Ousmane Dembele is proving he is "on the right track" after the Barcelona winger scored in France's 2-0 defeat of Kazakhstan.

After drawing against Ukraine in their opening World Cup qualifier, the reigning world champions moved top of Group D in comfortable fashion on Sunday.

Dembele opened the scoring with a goal laid on by Martial, before Kazakhstan defender Sergiy Maliy put through his own net.

It marked France's seventh straight away win – their best run since January 1990 to October 1991.

Dembele, who has enjoyed a resurgence at Barca this season following several injury-hit campaigns at Camp Nou, was replaced by Kingsley Coman in the 90th minute, having created one chance and had two shots, both of which hit the target.

Martial teed up Dembele's goal – the only key pass played by the Manchester United forward, who had three attempts (two on target) before going off with an apparent injury in the 59th minute.

His replacement was Kylian Mbappe, and the Paris Saint-Germain star went on to have as many attempts as Martial, though one of those was a penalty he saw saved by Alexandr Mokin.

Asked for his thoughts on the displays of Dembele and Martial, Deschamps told a news conference: "They did some interesting things. 

"Ousmane confirmed that he is on the right track. He is capable of repeating efforts and of differing his play. He was rewarded with this goal. 

"Anthony is behind the first goal. It's good for both. From the moment I take them [in the squad] it is to use them. I have other attackers, but compared to the profile of the opponent, it was important to provoke and to dribble [at the opposition]. They did it pretty well."

Deschamps also stressed he has few concerns over France's somewhat laboured performances across their last two fixtures.

"Everyone is free to wait for what they want. The France team is efficient and continues to be," he said. 

"We do a lot of good things. There were no big scores [on Saturday] either. It is not easy for anyone. There is the opponent, the sequence of matches, plus everything that came before. These are not excuses. I told the players to do the job, to win. We won.

"There were nine new players from the match against Ukraine, but they already had experience. I'm not going to take away the credit. The qualifying games are always difficult, the main thing is to reach our goals."

Erling Haaland is one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

Europe's elite are lining up to sign the Borussia Dortmund sensation.

Barcelona are reportedly prepared to go all out as Haaland grows frustrated in Germany.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND EYES DORTMUND EXIT

Erling Haaland has notified his agent that he wants to leave Borussia Dortmund if they fail to qualify for the Champions League, according to Diario AS.

Haaland is a player in demand following his exploits for Dortmund, heavily linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Juventus.

Dortmund – through to the 2020-21 quarter-finals – sit outside the Champions League places this season, fifth in the Bundesliga.

Haaland has reportedly given Dortmund an ultimatum should they miss out on Champions League football.

It comes as Sport claims Barca have started to try and raise funds in their pursuit of the Norway international, with the LaLiga giants willing to let two strikers leave.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild says Germany boss Joachim Low is a candidate for the Real Madrid job should Zinedine Zidane ever leave. Low is set to vacate his post after the reschedule Euro 2020. Telefoot, however, insists Zidane has no intention of leaving ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Liverpool are unaware of Georginio Wijnaldum's reported pre-contract agreement with Barca, claims the Liverpool Echo. Wijnaldum is out of contract at season's end and the Dutchman has been tipped to join Barca.

- United are ready to listen to offers for forward Anthony Martial, claims The Touchline Talk. It comes as the Red Devils seek to sign Haaland.

- Fiorentina are asking €40million for forward Dusan Vlahovic amid links with Milan, reports Calciomercato.

- According to The Transfer Window Podcast, Liverpool are set to rival Arsenal in the race to sign Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard.

PSG are still tracking out-of-favour Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli as the Ligue 1 champions also eye Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, reports Calciomercato.

Manchester United remain in talks with Paul Pogba over a new contract but they are not the immediate focus of the midfielder, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

Pogba came off the bench to send United into the quarter-finals of the Europa League, his close-range finish securing a 1-0 win at San Siro and a 2-1 aggregate success over Milan. 

The France star is out of contract at the end of next season and has been heavily linked with a return to Juventus. 

Solskjaer believes Pogba's performance illustrated his affection for the club, but contract discussions are not at the forefront of his mind. 

"I think everyone in the team, Paul included, are just focused on doing as well as we can this season," Solskjaer told a media conference ahead of Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final with Leicester City.   

"I don't think any energy would be used on the speculation. Of course we've got discussions and talks, when you see Paul playing like this, back training, it shows how much he cares for us, how much he enjoys playing and how much we can benefit from him playing." 

Solskjaer is not anticipating Pogba playing the full game against Leicester, though he is confident the World Cup winner can still have an influence. 

"We'll have to see how long he can play," Solskjaer added. "I don't think he can last 90 minutes, I'm not sure he can start. 

"You see the impact he can make if he comes on as a sub. If he feels ok, maybe we can start him as well. I hope he's ready to start."

Marcus Rashford is a doubt after making way for Pogba with an apparent injury, while Edinson Cavani could again miss out with a knock. 

Anthony Martial has missed the last two games with a hip injury, though he has still been picked in the France squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers. 

However, Solskjaer is not concerned by Martial's inclusion by Didier Deschamps. 

"I just want Anthony fit. Same with Paul, we just want them to go and play. They've missed too many games," said Solskjaer.  

"This was a hip injury he got against Milan a week ago. We hoped he was going to be ready for West Ham. Then he couldn't make that one, he was close to getting fit for this one [Milan second leg], hopefully he'll make Sunday. 

"We're not sure, because it's not reacted how we'd want. It'll just benefit him if he's fit enough to go with France and play."

Anthony Martial's Manchester United debut is one of the club's most memorable in the modern era of the Premier League. His jinking run left Liverpool's defence in knots before he coolly slotted into the bottom-right corner to help secure a 3-1 win over his new team's bitter rivals.

It was a stunning start and one that promised much for the future, producing the ultimate response to the many pundits who had questioned his signing and reported £36million transfer fee.

Yet, five and a half years on, it's difficult to say Martial's debut resembles a microcosm of his United career, with those spectacular moments remaining fleeting rather than developing into sustained excellence.

Of course, 2019-20 was surely the closest he's come to finding consistency as he scored 17 times in the Premier League. Finally, the penny had seemingly dropped and Martial was developing the decisiveness he had previously teased in flashes.

But 2020-21 has been largely disappointing for the Frenchman and has fans wondering if he is their best option. Was last season just another false dawn?

 

THE REGRESSION

United fans will hope Martial's lively appearance off the bench in Tuesday's remarkable 9-0 demolition of Southampton is a sign of things to come – he got two goals and also won a penalty, albeit a questionable one.

There was certainly plenty to like about his performance, with both goals coming from the central zone of the penalty area, and the first saw him use his strength to see off a defender prior to finding the net. For a player whose suitability as a number nine has been questioned, it was a promising development.

But while there were undoubtedly reasons for optimism, we cannot disregard his previous struggles this season on the basis of that 9-0 win. Saints became subjugated essentially as soon as Alexandre Jankewitz was sent off after 82 seconds, and Martial's second came when Ralph Hasenhuttl's side were down to nine men.

Before Tuesday, Martial's shot conversion rate this season (5.9 per cent) had been lower than any of his previous campaigns with United. Even when you take into consideration his two latest goals, which lifts it to 13.3 per cent, he's still well down on 2019-20 (21.3 per cent) and 2018-19 (25.6 per cent).

His issues don't appear to come down to a lack of clear opportunities either, as prior to Tuesday he was actually averaging roughly the same amount of big chances per 90 minutes this season as in 2019-20 (0.7). However, he had been proving more wasteful from such situations, with Martial's big chance conversion rate of 0.15 per game down from 0.3.

Martial particularly excelled with regards to expected goals in 2019-20, with his xG rating of 11.3 meaning he netted six more than he would have been expected to – by comparison, ahead of the Southampton win, he had two goals from an xG of 4.5.

Positionally, Martial has generally occupied the same spaces as he did in 2019-20 but given his emphatic out-performing of xG was seemingly unsustainable, perhaps this is part of the problem.

A NEW THREAT

Edinson Cavani's signing, while initially criticised as a knee-jerk or 'panic' acquisition, was always likely to be a positive move for United as it offered them a new dynamic in attack. Martial may like to play at being a number nine, he may wear that shirt, but his characteristics are much different to those of Cavani.

Even though Martial has been regularly deployed as the focal point of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's attack over the past 18 months, his positional maps still prove a predilection to operate from the left.

 

Being involved more towards the left than the right flank is understandable in one sense, given United carry greater threat there with Luke Shaw than they do on the opposite side with Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

But Cavani takes up central positions with greater regularity than Martial. As such, the Uruguayan's far greater goal frequency this term (one every 133 minutes, compared to one every 312.5 minutes for Martial) cannot be a surprise, even if Martial actually averages more touches of the ball in the area (7.6 per 90 mins, to 5.3).

There is also a school of thought that Martial's mentality becomes affected when he feels threatened. It's not a secret that he had long seen his future as a central striker, but Louis van Gaal felt he was better suited to playing on the flank and Jose Mourinho openly questioned his suitability to the number nine role.

The latter's arrival in 2016 coincided with the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who essentially killed Martial's chances of playing as a striker, and his form subsequently suffered almost across the board after a positive first season.

Although he showed signs of improvement in 2017-18 despite Romelu Lukaku's arrival, Martial was no more productive than when he first joined.

And now there's Cavani, who is out-scoring Martial five to four despite playing less than half the number of minutes in the Premier League this season. It seems he's treading on Martial's toes rather than keeping him on them.

CAVANI THE MORE DEPENDABLE OPTION?

For what it's worth, Martial's dip in form hasn't impacted United massively – after all, they've a better xG differential this term (5.7) than they did in 2019-20 (3.2) and are challenging at the top of the table, something they haven't really managed since Alex Ferguson's retirement.

 

Tuesday's mauling of Southampton might have been just what the doctor ordered for Martial, who had previously gone a month without a goal in all competitions, though few would have any complaints if Cavani was just starting out on a run as United's first choice in attack.

He may not possess the pace of Martial or indeed his ability on the ball, but he has proven more clinical as evidenced by his greater conversion rate of big chances (45.4 per cent, over 33.3), such as his nonchalant header against Southampton.

The experienced Uruguay international is also being presented with more big chances (1.5 per 90 minutes) than Martial (0.9), suggesting Cavani boasts a greater ability to create openings with his movement.

It is, of course, always handy to have players with varying skillsets and it offers Solskjaer the ability to choose individuals based on his set-up or the opposition on a given day.

But on current form, the more consistent talents of Cavani might just offer United the greater reliability they need if they're to sustain a title challenge.

At the very least, he would seem a smart choice on Saturday if fit having already netted three times in two games for United against Everton.

Manchester United's forwards have their "mojo" back after leading Tuesday's remarkable 9-0 demolition of nine-man Southampton at Old Trafford.

It was only the third instance of a team winning a Premier League match by nine goals and the first time United have won by that margin since March 1995, when they beat Ipswich Town by the same score.

While Andy Cole was the five-goal inspiration in that 1995 win, this time United shared the goals around – seven players netted on Tuesday, making it only the second occasion so many different individuals have netted for the same team in a single Premier League match.

Among them were Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani, providing the perfect response to Solskjaer's pre-match comments maligning the loss of his forwards' "mojo".

"Yeah, of course they have," Solskjaer said with a laugh to BT Sport when asked if they had recovered that "mojo".

"You get lots of confidence from a performance like this and the result, scoring goals is always good for forwards and the team."

He added: "We have been waiting for them to show their magic and tonight was a night they could go and enjoy.

"We haven't had too many of those where you can sit down in the second half and enjoy the football, so they enjoyed it. There were some good performances."

Alexandre Jankewitz's red card for a shocking second-minute tackle on Scott McTominay – who was also among the scorers – left Saints with an uphill battle, and Jan Bednarek followed him down the tunnel in the second half in rather more controversial circumstances.

But the focus will be on United's scoring prowess in the contest, as they put Saints to the sword.

Rashford's goal saw him move on to 83 for the club, overtaking Eric Cantona, and Solskjaer took the moment to praise the England international as he has occasionally had to contend with critics urging him to concentrate on his football amid his charitable efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

"That's not bad," Solskjaer said of Rashford surpassing Cantona. "Eric was a fantastic player to play with and Marcus has a great career ahead of him.

"What he's done this season, this year, it just shows he can still focus on his football as well."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants Manchester United to harness the spirit of the 1999 treble-winning side when they face Liverpool in the FA Cup.

Solskjaer will make changes for the tie of the fourth round at Old Trafford on Sunday after a 2-1 win at Fulham on Wednesday, which put United two points clear at the top of the Premier League.

The Red Devils are still in the hunt for three trophies this season and face an out-of-sorts Liverpool side who are smarting from a shock 1-0 home defeat to Burnley on Thursday.

United dramatically beat the Reds 2-1 at the same stage of the FA Cup 22 years ago courtesy of late goals from Dwight Yorke and Solskjaer, then went on to complete a famous treble.

Solskjaer says dumping the Premier League champions out once again could be a big moment in what he hopes will be a glorious season.

"Of course we can transform a few things from that season. We know that there's tight moments, very fine margins. We know in that season we were close to going out against Liverpool," said the United boss.

"Peter Schmeichel saved a penalty from [Arsenal's] Dennis Bergkamp in the semi-final in injury time. Those moments, I think they gave us the mental advantage, especially in the semi-final.

"But against Liverpool as well in that fourth round, when you get that boost of turning 1-0 down to a 2-1 win against a big team it's massive.

"The FA Cup is a run we've got to enjoy as long as it lasts. We got to the semis last year and we're going to make a few changes but we'll put a team out there that I hope can go through."

Victor Lindelof is available to return from a back injury and Solskjaer will rotate his squad just a week after a drab goalless draw between United and Liverpool at Anfield in the top flight.

"Of course the focus is now on the FA Cup," said Solskjaer. "We know it's a difficult tie, I'm not the best on draws, I think they should try to get someone else in if they want an easy draw."

Solskjaer also said forwards Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani could all feature in the same side at some stage.

He said: "I used to play in a decent team and the gaffer [Alex Ferguson] had four centre-forwards at least to choose from and with the four front men we've got, we have players to choose from who can get us goals in any game, against any opposition.

"I'm very pleased with the ones I've got and we’re working hard to get the relationships with all of them so we can use them in different ways and sometimes maybe all four of them will play."

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