Football will eventually return following the coronavirus pandemic, but it could look a little different.

The sport's leading competitions have been suspended amid the global crisis, and FIFA president Gianni Infantino this week suggested the pause represented an opportunity to "reform football".

"Perhaps we can reform football by taking a step backwards," Infantino told Gazzetta dello Sport. "[There would be] fewer but more interesting competitions, maybe fewer teams but for a better balance, fewer but more competitive matches to preserve players' health."

But what could post-coronavirus football look like? What must remain? What should disappear?

Five Stats Perform writers have put forward their suggestions for how the sport can move forward.


NO MORE GROUP STAGES - Ben Spratt

Those seemingly most frustrated by football's packed schedule are the coaches of leading European clubs. Therefore, there is a simple way to lose four games a season.

The most exciting Champions League and Europa League matches - with greater scope for shocks - tend to occur in the knockout stages anyway, so why not play two tense legs instead of six pool fixtures to advance?

A return to the format used in the European Cup and UEFA Cup might mean renaming the continental 'Leagues', but it is a price worth paying. Just keep the Champions League anthem!


DITCH FA CUP REPLAYS - Chris Myson

Even before the coronavirus pandemic caused a host of postponements and cancellations, fixture schedules were a particularly significant issue in England.

The FA Cup initially got rid of replays from the quarter-finals onwards and has since extended that to the fifth round. But now they should go all the way.

This would impact the one or two lower-league clubs each year who earn a dream replay against a top team in round three or four, but the competition has lost some of its lustre with big teams often resting their star names in the early rounds anyway.

Often the additional fixture is an inconvenience, while a one-off tie increases the drama and actually boosts the chance of a lower-tier club achieving an upset.


GET RID OF THE EFL CUP - Peter Hanson

Another sure-fire way to ease pressure on the calendar in England is to ditch the EFL Cup.

French football is ending the Coupe de la Ligue after this season, meaning English football will be the only one of the top-five European nations to have a second domestic cup competition.

With early rounds dominated by second-string XIs and fringe players, and the 'bigger' clubs largely utilising the cup as a means to give minutes to expensive benches, there is little clamour for the continuation of the EFL Cup.


AXE THE NATIONS LEAGUE - Liam Blackburn

If we're looking to cut back, how about axing the newest competition, the one that has no history and remains a mystery to your Average Joe?

The thought process behind UEFA's Nations League – to have more relevant fixtures and allow countries to play those they are more closely aligned with in the rankings – is commendable, yet it was undermined by the eventual absence of relegation from the inaugural edition.

The format and its relationship with qualifying for the Euros continues to be something of a Rubik's Cube unless you're a rocket scientist.

If something needs to go, can the convoluted.


CUT THE CLUB WORLD CUP - Patric Ridge

Infantino's calls to trim a bloated calendar are sensible, but actions speak louder than words. Perhaps proof of his desire for "reform" would come with an early end to an expanded Club World Cup.

Although the new 24-team format would see the finals held every four years in lieu of the Confederation Cup, it still seems an unnecessary hindrance.

The competition has been won by the Champions League holders on all but four occasions since its 2000 inception and provides little in the way of entertainment. 

Given the first new-look Club World Cup was due to take place in 2021 and now the Euros, Copa America and Olympics have each been pushed back to next year, Infantino has the opportunity to disregard this particular folly once and for all.

April 7, 2018, December 2, 2017.

Two dates. Two important occasions in the life of Paul Pogba as a Manchester United player.

Some players have the talent to decorate a game but lack the ability and force of personality to dominate it. Other players can dominate a game but because of their personality, eschew any attempt to decorate it.

Into the first category, we can easily slip a player like Mesut Ozil, the Arsenal version and the Real Madrid version. Into that band, you could also insert the former Arsenal (go easy Gunners’ fans, nobody’s picking on you) and Barcelona midfielder Alexander Hleb.

The Belarussian could be sleight of foot and crafty for a 20-minute spell of a game, but slight of frame and craven for the next 70 minutes.

Into the latter category, Roy Keane would insert himself, robust in approach and manic in conviction, bossing the midfield and running a game while being totally unperturbed by his inability to do a stepover. Why do a rabona when you can use the energy to scythe through the opposing creative midfielder is the question Keane would ask through gritted teeth, after leaving an Ozil-type rival in a crumpled heap at the top of the 18-yard box. 

So Pogba has played 150 games for the Red Devils in all competitions since returning to the Old Trafford club from Juventus in the summer of 2016, notching 31 goals. He has played 102 Premier League games, scoring 24 times, with the other seven goals coming in 48 games across the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, League Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. Forget his price tag of £89 million pounds and reported 290k per week salary. The fact is, that for a player of his lavish talents, Paul Pogba’s numbers in a Manchester United shirt are poor. 

The two dates above represent the only two times any reasonable observer could say that Paul Pogba dominated a big game for Manchester United.

Of course, there are numerous games in which Pogba has decorated a portion; see his world-class pass to free Marcus Rashford for the lone goal which beat Tottenham Hotspur on January 3, 2019, in the Premier League clash in North London; witness his performance against Newcastle on October 6, 2018; see his contribution in the 2-1 win away to Crystal Palace on December 14, 2016. But here’s the problem.

Pogba wasn’t recruited to decorate games against the Premier League’s lesser lights. He was recruited to dominate games against the league’s traditional also-rans and inspire wins over the title contenders and champions league aspirants. That is why the man they nickname ‘Pick-axe’ in France has copped so much flak from fans and pundits alike.

 

The December 2, 2017 performance was Pogba at his brilliant best; quick of thought, precise of pass, strong as an ox and running like a recently serviced Jamaican taxi. He made the men in Arsenal’s midfield and defence look like children, straining to deal with the adult, who had imposed himself on their lunch-time kickabout.

The performance against Manchester City at the Etihad on April 7, 2018, was by far Pogba’s best in a Manchester United shirt. He dragged the team from a 2-nil deficit to a 3-2 victory in the manner of a trenchant baby mamma, shaking down her man outside the gambling house before he goes inside and loses all of the fortnight’s pay he just collected. That was his moment, the day he proved he could use his considerable gifts to put other wonderfully talented players in the shade.

Suffice to say, two statement performances in 150 games is not good enough for a club like Manchester United. It’s a poor return. And frankly, it is not good enough from a player of Paul Pogba’s ability. Their separation will be a popular divorce. Selah.

Claudio Bravo will start for Manchester City in the EFL Cup final against Aston Villa, with manager Pep Guardiola showing faith in Ederson's Premier League understudy for the Wembley clash.

City boss Guardiola has used 36-year-old Bravo as his goalkeeper in domestic cup competitions this season.

And the former Barcelona boss vowed he would stand by that policy for the March 1 trophy match.

The confirmation from Guardiola is sure to be warmly welcomed by Chilean Bravo, whose Premier League opportunities have been minimal since Ederson arrived at the club ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Bravo spent almost 12 months out of action because of a ruptured Achilles sustained in August 2018, so the Wembley outing will emphasise his City re-emergence and Guardiola's trust in his ability.

The ex-Barca and Real Sociedad keeper was still sidelined when City reached last season's EFL Cup final, and on that occasion Guardiola picked Ederson ahead of young Aro Muric, who had played in the earlier rounds.

"Last season I changed Ederson from Aro because we played against Chelsea," Guardiola said. "Chelsea have incredible high pressing and we needed to play for the build-up a little bit quicker and faster and better.

"And Edy was better in that moment than the young keeper Aro. Aro helped us a lot, I spoke to him before the final. But if Claudio is fit, he is going to play."

Trezeguet thumped home a stoppage-time winner as Aston Villa beat Leicester City 2-1 to reach the EFL Cup final.

The winger got on the end of Ahmed El Mohamady's superb cross from the right and sent a fine volley across goal and into the right corner.

It gave Villa a 3-2 aggregate triumph and left Leicester distraught, with the match having looked destined to go to extra time.

Matt Targett had given Villa a 12th-minute lead, but Leicester deservedly levelled through Kelechi Iheanacho in the 72nd minute.

Marcus Rashford has called on Manchester United to draw inspiration from last year's stunning Champions League comeback in Paris as they look to pull off a similar revival against Manchester City.

United were outplayed in a 3-1 defeat to their bitter rivals in the EFL Cup semi-final first leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday, leaving them with a mountain to climb at City in three weeks' time.

There are parallels with the situation Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side found themselves in last March, when they headed to face Paris Saint-Germain in a last-16 tie after losing 2-0 on home soil.

On that night in the French capital, Rashford's last-gasp penalty secured a 3-1 win and sealed progress on away goals.

And Rashford, who wore the captain's armband and scored against Pep Guardiola's City, wants United to rediscover that magic when they travel to the Etihad Stadium.

"It is a different game with different players, but what we found in Paris we have to find that within us again," he told the club's official website.

"We have to go there, score goals and win the game. I think we are capable of doing it. But let's just focus on [Saturday's Premier League game against] Norwich for now and hopefully we can put this result behind us to bring the positivity back."

Rashford was proud to lead his team out for the first time and is closing on a landmark 200th United appearance, with only one more needed to get there, but the England forward is only concerned with results.

"It is obviously a nice feeling [to be captain], but at the end of the day it is the result that matters and we didn't manage to get the win," Rashford said.

"We will look ahead now to the next game, put this one behind us and go again.

"To be honest, the games have all come thick and fast. You don't notice the numbers going up so much.

"It is my 200th game and obviously it is going to be a good night for me. It is definitely a proud moment to play 200 games for this club.

"But if we don't get the three points then for me it doesn't mean a thing. We have to make sure that we win the game and put on a positive performance."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt Manchester United's first half against Manchester City in the EFL Cup on Tuesday was the worst they have played this season.

City dominated the first leg of the semi-final at Old Trafford, where Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez scored before Andreas Pereira's own goal.

Marcus Rashford struck in the second half for United, to give them a glimmer of hope heading to the Etihad Stadium on January 29 despite the 3-1 loss.

Solskjaer was unhappy with the way his side started, lamenting their first half – particularly after Silva's fine 17th-minute opener.

"From their goal until half-time it's the worst we've played," he told a news conference.

"Before then, it could've gone either way, a goal, but that doesn't matter now.

"We've just got to focus on Saturday, Norwich [City]. After that second half we've got something that we can believe in."

Solskjaer said his message to his players was clear after they trailed 3-0 at half-time and looked in danger of being thrashed.

"Pride is one word that you speak about at half-time," he said.

"Make sure you win the second half and you're in the tie and of course it's a difficult task that we've got in front of us.

"But that second half at least gave us something to hang onto."

Pep Guardiola remains wary of a Manchester United comeback in their EFL Cup semi-final despite Manchester City's 3-1 win at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

City were largely dominant as Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez scored before an Andreas Pereira own goal in the first half.

Marcus Rashford struck in the second half for United, who will head to the Etihad Stadium for the second leg on January 29.

But Guardiola pointed to United's comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in last season's Champions League – when they recovered from a 2-0 first-leg home loss in the last 16 – as a warning to his team.

"I've played many times against United, not just here, but when I was in Munich and especially Barcelona, and two finals of the Champions League. Of course I have incredible respect for this club and its history," he told a news conference.

"This club helps this Premier League in England and in Europe, to make our game a better place to be. Of course it's an incredible stage to come, an incredible scenario, and to try to play good like we did in the last times we've came here is an honour.

"But that is not three points, that is not done. Last season they lost 2-0 to PSG and after they went to France and you know they qualified.

"Anything can happen in football and I know after what happened in the second half that they are a dangerous team. Hopefully now in front of our people, they can support us like Man United support their team, and again, qualify for the final."

After City dominated the first half, United grew into the game in the second and found a goal through Rashford.

Guardiola was pleased with his side's opening 45 minutes, while praising United's response.

"We played good in the first half, we played really good. In the second half they changed to a diamond [formation] and we struggled more to press and they found [space] behind our holding midfielders," he said.

"[Mason] Greenwood, we could not press because they have two weapons up front with [Daniel] James and Rashford, so it's difficult for central defenders controlling these situations.

"And of course they have pride, they are United so that's normal the reaction they had in front of their people.

"I take note about what happened in the second half for the second leg in three weeks, but it's a good result tonight for us."

Interim manager Duncan Ferguson was "devastated" by Everton's penalty shootout defeat to Leicester City in the EFL Cup, but he believes there is potential to build on at Goodison Park.

Amid reports former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti is set to take charge, Everton fought back from two goals down against high-flying Leicester on Wednesday, only to lose 4-2 on spot-kicks.

James Maddison and Jonny Evans put Brendan Rodgers' side in control by half-time, but Tom Davies' volley paved the way for Leighton Baines to force penalties with a stunning stoppage-time equaliser.

Jamie Vardy scored the decisive spot-kick, however, sending Leicester through to their first EFL Cup semi-final since 1999-2000.

Ferguson was left to rue a slack first half, but he believes his successor - seemingly Ancelotti - has the basis of a promising squad.

"I am devastated, and the players are, too," Ferguson told a news conference. "We were too passive in the first half, just not aggressive enough. We were much better in the second half but we've just come up short.

"It's difficult because it was practically the same team as the weekend, and we're down to the bare bones at the minute. But we'll pick ourselves up and go again for another massive game [against Arsenal] on Saturday.

"We have great potential. There is a great team spirit here, and there's something to build on. The players have given me every ounce of energy they have over the past three games - and I thank them for that.

"I've loved every moment of this. The first two results help you, and I'm proud tonight about the second-half performance. But for the fans, not getting to the semi-final, I'm devastated."

Ferguson caused some controversy on Sunday when he took off Moise Kean just 19 minutes after the former Juventus youngster had come on as a substitute in the 1-1 draw at Manchester United.

Kean was introduced at half-time on Wednesday and looked sharp as Everton rallied, with an excellent cross for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who headed over, a highlight of the 19-year-old's display.

"I spoke to him [before the game] so there's no problems at all," Ferguson said of Kean. "I thought he did well tonight. It was a good reaction, but we go again for Saturday."

Leicester boss Rodgers, meanwhile, has now progressed in 29 successive cup matches across spells with Liverpool, Celtic and the Foxes, but he praised his counterpart for his impact since Marco Silva's dismissal.

"I think what you've seen in these last few games is that [Ferguson] has given the crowd and the team real spirit," Rodgers said.

"He was great on the touchline. When I saw him from the outside, he's a true Evertonian, but he's also a very good coach."

Duncan Ferguson suffered his first defeat as Everton's interim manager as Leicester City booked their place in the EFL Cup semi-finals with a penalty shoot-out victory at Goodison Park.

Carlo Ancelotti is reportedly close to taking over at Everton, who had beat Chelsea and drawn with Manchester United under Ferguson, whose side fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in normal time to set up penalties.

After quickfire goals from James Maddison and Jonny Evans had put Leicester in control, Everton rallied through Tom Davies and Leighton Baines' stoppage-time stunner.

But Baines could not repeat his heroics from the spot as he, along with Cenk Tosun, failed to beat Kasper Schmeichel - the Premier League's leading scorer Jamie Vardy ensuring Leicester's place in the last four.

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard says his players and the assistant referee need to share responsibility for the 1-0 Scottish League Cup final defeat to Celtic on Sunday, but concedes officials need more help than they are getting.

Gerrard's side were comfortably the more dominant throughout, carving out a host of clear opportunities and then missing a penalty through Alfredo Morelos just moments after Christopher Jullien's goal for Celtic, who played much of the second half with 10 men.

Replays appeared to show Jullien in an offside position when he tucked home Ryan Christie's free-kick, leaving Gerrard frustrated the goal was not ruled out, with VAR not yet introduced to Scottish football.

"Finals are normally decided on big moments and the big moments haven't gone in our favour," he told a media conference.

"We conceded from a set-piece, which we shouldn't have given away. Once you concede it, you have to defend it better.

"There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR.

"I think it [VAR] has taken something away from the game, so I'd be a liar if I said I'm 100 per cent in favour of it.

"But one thing I do know is that the officials up here do need some support and help because there are too many things, not just for our club but across the board, that they maybe miss and need a bit of support on.

"I'm not the type of person who blames or look for excuses. The big moments have gone against us today; we are all responsible for that.

"But the reality is, at the top end of football, you expect the linesman to get one of them right from the three who were in an offside position."

Many were surprised to see Morelos take the crucial spot-kick ahead of regular taker James Tavernier, but Gerrard was quick to dismiss suggestions his captain passed up the opportunity to step forward.

"Alfredo was the nominated penalty taker," he explained. "It was nothing to do with James passing the buck or anything like that. I decided we needed to change that up.

"Unfortunately, we haven't taken our chance in that big moment. People will look back at that moment as the chance to swing the momentum of the whole game in our favour, although we were much the stronger team throughout the 90 minutes anyway."

Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster says experiences like Sunday's Scottish League Cup triumph are the reason he returned to the club.

Forster enjoyed four years at Celtic between 2010 and 2014 before joining Premier League side Southampton.

He returned north of the border on loan in August, however, and put in an inspired display at Hampden Park as Celtic overcame bitter rivals Rangers 1-0 to register a 10th consecutive domestic trophy.

The 31-year-old produced a string of saves to frustrate Steven Gerrard's side – the pick of which was a penalty stop from Alfredo Morelos just minutes after Christopher Jullien had put Celtic ahead.

Forster told BBC Scotland: "As long as you win, that's all that matters. We really had to fight and grind it out.

"It was just one of them days; it went my way today. I'm buzzing. There's been days when it's not gone my way, today it has. I can't say how much it means to me.

"I didn't really think about the penalty to be honest. I picked the way it went. I'll take it. That's why I came back, to play in games like this, to win silverware, to play European football."

Celtic boss Neil Lennon hailed the contribution of his keeper and says he is in awe of his side's mentality.

"Fraser Forster was outstanding," he said. "He made some unbelievable saves, world-class saves.

"We didn't get going in the first half, but second half we were better. The mentality of the team is amazing. They've won 10 [domestic trophies] in a row – I don't know how they do it.

"This team just doesn't know when it's beaten. They still dig it out and dig it out. They're amazing.

"We are talking 10 major trophies now in a row. We don't want to give anything up. We weren't great today but we still won - and that's what cup football is all about."

Celtic survived the dismissal of Jeremie Frimpong to claim a 10th consecutive domestic trophy with a 1-0 win over bitter rivals Rangers in the Scottish League Cup final at Hampden Park.

Neil Lennon's side were second best for long periods but a combination of Christopher Jullien's 60th-minute goal and a string of fine saves from Fraser Forster ensured Steven Gerrard's wait for a first piece of silverware in his managerial career goes on.

Celtic looked like they had gift-wrapped Rangers a way back into the game just minutes after Jullien's strike, Frimpong dismissed for hauling down Alfredo Morelos inside the penalty area.

As had been the case throughout the match, however, Forster was equal to the Colombian's effort from 12 yards, making sure Celtic maintained their run of dominance in Scottish football.

Rangers had started with a spring in their step, Connor Goldson heading wide from a corner and Forster superbly pawing away Ryan Jack's swerving 25-yard drive inside the opening 15 minutes.

The Celtic goalkeeper then stood firm to repel Morelos' strike after he had raced away from Kristoffer Ajer, then denied Rangers' leading scorer again after he had been played in behind the Celtic defence.

Rangers continued to look threatening at the start of the second period, Morelos flashing agonisingly across the face of goal after being picked out at the back post.

Those misses came back to haunt Rangers on the hour mark, though, when an unmarked Jullien stole in at the back post to convert Ryan Christie's free-kick to give his side the lead.

Rangers were handed an immediate chance to restore parity with Frimpong’s foul following some slapstick defending from Celtic, but Morelos' weak spot-kick was turned away by Forster.

Substitute Michael Johnston inexplicably fired wide after being played clean through, whil there was still time for one final Morelos miss - the forward dragging narrowly wide deep into stoppage time, as Celtic held on for yet another win in a major final.

Gabriel Jesus is happy to occupy a wide position for Manchester City while continuing to learn from "legend" Sergio Aguero.

Pep Guardiola made the rare decision of starting the two forwards together for the 3-1 home victory over Southampton in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, although Jesus was shunted out onto the flank as Aguero played through the centre.

The 22-year-old was initially deployed on the wing when he made his breakthrough at Palmeiras and featured from the right in Brazil's triumphant Copa America campaign this year.

Jesus, who has been named in Guardiola's starting line-up just seven times this season, would not be averse to featuring in that role more regularly for City, and with Southampton visiting the Etihad Stadium again in the Premier League on Saturday he may get another opportunity to do so.

"I like this position and I know always I'm going to respect the manager's decision," said Jesus.

"Since the Copa America I've played for Brazil as a right winger. I like it.

"I started with the position in Brazil in my old club and after I got to play like a striker, but I like to play both positions. It's very important you can play more than one.

"It was my first game as a winger with five at the back for Southampton, so it's difficult when you dribble past one defender and have another one.

"So it's more difficult, but I like to play like a winger and I like it as a striker as well. I don't have a preference."

Aguero has scored 12 goals in as many appearances in all competitions this season and Jesus acknowledged there is plenty he can glean from City's all-time leading marksman about being a clinical a finisher.

"It's difficult to describe Sergio. Sergio is the top scorer of the club and every game he shows us why he is the top scorer," said Jesus.

"I have to learn from him because he's a legend. Every game he scores. I want to score every game but I think it is different, me and Sergio.

"I'm 22 years old, I have to improve my football, practise my finishing and I have to learn from Sergio.

"This is City, the competition is very high, but I think City has good players and an amazing team, so whoever is playing I think is going to do a very good job."

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard said N'Golo Kante will resume training "in the next two or three days" as he steps up his recovery from a groin strain.

Kante missed Chelsea's 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the EFL Cup fourth round at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

The France international has not featured since injuring his groin during the warm-up ahead of his country's Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland on October 14.

Lampard provided an update on Kante post-match and revealed the Chelsea star is set to return to training before Saturday's clash with Premier League strugglers Watford.

"Training in the next two or three days," Lampard told reporters. "Hopefully [before the international break]. It's important, he's a top player.

"I'd have liked to have given Jorginho and [Mateo] Kovacic a rest tonight because of the work they've put in, but I couldn't today because of N'Golo, Ross [Barkley] and Ruben [Loftus-Cheek] long-term. I couldn't make the changes I wanted to today. It is what it is."

Chelsea succumbed to Marcus Rashford's stunning 73rd-minute free-kick in London, where United moved through to the quarter-finals.

Michy Batshuayi had cancelled out Rashford's 25th-minute penalty after the hour before the United star stepped up and scored a jaw-dropping, Cristiano Ronaldo-esque set piece.

Lampard added: "We've had seven wins on the trot. We've had taxing games in the Champions League. We want to get into the next stage of that. Our form in the league has been really good.

"They're the priorities. But we want to win matches and give everything. Today, I had to look at my squad and who deserves minutes. The young players. The competition has an element of that for us.

"I saw a lot of things that were good for us for the future. A lot of positive things about us. I hate losing. We all do here. But there's a big picture here and a lot of big games to come, and a busy fixture list. Now we focus on what happens next."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer compared two-goal hero Marcus Rashford to Cristiano Ronaldo following his stunning free kick against Chelsea in the EFL Cup.

Rashford's spectacular 73rd-minute free kick sealed a 2-1 victory away to Chelsea and United's place in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Michy Batshuayi had cancelled out Rashford's 25th-minute penalty after the hour before the United star stepped up and scored a jaw-dropping, Ronaldo-esque set piece.

United great Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford, where he netted a number of free kicks as he won three Premier League titles and the Champions League before leaving in 2009.

"It's very Cristiano-like, isn't it?" Solskjaer told MUTV. "The boy has got nerves of steel, takes a penalty, no problem. Steps up and hits the ball like he does and wins us the game, fantastic. I think he works too much on [free-kicks]. I've always tried to get Marcus scoring the simple tap-ins and be inside the box, he always scores great goals Marcus, he practises and today he got his reward.

"Marcus has that strike in him. I've seen him in training so many times and it's got to be hitting the target soon, you think, because he's had a few efforts and finally it goes in. My first ever game when I came back at Cardiff he hit a ball from 30 yards, scored after three minutes, so he's encouraged to do more of that."

United defender Victor Lindelof also compared Rashford to five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo post match.

In a Tweet midweek, Lindelof posted almost identical pictures of Ronaldo and Rashford's free-kick routines, with the caption: "Sure I've seen that somewhere before…"

Wednesday maintained United's good form, which extended to three successive wins following a Premier League victory at Norwich City, having won their Europa League clash away to Partizan Belgrade.

"We're hitting form," Solskjaer told Sky Sports. "Of course, three wins in a row away from home now is good for the boys. We've travelled a lot the last week, but when you get the results, the team spirit, camaraderie, we stay together, so it shows the character of the team.

"We get the games where we want them, or we've been leading 1-0 many, many games this season but we haven't kicked on from there. I thought today we were excellent, counter-attacking football, fast-flowing forward passing, that's Man United and we're trying to get back to that."

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