Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was indebted to Mason Greenwood for rescuing a draw for Manchester United against West Ham after Paul Pogba's costly first-half handball.

Pogba conceded a penalty for blocking a Declan Rice shot with raised arms, allowing Michail Antonio to put the visitors ahead at Old Trafford in first-half injury time.

Greenwood scored his 17th goal of the season to claim a point for a jaded-looking United, who went third in the Premier League, a point above fifth-placed Leicester City ahead of their meeting on Sunday.

Solskjaer accepted Pogba "should've took it in the mush" rather than react with his hands, but the United boss was full of praise for the "exceptional" Greenwood.

"He's bailed us out a few times and he's done it again. He's been absolutely top class since we gave him opportunities," Solskjaer told reporters.

"I think Cardiff City, last game of last season, was his first start and he was our best player in that game and he's just grown and grown in confidence and belief and he trusts himself. His talents, his qualities, his attributes, they actually were at the highest level. 

"You see him in training, you expect him to hit the target. Given the chance he had first half and [Angelo] Ogbonna blocked it, that's also a very good strike, a fantastic hit on the ball. The kid's just going from strength to strength.

"You know when he's had a good sleep and when he's stayed up late playing PlayStation because he might not hit the ball as cleanly in training! What he did today, he does that time and time and time again, every time with finishing, you see an exceptional finisher and you're not surprised when it hits the back of the net. I've probably run out of superlatives for him because he's that good a finisher."

He added: "On the penalty, it's a natural reaction. Paul's held his hand up knowing he should've took it in the mush instead, but it's a natural reaction if that ball comes flying at you at a hundred miles an hour.

"It wouldn't have made a difference anyway."

The draw means United need only avoid defeat at Leicester on Sunday to guarantee a top-four finish, something that had looked highly unlikely midway through the season when they were eighth in the table and 11 points behind the Foxes.

Having seen his side lose domestic cup semi-finals to Manchester City and Chelsea this term, Solskjaer is looking forward to the prospect of a one-off, decisive match.

"When we started after lockdown, we had to go for it, we really had to go for it and go for goal difference, go for points, and the effort's been fantastic, and results have been fantastic," said Solskjaer.

"Of course, you'd like to win against Southampton, conceding in the last second and here today you concede a penalty in the last second of the first half. But we've given ourselves a fantastic opportunity and a great starting point for Sunday. We've gone out in two semi-finals and now we've got a final, so we've got to embrace that – finally we're in one! 

"We pinpointed the Leicester game as, if we have a chance going there, beat them big, we'd be delighted, but then we caught up points, caught up goal difference, and we've given ourselves a fantastic opportunity, but we know we're going to play against a good team. They are very, very dangerous on different aspects, they can do different things tactically, so we'll enjoy the 24 hours extra we have between this one and Sunday and we'll be ready, physically and mentally."

After years of indifference and relative failure compared to their illustrious recent past, the ‘old Manchester United’ may just have emerged from their slumber. 

The club were on a 19-game unbeaten streak before Sunday's FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea (W14 D5), their best run of form without a loss in all competitions since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013  

Bruno Fernandes, the Red Devils’ January acquisition is rightly getting the praise as the catalyst in midfield. After all, the Portuguese player started his career at United with only one loss in 17 games in all competitions (W12 D5), scoring nine times and assisting a further eight goals. But the emergence of Mason Greenwood on the right has also helped Manchester United play some of their most eye-catching football this season. 

Solskjaer is preaching Manchester United’s well-established policy of using younger players where possible, using the youngest starting XI in the Premier League this season on average at 25 years and 98 days.

The Norwegian has given 2020 minutes to teenage players this season, with Greenwood accounting for over half (1145). 

Only two teenage Premier League players have been given more playing time this season than him, Max Aarons who turned 20 in January and Bukayo Saka who has made an impression at Arsenal for his number of assists this season. 
 


Greenwood, who became Manchester United’s youngest ever Premier League starter on the final day of last season against Cardiff City (17 years and 223 days), has had to bide his time, at least in the league. 

Daniel James’ arrival from Swansea City last summer meant a competitor on the right for Greenwood and the Welshman made an immediate impact for United, scoring in three of his first four Premier League games. 

However since then, James has scored just once in 40 matches, against LASK in the Europa League in March, with that strike being his only direct goal contribution in 21 club matches in 2020. Greenwood used the Europa League as a proving ground in 2019, scoring four times in the group stage for United, as well as becoming United’s youngest European scorer ever with a goal against Astana (17 years 353 days). 

Those performances ensured a place in the thoughts of Solskjaer long term. 

Greenwood has made 19 Premier League appearances as a substitute for United this season, the most by any player for the club in a Premier League season. If anyone knows the importance of cameos, then it’s probably Solskjaer, who made his own name for the Red Devils in that manner. 

James’ downturn in form and Greenwood’s rise through the ranks has seen Solskjaer opt for the latter more regularly since the restart, given his superior contribution to goals, as well as being nearly as creative on a per-90 basis across the campaign. 


James arguably prefers to run into space whereas Greenwood is happier running at defenders, so both offer alternatives to the United manager. 

James does carry the ball an average of 14.2m, the best average figure in the Premier League this season for any player who has played more than 700 minutes, showing an ability to progress the ball forward. However, 11% of Greenwood’s carries this season have resulted in a shot from the youngster, compared to just 5% for James, showing a desire from Greenwood to instigate the attack rather than be just part of it. 

Greenwood’s 10 Premier League starts since the beginning of December have yielded a return of six goals and one assist.

Based on expected goals, Greenwood should have scored 2.5 non-penalty goals in the Premier League this season but has nine to his name. Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fares better in this regard, with team-mate Anthony Martial also in the top five. 

However, Greenwood’s return from his total of shots is far above what is expected (241% higher), suggesting that his overperformance over this short period of time is not sustainable long-term. There was a hint of this in his performance against Southampton as he was effectively shut out of the match by Ryan Bertrand. 
 


Regardless, Greenwood’s knack of finding the target from the same area of the field is reaping rewards, with six of his nine goals coming from a similar position, right off-centre from the penalty spot. Two more come from the opposite side, with one of the nine coming from inside the six-yard box.



Should he keep up his impressive performances, he could be looking at becoming the first player since Michael Owen in 1997/98 to score 10+ goals in a Premier League season aged 18 or under.

Robbie Fowler is the only other player to do this in a Premier League season, with Wayne Rooney the last person to net nine times aged 18 or under. It isn’t bad company to keep. 
 


Greenwood’s 32 games before turning 19 are comfortably the most for a Manchester United player in the Premier League and 13 more than team-mate Marcus Rashford who burst onto the scene four years prior (19 games before 19). 

Greenwood’s minutes before his 19th birthday are lower than the likes of Rashford and Ryan Giggs, mainly due to his use as a substitute earlier in 2019/20, but it is higher than Cristiano Ronaldo. 
 


Only three names in Manchester United’s post-war history have scored more goals in all competitions than Greenwood before turning 19, including the legendary George Best.

Greenwood has until October to try to surpass Norman Whiteside’s tally of 26 goals, with plenty of time to move his way up the rankings.



The hype around Greenwood seems unavoidable, especially with the ease in which he’s slotted into an attacking triumvirate with Rashford and Martial, both of whom have experience of high expectations early on from the Old Trafford support.  

Martial made his United debut in 2015 at 19, scoring from the bench against Liverpool and twice against Southampton a game later.

Rashford was handed his first appearance for the club after the Frenchman was injured in the warm-up against FC Midtjylland and duly scored twice. He then followed that up with a brace on his Premier League debut, so by comparison Greenwood has been given the slow burn experience towards stardom. 

All three have hit 15+ goals for Manchester United this season (Rashford and Martial both have 22 to Greenwood’s 16), with all three having their best scoring seasons in their career. 

The trio’s goals account for 57% of United’s total in all competitions this season, showing how important all three are in their own way. Their minutes per goal figures all sit around the same range – Greenwood scoring every 140 minutes, Rashford 141 and Martial 144.  

This is the first time since 2012/13 that Manchester United have had three scorers bag 15+ goals each. However, it’s arguable that the last time United had a trio capable playing together this cohesively was in 2008, with the Champions League-winning combination of Carlos Tevez, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo as a front-three.

That trio was heavily reliant on Ronaldo’s outstanding campaign in which he scored 42 goals in 49 games. 



The early signs of this fledging trio are encouraging. Martial, Rashford and Greenwood have started together nine times since November, with Solskjaer reluctant to experiment on the combination too soon in Greenwood’s development. 

In three of those matches (Partizan Belgrade in November, Newcastle in December and Bournemouth in July) all three players have found the net. Across those nine fixtures, the trio have scored a combined 22 goals (2.4 per game). That’s a better rate than the 2007/08 trio, who scored between them an average of 2.1 goals per game when they all started, with all three scoring in four separate matches in the season. 

As evidenced by the match against Southampton and Crystal Palace, when one is perceived to be having a weaker game, the other two step up, as Greenwood failed to score but both Rashford and Martial provided finishes in each match. 



By looking at the expected goals maps since the Premier League restarted, it’s clear that each player has a defined role but equally some flexibility within that. Martial is trusted to stay centrally and finish chances within the box, with Rashford and Greenwood trying efforts from further back.

Rashford has acted as another linkman in this formation after Fernandes, providing three assists since the Premier League resumed (all for Martial). However he’s performing marginally below his expected goals numbers (excluding penalties, 3.3 xG, 2 goals scored). 




Whether he intended for it to happen as soon as it has, Solskjaer appears to have stumbled upon his ideal XI with a blistering attack ably bolstered by a balanced midfield of Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic sitting deep. 

With the top four race intensifying, it will be interesting to see if Manchester United’s manager is willing to deviate or keep his faith in United’s new fledglings.

Arsenal may get an opportunity to sign Philippe Coutinho, while Mason Greenwood is set to be rewarded by Manchester United.

Coutinho is expected to leave Barcelona permanently this close season after a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

A stunning swap deal could see the playmaker end up at Emirates Stadium.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OFFER ARSENAL COUTINHO FOR GUENDOUZI

Barcelona are in talks to send Coutinho to Arsenal in exchange for Matteo Guendouzi, according to Foot Mercato.

Coutinho has struggled to have an impact at Barca, while Guendouzi seems set for an Arsenal exit.

Former Liverpool star Coutinho has been heavily linked with a return to the Premier League.

ROUND-UP

- Greenwood is set to be rewarded for his breakthrough season at Old Trafford. The Mirror reports the forward, who has scored 16 goals this campaign, is set to be offered a new deal to double his wages at Manchester United.

- Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico has been linked with a move away. Goal reports Atletico Madrid have joined the race for the Argentina international, who is also said to be a target for Chelsea.

- Manchester City could be set to sign a Brazilian teenager. According to the Daily Mail, City are in talks with Gremio over a £4.5million (€5m) deal for midfielder Diego Rosa.

- Compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, Joelson Fernandes is linked with several European heavyweights. A Bola reports Arsenal are leading the race for the Sporting CP forward, with Barcelona and Juventus also said to be interested.

- West Ham are preparing to make changes. The Sun reports they are open to offers for Manuel Lanzini and Fabian Balbuena ahead of next season.

- Amid apparent interest from the Bundesliga, Timothy Fosu-Mensah is set to be given a chance to earn a new contract at Manchester United, according to The Sun.

Mason Greenwood is a doubt to face Crystal Palace on Thursday after being left with a damaged ankle by Oriol Romeu's challenge on Monday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says. 

Greenwood was caught late by Romeu in an incident that went unpunished by referee Chris Kavanagh during Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Southampton at Old Trafford. 

Manager Solskjaer, who was unhappy to see the challenge escape further punishment through a VAR review, now fears the in-form 18-year-old will not be available for the Premier League clash at Selhurst Park. 

Luke Shaw twisted his ankle in the same match and replacement Brandon Williams sustained a head injury, leading to substantial second-half injury time in which Michael Obafemi scored Southampton's equaliser. 

"I'll give Luke as much time as possible – him and Mason, their ankles are swollen and a bit blown up," Solskjaer told MUTV. "I'll give them as much recovery time as possible to give them a chance.  

"Brandon should be fine, he has a gash over the eye but if he can see out of it, then...

"We've not trained obviously this morning [Wednesday] yet but we'll hopefully have two, maybe all three of them."

Solskjaer added of Greenwood, who played on until the 84th minute: "In the heat of the moment, he'll play on and the adrenaline gets you going, and then you get a little bit of reaction after.

"I said after the game that my ankles were a bit weak after many years of football. But obviously Mason carried on and I think it should have been looked upon by the referee, definitely."

Greenwood has played in all seven of United's matches since their campaign restarted on June 19, scoring four goals in his past four starts.

The Saints draw means United are fifth in the table, behind Leicester City on goal difference with three matches remaining.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has named the same Manchester United starting XI for a fifth successive Premier League match as Southampton visit Old Trafford, with David de Gea reaching a personal landmark and Mason Greenwood closing in on an historic record. 

United have recorded five straight victories in all competitions since a 1-1 league draw at Tottenham upon English football's resumption 

Key to those successes have been the midfield trio of Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes, while Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have led the line to good effect. 

Greenwood has been particularly prominent since the Premier League returned, the 18-year-old scoring four goals in his three most recent matches. 

Those have taken him to 16 for the season across all competitions, putting him just one off the club record for goals scored by a teenager in a single campaign, with George Best, Wayne Rooney and Brian Kidd having hit 17 each.

As for De Gea, the Spanish goalkeeper is selected to make his 400th appearance for United, who can go third in the table if they win at home.

Much like their opponents, Saints have also hit a groove of late and come into this fixture unbeaten in three. 

Ralph Hasenhuttl names the same starting XI for a third game on the bounce, with the in-form Danny Ings – who has scored four goals in his previous five outings – leading the line and continuing his bid for the Premier League Golden Boot.

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.


There had already been murmurings of a potential superstar coming through Manchester United's academy, but in December 2018, the noise around Mason Greenwood became that bit louder.

Chelsea had been unbeaten in the FA Youth Cup since 2013 before Greenwood was unleashed on them, the then-17-year-old netting a hat-trick in a 4-3 win.

That treble showcased much of what is deemed special about Greenwood. For his first, he chased down the goalkeeper, forced an error and then showed composure to fire past him and a defender on the line.

He doubled his tally from just inside the area, racing on to a throughball and coolly placing a right-footed effort into the bottom-right corner after creating space with a stepover.

His hat-trick was completed with another fine effort. After beating a defender to an underhit pass, he ran at the centre-back, darted to his left and picking out the far corner with his left foot.

Work-rate, close control, exceptional finishing and remarkable ability on either foot – it was all evidence of a complete centre-forward in-the-making.

Fittingly, Greenwood's dazzling display came the day after Jose Mourinho's final match in charge of the first-team – the teenager's promise a hopeful ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy period for the club.

Matic in awe of teenager

Fast-forward 19 months, Greenwood has played 42 times for United in 2019-20, while his recent form has led to suggestions he will surely be in England's squad for the delayed European Championships next year.

Not only has Greenwood made a strong impression on fans and pundits, but his team-mates are also well aware of his prodigious talents. Nemanja Matic has seen a particularly significant development in him this year alone.

Matic told Stats Perform News: "There are not many players his age of that level – he has this natural instinct for goals.

"There is a big difference from now from to six months ago. He is young and he is changing, and his approach to training and to everything is different. He's a great person, great for the changing room.

"He is quiet, I have to say, but the boy is always very positive and we are happy to have him in the team."

Mourinho's ousting and the appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who had previously coached young players at the club, was seen as a potentially critical moment for the next generation coming through at Old Trafford.

While it's impossible to know how Greenwood's career would have progressed with Mourinho, it is fair to suggest he wouldn't have given him his first-team debut in a Champions League knockout clash away to Paris Saint-Germain with United chasing a goal to secure an historic turnaround.

Greenwood then made his first start on the final day of the 2018-19 season. Although United suffered a dire 2-0 home defeat to relegated Cardiff City, the teenager was comfortably the best player on the pitch.

From that point, it almost seemed a certainty Greenwood was to become a regular squad member this term, and he's finally cemented a place on the right side of the attack since football's resumption.

The new Van Persie? Or Robben?

Greenwood's build, running style and technique have drawn understandable comparisons with former United star Robin van Persie, though he reminds Matic more of another Dutchman.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on the lad, but if I had to say someone [Greenwood reminds me of], it would be [Arjen] Robben," Matic said.

However, some might argue Greenwood is poised to become even more of a nuisance to defenders given his unpredictable skillset – after all, much has been said about Greenwood's ambipedal abilities, and in the United youth teams he was known to take free-kicks and penalties with either foot.

While being "two-footed" is by no means a rare concept, Greenwood does appear to be a special case. His recent goals against Bournemouth and Aston Villa are proof of that, with the England Under-21 international hitting two ferocious efforts into the net with his supposedly weaker right foot.

Such unpredictability can only help Greenwood, while Matic also feels having someone like Marcus Rashford in the team will give the teenager a good example to follow.

"I think that when he has seen players who came through the academy, he has seen Marcus as a role model and he has tried to follow those steps, it was easier too for him to see that someone can achieve big things coming from the academy, so I am happy for him," he added.

Best and Rooney in touching distance

"It is important to have players from the academy," continued Matic, a firm believer of giving opportunities to youngsters. "They are making big players, good people, it's important they are good people for the changing room."

But the Serbian stressed the need for those players to be ready for the opportunities, adding: "The expectation from our fans is high and they have to be ready to play at the highest level."

It's fair to say no one is doubting Greenwood's credentials anymore, and the data highlights his impressive early impact.

With 16 goals, he is United's third-highest scorer this term behind Rashford and Anthony Martial, both of whom have 20, but Greenwood nets with a more impressive frequency at one every 129 minutes (Rashford – 142 mins, Martial – 147).

His conversion rate of 22 percent is identical to Martial's and an improvement on Rashford's 17 per cent, but it's in the expected goals (xG) metric where Greenwood's finishing abilities are best highlighted.

From the chances that have fallen to him, Greenwood would ordinarily be expected to have scored eight times this season, but his actual goals haul is double that.

By comparison, Martial's xG is five under his actual total at 15 and Rashford's is 23, three higher than the 20 he has scored.

Add to that, he is just two goals shy of setting a new record for goals scored by a teenager for United in a single season (George Best, Brian Kidd and Wayne Rooney all got 17).

"The players that have come through, Marcus and Mason, they have come with a lot of qualities and are ready at the highest level and [this] shows the academy can work well."

Matic's assessment appears to be on the money – as does Greenwood.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not believe teenage star Mason Greenwood will suffer burnout after emerging as a key man at Old Trafford.

The 18-year-old striker has netted four times in United's past three Premier League games, including a wonderful effort in the 3-0 victory at Aston Villa on Thursday.

Greenwood has formed a formidable attacking trident with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial with the threesome set to start again as United continue their challenge to finish in the top four when they host Southampton on Monday.

Such is Greenwood's form, it seems unlikely he will be afforded any rest with United also challenging for silverware in the Europa League and FA Cup.

Solskjaer has no concerns that burnout will become a factor, though.

He told reporters at his news conference: "At that age, you've got so much energy, no fear, you just want to go and play football.

"If we had a day off, he'd go and play football with his mates. I'm not worried about Mason this season; we just need to look after him in his whole career.

"He's a fantastic boy, he loves football and gets the result and rewards for his hard work."

Greenwood has long been tipped for stardom and Solskjaer was not surprised by his emergence, adding: "Not really, we know what he's capable of and always trusted him to be a part of this squad and chip in with performances and goals.

"We've seen it every day, I've seen it since I came to the club, he's just a natural footballer and when you put natural good footballers with better footballers that gives him more opportunities to show his qualities.

"The club know what they're doing when they’re educating players."

With Greenwood taking centre stage, Rashford has been able to focus fully on his game after a lockdown period in which his charity work rightly earned him many plaudits.

Solskjaer has been encouraged with the recent progress made by the England international.

"I am very happy with him," he said. "Physically he's coping well with the games, mixing up his game and making defenders think.

"Marcus has got all the attributes to be a top forward, you can see with our players he suddenly pops up on the right, left, and you want that rotation between them but also the discipline to stick out wide and create the space for others.

"Sometimes you get an assist in my head when you're creating space and making runs for others."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Paul Pogba has returned to a different Manchester United team and is back enjoying his football.

Pogba scored his first goal since April last year as United extended their unbeaten run to 17 matches with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa in the Premier League on Thursday.

The France international is forming a fine combination with Bruno Fernandes in midfield, and may yet re-sign with United, where he is contracted until 2021 with the club holding an option for an extra year.

Solskjaer praised Pogba and said the midfielder had come back to a different team after returning from an ankle injury in June.

"We've still got a contract with Paul and I've said it so many times I think he's a fantastic person, fantastic player, one of the best midfielders in the world," the United manager told Sky Sports.

"I think he's proving that he's getting better and better because he's been out for so long which is natural. You can see he's enjoying himself.

"The team is a different team to the one he, called it left, when injured. Now the focus, the attitude, everything's miles better in that dressing room."

Fernandes opened the scoring from the penalty spot against Villa before Mason Greenwood netted his fourth goal in three games.

Solskjaer believes there is even more to come from Greenwood, who has 16 goals this season.

"He's 18. Of course he can get better if he keeps on doing the right things and he loves football, he's a footballer, natural footballer," he said.

"He's been in the academy since he was a little boy, his dad showed me a picture of the two of us when he was seven when I took my little one into one of the academy centres.

"He's been in the club for so long, he knows what we want from him and he knows that we believe in him."

Sitting a point behind fourth-placed Leicester City, United will look to continue their fine form when they host Southampton on Monday.

Paul Pogba vowed to help Mason Greenwood reach the top after the Manchester United teenager scored again at Aston Villa.

Greenwood, 18, dispatched another brilliant long-range strike into the net in United's 3-0 win at Villa Park to take his tally to four goals in three games.

He is only the second teenager, after United's all-time top scorer Wayne Rooney, to score in three successive Premier League matches for the club.

Pogba, who scored United's third to end his 15-month wait for a Premier League goal, has been impressed with what he has seen from Greenwood so far and the World Cup winner thinks there is even more to come.

"It's very good," the Frenchman told Sky Sports of playing alongside Greenwood.

"I enjoy to see them play in front, I enjoy this kid in training and in the game, and I will keep pushing him to be at the top.

"He has so much to do again. He can do even more than what he's doing right now. He's just this talent and he's shown that he can play in this team."

The in-form Bruno Fernandes was the other scorer as United extended their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions.

They became the first club in Premier League history to win four consecutive games by three goals or more and closed the gap to fourth-placed Leicester City to just one point.

"We're really pleased with ourselves but we know we have to carry on as well," Pogba added.

"We talk before the game, we talk in training, that we have to carry on. That's what Manchester is. It's a big club and we want to keep the level up always.

"The performances today and the past few weeks, they are very good and they are the standard of Manchester United."

Pogba's long-term future at United looked unclear as recently as January but he appears to be enjoying life with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side again after fighting back to fitness.

"Right now, I've been injured for a very long time – I focused on myself and getting back and helping the team as much as I can," he said when quizzed on being happier at the club.

"This year we have two goals – to go for the Europa League and FA Cup. So we focus on that."

Paul Pogba scored his first Premier League goal in 15 months as Manchester United broke a Premier League record in a 3-0 victory at Aston Villa.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side became the first in the division's history to win four successive matches by a margin of three goals or more as they extended their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions.

Bruno Fernandes set them on their way by converting a controversial penalty, before Mason Greenwood took his tally to four goals in three games prior to the break.

Pogba picked out the bottom corner of the net from a Fernandes corner in the 58th minute to leave United one point outside the top four.

Despite United's recent purple patch, it was Villa who began brighter and Jack Grealish missed the target with a volley early on from a back-post Ezri Konza cross.

They came closer still when Trezeguet dispossessed Pogba and bent a low effort against the outside of the post.

Yet, a minute later, United had a penalty. Fernandes attempted a double drag-back to go beyond Konza, but his left leg came down into the defender, an act that referee Jon Moss deemed worthy of a spot-kick.

The contentious decision stood after a VAR review and it was Fernandes, rather than Marcus Rashford, who stepped up to slot home United's record-equalling 13th Premier League penalty of the season.

Greenwood and Fernandes then both came close before the former continued his fine scoring streak by blasting home right-footed in first-half stoppage time.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka really should have added the third early in the second half with a header that missed the target, and although he could not register his first goal of the season, Pogba soon did.

Fernandes picked out the Frenchman on the edge of the box from a corner and the World Cup winner steered his effort inside the post.

Pogba's compatriot Anthony Martial came close to adding a fourth - firing against the woodwork - but relegation-threatened Villa suffered no further misery.

 

What does it mean? Free-scoring United continue rich vein of form

Villa had good opportunities to open the scoring - and they may feel aggrieved at the manner in which United went ahead - but once Fernandes slotted in the penalty only one team looked like winning.

United are two points behind third-placed Chelsea and one behind Leicester City in fourth, and they still have to play the Foxes. In this form, it is hard to imagine them not finishing in the top four.

Brilliant Bruno

The impact January signing Fernandes has had on United is clear to see and this was another awesome display from the playmaker.

He has now had 28 goal involvements in 27 league goals this season with Sporting CP and United, scoring 15 and providing 13 assists.

Mings not merciless

England international Tyrone Mings was the latest target for Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane's ire at half-time, the ex-United captain ripping into the Villa defender for not closing down Greenwood.

Anyone who has seen Greenwood of late knows he possess a venomous shot from distance and Mings' inability to close the teenager down was emblematic of Villa's problems.

What's next?

United will hope to make it 18 unbeaten against Southampton at Old Trafford on Monday, while Villa will see the visit of Crystal Palace on Sunday as a more realistic chance to pick up points.

Paul Pogba is relishing playing alongside Bruno Fernandes and Manchester United's in-form attackers, with their "beautiful" link-up play a joy to behold for the Frenchman.

United have extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches across all competitions since returning from the coronavirus-enforced break last month and their forwards have played a significant role in that.

Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have scored eight goals between them already, while Fernandes has added another four and also grabbed a pair of assists.

Pogba, too, has impressed since the resumption, coming back into the side after missing the majority of the first part of the campaign through injury, and now there is talk of a possible contract extension for the Real Madrid-linked midfielder.

While his long-term future remains a little uncertain for the time being, there is no doubt Pogba is enjoying life at United, with his slightly deeper role giving him the opportunity to look on and savour the attacking talents at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's disposal.

"From behind I just enjoy it. I'm enjoying just watching Bruno, Rashford, Martial and Mason, who all played the last game, and seeing them score goals," he told United's official website ahead of Thursday's trip to Aston Villa.

"You just keep applauding, it's beautiful. They make me enjoy football every time!

"As well though, there is the defensive work that people don't talk about – they do it. The pressing - they do it. That's what you maybe don't see that much.

"Football fans who know football see that and that's the difference that we have and it's great to see them at their best.

"I think it's about the mentality – the attacking and defending that they do every time – that helps us, it helps the midfielders and the defenders and obviously the talent speaks for itself - the goals and the action and the football, everything."

Pogba believes Fernandes and United's frontline all have the desire to keep pushing themselves for more – a trait which makes them even more dangerous.

"For example, Martial scored three goals, his first hat-trick, then he goes again, you have to carry on. He wants to take another ball home, you know," Pogba continued.

"You have to have this mentality, score a goal and do it again and again… Bruno, Rashy [Rashford], Mason. If you've got two goals, great, but go for three, why not? You have to keep this mentality, keep a clean sheet too. We want to keep working on this and we have the mentality to do it.

"That's also the mentality of this club, it's always been like that. We're never satisfied with one trophy or one game we win or two games or 10 games, you want more, you always want more. That's what makes Manchester United the biggest club, for me, in England."

Victory for United on Thursday will take them to within a point of fourth-placed Leicester City, who Solskjaer's men will face on the final day of the Premier League season.

Manchester United teenage sensation Mason Greenwood is ready for an England call-up amid his fine form at Old Trafford, insisted manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Greenwood, 18, scored twice as red-hot United defeated relegation-threatened Bournemouth 5-2 in the Premier League on Saturday.

The highly rated forward – who has drawn comparisons to former United star Robin van Persie – has netted 15 goals across all competitions this season, including eight in the Premier League.

Solskjaer backed Greenwood to make the step up to Gareth Southgate's England squad.

"When you play for Man United, I think that's a test that's good enough and difficult enough," said Solskjaer, whose United are in the midst of a 16-game unbeaten streak.

"If you can handle playing for Man United then you can handle playing for any team and Mason's got the qualities that not many others have.

"So he could play for England full team or Under-21s, I don't really mind. I know he's doing well for us and it's great to have him here.

"Mason's a naturally good finisher, so he'll always score goals. He's a humble boy, he wants to learn, he listens and he works hard.

"Mason is one of the best if not the best finisher I have worked with and seen. He is so calm."

United, who have not lost since January, are fifth in the Premier League and two points behind Chelsea in the race for Champions League qualification with five games remaining.

The Red Devils are next in action away to lowly Aston Villa on Thursday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has insisted it is too early to compare Mason Greenwood to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo following the teenage forward's brace in Manchester United's 5-2 win over Bournemouth.

Greenwood further enhanced his reputation with clinical finishes in either half in Saturday's clash at Old Trafford to take him to eight league goals for United this term and 15 in all competitions.

He is the youngest player to reach that tally for the club since Rooney but Solskjaer was unwilling to put the 18-year-old in the same category as United's all-time leading scorer and fellow star Ronaldo.

"I have seen Wayne Rooney at the same age and Mason is a specialist finisher and specialist goalscorer," Solskjaer said at his post-match news conference. "He knows exactly what to do with the ball when he's on the pitch.

"If he shoots, he will score. He is going to get better and his general play has improved. But I don't want to compare Mason to Rooney or Cristiano – I don't think that's fair.

"The boy will create his own career and he is doing it his own way and they've had fantastic careers, both of them, and I'm sure if Mason keeps on doing the right things, making good decisions, he will have a fantastic career as well."

Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were also on target against Bournemouth, with the latter scoring from the penalty spot.

United's front three of Greenwood, Martial and Rashford now have 55 goals in all competitions this term – four more than Liverpool's triumvirate of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

But Solskjaer warned United's Premier League rivals that his side – fourth in the table ahead of Chelsea's game in hand against Watford later on Saturday – are only going to get better over time.

"Every day and every game and every session is a chance to improve," he said.

"We've seen improvement in Marcus, Mason and Anthony all season, so we will keep on improving the ones we've got but we will never stand still – we are always on the lookout for anything that is possible.

"You cannot think we've cracked it, as Gary [Neville] said, and the emphasis is just on improving the team all the time.

"They will improve, and we've seen that all season they have improved a lot this season, different parts of their game, maturity. We will work with these.

"Marcus is on course for his best season, Anthony the same but they can still improve and there are things they know I want them to keep improving on.

"Mason is in his first season, fantastic, but we've always known that there's a special kid there."

Solskjaer named the same starting line-up for the third league game running on Saturday, United winning each of those matches to make it their best-such run since January 2019.

But the Norwegian talked up the importance of his entire squad during their 15-game unbeaten streak in all competitions that stretches back to January.

"I wouldn't say that you could call it a first XI," he said. "We know we have to use the squad; we've had players who've played and really contributed.

"I can't say this is like the XI that's always going to play, no. Because Eric [Bailly] came on today, he's important for us; Scott [McTominay] and Fred have been exceptional all season. It's not easy leaving Dan James out either but we have started doing well."

Mason Greenwood took his Premier League tally to eight goals with a brace on Saturday and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tipped the Manchester United youngster for a future England call-up. 

The 18-year-old produced clinical finishes in either half as United thrashed Bournemouth 5-2 to move into the Premier League's top four. 

Only Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Robbie Fowler have scored more Premier League goals in a season while aged 18 or younger and that trio all went on to feature for England on multiple occasions. 

Bradford-born Greenwood has represented his country at various youth levels, debuting for England Under-21s last September, and Solskjaer believes he is on track to make the step up to Gareth Southgate's senior side. 

Asked if he was "a future England striker", Norwegian Solskjaer told BBC Radio 5 live: "Definitely, if he keeps on developing. 

"We'll do our best to develop him. I'm just worried about him playing for Man United, not England. 

"There might be some Norwegian blood in there, I don't know! I don't think so." 

Solskjaer added of Greenwood: "[He's a] great talent, great finisher and he's learning more and more, growing more and more, [making] better and better decisions on and off the pitch. 

"He's an exceptional finisher, he can score right foot, left foot. If he can learn how to head a ball he'll be the complete striker." 

United are now unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions, a streak that dates back to a home loss to Burnley on January 22. 

This latest victory saw United displace Chelsea in fourth ahead of the Blues' game against Watford later on Saturday, yet Solskjaer insisted there is still a long way to go in the race for Champions League qualification. 

"I don't think anyone worries or cares about that now, we've got so many games left," he said. 

"Five games left - we know we have to focus on every single one of them at one time because you can only beat the team you're playing against. 

"The next one is [Aston] Villa, we'll have a good look at them tomorrow and recover and prepare for that one." 

Manchester United and Leicester City bolstered their top-four hopes with Premier League wins on Saturday – as Mason Greenwood announced himself as a major star and Jamie Vardy reached a long-awaited landmark

Third-placed Leicester have laboured since England's top flight resumed last month, collecting two points from three matches heading into the home game against Crystal Palace.

Kelechi Iheanacho's close-range finish from Youri Tielemans' low 49th-minute cross set the Foxes on course for a 3-0 win and a costly slip by Mamadou Sakho allowed Harvey Barnes to tee up Vardy for his 100th Premier League goal.

The former England striker then streamed clear in stoppage time to dink past Vicente Guaita and Brendan Rodgers' side remain three points ahead of United, who are up to fourth – at least temporarily – after dismantling Bournemouth 5-2.

The relegation-threatened visitors hit the front at Old Trafford through Junior Stanislas, who cheekily nutmegged Harry Maguire before beating David De Gea at his near post.

But teenage forward Greenwood then took centre stage, blasting into the top corner to equalise.

He finished with similar venom after half-time, the 18-year-old's 15th in all competitions this term making it 4-2 after Marcus Rashford converted from the penalty spot and Anthony Martial spectacularly found the top corner.

Another penalty by Joshua King - Eric Bailly the handball offender as Adam Smith was before him – briefly gave Bournemouth hope early in the second half, although that had dissipated by the time Bruno Fernandes crashed in a 59th-minute free-kick from the edge of the area.

Wolves and Chelsea must now offer their response, with the Blues knowing a win over Watford in Saturday's late kick-off will put them back above United.

Nuno Espirito Santos' Wolves face Arsenal before that in a crunch clash at Molineux, where three points would pull them level with the Red Devils.

Watford head to Stamford Bridge in 17th and a point better off than second-bottom Bournemouth, although the relegation picture became grimly clearer for Norwich City.

Brighton and Hove Albion's Leandro Trossard scored the only goal at Carrow Road, moving the Seagulls nine points clear of the drop zone and leaving Norwich seven from safety with five matches to play.

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