Erik ten Hag acknowledged Manchester United are too reliant on Marcus Rashford after the forward's latest goal guided the Red Devils to a 1-0 win over Brentford on Wednesday.

United ended a three-game run without a win – or a goal – in the Premier League as Rashford's close-range finish was enough to down the resolute Bees.

Rashford has scored 15 of United's 42 Premier League goals this season, while his total of 11 strikes since the World Cup is more than any other player in the competition.

Asked whether United have been over-reliant on Rashford this season, Ten Hag told BBC Sport: "Yes, it's the truth.

"But we know other players can score as well. Bruno [Fernandes] can score as well. We have many more players across the squad who can score."

Speaking to United's media channels, Ten Hag said of Rashford: "He played a very good game. I think he was very versatile. He came out of the frontline and we used him as the target, but he also went out wide. 

"You can talk almost every game about [him] and when he's not in the game like Sunday [against Newcastle United], it's not good for us. 

"We have to bring him into the game but also he has to take responsibility, and [so do] other players. 

"He has to be ready to get into those positions and therefore he needs energy, he needs focus, and he has to bring it every game. Today, a great finish again gives us the three points."

Rashford has now scored 10 winning goals in the Premier League this season, the most recorded by a United player in a single campaign since Wayne Rooney in 2009-10 (also 10).

The England forward has 28 goals across all competitions this term, a tally only bettered by Erling Haaland (42) and Kylian Mbappe (31) among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Marcus Rashford is keen to see Manchester United back on form after returning to winning ways against Brentford.

The England international struck the only goal of the game to seal victory at Old Trafford on Wednesday, ending a run of three games without a win in the Premier League.

United's struggles in the league began after winning the EFL Cup, suffering a humiliating 7-0 reverse to Liverpool and losing to Newcastle United either side of a goalless draw against Southampton.

Erik ten Hag's side had better results in the cup competitions, advancing in both the FA Cup and Europa League, but the drop of form in the Premier League led to worry in the hunt for a top-four finish.

Now that one hurdle has been overcome, Rashford is keen to build momentum and finish the season on a high.

"We are in that period of the season where every game is important and every game counts so we are pleased to win and hopefully we can get back to where we were a few weeks ago," he told BBC Sport.

"The important thing is always to win the next game. Everyone is clear that we are not going to play our best every week but there is never a time to drop our standards and we have to keep trying to push each other every week.

"We were a bit more patient out of possession; we waited for the right conditions to press rather than pressing every ball. We were calm and kept communicating to try and stop the supplies to their forward men."

United's victory propels them back above Tottenham and into fourth, holding a three-point lead and having a game in hand over the north London side, with Rashford focused on securing Champions League football next season.

"That's the aim – we want to get as many points as we possibly can and we will try and win every game," he added. "We just have to keep playing well and give our best, keep recovering well and move on to the next fixture."

Manchester United returned to winning ways in the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Brentford at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Marcus Rashford's first-half strike was enough to see off the Bees, ending a three-match winless streak for Erik ten Hag's side in the league since winning the Carabao Cup.

Brentford could not muster much of a response in the second half, United controlling the flow of the game throughout.

Though the scoreline was far from flattering, it sealed a vital three points for United that moves them back ahead of Tottenham and into fourth position.

The hosts dominated possession early on but were unable to test David Raya in the Brentford net, Scott McTominay firing an effort over the top of the crossbar before Antony cut inside onto his left and curled an effort wide.

United's breakthrough came after 27 minutes, Brentford not clearing their lines effectively from a corner and Antony clipping a ball back into the box where Marcel Sabitzer headed down for Rashford to duly smash home.

Brentford were almost gifted an equaliser shortly after the restart, David de Gea put under pressure by Ivan Toney and the keeper's clearance bouncing off the back of the England international and just wide of the post.

Ten Hag's side continued to be on the front foot, though struggling to truly test Raya's capabilities, but Sabitzer tested his reflexes with a low shot from the edge of the box after Rashford's lay-off.

Though United were not able to find more effectiveness in front of goal, any threat of a Brentford comeback was unfounded as United held firm to clinch three valuable points.

Erik ten Hag knows Manchester United's players are only human, but feels he must demand they "act as robots" in order to deliver results.

United slipped to a lacklustre 2-0 defeat in their return to Premier League action on Sunday against top-four rivals Newcastle United.

Though they have impressed in the FA Cup and Europa League, just one point from their last three top-flight games has left them fifth in the table.

Ten Hag, however, has no doubt his squad can rediscover their best.

"I agree we return to old habits, but I also know there are fluctuations," he told The Guardian. "[Players] are not robots. But we have to act as robots, as machines.

"We have to expect and demand of our players that they match the standards so when we are not doing [that] we are disappointed because that is our job.

"We have shown in so many games that [we can do that]. It was a tough, very strong belief, [with] confidence and passion and togetherness.

"We have, and have shown it in many games. We have shown we can win the games, but you have to do it in every game because that is the demand of Manchester United."

United can push themselves back into the Champions League qualification places with a win over Brentford on Wednesday, having games in hand on fourth-place Tottenham.

Ten Hag will also have one eye on next week's return to Europa League action, with the club set to host Sevilla a week on Thursday in the first leg of their quarter-final clash.

Christian Eriksen returns to full training with Manchester United on Tuesday, manager Erik ten Hag has confirmed.

The Denmark international has been sidelined since January with an ankle injury but remains hopeful of featuring before the end of the season.

While Eriksen will not be available to feature against his former side, Brentford, on Wednesday, a return could be right around the corner.

"He's not ready for tomorrow but he's returning to the pitch and into team training today, so we now have to see how quickly he can make progress," Ten Hag said at a press conference.

Eriksen's continued absence in midfield is further complicated by Casemiro's suspension. He was issued a four-match suspension following his red card in the goalless draw against Southampton and remains absent for the midweek clash, as well as Saturday's meeting with Everton.

Ten Hag accepts that losing two players of such a high calibre has an impact on the side but called on his squad to step up, expressing a necessity to win.

"They are two quality players. In the midfield department, games will be decided. When you miss two quality players, it's a clear [impact], but you have a squad and, when you don't have them, you still have to win," he added.

After winning the EFL Cup in February, United have hit a poor run of form in the Premier League with a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Liverpool and 2-0 loss at Newcastle either side of the aforementioned draw with Saints, dropping to fifth after Tottenham's Monday draw with Everton.

United are tied on points with Newcastle and Spurs, though hold two games in hand over the latter, but the club's struggles in the league since ending their trophy drought at Wembley are a cause for concern.

Ten Hag sees things differently, however, highlighting the FA Cup quarter-final win over Fulham as evidence that there are no issues in securing results against Premier League opponents.

"We played 60 minutes against Southampton with 10 men, we beat Fulham, that's a Premier League opponent, we beat Newcastle in the Carabao Cup, a Premier League opponent, so there's no concern - we know we can beat Premier League teams," he concluded.

Arsenal and Manchester City matched each other stride for stride and goal for goal on Saturday.

The Gunners restored their eight-point advantage over Pep Guardiola's side with a 4-1 victory over Leeds United at Emirates Stadium, shortly after City had downed Liverpool by the same scoreline in the early Premier League kick-off.

Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford continued their tussle for European football with an entertaining 3-3 draw – Alexis Mac Allister's 90th-minute penalty levelling the scores.

Meanwhile, it was another grim day for Graham Potter's Chelsea, who lost 2-0 at Stamford Bridge to Aston Villa.

Man City 4-1 Liverpool: Pep hits century to end Reds' run

City successfully navigated a potential stumbling block with relative ease, responding after falling a goal behind to secure Guardiola's 100th Premier League win at the Etihad Stadium.

Those wins came from just 128 matches (D16 L12), with Guardiola becoming the fastest manager to reach a century of home wins in the competition, beating Arsene Wenger's previous record of 139 games with Arsenal.

Ahead of kick-off, all the focus was on the absence of Erling Haaland, but it is not wise to overlook his understudy Julian Alvarez, who took his tally to six goals in seven starts for City in the Premier League – five of which have come at home.

For Liverpool, the loss represents an eighth away defeat of the season, their most in a single season since 2014-15 (also eight).

The Reds also saw a run of 44 matches unbeaten when scoring first in the Premier League snapped, having won their last 22 such matches in a row, with the loss their first in that regard since a 3-1 defeat to Leicester City in February 2021.

Jurgen Klopp's side have now conceded 30 Premier League goals against City, 11 more than they have against any other opponent.

Arsenal 4-1 Leeds United: Gunners no April's Fools

City laid down the marker with their win against Liverpool but Arsenal are a forced to be reckoned with on April 1, winning all seven of their Premier League games on the date with a 25-3 aggregate score – the best 100 per cent win record for any side on any date.

The Gunners are in their stride, scoring three or more goals in three consecutive league matches for the first time since October 2015.

With Bukayo Saka rested, Mikel Arteta's supporting cast shone. Leandro Trossard claimed his seventh assist since his January switch, more than anyone else in that timeframe, while Gabriel Jesus' brace took his season tally to seven – all of which have come in London.

It was Leeds' 17th Premier League defeat to Arsenal, equalling their worst record against a single opponent having lost the same number against both Liverpool and Manchester United.

If Javi Gracia wanted a positive, he need look no further than Rasmus Kristensen who, having failed to score in his first 15 league appearances, has now been on the scoresheet in back-to-back matches.

Brighton and Hove Albion 3-3 Brentford: Seagulls swarm after frantic first half

After just 28 minutes, both sides had celebrated two goals, marking the earliest time each team had scored twice in a game since Burnley's clash against Chelsea in April 2019.

Mac Allister's dramatic late equaliser was a deserved reward for the hosts, who became the first side on record (since 2003-04) to see all 10 of their outfield starters have at least two efforts on goal in a single Premier League game.

The Seagulls peppered Brentford's goal throughout, registering 33 shots and 15 attempts on target, both of which are the highest totals in any game this season from all clubs.

Though the late equaliser will sting the Bees, Thomas Frank's side have lost just one of their last 16 Premier League matches (W7 D8).

Ivan Toney's goals have been invaluable for Brentford, particularly on the road, with nine of his 17 league goals this season coming away from home – only Haaland and Harry Kane have more (both 10).

Chelsea 0-2 Aston Villa: Blues lack home comforts 

Suffering defeat and failing to score at home for the fourth time this season, Chelsea equalled their worst-ever seasons in that regard (1994-95 and 2019-20) and slipped into the bottom half in the process.

The Blues certainly pushed hard for a goal. They had 27 attempts – their most without scoring in a Premier League match since January 2014.

Villa continue to be revitalised under Unai Emery, with only Arsenal (13) and Manchester City (10) securing more victories in the Premier League than the Villans (nine) since the Spaniard's appointment on November 6.

Ollie Watkins stole the show, scoring in a fifth consecutive Premier League away game, the first Villa player to achieve that feat, and hitting double figures for goals for the third consecutive season – something only Mohamed Salah and Kane can also boast.

Leeds United, Everton, Southampton and Leicester City all earned big results on Saturday in their efforts to beat the drop.

The Premier League's struggling sides were the big winners from the five matches to take place.

Leeds beat fellow relegation candidates Wolves 4-2, while Everton pegged back Chelsea twice at Stamford Bridge and Southampton came from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 with Tottenham.

Leicester, meanwhile, snatched a draw at Brentford, though 19th-placed Bournemouth lost 3-0 at Aston Villa.

Wolves 2-4 Leeds United: Six-goal thriller and two reds at Molineux

Leeds came out on top in an enthralling encounter at Molineux, with Javi Gracia's side claiming what could be a vital three points in their bid to survive this season.

Jack Harrison put them ahead early on, and he has now been directly involved in four goals (two goals, two assists) in his four Premier League games under Gracia, just one fewer than in his previous 21 matches under Jesse Marsch and Michael Skubala this season (five).

Luke Ayling netted his first league goal since doing so against Wolves exactly a year ago (March 18, 2022) to make it 2-0, with Rasmus Kristensen putting Leeds three ahead.

Their hopes of a comfortable win were dashed when Illan Meslier, on the day he became the youngest goalkeeper in Premier League history to reach 100 appearances, made a mistake that Jonny pounced on, volleying in from 41 yards. That is the furthest distance a player has scored from in the top flight since Wayne Rooney's 58-yard strike for Everton against West Ham in November 2017.

A deflected Matheus Cunha strike gave Wolves hope, but Jonny became the first Wolves player to both score and be sent off in any league game since September 2008. 

Julen Lopetegui was fuming that Wolves were not awarded a first-half penalty and that a foul was not given in the build-up to Rodrigo's late effort for Leeds, with Matheus Nunes then sent off even though he was on the substitutes' bench.

"I'm not waiting for [further apologies]. I just want them [the officials] to do their job," Lopetegui said.

Southampton 3-3 Tottenham: Conte left seething after Ward-Prowse seals comeback

Southampton came from two goals down to avoid defeat for a second time in the Premier League this season, with only Manchester City (P3 W2 D1) avoiding defeat having fallen two goals behind on more occasions this term.

Tottenham, who took the lead through Pedro Porro but saw it cancelled out by Che Adams, restored their advantage through Harry Kane – he has now scored nine headers in the league this season, equalling Duncan Ferguson's single-season record in the competition from 1997-98.

Ivan Perisic took Spurs' tally of Premier League scorers to 162, with only West Ham (164) having more different scorers in the competition's history, yet Theo Walcott pulled one back for Saints. The former Arsenal winger has more top-flight goal involvements (12) and goals (seven) against Tottenham than he does against any other opponent.

Yet Spurs conceded a 14th goal since the season restarted when Pape Sarr was deemed to have fouled Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and James Ward-Prowse converted the penalty. He has been involved in more Premier League goals against Tottenham than he has any other opponent (nine – five goals, four assists).

Brentford 1-1 Leicester City: Barnes holds the Bees

Brentford remain without a win against Leicester in the Premier League (P4 D2 L2). The Bees have not beaten the Foxes in the league since March 1953 (P8 D3 L5 since).

Leicester ended a run of four consecutive defeats in the Premier League but this was just the eighth point they have picked up in 2023 (P10 W2 D2 L6). Only Crystal Palace (five) have picked up fewer points since the turn of the year, while only Everton and Bournemouth (20 and 18 respectively) have conceded more goals in the competition this calendar year than Leicester's 17.

Only Ivan Toney (eight) has scored more home goals for Brentford in the Premier League this season than Mathias Jensen (five), whose goal was the Bees' 19th from a set-piece this term – more than any other side in the division.

Leicester scored from their only shot on target of the game. Harvey Barnes' goal was his ninth of the season – his joint-most in a single Premier League campaign (also nine in 2020-21).

Chelsea 2-2 Everton: Simms snatches huge point

Substitute Ellis Simms scored his first goal for Everton as Sean Dyche's team drew 2-2 at Stamford Bridge, twice coming from behind.

 

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 28 Premier League home games against Everton (W15 D13), but the Toffees can take plenty of confidence from this result.

Joao Felix put Chelsea ahead with his first home goal for the Blues, but Abdoulaye Doucoure equalised from a corner; four of Everton's seven goals under Dyche have come from set-pieces.

Kai Havertz converted a spot-kick to restore Chelsea's lead. He has scored in three consecutive games for the Blues for the second time, previously doing so in March 2022.

However, Simms came on from the bench to earn a point for Everton. The Toffees have now had 13 different goalscorers in the competition this season, with only Arsenal, Chelsea and Leeds (14 each) having more.

A man who sent racist abuse to Brentford striker Ivan Toney has been banned from every stadium in the United Kingdom for three years.

Toney revealed in October he had received the abusive message on Instagram, posting screenshots and saying it made him feel "angry", as Brentford called for police to act.

It has led to 24-year-old Antonio Neill, from Blyth in Northumberland, being handed a four-month sentence suspended for two years, plus the football banning order.

Northumbria Police said the latter sanction, handed down on Monday, was the first such order of its kind issued under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

Neill pleaded guilty in January to sending an offensive message after officers pursued him over what they considered a hate crime, and he has now been banned from attending any regulated football game in the UK, and from travelling abroad to watch games.

Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for football policing, said: "This result makes it clear that there are real consequences for those people who think they can hide behind a keyboard to post hateful comments."

He added: "I would urge others who are victims of online hate to come forward and report it to police so it can be investigated and action can be taken."

Toney sits third on this season's list of Premier League top scorers, with 15 goals in a prolific campaign for the Bees.

Brentford said they were "pleased" to see the case conclude, adding: "Court appearances set a strong precedent for anyone else who commits hate crimes and it is our hope that sentences increase in severity until this sort of crime is eradicated.

"Ivan Toney has been subject to sickening racist abuse on a regular basis, and we want to see tough action taken against anyone found guilty of such abuse."

The club appealed at the time of Toney being sent the message for social media bosses to take action, repeating that message on Tuesday by stating: "All authorities have their role to play in this and we, again, call upon the social media companies to make their platforms safe for all participants and to remove all hateful content."

Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper has dismissed links with Tottenham amid growing pressure on Antonio Conte.

Spurs' Champions League exit at the hands of AC Milan, along with poor Premier League form and bowing out of the FA Cup against Sheffield United, has led to speculation over Conte's future.

On Thursday, the Athletic reported chairman Daniel Levy has tasked director of football Fabio Paratici to produce a list of suitable replacements for the Italian.

Cooper has been linked with a potential vacancy, reportedly having admirers within the Spurs hierarchy, but he outlined his focus on Forest ahead of Saturday's trip to north London.

"The only thing that it is, is irrelevant. I said what I said last week, I don't want or need to say it again," he said at a press conference.

"The most important thing for me is the game, the guys I am working with every single day and I am trying to be at my best and do a good day's work and try and get them to do the same.

"Then we give ourselves a chance of trying to be a better team. We are embracing that challenge, we have had a lot of hurdles we have had to overcome this season, I am loving this journey with the players.

"It is a challenging one but one I am enjoying. But anything outside that bubble is irrelevant.

"The moment I am not thinking about Nottingham Forest or the players or the staff or how I can be at my best is the moment I am not getting it right, that's not what I want to be, I want to be all-in, that's what I am and I am not looking further than going to Tottenham on Saturday."

Cooper was not the only Premier League boss to dismiss questions about a move to Tottenham, with Brentford head coach Thomas Frank outlining his happiness with the Bees.

"First, they have a manager which is a manager I have studied for years and I admire massively. I think he has achieved some fantastic results so I hope he will do well and I hope Spurs do well," he said ahead of the game against Everton.

"Secondly, I am very, very happy here at Brentford."

Ivan Toney continued his impressive penalty-scoring record on Monday but the Brentford striker says his method is simple.

The 26-year-old stroked the ball into the bottom-right corner from 12 yards again as Thomas Frank's side claimed a 3-2 Premier League victory over fellow unlikely European hopefuls Fulham.

Toney has converted all 22 penalties he has taken for Brentford, with 10 of those coming in the Premier League.

Only Yaya Toure, who scored all 11 spot-kick attempts for Manchester City, boasts a better 100 per cent conversion rate in the competition – yet Toney explained his penalty procedure is all about being relaxed.

After being made to wait before putting Brentford 2-1 up in the 53rd minute at the Brentford Community Stadium, he told Sky Sports: "The wait doesn't matter, the longer the better really because I can get away and think of other things like being away on holiday and chilling.

"The goalkeeper didn't move but I have always got a spot where I put the ball."

Toney has scored 27 of his 28 penalties in his professional career, with the only blemish a saved attempt for Peterborough United in a 4-0 defeat against Barnsley back in October 2018.

That miss was the catalyst for a technique alteration.

When asked when he changed his approach, he replied: "When I missed... I thought of different techniques to make sure I had a better chance of scoring and it's working out alright at the moment, so touch wood, it continues."

Another strike against Fulham took Toney's Premier League tally to 15 this season despite off-field issues.

He has been charged with 262 alleged betting violations by the Football Association, which took place over a four-year period, but hit out at English football's governing body last weeks after reported media leaks.

Reports suggested Toney, who missed out on England's World Cup squad in Qatar, would be banned for six months after pleading guilty to some charges – claims the forward strongly denied on social media.

Brentford head coach Frank previously defended his star attacker and reiterated his backing for Toney after the Fulham win.

"I take all the praise, it is solely me," Frank initially joked to Sky Sports. "No it is Ivan, that is the technique he had when he arrived at Brentford.

"He is the best penalty taker in the world for a few reasons, his strategy, he practices it and he is very cool. He keeps doing it all the same.

"It is a unique skill with him. This situation with the [betting] case going on, he has a unique ability to focus on games and training and he has kept doing that so that doesn't surprise me.

"He doesn't like the situation but he has top focus. He is a special footballer, I think his character is unique in terms of leadership and driving his team.

"His link-up play and the way he sees his team-mates around in terms of combinations and then his ability to score goals. He is an all-round football player."

Thomas Frank has backed Ivan Toney after leaked speculation over the Football Association's (FA) intended ban for his alleged breaches of betting rules, as well as suggestions he had trained badly while on England duty.

The Brentford striker has been charged with 262 alleged violations by English football's governing body, which took place over a four-year period.

There has been no official FA update on the matter but reports, initially by The Daily Mail on Tuesday, claimed Toney had pleaded guilty to the majority of charges and could face a six-month ban.

Those reports suggested the 26-year-old also denied some of the violations, though Toney was left bewildered by reported leaks within the FA, posting on Instagram that he was "shocked and disappointed" by them.

Toney earned a first England call-up in September but was left out of Gareth Southgate's squad for the World Cup.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Bees head coach Frank said: "The most important [thing] is Ivan. He is amazing in many aspects, the way he copes with pressure, or distraction, and this is of course a bigger one.

"This has been ongoing since November, and yet he just carried on scoring goals, performing for the team, driving the team. It is so remarkable.

"We are 11 games unbeaten [in the Premier League], so I guess that is a decent response."

Only Erling Haaland (27) and Harry Kane (18) have scored more than Toney's 14 goals in 21 Premier League appearances this season, and Frank praised his forward's ability to maintain his form despite the outside noise.

"It is like life, sometimes things get thrown at you and you need to deal with it," he said.

"I would say that we share the disappointment of Ivan in terms of the leaks, that is for a confidential case. It surprised us massively.

"The timing of the leaks, just before the World Cup and the March international [England] team [announcement].

"The talk about that there is a potential ban as long as up to six months, that disappoints us.

"Then we share the disappointment that the talk about Ivan trained badly with the England squad. What is that?

"It is his first time with the England squad and I never met a player who did not want to do everything they can out on the training pitch, that wants to do well to impress the gaffer.

"I can only talk about Ivan what I see out here [in training] and around the place, he is a fantastic person around the group.

"He has that unique emotional intelligence to be aware of the lowest player to the top players and staff members.

"He has trained well and to me he is clearly number two in England as a striker. He has proven that with the goals and the performances."

Ivan Toney hit out at "disturbing" speculation over the Football Association's (FA) intended ban for his alleged breaches of betting rules.

The Brentford striker has been charged with 262 alleged violations by English football's governing body, which took place over a four-year period.

There has been no official FA update on the matter but reports, initially by The Daily Mail on Tuesday, claimed Toney has pleaded guilty to the majority of charges and could face a six-month ban.

Those reports suggested the 26-year-old has also denied some of the violations, though Toney was left bewildered by reported leaks within the FA.

He posted on Instagram on Wednesday: "I was shocked and disappointed to see press speculation yesterday and today about the FA investigation process concerning me after I have been told by the FA that it is a confidential process until any decision has been made.

"It is especially disturbing for me to read that the FA is saying I shall be banned from football for six months before there has even been a hearing and it does make me worried about the process."

Toney earned a first England call-up in September but was left out of Gareth Southgate's squad for the World Cup.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham stated that the forward's omission from the squad in Qatar was decided on "footballing grounds".

Toney plans to challenge the FA after a second instance of reported leaks.

He added: "My lawyers will be writing to the FA to request that they conduct a leak inquiry, as this is the second time stories have appeared in the newspapers – the last time was just before the selection for the England World Cup squad.

"As I continue to be told the investigation is meant to be confidential, I am unable to provide any further comment and shall continue to concentrate on my football."

Marcus Thuram will leave Borussia Moenchengladbach at the end of this season when his contract expires.

As a result, the 25-year-old French forward is garnering plenty of interest from top European clubs.

Thuram has scored 14 goals in all competitions this season for Gladbach, having been part of France's 2022 World Cup squad.

 

TOP STORY – THURAM OFFERED TO BARCELONA

Marcus Thuram's agent has offered the French forward to Barcelona as an off-season signing, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Thuram has interest from Chelsea, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid and Inter.

Barcelona's economic challenges mean they have prioritised signing players on free transfers in recent times with Thuram offering that plus flexibility in attack.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fichajes claims Cristiano Ronaldo wants Sergio Ramos to join him at Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr, with the defender's contract with PSG to expire at the end of this season. Ramos will leave it late to make a decision, holding out hope for a PSG extension.

Liverpool will battle Bayern Munich in the off-season for the signature of Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic, reports Calciomercatoweb.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea are all interested in Inter's Marcelo Brozovic, with the Serie A club open to selling him, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Manchester United are weighing up a move for Bayer Leverkusen right-back Jeremie Frimpong, reports Football Insider. Fabrizio Romano claims numerous top clubs are interested in the Dutch defender.

– La Gazzetta dello Sport claims Liverpool are tracking Inter's Nicolo Barella as they look to bolster their midfield options.

West Ham, Fulham, Crystal Palace and Brentford are all circling for Milan forward Olivier Giroud,  who is open to a return to England, claims The Sun.

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) Lee Mason has left his role "by mutual consent" after his blunder cost Arsenal a win against Brentford last weekend.

The Gunners were held to a 1-1 draw in a London derby last Saturday, though Ivan Toney's equaliser should have been disallowed.

Toney headed in from close range after Christian Norgaard nudged the ball across the face of goal, but the latter had been offside in the build-up.

The goal went to a VAR check for a separate incident instead, with Mason – in charge of the technology for the game – not spotting Norgaard strayed just offside.

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the body responsible for referees in England, subsequently acknowledged it was a "significant error" and Mason was not assigned to a match for the coming weekend.

PGMOL then revealed on Friday that Mason has left his position with immediate effect.

A statement read: "PGMOL can confirm that Video Assistant Referee Lee Mason has departed the organisation by mutual consent.

"Lee was a Premier League referee for 15 years and oversaw 287 top-flight matches during that time, with his last coming during the closing stages of the 2021-22 season.

"His full career in the professional game saw the 51-year-old officiate in over 500 fixtures after he progressed to the Football League in 1998.

"We would like to thank Lee for his dedicated service to the professional game and wish him all the best for the future."

It was not Mason's first high-profile error of the season, having denied Newcastle United a winner against Crystal Palace in September when ruling out Tyrick Mitchell's own goal for what he deemed to be a foul by Joe Willock on Vicente Guaita in the build-up.

Kevin De Bruyne served up a reminder of his match-winning brilliance as Manchester City usurped Arsenal at the top of the Premier League, so Nottingham Forest will be on high alert.

City go to Forest on Saturday, looking to stay at the summit, and their Belgian playmaker is set to be a key figure once more, and potentially a big points winner when it comes to fantasy leagues.

In an unlikely top-seven battle, Brighton and Hove Albion will look to in-form left-back Pervis Estupinan to contribute at both ends of the pitch against Fulham, while Wolves and Brentford will be hoping for big contributions from Ruben Neves and Ivan Toney as they tackle Bournemouth and Crystal Palace respectively.

Stats Perform, using Opta data, has chosen these four players for your selection consideration ahead of the weekend games.

Pervis Estupinan (Brighton v Fulham)

With three assists in his last three Premier League appearances, including last time out against Palace, Ecuadorian Estupinan is making a huge impact for the Seagulls.

Only three defenders have provided more assists than him in the competition this season, while Estupinan is one of only four such players to create at least 20 chances from open play (21).

Head coach Roberto De Zerbi has welcomed the efforts of the former Villarreal player, saying: "He's very important in build-up, but he's becoming a complete player now."

Kevin De Bruyne (Nottingham Forest v Manchester City)

Dropped to the bench at Tottenham recently, De Bruyne has responded by showing his value to City.

After scoring the opener, De Bruyne assisted for Erling Haaland's clincher in the 3-1 win at Arsenal, meaning the Belgian has been involved in 16 Premier League goals this season (4 goals, 12 assists), bettered by only three players.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (14) has both scored and assisted in more games in the competition than De Bruyne (13).

Forest beware: De Bruyne has assisted Haaland six times in the Premier League this season, more than any other player has assisted another.

Ruben Neves (Wolves v Bournemouth)

Wolves midfielder Neves has scored five goals in this Premier League season, equalling his best tally from the 2020-21 campaign.

Four of those five goals have come at Molineux, including in his last such appearance against Liverpool, so he will fancy his prospects of adding to that haul and setting an outright personal best for goals when second-bottom Bournemouth visit.

He is Wolves' joint top scorer in the league, matching Daniel Podence's total, and Neves brings abundant creativity too.

Ivan Toney (Brentford v Crystal Palace)

The visit of Palace should bring the best out of Toney, given he has scored in his last three London derby appearances (against Arsenal, West Ham and Tottenham), helping Brentford to a healthy five points.

Only Haaland (30) and Harry Kane (18) have been involved in more Premier League goals this season than Toney (17 – 14 goals, 3 assists).

Another factor in his favour is that among players with 30-plus shots this term, only Haaland (33.3 per cent) has a better shot conversion rate than him (23.7 per cent).

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