting closer to the identity he wants to see and is fully confident the coming decade will see the club restored to the top of English football.

"I'm going to make 2020 a good year for myself," he said ahead of United's trip to Arsenal on January 1.

"I think we're on the right track. We are in a transitional period - we've seen other clubs do it and come out stronger after a couple of years. We will come strong this decade, definitely. That's just in the nature of this club.

"We're improving, and I think we can see more and more of what we want to be and our identity, what we're good at. We're making games suit our style more and more. We've played the same way for a little while, and we're getting used to each other.

"We're quite a bit away still from where we want to be, but I think we're the youngest team in the Premier League this week. We'll have ups and downs, but there'll be less and less and less, hopefully, of the downs."

Paul Pogba will not leave Manchester United in January but must play for a club that can challenge for major trophies in the longer term, according to his agent Mino Raiola.

Having been reportedly desperate to leave Old Trafford in the previous transfer window, Pogba appears almost certain to see out the season with the Red Devils as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no desire to sell.

The midfielder has played only seven times in the Premier League in 2019-20 due to an ankle injury and, with suitors Real Madrid and Juventus apparently content not to force the issue, a transfer next month appears highly unlikely.

Raiola previously stated that Pogba wants to stay at United, but he has made it clear the club must show they can match the World Cup winner's ambitions.

"Paul has always respected Manchester United, as long as Manchester United has respected Paul," he told Sky Sports News.

"The only one that talks for Manchester United and Paul is Ole. I go by what he says; he will not move. That's okay and we are good with them.

"Paul is struggling a little bit with his injury and that's our main interest now. There's one objective that Paul has and that is to perform as well as possible with Manchester United.

"He's a top pro and I think that his heart is in the right place with Manchester United."

When asked if he could see Pogba at the club in a year's time, Raiola replied: "Yes, I can, but in a club that I hope fights for the league and hopefully the Champions League.

"Is that strange? Am I the only one that's worried? Is the owner not worried? I think that everybody that is in love with Manchester United is worried about that.

"I'm worried about that for my player. I'm not a fan of Manchester United but I have a very direct interest.

"As long as Paul is in Manchester United, he wants to win trophies with Manchester United. That's the kind of player he is and he will not act differently.

"Like Ole's saying, it's a work in progress now this club. He's says he's working on a team for next year. Let's hope that it goes well for him because the world needs Manchester United on the top.

"Clearly they are not where they think they should be."

Raiola also says he speaks to United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, not Solskjaer, when it comes to Pogba's situation.

"If Ole has ideas about my player and he wants to talk to me about it, he knows my number," he added. "Until that moment I talk with Ed Woodward because that's the person that I talk to in the club.

"I only know that Paul respects him and loves him for what he has done in the past with him as one of the players."

Some of Europe's top clubs are already making signings ahead of the January transfer window, but Real Madrid's focus, at least for now, looks to be on securing the services of a current player.

Karim Benzema remains one of Madrid's key men, with 12 goals in 17 LaLiga matches this term.

Los Blancos will reportedly reward the striker's fine form with a contract renewal in the coming months, keeping him at the Santiago Bernabeu for another two seasons.

 

TOP STORY – BENZEMA TO STAY UNTIL 2022

Karim Benzema has agreed to sign a new contract with LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Benzema's current deal had been set to expire in 2021, but an extension is imminent. The newspaper reports the Frenchman will be rewarded improved terms on a new contract to run until 2022 due to his outstanding form.

With Madrid enjoying a midseason break, they are said to have agreed a deal with Benzema that will be made formal at the end of the campaign.

Benzema's future is apparently a priority for Madrid, with the report suggesting the deal was only capped at an additional year as the player is determined not to outstay his welcome, leaving before his outstanding career wanes.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United reportedly have an interest in Benfica star Gedson Fernandes. Sky Sports say the 20-year-old midfielder, who has fallen out of favour with his club, could be available for £34million (€39.8m) following a loan, rather than for a loftier release clause of £102m. United are desperate to bolster their midfield, with Nemanja Matic tipped to join Inter, Milan or Atletico Madrid.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Suns says United are eyeing £50m-rated Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin after Erling Haaland signed for Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund.

- The Mirror claims Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will leave Emirates Stadium at the end of the season in pursuit of silverware. Aubameyang has 18 months remaining on his contract.

Chelsea have made enquiries about the release clause in RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner's contract, says The Telegraph. Werner has been linked to Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich.

- El Desmarque says Everton are leading the race to sign James Rodriguez from Real Madrid. Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti worked with James during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Serie A champions Juventus lead the race to sign Dejan Kulusevski, according to Sky Sport Italia and La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 19-year-old, on loan at Parma from Atalanta, has been linked to United, Arsenal, Napoli, Inter and Liverpool. But Juve are reportedly poised to pay Atalanta €40-50m, while allowing Kulusevski to remain on loan at Parma until the end of the season.

- Calciomercato.com reports Jean-Clair Todibo has an offer from Milan. A deal is said to be done for the Barcelona defender - an initial loan, followed by a €20m fee with no buyback option - but he has not yet agreed to the transfer.

- Having already signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan must move on others in the next month. However, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the Rossoneri are only interested in selling Ricardo Rodriguez and Suso, rather than accommodating loan deals that would suit Watford and Sevilla, respectively.

Napoli are set to announce the signing of Stanislav Lobotka for an initial €16m, according to Calciomercato.com. The midfielder will leave Celta Vigo and sign a contract with the Partenopei until 2024.

Manchester United must evaluate why Erling Haaland chose to join Borussia Dortmund over them instead of attempting to blame other parties, according to agent Mino Raiola.

Highly rated striker Haaland, who scored 28 goals in 22 appearances in all competitions for Salzburg this season, signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Dortmund on Sunday.

United, RB Leipzig and Juventus were also understood to be interested, with reports suggesting Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward held talks with Salzburg and Haaland's representatives – including his father Alf Inge Haaland and Raiola – before pulling out of the deal.

United were thought to be unhappy with Raiola's demands during negotiations, but the agent, who also represents Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic among other star names, refuted those suggestions.

"I do not know if Manchester United are briefing this but if they are then they are covering their own loss and that I find strange and disappointing," Raiola told The Telegraph.

"There was no fall-out between me and Woodward. It was just a normal negotiation and the player has chosen a different path.

"If they want to blame someone then, fine, blame me, but the player is happy. He has made his choice and we went through a normal process.

"The club that had the most direct contact with him was Manchester United. They spoke to him the most. Everybody had the chance to talk to him in person. We let that happen especially when he knows Ole.

"Clearly [Haaland] felt that at this moment it was not the right step in his career. There is nothing against Manchester United or Ole.

"He chose Borussia Dortmund ahead of them and other clubs and I'm very happy because he is going to the club he wanted to go to and that is best for him right now. If he wanted to go to Manchester United I would have been obliged to take him to Manchester United but he did not."

Raiola also claimed Haaland's decision proved his client is prioritising regular playing time over money.

"When you are 19 then maybe you prefer not to go to the Premier League," said Raiola. 

"The offer from Manchester United was good. It was not about the economics. It is just the player chose Borussia Dortmund at this stage of his career."

Eric Bailly is nearing a return for Manchester United after taking part in first-team training on Monday.

Ivory Coast international Bailly endured an injury-plagued 2019, making just seven appearances in all competitions for United.

The 25-year-old has been out of action since hurting his knee in an International Champions Cup victory over Tottenham in July.

Bailly underwent surgery and appears to be closing in on a return at a timely moment for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the Red Devils facing seven fixtures in January.

Paul Pogba sat out United's 2-0 win over Burnley on Saturday and was absent for the part of Monday's training session that was open to the media.

Scott McTominay, who was pictured leaving Turf Moor on crutches after sustaining a knee injury, Ashley Young and Axel Tuanzebe were also missing.

United's next game comes against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on January 1.

Erling Haaland's decision to join Borussia Dortmund brought an end to one of Europe's most fascinating transfer stories.

Manchester United had been in the frame for his signature but were reportedly put off by a key demand from the striker's representatives.

As often seems to be the case for the Red Devils, Mino Raiola's involvement led to complications.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED PULLED PLUG ON HAALAND BID

According to The Guardian, United abandoned their bid for the highly sought-after Haaland after learning of a request from his agent, Raiola, and father Alf-Inge Haaland.

The pair reportedly asked for a share of any future transfer fee for the 19-year-old, a stipulation the Old Trafford outfit were unwilling to meet despite their firm interest.

Haaland settled on Dortmund after the Bundesliga side activated his Salzburg buyout clause.

He had been linked to RB Leipzig, Juventus and several more top European clubs after emerging as a Champions League star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Haaland's arrival at Dortmund could lead LaLiga side  Atletico Madrid to narrow the transfer focus on Spanish striker Paco Alcacer, according to Marca. The former Barcelona player has struggled to cement a place in BVB's starting XI and represents a cheaper option in terms of wages than Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani, an apparent favourite of Diego Simeone.

- AS, meanwhile, reports on potential movements elsewhere in the Spanish capital. The newspaper claims Real Madrid are preparing to recall Jesus Vallejo from his loan spell at Wolves, with a view to finding him more playing time. That could lead to a short-term switch to Leganes or Eintracht Frankfurt.

- Juventus are close to extending Wojciech Szczesny's contract yet the Serie A champions remain admirers of Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma and Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen, according to CalcioMercato.

- Tammy Abraham wants a better deal at Stamford Bridge but Chelsea are not yet prepared to accept his demand for parity with Callum Hudson-Odoi's £180,000 per week salary, reports The Athletic.

- Manchester City are set to beat Premier League rivals United, Arsenal and Liverpool to the January signing of Barcelona's teenage left-back Juan Larios, says the Daily Star.

Borussia Dortmund have signed one of the hottest properties in European football by completing a deal for Salzburg star Erling Haaland.

The teenage striker sprung to prominence by claiming the Golden Boot at this year's Under-20 World Cup and extended his prolific vein of form in the Austrian Bundesliga and the Champions League.

Dortmund have completed a transfer coup and possibly secured a decisive boost in a wide-open battle for this season's German Bundesliga crown.

But, as ever when a sought-after player completes a major transfer, there are those pondering what might have been.

Here, we look at some potential winners and losers after the Haaland transfer saga reached its conclusion.

WINNERS

Bundesliga title race

Bayern Munich are chasing an eighth consecutive league title in Germany but their grip on supremacy looks to be loosening at the midway point this time around.

RB Leipzig (more on them later) lead the way from Borussia Monchengladbach, with Bayern four points off the summit.

Behind them are Haaland's new employers. Dortmund have struggled for consistency this season but the seven-point gap to Leipzig will suddenly feel a lot more bridgeable. We could see a thrilling run-in.

Jadon Sancho

If Haaland needed proof that a prodigiously talented teenager can thrive at Signal Iduna Park, he did not need to look any further than his fellow 19-year-old.

A veritable assists junkie, England international Sancho will now be supplying the ammunition for a player boasting 28 goals in 22 senior appearances this season.

Sancho's hopes of a first senior title have now increased. Perhaps more significantly in the long term, so seemingly have his prospects of a blockbuster move to one of Europe's super clubs. Dortmund getting hold of another prime asset means they may be more willing to cash in on Sancho at the end of this season.

Manchester United's forwards

Manchester United were one of the clubs heavily credited with an interest in Haaland. However, it is hard to argue a gifted forward line is the part of an unhelpfully thin squad that most needs attention.

On top of that, Anthony Martial has thrived this season when allowed to operate in a central striking role, and Mason Greenwood appears to be a rare goalscoring talent.

Both of those men might well have found themselves frustrated with Haaland in town.

Mino Raiola

He might have a forthcoming January saga concerning Paul Pogba on the agenda, but Haaland's high-profile representative is likely to be fairly pleased with his work here.

Numerous reports claim Raiola is a major beneficiary of the outlay being a relatively meagre €20million, stipulated in the player's Salzburg release clause, with other cash freed up for agent fees.

Additionally, Dortmund are unlikely to be Haaland's final destination. If all goes to plan, he might be looking at a €100million-plus move elsewhere in a couple of years that may allow Raiola to feather the nest all over again.

LOSERS

RB Leipzig

If RB Leipzig were to be denied a first Bundesliga title by a player who joined a rival from their sister club, it would certainly hurt.

A glorious second half of the season for Dortmund may mean some tough conversations within Red Bull's sporting operation.

Looking beyond this term, if Timo Werner's future lies elsewhere, Julian Nagelsmann's side have just missed out on a seemingly readymade replacement.

Salzburg

As a side from the Austrian Bundesliga, selling talents like Haaland for a handsome profit is a vital part of Salzburg's business model.

However, with this deal coming hot on the heels of Takumi Minamoto's similarly cut-price switch to Liverpool, events feel like they are progressing too quickly.

Salzburg's release clauses for the two players appear significantly below market rates, while Hwang Hee-chan is also reportedly on Wolves' radar. After making their mark in the Champions League, Salzburg's status as dark horses in the Europa League is no more.

Manchester United

Aside from the benefits for the likes of Martial and Greenwood, little else about this transfer represents good news for Manchester United.

A lack of success over recent years means it is harder for the 20-time English champions to dine at the top table in transfer terms. Here, there was a chance to secure an exceptional talent at minimal cost.

Then we should consider Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's role. If the manager cannot persuade a player he helped to nurture at Molde, who hails from a country where he is a national hero, how much weight is his talk of United "DNA" likely to hold in future transfer negotiations?

Could Gareth Bale's time in Madrid be coming to an end?

Linked to the Chinese Super League previously, former club Tottenham have emerged as a possible destination for Real Madrid's Bale.

A Spurs star could move in the opposite direction as part of the deal…

 

TOP STORY – SPURS WANT BALE BACK IN EXCHANGE FOR ERIKSEN

Tottenham want to bring Gareth Bale back to North London in a swap deal that would see want-away midfielder Christian Eriksen join Real Madrid, claims The Sun.

It is said that LaLiga giants Madrid would receive £25.7million (€30m) as well as Eriksen in a deal that could reunite Bale with the club he left in 2013.

Eriksen has been linked to Manchester United, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Inter and other clubs in Europe as his contract runs out at the end of the season.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have pulled out of the race to sign Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, paving the way for the England winger to join Liverpool, according to the Daily Express. United and Madrid have also been linked to the 19-year-old.

United and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are in the race to sign Leicester City's in-form right-back Ricardo Pereira in January, according to the Daily Mail.

- Wolves' push for a top-five Premier League finish this season could be bolstered by the addition of South Korean forward Hwang Hee-chan, should the Molineux club persuade Salzburg to part with the £23m (€26.9m)-rated forward in a deal mooted by Sky Sports News.

- Sky in Germany reports that Werder Bremen are keen on re-signing Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard in January.

- Le10sport claims PSG sounded out Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp as a possible replacement for Thomas Tuchel. The report says PSG sporting director Leonardo spoke to Klopp but the German made it clear he is happy at Anfield.

- Sky Sports News claims David Moyes is poised for a return to West Ham to replace Manuel Pellegrini following his sacking. Moyes spent a brief period in charge of West Ham in 2018.

Arsenal have set their sights on RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano. A move for the 21-year-old depends on whether Leipzig can sign Tanguy Kouassi from PSG, according to Le Parisien.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Paul Pogba was not ready to face Burnley after sitting out the 2-0 Premier League victory.

United star Pogba was a notable absentee as the Red Devils saw off Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday to move within a point of the top four.

Pogba played for the first time in nearly three months when United lost to lowly Watford 2-0 last week and he made another substitute appearance in the 4-1 rout of Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

The French midfielder, however, did not travel to Burnley and Solskjaer explained Pogba's absence post-match.

"He had 45 minutes but he's been out for a while and he didn't feel right," Solskjaer told reporters. "He reacted to that one so we'll just have to take our time and get him ready for next time.

"When you've been out for such a while, it's always going to take time to be 100 per cent. He just needed another day probably of recovery."

United were also without injured midfielder Scott McTominay against Burnley – out-of-favour veteran Nemanja Matic chosen to partner Fred.

McTominay was forced off in the Boxing Day victory at Old Trafford after hurting his knee and the Scotland international is facing up to a month on the sidelines.

"I wouldn't expect Scott to be back within a few weeks, no," Solskjaer said in his news conference. "Not the next couple of weeks, I don't think we'll see him. So it'll be more than that.

"But he's always proved before that give him three weeks and he's back in two. I don't know, if it's three or four weeks. It might be something like this, but we've just got to find a way through it."

Marcus Rashford took his Premier League tally this season to 12 goals after sealing United's win in the 90th minute after Anthony Martial's opener on the stroke of half-time.

"He's got everything physically. He's got great mentality, the right attitude and he’s one of our own," Solskjaer said. "He's just going to get better and better, he's still only 22. He'll grow and he's got his best years ahead of him and he's been a leader. He's really showed his maturity."

United, who will travel to Arsenal on New Year's Day, are only a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the fight for Champions League qualification.

"Well we want to get there [into the top four] and we're not far away. That is the challenge for this team," Solskjaer added. "We did it towards the end of last season, we were close there and then we dropped off. Now, they responded to the defeat against Watford and I've put a challenge to them. I'm very happy with them.

"In football, you've got to earn the right to win every single game. Everyone gives you a different challenge. Arsenal away is a completely different challenge. We handled what Burnley threw at us but Arsenal will give us other things to think about. We'll be ready for it."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed his side's ability to "grind out results" after the Red Devils survived a flurry of late Burnley chances to triumph 2-0 in the Premier League on Saturday.

Anthony Martial scored his third goal in two games one minute before half-time to put United ahead in a game they dominated for long periods, but hosts Burnley heaped pressure on David De Gea's goal in the final 15 minutes at Turf Moor.

A late United break produced a second goal when Daniel James played in Marcus Rashford for his 12th Premier League strike of the season and clinched a result that moved the Red Devils up to fifth in the table, just a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

Solskjaer admitted his players should have put the game to bed sooner but praised their performance following back-to-back victories, describing himself as "very happy".

"In the first half I thought we were very good," said Solskjaer. "We controlled it, dominated it, scored a nice goal. Second half of course there's going to be a couple of instances in your box because they're desperate to get a goal and throwing men forward.

"We could have finished the game off really, we had some great counter-attacking chances. We should have got the second goal earlier but there was some great defending.

"It's important for us to know that we can grind out results as well, even though when you score one you don't always win. If we can get clean sheets we've got a chance to move up the table."

United travel to Emirates Stadium to play Arsenal on New Year's Day and Solskjaer called for his players to maintain the momentum that has helped them go nine matches with just one defeat in all competitions – a 2-0 reverse at Watford on December 22.

With Martial and Rashford hitting form, United will be widely backed to get a result against an Arsenal side adapting to life with a new head coach Mikel Arteta at the helm.

Solskjaer said his forwards must be less wasteful than they were against Burnley, adding: "You're always kicking yourself when you don't take your chances. There were so many great counter-attacking opportunities, when we made wrong decisions or were a little bit too slow to get the finish off, but it was an excellent performance.

"Let's see what we do against Arsenal. We want to keep that momentum going. Two wins after a disappointing game against Watford. Happy with that. Good response. The boys are learning."

West Ham sacked Manuel Pellegrini following a 2-1 home defeat to a much-changed Leicester City side before Manchester United won at Burnley on Saturday. 

Pellegrini was relieved of his duties following a loss that leaves the London club just a point above the Premier League relegation zone in 17th.

Leicester were thumped 4-0 by runaway leaders Liverpool on Boxing Day after suffering a 3-1 defeat to Manchester City, but got back on track in the capital despite Brendan Rodgers making nine changes – leading scorer Jamie Vardy absent after his wife gave birth.

Goals from Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford gave United a 2-0 win at Turf Moor, where they kept a first clean sheet in 15 league games.

Jose Mourinho's Spurs needed Harry Kane's 83rd-minute penalty to salvage a point in a 2-2 draw against Norwich at Carrow Road.

In the day's earlier matches, Watford's mini-resurgence under Nigel Pearson continued and Carlo Ancelotti made it two wins from as many matches in charge of Everton.

Brighton and Hove Albion were 2-0 winners over Bournemouth, while Southampton and Crystal Palace drew 1-1.

 

Gray makes amends as Leicester end Pellegrini's reign

Losses to City and Liverpool left doubts over Leicester's ability to challenge near the top of the table for the rest of the season, but they showed their squad depth and resilience at West Ham.

Demarai Gray, given a rare start, was presented with a fine chance to open the scoring when Lukasz Fabianski fouled Kelechi Iheanacho, but the goalkeeper saved the resulting penalty on his return from injury.

Iheanacho opened the scoring just before half-time, heading in from close range after Ayoze Perez knocked a delivery back across goal – but Pablo Fornals restored parity a few minutes later, finishing off a lovely move following great work from Felipe Anderson.

Gray made up for his miss from the spot early in the second half, confidently slotting past Fabianski after being released by Perez. West Ham rarely threatened thereafter in what proved to be Pellegrini's last game in charge.

 

United up to fifth

Martial scored his third goal in two Premier League matches as United moved up to fifth.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men broke down Burnley's packed defence with some patient attacking play, forcing the opener just before half-time and doubling their lead in second-half stoppage time through Rashford.

After losing 2-0 at Watford in their previous away game, United delivered the improvements they sorely needed at the back while dominating possession in midfield despite the absence of Paul Pogba, who was rested following his return to fitness, as they built on a 4-1 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

Burnley were looking to make it three league wins from four but failed to recover from an error by full-back Charlie Taylor that led to Martial's strike, squandering a flurry of late opportunities before Rashford scored his 12th league goal of the season.

 

VAR to the fore as Spurs make fortunate escape

Norwich might have been two to the good at half-time were it not for the most marginal of offside calls as Spurs were let off the hook.

Teemu Pukki slotted home on the break, only for VAR to rule him offside seemingly by his armpit after Mario Vrancic had capitalised on a series of defensive lapses to open the scoring in the 18th minute.

Spurs levelled with a free-kick effort from Christian Eriksen just after the break, but Norwich were back in front again by the 61st minute – Toby Alderweireld knocking the ball on to Serge Aurier when tackling Pukki and watching on as it found the back of the net.

But Kane rescued Spurs, as he often does. A clumsy sliding tackle from Christoph Zimmermann on the England striker resulted in a penalty and he swept home from 12 yards.

 

New managers having desired effect

A tense first half between Watford and Aston Villa at Vicarage Road remained goalless until just before the interval, when Ezri Konsa's error allowed

Abdoulaye Doucoure to get a shot away and Troy Deeney converted on the rebound.

Villa were given a boost just before the hour when Adrian Mariappa was shown a second yellow card for appearing to catch Henri Lansbury late, though replays suggested contact was minimal.

But Watford got a second goal in the 67th minute – Deeney smashing in a penalty after he had been barged over by Douglas Luiz, and Ismaila Sarr finished Villa off 19 minutes from time.

Ancelotti is overseeing an improvement at Everton, who beat Newcastle United 2-1 at St James' Park.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin grabbed a brace either side of Fabian Schar's strike, allowing the Toffees to move above their hosts in the table and up to 10th.

 

Seagulls pick off Cherries to arrest slump

Brighton hosted Bournemouth having not won any of their previous four matches in the top flight.

But it did not take them long to establish control against the Cherries – Alireza Jahanbakhsh putting them in front within three minutes by lashing into the bottom-right corner, finally opening his account for the club more than a year after costing a reported £17million.

Brighton thought they had sealed the win just before the hour when Dan Burn slammed home, only for a VAR review to adjudge him to be offside by a shoulder.

But Aaron Mooy did wrap up the victory 12 minutes from time in style, bringing down Leandro Trossard's cross, cleverly beating a defender and coolly slotting home.

Victory moves Brighton above Southampton, who could only salvage a draw at home to Palace, Danny Ings cancelling out James Tomkins' header with 16 minutes to go.

 

Anthony Martial scored his third goal in two Premier League matches to help Manchester United to a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor that moves the Red Devils up to fifth in the table.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men kept their first clean sheet in the league since September and successfully broke down Burnley's packed defence with some patient attacking play, forcing the opener just before half-time and doubling their lead in second-half stoppage time through Marcus Rashford.

After losing 2-0 at Watford in their previous away game, United delivered the improvements they sorely needed at the back while dominating possession in midfield despite the absence of Paul Pogba, who was rested following his return to fitness, as they built on a 4-1 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day.

Burnley were looking to make it three league wins from four but failed to recover from an error by full-back Charlie Taylor that led to Martial's strike, squandering a flurry of late opportunities before Rashford scored his 12th league goal of the season.

Rashford stung Nick Pope's palms with a free-kick from 30 yards in a cagey opening spell in which the England forward also hit the outside of the post with a low, first-time shot from the edge of the box.

The ball fell to Martial little more than six yards out after 33 minutes, but the France international's effort was crucially blocked on the line by former United defender Phil Bardsley.

Having kept the visitors at bay for 44 minutes, Burnley self-destructed when Taylor fumbled possession and allowed Andreas Pereira to feed Martial, who took a touch and stroked a low shot past Pope into the bottom-right corner.

Martial had the ball in the net again four minutes into the second half, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on James Tarkowski and Burnley almost equalised when Bardsley's angled drive drew a diving save from David de Gea.

Harry Maguire brought down Jack Cork on the edge of the United box to present substitute Johann Gudmundsson with a chance from a free-kick, but the Iceland international blazed over the crossbar.

Burnley threatened an equaliser throughout a frenetic final 15 minutes only to be caught out right at the end when Daniel James sprinted over the half-way line in posession and squared to Rashford, who rounded Pope before scoring his second in as many games.

 

What does it mean? Creativity shortage sets up tense finish

Solskjaer will have been pleased to see his defence cut out the errors that cost them dearly at Vicarage Road but a failure to put the game to bed sooner might have been punished by a side better than Burnley.

Rashford runs Burnley ragged

Finding a link between midfield and attack has often been United's problem against sides who sit back this season, but the immense amount of ground covered by Rashford – who frequently dropped deep to carry the visitors forward – solved that here. He then rounded off the win in the latter stages.

Taylor toils in tussle with James

James has proven himself to be a handful for Premier League defences since he joined United in January and Clarets left-back Taylor struggled to cope with him, playing misplaced passes and getting forced into errors by the rapid Wales winger.

What's next?

While Burnley will fancy their chances of taking three points when Aston Villa visit Turf Moor on New Year's Day, United could find victory harder to come by against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

 

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