Harry Kane has won the Premier League Golden Boot award for the third time in his career after edging out Mohamed Salah.

The Tottenham forward netted in the dramatic 4-2 win over Leicester City on Sunday, while Salah did not find the scoresheet as Liverpool defeated Crystal Palace 2-0.

That meant Kane emerged triumphant from a season-long battle, both players having gone into the final weekend locked on 22 goals.

Kane, who finishes the season with 23 goals from 35 games, also won the Golden boot in 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns.

Salah had won the award in 2017-18 and shared it the following season with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane.

But he falls just short of another triumph after netting 22 times from 36 top-flight matches this season.

Jamie Vardy was last season's winner but it was Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes who finished third with 18 goals.

Another Tottenham star, Son Heung-min, shares fourth place with Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford on 17.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (16), Vardy (15), Ollie Watkins (14), Ilkay Gundogan and Alexandre Lacazette (both 13) round out the top 10.

Kane's accomplishment comes amid huge speculation over his future after he reportedly asked to leave Spurs at the end of the season.

The England captain is now one away from the record of four Golden Boots held by Arsenal great Thierry Henry, with Alan Shearer the only other player to have won it three times in the Premier League era.

Kane also had 14 assists in a fine individual season, giving him 37 total goal involvements, his best-ever return.

Bruno Fernandes is targeting more individual honours after being named Manchester United's Player of the Year for a second straight season but wants to supplement such accolades with team trophies.

Fernandes followed in the footsteps of United greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy after the Portugal international became only the fifth player in United history to win the club's annual award in consecutive campaigns.

Roy Keane and David de Gea have also received the distinction in back-to-back years.

Fernandes claimed the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year gong on Tuesday after receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters; Luke Shaw came in second place on 21 per cent.

He edged out Anthony Martial to last year's award despite only signing for United in January 2020, having made a huge immediate impact.

Fernandes came out on top in another category, Goal of the Season, for his sublime chip against Everton in February, but it was the main prize that was the focus of an interview with the club's in-house TV station in the wake Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Fulham.

Asked when it meant to win the Player of the Year, he said: "A lot. I always said that individual trophies are really good for players. It lifts you up, I would never say I don't want individual trophies, but it's not more important than a team trophy for me. But it's always important.

"[It means] you're doing something well, you're doing something good, doing the right things means you can do a little bit more, improve a little bit more.

"But, at the same time it means that the people are liking you, like the way you play, the way you trying to help the team, the way you do things, so that's very important for me.

"But more important than that is winning a trophy at the end of the season and this is what it's about because football is a team sport and for me it's about winning trophies."

His double award win this season, added to his prize from 2019-20, mean Fernandes is creating a reasonable collection, not that he is concerned about running out of space.

"Don't worry, I'll get a bigger [trophy cabinet] if needed," he joked.

After all, Fernandes could yet add further honours as the season approaches its conclusion, though his compatriot Ruben Dias of Manchester City appears to be the favourite for many of the Premier League's end-of-campaign individual prizes.

Nevertheless, it has been a wonderful season for Fernandes, the aforementioned strike against Everton being one of 28 goals he has scored in all competitions this term, while he has also added 18 assists in a fine individual campaign.

Eighteen of his goals and 12 of the assists have come in 37 Premier League appearances, having featured in every top-flight game for United – though the assist credited to him against Fulham was questionable with replays unable to conclusively show that he did actually flick the ball on for Edinson Cavani's remarkable effort.

Fernandes' influence runs deeper than often being on hand to tuck home or play the final pass: he is a key cog in United's overall build-up play, as highlighted by sequence data.

He has been involved in more open-play passing sequences that end in a shot (239) than any other Premier League player in 2020-21, while only Harry Kane (34) has had a hand in more moves that have ended in a goal (33 for Fernandes).

But the metrics that best underline Fernandes' importance are 'multi involvements', which relate to a player featuring in the build-up to a shot-ending sequence as well as either creating the chance at the end of the move or taking the eventual shot.

On 21 occasions he has been the one taking the shot having previously played a part in the move, while his chances created at the end of such sequences stand at 25 – both are highs for the Premier League this season.

It means Fernandes holds incredible influence over how United attack, but also how they craft opportunities.

While they will finish second in the Premier League this term, fans will dread to think where they would be without him.

Bruno Fernandes has followed in the footsteps of Manchester United greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy after being voted Player of the Year for a second straight season.

The Portugal international became only the fifth player in United history to win the club's annual award in consecutive campaigns.

Fernandes claimed the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year after receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters.

Luke Shaw came in second place on 21 per cent with Edinson Cavani third on six per cent.

Fernandes edged out Anthony Martial to last year's award despite only signing for United in January 2020, having made a huge immediate impact.

The 26-year-old is only the fifth player in club history to win the accolade in back-to-back years after Ronaldo, Van Nistelrooy, David de Gea and Roy Keane.

Fernandes and Van Nistelrooy are the only players to do it in their first two seasons with the club.

There was recognition for Shaw, though, as he was voted Players' Player of the Year, an award which went to Martial last time around.

Fernandes came out on top in another award, Goal of the Season, for his sublime chip against Everton in February.

That was one of 28 goals he has scored in all competitions this season, while he has also added 17 assists in a fine individual campaign.

Eighteen of his goals and 11 of the assists have come in 36 Premier League appearances, having featured in every top-flight game for United.

There was also recognition for two former United stars on Tuesday as Eric Cantona and Keane were named to the Premier League Hall of Fame.

They join Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry in what has been labelled the most prestigious honour awarded by the competition.

"I feel very lucky to be inducted but I've only been inducted because of the players I've played with," said ex-United captain Keane.

Cantona, meanwhile, felt his inclusion was warranted.

"I am very happy and very proud but, at the same time, I am not surprised," said the former United talisman. "I would've been surprised not to be elected! 

"I played football, I loved football, I dreamed about football as a kid. Of course to play in England was a dream, it was a dream for everybody, playing for the Premier League.

"I have been lucky to play in this team, with wonderful players, a wonderful manager and wonderful fans. 

"We won and we really enjoyed [it], and it was the football I dreamed about because Manchester United, it's a club where they want to win things but in a good way.

"It was like this in the time of Matt Busby, it's the identity of this club and the philosophy of this club."

In this world, nothing is certain except death, taxes, Manchester United coming from behind and West Brom getting relegated from the Premier League.

It was not remotely surprising to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United bounce back from an early setback at Aston Villa, while West Brom's relegation confirmation was similarly expected.

On a day without a single draw, there were also wins for Wolves and Everton, who got one over former manager – and rival for European football – David Moyes.

Take a look at the key stats from Sunday's action.
 

Wolves 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls rue reds as Traore ends drought

It was a day to forget for Brighton, who became the latest club to fall victim to Wolves' impressive bounce-back powers.

Nuno Espirito Santo's squad have now claimed 51 points from losing positions since their return to the Premier League in 2018, a figure bettered by only Manchester United (57).

They were certainly given a helping hand, however, as Lewis Dunk – the scorer of Brighton's opener – was dismissed for pulling back Fabio Silva as the last man, making him the third player to net and be dismissed in the same game this season.

Neal Maupay was then sent off as well after the full-time whistle, meaning Brighton are now level with Arsenal as the team with the most red cards this term, while Dunk is the only player in the division to receive two reds in 2020-21.

Adama Traore cancelled out Dunk's opener as he ended a 25-game home league drought that stretched back to December 2019 against Manchester City.

Meanwhile Wolves' match-winner, Morgan Gibbs-White (21 years, 102 days), became the youngest English player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since Marcus Rashford in November 2018 (21 years, 3 days).

Aston Villa 1-3 Manchester United: Red Devils enjoy customary comeback

When Aston Villa went into half-time 1-0 up on Sunday, there almost seemed to be an acceptance that their opponents were going to turn things around.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men certainly delivered in the second half, going on to win despite conceding first for the 10th time, a Premier League record.

They are now just three points behind the all-time record number of points recovered from losing positions, with Newcastle United having rescued 34 in 2001-02.

The victory also took Bruno Fernandes close to a Premier League record. He has not lost any of his first 25 away games in the division, one adrift of Gabriel Jesus' benchmark of 26.

Fernandes played his part in the turnaround by scoring a penalty, which took him to 27 goals across all competitions this term, the most by a midfielder for a Premier League club in a single season since Frank Lampard (27) for Chelsea in 2009-10.

That penalty came as a result of Douglas Luiz fouling Paul Pogba, the exact same scenario that led to a spot-kick when the two teams played earlier this season. It is the first time since 2001-02 (Olof Mellberg on Jermain Defoe) that an individual has conceded a penalty against the same opposing player in one campaign.

West Ham 0-1 Everton: Toffees at home on the road

A top-four finish for West Ham and David Moyes now looks desperately unlikely after defeat at home to Everton leaves them five points adrift of fourth-placed Leicester City with three games to go.

The fact that this was West Ham's first home league match without a shot on target since Moyes' first spell in December 2017 highlighted their issues.

As for Everton, Carlo Ancelotti's side have been impressive on the road and made it 14 away wins from 15 in which they have open the scoring under the Italian.

On top of that, this was Everton's 11th away win in the league this term, a haul bettered only by Manchester City (13) and the Toffees' best such record in a top-flight season since 1984-85 (12), when they won the title.

The winning goal came via Dominic Calvert-Lewin's 16th league strike of 2020-21, making it the joint-most by an English player for Everton in a single Premier League season.

Romelu Lukaku is the only Everton striker to score more across one season than Calvert-Lewin. The Belgian plundered 18 in 2015-16 and then 25 the following campaign.

Arsenal 3-1 West Brom: Big Sam's Baggies equal relegation record

It had been a long time coming. West Brom have looked doomed for most of the season, and their relegation was finally confirmed with defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.

In a way, this match was a microcosm of their issues as they actually finished with an xG (expected goals) value nearly double that of Arsenal, yet the Gunners scored triple the amount of goals.

While it suggests Arsenal perhaps got a little lucky, it also highlights West Brom's problem with scoring – pundits have claimed they would have had a better shot of survival with a more effective central striker, and this backs that up.

It's their fifth relegation from the Premier League, equalling a record set by Norwich City last year, but the first from the competition for Sam Allardyce in his managerial career.

West Brom have only once had their relegation confirmed with more games remaining than this term (three), having had four fixtures to play in 2002-03 when their fate was sealed.

The focus for Arsenal, however, was on their young guns.

Bukayo Saka's assist for Emile Smith Rowe's opener was his 19th for Arsenal since his November 2018 debut, more than anyone else for the club in that time.

Similarly, Smith Rowe became the fourth player aged 21 or under to score for the Gunners in the Premier League this season (along with Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah), a record no team can better.

Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes both scored twice as Manchester United thrashed Roma 6-2 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final.

Fernandes opened the scoring in a thriller at Old Trafford on Thursday, but Roma led 2-1 at half-time despite losing three players due to injury – including goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Lorenzo Pellegrini equalised with a controversial penalty and Edin Dzeko put the Serie A side in front, but the Red Devils stormed back in stunning fashion in the second half.

The magnificent Cavani struck twice and Fernandes sealed a brace of his own with another questionable spot-kick before Paul Pogba – who gave away that harsh first-half penalty – added a fifth.

Mason Greenwood had the final say to put United firmly on course for the final ahead of the second leg at Stadio Olimpico in seven days' time.

The Giallorossi lost Jordan Veretout to a hamstring injury early on, Gonzalo Villar replacing him in midfield, and they suffered another blow when Fernandes opening the scoring with a superbly worked goal in the ninth minute.

Pogba turned sharply and burst forward before finding Cavani, whose clever first-time pass sent Fernandes through and the Portugal midfielder calmly lifted the ball over goalkeeper Lopez and into the net.

Roma were level six minutes later, with Pogba seemingly harshly penalised for handling when he slid in trying to block a cross and Pellegrini made no mistake from the spot.

Antonio Mirante took over in goal after Lopez injured himself saving a shot from Pogba with less than half an hour gone, but the Eternal City club were in front 33 minutes in.

Former United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan picked out Pellegrini with a brilliant reverse pass and the captain set Dzeko up for a tap-in.

Leonardo Spinazzola became the third Roma player to make an early exit due to injury and Mirante denied Cavani when he was gifted a great opportunity by some poor defending just before the break.

Cavani showed his class to equalise a couple of minutes into the second half, though, finding the top corner with a clinical first-time finish after Fernandes played him in.

The Uruguay striker then showed his predatory instincts to put the Red Devils back in front after 64 minutes, tucking in from close range after Mirante could only palm Aaron Wan-Bissaka's shot into his path.

Fernandes gave United breathing space when he expertly converted from the penalty spot after ex-United defender Chris Smalling was contentiously adjudged to have fouled Cavani as he tried to complete a hat-trick.

The inspirational Fernandes turned provider once again for United's fifth goal, delivering a pinpoint cross for Pogba to head home and Greenwood slid in a sixth following another sublime assist from Cavani four minutes from time.

Paul Pogba says it is "a joy" to play with Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United.

The World Cup winner has made an impressive return from injury in the past five weeks, scoring in the win over Milan and registering assists against Brighton and Hove Albion, Tottenham and Granada.

Playing alongside Fernandes for United has been a particular thrill for Pogba since the Portugal international joined him at Old Trafford last year.

Pogba says Fernandes can do everything and is delighted with how their understanding has developed on the pitch.

"I enjoy playing with Bruno," Pogba said to MUTV. "He is someone who understands the game and understands the movement that can give you a beautiful pass.

"He can finish too. He is all over the place, he can do everything really... except defending!

"But really, it is always a joy to play him, to understand him. 

"He understands me as well, he can take my position, I can take his position as well. I think he suits the team, he is a very dominant influence in our team."

No United midfielder has played more times in all competitions than Fernandes since the former Sporting CP playmaker made his debut, with the 26-year-old making 71 appearances. 

Pogba (48) ranks fourth on that list, behind Fred and Scott McTominay (both 58), while he has only started 34 times, mainly due to injuries.

While he may no longer be the main man at United, Pogba was asked about his role in keeping up the dressing room morale and his dancing skills.

Ahead of the Premier League match at home to Burnley on Sunday, Pogba said: "I'm just myself with the guys and if it can help them to be relaxed and be happy and have a good performance, then I will keep doing it obviously.

"It is important to have a group that gel well together because football is teamwork and you have to be with everyone, you have to be connected, that is how you win.

"When you are connected like this, it is easier to win."

Asked if he or defender Eric Bailly had the best dance moves, Pogba replied: "It depends - Eric is the best African dancer, I'm more e-pop and American dance and stuff like this. 

"We complete each other I will say!"

Pogba and Fernandes are both expected to start against Burnley, against whom the France star scored the winner in a 1-0 victory at Turf Moor the last time the two teams met in January.

United are therefore looking to complete their first league double over Burnley since the 1975-76 campaign.

They are also bidding to win five consecutive Premier League games for the first time since they won their first six under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in January 2019.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was proud of the battling qualities displayed by Marcus Rashford as he played through the pain to help Manchester United beat Granada.

Troubled by a niggling ankle problem, Rashford opened the scoring at the Nuevo Los Carmenes on Thursday, latching onto Victor Lindelof's long pass before finishing with composure.

The goal took Rashford to 20 for the season in all competitions, making him the first United player to hit double figures in consecutive campaigns since Wayne Rooney 11 years ago.

The England forward, who was taken off 10 minutes after scoring in last weekend's 2-1 Premier League win over Brighton and Hove Albion, battled on against Granada before being substituted with a little over 25 minutes left.

Solskjaer, who hopes Rashford will be fit to face Tottenham on Sunday, was delighted with Rashford's impact against stubborn opposition.

"Marcus, fantastic goal," he said. "Great pass by Victor, great run and the skill to bring the ball down like this, we've seen it a few times before, and it's a top, top quality goal.

"It's the same thing as before, he's not recovered from it. Hopefully, it's not got any worse from this. He lasted 60 or 70 against Brighton, 65 now, so hopefully he's ready. I think he should be ready for Sunday."

When asked if he ever told former manager Alex Ferguson he was fully fit to play when struggling with injury, Solskjaer replied: "Yeah, I probably did! I did a few times. It's not like I couldn't perform, but I probably knew I wasn't at 100 per cent. But when are you at 100 per cent as a footballer? I think that's very rare.

"We know he's someone we have to protect, and he was ready, and he was vital for us today."

While comfortable in defence, United offered little threat of a second goal until Bruno Fernandes scored his 19th penalty for the club after being pushed in the face by Yan Eteki.

The Portugal star, who was struggling with his vision in one eye after the foul, squeezed a shot beneath goalkeeper Rui Silva in the 90th minute.

With Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay suspended for the second leg after receiving yellow cards, Solskjaer was relieved to be heading back to Old Trafford with a more commanding advantage.

"It was an important goal, the second one. A 1-0 lead, losing three players, is not a good position to be in," he said.

"I don't think we deserved those five yellow cards, but that's happened. I'm delighted with the result, of course.

"[The second goal] is so vital away from home and we've created a good starting point for ourselves next week.

"Scoring with one eye is a skill! He drives the team and drives himself. He's got such enthusiasm and hunger to win and to do well. I've played in teams with a lot stronger personalities than that, to be honest.

"That's the way for us to improve and reach the next level: always demand more, and more, and more."

Shaw was taken off at half-time, but Solskjaer added of the left-back: "I had to protect Luke, but I think and hope he should be okay for the weekend."

Marcus Rashford's 20th goal of the season helped Manchester United to a 2-0 win over Granada in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final tie.

The forward's finish from a fine Victor Lindelof pass in the first half and a late penalty from Bruno Fernandes secured a commanding first-leg advantage in Thursday's clash at the Nuevo Los Carmenes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were not particularly inspired in attack but rarely looked troubled by a team who have already eliminated Napoli in an impressive first European campaign.

Chelsea loanee Kenedy was a threat with shots from distance, but Diego Martinez's men were unable to create clear openings against a diligent Red Devils rearguard, particularly with only 33 per cent of the ball.

Rashford, who sustained an ankle problem in the win over Brighton and Hove Albion last Sunday, appeared to be struggling in the early exchanges as United made hard work of breaking down Granada.

The England forward looked fit and sharp 31 minutes in, though, latching onto Lindelof's long ball over the top before prodding a composed finish beyond goalkeeper Rui Silva.

The goal sparked a little life into Granada's attack, Kenedy's ambitious volley from the edge of the area giving the returning David de Gea something to do.

Kenedy twice tested De Gea again from outside the box after the restart but they were comfortable saves for the United keeper, who was otherwise mostly untroubled.

Fernandes had had a quiet game but he squeezed a mishit penalty under Silva's grasp to score a potentially decisive second away goal in the 90th minute after Yan Eteki was penalised for pushing a hand into the Portugal star's face.

What does it mean? Advantage United after timid encounter

It was not a thrill-a-minute contest but it puts United in a good position to progress to the semi-finals for the second season in a row, and there was little offered by Granada to worry them unduly.

However, Solskjaer will want a more committed and creative performance when they travel to Tottenham this weekend if they are to preserve their long unbeaten away run.

United must preserve Rashford for run-in

Rashford's goal made him the first United player to hit double figures in consecutive campaigns since Wayne Rooney 11 years ago.

He came off with a little under half an hour remaining, and Solskjaer will need to manage his ankle concern carefully: their league position, and their chances of winning this competition, could depend on it.

Greenwood goes missing

The matchwinner against Brighton last Sunday, Mason Greenwood offered little attacking threat in Spain and struggled to hold up the ball or link the play.

One such poor use of the ball gave Granada a rare chance to break at speed in the United half, although they could not make use of the opportunity.

What's next?

Before next Thursday's second leg, each side return to domestic action on Sunday. United face Tottenham away in the Premier League, with Granada travelling to Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

It's entirely possible the staging of the 2021 European Under-21 Championship will have passed many people by, given the fact it's taken on a somewhat peculiar format of a mid-season group stage with the knockout phase following two months later.

Originally due to take place solely in June, organisers were forced into a re-think following last year's postponement of the senior competition. It was decided to split the Under-21s' event in two, therefore avoiding a clash.

Despite the rather unconventional format, the competition will see many of the continent's most-promising prodigies on display.

The tournament, based in Hungary and Slovenia, begins on Wednesday with the Magyars hosting Germany, and we have identified some high-potential talents to keep an eye on.

Alban Lafont, France – Goalkeeper

Lafont has been a regular at this age-group level with France for many years, but a brief stint at Fiorentina in 2018-19 did not go to plan, with the Toulouse youth product freely admitting his performances "were not the best" as he secured to a loan move to Nantes ahead of last season.

Only Andrea Consigli (six) made more than Lafont's four errors leading to shots in Serie A two seasons ago, but his dependability appears to have improved considerably since returning to France, with no shots occurring because of errors by him in 57 Ligue 1 matches.

He also produced a particularly strong performance in the shock 2-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain earlier this month, making four saves including a couple of eye-catching stops to thwart Angel Di Maria.

 

A closer at Lafont’s performances for a struggling Nantes side in 2020-21 reveals he has not had the greatest campaign. When discounting own goals and penalties by the opposition, Lafont has allowed 3.5 goals more than the ‘average’ goalkeeper would have been expected to concede in Ligue 1 this season (37 conceded, 33.5 xG on target).

The metric ‘Goals Prevented Rate’ can account for different goalkeepers facing a different volume of shots through a period of time. An example of this is that PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas has a goals prevented rate of 1.37 this season, meaning for every non-penalty goal that Navas has conceded (excluding own goals), the average goalkeeper would be expected to concede 1.37. Lafont’s rate of 0.91 this season is 10th out of 17 goalkeepers to have played 1800 minutes of French top-flight football in 2020-21.

 

Additionally, France's regular at this level knows he has a very capable understudy in Illan Meslier breathing down his neck.

Prior to his 21st birthday earlier in the month, Meslier broke the record for the most clean sheets by an under-21 goalkeeper in a single Premier League season (eight) and has since added another to that figure.

That means he has three times as many shutouts as Lafont, which is intriguing because it raises the question of why then has Meslier not conceded fewer goals?

For starters, it suggests Lafont is more consistent but also highlights that when Leeds concede, the floodgates can really burst open. With those 46 goals spread across 19 matches, it means Meslier is conceding on average 2.5 goals per game when he doesn't get a clean sheet – this drops to 1.7 for Lafont.

 

On top of that, Meslier's seven errors leading to shots is more than any other player in the Premier League this term, perhaps showing he's still in the inexperienced, nervous phase that Lafont has seemingly left behind.

Meslier's superior save percentage of 71.1 compared to 65.7 speaks to the former Lorient youngster's shot-stopping abilities, though for the time being Lafont's greater consistency looks set to keep him first-choice.

Sven Botman, Netherlands – Central Defender

A promising loan spell with Heerenveen last season alerted Lille to the talents of Ajax-owned Botman and he has been a real hit for Les Dogues since a reported €8m move, helping them to mount a serious Ligue 1 title challenge.

Lille's 19 goals conceded is the fewest in France's top tier and, while not necessarily entirely down to Botman, there's no doubt he's made his presence known as a reliable powerhouse at the back.

 

Of the 856 players across Europe's top five leagues to have engaged in at least 150 duels, Botman's 71.4 per cent success rate is the best, and that competitiveness is also reflected in his aerial prowess.

Only four of the 157 players in the continent's elite divisions to have been involved in 100+ aerial duels have a better success rate than the Dutch youngster (72.5 per cent).

While his impressive physical attributes might lead to certain assumptions about his style of play, Botman is more than a brutish centre-back, as proven by the fact his 452 ball carries – defined as a player moving five metres or more with the ball – is the fourth highest among Ligue 1 central defenders.

 

Of course, there is likely to be a glaring absence from the senior Dutch side at Euro 2020. with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp not expecting Virgil van Dijk to be ready for the tournament.

That means there is potentially a spot up for grabs in the centre of the Netherlands defence, and Botman's combination of power and elegance suggests he could be a good fit as Van Dijk's deputy.

Granted, the young defender – who hasn't been capped at senior level yet – still has a way to go to match up to the Reds star, but in the context of young defenders of a similar ilk, Botman certainly compares well and his strengths are similar to those of Van Dijk.

His aerial stats prove he's an excellent physical specimen, and his effectiveness in duels reflects the fact he's a difficult defender to beat. A strong showing here might just help convince Frank de Boer that Botman's ready to step up later this year.

Jules Kounde, France – Central Defender

Les Bleus are blessed with an embarrassment of riches in most areas, but the fact Kounde is turning out for the Under-21s in this tournament instead of the senior side exemplifies their depth in quality at the heart of the defence.

In his second full season with Sevilla, Kounde has kicked on following a hugely encouraging second half to 2019-20, so much so that he's arguably the first name on the team sheet for Julen Lopetegui.

 

His forward-thinking nature has made him key to the coach's 'Lavolpiana build-up' defensive structure, a setup attributed to Argentinian coach Ricardo La Volpe that essentially demands centre-backs carry the ball forward from a three-man backline.

Only two central defenders in La Liga have bettered Kounde's rate of 19.2 carries per 90, while there are just three who have covered more distance carrying the ball further up field than the Frenchman this term (2,774 metres).

This positivity is generally offset by Fernando dropping in to form a faux back three, while Kounde's movement up the right can often create overloads as he teams up with Jesus Navas, Sevilla's biggest chance creator (44).

 

But evidence of his progressive mentality doesn't stop there. While possessional stats can often be skewed for centre-backs, given the sheer number of simple short balls played between defensive colleagues, Kounde is clearly looking ahead, and often.

No defender has been successful with more forward passes in open play than Kounde this season in LaLiga (507), with the 22-year-old completing an impressive 79 per cent of these. Therefore, perhaps it's not surprising to learn no Sevilla player has been involved in more shot-ending build-up sequences than he has (53), demonstrating his value to their forays forward, despite not attempting the shots or making the final pass in that move.

Kounde is a prime example of how centre-backs can be just as satisfying to see in possession as your classic playmakers – in fact, that is essentially what he is developing into, a defensive playmaker of the ilk who would have looked at home in the great Barcelona teams of the past 14 years.

Pedro Goncalves, Portugal – Attacking Midfielder

It's fair to say that, when Sporting CP set out to replace Bruno Fernandes, never in their wildest dreams would they have expected what they got. Pedro Goncalves had been a key figure for Famalicao in 2019-20, but to say he's surpassed expectations in Lisbon would be an understatement.

Goncalves operates in similar spaces to Fernandes, albeit drifting towards the right a little more, and his hot streak in front of goal has helped put Sporting on course for a first league title since 2001-02.

 

In 22 Primeira Liga matches, the attacking midfielder has scored 15 goals – none of which were penalties. The 22-year-old's xG total is just 6.9, meaning his over-performance of 8.1 is the biggest across Europe's top six leagues, aside from the phenomenal Robert Lewandowski (9.3).

Of course, the chances of him being able to sustain such a run in the long-term are low, but it still highlights what a danger the former Wolves youngster poses in his current form.

 

Comparisons with Fernandes have been rife, for obvious reasons, but they show many different traits to their game.

In Fernandes' final 50 league games for Sporting, he averaged 3.4 shots per 90 minutes and 2.3 of those non-penalty shots came from outside the box – Goncalves attempts 2.6 on average each game, with only 1.1 coming from beyond the penalty area.

As such, the average quality of Fernandes' shots in his final 50 games for Sporting weren't outstanding, with his xG per non-penalty shot equating to 0.07. Goncalves' is almost double that at 0.13, suggesting he picks his moments more selectively while also taking fewer attempts.

Nevertheless, despite Fernandes' penchant for a long-range effort, he only scored four times from outside the box in his final 50 league matches for Sporting – Goncalves already has three this term from 28 fewer games.

 

The biggest difference between the pair is assists. Fernandes' 20 in his final 50 outings for Sporting dwarfs Goncalves' three in 2020-21, but interestingly their expected assists per 90 minutes isn't hugely dissimilar. Fernandes is ahead 0.29 to 0.20 in this area, but a potential explanation for this potentially lies in the respective teams they've played in.

 

The next highest-scorer for Sporting this season after Goncalves himself is Nuno Santos with six – they don't have a prolific centre-forward, whereas Fernandes was supplying Bas Dost, who netted 76 times in 84 league games for the club between 2016 and 2019.

As we all know now, Fernandes was on the trajectory of an elite-level player. He's proven this at Manchester United, though there were certainly those who were sceptical about him prior to his move.

It'll be a tough ask, but why can't Goncalves continue to defy expectations?

Fedor Chalov, Russia - Forward

Russian striker Fedor Chalov is undoubtedly one of the most experienced players involved at the tournament, with the 22-year-old having already played 115 Russian Premier League matches in addition to his 11 UEFA Champions League appearances.

Chalov burst on to the scene in Russia with CSKA Moscow at 18 years old back in November 2016 and scored in just his fifth top-flight appearance for the club versus Ural a month later.

After scoring six goals in each of his opening two league seasons at CSKA, 2018-19 was when he really began to make a name for himself in Russia - winning the league's top scorer award with 15 goals, while also posting his best-ever season tally for assists (7).

But Chalov's career hasn't kicked on as expected since then, scoring just 13 goals in 50 top-flight appearances over the past two seasons, but his performances have been stirring enough to attract the attentions of multiple Premier League clubs during the January transfer window.

 

Despite this, Chalov's numbers domestically at top-tier level are mightily impressive for a player so early in his career. Despite only being 22, Chalov's tally of 60 goal involvements since his Russian Premier League debut are the third most by a player in the competition.

Russia are certainly one of the underdogs for the 2021 Under-21 European Championship and are unlikely to top their group, having been drawn alongside favourites France. However, if Chalov can find form in the first stage of the tournament then he could be the linchpin to Russian hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages in May.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he had no regrets over his team selection after Manchester United lost 3-1 at Leicester City in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Former Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice either side of Youri Tielemans' solo strike as Brendan Rodgers' men booked a Wembley semi-final against Southampton.

Mason Greenwood equalised shortly before half-time in a rare moment of inspiration for United, as Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek combined to fine effect.

But the midfield duo were only fit to play for an hour, having recently returned to action, and Bruno Fernandes was unable to have a decisive impact from the bench.

Solskjaer felt such juggling was a necessity after a packed schedule in which his side overcame Milan in the Europa League on Thursday.

"I would have started the same team again. We felt [Pogba and Van de Beek] had more than 45 minutes in them," he said.

"They're important players for us, that's why we started them.

"We picked a team that we felt was going to win the game or give us a foundation to win the game.

"We knew players like Donny and Paul wouldn't last more than an hour."

Fernandes' 23 goals and 13 assists mean he leads the way in both categories for United this season.

However, among outfield players, only captain Harry Maguire (3,945) and fellow defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka (3,651) have played more minutes than the Portugal playmaker's 3,488 for the Red Devils across all competitions.

"Every team selection has reasons behind it. Bruno has played very, very much football," Solskjaer said.

"The boy is a human being. He has played a game every three or four days.

"It was a chance to start both Donny and Paul. The accumulation of games maybe caught up with us.

"With Bruno, I know he wants to play but sometimes you make decisions for the benefit of both the team and him."

While plenty of managers will be apprehensive about the forthcoming international break and what it might mean for their players at the business end of the season, Solskjaer believes it comes at a good time for certain members of his squad.

"I think the international break will give Paul and Donny chances to play, it'll give Anthony [Martial] a chance to go away," he said.

"They will get a change of scenery. You get energy from that. The boys have been at Carrington training ground now every day for a long, long time.

"The break comes at a good time and we'll be ready at Easter, don't worry about that."

Solskjaer added: "If and when we're successful, we have to handle [fixture congestion] and hit a higher level than we did today.

"That's what we're striving towards and, under these circumstances, which are unprecedented, I've been impressed by my boys.

"They've been excellent. The run we've been on has been excellent. Unfortunately we couldn't find our normal selves tonight and sometimes that happens."

Marcus Rashford believes there is a common winning mentality shared by Bruno Fernandes and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – something Manchester United must channel if they are to get back to winning silverware. 

Ibrahimovic is in line to return from an abductor injury when Milan host his former club in the Europa League on Thursday, with the round-of-16 tie all square at 1-1. 

The veteran forward, whose surprise return to international football with Sweden was confirmed this week, joined United on a free transfer in 2016 and was a talismanic figure during his first season in England. 

Across all competitions, Ibrahimovic scored 28 goals - including a brace in United's 3-2 EFL Cup final win over Southampton. 

The Red Devils also lifted the Europa League in that season under Jose Mourinho although by the time of their final triumph over Ajax, Ibrahimovic was sidelined by a serious knee injury. 

He returned to action ahead of schedule but departed to LA Galaxy midway through the following campaign. 

United now frequently look to Portugal midfielder Fernandes for inspiration. 

The former Sporting CP star has scored 35 goals – the most of any Premier League player in all competitions since his United debut on February 1 last year – and provided 21 assists in 65 appearances for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side. 

"Yeah, you could say so," Rashford told reporters when asked whether Ibrahimovic and Fernandes were similar.

"Mentally they're both just winners. They want to win games, win trophies. 

"That's the atmosphere and the culture at this club. We need to start doing it now, winning trophies and taking steps in that direction. 

"The game against Milan is another opportunity for us to get one step closer. 

"Ever since we unfortunately got knocked out of the Champions League the focus has been to win the Europa League. We're not going to be happy with anything less than that." 

Longevity in the sport comparable to Ibrahimovic is something a long way away for the 23-year-old Rashford. 

The home leg against Milan was the first of United's games this season that the England international sat out after a minor injury he sustained during the derby victory over Manchester City, while he is also managing a shoulder complaint. 

Nevertheless, Rashford dismissed any concerns over burnout. 

"I know my body and I know what I can do physically," he said, with his availability an ongoing boost to Solskjaer after Edinson Cavani suffered a reaction in the final training session before the trip to Italy, forcing him to pull out of the travelling party. 

"I take one game at a time. It's the life of a footballer – we can rest when we retire. 

"I recover from games and injuries quite well, so I have no doubts or fears on that. 

"To be honest, I just focus on the next game at hand. That's how I deal with it. My focus is just on being available for games." 

Another player from the United production line that yielded Rashford, Teden Mengi, has signed a contract extension until June 2024. 

Mengi is currently on loan at Wayne Rooney's Derby County. 

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of football's all-time greats and cannot be blamed for Juventus' early Champions League exit, according to international team-mate Bruno Fernandes.

Juve were eliminated from Europe's elite club competition by Porto at the last-16 stage on Tuesday, crashing out 4-4 on away goals after extra time at the Allianz Stadium.

Sergio Oliveira scored the decisive goal late on from a free-kick that went straight through the Juve wall, with Ronaldo sheepishly turning his back on the effort.

Former Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello singled out Ronaldo on the back of the two-legged defeat, in which the five-time Ballon d'Or winner failed to find the back of the net.

Ex-president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli went as far to suggest Juve should never have spent €100million to sign the forward in 2018, meanwhile, but Fernandes has defended his compatriot.

"Cristiano is one of the greats in football history. His mentality inspires those who practice this sport," Fernandes told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He has won a lot, but no one can win alone. 

"I understand that his presence at Juve had created enormous expectations for the Champions League, but when a team lose, the whole squad lose, not one single player.

"I'm not surprised [by the result]. Porto have a winning mentality. They play aggressive football and I expected them to create problems for Juventus."

While Ronaldo and Juve are enduring a difficult campaign, Fernandes is going from strength to strength at Manchester United.

The former Sporting CP star has scored 16 goals and assisted 10 more in the Premier League this campaign, which is the highest direct goal involvement of any midfielder in Europe's top five leagues.

Fernandes spent five years in Italian football with Novara, Udinese and Sampdoria, though it was not until joining Sporting in 2017 that his career truly took off.

"I had to complete my physical growth," Fernandes said of his time in Italy. "I was moving from one country to another.

"I didn't fully establish myself because the role of the attacking midfielder isn't easy in [Italian] football."

Fernandes cited the example of Juve attacker Paulo Dybala, who has often struggled for consistency, before explaining the differences between Italian and English football.

"The story of Dybala seems enlightening to me," he said. "Everyone expects something special from him, but we are always strict towards him.

"Udinese was, also for the years spent with the Friuli, the most important stage, but the change of coach didn't help me.

"It was too bad, because I had found a real teacher in Francesco Guidolin. If I had spent more time with him, it might have been different.

"Anyway, I can only thank Italy for what it has given me. I was happy, I lived an experience of growth, I measured myself with a country where the football is of the highest level."

He added: "There's a lot of intensity in the Premier League. The pace is high.

"The smaller sides have quality and they make you suffer. In Italy, the tactics are like a university of sport."

Fernandes is expected to start United's Europa League last-16 first leg with Milan at Old Trafford on Thursday in a battle between two historically successful European heavyweights.

Milan have not competed in the Champions League since 2013-14, while United have only made it to the quarter-finals of the competition once since the same season.

However, both teams are second in their domestic leagues and are among the favourites to go all the way in the Europa League.

"In some respects, [United] and Milan are the same," he said. "Two clubs with a prestigious past, with 10 Champions League trophies in the cabinet, both have gone through a phase of transition, but are returning to the top.

"At the beginning of the season, no one thought that Milan could fight for the Scudetto. We are in March and they are second. 

"They play well, have interesting young players and the added value of [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic's strength."

Thursday's game will mark the 11th time Milan and United have met in European competition, with all 10 previous encounters coming in the European Cup or Champions League.

United have been eliminated from four of their five knockout ties with Milan, with no side knocking out the Red Devils more often in European competition – Real Madrid having also managed it four times. 

All good things must come to an end, and that proved the case for Manchester City on Sunday.

Their remarkable winning run of 21 games in all competitions came to an end with a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United in the derby.

City hold an 11-point lead over their neighbours at the top of the Premier League, however, and the real battle seems set to be for Champions League places.

Tottenham boosted their hopes with a 4-1 thrashing of Crystal Palace, with Harry Kane and Son Heung-min combining for a record-setting goal, while Liverpool's dismal form continued as they suffered a sixth successive home defeat. Fortress Anfield is well and truly a thing of the past.

At the bottom, West Brom and Newcastle United played out a goalless draw. We take a look at the best Opta facts from Sunday's games.

 

Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United: Winning streak grinds to a halt

If there was one team City did not want their incredible run of wins to come to an end against, it would have been United.

It was the first time City have lost since November, when they went down 2-0 at home to Spurs, ending a run of 28 games without a defeat across all competitions. Pep Guardiola's team had won their last 21 in total, including 15 in the league, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to have the better of his counterpart.

United have won three consecutive away games in all competitions at City for the first time since a run of four between November 1993 and November 2000, and among the managers Guardiola has faced more than three times across all competitions as a top-flight boss, Solskjaer is the only one to have beaten the Spaniard (four) more often than he has lost to him.

Solskjaer is also the first manager in United's history to win each of his first three away meetings in all competitions with City. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, three of City's five home defeats in all competitions have come against United.

The Norwegian is now the only manager to have won three away games against sides managed by Guardiola.

Bruno Fernandes scored the opener from the penalty spot inside two minutes. Since his Premier League debut in February 2020, he has scored 12 of the 13 penalties he has taken in the competition. 

After just 101 seconds, Fernandes' penalty was the earliest goal that City have ever conceded in a Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, and the first they have conceded within two minutes at home in the competition since Steed Malbranque's strike for Fulham at Maine Road in January 2003.

Liverpool 0-1 Fulham: Reds' Merseyside misery rolls on

It is hard to believe that before their defeat to Burnley on January 21, Liverpool had not lost a league match at Anfield since April 2017. 

Liverpool have now lost six home games in a row, their longest ever such streak, while they are the first side to lose six in a row on home soil in the Premier League since Huddersfield Town in February 2019 (seven).

The Reds' six league defeats at Anfield this season is their most in a single campaign since 1953-54 (also six), when the Reds finished bottom of the top-flight, with Fulham the first promoted team to win away at Liverpool in the top flight since Blackpool Town in October 2010.

Jurgen Klopp's side are winless in their last eight league home matches, only embarking on a longer winless top-flight run at Anfield once before – 10 games between October 1951 and March 1952. They have won just one of their last seven matches in the competition.

Fulham, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last eight Premier League away games (W2 D6) – their longest run without defeat on the road in their top-flight history – and are now level on 26 points with 17th-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.

Excluding penalties and own goals, Liverpool have failed to score with each of their last 115 shots at Anfield in the Premier League (including 16 against Fulham). This is the longest such scoreless run of shots on home soil by any side.

Tottenham 4-1 Crystal Palace: Bale and Kane rampant as Spurs boost top-four hopes

Only leaders City (35) have earned more points at home in this season's Premier League than Tottenham (24), and Jose Mourinho's men were in fine form against Palace.

Gareth Bale scored either side of Christian Benteke's equaliser – since the 2012-13 season, only Olivier Giroud (32) has more headed goals in the competition than the Belgian – with both of the Welshman's goals teed up by the brilliant Kane.

Bale has scored in each of his last three home appearances in all competitions, the first time he has done so since September 2018 for Real Madrid (four in a row), and first time for Spurs since May 2013.

Kane then curled in a sensational third goal, before he headed home a fourth from Son Heung-min's cushioned cutback.

Son and Kane have now assisted one another for 14 Premier League goals this season, breaking Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton's all-time competition record of 13 set in 1994-95 for Blackburn.

Kane's second goal was also Spurs' 100th strike in all competitions this season, seeing them become the second club in Europe's "top five" leagues to reach that tally in 2020-21, after Bayern Munich (106).

Spurs talisman Kane is the first Tottenham player since Jurgen Klinsmann in May 1998 to score twice and provide two assists in a Premier League match, while he has been directly involved in 40 goals in 36 games in all competitions this season (24 goals and 16 assists), the most of any player for a top-flight club.

West Brom 0-0 Newcastle United: Bore draw does little for survival hopes

There was not so much in the way of entertainment in the day's early kick-off, as strugglers West Brom and Newcastle shared the spoils.

West Brom are unbeaten in three home league games against Newcastle (W1 D2) for the first time since January 2005, while only Southampton (seven) have gained fewer Premier League points in 2021 than the Baggies (10) and Newcastle (nine).

Newcastle have won just one of their last nine Premier League away games (D1 L7), failing to score in six of those matches.

West Brom had 13 shots at goal in the match, their joint-most attempts without scoring in a Premier League game this season (also 13 v Burnley in October).

Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes insisted "people will always complain about everything" after scoring in the derby win away to Premier League leaders Manchester City.

Fernandes was on target in Sunday's 2-0 victory over City, converting a penalty after just 101 seconds at the Etihad Stadium as United snapped the hosts' 21-match winning streak.

The Portugal international was in the spotlight prior to United's success against City – his record against 'top six' clubs criticised following his performance against Chelsea in the goalless draw last time out.

Tottenham were the only club among the established 'top six' that Fernandes had found the back of the net against this season – a penalty in Octobers 6-1 humiliation at home to Spurs – before opening the scoring versus City.

"Every penalty has the same pressure for me," Fernandes, who has 16 goals and 10 assists through 28 games this Premier League season, told MUTV when asked if he felt the weight of expectation. "It's always pressure to take a pen, doesn't matter if it's against City, or another team. It's always pressure to take the pens.

"I like that kind of pressure. It's good pressure. I knew what I had to do. I did it in the right way with the right power and I'm happy to score, of course.

"Honestly for us it's about winning. People will always complain about everything. Today it will still be Bruno never scores in big games.

"They will put open play no goals, it was a penalty [and say] it doesn't count! So for us the most important thing is winning the game.

"It doesn't matter how you score, when the ball touches the net it's a goal. I will be happy and it doesn't matter if it's me or another one scoring."

Luke Shaw was also on target five minutes into the second half as United extended their unbeaten streak away from home in the league to 22 games.

United have won three consecutive away games in all competitions against City for the first time since a run of four between November 1993 and November 2000.

But United remain 11 points adrift of City atop the table with 10 matches remaining.

"I think it was almost perfect," added Fernandes of the performance. "We created a lot of chances where maybe we could finish better, or play a better last pass or last shot.

"When we create chances it's always good because if you create it's a sign you're playing well and trying to do something different.

"I think we played a little bit better in the second half because in the first half they pressed as well. We had more counters but in the second half we are clearer and we take more control of the game at times.

"They have more of the ball than us, they pass more times with the ball. Anyway, [in terms of] opportunities I think we had the best ones and for me the most important in the game is the result. The result for us is on our side, so it's perfect."

United captain Harry Maguire said post-game: "We have brilliant coaches and a brilliant manager and brilliant analysts as well.

"Credit to them because they are the ones who sent us out in that formation and those tweaks when they have the ball. We knew they were going to keep the ball at times and the positions that they find themselves in, they have a lot of possession.

"We've seen that in recent games, so we had to be patient at times, but we had to make sure we kept getting up to the ball, kept getting contact, keep making tackles. I felt that we did that really well. 

"For sure we can improve, we can do better in parts of the game. But it's an important win, an important performance after a disappointing trip to London in midweek. Now we have to dust ourselves down and go again. We've got another big game on Thursday [against Milan in the Europa League last-16 first leg]."

Page 6 of 9
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.