Martin Odegaard was always fighting a "lost battle" with comparisons to Lionel Messi but has the characteristics needed to flourish at Arsenal, says Mikel Arteta. 

The Gunners completed a deal to take Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season on Wednesday, handing the attacking midfielder the number 11 shirt that was worn by Mesut Ozil when he joined the club. 

Odegaard was signed by Los Blancos from Stromsgodset as a prodigious teenager and has had loan spells in the Eredivisie with Heerenveen and Vitesse before impressing in a temporary stint with Real Sociedad last term. 

Madrid opted to recall him for the 2020-21 campaign, though the 22-year-old struggled to nail down a regular spot in Zinedine Zidane's team. 

Arteta is excited by Odegaard's qualities but did urge caution, saying comparisons to Barcelona great Messi are unhelpful. 

"I wouldn't even get close to that name you just mentioned [Messi] because it's a lost battle in my opinion. Martin is Martin," Arteta said when previewing Saturday's clash with Manchester United. 

"In the last few seasons he's progressed and developed in the right way. I follow him very closely because he played for Real Sociedad which is my hometown and I know him really well. 

"He's such a talent. He needs the right environment, a little bit of time, but he's got the qualities to be a success for us. He's a specialist to playing in the pockets, to be in the number eight, number 10 positions. 

"He can play on the sides, a really creative player, really comfortable on the ball in tight spaces, the capacity to create chances, to score goals. 

"Something he has improved a lot is his work rate without the ball as well. It's another option to give us more creativity in the final third."

Last season, Odegaard topped Sociedad's squad for chances created in LaLiga, crafting 62 opportunities in total as he provided six assists from 31 appearances. He also boasted an impressive passing accuracy of 84.74 per cent. 

This term he has been afforded just three LaLiga starts by Zidane, albeit Arteta made clear several factors will determine whether a permanent deal will be struck. 

"He has certainly all the qualities and characteristics that we are looking for," he added. 

"Then it would be down to two things – first of all, how well he adapts here and how much of an impact he can have in our team, and second, what Real Madrid and the player thinks about it because he's owned by Real Madrid and the player has a big say on that. 

"I just wanted to give him a clear picture of who we are as a club, what we are trying to do, what we expect from him, just try to transmit the passion and excitement that we had to bring him in. 

"I wanted to show him the project, how he fits and just try to persuade him that this is the right place for him and try to make things work." 

Arsenal are on a six-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to improve their previously precarious top-flight standing to ninth. 

They welcome a Manchester United side who saw their own 13-match unbeaten league run surprisingly ended by rock-bottom Sheffield United on Wednesday. 

"It's not a surprise because to beat any team in this league is extremely difficult and it's not taken for granted," Arteta said when asked about that game.  

"Sheffield United are a really good threat and you see that. They've lost games they didn't deserve to lose." 

Arsenal were the last side to beat United in the league before the Blades' unlikely triumph, while they have not lost to the Red Devils since an FA Cup defeat in January 2019. 

Still, Arteta says there is nothing to be gleaned from a decent recent record against United. 

"I think every game is completely different, they have the capacity and the quality to beat any side in the world, we know we’re going to have to be at our best," he said. 

"The games are huge, we need to be better than what we were on Tuesday [a 3-1 win at Southampton] to beat them. 

"They've been in top form. They've been top of the table playing really well. We know they are a real threat. We have to be at our best to beat them on Saturday."

Mikel Arteta has offered no guarantee that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be available for Arsenal in Saturday's big clash with Manchester United.

The striker and club captain left the squad just hours ahead of last weekend's FA Cup match at Southampton, because of personal reasons.

Aubameyang specified on Wednesday that his mother had been experiencing "health issues" and stressed he "had to be with her".

He said he was keen to be back on Arsenal duty, but how soon that happens could hinge on a range of issues.

Arsenal manager Arteta did not give a firm answer one way or the other when asked whether Aubameyang had travelled abroad to be with his mother.

If he did head overseas, that could bring quarantining into the equation and mean he may have to wait a while before returning to action.

Looking at the weekend prospects for the Gabon international, Arteta said: "I don't know. I spoke with him yesterday, things are looking better at the moment, but we're going to have to wait and see.

"He's our captain and one of the most important players. We are doing everything we can to have him back as quick as possible but understand he's been through difficult days, that he has to support his family and we are here to support him as well with the time that he needed to get that sorted."

When asked if Aubameyang had left the UK to be with his mother, Arteta said: "He had to support his family and he had to be with them."

Pressed on the possibility of quarantine, he replied: "I don't know about what happened."

Arsenal lost in the cup to Southampton but took swift revenge by winning 3-1 in the Premier League at St Mary's on Tuesday, to continue their recent revival in the competition.

Arteta had dedicated that victory to Aubameyang on behalf of the squad and explained it was important to support the 31-year-old at all times.

"That's what we always talk about and what we expect to do for each other," said the Arsenal boss. "When someone is having difficulties, that we understand for him, protect him, give him our love, because it's what is needed."

Aubameyang scored twice in his last Premier League appearance, the 3-0 win over Newcastle United on January 18, after netting just three in his previous 16 games in the competition.

In the Newcastle game, Aubameyang matched his season's Premier League highs for shots at goal (five) and touches in the opposition box (nine).

Having also scored against Newcastle in the FA Cup third round earlier in January, it suggested his best form may be coming back.

Only once last season did Aubameyang have more goal attempts in a game (seven against Brighton and Hove Albion on June 20), while he only had more touches in Arsenal's rivals' box twice (in December 2019 games against Norwich City and Bournemouth).

Dani Ceballos and Pablo Mari are expected back in training with Arsenal in the coming days after short injury lay-offs, Arteta said.

He said Arsenal would "have to see" how Kieran Tierney is, although video that appeared to show the left-back in training this week may suggest he could face United this weekend.

Kai Havertz has all the qualities to be "world class" but was always likely to need time to settle in at Chelsea, according to Bayer Leverkusen's sporting director Simon Rolfes.  

The Blues spent a reported £72million (€80m) to bring the Germany international from Leverkusen in September, yet he has so far struggled to justify the hefty price tag.  

The attacking midfielder was one of several big-money signings during a busy close-reason recruitment drive, with compatriot Timo Werner - who arrived from RB Leipzig - also enduring a difficult start to life at Stamford Bridge. 

Havertz has managed five goals and five assists, as well as 23 chances created (1.4 per 90 minutes) and five big chances created (0.3 per 90) in 25 appearances so far in 2020-21.  

For comparison, during his final season at Leverkusen, he registered 18 goals (0.43 per 90), nine assists (0.21 per 90), 84 chances created (1.99 per 90), 20 big chances created (0.47 per 90) from 45 appearances.  

Chelsea's struggles on the pitch this term saw club legend Frank Lampard sacked and replaced by Thomas Tuchel, and Rolfes feels it is unfair to focus purely on Havertz, who he is backing to show his true abilities in the Premier League.

"It's always difficult if you change country and a little bit of a different style. That's the same if we sign players," Rolfes told Stats Perform News. 

"Some players need two days, some guys need half a year. For example, Moussa Diaby needs three-four months to adapt from France, although he was playing for PSG, to adapt to the Bundesliga.  

"You have to have in mind when you sign players, that not everybody is directly from the first day there.  

"I've followed Chelsea a little bit from a distance, but it's not only Kai or Timo Werner struggling a little bit, it's also the team – they expected more from the whole squad.  

"That's not so easy if it's not working in the team and you come in as a new player. It's much easier if the team is working and you step in your best position.  

"That's a process for Kai, to adapt to England and the Premier League. There is no doubt Kai is a fantastic player and has all the ability to play on the world-class level and although it's probably not his best six months, there is no doubt in my opinion."

Harry Maguire believes it is time for Manchester United to "stand up and be counted" after the team were left "devastated" by Wednesday's 2-1 defeat to rock-bottom Sheffield United. 

The Red Devils were aiming to go back top of the Premier League table but succumbed to a shock loss at Old Trafford, Oli Burke's fortuitous winner sealing the points after Maguire's goal against his former club had initially cancelled out Kean Bryan's first-half opener. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men had gone unbeaten in their previous 13 matches but were well off the pace against the Blades. 

Captain Maguire urged the squad to rebound quickly for Saturday's trip to Arsenal, who coincidentally were the last side before Chris Wilder's team to defeat them in the league. 

"When you do get a defeat, there's nothing worse than waiting to get back out on the pitch to play and put things right," Maguire told United's club media. 

"The boys are devastated, if I'm honest. It's a really quiet dressing room. The boys are so disappointed; we didn't expect it, we came into the game confident. 

"We've got to pick ourselves up. We are disappointed and it hurts, but Saturday is a big game and we've got to bounce back. 

"It's all good and easy when you're winning football matches and you're playing well, but now it's time to stand up and be counted. 

"When you get kicked down it's how quickly you bounce back and Saturday's a big one and we've got to get three points."

Maguire rued the defensive lapses that he felt proved so costly. 

"Not good enough," he added. "We didn't perform to a level we've been playing at. We didn't play at an intensity that we've played at. We haven't created enough to win the game. 

"We didn't see it coming; we prepared well and were fully confident. We fell behind to a soft goal, but we felt that we could come back, like we've done numerous times this year, and come back and win the game. 

"We got ourselves back into the game and we felt like the next goal would be crucial, and we managed to get that, and we just didn't kick on; we didn't find that spark. Then from that position, we can't lose the game. You've thrown away a point. 

"It's probably the first time they've been in our box in the second half and they managed to score, so we've got to look at it and got to improve. For sure, he [Burke] can't be taking a touch and controlling it and having a shot in our box with no-one around him. It's not good enough." 

There was contention in the first half, with United claiming Billy Sharp had fouled David De Gea in the process of the Blades taking the lead, while referee Peter Bankes ruled out a goal for the home team with Maguire judged to have impeded visiting keeper Aaron Ramsdale when Anthony Martial swept home. 

"It's incredible. There's no doubt that Billy Sharp's is more of a foul than what I did at the other end," Maguire said of the two incidents. 

"Maybe people will say both aren't fouls, but definitely not David's is and that one isn't. I jumped for the ball. I don't think I actually touched the keeper.  

"I think he just touches me in the back; my arms are nowhere near him. I think the referee will look back and know he's made a mistake."

Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

Manchester United were stunned by bottom club Sheffield United in a seismic result for both ends of the Premier League table.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were expected to regain top spot and end Manchester City's stay at the summit after 24 hours, although Chris Wilder's basement boys had other ideas.

Former City youth product Kean Bryan gave the visitors the lead at Old Trafford but normal service looked to have been resumed when former Blade Harry Maguire headed home.

But Oliver Burke had the final word in the 74th minute, giving Sheffield United a 2-1 triumph – only their second win of the Premier League season.

Brighton and Hove Albion and Fulham could not add to their pair of wins after a goalless draw at the Amex Stadium and sit 10 and five points better off than Wilder's men respectively.

It was the same scoreline at Stamford Bridge as Thomas Tuchel's reign got off to an underwhelming start against Wolves, while Everton against Leicester City also ended all square and there was a thrilling win for Burnley over Aston Villa.

Here are the pick of the Opta facts from some results that might look crucial in the final reckoning.

Manchester United 1-2 Sheffield United: Bryan and Burke land title-race body blow

It was a case of familiar frailties returning to haunt United's title bid as Bryan headed home John Fleck's corner.

Since the start of last season, no team has shipped more goals from corners than the 14 let in by Manchester United, Brighton and Chelsea.

Maguire also made the most of slack set-piece marking to net his sixth league goal for the club and his first at home.

But the hosts' defending from open play left a similar amount to be desired as Burke settled matters via a deflection off Axel Tuanzebe.

Bryan and Burke are the first players to net their maiden Premier League goals in the same match against United since Esteban Cambiasso and Jamie Vardy did likewise for Leicester in 2014.

Four defeats in 10 home matches means the Red Devils have amassed their highest number of league losses at Old Trafford since going down in seven in 2013-14.

Sheffield United became the first team from Yorkshire to win a Premier League game at Manchester United and only the third side in the Premier League era, following Leeds United in January 2010 (FA Cup) and York City in September 1996 (League Cup).

Chelsea 0-0 Wolves: Possession without penetration for Tuchel's Blues

A day after being installed as Frank Lampard's successor, Tuchel saw his swiftly remodelled Chelsea dominate but fail to find the net against Wolves.

Struggles against Nuno Espirito Santo's side are nothing new, no matter who is in charge. This is the second time in three seasons that Wolves have gone unbeaten versus Chelsea, having also won at Molineux and drawn at Stamford Bridge in 2018-19.

The visitors certainly had to work to keep their opponents at bay as the Blues hogged 78.9 per cent of possession and racked up 820 passes. Since Opta began collecting this data in 2003-04, both are the highest totals by a team in their coach's first match in charge.

Tuchel is on a run of four consecutive league clean sheets after Paris Saint-Germain completed shutouts in his final three Ligue 1 matches.

Before this season, Thiago Silva was a key part of his backline in the French capital. Reunited in London, the Brazil veteran is now unbeaten in 25 home league appearances under Tuchel (W22 D3).

Wolves have not been so assured defensively of late and this was their first league clean sheet since a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on October 30, ending a run of 12 straight games without one.

Burnley 3-2 Aston Villa: Wood heads for the heights to lift Clarets

Chris Wood netted a 79th-minute winner as Burnley twice came from behind at Turf Moor to beat Aston Villa and move nine points clear of the relegation zone.

Wood rose to nod home a cross from winger Dwight McNeil for something of a trademark goal. Since his top-flight debut for Burnley in August 2017, no player has scored more headed goals than the New Zealand striker, who is level with Harry Kane on 15.

McNeil pulled Sean Dyche's side level after Jack Grealish netted his sixth league goal of the campaign. Combined with his eight assists, the England star has 14 goal involvements in 18 Premier League matches – the same number he managed last season (eight goals, six assists).

Ollie Watkins matched Grealish's goals mark from 2019-20 when he opened the scoring, making it eight Premier League goals in 18 outings.

Ashley Westwood got the assist for Ben Mee's initial equaliser, meaning he has 16 assists for Burnley in the competition. Only Johann Gudmundsson (17) has more.

Everton 1-1 Leicester City: Long-range lone ranger James shines again

James Rodriguez continued his fine form for Everton with a spectacular strike to put Carlo Ancelotti's men in front.

The Colombia international has scored 19 goals from outside the box in Europe's top five leagues – three for Monaco, 11 for Real Madrid, three for Bayern Munich and now two for Everton.

This was his first with his right foot and added to an impressive personal haul of four goals and three assists. Only Dominic Calvert-Lewin (11) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Everton this season.

However, another specialist made sure the points were shared. All five of Youri Tielemans' goals for Leicester in the league this season have come away from home.

The Belgium international has netted the most away goals of any player yet to score at home this term.

Everton might well have a further say in the title battle to come. They are unbeaten in the three league games they have played against opponents starting the day above them in the table this season – a 1-0 win over Chelsea and 2-0 defeat of Leicester last December.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Fulham: All square in tense basement battle

High stakes did nothing for the entertainment value in this relegation six-pointer, completing a pair of 0-0 draws between Brighton and Fulham this season.

Perhaps it was not for the want of trying – with 26 shots combined (16 for Brighton and 10 for Fulham), only Aston Villa v Burnley (33) last month and Leeds United v Arsenal (34) in November have produced more shots without a goal being scored in 2020-21.

It was the first time Fulham have played out two goalless draws against the same opponent in a single season since a pair of 2001-02 stalemates with Leicester.

Brighton have become bore-draw specialists, playing out 14 0-0s since their promotion to the top-flight in 2017-18, which is more than any other side in that period.

As their positions in 17th and 18th illustrate, both teams are finding victories hard to come by.

Fulham are winless in nine, with six draws and three losses, since beating Leicester 2-1 in November, while Brighton's 2-1 triumph against Arsenal in June is their only win in the past 19 matches at the Amex Stadium. Since then they have lost and drawn seven apiece on home turf.

Former Tottenham midfielder Gus Poyet praised Tanguy Ndombele for helping Spurs reach "another level" this season.

Ndombele struggled in his first season with the Premier League club after arriving from Ligue 1's Lyon for a reported initial fee of £55.45million (€62m).

But the midfielder has looked rejuvenated this term, helping Spurs sit sixth in the table ahead of Thursday's blockbuster clash against defending champions Liverpool.

Poyet, who played for Spurs between 2001 and 2004, said it was impressive how Ndombele had managed to turn his form around.

"From outside, this is an opinion that I hope everybody understands what I'm saying, it looks like it was not that a feeling of him being part of a [Jose] Mourinho team. It was like a conflict in there of ideas," the former Uruguay international told Stats Perform News.

"But it looks to me that this year, after pre-season, Ndombele understands his role perfectly, is playing in a more advanced position, and is really affecting the game in an incredible way.

"Which is probably what Mourinho was trying to convince him last year about certain players getting [settled] very quickly and certain players need a little bit more time.

"And the power, the quality of passing and the goals that he has scored is helping Tottenham to go to another level.

"Because let's remember in that position we were used to seeing [Christian] Eriksen or Dele Alli and now we see Ndombele most of the time, so it's a very good story and he could be a key player for them."

Ndombele scored twice in Tottenham's 4-1 FA Cup win over Wycombe on Monday, becoming the first substitute to score twice in a match for Spurs since Roman Pavlyuchenko against Birmingham City in May 2011.

He has also netted three times in his past two games in all competitions, just two fewer than he scored in his first 52 matches for the club.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer backed Anthony Martial to find form after Manchester United were stunned by Sheffield United in the Premier League.

Martial has scored just twice in 16 league appearances this season and was unable to have an impact as his side suffered a shock 2-1 loss at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Solskjaer is confident the forward will recapture his best form, but understood questions over the 25-year-old and his team as a whole.

"The whole team will probably get criticism and myself as well. I don't think Anthony's exempt from that," the United manager told a news conference.

"I think we all should be criticised because we didn't perform. I know Anto, he's working really hard in training, working on his finishing, working on his movement. I've got no qualms about that.

"He'll come good."

Martial thought he had cancelled out Kean Bryan's shock opener, but the effort was ruled out for a foul by Harry Maguire on Sheffield goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

Maguire headed in an equaliser in the second half, but Oliver Burke found a winner for the visitors, condemning Solskjaer's men to a fourth home defeat in 10 league games this season, their most in a single campaign since 2013-14 (seven).

After his side were left in the second in the table, Solskjaer was disappointed, but also felt decisions went against his team, including for Bryan's opener.

"Of course, we're disappointed, but any result in the Premier League this season shouldn't surprise anyone, but then again, very disappointed that we couldn't put a better performance on," he said.

"It's down to us to put the performance up and we just couldn't find an opening behind or around or between a very compact and good Sheffield United defence.

"The big moments went against us. If you look at it, Billy Sharp's been around the place and knows how to put a goalkeeper off. That's a definite foul on him, so David [de Gea] can't get up. For me, the referee makes a mistake by blowing the whistle on our goal for that corner. That's disappointing but that happens."

Solskjaer's side will aim to bounce back when they visit Arsenal on Saturday.

New Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel says his focus is on bridging the gap to fourth place and not mounting a Premier League title challenge. 

Tuchel was appointed Blues head coach on Tuesday following Frank Lampard's dismissal and his tenure got off to an underwhelming start a day later as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Wolves at Stamford Bridge. 

Despite enjoying 79 per cent possession and completing 820 passes – the highest totals by a team in their manager's first Premier League game in charge since the 2003-04 campaign – the hosts could not find a way through against Nuno Espirito Santo's side. 

The result means Chelsea are eighth in the Premier League table having won just eight of their 20 games this season.

Tuchel scoffed at suggestions his side might be capable of closing the 11-point gap to leaders Manchester City – who have played a game less – and said his focus was on reining in fourth-place West Ham, who are five points clear. 

"The title, ooh, far away, we have to be realistic at the same time," he told a media conference.

"When you sign for Chelsea as manager it's absolutely right you sign for the expectation to fight for titles like the Premier League, Champions League and cups. 

"It's absolutely clear, but at the same time we have to be realistic that there are a lot of teams and points between us and fourth.

"So maybe it's the best time now to step up in the middle of the season, don't lose focus and look too far ahead.

"Stay now and work on a daily basis on details and progression in our game, and points will follow.

"I'm absolutely sure we have the capacity with this squad to hurt everybody in every league and competition. It's my job to bring evidence of that as fast as possible but now the approach is doing it step by step."

The result means Tuchel is the first Chelsea manager since Rafael Benitez in November 2012 to draw his first game in charge of the club, with the Spaniard held to a 0-0 draw by Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

Despite their failure to claim all three points, Tuchel was encouraged by what he saw. 

"Yeah, it was well deserved for all the effort that the guys put in," he added. "But I have to say I just walked in the dressing room and told everybody there's no room for disappointment or doubt. 

"I'm very happy with the performance. We had good intensity and were very structured, we did not allow any dangerous counter-attacks. So we were very well organised, we were brave, we had courage and we played as a team.

"There was good input from the bench and a very good attitude from the players on the bench that did not come on. A very good spirit. 

"I think the supporters could have helped in all the half-chances. It was hard work but we never lost intensity and I'm very happy that this was our starting point, and very excited about where we'll end up.

"This is the level now and we can start working on the details. We can prepare for Burnley and that's what we'll do."

Jurgen Klopp is not expecting any arrivals at Liverpool before the end of the January transfer window.

The Premier League champions have continued to be linked with moves for defenders amid their form slump and with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez sidelined through injury.

But, asked if he expected anything to change before the transfer window closes on February 1, Liverpool manager Klopp told a news conference: "Not really. No, not really.

"I would not say absolutely 100 per cent no, but I don't expect anything to happen to be honest."

Ahead of a trip to Tottenham on Thursday, Liverpool are winless in five Premier League games, sitting fifth in the table and seven points behind Manchester City.

Klopp said his side would continue pushing to turn their season around and he believes they are capable.

"We talk about things, that's clear. We don't ignore the things," he said.

"We have meetings, of course, and speak about the things just to make sure that we understand the situation in the right way – as a challenge, and a challenge is absolutely fine.

"As always with a challenge, it's all about how you approach it. We are in it. We are not happy about the situation, but we can sort it, however you would say it, and that's what we do.

"And we will fight. We will fight the situation, we will fight tomorrow night [against Tottenham], these kinds of things. That's what we'll do. We will see what we get for it."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted there would be no need for a "big inquest" after Manchester United were beaten 2-1 by Sheffield United on Wednesday.

Kean Bryan and Oliver Burke scored either side of a Harry Maguire header to stun the Red Devils at Old Trafford and end their 13-game unbeaten run in the Premier League.

It was the first time Man United lost at home to a team starting the day bottom of the table since suffering a 1-0 defeat to West Brom in April 2018, a result that handed Manchester City the title.

This setback was similarly a boost for City, whose 5-0 thrashing of the Baggies on Tuesday means they can now open up a four-point gap at the top over their local rivals if they win their game in hand.

Solskjaer's men produced a miserable display in wet conditions, managing only four shots on target from 76 per cent of the possession, as starting forwards Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood failed to create a single goalscoring chance between them.

But the Man United manager felt it was simply a bad day for his side at the end of a strong run of results.

"We had all the possession. When you concede two bad goals, it's always going to be difficult," he told BT Sport.

"We didn't create enough. We put pressure on them, we couldn't penetrate enough in behind them, create big enough chances to score enough goals.

"That magic was missing, that little bit extra. There was not a lot of space to run into, they defended well, and fair play to them, take nothing away from their performance, but we didn't have the right ideas or solutions. They weren't there.

"It wasn't to be. The second goal we conceded is so poor. We lose the ball easily, get back into position and then just stop getting out to the ball. Three or four decisions there that were completely out of character. That's maybe down to the season it is.

"No big inquest. Of course, we're disappointed, but we've seen so many results this season be out of character.

"Surprised, yep, but with the world as it is, we've been very consistent, the most consistent team the last few months and it just hit us today.

"Dust off the sad feeling and go again."

United had complaints about the first goal, with Billy Sharp having barged into David de Gea before Bryan's header, and Martial had a goal disallowed when Maguire was deemed to have fouled Blades goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.

"Foul. Billy Sharp runs into him from behind him, so he can't get up," was Solskjaer's view.

He said of the Martial disallowed goal: "No foul. It's that kind of season, inconsistent season anyway, it's going to be unpredictable, but that's two mistakes by the referee."

Jose Mourinho believes Liverpool are still more than capable of winning the Premier League this season. 

Jurgen Klopp's reigning champions are on a five-game winless streak in the top flight and were dumped out of the FA Cup by Manchester United on Sunday. 

They travel to top-four rivals Spurs on Thursday having won just one of their last eight away Premier League games, Klopp's men netting as many goals in that one win – 7-0 against Crystal Palace – as they have managed in the other games combined.

Mourinho – who has lost his last three meetings with Liverpool, his longest losing run against an opponent in his top-flight managerial league career – dismissed suggestions the Reds are a spent force, pointing to the loss of Virgil van Dijk to injury as justification for their poor form. 

"I think Liverpool since that season when they lost with an incredible number of points [2018-19 when they finished second to Manchester City with 97 points], they have been phenomenal," he said.

"They win the Champions League, they win the league. Come on. The team is the same or better. The coach is the same or better, because a coach is a job where experience helps you. For me, a coach with one more year is better. 

"They've got some very good players. They lost a fundamental player [Van Dijk]. We can say what we want, we can try to hide things, but there are some players that are special. 

"Even sometimes the defensive process has a relation to an attacking player and the attacking process sometimes has a relation to a defensive player. 

"A team very stable defensively is a team with much better conditions to attack. They lost Van Dijk, so if they had one or two results not the best, didn't score as many goals, it's normal that they went into a phase of less confidence. But for me, they are the same. Nothing changed."

Asked if Liverpool needed to retain the title to be considered a truly great team, Mourinho said the Merseyside club had nothing to prove.

"A champion is champion," he added. "You win the title, you are the champion. Period. 

"There are leagues where the champion is decided in pre-season. Where you know who is going to win that league. This is not the Premier League.

"Only one team is going to be champion, only four teams are going to be top four, only two more are going to the Europa League. But you cannot say other people fail. This is the beauty of the Premier League. 

"So for me, Liverpool is an amazing team and they still can win the Premier League. Of course they can."

Thursday's game comes six weeks since Mourinho and Klopp exchanged terse words after Liverpool's last-gasp 2-1 win over Spurs at Anfield.

But while the Portuguese feels his touchline demeanour has mellowed, he believes he is punished more harshly than other managers when he steps out of line. 

"In my case, I felt an evolution," he said. "I felt an evolution on emotional control. I felt calmer, I am better, I can read the game. 

"I'm even happy for the assistants to go to the touchline. I felt that I had to change my behaviour, which 'm really, really happy with. I cannot speak for other guys. 

"What I can speak about is when I didn't behave well, I paid the price in two ways. One was to see matches on TV. And another was big money fines. And I feel that some of the other guys, it doesn't happen the same. 

"But, if the referee and the fourth official are there to do their job, I just hope they do their job and act the way they have to act."

Manchester United failed to regain top spot in the Premier League after suffering a shock 2-1 home defeat to Sheffield United on Wednesday.

Harry Maguire cancelled out an opening goal from Kean Bryan, but a deflected strike from substitute Oliver Burke secured just a second league win of the season for the Blades.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men needed to win to overtake Manchester City at the top but delivered a lifeless performance as they saw a 13-match unbeaten run in the top flight come to an end.

They managed only four shots on target despite having nearly 75 per cent of the possession as they failed to beat Sheffield United at home in a league game for the first time since August 1975.

Marcus Rashford, passed fit after a knee problem, pulled a shot wide from a good Aaron Wan-Bissaka cut-back as the home side controlled the early play.

But they found themselves behind from the first corner of the match, Bryan glancing the ball in off the post after beating David de Gea to John Fleck's delivery.

De Gea felt he had been pushed by Billy Sharp and home frustrations grew when Anthony Martial scored after Aaron Ramsdale dropped the ball, only for the goal to be disallowed harshly for a foul by Maguire.

Mason Greenwood scuffed a good chance wide from a Bruno Fernandes throughball, but it was another set-piece through which the scores were levelled, Maguire running onto Alex Telles' corner to head in the equaliser.

Edinson Cavani was introduced off the bench but it was Burke who proved the match-winner, his shot skidding off Axel Tuanzebe's knee and in off the crossbar after the home side had failed to clear.

 

What does it mean? Big boost for City in title race

City's thrashing of West Brom left Man United needing to respond in order to regain top spot from their local rivals.

Instead, they offered a largely dismal display in damp conditions, and City can now move four points clear at the top if they win their game in hand.

Sheffield United's second win of the season gives them some survival hope, although they are 10 points from safety.

Basham bosses the back

Chris Basham was the standout performer of a supremely well-organised Sheffield United defence.

He made four tackles, six clearances - tied for a game high - and nine possessional gains alongside veteran Phil Jagielka.

Red Devils pay for De Gea indecision

There was scarcely a single positive about Man United's display but the result ultimately came down to two De Gea moments.

Perhaps Sharp fouled him for the opener but he could still have done more to reach the cross, and it was his aimless kick that led to Burke's winner.

What's next?

Solskjaer's men face Arsenal away on Saturday, while Sheffield United have another daunting away game, this time at Manchester City.

The sight of Thomas Tuchel marching in sprightly fashion onto the Cobham training pitches to take his first training session, a few hours after being confirmed as Chelsea's latest head coach, oozed urgency.

Perhaps, just 24 hours later, as Chelsea played out a goalless draw Wolves, everyone was just a little bit tired. It had been a tumultuous few days in west London, after all.

Frank Lampard's sacking by the club where he is the all-time record goalscorer has prompted an understandably emotional reaction.

Identity and how a fanbase relates to their club is one of those intangible things that matters more than most in football, despite and maybe even more so with these times of isolation.

Chelsea fans have seen a parade of managers, popular or otherwise, slung out of the door whether or not they won trophies. But then came Super Frank, one of their own, and a team where the club's best-in-class academy talents were given a chance.

For many, this just felt right. Being part of something, belonging, was even enough to anesthetise against the damaging reality of two wins and five defeats in the past eight Premier League games for a Champions League club that splurged on a £200million close-season refit.

Lampard, all eloquent charm for the most part in public, also comes from good football stock and is a good interview. As such, his defenders in the British sports press have lined up this week to condemn Roman Abramovich's most heinous sacking to date.

These twin fronts have acted to obscure an inarguable fact: Tuchel, winner of the only trophy in the post-Jurgen Klopp years at Borussia Dortmund, a two-time Ligue 1 winner and a Champions League finalist at Paris Saint-Germain, is an obvious upgrade on a much-loved figure whose only season in management before being handed the reins at Chelsea was a sixth-place finish in the Championship with Derby County.

Nevertheless, battlelines are drawn and people will polarise accordingly. This is the 21st century, after all.

The first check on the outragometer came an hour before kick-off. Mason Mount, Lampard's star pupil - benched! Antonio Rudiger, reported chief agitator against Our Frankie - starting!

Where the brave, young Chelsea Lions in this Bundesliga-flavoured XI? Actually, Callum Hudson-Odoi was given license from right wing-back. Kai Havertz roved alongside Hakim Ziyech behind the centre-forward, who was Olivier Giroud, not Timo Werner.

The Germany striker, along with Tuchel's former Dortmund charge Christian Pulisic, had to be content with places on the bench.

Chelsea looked to paint pretty patterns early on, with their first-half passing map something of a Jackson Pollock. A total of 433 passes was the most they have ever recorded in the first half of a Premier League game, with Mateo Kovacic dictating matters nicely.

The trade-off was a home team lacking incision, save for one lung-bursting surge through midfield and into the area by Havertz and the constant threat posed by Hudson-Odoi in an unfamiliar role.

This was only the England international's fourth Premier League start of the season, showing Lampard did not simply select by passport and birth certificate. On this evidence, he will feature prominently under Tuchel.

Giroud was agonisingly close to turning in an early low delivery, while he saw Ben Chilwell blaze over another cross on the volley. The 20-year-old delivered 11 crosses overall and attempted five dribbles.

Hudson-Odoi was right back into the faces of a deep-lying Wolves defence after the break, while it was to Tuchel's slight misfortune that the next clear opening again fell to Chilwell. Havertz was the provider with a 61st-minute cutback, the former Leicester man again woefully off target.

The Chelsea wing-backs were pegged high and a back three remained even after Pulisic replaced Chilwell, although Pedro Neto lobbed against the bar for Wolves in a rare 71st-minute attack.

Tammy Abraham and Mount were the other substitutes as Werner remained unused, much to the disappointment of writers punting for an easy end to their narrative arc.

Kovacic, who completed a remarkable 146 of 150 passes, clipped the side netting with a late curling effort and the relentless Hudson-Odoi forced Rui Patricio into a full-length save.

Had that or a stoppage-time Havertz header gone in, a new era would have had lift-off. But, as heavy rain cloaked Stamford Bridge and the banner in honour of Lampard remained, a sense of mourning lingered.

In Tommy We Trust? Not just yet.

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Chelsea head coach got off to an underwhelming start on Wednesday as the Blues failed to make the most of almost complete domination in a 0-0 draw with Wolves.

Tuchel had only taken charge of one training session ahead the game following his appointment as Frank Lampard's successor on Tuesday, and although Chelsea saw far more of the ball, they lacked cutting edge and slumped to a disappointing draw.

Frustratingly for the hosts, their two best chances fell to full-back Ben Chilwell in either half, and otherwise there were few instances of Chelsea carving open the Wolves defence.

Nuno Espirito Santo's men went on to go closest to a winner when Pedro Neto hit the crossbar in the latter stages, leaving the Blues perhaps fortunate to hold on to a point.

Chelsea showed good intent at the start and should have had a fifth-minute lead when Callum Hudson-Odoi beat Rayan Ait-Nouri and delivered a teasing cross, but Olivier Giroud failed to get a touch on the ball.

That was not the start of a Chelsea onslaught, though, as they had to wait another 26 minutes for their next notable opportunity – Chilwell volleying off target from another good Hudson-Odoi centre.

Rui Patricio was eventually tested just before the half-time, the Wolves goalkeeper keeping Antonio Rudiger's header out of the bottom-right corner as Chelsea struggled to make the breakthrough despite completing more first-half passes (433) than in any other Premier League game since 2003-04.

The hosts' sharpest move led to their best chance just past the hour but again Chilwell could not capitalise, the left-back blasting over after Mateo Kovacic fed Kai Havertz and the German cut the ball back into the danger zone.

Neto was then presented with a wonderful chance to steal an unlikely win 19 minutes from time when he was played through after linking up with Daniel Podence, but his scooped effort over Edouard Mendy was kept out by the bar.

Chelsea piled the pressure on towards the end, with Kovacic going close from distance and Hudson-Odoi drawing a save from Patricio, but a winning start ultimately eluded Tuchel.

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