The 2018-19 season was not one Manchester United fans would remember particularly fondly, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's appointment provided cause for optimism.

United finished sixth in the Premier League but reached a Champions League quarter-final and gathered momentum in the second half of the campaign with Solskjaer at the helm.

Supporters could hope a number of the players at Old Trafford would be able to form the basis of a title-winning side in the coming years.

And so it proved this week as Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian got their hands on domestic silverware – in Inter colours.

That quartet played a combined 88 Premier League games for United in 2018-19 but this term turned out together for Inter, accounting for 107 Serie A appearances.

While Sanchez, Young and Darmian have each played their part, it might be Lukaku's success in Italy that causes United the most distress.

They made their money back on the £75million signing, but he is now a champion while Solskjaer's side, as when Lukaku left, trail rivals Manchester City.

Rom rewarded by Ron role

United had not been the only club willing to part with such a sum to sign Lukaku in 2017, as former club Chelsea, coached by current Inter boss Antonio Conte, sought to bring back the forward they had sold to Everton for around a third of the price three years earlier.

Despite 15 league goals – arriving every 170.8 minutes across 31 matches – on loan at Goodison Park as a 20-year-old in 2013-14, Chelsea and Jose Mourinho turned instead to Diego Costa to lead their successful title charge.

"[Lukaku] wanted to play for Chelsea but wanted to be the first-choice striker," Mourinho said. "That's very difficult to promise."

Delighted Everton manager Roberto Martinez's described Lukaku's "potential" as "quite unique", but criticism of the striker's finishing would find its root in his first season as a full-time Toffee.

Although there were 20 strikes in all competitions, just 10 came in the Premier League as chances worth 11.3 expected goals (xG) brought eight non-penalty goals.

Lukaku's conversion rate dipped to 9.5 per cent as he passed up 12 big chances – situations from which Opta would reasonably expect a player to score.

However, 11th-placed Everton's issues extended beyond a young player's slight regression.

In turn, Martinez moved away from the fast-breaking attack that brought 1.4 counters per game – none of which ended in Lukaku goals – in 2014-15 and opted instead to station his striker in front of goal. It provoked 220 touches in the box and 18 goals from Lukaku, yet could not rescue the manager.

Incoming coach Ronald Koeman may now be more familiar with making the most of the diminutive talents of Barcelona's attack, but he certainly knew how to get the best out of Lukaku.

The new Everton manager's solution was simple: build everything around Big Rom.

Heading away from the direction Martinez had taken the team and their talisman, Lukaku took just 12.5 per cent of his touches in the penalty area, as he instead had clear career highs in duels (588), aerial duels (322) and successful dribbles (63).

The forward scored 25 times in the league – taking 22.7 per cent of his chances to outstrip his xG by 9.5 – and had 31 goal involvements. He looked the complete package.

More Mou's man than Ole's

The complete package is certainly what United would expect for a £75m outlay. What they got was a steady debut season.

Ten goals in Lukaku's first nine matches for the club in all competitions hinted at a continuation of his 2016-17 Everton form, but the rest of the campaign had more in keeping with his earlier outings on Merseyside.

There were 16 league strikes, still ahead of his xG of 12.6, but also 11 big chances missed. No longer required to carry the load alone, Lukaku's total shots fell from 110 to 86 and his conversion rate dwindled to 18.6 per cent.

Still, Mourinho stood by his man.

Having started all but five of United's league games in 2017-18, Lukaku was again included in the XI in 12 of their first 17 matches the following season.

But when Mourinho was sacked shortly before Christmas, Solskjaer had no such loyalty to a striker who had failed to kick on, contributing just six goals.

Lukaku completed the full 90 minutes on seven occasions under Solskjaer, who turned instead to Marcus Rashford as his main striking option.

Rashford only scored one more goal than Lukaku over this period and missed two more big chances, but criticism hurt the Belgium international and a hamstring injury in April 2019 brought a premature end to his season – and his United career.

"A lot of people don't think I can be part of that team," Lukaku later told NBA star Josh Hart's LightHarted Podcast. "If it's like that, we can go our separate ways.

"You guys can find someone who really fits the bill and I can go."

Counted on by Conte

Lukaku certainly fitted the bill at Inter. New Nerazzurri coach Conte needed a replacement striker as Mauro Icardi's love-hate affair with San Siro's Curva Sud finally reached its conclusion.

Having failed to recruit Lukaku at Stamford Bridge in a move that might have suited all parties better than the United switch, Conte added the striker to a squad intent on ending Inter's wait for the Scudetto.

Not since 2009-10, with Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito paired in attack, had Inter reigned, but they now had another forward partnership to enjoy.

On paper, Lautaro Martinez might have been considered the 'little man' to Lukaku's 'big man', yet Conte has increasingly resisted the urge to use his talented giant as a battering ram.

Although Lukaku remains capable of bullying defenders – only in two Premier League seasons did he win more aerial duels than 2019-20's 93 – Conte has followed Koeman's example and made sure to involve his number nine in everything Inter do.

Not since his final season at Everton has Lukaku attempted or completed more dribbles (97 and 52 in 2020-21), meaning he is back facing the goal again, involved in 13 counter-attacks – his most since 2014-15. He also has 10 assists for the first time.

Yet Lukaku is still taking the largest share of his touches in the box to date (18.3 per cent), leading to a career-high 35 big chances.

From such positions, he can afford to squander 17 big chances and net only 16 non-penalty goals from efforts worth 16.8 xG, another new benchmark.

"Lukaku has made exceptional improvements but can make even more," Conte says.

Martinez, now his coach at international level, feels the development is clear for all to see. He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Romelu became a complete player, obviously thanks to Conte."

Lukaku is now scoring with a staggering 23.6 per cent of his shots – making him the first Serie A player since 2004-05 to tally 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season – and Inter are champions.

United and those critics have long since disappeared into the rear-view mirror.

Will Lionel Messi stay or leave?

The superstar Barcelona captain is set to become a free agent, though the LaLiga giants are determined to re-sign Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested but Messi could reportedly extend his Camp Nou career.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI SET FOR BARCA STAY?

Lionel Messi is closer to staying at Barcelona than joining Paris Saint-Germain, according to L'Equipe.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with his contract due to expire at season's end amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Barca are keen to re-sign Messi, who is encouraged by the Copa del Rey triumph and Joan Laporta's plans, despite an offer from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca have reached out to PSG regarding a possible reunion with Neymar, however, RAC1 says the Ligue 1 holders are not willing to sell the Brazilian superstar.

Everton are plotting a bid for soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero, reports the Daily Star. Aguero will leave the Etihad Stadium on a free transfer and the forward has been linked with Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter and Tottenham.

- Fabrizio Romano says Leicester City are working on a deal to sign Lille star Boubakary Soumare, who has previously been linked with Manchester United, Tottenham, Inter and Napoli.

- The Sun claims Borussia Dortmund have joined United and PSG in the battle sign Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Milan ultras met with star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and demanded he sits out the fixture against Serie A rivals Juventus if he does not renew his contract. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and he is yet to re-sign amid reports he is in talks with Juve. The Italy international has also been linked with United, Chelsea and PSG.

United are prepared to sell Paul Pogba if he does not commit to a new contract, according to The Sun. Juve and Real Madrid are reportedly eyeing the French star. It comes as The Sun also claims United are not willing to part ways with Donny van de Beek following a difficult first season at Old Trafford.

Away-day specialists Manchester City saw off Crystal Palace 2-0 to close in on another Premier League title and equal a top-flight record in the process.

Chelsea beat Fulham by the same scoreline elsewhere in Saturday's Premier League action, thanks to a couple of goals from Kai Havertz.

A two-goal success was also the outcome when Brighton and Hove Albion welcomed Leeds United to the Amex Stadium, the Seagulls all but securing their top-flight status for another season.

In the late match, Aston Villa edged out Everton 2-1 to boost their chances of a top-half finish and derail their opponents' European prospects.

We use Opta data to take a look at the best facts from Saturday's games.

 

Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester City: Patient Citizens win again on their travels

Goals from Sergio Aguero and Ferran Torres in the space of 83 seconds proved enough for City to pick up a victory that leaves them on the brink of another piece of silverware.

Those strikes came from the Citizens' first two shots on target and saw them reach the 700-goal mark under Pep Guardiola in all competitions.

City's 57-minute wait for their first on-target attempt of the match was their longest in a Premier League game since November 2019 against Southampton.

Torres added to Aguero's opener moments later with a good finish from 20 yards - the 11th league goal Palace have conceded from outside the box this term, which is the joint-most of any Premier League team alongside Sheffield United.

The victory was City's 11th in a row away from home in the Premier League, equalling the all-time English top-flight record held by Chelsea (April-December 2008) and City themselves (May-December 2017).

Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0 Leeds United: Whites lose again on south coast

Brighton moved within touching distance of securing a fifth successive season of Premier League football thanks to a well-earned victory at home to Leeds.

Pascal Gross found the bottom corner from a 14th-minute penalty and Danny Welbeck added to that with his fifth Premier League goal of the season in his 21st outing - the forward's best top-flight return since 2017-18.

It was an all-too-familiar tale for Leeds, who have now lost five successive away league meetings against Brighton without scoring - the first time that has happened in their history against a single opponent.

In fact, Brighton have won eight of their last nine league meetings with Leeds home and away, which is more than they managed in their previous 28 against them.

Leeds managed just two attempts on target as Graham Potter's Brighton claimed a seventh home clean sheet of the season, a tally bettered only by Manchester City and Chelsea (nine each) in the Premier League this season.

 

Chelsea 2-0 Fulham: Havertz inflicts more derby misery on Cottagers

Kai Havertz doubled his Premier League goals tally with a brace in Chelsea's routine victory over Championship-bound Fulham.

All eight of the Germany international's goals for Chelsea in all competitions have now been scored in London, seven of those at Stamford Bridge and one at Selhurst Park.

His second goal in this game involved some nice link-up play with Timo Werner, who with that assist became the first Chelsea player to reach double figures for both goals (11) and assists (10) in his debut season for the club since Eden Hazard in 2012-13.

Werner's combined 21 goals and assists is the most of any Chelsea player this term, and he is one of five Premier League players to reach double figures for both metrics across all competitions alongside Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Son Heung-min and Marcus Rashford.

Fulham have now gone 19 away games without a win at neighbours Chelsea in all competitions - only versus Everton (31), Hull City (23) and Middlesbrough (21) are the Blues currently enjoying a longer unbeaten run against an opponent on home soil.

The Cottagers are also now winless in 24 Premier League London derbies since beating West Ham in January 2014 - only Palace have endured a longer such run in English top-flight history, going 31 London derbies without a win between August 1969 and March 1973.

Fulham missed some good chances as Chelsea kept an 11th Premier League clean sheet under Thomas Tuchel - the most shutouts for any manager in their first 15 games in the competition, one more than ex-Blues bosses Jose Mourinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Everton 1-2 Aston Villa: Toffees' poor Goodison run continues against familiar opponents

Villa dented Everton's European hopes with victory at Goodison Park in what was the 205th top-flight meeting between the clubs - the most played fixture in England's top division.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Villans have won more games (20) and scored more goals (73) in the Premier League era against Everton than they have against any other side in the competition.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored his 20th goal in all competitions this season to open the scoring in Saturday's late kick-off - with that haul including a Premier League leading seven headers - to cancel out Ollie Watkins' opener.

But Anwar El Ghazi snatched all three points for the Villans 10 minutes from time with his eighth goal in 23 Premier League games this season, doubling his tally from 34 appearances in the competition last time out.

Everton have now won just one of their last 10 home league matches and have tasted defeat at Goodison Park eight times this season - only in 1993-94 have they lost on more occasions (nine) in a single Premier League campaign.

Everton head coach Carlo Ancelotti wants more from forward Richarlison after a return of only six goals this Premier League season.

The Brazilian forward, who has been at Everton since 2018, is preparing to make his 100th appearance for the Toffees on Saturday against Aston Villa.

Richarlison scored in four consecutive league games for Everton in February and March but has otherwise had a lean campaign by his standards.

During Richarlison's first two seasons at Goodison Park he produced back-to-back 13-goal campaigns for the Toffees, with 2020-21 representing a significant drop in output despite the side's rise into the top eight.

"Not so consistent for the quality he has," Ancelotti said. "It is acceptable that he has not been at his best.

"He had problems at the beginning of the season. He started well but was then suspended, travelling with the national team and then was out for personal reasons.

"From a physical viewpoint he was not always at the top, and this affected his technical performances.

4 - Richarlison has scored in four consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time, becoming the first Brazilian to do so in the competition. JogaBonito. pic.twitter.com/2c6iJSTid8

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 4, 2021

"He had a good spell when Dominic [Calvert-Lewin] was out but he can do much better next season for sure, and I hope he can do better at the end of this season as well.

"He is a young player with a strong motivation because he wants to play for us, for the national team, and he wants to play in the Olympic Games. But we must not lose sight of the fact he is still a young player.

"When I say he can do better, it is not because he lost confidence or is not good enough. He is a fantastic striker, a top player, and he has had a normal season. But for the quality he has he can do much better."

Everton have been busy in the transfer market in recent times and they are preparing for another splash.

The Toffees, who are led by two-time Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti, brought in James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan this season.

Everton remain in the hunt for European football with a top 10 finish looking assured but owner Farhad Moshiri's ambition still burns for more.

 

TOP STORY - EVERTON SET FOR COUTINHO SPLASH

Everton are set to land former Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho from Barcelona in a £35million deal, according to The Sun.

The Toffees are allegedly already house hunting for the 28-year-old Brazilian, who would join countrymen Richarlison, Bernard and Allan at Goodison Park.

Coutinho has never quite settled at Barcelona since leaving Liverpool for Camp Nou in 2018, spending time on loan on Bayern Munich, while he has had injuries this term.

Barcelona are reportedly keen to offload Coutinho, who underwent knee surgery earlier this month, even for a cut-price fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims that Inter have rebuffed Manchester City's advances for Romelu Lukaku, insisting they are not willing to listen to any offers for the Belgian marksman.

- Aston Villa are monitoring Tammy Abraham's situation at Chelsea after it emerged that Blues are willing to sell him for a reported £40 million price tag, claims The Mirror.

- The Sun reports Brighton's Ben White has attracted interest from Borussia Dortmund who join the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal in pursuing him.

- Tottenham are hoping to speak to Ajax coach Erik ten Hag about taking up their vacant position following Jose Mourinho's sacking, according to The Guardian.

Neymar's future at Paris Saint-Germain remains strangely undecided.

The 29-year-old Brazilian has said he is happy in Paris but speculation continues to bubble away.

Neymar is out of contract in 2022 and is reportedly discussing a renewal with PSG until 2026.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR TEMPTED BY BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar continues to flirt privately with a return to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Publicly, the Brazil star has declared he is happy with PSG but in no rush to re-sign, yet there are behind-the-scenes rumblings, potentially part of contract manoeuvring.

Neymar is reportedly obsessed with playing alongside Lionel Messi again at Camp Nou and continues to keep that option open.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United are still in the market for a right-winger with Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho top of their list, according to 90 Min.

- The Sun reports that Chelsea are preparing to launch a £90million-plus offer to bring Romelu Lukaku back to the club from Inter.

- Chelsea are also open to offers for forward Tammy Abraham this off-season, with an asking price of £40m, claims The Telegraph.

- Arsenal wants to sign Norwich City full-back Max Aarons as a replacement for Hector Bellerin, whom they are prepared to offload, reports 90 Min.

- Juventus' Turkish defender Merih Demiral is in the sights of Everton, according to Calciomercato.

- AS claims that Atletico Madrid may ask Juventus to swap Paulo Dybala as compensation to permanently sign on-loan forward Alvaro Morata.

Leeds United CEO Angus Kinnear has heavily criticised the "self-proclaimed big six" in the Premier League for their involvement in a breakaway European competition, branding the "deeply cynical" plan a betrayal of every true football supporter.

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham were all part of a 12-club group that launched the Super League last Sunday.

The proposal included the agreement that the six English clubs, as well as fellow founding members Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid, would qualify each year for the competition, regardless of performances in their domestic leagues.

However, a widespread backlash led to the collapse of the competition inside 48 hours of the initial announcement. The Premier League contingent all withdrew on Tuesday, though UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has made clear there will still be consequences for getting involved.

Ahead of hosting Manchester United at Elland Road on Sunday, Kinnear lambasted Leeds' domestic rivals in his programme notes.

"The fact that the whole Leeds fan-base has been united by the brilliantly impassioned words of Gary Neville illustrates how desperate the plight of European football became this week," Kinnear wrote.

"A fortnight ago we left the Etihad with an instinct that Manchester City didn't take well to being humbled by lowly Leeds United, but we could never have predicted that it would be the catalyst for them creating their own league where they would never have to be inconvenienced with the spectre of on-pitch failure again.

"The audacity of a resurgent Leeds United, an ambitious Aston Villa, a brilliantly managed Leicester City, a Champions League-bound West Ham United and an Everton with bold stadium plans have clearly overwhelmed the self-proclaimed 'big six'.

"The timing of their plan combined with the turmoil of a global pandemic was not coincidental, it was deeply cynical, and the clandestine plotting of fellow Premier League shareholders made it all the more seditious.

"Whether the collective intent was a genuine move to breakaway or the act of playground bullies seeking negotiating leverage at European and domestic level by threatening to take their ball home is irrelevant. The result was a betrayal of every true football supporter. However, this astonishing ingordigiousness has been the unexpected catalyst of creating a furious unity across nations, leagues, players, owners and fans.

"I was proud to see Leeds United and Liverpool supporters stand shoulder to shoulder in protest before a game which once again showed we are already in a Super League and making it all the more bizarre that, in the world envisioned by Liverpool's ownership, the same fixture would have been a meaningless dead rubber."

Fans protested outside Elland Road on Monday ahead of Leeds' home fixture with Liverpool – a game that finished 1-1 after Diego Llorente dented the visitors' top-four hopes with a late equaliser.

The hosts had warmed up prior to the game wearing shirts that read "Earn it" – in reference to the Reds' bid to qualify for the Champions League – and "Football is for the fans". There was also a sign saying the same stationed behind one of the goals inside the stadium.

Mikel Arteta claimed fan protests against Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke did not play on the minds of his players during an 1-0 defeat to Everton on Friday.

Over a thousand Arsenal supporters gathered outside Emirates Stadium to voice their dissent at Kroenke's role in the failed European Super League breakaway project.

Arsenal were one of the 12 founding members of the competition before they withdrew on Tuesday, apologising in an open letter to fans.

Arteta revealed his team had arrived early to avoid the protests, but they produced a meek display on the pitch as Bernd Leno's calamitous own goal handed Everton the points.

It was Arsenal's first Premier League defeat at home to Everton since January 1996, ending a 24-game unbeaten run against the Toffees at the Emirates or Old Trafford.

"No, no," Arteta told a media conference when asked if the defeat could be put down to the protests.

"We knew that was happening and we knew our fans wanted to express our feelings. We made our preparations with that in mind and that's not an excuse

"We got inside the stadium [early]. Obviously, the players know what is happening, they are all connected to social media. We let them know the reasons why they [the fans] were outside.

"I am desperate to have [the fans] back because we really need them. We have a really young team who has to experience the emotion, security and trust when you feel your people really behind you."

Arteta urged Arsenal's board and fans to rebuild their relationship, but did not address questions related to calls for Kroenke to go.

"Well I think it's a relationship that has to come together from both parties," Arteta added.

"Some probably giving some opportunities and the other ones showing that they want to be closer to them. I talk about what my experience is and what my relationship is and how involved they are.

"Now the biggest challenge is to get them in the stadium as quick as possible, and show that passion, togetherness and unity with the team because the team is desperate for them to be closer to us."

The Gunners have now lost seven games on their own turf in the Premier League this season – their most home defeats in a league campaign since 1992-93 (also seven).

They have also failed to score in eight Premier League games at home this season, twice as many as in the previous four campaigns combined.

Arteta described Arsenal's home form as "terrible" and "unacceptable" but criticised a VAR decision to overrule the award of a penalty earlier in the game.

Arsenal were awarded a spot-kick when Dani Ceballos went down in the box after a slight touch from Richarlison, but VAR deemed Nicolas Pepe was in an offside position in the build-up.

"This has been building up. Enough is enough. Today I had enough," Arteta said of the decision.

"We've had many of them that no-one explains. It affects a lot of people, our job and most important our football club."

Arteta added in an interview with Sky Sports: "To disallow a penalty 15 seconds before eight or nine touches [after Nicolas Pepe was offside] – I saw it 10 times and I don't get it.

"It can be taken the way they want. Zero control. Somebody has to explain that.

"We were the better team. We lacked some clear-cut chances and the edge in the final third. They are very well organised but we conceded the goal in the wrong moment and when we had the penalty but it wasn't given."

Everton boosted their hopes of a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League as Bernd Leno's own goal gave them a 1-0 win at Arsenal.

In a low-key Premier League encounter, the result was settled by a mistake from goalkeeper Leno when he allowed Richarlison's cross through his legs and diverted it into the net.

Arsenal had earlier seen a penalty chalked off after a VAR check for offside while Dani Ceballos brought a good save out of Jordan Pickford.

Everton's victory was their first in 25 league attempts (lost 20, drawn four) at Arsenal since a 2-1 win at the north London giants' former home Highbury in January 1996.

Arsenal fans protested outside Emirates Stadium against owner Stan Kroenke's role in the failed European Super League, and the first half lacked intensity.

The Gunners had the first meaningful attempt on goal when Bukayo Saka latched on to the ball in the box but saw his low effort comfortably saved by Pickford.

It was Everton who enjoyed the better of the remainder of the first half and Richarlison went close on the half hour after he shrugged off Pablo Mari, and Leno dived to beat away his shot across goal.

Gylfi Sigurdsson rattled the crossbar with a spectacular curling free-kick moments before half-time, and only a last-ditch block from home defender Rob Holding denied the Iceland international just after the break.

Arsenal were awarded a penalty when Dani Ceballos went down in the box after a kick from Richarlison, but VAR deemed Nicolas Pepe was in an offside position in the build-up and the spot-kick was overruled.

Mason Holgate's miscued clearance from Calum Chambers' low cross caused Pickford minor alarm, before Ceballos stung the palms of the Everton goalkeeper with a long-range effort.

The key moment came with 14 minutes left when Leno kneeled down to scoop up Richarlison's low cross, but he instead allowed the ball to squirm through his legs and directed it into the net.

Everton were indebted to Pickford for the points after a fine low diving stop in injury time to deny Arsenal substitute Gabriel Martinelli.

Mikel Arteta believes Arsenal fans are the soul of the club as the Premier League side seek to rebuild relationships in the aftermath of the European Super League debacle.

Arsenal were one of six English top-flight teams to sign up to the doomed breakaway project, hastily withdrawing alongside all their Premier League counterparts on Tuesday amid a backlash from fans, players, football authorities and even national governments.

Chief executive Vinai Venkatesham and director Josh Kroenke received a severe grilling when attempting to apologise to an Arsenal fans forum this week and protests outside Emirates Stadium are expected to precede Friday's game against Everton.

Arteta, a popular figure during his playing days with the Gunners, insists the fans have the respect of himself and his players after making their voices heard during a tumultuous episode.

"We want to listen to them, we totally respect them. They've been loud and clear and they've been heard," he said.

"They're going to be heard all the time because they are the soul of this football club and the soul of this industry.

"We're going to try to do the best we can to make them proud all the time and make their lives better by playing the way we want to play, winning football matches and trophies.

"That's our responsibility. If they can help in any way it is by giving support to the team because that is going to have an immense effect. It is so powerful and they have to realise that."

If anything, the spectacle of fans congregating outside stadia makes Arteta pine for a return to pre-pandemic normality, describing football behind closed doors as a "different sport".

"I want fans, I want to have that feeling that we are competing and have feeling behind us," he added.

"If not, it is a different sport. Let's get back to where we were before the pandemic and enjoy football in a different way."

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti thought the proposed European Super League was a "joke" as it was "impossible" that it was going to happen.

Twelve clubs caused shock waves last weekend when they announced plans to form a breakaway league.

Half of the teams were the so called 'big six' from the Premier League, but the closed-shop competition was dead in the water soon after it was announced following a furious backlash from supporters.

The withdrawal of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham resulted in an embarrassing collapse of the tournament on Tuesday.

Everton boss Ancelotti said there was no chance it was ever going to take off.

The Italian said: "My immediate reaction was they are joking, this is a joke! It's a joke because it's not going to happen. It's impossible.

"Sport culture in Europe is different to American sports. Not because we are right and they are wrong, but because the culture of the people is different. In America, in the USA, sport is different. Sport is entertainment.

"In Europe, we live with more passion. When we grow up, we want to beat our neighbours. We grew up differently. It is not sport [in the USA]. Football now is part business. But we need to take into consideration both."

He added: "Football is a sport first. And then with a lot of investment, it also becomes a business. We need to take into consideration both. This is absolutely normal."

The former Real Madrid and Milan boss said the Toffees value their supporters too highly to have got involved in such a concept.

He said: "Everton is a family club, a club where you can feel the love of the supporter.

"Everton has a history of taking care of maybe more of its supporters.

"For every supporter of football it was a strange day, a surprise. We heard about the Super League in the past few months but I was sure it was not going to happen. What can I say? They were wrong.

"These 12 clubs were wrong. They did not take into consideration the opinions of the players, managers or supporters."

Everton have accused the six Premier League clubs who have signed up to the European Super League of "betraying" football supporters.

Plans for a breakaway league were announced on Sunday, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham among the 12 teams confirmed to have signed up.

The news was met with a wave of criticism from across the spectrum, including fans, governing bodies, players, ex-professionals and other clubs.

And on Tuesday the Toffees made clear their feelings on the matter in a scathing statement which attacked the involvement of their fellow English top-flight outfits.

"Everton is saddened and disappointed to see proposals of a breakaway league pushed forward by six clubs," read a statement from the club's board of directors.

"Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests.

"Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game.

"Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table.

"Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond."

The Merseyside club were particularly critical of the timing of the move, coming amid a global pandemic which has threatened the very existence of some clubs.

"At this time of national and international crisis – and a defining period for our game – clubs should be working together collaboratively with the ideals of our game and its supporters uppermost," the statement continued.

"Instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring to break away from a football pyramid that has served them so well.

"And in that Pyramid Everton salutes EVERY club, be it Leicester City, Accrington Stanley, Gillingham, Lincoln City, Morecambe, Southend United, Notts County and the rest who have, with their very being, enriched the lives of their supporters throughout the game's history. And vice versa.

"The self-proclaimed Super Six appear intent on disenfranchising supporters across the game – including their own – by putting the very structure that underpins the game we love under threat."

Since the plans were made public, the dissenting voices have come from every corner, with UEFA threatening sanctions, fans protesting and even players and managers speaking out against them.

It is a reaction that Everton say must be taken on board by those leading the charge for a European Super League.

"The backlash is understandable and deserved – and has to be listened to," the club's board said.

"This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan.

"On behalf of everyone associated with Everton, we respectfully ask that the proposals are immediately withdrawn and that the private meetings and subversive practises that have brought our beautiful game to possibly its lowest ever position in terms of trust end now.

"Finally we would ask the owners, chairmen, and Board members of the six clubs to remember the privileged position they hold – not only as custodians of their clubs but also custodians of the game. The responsibility they carry should be taken seriously.

"We urge them all to consider what they wish their legacy to be."

It was a Premier League weekend in which the Premier League seemed to take a back seat, with Sunday's emergence of a European Super League blowing everything else out of the water.

However, Monday's sacking of Jose Mourinho did at least serve to remind us that, yes, Tottenham did play on Friday and were typically flaky, letting a lead slip again even if they did get a leveller to tie with Everton.

Against the same Super League backdrop, Arsenal added more fuel to the burning question of why they're involved in it at all, given they required a 97th-minute equaliser to draw with Fulham, who now look doomed to relegation with Sheffield United.

And a week on from emulating Cristiano Ronaldo, Mason Greenwood levelled a record held by Wayne Rooney.

Using Opta data, we look at some of the quirky facts from the latest Premier League matches.

Everton 2-2 Tottenham: Mourinho pays the price for Spurs' mentality issues

Given what's happened in the time since, it's easy to forget Spurs' draw at Everton was as long ago as Friday.

But it proved to be Mourinho's final game in charge of Spurs nonetheless, with Tottenham's Champions League qualification hopes hanging by a thread – good job they've secured themselves a spot in a closed competition!

There will be many theories about Mourinho's demise, but perhaps the most pertinent with respect to his Spurs team relates to concerns over mentality.

After all, the 2-2 draw at Goodison Park saw them drop points from a winning position yet again. That's 20 points they've thrown away in 2020-21 – no team has a worse record.

Even Harry Kane's heroics weren't enough, as he twice punished defensive errors and became only the fourth player to score 20 or more goals in at least five Premier League seasons.

Who knows, maybe he'll soon follow Mourinho out the door…

Wolves 1-0 Sheffield United: Blades among the Premier League's worst ever teams?

Now, obviously it depends on how you determine the "worst" teams – everyone will likely have their own point of view.

Derby County of course hold the record for the lowest ever points total of 11, which the Blades have already surpassed, but their 1-0 defeat at Wolves consigned them to relegation.

It means they suffered the joint-earliest relegation in Premier League history, along with Derby (2007-08), Ipswich Town (1994-95) and Huddersfield Town (2018-19).

Certainly, United are party to one of the biggest drop-offs in a relegation season, as no team had finished as high as ninth one campaign and then been relegated the next since Birmingham City in 2010-11.

But here's the kicker – it was their 26th defeat of the season, equalling a club record. They could yet surpass the 29 suffered by Sunderland and Derby.

Arsenal 1-1 Fulham: Gunners' late equaliser highlights lack of progress against Super League backdrop

The rumours relating to the European Super League had emerged prior to Arsenal's Sunday clash with struggling Fulham. It provided a timely reminder of the competition's nonsensical premise.

Eddie Nketiah scored an equaliser deep into second-half stoppage to spare Arsenal's blushes – actually, if anything it probably accentuated their blushes given Fulham's failing battle against relegation.

The point means Arsenal have the exact same number of points (46) after 32 games as they did last term.

The last time they amassed fewer at this stage of a season was 1994-95 – it's hardly a show of progress.

On this evidence, Arsenal might be better off performing a Super League U-turn to avoid humiliation.

Manchester United 3-1 Burnley: Greenwood finding his groove again to match Rooney

It's not been the easiest of seasons for Greenwood. From getting booted out of an England camp to struggling badly for goals, it's fair to say a few have questioned whether they were right to believe the hype.

Thankfully the youngster has rediscovered his scoring touch lately and appears transformed, attacking defenders with confidence and purpose once again.

His brace against Burnley took him to 15 Premier League goals for United, levelling a record set by Wayne Rooney for the most goals scored by a teenager for United.

Greenwood will surely overtake Rooney in this regard as well, given he doesn't turn 20 until October 1.

On a similar note, his second effort on Sunday meant he has scored more top-flight goals as a teenager than any other player in the top five European leagues since the start of 2019-20.

But has he left this surge too late for a Euro 2020 call-up?

Jose Mourinho is trying to be "optimistic" about the injury Harry Kane suffered towards the end of Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Everton on Friday but accepts it is too early to know its severity.

Kane was in lethal form for Spurs at Goodison Park, as he has been for much of the season, as he scored both goals for Mourinho's side.

The England captain's first effort saw him reach 20 Premier League goals in a season for the fifth time, a record bettered by only Alan Shearer (seven) and Sergio Aguero (six).

His second – the goal that secured Spurs a point – was his 12th in as many games against Everton in all competitions and it moved him above Robbie Fowler into seventh in the Premier League's all-time top scorers' list with 164.

But he was unable to finish the match, as Richarlison fell on Kane's ankle in second-half stoppage time and the collision forced him off.

With just nine days to go until Spurs are in EFL Cup final action against Manchester City, it is a nightmare scenario for Tottenham and Mourinho.

After the match, Mourinho tried to put on a brave face but could not offer much certainty.

When it was put to him by Sky Sports that Spurs fans would be anxious, Mourinho said: "Me too but I think it's too early to say something.

"For him to leave the pitch at 2-2 with only a few minutes to go, it's obviously because he felt something, but let me be optimistic and believe that he has time to recover.

"Let me be optimistic and believe it's nothing serious. It's obvious he's a very important player for us, but I cannot say much or speculate."

England manager Gareth Southgate was also in attendance and will surely monitor Kane's situation closely with the delayed Euro 2020 less than two months away.

The draw on Merseyside leaves Spurs five points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham, who play their game in hand against struggling Newcastle United on Saturday.

Harry Kane twice punished hapless Everton defending as Tottenham salvaged a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park on Friday, though it does little good for their dwindling top-four hopes.

Jose Mourinho's side were looking to bounce back from a deflating 3-1 defeat to Manchester United, yet they were underwhelming once again and arguably fortunate to leave Merseyside with a point.

Kane punished a Michael Keane error to reach 20 Premier League goals in a season for the fifth time, a record bettered by only Alan Shearer (seven) and Sergio Aguero (six), though their lead did not last long as Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised from the spot for an Everton side being orchestrated by the excellent James Rodriguez.

Sigurdsson doubled his tally in the second half as Everton threatened to move above Spurs in the table, but another defensive mix-up involving Keane was punished by Kane as he spared the visitors from a defeat that would have left them six points behind fourth-placed West Ham.

The match's spell of monotony was broken in the 22nd minute as James parted Toby Alderweireld and Joe Rodon with a disguised pass, only for Hugo Lloris to save Richarlison's subsequent strike.

Kane was more clinical a few moments later, however, lashing past Jordan Pickford after Tanguy Ndombele's cross had been flicked out of Mason Holgate's reach by Keane.

But Everton quickly levelled, Sigurdsson coolly converting a penalty after Sergio Reguilon was adjudged to have fouled James, who then forced Lloris into a vital stop following a clever interchange with the Iceland international in the 38th minute.

Son Heung-min should have done better early in the second half as he hit a tame effort into the side-netting after gliding past Keane.

Everton made Spurs pay just past the hour, too. Seamus Coleman, introduced for the anonymous Alex Iwobi less than a minute earlier, played a one-two with Richarlison on the right and whipped in a teasing cross that Sigurdsson met with an emphatic volley to beat Lloris.

But in an incident not too dissimilar to the one that gifted Spurs the lead, Keane headed a cross on to Holgate and Kane was on hand to hammer home before hobbling off late on, a concern for his club and also England manager Gareth Southgate, who was in attendance.

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