Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted it is more difficult for Manchester United to win titles now than it was under legendary manager Alex Ferguson.

Solskjaer and United – fifth in the standings this season – watched bitter rivals Liverpool end their 30-year wait for an English league crown on Thursday.

United enjoyed dominance during Ferguson's 26-year tenure, winning 13 Premier League titles and 38 trophies in total at Old Trafford.

However, United have not won the Premier League since Ferguson's final season in 2013, though the Red Devils have had Europa League (2017), FA Cup (2016) and EFL Cup (2017) success.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Norwich City, United manager Solskjaer said: "We've got to be honest enough to say it is more difficult now.

"We've always had challengers, whether it was Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool. But most of the time it was just one of them challenging us," Solskjaer said.

"Finishing third wasn't normal. Now there are at least four, maybe five teams that can win the league and the cups."

Solskjaer, meanwhile, talked up the partnership between star United midfielders Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.

Fernandes and Pogba – who has endured an injury-ravaged season – started together for the first time as United outclassed Sheffield United 3-0 in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Amid doubts over Pogba's future and whether the duo can work together, Solskjaer told reporters: "I'm certain they can play well together, yes.

"They've both played well in training and in the games they play together it's exciting. There will be rotations and there will be times that Paul will play up with Bruno, sometimes it's deeper, sometimes we will play with a diamond. It's encouraging to see them together. 

"It's also encouraging to see how Nemanja [Matic], Scott [McTominay] and Fred are making it difficult for me to keep them out.

"It's a good position to be in as a coach and you want to give Paul a chance to get 100 per cent fit with practice and rest. He's been out for so long and I think it says everything about the boy with the quality of his performances."

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic lauded star team-mate Anthony Martial following his first senior hat-trick.

Martial scored his maiden treble as United outclassed Sheffield United 3-0 at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Wednesday.

A first-half brace set the tone before Martial became the first United player to celebrate a Premier League hat-trick since Robin van Persie in 2013.

Martial has scored a career-high 14 Premier League goals and 19 across all competitions this season as Matic hailed the French forward.

"I think it was very important for him to score goals, for every striker it's important, for his confidence," Matic told MUTV.

"I'm happy that our strikers are in good condition, tonight Anthony was man of the match, every chance he had went in.

"Let's see in the future what he can do for us. But I'm happy for him. Congratulations to him."

Matic also produced an impressive performance alongside Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in midfield as United kept their Champions League bid on track.

Fernandes and Pogba started together for the first time for United, who extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches in all competitions, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men fifth in the table – two points behind Chelsea and six adrift of stuttering third-placed Leicester City.

Matic said: "I think it's always good play with top players. Not only them, we're lucky we have top players in every position.

"So tonight I played with Bruno and Paul, I think we did well, it was good there, I'm sure in the future we can improve a lot together, and also with Scott [McTominay] and Fred, whoever plays with us; I'm happy with the team performance and the way we controlled the game.

"I think we had control during all 90 minutes, of course we knew they were going to have some dangerous counter-attacks because tactically they play well.

"We analysed them very well, we treated them with respect, I'm so happy with the team performance, 3-0 against a team who creates problems for every team in the Premier League."

Paul Pogba is to make his first Premier League start since September for Manchester United, lining up alongside Bruno Fernandes in the team to take on Sheffield United.

Fit again following a foot injury, Pogba made an impact off the bench in Friday's 1-1 draw with Tottenham.

The France international won the penalty that Fernandes converted to secure a point in the Red Devils' first outing since the coronavirus-enforced break to the top-flight season.

Now the pair are picked to play together from the start for the first time by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who also selects Mason Greenwood in an attacking XI for the game at Old Trafford.

Pogba's previous league start was in a 1-1 draw against Arsenal on September 30.

"It was always our plan to get Paul to play more and more. To give him more than 45 minutes, you've got to start him," Solskjaer – who also opted for Nemanja Matic in midfield – told Sky Sports. "Let’s see how long he [Pogba] lasts today.

On the Pogba-Fernandes combination, he added: "It's good players playing together, so it's always nice to see them. I know we're going to play against a very tough opponent that is going to make it difficult for them – and that's going to make Paul and Bruno run the other way [in defence] as well."

As for the visitors, Dean Henderson is unable to play against his parent club. Simon Moore starts instead in goal for the Blades, while centre-back Phil Jagielka replaces the suspended John Egan.

Gary Neville says Manchester United only need "commitment" from Paul Pogba as his world-class quality has never been in question.

The France international has had a miserable 2019-20 season with injuries restricting him to five Premier League starts amid constant speculation over a move away from Old Trafford.

But Pogba made an impressive return as a substitute in the 1-1 away draw against Tottenham on Friday, winning the penalty which was converted by Bruno Fernandes.

United fans are hoping Pogba and Fernandes can form a fruitful midfield partnership and Neville thinks the chances of the World Cup winner staying increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

The former United captain insists the ability and production of Pogba has never been worthy of criticism, calling him the club's only player in the world-class bracket.

"A committed Paul Pogba can be a great player for Manchester United," Neville told Sky Sports. 

"His goal and assist numbers are very good over the last couple of seasons. They are up there with the best. 

"Hopefully with the economical problems – clubs can't spend £80, 90,100 million on players – United will keep him. 

"Pogba will then understand that's he's staying – all I ever want from him is commitment."

Neville added: "I've never blamed him for United's troubles, I do believe he's the one true world-class player, although I would have put David de Gea in there two years ago. 

"Pogba should be the one to lead from the front and if there is speculation around his future it does create doubt in the dressing room.

"Now there's a better chance of that team succeeding."

With his side unbeaten in 12 matches across all competitions, Pogba is set to feature at home to Sheffield United in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Bruno Fernandes believes there is more to come from his fledgling midfield partnership with Paul Pogba at Manchester United.

Fernandes made an instant impact at Old Trafford after joining from Sporting CP in January and his effort from the penalty spot in Friday's 1-1 draw at Tottenham was his third goal in six Premier League appearances.

Pogba won the penalty and his introduction from the bench after the hour mark injected United with fresh impetus.

It was the France international's first outing since Boxing Day in a season ruined by foot injuries, but Fernandes is hopeful their understanding will grow in tandem under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

"When we were training in groups I was in the group with Paul, so to find the connection is easier," he told Sky Sports.

"But I found a good connection with everyone and the most important thing is the team. 

"I think Paul thinks the same [as me] and we are happy. Paul won the penalty, I kicked it. The most important thing is the team. It doesn't matter who scores, or the assist, or anything. 

"As a team we need to look for the Champions League. We need to try to be close to try to catch the guys who are in front.

"Unfortunately we are [only] one point closer, but they need to play. We'll see."

United are fifth in the table but will fall five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with nine matches remaining if Frank Lampard's side are able to beat relegation-threatened Aston Villa on Sunday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Paul Pogba has the chance to enjoy a fresh start at Manchester United after impressing as a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham.

Making his first appearance since December 26 due to a foot injury, Pogba was fouled by Eric Dier for the penalty that was converted by Bruno Fernandes to bring United level in the 81st minute.

The Frenchman demonstrated flashes of his ability during the cameo off the bench, while a potential midfield combination with January addition Fernandes showed early signs of promise.

Solskjaer praised the impact of his subs against Spurs but was particularly pleased for Pogba, who has made just five Premier League appearances in a 2019-20 season that has now resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think the performance second half deserved a point, or three points. The players that came on I thought made a difference," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"Of course Paul's contribution is there to be seen – he played the pass of the day when he played Marcus [Rashford] through, then had the skill of the day when he won the penalty. 

"Paul's one of the best in the world and it's great to have him back. It's good to give him minutes and he will work hard to get even fitter for the next time, to play even more.

"He's delighted to be back on the pitch. He's had a nine or 10-month injury nightmare. It's not like he's been out for 10 months. He's almost come back, work hard, work hard, and then gets injured again. 

"He was close to coming back before the lockdown and now finally he’s back playing. I'm sure everyone can see he has a great hunger for the game and is a very good footballer."

When asked if this is a fresh start for the World Cup winner at the club, the United boss replied: "I think so. 

"Coming into this team, it's a different team to the one he left with his injury. Bruno has come in, the boys have got some momentum before the lockdown and we are more confident, even though for the first 45 minutes we doubted ourselves too much. 

"The boys need to trust themselves more, trust their own fitness. They have worked so incredibly hard, and I think we saw second half that we were fit and can keep on running."

Fernandes has now been involved in six league goals since moving to Old Trafford, scoring three. Solskjaer admitted the key is to make sure both the Portuguese playmaker and Pogba can prosper in the same line-up.

"We are a club who want the best players in the world playing together," the Norwegian said on the duo.

"We just need to find the right balance, attacking and defending. That's always a key word when you're set a team up. I think today Paul showed he can play with Bruno, and Bruno has scored a penalty for us and got a goal." 

Manchester United's 1-1 draw with Tottenham means they are unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions, scoring 30 and conceding three in that time. 

They have progressed through that run mostly without Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, two standout stars who returned to action in north London on Friday only because the coronavirus pandemic gave them time to recover from injuries. 

They are still fifth in the Premier League, two points behind Chelsea having played a game more, meaning hopes of a Champions League return are very much alive regardless of their Europa League campaign, which resumes in August. 

By all accounts, those are satisfactory truths about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side. But an emboldened attack since the January signings of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo and a stronger defensive unit have glossed over a glaring problem: they can no longer rely on David de Gea. 

Before Friday, the last league goal United had conceded – the only one they had conceded since January 22 – came in the 1-1 draw at Everton in March. With his first meaningful act of the game, De Gea dithered on the ball and let Dominic Calvert-Lewin block his kick into the United net. He was rescued by Fernandes' equaliser. 

When he was United manager, Jose Mourinho hinted De Gea could sometimes lose concentration when the action is far from his goal, and you have to wonder if he had told his Spurs players to test the Spain international – described by Roy Keane as the most overrated goalkeeper he has seen “in a long time” during a half-time tirade – at the earliest opportunity.

The home side took only their second shot on target after 27 minutes of mostly United control, but it was enough to beat De Gea. Steven Bergwijn ran straight towards Harry Maguire and left him for dead – a deeply humbling moment for the world's most expensive centre-back – and shot fiercely but directly at the United goalkeeper. He could not keep it out. 

De Gea would then make a fine one-handed save from Son Heung-min to various social media proclamations that he had "made amends", which is a goalkeeping misconception. A striker can miss a chance at 0-0 and make up for it with a breakthrough goal a minute later, but De Gea's good save did not erase the fact United were behind. Such is life for a keeper. 

Whether or not Mourinho planned for a Dea Gea error, he would certainly have accepted a 1-0 half-time lead. The fact he builds his team around Moussa Sissoko rather than Harry Kane might not enthrall the viewer, but it does make Spurs a troublesome side to break down, something United have struggled to do against deep-lying defences all season. 

That's what makes Pogba such a potentially pivotal player in their final eight matches. He came on for 27 minutes, his first action since last December, and his first act was a sliding tackle to rob Serge Aurier near the Spurs box. Put the questions on his future to one side for now; a World Cup winner who has made only eight league appearances all season just wants to play. 

With Marcus Rashford ineffective and Anthony Martial anonymous, it was Pogba and Fernandes, paired in midfield at last, who carried United's threat. Fittingly, it was their combination that brought about the equaliser, Pogba's quick feet leading Eric Dier into a cumbersome challenge and Fernandes thwacking home the penalty. 

Doubts have persisted about De Gea for the best part of two years and the debate over his future as United's number one will continue. What is certain is United need Pogba's game-changing influence if they are to make sure any future blunders at the other end do not derail their season.

Bruno Fernandes converted a late penalty won by Paul Pogba to secure Manchester United a 1-1 draw away at top-four rivals Tottenham on Friday.

Steve Bergwijn's 26th-minute opener appeared set to give Jose Mourinho a much-needed victory over his former employers as Spurs aim to make a late charge to qualify for next season's Champions League.

However, United were rewarded for an improved second-half display with an equaliser, Pogba - on as a substitute as he returned after a long injury lay-off - producing a burst into the box that tempted a rash challenge from Eric Dier.

Fernandes showed excellent composure to fire home from 12 yards out, sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way, as the visitors extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 12 games. 

It appeared the Portuguese would have the chance to score again from the spot when referee Jonathan Moss adjudged he had been fouled by Dier, but a VAR check reversed the on-field call.

Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford start for Tottenham and Manchester United respectively in Friday's pivotal Premier League clash between the two clubs.

Spurs striker Kane has not featured since tearing his hamstring in his side's 1-0 defeat to Southampton at the start of the year.

As for Rashford, a back injury sidelined him prior to the coronavirus-enforced break to the season.

However, with a delayed finish to the 2019-20 campaign due to the pandemic, both England internationals are fit again and available for a fixture between teams with Champions League aspirations.

Spurs sit eighth in the table, four points behind their fifth-placed opponents.

Jose Mourinho is also able to select Moussa Sissoko, Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn in an attacking Spurs line-up as the Portuguese goes up against his former employers.

His replacement at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has Paul Pogba available again. The Frenchman is among the United substitutes, with Scott McTominay given the nod alongside Bruno Fernandes and Fred in midfield.

But Pogba's compatriot Anthony Martial makes the starting XI, joining Rashford and Daniel James in attack.

Paul Pogba has been urged by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to replicate the leadership qualities he showed with France when he returns for Manchester United.

The 27-year-old midfielder has made just eight appearances in all competitions for United this term and has been out since December, having undergone ankle surgery in the new year.

However, he is ready to return when United resume their Premier League campaign at Tottenham on Friday after the coronavirus-enforced break.

Pogba's form has been indifferent since he returned to Old Trafford for a then-world record fee of £89.3million in 2016, yet his quality and leadership attributes were evident when he played a key role in Les Bleus' triumph at Russia 2018.

"Paul has had his difficult season this year with loads of injuries but I can see his mentality and focus now that he is fit and training and available, that he is ready to play again and to prove," Solskjaer told a news conference.

"He has always had quality, Paul. He is one of the best midfielders in the world so hopefully we can get that going as soon as possible.

"I want the same from Paul as from all the others.

"Paul is one of the best midfielders in the world so we expect him to gradually improve as he gets more and more game time.

"Gradually over these next few months we can work him up back to his best. Paul has had a very good career. He is a World Cup winner and we want to have that leadership on the pitch as well.

"I am very happy with the squad. The five of them [midfielders], any of them would be capable of playing a full season at Man United and being a regular so it's given me, not a problem, but a nice challenge to choose and pick the right ones when they are in the right form when they are against the right opponents.

"Paul getting back fit can only help us because he does have qualities that no one else has."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful Angel Gomes will agree to a new contract at Manchester United.

The 19-year-old is approaching the end of his deal and United are trying to tie him down to fresh terms.

Talks with the midfielder have been going on for many months and Solskjaer believes a resolution is close, though he did not rule out losing the player.

"Angel is a top kid, we've had him here for so many years," said the United manager. 

"We've offered him a deal and hopefully he'll take that, if not I'll wish him all the best.

"From what I understand it's not too far away. If not, we'll wish him all the best."

Gomes made his United debut back in 2017 and has made two substitute appearances in the Premier League this season.

Solskjaer also offered a team news update ahead of Friday's match at Tottenham, which could have a significant bearing on both clubs' Champions League aspirations.

The Norwegian revealed Marcus Rashford (back) and Paul Pogba (ankle) were available for the club's first game back after the coronavirus-enforced shutdown, with Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe the only absentees.

"We have two players – Jones and Axel – who will miss this game and let's see how bad they are, " he said, without disclosing the nature of their injuries.

"Apart from that, the rest of the squad is fit and available. And of course, Marcus and Paul have been out a long period, but they're available. How long they play – let's see."

United sit fifth, three points behind fourth-place Chelsea and four ahead of Spurs in eighth.

Bruno Fernandes is relishing the prospect of playing alongside Paul Pogba when Manchester United resume their Premier League campaign on Friday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side return to action at fellow Champions League hopefuls Tottenham, with United in the mix for a top-four finish following a strong run of form before the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

United's resurgence has coincided with the arrival of Fernandes from Sporting CP and the midfielder was influential in the impressive 2-0 win over rivals Manchester City in their most recent top-flight outing in March.

Pogba has not played since December but the three-month hiatus has enabled the World Cup-winning France star to overcome an ankle injury and he could feature at Spurs.

That is music to the ears of Fernandes, who told talkSPORT:  "We are so excited to restart the season and play again.

"I think everyone is excited to see Paul Pogba play again after his long injury.

"For me, playing alongside him will be amazing, obviously everyone wants to play with the best players and Paul is one of them.

"But we have a lot of good players and the most important thing is the results for Manchester United."

Fernandes is yet to taste defeat for United and has been credited with lifting the entire team.

However, the Portuguese insists he is just one of many leaders in the side.

"I think everyone has to be a leader in their own way," he said.

"Everyone here is a leader, in everything you have different leaderships and I think I'm just another one. I try to help everyone and they try to help me.

"I do always want the ball, that is true, and I will always be like that."

Paul Pogba will not leave Manchester United in the next transfer window despite continuous speculation regarding his future, according to the midfielder's "close" friend Adnan Januzaj.

Pogba, who played alongside Januzaj in United's academy, returned to the Premier League club from Juventus in 2016 for a then-world record fee of £90million.

However, his critics have accused him of not justifying that price tag, with his form somewhat inconsistent.

Injury problems have restricted the Frenchman to just seven Premier League appearances this season, while he and his agent Mino Raiola have not been shy in hinting at a desire for a move away.

But with United reportedly adamant they will not entertain the prospect of Pogba leaving, his former team-mate Januzaj, now at Real Sociedad, is confident the midfielder will remain at Old Trafford.

Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, Januzaj said: "I think he will stay. Paul and I are still close.

"We have known each other since we were kids when we were in the United academy. Our families are also friends and we all keep in touch. That will never change."

Pogba has been linked with a potential move to Real Madrid for much of his second spell with United, where he has a contract until next year - though the club hold an option to extend it until 2022.

Los Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane has said he is a keen admirer of his compatriot.

Pogba suffered successive ankle problems earlier in the season, but with the coronavirus-enforced suspension leading to a three-month pause, the 27-year-old has been able to restore his fitness.

He is now expected to play a major role for United in the remaining weeks of the Premier League season, teaming up with new signing Bruno Fernandes in midfield for the first time.

United resume their campaign away to Tottenham on Friday.

Paul Pogba is ready to play his best football for Manchester United and "shut down the critics", says former Red Devils striker Louis Saha.

France World Cup winner Pogba has struggled to deliver on the expectations that surrounded him when he returned for a second spell at United almost four years ago.

The former United academy prospect, whose career first properly flourished after a move to Juventus in 2012, has often faced blame for United's mediocre form since his return to the Premier League.

Fellow Frenchman Saha says Pogba, who has recovered from the injuries that have disrupted his season, is now determined to contribute to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team when English football resumes this month.

The United manager has been publicly supportive of Pogba, who could pair up with eye-catching January recruit Bruno Fernandes in midfield, and Saha says he remains a gem of a footballer.

Speaking to Stats Perform News, Saha said of Pogba: "He's one of the best players in the world.

"He had a tough season plagued by injuries. He came back very motivated, that's what some of the players told me.

"When I talk to him on the phone, he's super motivated, so I really want to see not a new Pogba, but Pogba with support. I don't think he was supported.

"Now he has Bruno Fernandes next to him, who's another leader, another creator."

Saha said that at times with Pogba, shortcomings were made out to be "all his fault".

"I'm really excited about that sharing of the responsibilities, I really want to watch that team," said Saha, who won two Premier League titles at United.

Saha, a United player from 2004 to 2008, accepts Pogba will be linked with other clubs at the end of the season.

"The season is almost over and with the transfer market, his name will probably be in the box," Saha said. "But he's very motivated, he's incredibly talented, he already proved himself, but now he has a better platform to improve and shut down the critics, sometimes justified."

Another French player at United, Anthony Martial, has linked up well with Fernandes already, with their interplay earning plaudits this week from manager Solskjaer.

Saha praised Martial's development this season, in which he has become a regular scorer for United.

"I'm a real fan of Anthony," Saha said. "I was frustrated maybe a year ago because I knew his potential but, on the pitch, I saw him lost left or right. The guy, he can do anything, he's got huge potential."

Ander Herrera believes Manchester United have three players who can be ranked alongside the world's best in Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

While the debate around United is often based on who their next star signing will be, their former midfielder Herrera feels a trio already in the squad can lead them to Premier League glory.

He feels France star Pogba has the quality to be classed as the world's best midfielder, while forwards Rashford and Martial can also be considered among the top five or 10 players in the game.

"I give you my opinion: I don't know what other players say but he is a midfielder that has everything," Herrera said of Pogba in an interview with The Athletic.

"An NBA athlete with Brazilian feet and the combinations of a Spanish midfielder. He can combine really well – he can do one-two, very quick at high speed. He does have a good attitude.

"If you see other midfielders in the world, they may have some qualities control of the ball, long shots, passes, tackles, box-to-box.

"But Paul can do all of this, plus head the ball, score goals, make recoveries, one against one – everything. But of course, if you want to become the best midfielder in the world, it is about consistency. 

"You have to do it day in, day out. He is a good guy. He wants to do it. He does train well. He has to do it every day."

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Herrera, who left United in 2019, was similarly positive about his former team-mates Rashford and Martial.

"They have the quality to be among the top 10 in the world," he said of United's young forwards.

"Why do we admire Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, or [Eden] Hazard, who I also think is one of the best in the world? We admire them because they keep that form for a long time.

"If they do it, they will become, maybe not Messi or Cristiano – because they are unique in the history of football – but they can be top five or top 10.

"But they have to do it for a long time and keep it up. It is the same for Paul.

"Rashford is on his way to doing it and Paul can be the best midfielder in the world if he keeps playing those games where we are all amazed by him. 

"But to keep it at that level is the most difficult thing in football. To keep at it Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday, every time.

"If those three can do that, Manchester United will win the Premier League soon, for sure."

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