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?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United need "someone who wants to break their nose to score a goal" as the end of the January transfer window draws near.

United were denied a place in the EFL Cup final on Wednesday, with a 1-0 second-leg victory over rivals Manchester City not quite enough to overturn a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer was again without top-scorer Marcus Rashford, who is facing a lengthy lay-off due to a stress fracture in his back, leaving Anthony Martial and 18-year-old Mason Greenwood as his only striking options.

"We need more goalscorers, we need more goals. That's a definite," said the United manager.

"I need someone who wants to break their nose to score a goal, or their toe. It doesn't have to be the nice ones. We know that."

While United - who sit fifth in the Premier League, six points outside the top four - are running out of time to bring in another forward, Solskjaer is determined to get more goals out of the players already at his disposal.

"I'm challenging them and I need to challenge them more because we can't just score nice goals," he added.

"We're going to get there, no doubt, because these players want to learn. They've improved so much."

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford is staying positive as he aims for a safe return from a back injury, says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Rashford is set to miss at least six weeks after suffering a stress fracture in his back in United's FA Cup victory over Wolves on Wednesday.

His injury leaves United without their leading scorer and attacking talisman, with Rashford having netted 19 goals across all competitions so far this season.

Asked to provide an update on Rashford ahead of United's encounter with Burnley, Solskjaer said the 22-year-old is in good spirits, though could put no definitive timescale on his return.

"He won't be fit for this game, for sure. He'll be out for a while, he'll get the time he needs to recover," Solskjaer told a news conference.

"Marcus is good, he's a positive guy and he knows this is not what he wanted but he's always positive.

"He wants to get back as quickly as possible but as safely as possible, so we'll give him that time and when he feels ready and medically we've cleared him, he'll be back."

Reports had suggested Rashford had been playing through the pain of a single stress fracture for some time prior to aggravating the issue in the match against Wolves, but Solskjaer insisted the England forward was not carrying an injury. 

"It's not one he's had before, no," Solskjaer said. "He complained a little bit after the last time we played Burnley. 

"We managed it as well as we could. He had some days off with treatment, we took him off when we could, he didn't start every game and then suddenly this was a new injury, so he didn't have any injuries before then."

United academy players D'Mani Mellor and Largie Ramazani have been tipped as possible replacements for Rashford, though Solskjaer suggested it was not the right time for the youngsters to come in.

Instead, Mason Greenwood looks set to continue his development, while Solskjaer hinted United may look to bring in a player this month.

"Of course, we're always looking at improving the squad and seeing if there's anything out there, but nothing that I can talk about now," he said.

"It might be too soon for [Mellor and Ramazani] yet. Of course, Mason is going to get more chances now. Juan [Mata] will have to step up again, so there'll be more chances for the ones we have in the squad.

"We know we're stretched with numbers and the injuries we've had, but we'll cope with that."

Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard says he did not insist on a one-to-one conversation with Kepa Arrizabalaga after his latest error and still has faith in the Spain goalkeeper.

The Blues succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United on Saturday thanks to Isaac Hayden's winner deep into stoppage time.

Questions were once again asked of Kepa, as Hayden got a slight touch on Allan Saint-Maximin's delivery and, although it still appeared to be in the goalkeeper's path, he failed to react quickly enough to keep it out.

It was by no means the first mistake Kepa has made since joining from Athletic Bilbao in 2018 – he also struggled in a similar situation against Ajax this season in the Champions League.

Lampard is keen not to pile the pressure on the 25-year-old, however.

"I'll always defend the players and I think if there are individual errors, then players are the ones who stand and hold their hands up," Lampard told reporters on Monday ahead of Tuesday's Premier League clash with Arsenal.

"I think goalkeepers should be as well, it's quite an isolated, difficult job and the spotlight is really on individually. He's made good saves for us this season and at times he'll have wanted to do better, because he's still relatively young as a goalkeeper and wants to improve, as he should do. He can improve just like all the team can improve.

"I didn't have a direct conversation with him. I'm sensitive to the fact that goalkeepers are under the microscope and that can be tough, but if it's not going for you, like a striker, you have to just work hard and keep your head down and be humble about how you work.

"That's how I push everyone to work. He's a good goalkeeper, we know that. He's saved us points and then there's times when we look and go, 'is it an individual error or a team error?'

"And sometimes the goalkeeper takes the brunt if we haven't defended right as a team. I don't want to dwell on it. If it's not right, we need to make it better."

Lampard also jumped to the defence of his Manchester United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after it emerged Marcus Rashford is set to miss at least six weeks after aggravating a back problem.

The England international came on as a substitute against Wolves and was then forced off again as his injury developed into a double stress fracture, leading to criticism of Solskjaer for bringing him on even though he was involved in Juan Mata's winning goal.

"You can't criticise a manager for making a decision like that," Lampard said. "Rashford has been in incredible form, scored 19 goals and he's a huge factor in their team.

"Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but if you have a player who wants to play even with issues, then you have to make a decision.

"I've heard managers get slated when they turn away from the FA Cup and play a second-string team and now I hear him getting slated for bringing on one of their best players to try and win a game in the cup, so you can't have it both ways."

Having already lost key midfielders Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay to serious injuries, Manchester United now face the prospect of being without top scorer Marcus Rashford for the most important part of the season.

The England international aggravated a back injury during a second-half cameo against Wolves in the FA Cup third-round replay victory, and after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer downplayed United's worries, it was later confirmed to be much more serious than first thought.

Reports began to emerge during United's 2-0 defeat to Liverpool that Rashford had actually been playing through the pain and Solskjaer confirmed he suffered a double stress fracture against Wolves, meaning he could potentially be out for three months.

As such, Solskjaer acknowledged United might be forced into seeking "short-term" solutions in the transfer market, with Mason Greenwood and Anthony Martial their only recognisable forwards.

Below, we highlight some potential options.

Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund)

Spain international Alcacer has had a peculiar time at Dortmund. He managed to score 18 times in the Bundesliga last season even though he only started 11 matches, while he has five top-flight goals this term despite only six of his 11 appearances coming as a starter. While he is a completely different type of forward to Rashford, he does represent a kind of attacker United simply do not have, in that he is a poacher. Following the arrival of Erling Haaland – apparently a target of Solskjaer's before he joined BVB – Alcacer might be attainable.

Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain)

After falling out of favour at PSG, Uruguay striker Cavani has asked to leave before his contract expires at the end of the season, with Atletico Madrid and others said to be interested. A proven goalscorer and immensely experienced, Cavani would certainly provide United with a focal point they can aim for and play off – though his wages are not insignificant and he might not be entirely suited to counter-attacking football.

Mariano Diaz (Real Madrid)

Since returning to Madrid in 2018, Mariano has had a difficult time of it. Niggling injuries have impacted his availability and he has unsurprisingly struggled to make a telling contribution as a result. He is yet to feature in LaLiga this term, having fallen well down the pecking order – but that is not to say Mariano is a poor player. Quick, technically good and certainly capable of finding the net, he is perhaps rather more suited to United's style of play than Alcacer or Cavani.

Cedric Bakambu (Beijing Guoan)

In 2018, Bakambu cost Beijing Guoan €40million, the release fee in his contract with previous club Villarreal. The DR Congo striker had enjoyed a solid three-year spell at the Yellow Submarine, with his combination of athleticism, ability on the ball and finishing making him standout as a potential target for bigger clubs. He has continued to score on a regular basis in China and is starting to attract interest from Europe again, with Arsenal and Atletico Madrid apparently keeping tabs on him. United could do a lot worse than the former France youth international.

Promote from the academy

Solskjaer certainly can't be accused of neglecting the young talents coming through at the club. If he was to promote from within, rather than dip into the transfer market, D'Mani Mellor and Largie Ramazani would likely be the two frontrunners. Mellor is a 19-year-old forward who likes to drop deep and engage in sharp link-up play with his back to goal, while he is also a capable dribbler. Ramazani, 18, often operates a little more from wider positions, but the Belgium youth international has impressed for United's Under-23s this term with nine goals in 13 league appearances. Excellent on the ball and a possessor of explosive pace, Ramazani certainly seems to fit the mould Solskjaer likes his forwards to be.

Marcus Rashford has suffered a double stress fracture in his back and faces at least six weeks out, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed.

England international Rashford hobbled out of the midweek FA Cup win against Wolves, having come on as a substitute.

Solskjaer revealed after the match his striker had already been dealing with a back problem, although he was initially hopeful Rashford would play against Liverpool on Sunday.

Rashford missed the 2-0 defeat and is now facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, dealing a blow to both fifth-placed United, as their topscorer, and England ahead of Euro 2020.

"He's suffered a bad injury," Solskjaer told Sky Sports after the loss at Anfield.

"It's a stress fracture that happened against Wolverhampton, and it's not something that has happened before. It was there and then.

"It's unlucky for Marcus. He'll be out for a while for us. He won't be back until after the mid-season break [in mid-February].

"I don't know how long it is - I'm not a doctor - but normally a stress fracture is six weeks to heal and then he needs some rehab after that probably."

Solskjaer acknowledged United may now have to consider a loan move to bring in cover for Rashford, who has 14 Premier League goals to his name.

"We've had many, many injuries for big players for us this season," he said.

"Now Marcus, Anthony [Martial] has been out for months, Paul [Pogba] has been out for more than half the season, Scott [McTominay] has been out for months. It's just an unfortunate situation we're in.

"Because the window is open, we might look at some short-term deals as well. That could take us through until the summer.

"Desperately [need a signing]? Not desperately. Of course, we're looking at numbers as well. We've had many injuries.

"If the right one's there and it fits for us, we can buy. If there's loans available, it might be possible. But I've got players here as well who are chomping at the bit."

Marcus Rashford could be out of action for much of the next month with the back injury he sustained against Wolves, according to Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The striker was absent from the squad for Sunday's Premier League trip to Liverpool after failing to recover from the problem that forced him off during the 1-0 FA Cup third-round replay at Old Trafford.

There were some suggestions the injury was more serious than first feared, although Solskjaer insisted this week the club would do everything to help Rashford be ready for the match at Anfield.

However, speaking prior to the game, Solskjaer revealed United are likely to be without their leading goalscorer until after their mid-season break in February.

"He got a couple of knocks again, jolts when he came on against Wolverhampton, and he's aggravated his back," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"He's had some trouble before. We're going to give him time to recover and rest before we put him back on the pitch.

"He's always recovered quickly before, so let's hope he does that again.

"I wouldn't expect him to be back in the next few weeks. We've got a mid-season break, but I'm not sure we're going to see him before then."

After the meeting with Liverpool, United host Burnley in the league on Wednesday before an FA Cup trip to either Watford or Tranmere Rovers next Sunday.

They then face Manchester City away in the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final, trailing 3-1 from the first game at Old Trafford.

United face Wolves at home on February 1 and then expect to have 16 days off before heading to Chelsea, with the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with Club Brugge taking place three days later.

Marcus Rashford is not in the squad for Manchester United's Premier League clash with Liverpool at Anfield.

The forward misses Sunday's game after failing to recover from a back problem suffered after he came on as a substitute in the FA Cup third-round replay defeat of Wolves.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has named Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Andreas Pereira as United's attacking players in what appears to be a similar setup to the 3-5-2 with which they started the 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford in October.

There are suggestions Luke Shaw will join Victor Lindelof and new club captain Harry Maguire in a back three, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Brandon Williams as wing-backs, while Eric Bailly is fit enough only for the bench following his comeback from a serious knee injury.

Liverpool are unchanged from the 1-0 win at Tottenham, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield alongside Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum for Jurgen Klopp's side.

The Reds start the game 13 points clear at the top of the table, with two games in hand over nearest rivals Manchester City.

United are fifth, five points outside the top four and a huge 27 adrift of the league leaders.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to see Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood take up the mantle of Manchester United's last ruthless front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney.

One of United's finest modern forward lines led Alex Ferguson's side to two league titles, an EFL Cup, the Club World Cup and back-to-back Champions League finals, one of which they won, between 2007 and 2009.

Ronaldo and Tevez left for Real Madrid and Manchester City respectively that year and United have struggled since to form a similarly effective trident in attack.

However, there are encouraging signs around Rashford, Martial and Greenwood, who have scored more goals combined in all competitions this season than Liverpool trio Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

Solskjaer thinks it will take time to match the understanding of the Premier League leaders' attacking players but, ahead of Sunday's trip to Anfield, he believes in the potential of his forwards.

"The front three that they've got have been playing together for ages, not ages, but for seasons now," he said. "You can see the rotations, movements, the understanding between them, and we hope that our three get that understanding. I've probably only started them once together, the Newcastle United game, so we've got a way to go to get to the level of the three [at Liverpool], the understanding and consistency they have. But we scored four goals in that game [against Newcastle], so it's probably something I've got to look at more often.

"I believe in ours. We're going to add to them as well, definitely, but in the years to come I'm sure we'll see lots of them three. But Liverpool have scored more goals than us outside the front three so I'm not going to say ours are better than theirs or theirs are better than ours.

"We've got them on long contacts, developing into a very, very exciting front three. Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney were different, floating, but that's what we want as Man United supporters - you want to see them express themselves, go to places like Anfield and put fear into their defenders. But we've got Dan James as well, who adds to that, so I'm very excited about it."

Solskjaer agrees that United's goalscoring threat belies the insinuation made by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, after the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in October, that the Red Devils are overly defensive against their fierce rivals.

"I don't think it's an accusation. You take it as a compliment that they didn't create chances against us," Solskjaer said. "When the opposition manager is frustrated, that's a good sign for you as a manager. Of course, I think we've been closer to winning both those games, so I don't know what the problem has been."

Ashley Young is set to join Inter provided he passes a medical on Friday and Solskjaer confirmed there were no plans to sign a replacement full-back.

For now, the United boss is putting faith in young Brandon Williams to rise to the challenge of playing at Anfield.

"Does he look like I need to speak to him? I don't think so," Solskjaer replied when asked if Williams might need guidance ahead of a traditionally tempestuous match.

"He's been absolutely outstanding since he's come in. Every challenge we've put in front of him, he's tackled head on and he's only 19, had 10, 11 starts. He reminds me so much of the mentality of Gary Neville and I think he'll enjoy going to Anfield, put it that way."

There is continued speculation United are trying to finalise the signing of midfielder Bruno Fernandes, but Solskjaer would only say: "I can't tell you about any players that play for other teams. We're focusing on this game at the moment. That's my only concern."

With United's arrival expected to be greeted by Liverpool fans outside the ground, Solskjaer says he has no particular concerns about a hostile atmosphere.

"No safety fears, no," he said. "They want to try to intimidate us but as long as it's within the boundaries. I've been sat in a coach going into Europe or Anfield and whatever they shout and scream at you, you don't really notice.

"We need a very, very good performance to go there and win, but we beat Manchester City last month, we had the Paris Saint-Germain game – we need to get to the level of those performances definitely when you go away to a team that's top of the league.

"The last two performances we've had against Liverpool, we've played at Old Trafford twice, drawn twice and been closest to winning both those games, so we've got games to look back at that will give us lots of belief.

"if we perform to our best, we've got a chance to win."

With Liverpool looking likely to end a title drought stretching back to 1990, Solskjaer thinks such an unexpectedly long gap between league triumphs for their bitter rivals should serve as a warning to United.

"We're working hard to make sure it doesn't happen," he said when asked if he feared United, who last won the title in 2013, could experience a similar dry spell. 

"Let that be a lesson for us. They've been close a few times and we can't let ourselves for another 24 years without winning the league. I'm sure we won't. I believe in this club. We've started something that takes a little bit of time, but we'll get there."

Marcus Rashford is unlikely to be fit for Manchester United's clash with Liverpool on Sunday, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Rashford came off the bench and was involved in Juan Mata's winning goal just minutes later as United beat Wolves 1-0 in the FA Cup third-round replay.

The striker was forced off 10 minutes from time with an apparent back problem, however, with Solskjaer admitting the plan to use Rashford had "backfired".

Solskjaer later assured they would do everything possible to get Rashford fit for the trip to Anfield, but he is not convinced he will be ready.

"I can't tell you now," Solskjaer told reporters on Friday when asked whether Rashford would be available.

"We'll do some more checks and treatment with him today. I'm not going to hold my breath. But let's see.

"As I said with Harry [Maguire] a few weeks ago, of course we're going to give him the absolute amount of time to find out.

"We're going to do some more checks and treatment with him today. Yesterday, of course, was just a recovery day anyway and some treatment for him.

"I haven't seen him this morning, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I would probably think that he wouldn't be ready, but let's see. There's still 48 hours, more than that, so let's see."

This Sunday sees Premier League leaders Liverpool host Manchester United, rivals who sit 27 points below them in the table.

There has been a clear gulf in class between Jurgen Klopp's side, who have accrued a whopping 61 points from a possible 63 across 21 fixtures, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, who have suffered defeats at Watford, Bournemouth and Newcastle United already this term.

Yet one bright spark for United has been the form of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, an attacking duo who have combined for more goals than Liverpool pair Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Rashford faces a battle to be fit for the game having come off against Wolves in Wednesday's FA Cup replay due to a back injury, but just how do the quartet compare when fully fit, and how have they evolved in 2019-20? We crunched the numbers to find out.

 

RASHFORD AND MARTIAL: FROM PROFLIGATE TO POTENT

Salah (10) and Mane (11) have combined for 21 league goals (42 per cent of Liverpool's 50 goals), while Rashford (14) and Martial (8) have scored 22 (61 per cent of United's 36 goals).

The United duo's success in front of goal has come thanks to their ability to convert big chances. Excluding penalties, Rashford has scored eight of his 15 big chances, converting 53.8 per cent compared to 23.8 per cent last season.

Martial, with five goals from nine big chances, is even more efficient (55.6 per cent) and both United forwards have better big-chance conversion rates than Salah (50 per cent) and Mane (30 per cent).

Mane has had more big chances than the rest of the quartet, but having scored 15 of his 26 big chances in the 2018-19 league campaign he has netted only six of 20 this time around.

 

RASHFORD'S LEAP FORWARD

It is not just in front of goal where Rashford has shown an improvement and become a greater focus of United's attack.

The England international is averaging more touches per game this season (43.68 to 37.18), more touches in the opposition box per game (5.45 to 4.81) and has taken more shots (74) than any of Salah (66), Mane (49) or Martial (40).

Rashford switched between central and wide berths last term but is now firmly established on the left side of United's attack with a clear purpose.

The one statistic that perhaps outlines that most is that Rashford has attempted an astonishing 57 more dribbles than Salah this season.

 

ALEXANDER-ARNOLD ALTERS SALAH'S ROLE?

Last season only four players - Eden Hazard, Wilfried Zaha, Nathan Redmond and Raheem Sterling - completed more dribbles than Salah's 81, but in this campaign it's a different story.

The Reds forward has attempted just 49 - far fewer than Mane (67) - while he has completed fewer dribbles (23) than team-mates Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino.

Salah led the Premier League for touches in the box in 2018-19 (322), and only Sterling is ahead of him this time, but he has had far fewer touches overall than Mane (764 to 1,000) having led the Senegalese (1,820 to 1,807) in the previous campaign.

That might have something to do with right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold's ascent. Alexander-Arnold leads the league in touches (2,137) and is second in assists, showing that he, and not Salah, is now the focus of attacks down the Liverpool right.

A 27-POINT GAP, BUT SIMILAR ATTACKING STATISTICS

One glance at the table suggests there are few similarities between Klopp's runaway leaders and Solskjaer's Jekyll and Hyde outfit.

However, a more in-depth dive into the numbers shows there has actually been little to separate the two in many attacking senses.

Liverpool have created 258 chances to United's 241, and have only conjured up five more from open play and 10 from set-pieces.

The common theory is that United are far more effective on the counter attack, yet both teams have scored four times from fast breaks, with Solskjaer's men having 20 fast breaks to Liverpool's 18.

A big difference between the two is the quality of opportunities created, Liverpool accumulating 56 big chances to United's 34, which points to a clear lack of creativity in Solskjaer's ranks. Couple that with their defensive fragility (United's four clean sheets to Liverpool's eight) and it becomes more obvious just why the two are miles apart in the table.

Liverpool are racing clear at the top of the table and it will surely take a miracle for the Reds not to win their first Premier League title.

Jurgen Klopp's side face old rivals Manchester United on Sunday at Anfield, with the Red Devils the only team to have taken points off Liverpool so far this season.

Unbeaten in 38 Premier League matches, Liverpool are overwhelming favourites, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer oversaw a 4-0 win over struggling Norwich City on Saturday.

Can United stall Liverpool's procession, or will Klopp's men continue their stroll towards Premier League glory?

Manchester United will do "everything" to ensure Marcus Rashford is fit to face Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.

Rashford came on in United's 1-0 FA Cup third-round replay win over Wolves at Old Trafford, but he lasted only 16 minutes before being replaced having sustained a blow to the back following a challenge from Matt Doherty on Wednesday.

Though Rashford was on the field when Juan Mata scored the winner, Solskjaer conceded the decision to bring him on "backfired" as he sustained an injury four days before the trip to Anfield.

Rashford has scored 14 goals for United in the Premier League this term and Solskjaer said the club would do all they could to get the 22-year-old fit for the weekend.

"He's a quick healer and he'll play through some pain, definitely, if he's capable, if it's not a bad, bad injury," Solskjaer told reporters at a news conference.

"But we've seen that he's struggled lately - but more when he's been tired. 

"He wasn't on long enough to be tired so I think it might have been something that just happened there and then.

"He's been absolutely top this season so we'll do everything we can to get him fit for Sunday.

"If he's not then we'll play without him."

Rashford himself tweeted after the match to reveal he attempted to carry on, while congratulating his team-mates on booking a fourth-round tie with either Watford or Tranmere Rovers.

"Never want to feel like I’ve let my team-mates, the club and most importantly the fans down so did my very best to carry on tonight and was gutted to come off," he said.

"Top work from the lads to get into the next round"

United were already without key midfield duo Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba, as well as defenders Eric Bailly and Luke Shaw on Wednesday, yet Solskjaer was not about to bemoan an increasing casualty list.

"It's football, I'll never ever complain about all the injuries we've got," he added.

"That's just part and parcel of it and at the moment that's Marcus. He's been available and fit all season so you can't complain."

Liverpool are storming towards a maiden Premier League title having taken 61 points from a possible 63.

The only points they dropped came at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign when Rashford scored in a 1-1 draw in October.

Solskjaer is therefore confident his team will have a gameplan to make life difficult for Jurgen Klopp's Reds.

"Of course it's hard but I've had Liverpool here twice and we've drawn both," said the Norwegian.

"Of course we want to win those but I think we've found a nice way of playing against them and we've deserved the points in both of them."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledged his decision to introduce Marcus Rashford as a substitute against Wolves "backfired" as the Manchester United star hobbled off to leave his involvement in Sunday's clash with Liverpool in doubt.

Rashford came off the bench three minutes before Juan Mata scored the only goal of Wednesday's FA Cup third-round replay win at Old Trafford.

But the England striker lasted little longer as he went down following a challenge with Matt Doherty, attempting to play on with an apparent back problem before he had to be taken off 10 minutes from time.

Solskjaer, who said there were "no updates" on a transfer breakthrough, confirmed Rashford had been dealing with a back problem, and the manager was hopeful his risky change would not cost United ahead of a trip to Anfield.

"Yeah, that backfired," Solskjaer told BT Sport. "But you've got to go for them once in a while.

"It seems like he's got a knock there and he couldn't run. Let's test him the next couple of days and hopefully he'll be okay for Sunday. I don't know.

"He's struggled a little bit with a couple of knocks with his back lately, and he got another one which didn't help."

Goalscorer Mata said of team-mate Rashford: "Hopefully it's not too bad and he can be ready [for Liverpool].

"He's on fire, scoring in every game. It was a shame that he couldn't be on the pitch for more minutes, but hopefully it's nothing."

The midfielder added on the cup win: "[Wolves] are a difficult team. They play in a certain way and they do it very well. They are very well organised and difficult to break down.

"But definitely today is a good result for us. It's been a good couple of days and now we have a big one coming, so hopefully we can keep it up."

Manchester United lost Marcus Rashford to injury as they beat Wolves 1-0 in an FA Cup third-round replay at Old Trafford.

Star striker Rashford started from the bench just four days before a crunch Premier League clash with leaders Liverpool, but he was introduced as a substitute three minutes before Juan Mata scored the only goal on Wednesday.

The England international appeared to be nursing his back and, after initially attempting to play on, had to be replaced with 10 minutes remaining.

The issue provided a disappointing end for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose side came through a replay after drawing the first clash 0-0 earlier this month against the opponent that knocked them out of the cup last year.

A lively opening saw John Ruddy crucially bat the ball to safety as Daniel James bore down on goal following Mata's gorgeous lofted pass, before Raul Jimenez twisted into space in the United area but shot straight at Sergio Romero.

United were fortunate to see a Wolves goal ruled out in the 10th minute, as Fred hopelessly hacked a clearance into the legs of Nemanja Matic, allowing Jimenez to challenge Harry Maguire and inadvertently control with his arm before Pedro Neto slid the ball into the net.

Ruddy saved low from Mata and blocked bravely from James either side of Matt Doherty heading against the base of the left-hand post after a short Wolves corner in an even first half.

James drilled across the face of goal early following the restart, but second-half chances were sporadic until the decisive goal.

United responded to their counter-attacking opponents with a break of their own, Anthony Martial timing his pass well to keep Mata onside and he produced a delicate dink over Ruddy.

However, then came the Rashford blow, the forward going down following a challenge with Doherty and never regaining full fitness, hobbling off for Jesse Lingard to provide Solskjaer with concern before the Liverpool clash.

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