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

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

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

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

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

A PROLIFIC CREATOR

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

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

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

SUBTLETY IN THE FINAL THIRD

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

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

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

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

A KEY INFLUENCE

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

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

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

DEADLY WHEN IT MATTERS

Sancho's not just a creator, however.

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

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

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

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

Will Sancho be the next to join that trio?

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic could make a surprise move to Atletico Madrid ahead of next season.

The Croatia international is reportedly unhappy at Camp Nou and has been linked with a move away since the off-season.

Now, a stay in LaLiga could eventuate, but away from Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO BEGIN TALKS WITH BARCELONA'S RAKITIC

Atletico Madrid are already negotiating with Rakitic about a possible move at the end of the season, according to Cadena SER.

The 31-year-old is contracted at Barcelona, where he arrived from Sevilla in 2014, until 2021.

Rakitic admitted on Sunday he considered leaving the club in January, and it seems a move is likely come season's end.

ROUND-UP

- Amid reported interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, James Maddison is close to agreeing a new contract with Leicester City, according to The Telegraph. Maddison has starred for the Premier League club this season and is poised to sign a lucrative long-term deal.

- Frank Lampard is set to face a battle at Chelsea. The Mirror reports the head coach wants to sell Kepa Arrizabalaga – who became the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he arrived at Stamford Bridge from Athletic Bilbao for a reported £71.6million (€80m) in 2018 – but is set to face resistance from the board.

- Atletico Madrid and Roma are interested in Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard, according to ESPN. Lingard is coming out of contract in 2021 but also holds a one-year extension option at Old Trafford.

- Are Milan set for another coaching change? Bild reports Red Bull's head of international relations and scouting, Ralf Rangnick, is in advanced talks to become the Serie A club's head coach and sporting director once the season is over. Stefano Pioli only took charge of Milan in October, replacing Marco Giampaolo.

- Inter almost signed Islam Slimani, who is on loan at Monaco from Leicester City, last month, according to CalcioMercato, which reports the Serie A club's move came late in January before collapsing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What does it mean? Trouble averted - in some style

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

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

Maguire leads by example

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

Danns goes missing

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

What's next?

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

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Jesse Lingard to be an important player for Manchester United, amid rumours of the midfielder being set for an exit from Old Trafford.

England international Lingard endured a frustrating 2019 for his club, finishing the year without a goal or an assist in the Premier League.

The 27-year-old has made 26 appearances in all competitions this season, with a report by the Daily Mail claiming he is now represented by Mino Raiola, who counts Paul Pogba among his clients.

With Pogba's future uncertain, reports have also surfaced suggesting Lingard could be set to leave United, amid links of a swap plus cash deal for Leicester City playmaker James Maddison.

"Jesse has had his ups and downs as I've spoken about before but against Manchester City and Tottenham, [there were] examples of how important he can be for us in difficult games," Solskjaer told a news conference ahead of Tuesday's EFL Cup semi-final first leg at home to holders and local rivals City. "We want him back scoring and making assists.

"There's no one who runs as much, he's a great trigger in the pressing, a lively bubbly character. I don't think you see as much social media from Jesse as you used to.

"He's a player I've known for a long time. He's got his head down and is working hard, getting back to the Jesse I knew."

United's hectic fixture list has been compounded by an FA Cup third-round replay, with the Red Devils drawing 0-0 at Wolves on Saturday - failing to muster a single shot on target throughout the match.

However, United impressed in the first Manchester derby of the season, winning 2-1 on December 7 thanks to goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

And though Solskjaer is waiting on the fitness of Martial, Scott McTominay and Harry Maguire ahead of the semi-final derby, he is confident his side can replicate the level of performance they display at the Etihad Stadium.

"We're going to aim for performances like that," Solskjaer, whose side beat Jose Mourinho's Tottenham in the match before the derby, added.

"There were two good days against Tottenham and City in a short spell but every game lives its own life. When you get highs like that I'm sure they will look back on it and that's the Man United we want to see, but we can improve on that one.

"City had Port Vale at home [in the FA Cup], could rest a few. No matter what team [Pep Guardiola] plays it's going to be a good team and we'll put a strong team out.

"I can't give you the team at the moment, because I don't think the boys know who's fit and available yet either.

"City are back winning games but form goes out of the window when we play each other. We know they're a top team. I admire Pep's team, they've raised the bar so much since he came. The standards set are something to aim for."

Another day, another Paul Pogba story.

The Manchester United star continues to be linked with a move away from Old Trafford.

Inter have reportedly emerged as a possible destination for Pogba, though United want a player in return…

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT MARTINEZ IN POGBA DEAL

Manchester United want to swap midfielder Paul Pogba for Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to The Mirror.

Pogba has been linked with a return to Serie A champions Juventus and LaLiga giants Real Madrid as his future dominates headlines.

But a reunion with former Juve boss Antonio Conte at Inter could be in the pipeline. However, the Italian club might have to part with Barcelona target Martinez to prise Pogba to Milan.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror also claims United have set their sights on Wolves forward Raul Jimenez after missing out on Erling Haaland, who opted to swap Salzburg for Borussia Dortmund.

- It comes as the Mirror says United are set to offer cash plus Jesse Lingard for Leicester City star James Maddison. The Sun, meanwhile, claims United want Toni Kroos in return if Pogba heads to Madrid.

- According to Sky Sport Italia, Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo is on his way to join Milan, with the LaLiga champions keen to agree a loan deal with a counter-option should they wish to recall him. Meanwhile, the Gazzetta dello Sport says Atalanta want to re-sign Milan centre-back Mattia Caldara.

- The Daily Express reports West Ham have emerged as shock contenders to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. The star defender has been linked to United and Manchester City.

- Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa has said goodbye to Flamengo supporters via social media, prompting speculation in The Sun that the Inter-owned striker is on his way to either Chelsea or West Ham.

Chris Smalling is keen to secure a permanent deal at Roma and is ready to snub United should Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempt to persuade him to return to Old Trafford, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

- The Mirror says Carlo Ancelotti's Everton are eyeing a loan move for Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez.

Manchester United attacker Jesse Lingard believes the Red Devils' struggles this season are due to complacency against mid-table teams.

United have beaten Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester City, and drawn with Premier League leaders Liverpool and Arsenal this term, however, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men still languish in eighth position.

The struggling giants have flourished with their counter-attacking pace but have come unstuck against teams defending deep – beaten by Crystal Palace, West Ham, Newcastle United, Bournemouth and Watford.

United have also been held by Wolves, Southampton, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Everton, leading Lingard to question the club's mindset ahead of the Boxing Day clash with Newcastle.

"It's strange," Lingard told the Daily Mail. "Maybe it's a mindset thing. Maybe it's our mentality going into the match thinking we've already won the game.

"If we keep the consistency and mentality we had against City and Tottenham, I don't see why we can't win every game.

"It seems like our mentality changes. To keep that consistency throughout the rest of the season when we come against the mid-table teams, we need to have the same mentality that we did going into the City and Tottenham game. 

"When we start with energy and on the front foot, we'll cause team problems all day long."

United welcome Newcastle to Old Trafford on Thursday, seven points adrift of Chelsea – who occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot.

Solskjaer's United are also 24 points behind bitter rivals Liverpool after 18 matches in the Premier League.

 

Jesse Lingard admits he thought his Manchester United career was over following a social media post during a year in which family problems have taken their toll on his form.

Lingard endured a poor run of performances that cost him his place for his club and England, with a strike in the 2-1 loss to Astana last month ending a 307-day wait to score a goal.

During pre-season, the 26-year-old posted a crude video to Snapchat while on holiday with friends and was disciplined by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Lingard, who insists the footage was published by accident, has now revealed he was given a final warning over his future by Solskjaer after thinking the incident could have ended his time at the club.

The forward, who has been criticised for his social media activity in the past, told the Daily Mail: "It genuinely was a mistake to post it. I have a lot of young followers and I would never put that out there deliberately. It was an accident.

"I was meaning to send it privately to one of my friends. I was on a plane waiting to take off. Someone from the club texted me and said: 'Take the video down.'

"When I realised what I had done, my heart just sank into my stomach. I was like, 'I am done at United now. This is the final straw.'

"I was told the manager was going mad, but I was in the air for two hours and literally couldn't do anything. When I got back, I came in early to speak to the manager and apologise. He said I was on my last chance. He said I had to get my head down and that is what I have done. I am not stupid.

"There is no way I was going to let what I have at this club be taken away. On the whole, I have cut down on my social media stuff now. You do what you have to do."

The incident was a low point in a difficult year for Lingard, who has revealed he has struggled with caring for his younger brother and sister while his mother has been ill.

With Solskjaer - unaware of the problems - pressuring the player into recapturing his best form, Lingard went to the manager to explain his off-the-field concerns, which have also included his grandfather battling cancer and his grandmother being unwell.

"I wasn't performing, and he was on me all the time. He wanted more from me," he said. "So, I felt it was best to get everything off my chest and tell him why my head wasn't right. So, I knocked on his door.

"I am a person who likes to deal with stuff on his own but it's not necessarily the right thing to do. I always use the phrase 'be yourself' but I have realised now that there are times when you just can't be. My dad and older brother, Louie, have been great support but some of this stuff has broken my heart, you know?"

The talk with Solskjaer proved to be a turning point, with Lingard having impressed from the start in last week's wins over Tottenham and Manchester City after an encouraging appearance off the bench in a 3-1 win over Brighton and Hove Albion last month.

"When I came on the manager said to me, 'Just go on and play with a smile and enjoy it.' To hear that gives you confidence. He knows what kind of character I am. I need to be smiling," Lingard said.

"He has just told me that everything will be okay. Maybe I just needed someone to say that. He said he just wanted the old Jesse back and maybe I can give him that now."

Lingard was also grateful to be made captain of his boyhood club for the Europa League game in Astana, as he led out a team of mostly young players.

"That definitely helped with my confidence," he added. "Ole is great at man-management. He made me captain, then we beat Spurs and City and I played. Before the matches I am saying to myself, 'Just play with a smile. It's football and you were born to do it.'"

Nemanja Matic is set to play for Manchester United against AZ in the Europa League on Thursday but Paul Pogba is not yet ready to return, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Matic, 31, has been sidelined with injury since a 0-0 draw with the Eredivisie side back in October.

The former Chelsea midfielder has been tipped to leave United in January, having found his place in Solskjaer's first-team plans come under threat during the opening weeks of the season, with Serie A clubs including Milan and Inter said to be interested.

Matic is due to be given a chance to impress at Old Trafford, though, as United go in search of the draw they need to secure their place as winners of Group L.

"He's fit," Solskjaer said on Wednesday. "He's due to be involved."

Solskjaer also confirmed "it's a bit early" for Diogo Dalot to return, the full-back having only this week resumed training, while midfielder Pogba is still not ready to play following a troublesome ankle injury.

"It's too early," Solskjaer said of Pogba. "We hope so [that he will return in 2019]. He's working hard to get fit so hopefully we can get him back on the pitch.

"Let's get Paul fit first and then back in form and he'll play loads of games. He's one of the best players in the world and we're looking forward to having him back."

In the absence of Pogba and Matic, Fred has begun to cement his place at the heart of the midfield, the Brazil international producing arguably his best performances for the club in the past week in the 2-1 Premier League wins over Tottenham and Manchester City.

"Fred's had the confidence of the coaching staff and me and the players all the time," said Solskjaer. "This form is down to him because he's been working really hard. When he got the chance with Paul injured he grabbed it with both feet and we're really happy to see him perform at this level."

Those two wins over some of United's biggest rivals have eased the pressure on Solskjaer, which had been growing due to his team's frustrating lack of consistency.

Solskjaer, though, insists the belief in his plans to rebuild the team has never wavered, while he felt the decision to take largely a team of youngsters to Astana two weeks ago paid off thanks to the Spurs and City results.

"Inside [the club], we've always had belief in what we're doing. It might change on the outside but it's results, you can't change that," Solskjaer said. "It's the nature of football. Sometimes, you've got the margins on your side.

"I think the decision we made to send the young players to Astana made sure the players who stayed here were more ready because it was a hard week.

"Results are always the proof in the end, but we've always believed in what we're doing it. It's going to be ups and downs, but we're on the right track. I see these boys every day in training, the attitude and skills they have got, so I'm not that worried."

United have already qualified for the knockout phase and need only a point to guarantee top spot in the group, but Solskjaer insisted he wants to beat AZ.

"Of course I'm bothered [about the result]," he added. "I'm not going to send the boys out and say, 'I don't care if you win or lose'.

"Every game you play for Man United is a chance to prove yourself and to me and the supporters that you deserve to be part of the team for a long time."

Manchester United claimed the derby bragging rights with a 2-1 victory over Premier League champions Manchester City last Saturday – concluding a validatory week for their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

A blistering first-half performance on the counter-attack saw Anthony Martial score what proved to be the winner after Marcus Rashford netted from the penalty spot.

The result came after Solskjaer claimed midweek victory over predecessor Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham side by the same scoreline, handing a huge boost to an Old Trafford reign that was attracting mounting scrutiny.

United have also beaten Chelsea and Leicester City this season, while they remain the only side to take points off runaway leaders Liverpool.

However, Everton sitting 14th in the table ahead of Sunday's match suggests they could spell trouble.

Hitting the 'big six' for six

Although no longer the fixture they were under Alex Ferguson when it comes to the biggest prizes in the game, United certainly have it in them to rise to the big occasion against teams aspiring to those heights.

When facing sides who have started the game in the Premier League's top six, Solskjaer has won four, drawn three and lost two of nine matches after the success at the Etihad Stadium last time out.

That amounts to a win percentage of 44.4 per cent, a number greater than the 40.7 per cent Mourinho enjoyed over the course of 27 games during his United tenure.

Solksjaer's numbers are even more impressive when considering games against fellow members of the widely regarded 'big six' – City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea – and Leicester, the 2015-16 champions currently riding high in second.

In 12 games against those opponents since succeeding Mourinho, Solskjaer has won half and drawn four, losing only twice – 2-0 at home to City last April, having done likewise away to Arsenal a month earlier.

Mourinho only succeeded nine times in 22 of those games, a win percentage of 40.9, losing eight.

Overrun by the also-rans

Sitting alongside those wins over City, Chelsea, Leicester and Tottenham this season are Premier League losses to Crystal Palace, West Ham. Newcastle United and Bournemouth.

Of that quartet, only 10th-placed Palace reside in the top half of the table.

In games facing opponents in the bottom six on matchdays under Solskjaer, United have won six, drawn four and lost three, giving him a win percentage of 46.2.

Mourinho was far more successful in such presumed straightforward encounters, winning 60.7 per cent (W17 D7 L4).

Pogba to pick the lock?

The sight of Martial, Rashford, Daniel James and Jesse Lingard tearing into the big spaces behind City's midfield at the Etihad did much to explain the unusual trend in United's results.

That quartet in tandem amount to a formidable, livewire threat on the counter attack. However, operating in the small spaces afforded by deep-lying defences is a different proposition entirely.

Paul Pogba is closing in on a return from an ankle injury and, whatever the France star might lack in tenacity, his added creativity and guile could prove a significant asset.

Since returning to Old Trafford for a then-world record £89.3million from Juventus in 2016, Pogba has scored 24 goals in 97 Premier League games.

He has also contributed 25 assists and has created 164 chances – one every 50 minutes.

Lingard, who would probably be most vulnerable to a returning Pogba in Solskjaer's current XI, as Fred and Scott McTominay have thrived at the base of the midfield, has 22 goal involvements compared to Pogba's 49 over the same period.

That breaks down into 13 goals and nine assists. He has created 87 chances, a little more than half Pogba's overall amount.

Although the feelgood factor has returned to United in Pogba's absence, he could yet be the man to make it grow into something more sustainable under Solskjaer.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged his Manchester United players to raise their game against the Premier League's "lesser teams".

United picked up back-to-back wins over Tottenham and bitter rivals Manchester City in the space of four days to revive their domestic campaign.

The Red Devils also beat Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day of the season and are the only side to have taken a point off leaders Liverpool this term.

However, they have lost to two teams in the bottom six and drawn against two more struggling sides in Southampton and Aston Villa.

With games against bottom-half teams Everton, Watford and Burnley to come in three of their next four league outings, Solskjaer admitted a change of mentality may be required.

"If it's a mental thing, then we can sort it out," he said, according to several British newspapers. "We'll work with the mentality of the boys.

"For me, it's been very much about margins in those games. Some freak results that we can't control.

"But if you look behind the results, I'm not as negative as you are. I'm not so worried, so concerned. If the boys are then telling me they can't get up for these games then we've got a problem.

"Then I've really got to work with them because, when I played, that's how we won the league.

"We never gave points away against the lesser teams, the not-so-good teams. The Premier League is difficult – if you don't have that mentality you won't get results.

"You've got to earn the right to win. Sometimes you've got to earn it by passing quicker, winning the ball back – there are different ways of winning games of football."

A key part of United's success against Tottenham and City has been the improved form of Jesse Lingard, who was reprimanded earlier this year for a video posted on social media.

Lingard started both matches and Solskjaer is delighted with the way the United youth product has bounced back of late.

"He's Man United through and through," Solskjaer said. "He's a red, he's got a great attitude and a great work rate.

"Every one of us have things to deal with on the pitch and off the pitch and what he has had to deal with, that will be between us. It's great to see him back.

"You can criticise anyone about anything but for me as a manager, I have to look after these boys in the good and the bad times.

"It's great to work with him. I had him in the reserves, gave him his debut against Burnley. It's good to see him back to his old self."

A man has been arrested on suspicion of a "racially aggravated public order" during Saturday's clash between Manchester City and Manchester United, Greater Manchester Police have confirmed.

During the second half of United's 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium, the visitors' midfielder Fred appeared to be hit by an object thrown from the crowd as he prepared to take a corner.

Lighters and a plastic bottle could be seen by the corner flag, while television footage seemed to show a supporter making racist gestures in the direction of Brazil international Fred and his team-mate Jesse Lingard.

Shortly after full-time, City released a statement saying they were investigating and threatened to issue life bans to any individual found to have committed racial abuse.

In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said: "A man has been arrested after a video posted on social media showed a supporter making racist gestures at the Manchester City v Manchester United match at the Etihad Stadium yesterday.

"At around 6.55pm on Saturday 7 December 2019 police were called to a report of a supporter making alleged racist gestures and sounds towards players during the Manchester City and Manchester United derby.

"A 41-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order and remains in custody for questioning."

Superintendent Chris Hill of the City of Manchester Division added: "I would like to thank the public for their ongoing support with this incident.

"Racism of any kind has no place in football or our society and I hope this arrest shows that we are taking this matter extremely seriously.

"We will continue to work with Manchester City and Manchester United football clubs on this incident and will investigate any other lines of enquiries."
 

A man has been arrested on suspicion of a "racially aggravated public order" during Saturday's clash between Manchester City and Manchester United, Greater Manchester Police have confirmed.

Manchester City are working with police to investigate allegations of racial abuse after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said two Manchester United players were targeted in the derby.

During the second half of United's 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium, the visitors' midfielder Fred seemed to be hit by an object thrown from the crowd as he prepared to take a corner.

Lighters and a plastic bottle could be seen by the corner flag while television footage appeared to show a supporter making racist gestures in the direction of Brazil international Fred and his team-mate Jesse Lingard.

Shortly after full-time, City released a statement saying they were investigating and threatened to issue life bans to any individual found to have committed racial abuse.

"Manchester City FC are aware of a video circulating on social media which appears to show a supporter making racial gestures during the second half of the match against Manchester United this evening," their statement read.

"Officials from the club are working with Greater Manchester Police in order to help them identify any individuals concerned and assist with their enquiries.

"The club are also working with GMP regarding an instance of objects being thrown onto the field of play.
 
"The club operates a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination of any kind, and anyone found guilty of racial abuse will be banned from the club for life."

Solskjaer confirmed he had seen the incident and he too called for anyone found guilty of such abuse to be banned from grounds for life.

"I've seen it on video, of course," he told Sky Sports.

"Fred and Jesse in the corner taking coins from the City fans, first of all, so they've got to go away. Then there's this not-so-intelligent fella chanting racist abuse towards my two players.

"I hope City and the authorities will deal with it because he shouldn't be watching football again, not live anyway.

"We have to stamp it out. We keep talking about that every single week and it's not acceptable and he should not be allowed back into grounds. That's how simple it is."

Lingard tweeted after the match in response to footage of the alleged incident, saying: "Not even this idiot can ruin tonight's feeling, shameful behaviour, it may be the derby but there is never ever a reason to be racist!"

Anti-racism and discrimination organisation Kick It Out said it had "been inundated with reports of alleged racist abuse from a number of individuals" and called for "swift action" to identify those responsible.

City boss Pep Guardiola added that he supported his club's pledge to take action.

"I think the same as the club," he told Sky Sports.

"I support the club. We are going to work to avoid it happening again."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer selected seven teenagers and three full debutants in his Manchester United starting XI for Thursday's 2-1 Europa League defeat to Astana in Nur-Sultan.

Jesse Lingard was named captain and gave United a 10th-minute lead, but that impressive opening to the contest crumbled after half-time.

Dmitry Shomko equalised in the 55th minute before the unfortunate Di'Shon Bernard put through his own goal.

Teenage prospects D'Mani Bughail-Mellor, Largie Ramazani and Ethan Galbraith also came off the bench for United, who have already qualified for the knockout stages. Here, we run the rule over the seven starters under 20.

Di'Shon Bernard

Formerly of Chelsea's youth set-up, Bernard's senior debut will unfortunately be remembered for the decisive moment where he diverted Antonio Rukavina's cross beyond veteran goalkeeper Lee Grant.

He had acquitted himself well enough until that point, appearing assured under Astana's set-piece assault early in the second half. No United player made more than Bernard's five clearances and two interceptions.

Ethan Laird

A mixed outing for the right-back, who added penetration to the United attack but struggled at times defensively – most notably when Shomko's equaliser came down his channel.

Tahith Chong

Chong's wretched miss with the goal at his mercy in the 54th minute was fairly inexplicable. That chip over from six yards after Angel Gomes and Luke Shaw opened up Astana was compounded because the hosts equalised within a minute.

However, it should not be forgotten that Chong's all-action opening to the contest, where he broke up play and drove United forward, was a key ingredient in them enjoying the better of the first half.

Angel Gomes

Bright, inventive and always United's most likely creative spark. Gomes jinked in from the left with intent, having an early shot blocked and showing an eye for effective link-up play with Mason Greenwood.

Rukavina streaking clear down the United left to craft the winning goal did not speak well of Gomes' defensive awareness, but his three key passes were more than any United attacker and he almost stole a point with a sumptuous 78th-minute free-kick.

James Garner

Showed a shrewd eye for a pass during the initial exchanges, breaking lines with a creativity Solskjaer's more experienced pros too frequently lack. Garner's influence waned during the second half but he completed 82 of 84 passes before making way for Ramazani in the 84th minute.

Dylan Levitt

The Wales Under-21 international arguable edged out Gomes as the most impressive United youngster on show. Silky and effortless in possession at times, Levitt oozed class and racked up 104 passes. He found a team-mate with 94.8 per cent of those.

Mason Greenwood

A comedown from the high of his maiden Premier League goal during the undulating 3-3 draw at Sheffield United last weekend. Greenwood, comfortable with either foot, presents an obvious threat to any defence, but his timing was slightly off here, as evidenced by him being flagged offside on three occasions.

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