Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho was prominent as Aston Villa went on a recent three-match winning streak in the Premier League.

Despite losses to West Ham and Arsenal coming into the international break, Villa have steadied since the November appointment of head coach Steven Gerrard, who took over from Dean Smith.

Villa are thought to remain interested in turning Coutinho's loan into a permanent arrangement, but another suitor could yet strike a deal, according to Spanish newspaper Sport.

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE LINKED WITH COUTINHO RAID

Newcastle United are said to be ready to swoop for Coutinho if Villa, who have an option to buy, cannot piece together a long-term agreement for the Brazilian winger.

Villa signed Coutinho on loan in January and to take him off Barcelona's hands would reportedly cost around €40million (£33m).

The 29-year-old has immediately become an integral part of Gerrard's attack, providing four goals and three assists in 10 Premier League appearances since arriving.

However, the prospect of a permanent deal is based on Villa accounting for Coutinho's substantial wages, which Barcelona currently subsidise. With new ownership, Newcastle appear capable of finding such funds.

ROUND-UP

Barcelona have tried to exploit sanctions affecting Chelsea by attempting to sign three of the club's defenders in Antonio RudigerCesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen, according to The Telegraph.

– RB Leipzig are set to conduct contract talks with Christopher Nkunku, but according to ESPN they are willing to listen to offers in excess of €75million.

Edinson Cavani is set for a move to Boca Juniors when his contract with Manchester United expires at the end of the season, claims Todofichajes.

– Bruno Fernandes has signed a new contract with Manchester United, extending his existing deal by one season but with a substantial wage increase, The Guardian reports.

Cristiano Ronaldo claimed Portugal are in their "rightful place" after Fernando Santos' team secured their place at the 2022 World Cup.

Bruno Fernandes scored both goals in a 2-0 win over North Macedonia in Porto on Tuesday, ensuring Portugal's run of qualifying for every World Cup since the turn of the century continued.

Portugal had to get through two play-off games to reach Qatar after finishing behind Serbia in their qualification group, but it does mean Italy are the only true European footballing heavyweight that will not be featuring in the tournament later this year.

Barring injury, Manchester United forward Ronaldo will be featuring at his fifth World Cup, equalling the record shared by Antonio Carbajal, Rafael Marquez, Lothar Matthaus and Gianluigi Buffon, albeit the latter did not actually play in the 1998 tournament despite making Italy's squad.

"Goal achieved, we are at the Qatar World Cup, we are in our rightful place!" Ronaldo wrote in a post on his official Instagram account shortly after the match.

"Thank you to all the Portuguese for your tireless support! Go Portugal!"

Ronaldo teed up Fernandes' opener in the 32nd minute, with the 37-year-old's club-mate then slotting in from Diogo Jota's cross midway through the second half to all but wrap up the win.

"It doesn't matter at all. It's important to help the team, I'm not here to score goals," Fernandes told reporters when asked about his own performance.

"If I can score, I'd be happy to. That's what I did today. Then it's up to everyone to give their criticism and opinion.

"But I keep my mind on the coach's ideas, and that's probably why I've had this double, for doing what the coach asks of me."

On qualifying, Fernandes added: "It will be in a special place, obviously. The objective has been achieved, which is the most important thing.

"I think Portugal has played better, we've had better performances, but this game made a difference because it qualified us."

Kylian Mbappe is expected to join Real Madrid upon the conclusion of his Paris Saint-Germain contract.

The 2018 World Cup winner has opted not to extend his PSG deal.

Los Blancos have long circled for Mbappe's signature, having come close to signing him in the off-season.

TOP STORY - BARCELONA PLOT SWOOP FOR REAL TARGET MBAPPE

Barcelona are plotting a sensational move to snap up Mbappe ahead of rivals Madrid, reports L'Equipe.

The 23-year-old PSG winger has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid upon the conclusion of his contract at season's end.

However, the report claims Barcelona view him as a more financially shrewd option than Erling Haaland, who could cost them up to €300million.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona have also joined the race to sign Leeds United's Brazil international Raphinha alongside Liverpool, Manchester City and Bayern Munich, according to the Mirror.

- Barcelona are also interested in Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski, claims SPORT. The same outlet have also linked the Blaugrana with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah , who is yet to extend at Anfield beyond his existing deal, which expires in 2023.

- The Sun claims that Bruno Fernandes will have his salary doubled with a new Manchester United deal in the works. The contract is understood to be a five-year deal.

- Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger has been offered a deal by Juventus, reports Sky Sports.

Renan Lodi sent Atletico Madrid into the Champions League quarter-finals by securing a 1-0 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Tuesday. 

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the last-16 tie three weeks prior, Lodi's first-half header clinched a 2-1 aggregate success for LaLiga's reigning champions. 

Anthony Elanga scored United's goal in Madrid but missed an early chance to convert a pass from Bruno Fernandes, who returned to the line-up following a positive COVID-19 test. 

Atletico sat back and made life difficult for United after Lodi's first Champions League goal, which was enough to send them into the last eight for the second time in three seasons. 

Jan Oblak kept out a point-blank effort from Elanga with his head in the 13th minute, while David de Gea did brilliantly to deny Rodrigo de Paul from 25 yards at the other end. 

Fernandes had a claim for a penalty turned down following a challenge from Reinildo before Joao Felix saw a goal ruled out for offside against Marcos Llorente in the build-up. 

Atletico still went into half-time in front after Lodi headed home Antoine Griezmann's delivery, with United furious that Reinildo was not penalised for a challenge on Elanga moments earlier. 

Elanga guided a decent effort wide 30 seconds after the restart, while Jadon Sancho lashed a volley narrowly over before the hour mark. 

Oblak made another fine stop from a Raphael Varane header that looked destined for the top-left corner with 13 minutes remaining.

It was the closest Ralf Rangnick's side came to keeping their last hope of silverware this season alive, with Atletico holding on to progress.

What does it mean? United again pay for slow start 

It is not a good sign for United if they draw the first leg of a Champions League knockout clash.  They have now been eliminated from the past four ties in which they have been held in the opening encounter, three of which have come against Spanish opposition. 

Furthermore, United have now won just two of their past nine Champions League home games against Spanish opposition. 

Ronaldo goes missing 

United needed their players to step up on the big occasion, but Cristiano Ronaldo was a peripheral figure. He failed to register a single attempt on goal – something he has not experienced in a Champions League game in which he played at least 45 minutes since May 2011 (semi-final second leg against Barcelona with Real Madrid). 

Simeone masterclass 

If there is one thing Atletico know how to do it is defend a lead. Their second half was vintage Diego Simeone as his team kept their first away clean sheet against an English side in the competition. They also avoided conceding at least once in seven straight Champions League games for the first time since 2013. 

What's next? 

Atletico take on Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga on Saturday, while United are not in action until a Premier League meeting with Leicester City at Old Trafford on April 2. 

Bruno Fernandes started against Atletico Madrid on a big Champions League night for Manchester United at Old Trafford. 

The Portuguese playmaker missed Saturday's 3-2 win over Tottenham after a positive COVID-19 test. 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick to snatch the points in that game, and United boss Ralf Rangnick confirmed the reason for Fernandes being absent afterwards. 

Rangnick said it would be a race against time for Fernandes to be back for duty in Europe; however, the former Sporting CP man was able to train on Monday. 

Fernandes was named in a midfield that also featured Fred, Jadon Sancho and Scott McTominay. The latter returned from an injury that caused him to miss the Spurs game, as Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic dropped to the bench for the visit of Diego Simeone's side. 

Ronaldo and Anthony Elanga, who scored United's goal in Spain to earn a 1-1 draw, led the attack, with Marcus Rashford only a substitute. 

Ronaldo has netted 13 goals in his last 15 home games against Atletico across all competitions, including two hat-tricks in his most recent four – for Real Madrid in May 2017 and Juventus in March 2019, both in this competition. 

Atletico's attack for Tuesday's second leg of the last-16 tie was spearheaded by Antoine Griezmann and Joao Felix, with former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez on the bench. 

Bruno Fernandes has tested positive for COVID-19 and could miss Manchester United's crucial Champions League home clash with Atletico Madrid.

The playmaker missed Saturday's 3-2 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford, with his absence put down to an undisclosed illness.

Details have now emerged from interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who said Fernandes faced a race against time to be ready for the last-16 second leg on Tuesday.

Luke Shaw could be back from a coronavirus lay-off, while Rangnick is hopeful midfielder Scott McTominay will be able to feature after a calf problem.

Speaking of Fernandes, Rangnick said: "I don't know. With Scotty, I hope so, but he had some muscular problems with his calf. That's why we decided not to play him [against Tottenham], because Scotty, quite like Fred, is only valuable if he can perform with 100 per cent of his physical capacity.

"Luke hopefully will be back in training Monday and Bruno we will have to wait and see until Tuesday. This will probably be a last-minute race with him – due to COVID."

Fernandes has been United's chief creative force in the Champions League this season, with his six assists putting him four ahead of Shaw, who is second on that list at the club. He has also created a team-high 20 chances in the competition, with Cristiano Ronaldo next with nine.

Ronaldo's hat-trick against Tottenham has raised hopes that he can make a telling difference in Europe, too, with United level at 1-1 with Atletico after the first leg in Spain.

Rangnick said of his 37-year-old superstar striker: "He can be a leader with a performance like that. This is what I have been telling him since I arrived, that with this kind of performance he can be one of the engines of the team.

"We have quite a few other players who can do the same, including Fred, Harry [Maguire], Rapha [Raphael Varane], Victor [Lindelof], whoever. Even Edi [Edinson Cavani], when he came on, the last 10 or 15 minutes showed how important and what kind of role he can still play. I wish him to be available until the end of the season."

Rangnick was pleased with Jadon Sancho against Tottenham, with a notable assist for Ronaldo's second goal reflecting the winger's growing influence.

Sancho arrived with a big reputation from Borussia Dortmund last year and the 21-year-old did not immediately make the expected impact, but he is beginning to catch the eye.

"This is what he should be," said Rangnick, quoted on United's official website. "The club paid quite a few pounds for him in order to lure him away from Borussia Dortmund and if you pay that amount of money in a transfer fee for a player, he should perform on this kind of level.

"At the end, they are all human beings. The mere fact he cost a lot of money does not mean that he is playing at that level to start with.

"He told me that of course it was a problem for him to get adjusted to the intensity of the league, to the physicality of the league. Now he has managed to do that. I'm happy to see him play at that kind of level right now."

Cristiano Ronaldo was back in the Manchester United team to face Tottenham on Saturday after missing the derby drubbing, but there was no Bruno Fernandes.

The absence of Ronaldo for last Sunday's 4-1 defeat to Manchester City sparked a fresh wave of speculation about the 37-year-old's United future.

It was put down to a hip problem by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, but former United captain Roy Keane was among those who questioned whether that told the full story.

Ronaldo's Manchester derby absence came after a run of one goal and zero assists in 10 games for United in all competitions this calendar year. That compares to 12 goals and three assists in his opening 19 games upon returning to United from Juventus at the end of August.

He was restored for the visit of Spurs, but Portuguese compatriot Fernandes was surprisingly not involved, three days before United tackle Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

Rangnick said: "Bruno is ill, unfortunately. He couldn't train yesterday and is therefore not available for the game. Hopefully, he will be back for Tuesday but, today, he is out."

NFL legend Tom Brady, a friend of Tottenham striker Harry Kane, was at Old Trafford for the game.

There was a United start for Marcus Rashford, whose own future has been cast into doubt by reports suggesting he could seek a move at the end of the season. He replaced Anthony Elanga, while Edinson Cavani was named on the bench after recent fitness worries.

Goalkeeper David De Gea featured for the home side after a COVID-19 false positive, while Raphael Varane was back from a coronavirus absence to start alongside Harry Maguire in central defence.

Rangnick told MUTV: "We had a false positive test on David De Gea last night. We then decided to have a second test that was negative and then a PCR test that was negative again, and that's why we can play him after all."

Bruno Fernandes has become the latest player to dismiss reports of a divide in the Manchester United dressing room, insisting the team are sticking together.

A rift between captain Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo was reported ahead of Sunday's clash with Leeds United.

But Marcus Rashford and Maguire each responded on social media, while interim manager Ralf Rangnick described the claims as "absolute nonsense," before saying the 4-2 victory was the "perfect response" from his players.

Fernandes has also now denied the story, saying the togetherness and camaraderie of the group was evident in their goal celebrations at Elland Road.

"It is honestly people trying to complain and making stories about this club," said the Portugal midfielder ahead of Wednesday's game against Atletico Madrid.

"I don't know what people mean. I saw the goal of H [Maguire] and saw Paul [Pogba] running behind, sliding on his knees, happy for him. I was slapping his head and saying finally he had scored with that big head.

"We know when someone talks about this club or players at this club, it goes around the world with their voice. That is something that they want.

"For us, it is nothing. If we stick to the plan and stick together, that is the main thing: losing together and winning together." 

Ralf Rangnick has heaped praise upon his opposite number Diego Simeone ahead of Manchester Untied's Champions League first-leg clash with Atletico Madrid. 

Rangnick, who is taking charge of just the third Champions League knockout tie of his career after reaching the semi-finals with Schalke in 2010-11, was rewarded for guiding the Red Devils to top of Group F with a trip to the Wanda Metropolitano. 

Despite winning LaLiga last season, Atletico have endured a difficult campaign domestically, and are currently fighting with a rejuvenated Barcelona for a place in Spain's top four.

Atletico have also lost each of their last four Champions League meetings with English opposition, but Rangnick was keen to emphasise Simeone's achievements in Madrid, stressing that United will have to match their hosts both mentally and physically if they are to stand a chance of progressing.

"He has won trophies with a clear identity, with a recognisable style", Rangnick said of Simeone. "I don't think this has changed in the last few years. 

"They are always an emotional side, and this reflects the character of the manager. Simeone is probably one of the best emotional managers in Europe. 

"The style and the way his teams have always performed reflects those emotions that he brings to the team. We need to match those levels of energy and emotion in both games. 

"It will be physical, it will be emotional, and we will have to be mentally strong. I will try to prepare our team for that challenge."

Rangnick has only lost one of his 15 games since taking the reins at United, but a recent FA Cup exit plus draws against Burnley and Southampton brought renewed criticism of the Red Devils' performances.

However, attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes has defended their displays, as he aims to fire United to their 500th goal in the history of the European Cup and Champions League.

 

"I think the team has been playing well even, in the games we didn't win", Fernandes, who scored in Sunday's dramatic 4-2 win at Leeds United, said.

"Obviously when you don't get the result, it's not perfect. Winning games [makes] you feel more confident. 

"Going into this game, which is an important one, we know that having the confidence of winning games gives you something more. If we stick from the plan from the first to the last minute, we can win the game."

Fernandes has the most goal involvements (15) of any Manchester United player in the Premier League this season, and has recorded the most assists (five) of any player in the Champions League this term, but is yet to find the net in Europe himself this campaign.

Rewind to January 2020. At the time, Bruno Fernandes just seemed like he was becoming the latest in a long list of players who had been linked with Manchester United but ultimately never set foot in Old Trafford.

Remember Nico Gaitan?

But, as it happened, United did get a deal done for the Portugal midfielder, who – on the evidence of his time at Sporting CP – was going to bring goals, craft and fire to the Red Devils' engine room.

It would be fair to say he has surpassed the expectations of many fans and neutrals alike. While he undoubtedly has the capacity to frustrate, anyone who doubts his ability is surely just being contrarian.

Tuesday marks two years since his United debut, a disappointing 0-0 draw with – fittingly – Portugal Lite, or Wolves as they are known in the Midlands.

During his two years at United, Fernandes has become arguably their key man, best player and general lynchpin, the individual who most things are built around.

Yet, the noise around him this season would suggest United's wider issues have started to catch up with him – but just how accurate is that? Has his level truly dropped?

Over-reaction or justified criticism?

Regardless of your opinion on Fernandes' form, we can all agree he has been largely an excellent addition for United. Even when you take away the penalties, his 44 Premier League goal involvements since his debut is bettered only by Mohamed Salah (55), Harry Kane (46) and Son Heung-min (45).

His arrival introduced some much-needed creative consistency to the United midfield. Paul Pogba didn't quite provide that – whether that's entirely his fault is a debate for another time, but Fernandes has shown an ability to habitually unlock defences, with his 148 chances created in open play at least 18 more than any other player since February 1, 2020.

But in a season that has proven so tumultuous at Old Trafford, not even Fernandes has escaped criticism, which appears to be levelled at him now more vociferously among fans than at any other point in his two years there.

His off-the-cuff style undoubtedly feeds that. If a player is trying the killer ball at every opportunity and it frequently fails, that's obviously going to feed fan frustrations.

And, to be fair, there has been a slight drop-off in his creative threat. He averaged 0.25 expected assists (xA) per 90 minutes across his Premier League career before 2021-22, the fourth-highest among players to play at least 1,000 minutes, and that's at 0.21 for the current season – though that's still only bettered by six players (minimum 1,000 minutes).

He's never just been about threatening with his passing ability, though. Fernandes has been the club's best source of goals from midfield in years – his nine non-penalty (np) top-flight goals last season has only ever been bettered twice by a United central midfielder in the Premier League era: Paul Scholes in 1995-96 (10) and 2002-03 (14).

To his credit, Fernandes already has seven this season despite his np-xG slipping from 0.17 to 0.24 per 90 minutes. So, although he's not getting into as good goalscoring positions, he remains a potent weapon, which highlights the class he possesses. Of course, some might suggest that goals haul is somewhat skewed by his hat-trick against a notoriously open Leeds United on matchday one, but he still deservers his dues for that performance.

Furthermore, his average of 2.9 chances created every 90 minutes in 2021-22 is actually up slightly on his record for his first 18 months at Old Trafford (2.6) – so, while certain factions of the United support might be growing frustrated by particular aspects of Fernandes' game, it's clear to see he still offers a lot.

Out of his comfort zone

Another key element to be taken into consideration is the overarching institutional mess that has been Manchester United in 2021-22. The club is enduring a difficult season, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign coming to an end and Ralf Rangnick coming in.

There have been considerable changes to the backroom staff and the team is undergoing a significant philosophical shift, both in terms of tactics and formation. Solskjaer's plight came down to a collective failing, with so many players suffering a dip in form, and Rangnick's introduction may well have been something of a shock to the system – he and the Norwegian are hardly cut from the same cloth.

This has clearly impacted Fernandes, given his usual 'number 10' role suddenly became less assured. While Rangnick has shown a certain degree of tactical flexibility, with United appearing to operate with a 4-2-3-1 against Brentford, for the most part they have played 4-2-2-2 or 4-3-3.

As such, Fernandes has had to adapt and that's meant becoming something more closely resembling a roaming number eight, but with greater emphasis on operating towards the left.

As his touch locations map shows, Fernandes is averaging as many as 9.8 touches more per 90 minutes on the left flank under Rangnick than he was with Solskjaer this season. While his touch frequency through the middle hasn't changed massively, his numbers are down slightly except for in the zone just past the halfway line, where they have increased.

Perhaps, then, it should come as no surprise that Fernandes is having fewer shots (1.9, down from 2.5) and creating fewer chances (2.4, down from 3.1) under Rangnick than he was for Solskjaer, but there is every chance this is deliberate.

Rangnick may have felt Fernandes wasn't having enough influence in United's general play, with his touches per 90 minutes averaging at 69.1 this season under Solskjaer and Michael Carrick. That was well below his average pre-2021-22 (81.8) but it has since been boosted to 78.7.

Similarly, Fernandes – perhaps owing to operating more in less congested areas of the pitch – is playing 10.4 passes into the box on average every 90 minutes, which is 2.6 more than before.

Again, this may be a deliberate ploy to try to make the most of Fernandes' passing abilities, but it could also be argued this is where he's at odds with the new role and system. With his xA average slipping to 0.19 (per 90) for Rangnick, those extra passes into the box aren't – seemingly – hugely reliable in terms of good chance creation, meaning they are likely more hopeful than expectant.

Given Rangnick's desire for "control", one would think he'd want fewer hopeful deliveries into the box, favouring a more careful approach to attacking, but this could feasibly be put down to Fernandes still requiring time to adapt to a new function, which would be reasonable.

What's clear is the fact Fernandes' two-year anniversary arrives at a time when he's personally going through probably the most testing period of his United career, with the spotlight being shone directly on his contributions amid the wider narrative of team's general woes.

Maybe his levels have dropped slightly, but that's a common theme across this United squad. Either way, he's still proving effective, and it remains difficult to imagine them being a better attacking unit without him.

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester United's starting line-up for their trip to Brentford after missing the past two games through injury. 

The Portugal captain has scored 14 times in 21 appearances this term but has not featured for Ralf Rangnick's side since a 1-0 home loss against Wolves on January 3, having suffered a minor injury setback. 

The former Real Madrid man led the United attack – replacing Edinson Cavani – in west London on Wednesday, though, with Bruno Fernandes slotting in behind his countryman as captain. 

Rangnick also handed another start to youngster Anthony Elanga, who was utilised from the outset against Aston Villa last Saturday, while Mason Greenwood was deployed on the opposite flank. 

Scott McTominay was Rangnick's only other change from the Villa game as he returned from a one-game suspension to replace Nemanja Matic in midfield. 

Club captain Harry Maguire was still only fit enough for the bench after suffering from an abdominal injury, meaning Victor Lindelof partnered Raphael Varane in the United defence again. 

Kevin De Bruyne came back to haunt his old club as his fine strike handed Premier League leaders Manchester City a 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Against no side has De Bruyne scored more Premier League goals than he has against the Blues (five), with this total the most against Chelsea by any player who has previously played for them in the competition.

Elsewhere, Manchester United threw away a two-goal lead at Aston Villa to draw 2-2, with Philippe Coutinho sealing a point on his debut following his loan move from Barcelona.

Wolves beat Southampton 3-1 and Norwich City piled the pressure on Rafael Benitez with a 2-1 win over Everton, while strugglers Newcastle United and Watford played out a 1-1 draw.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data from another eventful day in the Premier League.

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: De Bruyne edges Guardiola's men closer to the title

City's seemingly unstoppable march towards the Premier League title continued with a 12th straight top-flight win.

It marked the ninth run of 12 or more victories in the competition's history, with Pep Guardiola's side now responsible for four of those.

The decisive goal came from Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgium international superbly whipping into the bottom-right corner from distance with 20 minutes remaining.

De Bruyne has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the penalty area – the most of any player since his first season with City (2015-16), and the joint-most of any Citizens player in the competition's history (level with Sergio Aguero).

Chelsea scarcely landed a blow on their hosts, failing to register a single shot in the first half. Indeed, they had just seven touches in City's penalty area – their fewest in a single Premier League match since January 2015 (also seven vs Man City).

Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United: Red Devils squander two-goal lead

A stirring late fight back from Villa meant United failed to win a Premier League away game in which they led by 2+ goals for the first time since January 2016 against Newcastle (3-3).

Bruno Fernandes' opener was the first Premier League goal United have scored from a set piece situation this season (excluding penalties), before the Portugal international doubled their advantage in the second period.  

Since making his United debut in February 2020, only Mohamed Salah (45) and Harry Kane (34) have scored more Premier League goals than Fernandes (33), while only James Ward-Prowse (seven) has scored more goals from outside the box in the competition during this period than the Portuguese (six).

Jacob Ramsey inspired a memorable comeback, though, the 20-year-old becoming the first Villa player to both score and assist against United in a single Premier League game since John Carew in April 2009, and the third-youngest player to do it against the Red Devils in the Premier League overall after Kelechi Iheanacho in September 2016 and Harry Kewell in November 1998.

Coutinho ensured the points were shared in what was his first Premier League appearance in 1477 days (for Liverpool vs Leicester City in December 2017).

Norwich City 2-1 Everton: Idah gets off the mark to put Benitez on the brink

The Canaries kick-started their bid for survival with a second win in six Premier League home games under Dean Smith – as many as they managed in their final 21 home games in the competition under previous manager Daniel Farke.

There were just 92 seconds between Michael Keane's own goal and Adam Idah's first Premier League strike, the hosts scoring as many times inside the opening 18 minutes as they had in their previous eight top-flight matches combined (one).

Idah's goal was his first in 27 Premier League appearances, while it was his first league goal since May 2021, when he scored in Norwich's final game of the Championship season.

The result meant Everton, who pulled one back through Richarlison, have won just 19 points from their 19 league games this season. Only twice previously have they had fewer at this stage of a Premier League campaign (17 in 1997-98 and 2005-06) and it looks as though Benitez's time may be up.

Wolves 3-1 Southampton: Traore off the mark as hosts' fine season continues

Wolves completed a top-flight double over Southampton for the first time since 1971-72, as well as winning three in a row against Saints in the top tier for the first time since October 1970.

Raul Jimenez and Conor Coady put them 2-0 up before the hour mark, with the latter's three Premier League goals coming from just four shots on target in 134 appearances.

Saints captain James Ward-Prowse scored his 12th direct free-kick goal in the Premier League to reduce the deficit – a haul bettered only by David Beckham (18).

However, Adama Traore's first goal in 22 top-flight appearances ensured Wolves picked up 31 points from their first 20 games of the season – their best return at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1979-80 (also 31 points) when they finished in sixth place.

Ralf Rangnick believes Manchester United took another "step forward" despite feeling as if they had lost after throwing away a two-goal lead in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Aston Villa.

United found themselves 2-0 up in the 67th minute thanks to Bruno Fernandes' brace, his first-half opener a result of an Emiliano Martinez error and his emphatic second coming after Morgan Sanson's poor pass.

But it was a case of United being unable to get over the line, with Jacob Ramsey pulling one back before then teeing up Philippe Coutinho to net the crucial equaliser on his debut with eight minutes left.

United did control large parts of the match and arguably looked at their most fluent in attack under Ralf Rangnick, with Mason Greenwood and Anthony Elanga both threatening from the flanks.

But Rangnick could not hide his frustration at United failing to maintain their level into the dying stages.

"It is very difficult to find positives after these 95 minutes," he told Sky Sports. "I felt it was the best game since I came here, in the first half for 30 minutes, when we dominated the game. We had taken some steps forward but have a few things to do better.

"The plan was to press them in the midzone and we did that very well in the first 30 minutes, and control the ball, and those were the positives. When you are 2-0 up you have to defend better than we did in the last 15 minutes.

"We gave away too many balls at times in the last 15 minutes, we were not as compact as before and conceded the two goals. In the last 15 minutes before half-time we were not as courageous to step up, it was better in the second half and then you have to take the three points home. It feels like a defeat, to be honest.

"Right now it's very disappointing but what we showed was a step forward, but it's about getting the results, it feels like two points lost and given away."

Fernandes' first goal was only his second since September, with the midfielder – who wore the captain's armband – appearing to thrive a little more in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, missing out with a hip injury.

While he acknowledged the performance was better than some recent efforts, Fernandes was left bemoaning United's lack of ruthless in the final third, something Ronaldo may have been able to do something about.

"We got into the perfect position to score more goals and take the third goal and finish the game, but we don't get our chance on the counters and gave the chances to them," he added.

"They have good players up front and draw the game, it is tough to take because I think the game was under control.

"After our first goal they began to press us more, but still we had our chances and could have scored again. Sometimes the shot was not good, or the pass was not good and you start losing confidence, the game got more open and they got more space between the lines. With the quality of players they have up front, they hurt you.

"The performance was better than the result, more controlled but the main point is winning games and points. We deserved more, but it's not about deserving, it's about getting points.

"We still have a lot to improve but it is about performance and results together."

United remain seventh in the Premier League as a result of the draw.

Philippe Coutinho scored a late equaliser on his debut as Aston Villa recovered from two down to draw 2-2 with Manchester United at Villa Park on Saturday.

United looked set to seal a morale-boosting and hard-fought victory thanks to Bruno Fernandes' brace, but Villa fought back in the final 13 minutes to secure an unlikely point.

There was undoubtedly a hint of fortune about United's opener, an Emiliano Martinez howler allowing Fernandes to score for only the second time in the Premier League since September, but the Portugal star's second was an emphatic effort.

That looked as though it would be enough for United, but Jacob Ramsey scored and then teed up new loan signing Coutinho to rescue a draw with a dream debut goal.

It took United – who were without Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford due to injury – just six minutes to score, though Martinez gave them more than a helping hand, inexplicably allowing Fernandes' long-range strike squirm through his legs.

Villa came to life towards the end of the half, but David de Gea was equal to Emi Buendia's near-post header and debutant Lucas Digne's controlled strike.

Chances continued to flow at either end after the restart, with Anthony Elanga going close twice and Ramsey forcing De Gea into a smart save.

But Fernandes was less wasteful, his drive clattering in off the crossbar after a Morgan Sanson error led to Fred feeding United's captain.

Villa rallied, however. Ramsey pulled one back with a well-taken left-footed finish inside the box before playing an inch-perfect pass across goal for Coutinho to smash home five minutes later.

Bruno Fernandes joked April Fools' Day has come early as the Manchester United midfielder moved to rubbish reports linking him with a move to Barcelona.

The Portugal international is approaching the two-year anniversary since arriving at United from Sporting CP and has been arguably the club's best performer over that period.

However, reports from Fernandes' homeland on Saturday claimed the 27-year-old is seeking a way out of Old Trafford and has been offered to Barcelona by his agent.

Fernandes was quick to call out those reports, though, with a message posted on his personal Instagram page.

"And I thought the new year only started a few days ago, yet we're already on April 1!" he said in a direct response to SPORT TV's report.

"Or is this once again just bad journalism?"

 

Fernandes still has three and a half years to run on the contract signed when arriving from Sporting in a deal worth up to £68million (€80m) in January 2020.

Since his debut on February 1 that year – a goalless home draw with Wolves – Fernandes has played 104 times for United in all competitions.

That is at least 10 times more than any other United player, with Harry Maguire (94) next on the list, the pair having both started 93 times over that period.

He has been directly involved in 79 goals in those two years – 45 goals and 34 assists – a tally bettered by only six others among players from clubs in Europe's top five leagues.

But Fernandes has not been quite as effective this term, coinciding with the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, with 19 players boasting more than his eight Premier League goals involvements.

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