Manchester United players can sense they have a chance to make this a special season, says Gary Neville.

Paul Pogba scored a volley with 19 minutes remaining on Tuesday to give United a 1-0 away victory over Burnley.

That moved them top of the Premier League, three points clear of champions Liverpool ahead of the two teams' crunch clash at Anfield on Sunday.

Former United captain Neville believes Liverpool are in for an uncomfortable few days and urged fans of the Red Devils to relish their return to the summit.

The last time United were top at this stage of the season was in 2012-13, Alex Ferguson's last season which ended in title glory.

"I believe these players feel they can have a really special season," Neville said to Sky Sports.

"It's odd, it's changing every single week, you don't know what is going to happen - there's an element of unpredictability and Manchester United could exploit that.

"It's a big win, to go top of the league before Sunday feels like a big moment. Six to eight weeks ago you wouldn't have thought Manchester United would have been anywhere near this position.

"Yet, now, they find themselves with something building, the spirit is growing as you could see with the way they celebrated with each other.

"Some performances haven't been great all the time away from home but they have won when they haven't been at their best. It's a little bit more exciting and l am going to enjoy these next three or four days!

"I don't think anyone is saying Manchester United will win the league but the fact that they are in a title fight - wow! I never would have imagined it.

"It's a strange season. Why shouldn't Manchester United fans believe? Why shouldn't this side believe? Look at the front three, that midfield four, Bruno Fernandes - they have some fantastic players.

"The other teams aren't in great form. Man City are sitting there cool and calm, nobody is really talking about them, but they are hitting very good form and that is a real danger. 

"But in the next few days it is time to have a little bit of fun. It won't be a comfortable few days for Liverpool."

Neville added: "We know full well how quickly this season has turned around: it was Chelsea four weeks ago and Man United looked dead, but it is all turning around again.

"It shouldn't stop Manchester United fans get carried away in the next few days. Why shouldn't they? It's been a really difficult few years." 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted United are ready for the challenge of facing Liverpool.

"It's a brilliant position to be in," said the United manager.

"Of course we know we're going to the champions who have had an unbelievable three-and-a-half-seasons, we know it's going to be a difficult game for us, but we are ready for it.

"We couldn't have asked for a better time to play them because we are in good shape, good form and hungry. These boys want to get better and that's the test of their character and quality.

"Of course, we enjoy being [top of the league] at any time, be that the first game or the last game, which is a big, big difference. We're looking forward to it, it's a great test of where we're at.

"We're almost halfway through the season so it's a little bit of an indication of where you're at, but no one will remember the league table on January 12."

Manchester City star Sergio Aguero is reportedly wanted by Barcelona.

Aguero's future at City is uncertain with the 32-year-old coming out of contract at the end of the season.

And the forward is unsurprisingly wanted by Europe's biggest clubs.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA WANT AGUERO

Barcelona are eyeing Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero, according to The Sun.

Aguero has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain as City's all-time leading goalscorer entered the final six months of his contract.

The Argentina international has scored two goals in nine games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and Eric Garcia looks set to join the club from City. The cover of Mundo Deportivo says Garcia is poised to move to Barca in January in a deal worth €5million (£4.5m) plus variables.

- Also facing an uncertain future is Fernandinho. The Telegraph reports Fernandinho is undecided about his future, with the City man having offers from South America.

- Matteo Guendouzi is set to see out his loan spell at Hertha Berlin. Fabrizio Romano says the midfielder will not return to Arsenal in January, with the Bundesliga club wanting him to stay until season's end.

- Wolves seem unlikely to sign a forward in January. The Mirror claims they have aborted interested in Liverpool striker Divock Origi and Chelsea's Olivier Giroud.

- With Frank Lampard under pressure at the helm of Chelsea, help could be incoming. Sky Sports reports Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is considering bringing back former manager Avram Grant to work with Lampard.

Fabinho insisted Mohamed Salah was "very happy" at Liverpool amid speculation over the star forward's future.

Salah sparked talk about his future after refusing to rule out a move to LaLiga champions Real Madrid or Barcelona in an interview with Diario AS last month.

Fabinho said the speculation about Salah was normal, the Brazil international adding the forward was happy at Anfield.

"Big players will always have their names involved in rumours. Salah plays for Liverpool, one of the biggest teams in the world. I think it's normal to see his name linked to other teams, especially from different leagues," he told ESPN Brasil on Tuesday.

"Anyway, I see him very happy here and pleased with his performances this season. He's very demanding with himself, he wants to be the best, he wants to help the team and works hard for it.

"It's always been the case and it hasn't changed at all. He keeps scoring goals, which everyone is used to seeing. In the changing room he's always talking to everyone and making jokes.

"I don't see anything affecting him. Overall, I am not following the news so I'm not sure about any rumours. As I said, top quality players will always be linked to big clubs."

Premier League holders Liverpool have struggled for consistency so far this season and Manchester United's win over Burnley on Tuesday sent the Red Devils three points clear of their rivals.

But Fabinho said Jurgen Klopp's side, who host United on Sunday, were concentrating on themselves.

"They are definitely confident and enjoying a good momentum in the league. They are winning some games that perhaps they weren't last season, such as against Wolves," he said.

"However, our focus isn't exclusively on Manchester United. The main thing is trying to play our football and winning games."

Manchester United star Paul Pogba said the Red Devils are ready for their top-of-the-table clash against Liverpool after leapfrogging the defending champions atop the Premier League.

United top the Premier League table at this stage of the season for the first time since Alex Ferguson's final season in charge in 2012-13 following Tuesday's 1-0 victory at Burnley.

Pogba was the hero – his volley 19 minutes from the end sending United three points clear of rivals Liverpool ahead of Sunday's blockbuster showdown at Anfield.

"It will be a beautiful game for everyone," Pogba told BBC Sport, with five of his past seven Premier League goals coming away from home.

"It's a big game coming up so let's get ready for it."

United controlled proceedings away to Burnley and saw Harry Maguire's first-half goal ruled out for a foul.

But Pogba stepped up in the second half at Turf Moor, converting Marcus Rashford's cross.

Rashford has been directly involved in 11 goals in his past 14 Premier League appearances (six goals and five assists) after teeing up Pogba.

United, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their past 15 away fixtures in the Premier League since losing 2-0 to Liverpool in January last year.

"We knew if we won tonight we would be top of the league when we play Liverpool," said Pogba, who had game highs in touches (106), completed passes (71) and clearances (five).

"We have to keep calm, now it is the big moment. We will see what is going to happen."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United are "getting better and better" after edging past Burnley 1-0 on Tuesday to move top of the Premier League.

Paul Pogba made the breakthrough at Turf Moor 19 minutes from time to move United three points clear of Liverpool ahead of Sunday's showdown between the bitter rivals.

It is the first time the Red Devils have occupied top spot this deep into the season since December 2012 in Sir Alex Ferguson's final campaign in charge.

United head to Anfield as the division's only unbeaten side on their travels this term, winning seven out of eight, while going further back they are 15 without defeat away from home in the league.

And after seeing his side win for a ninth time in 11 unbeaten matches overall in the top flight, Solskjaer wants his side to take on the reigning champions with no fear.

"We are getting better and better. We're almost halfway through the season but nobody will remember the league table on January 12," he told BBC Sport.

"We feel very confident going into games. Away from home we have really done well. We have to believe in ourselves and we do. 

"We've done a great job - it's good times for us. It's going to be a test against the champions, who have been fantastic, That's a great test for us."

Speaking to Sky Sports, Solskjaer added: "They've had an unbelievable three seasons so we're ready for it. 

"But we're ready and we're excited, we're hungry for it and it's a test of character and quality again. We're in a good position going into it."

Despite their impressive away form, the clean sheet against Burnley was United's first on their travels this season in the league, conceding 11 in their previous seven outings.

The visitors dominated a game in which their opponents failed to register a single attempt on target, though it looked as though it may be a frustrating day until Pogba converted Marcus Rashford's cross.

A couple of controversial VAR calls went against United in the first half, including Harry Maguire's header being disallowed for a perceived challenge on Erik Pieters.

That made the eventual victory all the more pleasing for Solskjaer, even if the scoreline was tighter than he would have liked.

"Frustrations were there for everyone to see - it affected our performance," he said. "We can't let that happen. Harry's goal was a perfectly good one. Half-time helped us. We came out second half really well and deserved the win.

"I'd rather win 4-0 - it's so much more comfortable. At 1-0 you have to see out one or two big moments. They pegged us back, you expect that. But we put our body on the line, of course the mentality is getting better. I'm very pleased with the spirit."

Pogba's last seven Premier League goals have all come away from home, this latest strike taking his tally for the season to four in all competitions.

"I've always said Paul is a big player for us," Solskjaer said. "He's a good character in the dressing room, someone the lads look to, a world champion. 

"We're seeing the best of Paul at the moment - he's been injured and he's had COVID so it's natural to need to get back to fitness after that."

David de Gea insists Manchester United must make their presence felt in this season's Premier League title race.

United will go top of the table if they avoid defeat against Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday, a feat that would make Sunday's showdown with reigning champions and bitter rivals Liverpool all the more mouthwatering.

De Gea was part of the last United side to win a championship as Alex Ferguson retired in a blaze of 2012-13 glory.

Since then, they have tended to exist on the margins of the Premier League's 'big six' and this is something the Spain goalkeeper is keen to change.

"Yes I have been fighting for the title in a couple of seasons when Sir Alex was here. Now we are there again and it’s taken us a lot of time to get there to be honest and we cannot miss this chance," De Gea told United's official website.

"We have to be very, very focused in every game and try to win all of them. Hopefully if we are good physically and mentally then we can be there and we can fight for sure for the Premier League.

"It’s true there is a lot [of games] to play yet, but of course it’s a chance to be there, to be top of the league.

"It’s a good challenge for us. We will play against a difficult team in Burnley, away from home, but if we want to win the league then we have to win these type of matches.

"I'm saying the same thing, but all we can do is focus on each match, take it game-by-game and be 100 per cent focused."

De Gea has overcome some patchy form over recent seasons to retain his status as United number one in the face of Dean Henderson's challenge.

He recently became the club's leading Premier League appearance maker among non-British players and, at 30 years of age, believes he has plenty more to give at Old Trafford.

"I feel good, confident and proud. I've played a lot of games but hopefully like I said there are many more to come," De Gea added. "When you feel well and train well then in the games it's easy to play.

"You have to be focused of course and always play at 100 per cent and helping the team is the most important thing. The team is winning and in good form so everything at the moment is good."

Despite the coronavirus situation, Real Madrid are still looking to make a splash in the transfer market.

Madrid have long been linked with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

And if reports are to be believed, the LaLiga champions are planning for the Frenchman.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WORKING ON MBAPPE MOVE

Real Madrid are working on a plan to sign Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, according to Tuesday's frontpage of Diario AS.

Mbappe – also linked to Liverpool – has been tipped to join Madrid, though Ligue 1 holders PSG remain committed to trying to re-sign the Frenchman.

Despite the economic fallout caused by coronavirus, Madrid are still looking to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu thanks to player sales and revenue generated by the return of fans.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich have identified RB Leipzig star and centre-back Dayot Upamecano as the player to replace David Alaba, reports Sport 1. Alaba is out of contract at season's end and the Bayern star has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City. With Alaba heading for an exit, in-demand Upamecano is wanted in Munich. It comes as Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Barca vie for his signature.

- According to Esporte Interativo, Neymar wants to stay at PSG as the French giants prepare a new contract. Neymar has been linked with a return to Barca.

- Fabrizio Romano says an agreement has been reached between United and Bayer Leverkusen for Timothy Fosu-Mensah to join the Bundesliga side.

Milan are eyeing a move for Chelsea's Fikayo Tomori, reports Sky Sports. Strasbourg defender Mohamed Simakan remains the primary target for the Rossoneri. It comes as Fiorentina close in on Milan full-back Andrea Conti.

Robert Lewandowski has paid tribute to Jurgen Klopp for the impact he had on the striker's path to being crowned the best player in the world last month.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski won The Best FIFA Men's Player award for 2020 after starring as Die Roten claimed a Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB-Pokal treble.

Between July 20, 2019 and October 7, 2020 – the period considered for the award – Lewandowski scored 60 club goals in 52 appearances across all competitions at a rate of one every 76 minutes.

He beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the prize, with the Pole effectively recognised the best footballer in the world in the absence of a Ballon d'Or winner in 2020.

Lewandowski has enjoyed immense success since joining Bayern in 2014, though he already looked destined for greatness during his time at Borussia Dortmund, where Klopp had begun to mould him into the lethal forward he is now.

Writing in a reflective piece for the Players' Tribune in the wake of his FIFA award win, Lewandowski said of the current Liverpool boss: "Jurgen was not only a father figure to me. As a coach, he was like the 'bad teacher'. And I mean that in the best sense of the word.

"Not the one who made life easy for you and never expected anything from you, but the one who was strict with you. The one who put pressure on you and did everything to get the best out of you. That's the teacher who made you better. Jurgen was like that.

"He was not content to let you be a B-grade student. Jurgen wanted A+ students. He didn't want it for him. He wanted it for you.

"I could talk to Jurgen about anything. I could trust him. He is a family man, and he has so much empathy for what goes on in your private life."

Lewandowski took a season to truly adapt to German football after joining from Lech Poznan in his native Poland, as he only netted eight Bundesliga goals in 33 games during the 2010-11 campaign.

That remains the only season he has failed to reach double figures for league goals during his time in Germany, and Lewandowski considers Klopp's influence to be a major part of his improvement.

"He taught me so much," the striker continued. "When I arrived at Dortmund, I wanted to do everything quickly: strong pass, one touch only. Jurgen showed me to calm down — to take two touches if necessary.

"It was totally against my nature, but soon I was scoring more goals. When I had that down, he challenged me to speed it up again.

"One touch. BANG. Goal. He slowed me down to speed me up. It sounds simple, but it was genius, really."

Lewandowski's shot conversion rate rose from 13.1 per cent to 22.5 after his first season with Klopp and has never dipped below 20 per cent since.

In fact, the 32-year-old appears to be getting better with age, given his best ever return in terms of shot conversion was posted last term (29.8), and he is well on track to obliterate that personal best in 2020-21.

With 20 goals in 14 Bundesliga games, the Polish marksman is converting 44.4 per cent of his opportunities.

 

Manchester United will host bitter rivals and Premier League champions Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

United edged past Championship side Watford in the third round as the Reds cruised past a much-changed Aston Villa, who had to field a squad made up entirely of youth players amid a coronavirus outbreak.

While Liverpool have re-established themselves as the standard-bearers in the Premier League in recent years, they are looking to end a lengthy drought in the FA Cup.

The Reds have not won the competition since 2005-06 when they beat West Ham on penalties, with their most-recent final appearance in 2012 a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.

If they are to finally end that wait, they will have to get one over their old nemesis in United, who this season appear to be rising to the challenge set by Liverpool in the Premier League.

United last won the FA Cup in 2015-16 and were beaten by Chelsea in the showpiece two years later – only Arsenal (14) have won the competition more than the Red Devils (12).

Whoever progresses will face either non-league side Stockport County, West Ham or Doncaster Rovers in the fifth round.

Another of the favourites, Manchester City, will expect to cruise through the next couple of rounds given they go to League Two's Cheltenham Town first and then face Swansea City or Nottingham Forest if they avoid a fourth-round shock.

The lowest-ranked side in the draw, sixth-tier Chorley Town, host Wolves, while Tottenham go to Wycombe Wanderers and Chelsea welcome Luton Town to Stamford Bridge.

 

FA Cup fourth-round draw in full:

Cheltenham Town v Manchester City

Bournemouth v Crawley Town

Swansea City v Nottingham Forest

Manchester United v Liverpool

Southampton/Shrewsbury Town v Arsenal

Barnsley v Norwich City

Chorley Town v Wolves

Millwall v Bristol City

Brighton and Hove Albion v Blackpool

Wycombe Wanderers v Tottenham

Fulham v Burnley

Sheffield United v Plymouth Argyle

Chelsea v Luton Town

Stockport County/West Ham v Doncaster Rovers

Brentford v Leicester City

Everton v Sheffield Wednesday

Full FA Cup fifth-round draw:

Fulham/Burnley v Bournemouth/Crawley Town

Manchester United/Liverpool v Stockport County/West Ham or Doncaster

Barnsley/Norwich City v Chelsea/Luton Town

Everton/Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers/Tottenham

Swansea City/Nottingham Forest v Cheltenham Town/Manchester City

Brentford/Leicester City v Brighton and Hove Albion/Blackpool

 

FA Cup fifth-round draw in full:

Fulham/Burnley v Bournemouth/Crawley Town

Manchester United/Liverpool v Stockport County/West Ham or Doncaster

Barnsley/Norwich City v Chelsea/Luton Town

Everton/Sheffield Wednesday v Wycombe Wanderers/Tottenham

Swansea City/Nottingham Forest v Cheltenham Town/Manchester City

Brentford/Leicester City v Brighton and Hove Albion/Blackpool

Sheffield United or Plymouth Argyle v Millwall or Bristol City

Chorley or Wolves v Southampton or Shrewsbury Town or Arsenal
 

Manchester United will host bitter rivals and Premier League champions Liverpool in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has urged Manchester United to finally establish themselves as Premier League challengers once again as they aim to go top of the Premier League table against Burnley on Tuesday.

After a somewhat shaky start to the season, United have steadily climbed up the table and head into their next Premier League game level on 33 points with defending champions Liverpool, who have played a game more.

Indeed, ever since the start of 2020-21 United have been playing catch-up due to their involvement in the extended Europa League campaign last term, and Tuesday's contest will finally see them back on level footing in terms of matches played.

Once English football's leading power under Alex Ferguson, United have spent just 51 days top of the table since the Scottish manager retired in 2013.

The last time they finished a day at the summit was the very first of the 2018-19 season after beating Leicester City 2-1 – their meeting was the only game that day, and United were knocked off top spot by the end of that weekend.

Solskjaer was eager to play down the importance of being top in January, though he did accept United have to take this chance to confirm themselves as challengers again.

"We're better off this season than we were at this stage last season; we've scored more goals, won more games, played better football," he told reporters on Monday. "Nobody remembers who's top on January 12, and for us it's about developing the team - we're progressing and we've shown we can bounce back from disappointment.

"We're improving. It's been since [Ferguson] left [that United challenged]. We've been second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth seventh, so it's up to us to establish ourselves among the top four. We've only been there three times since Ferguson left."

It was then put to Solskjaer that the inevitable comparisons of every Man United team with Ferguson's era might be unfair, and the Norwegian seemingly agreed, adamant the Premier League is an entirely different landscape in 2021.

"It's a different ball game to when I was a player," he said. "We were disappointed if we didn't win the league. But now so many teams consider themselves candidates.

"The league table doesn't really matter now, you pick up points and when you get to March, April, that's when the league is going to be decided.

"We knew this would be a difficult season for us, we had to catch up. I said we needed to hang in there, but that's not what I meant.

"I meant we had to pick up points and get performances right, don't let teams run away with it. We've done well."

The omens look good for United ahead of their trip to Turf Moor – they are unbeaten on the road in the top flight in 16 games and Burnley have not won successive league meetings with the Red Devils since 1968.

Their next game after Burnley is a mouth-watering clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Where will Erling Haaland be playing in 2021-22?

The Borussia Dortmund forward has a long list of admirers, particularly in England.

Both Manchester clubs want Haaland, though City fancy their chances.

 

TOP STORY – CITY BELIEVE THEY HOLD HAALAND EDGE OVER UTD

Manchester City are hoping to use their Jadon Sancho sell-on clause to beat neighbours Manchester United to the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to The Sun.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked to the likes of City, United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool following his exploits for Dortmund.

City have a 15 per cent sell-on clause following Sancho's move to Dortmund in 2017 and they believe it could help in their Haaland pursuit, with the Premier League giants open to waiving or renegotiating the clause.

Sancho was tipped to join United ahead of the 2020-21 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- French journalist Julien Laurens doubts Paris Saint-Germain will be able to afford Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked to PSG, City and Inter but Laurens feels the Ligue 1 champions will not be able to financially accommodate Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Atletico Madrid are poised to prise Moussa Dembele from Lyon, reports Fabrizio Romano. After Diego Costa's exit, Atletico are set to complete a loan deal with the option to buy.

- Le10Sport claims Manchester United are set to rival PSG for the signing of Brest midfielder Romain Faivre.

- The Telegraph says Napoli are keen on signing Arsenal full-back Kieran Tierney. The Serie A side were keen on the Scotland international before he swapped Celtic for Arsenal in 2019.

Neco Williams hopes improving Liverpool's FA Cup record will be a motivating ambition that drives the team on to the final in this season's competition.

Liverpool beat Aston Villa 4-1 in the third round on Friday, though the hosts were forced to field a team comprised of youngsters as a result of a significant COVID-19 outbreak.

Jurgen Klopp's men ended their long wait for a Premier League title last season and tasted Champions League glory in 2019, though they have not won the FA Cup since 2006.

That is a run right-back Williams, who played the full 90 minutes at Villa Park, is eager to change.

"The FA Cup is not a cup we have done that well in, so I think this year we are looking forward to pushing on and to get to the final and hopefully win it," he told the club's website.

"It's always good to score goals and that just gives the lads who scored the confidence to go and do that in the next game, keep adding them goals to the charts.

"The more clinical they are, the more goals they are going to get. So it was good for the lads."

Williams, 19, sees increased opportunities to play as another advantage of an FA Cup run, while praising the efforts of Villa's battling youngsters.

He added: "I think the more rounds we go through the FA Cup then hopefully the more game-time I can get. 

"I think if I was a young lad or I hadn't yet made my debut, the first thing I would want to do is make an impression and to give everything that I have got. 

"And to be fair to their lads, they did what they were told to do and they gave us a good game."

James Milner played on the opposite side of the defence to Williams and felt improvements had been needed after the Reds went into half-time with the match level at 1-1.

Milner told BT Sport: "I think obviously we needed to do some things better. 

"We started pretty well with the counter-pressing and pressed on the ball, but then maybe didn't get it right – especially for the goal [we] let them out of a couple of situations in the corner where they shouldn't have got out. 

"They're good players, they're at Aston Villa for a reason. Every single time you're not quite there, you're going to get punished. They took the goal and we had to lift ourselves again."

Jurgen Klopp lavished praise on Aston Villa's young players after they made Liverpool battle for their place in the FA Cup fourth round on Friday.

As a result of a training ground Covid-19 outbreak on Thursday, the hosts were forced to send Under-23s boss Mark Delaney and a team comprised of youngsters to face the Premier League champions at Villa Park.

They more than held their own for large parts, and even got to the half-time break level thanks to a well-taken Louie Barry goal.

Liverpool took the game away from Villa in the second period, ultimately running out comfortable 4-1 winners, but Klopp was impressed with what he saw from the opposition.

The German also took pleasure in the fact his far more experienced side eventually solved the 'football problems' in front of them.

He said: "The boys did really well, the kids of Aston Villa did really well, were organised and all that stuff. 

"It was clear. We scored an early goal, a nice one, and then we didn't play quick enough anymore, didn't move fast enough, didn't play the right spaces.

"These are football problems and we solved the football problems with football in the second half. So, I'm really fine with it. 

"It was a tricky one. I've never before had this kind of challenge in my life, that you have no idea who you're playing against – absolutely no idea; that you prepare a meeting and then you can throw all the preparation, all the videos in the bin and then you have to start new. 

"That's football and academy players are good players. Last year we played here with our kids and they gave Aston Villa a proper game as well. That's just how it is. 

"These young kids can all play football and if you don't play well against them you have problems. Second half, we played exactly like we should have played from the beginning and that's why we won really, the right way."

Klopp withdrew captain Jordan Henderson at half-time in Birmingham but went on to reveal that the change was not down to a new fitness issue.

Asked about a possible injury blow, he replied: "No, no, Hendo and Thiago was clear before the game that we do it like this: 45, 45. Absolutely no problem."

The German also explained that he had no concerns about his squad being exposed to coronavirus despite the late change to Villa's proposed line-up.

He continued: "No, no reservations. We trust the authorities, we had our test results come back yesterday as well, everybody was negative. Then the FA did what they thought is right with the U23s, they got tested, we got their results this morning I think at 10 o'clock.

"We were on the car park at the airport. So, then everything is fine."

Liverpool survived a major scare from Aston Villa's youngsters before claiming their place in the FA Cup fourth round with a 4-1 victory.

Forced to name a starting XI comprised entirely of players without a first-team appearance to their name as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak, the Villans produced a hugely impressive performance under the guidance of U23s boss Mark Delaney.

It was enough to see them deservedly level at the break, Louie Barry finishing off a well-worked move to cancel out Sadio Mane's early header.

But Georginio Wijnaldum's strike on the hour-mark served to break the kids' resistance and was followed by further goals from Mane and Mohamed Salah that added gloss to the scoreline.

Villa would have been anticipating a long night ahead when Mane headed home Curtis Jones' right-wing cross with just four minutes on the clock.

Only two great stops in quick succession from Akos Onodi stopped the Reds doubling their lead soon after, the young goalkeeper keeping out Fabinho's low shot before rising to save Mane's follow-up.

But, while they continued to dominate possession as the half wore on, Liverpool hardly had the Villa goal under siege, and they paid the price as the hosts made the most of their first real attack.

Callum Rowe did brilliantly to evade Jordan Henderson deep in midfield before sliding an inch-perfect pass through to Barry, who saw off the challenge of Rhys Williams and produced a composed one-on-one finish that belied his tender years.

Liverpool could not have expected to find themselves in such a battle at Villa Park but responded with renewed vigour following the restart.

The pressure finally told on the hour, Wijnaldum sidefooting home in space with tired Villa legs unable to close him down, and two further goals in the next five minutes put the game to bed.

The first came from Mane, who looped a header up and into the far corner, before Salah got in on the act with a low finish into the corner.

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