The Brooklyn Nets shared the load in a high-scoring 147-125 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA.

Playing without star Kevin Durant (Achilles), the Nets extended their winning streak to four games on Friday after nine players had double-digit points.

According to Stats Perform, it was just the second time in team history the Nets had nine such players (against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1984) as James Harden led the way with a triple-double of 25 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Harden became the second Net in the last 25 years with three triple-doubles in a season, while Irving put up 25 points, seven assists and five rebounds on the road.

It was also the second time this season the Nets have scored 145-plus points in a non-overtime game. No other NBA team have achieved it even once this season, and Brooklyn had just one such game in team history entering this season – 147 in 1982.

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles surpassed John Stockton for the most three-pointers made (846) in franchise history in a 120-101 win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Ingles was two-of-four from three-point range for 10 points as the Jazz made it 11 consecutive victories to own the NBA's best record at 15-4.

Utah have made 319 three-pointers through 19 games this season – the most ever by any team after 19 fixtures.

Bojan Bogdanovic led the Jazz with a game-high 22 points, while Rudy Gobert added 17 points and 12 rebounds.


Young puts on a show as Embiid stars

Trae Young dazzled with 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks took down the struggling Washington Wizards 116-100.

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers accounted for the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves 118-94 behind Joel Embiid's 37 points and 11 rebounds from just 27 minutes of action.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 38 points and 11 rebounds but the Milwaukee Bucks were beaten 131-126 by the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo Ball recorded a season-high 27 points.

Nikola Jokic has registered 19 consecutive double-doubles to start the season. Since 1976, Jokic and Antetokounmpo (19 in a row in 2019-20) are tied with the second-most double-doubles to open a campaign, trailing only Bill Walton (34 straight). Jokic had 35 points and 10 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 119-109 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Kawhi Leonard (24) and Paul George (26) combined for 50 points in their return for the Los Angeles Clippers, who defeated the Orlando Magic 116-90.


Nance struggles as Cavs crumble

It was not a good day for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were swept aside 102-81 by the New York Knicks. Larry Nance Jr. finished with just two points in 29 minutes after going one-of-nine from the field, while missing all five of his three-point attempts. Taurean Prince – part of the deal that helped the Nets acquire former MVP Harden from the Houston Rockets – was one-of-seven from the field for three points.


DeRozan with the Euro step

DeMar DeRozan posted 30 points and 10 assists on 11-of-14 shooting from the field. The Spurs star also Euro-stepped to the rim for a fine basket against the Nuggets.


Friday's results

Charlotte Hornets 108-105 Indiana Pacers
Atlanta Hawks 116-100 Washington Wizards
New York Knicks 102-81 Cleveland Cavaliers
Sacramento Kings 126-124 Toronto Raptors
New Orleans Pelicans 131-126 Milwaukee Bucks
Los Angeles Clippers 116-90 Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers 118-94 Minnesota Timberwolves
Brooklyn Nets 147-125 Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs 119-109 Denver Nuggets
Utah Jazz 120-101 Dallas Mavericks


Lakers at Celtics

Following back-to-back defeats on the road, defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (14-6) will look to return to winning ways when they visit the Boston Celtics (10-7) on Saturday.

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said he "can't answer" whether quarterback Carson Wentz will be with the team in 2021.

Sirianni was introduced as Philadelphia's new coach to replace Doug Pederson on Friday and attention has already shifted to embattled Eagles QB Wentz.

Wentz – who signed a lucrative four-year, $128million contract extension in 2019 – was benched in favour of rookie Jalen Hurts in Week 13, raising serious questions over his future in Philadelphia.

The 28-year-old Wentz ranked 23rd for completions (251), 34th for passing percentage (57.4), 25th for yards (2,620) and tied for 20th for touchdowns (16), while he was equal first for interceptions thrown this past season.

"I can't answer that," Sirianni said during his introductory news conference after being asked if Wentz would be back in 2021.

"Again, evaluating everything. Again, there's a lot of things to go through. Evaluating everything."

"You look at a lot of rosters and they don't have any quarterbacks, right, that they feel really good about. We have two. That's unbelievable to have two quarterbacks who have played and that have played well," he added.

"I couldn't have watched more tape on Carson Wentz in 2018. When Frank and I got back together, when we were installing our offense with the Indianapolis Colts, we watched a lot of Chargers tape, and we watched a lot of Philadelphia Eagles tape from 2017.

"Man, what an impressive player. He's got so much talent, and from what I've heard from everybody, great person. Good talent, good person, it takes your game to really high levels. So excited.

"Jalen got his snaps last year and was able to play last year and he played good football in meaningful games. Not a lot of people have that luxury of having two quarterbacks that have experience, so super excited to be able to work with them because, obviously, we all know how important that position is to a football team."

The Eagles have turned to rookie head coach Sirianni after NFL Super Bowl-winning boss Pederson was fired following a tumultuous 2020 campaign.

Sirianni spent the past three seasons working for the Indianapolis Colts – the 39-year-old former offensive coordinator also previously spending time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in various roles.

After moving to Indianapolis in 2018, Sirianni and the Colts twice reached the playoffs – beaten by the Buffalo Bills in this season's Wild Card clash.

But Sirianni will step into his first head-coaching job, tasked with restoring a struggling franchise, who ended the season 4-11-1 having won their first Super Bowl in 2017.

Viktor Hovland finished strongly to claim a one-stroke advantage at the halfway stage of the Farmers Insurance Open, where Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth missed the cut.

Hovland birdied his final hole in Friday's second round to card a seven-under-par 65 and top the leaderboard heading into the weekend at Torrey Pines.

Battling rain, hail and wind – which halted proceedings in the second round – Norwegian golfer Hovland managed to rise 47 positions to lead a star-studded field thanks to eight birdies and just one bogey on the South Course.

The 23-year-old – winner of the Puerto Rico Open and Mayakoba Golf Classic on the PGA Tour last year – is nine under through 36 holes, ahead of 2017 champion Jon Rahm (67), Adam Scott (69), Tony Finau (67), Lanto Griffin (70), Ryan Palmer (70) and Patrick Reed (72).

Alex Noren (74), who was tied for the overnight lead alongside Reed, fell into a share of 11th, three shots off the pace.

Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy is a stroke further back following his one-under-par 71 on the North Course.

McIlroy mixed four birdies with three bogeys to be tied for 14th position along with Will Zalatoris (71), Jason Kokrak (69), Adam Hadwin (70), Rory Sabbatini (67), two-time winner Brandt Snedeker (70) and Max Homa (68).

Defending champion Marc Leishman posted a second-round 70 to be three under overall, two strokes better off than rallying veteran Phil Mickelson (72).

Mickelson was on the cusp of missing the cut during the rain delay, but the five-time major champion holed back-to-back birdies to qualify for the weekend.

Former world number one Spieth (75) missed the cut as his bid to win for the first time since 2017 continues.

Koepka's 76 saw the four-time major winner also miss the cut, along with two-time Farmers Insurance Open champion Jason Day (72).

Los Angeles Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been cleared to return against the Orlando Magic on Friday.

Leonard and George missed the opening two games of a six-game road swing after reportedly entering the NBA's health and safety protocols.

The Clippers went 1-1 in the pair's absence against the Atlanta Hawks (lost 108-99) and Miami Heat (won 109-105).

But Leonard and George are set to take to the court when the Clippers (14-5) visit the Magic (8-11).

Leonard has been averaging 25.9 points, 5.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game in 2020-21, while Clippers team-mate George is averaging 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

The Clippers have gone 8-1 in their last nine games and have outscored opponents by an average of 12.8 points per game, second in the NBA in that span (Utah Jazz, plus-15.6), per Stats Perform. This stretch has come after the Clippers began the season 6-4, outscoring opponents by 0.8 points per game in that period.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have won 13 successive games against the Magic – dating back to January 2014. It is tied for the longest active winning streak by any current NBA franchise against any opponent (the Philadelphia 76ers versus New York Knicks and the 76ers against Charlotte Hornets – both 13).

Ilkay Gundogan's hot streak in front of goal means another successful Premier League title tilt is brewing at Manchester City, but Pep Guardiola has not given up on playing with a conventional striker.

Injury problems for Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus this season, both of whom have also tested positive for coronavirus, forced Guardiola to think outside the box for matters inside the box.

The results, especially in recent weeks have been dazzling.

Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Ferran Torres have all spent times operating at the point of City's fluid attack.

However, the main beneficiary of the confusion and space opened up within opposition defences has been Ilkay Gundogan.

The Germany international's brace in Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of West Brom took his tally to seven Premier League goals in his past eight matches - already more than he has managed in any top-flight campaign during his career.

Gundogan's purple patch began with the opening goal in a 1-1 draw against the Baggies on December 15.

From that point onwards, no player can match the ex-Borussia Dortmund playmaker's tally, with Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette next up on five. Gundogan's minutes-per-goal rate of 92.4 is better than any other player over the same period with two or more goals.

"There are players who are in front of the keeper and could take a coffee and still have time to do a good finish. The others get nervous. It is a quality in itself," Guardiola said of the Gundogan, somewhat appropriately a week when the 30-year-old midfielder launched a charity initiative to help cafes and restaurants in Manchester struggling with the impact of the pandemic.

"The quality of his finishing we have always seen. As a holding midfielder [where Gundogan played during the run-in of City's treble-winning 2018-19 season] the distance to get to the box was difficult but he has a special sense of finishing.

"The last two goals in the game against West Bromwich explain perfectly the quality because it shows how quickly he moves and the quality of the shot. It is not easy to find that.

"We are delighted because it is not easy to control the players who come from the second line behind.

"It is easier to control the strikers, but more difficult for the players in behind and he is exceptional."

City are still waiting on Aguero to return a negative COVID-19 test so he can resume first-team duties and the Argentina international's struggles on his return from meniscus surgery - including a further hamstring setback - mean only two of his five scoreless Premier League outings this season have been starts.

In the last of those, he made way at half-time for Foden, who promptly secured a 1-1 draw at West Ham as the visitors played the second 45 minutes without a recognised centre-forward.

Jesus has started eight matches, with four wins, three draws and a defeat to his name. In 11 without him in the first XI, City have improved that 50 per cent win ratio to 72.7 (W8 D2 L1).

Although their average of goals per game is slightly higher with Brazil international in the starting line-up (two compared to 1.8), City average 16.7 shots per game when he doesn't make kick-off as opposed to 15.6 when he does.

Even though seven straight wins have come predominantly in striker-less fashion, Guardiola still believes Jesus and Aguero have an important part to play as Saturday's game against bottom club Sheffield United begins the second half of the league season.

"I never put pressure on Sergio and Gabriel to solve all the problems we have up front," he said. "The reason why we score goals and win games is because our game itself is better, nothing more secret.

"There are games I need a striker and other games I prefer to play without a proper one, but there is one consequence - if you play with a striker or not you have to have six or seven players arrive to the box.

"It is another way to read the game. Sometimes I need one, sometimes two, sometimes I need a striker to drop to play with the midfield players. It depends on the opponents and the skills of my players in that moment."

Reports in Italy this week claimed City had been offered a more traditional number nine in the form of Edin Dzeko, a one-time crowd favourite at the Etihad Stadium who has fallen out of favour at Roma.

It is a move that probably appeals more to sentimentalists within the City fanbase than Guardiola himself, meaning it will not have escaped their notice that the manager did not categorically rule out the move.

"I don't talk about the transfer market here. He's a Roma player and I will never discuss this kind of situation," Guardiola added.

"My feeling is that we will finish the season with everyone that we started the season with, except maybe one player [Eric Garcia] that everyone knows may be moving.

"I don't think anything else will happen. We will see in the final few days [of the transfer window]."

Jurgen Klopp acknowledged Liverpool's injury woes have had a knock-on effect with the stability and structure of the rest of his line-up.

Liverpool lost the influential Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury in the Merseyside derby back in October, while centre-back partner Joe Gomez is likely to miss the rest of the campaign having damaged his patella in November.

Joel Matip's own fitness issues reared their head again in Liverpool's 3-1 victory over Tottenham on Thursday when he damaged his ankle.

The Premier League champions have had to utilise defensive midfielder Fabinho almost exclusively in defence this term, with skipper Jordan Henderson also filling in at centre-back.

Liverpool's triumph over Tottenham Spurs ended a five-match winless run in the top flight that has threatened to damage their title defence beyond repair.

Klopp explained how the issues in defence have also affected Liverpool in other areas of the pitch.

"Football is all about individual skills of course, we have to bring it together to make it work," he said.

"So, it's about the structure of the team, about stability, about reliability, knowing what the other boy is doing in this moment, react on it, prepare your action. 

"It's about leadership as well, on the pitch, who leads the line, who used to do that. It's not a secret Virgil van Dijk was our last line. So, organisation wise, move up, these kind of things, with the ball a little as well, that's how it is it developed that way. 

"That was a job for a little while for Joe, who grew in the job. Then Joe was out, Joel played together with Fabinho so both players are not the most vocal players on the pitch. 

"Plus we miss our most natural six when we speak about structure and stability, it changed the whole set-up. 

"Usually in football when one player has the ball all the others know kind of what will happen, because they are used to it, he steps in or plays the long pass, all that was gone in a period when we played every three days. 

"The boys did really well with that to be honest but it cost a lot of energy and focus to adapt to these things, it cost most of all fluidity."


It should come as little surprise that Liverpool are far more successful with Van Dijk in the team than without him.

Going back to start of last season, Van Dijk has played in 57 games across all competitions for the Reds, while missing out on 30.

With Van Dijk involved they have a win percentage of 71.9 compared to 53.3 when he has not played. Additionally, the average points per game drops from 2.3 to 1.9 .

Perhaps a little surprisingly, Liverpool concede slightly fewer goals per game – but the 1 as opposed to 1.1 is negligible and the fact their average goals drops from 2.2 to 1.9 suggests Klopp's point about the positional changes in his team bears fruit.

From the start of last season to the date of Van Dijk's injury, only Manchester City (42) and Sheffield United (45) had conceded fewer than their 46 among teams that were playing in the top flight across both seasons.

Moreover, the Reds ranked second for clean sheets (16) and fewest shots on target faced (134), while they were third for fewest shots total faced (386). Somewhat surprisingly, they had 28 errors leading to shots (including goals) although this may be attributed to the style employed by Klopp.

Since Van Dijk's injury, Liverpool still compare favourably in terms of goals conceded (only City with six have shipped fewer than their 10), but nine teams have more clean sheets. They also slip slightly to third for fewest shots on target faced (45).

In that same time period, Van Dijk ranked sixth for duels won (256), 11th for recoveries (239), 11th for clearances (170) and second for aerial duels won (203) in the Premier League.


One solution of course is for Liverpool to enter the transfer market ahead of the deadline on Monday, but the mid-season window is traditionally tricky to find good deals.

Klopp has made no secret of the fact that Liverpool will reinforce if the right solution comes along, but with clubs reluctant to sell their best players during the season the German may have to make do.

"We know the clubs where the better centre-halves are playing, where they are obviously interesting, tell me if one of these clubs need money and has to sell a player," Klopp said.

"We see the situation, we lost two probably two of best of the centre-halves in the market at all in the space of six-seven weeks.

"That's massive, you have to look, find a solution in that moment. We tried, we see the situation, we don't close our eyes. to play your season you need to be lucky with injuries, we know that. we are not lucky in these moments. 

"I said all the time we're busy checking specific things in the market, we always did, we'll do it now as well and we'll see if something will happen or not."

Jesse Lingard has joined West Ham on loan from Manchester United for the rest of the season.

West Ham have reportedly agreed to cover Lingard's wages for the duration of his time at London Stadium and pay a £1.5million fee to United.

The 28-year-old was allowed to leave to find more regular first-team football, having only made three appearances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.

Lingard played under Hammers boss David Moyes when he was in charge of the Red Devils and is looking forward to working with him again.

He told West Ham TV: "I'm excited. It's another new chapter in my life. Nothing is guaranteed but I've come here to work hard and help the team and bring my experience. 

"That's the main aim. I just want to enjoy my football and get back playing again and get my feet back on the pitch.

"There were lots of clubs involved but, for me personally, I felt this was the right move. I've obviously had a previous relationship with the manager as he was at Man U and I've played under him before, so he knows my qualities and what I can bring to the team.

"I know a couple of the players as well – I know Dec [Rice] very well from the England side – and I feel I can really settle in here quickly."

Moyes said of his new signing: "I've seen him play as a young boy, when he was still a wide player on the right, and I've seen him play off the left.

"He's played for England as a number 10, he's played for England as a number eight, and I actually think if we needed him as a false nine, he could do that as well.

"We're bringing in that versatility, I've wanted to try to get an energetic team at the moment and Jesse has been known for his work-rate and effort, so I think he'll fit in nicely with what we've got.

"I hope he brings us a little bit of quality too, and a winning mentality from Manchester United."

Lingard's best season came in 2017-18, when he had a hand in 19 goals (13 scored, six assisted) in all competitions for United – it was one more goal involvement than he had managed in his two prior campaigns for the club combined.

Anthony Martial (20), Marcus Rashford (21) and Romelu Lukaku (36) were the only two United players to play a role in more goals that season, while his first senior England strike arrived in March 2018.

Things quickly went downhill, though. After an assist in a 3-1 win at home to Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day in 2018, Lingard did not register another Premier League goal involvement for United until scoring against Leicester City on the final day of last season. It ended an incredible run of over 28 hours on the pitch with a goal or assist in the top flight.

Lingard also experienced the longest drought of his club career in 2019, with 307 days separating goals against Arsenal in the FA Cup in January and versus Astana in the Europa League in November.

The arrival of Lingard comes after the high-flying Hammers completed a permanent deal for attacking midfielder Said Benrahma.

Jesse Lingard has joined West Ham on loan from Manchester United for the rest of the season.

West Ham have reportedly agreed to cover Lingard's wages for the duration of his time at London Stadium and pay a £1.5million fee to United.

The 28-year-old was allowed to leave to find more regular first-team football, having only made three appearances under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season.

Hansi Flick is happy to see Jamal Musiala receive his first senior call-up for the German national team, but insists Bayern Munich and the DFB will have no sway in the player's decision.

Musiala, who was born in Stuttgart but moved to England at a young age, came through the ranks at Chelsea before switching to Bundesliga giants Bayern in 2019.

The 17-year-old has represented both Germany and England at youth level, and in November made his debut for the Three Lions' Under-21 side, subsequently scoring in his second appearance.

After making his Bundesliga debut in June last year, Musiala has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Bayern this term, scoring three goals from 14 league appearances, making two starts, while he has also played three times in the Champions League, as well as featuring in the DFB-Pokal and the DFL Supercup.

He has averaged a goal every 126 minutes in the Bundesliga, though has only created one chance so far.

Reports emerged this week suggesting Germany will hand Musiala a first senior cap in the upcoming March internationals, with Joachim Low's side taking on Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia in World Cup 2022 qualifying.

The reports were confirmed by Flick ahead of Bayern's home game with Hoffenheim, and he will offer his advice to the teenager if needed.

"We haven't been talking about it yet. I only found out about today, that Jamal will be invited to the national team in March," Flick told a news conference.

"Overall, I always am happy to see young talents that also play in Germany. Until now, the DFB always handled these situations similarly and let the player choose whether he'd like to join or not.

"Where he feels more comfortable, that is a decision that he'll take on his own and with his family. He will have to deal with that by himself.

"Therefore, if he has any questions, he knows he can always talk to me about it. So you have to respect his decision either way."

One Bayern youngster who has not had such a strong season is Joshua Zirkzee, with the 19-year-old reportedly set to join Serie A club Parma on loan with an option to buy, while Premier League side Everton havie also been linked.

Flick, though, suggested a potential move was not as far along as has been suggested.

"I can only read about it. Joshua was training with us today and I believe that he will still train with us after the deadline day," Flick added. 

"In all openness, there is nothing to be declared.'

Zirkzee has managed just one start in the league this season, playing 92 minutes in total across three appearances, and has not added to his tally of four Bayern goals, which he scored last season.

"Please, Mr Matic, get out to the ball," said an anguished Rio Ferdinand as BT Sport replayed Oliver Burke's winning goal for Sheffield United at Old Trafford.

It came after a passage of lacklustre Manchester United play that Ferdinand insisted would not have been allowed in "yesteryear", in which players ambled back, stood stock still or pointed in vain before Burke fired in a shot via Axel Tuanzebe's knee.

He took his shot just in time – there was one Manchester United player sprinting back to challenge in a desperate attempt to lift his ailing side. No prizes for guessing who that was.

Bruno Fernandes will celebrate one year as a United player on Saturday. His transfer from Sporting CP for an initial fee of £47million in January 2020 came after a similar abject home defeat for United, on that occasion against Burnley.

That 2-0 loss was a shock only in historical terms given the 20-time champions of England were on a dismal run at the time, the latest setback making it four defeats in seven. Things were different on Wednesday, when Sheffield United ended their hosts' 13-match Premier League unbeaten streak and prevented the Red Devils from returning to the top of the table.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had reached the halfway stage of this campaign 12 points better off than in 2019-20, and 23 points closer to the leaders. There has been undeniable progress in the past 12 months, inspired by Fernandes. Across all competitions, he has been involved in 45 goals – more than any other player for a Premier League club. Only Harry Maguire (53) has made more competitive appearances for United than the Portuguese (52), but the former Sporting star has scored the most goals (28), assisted his team-mates the most often (17) and created the most goalscoring chances (136).

Fernandes has been a transformative signing, in the mould of Eric Cantona and Robin van Persie – but, crucially, without the trophies. When it comes to the league title, he has made United believe again. But as doubts return over his team's credentials, is belief alone enough?


Fernandes ended 2020 winning his fourth Premier League Player of the Month award, becoming the first to get that many in a calendar year. For that award, he has already matched the tallies of United greats Paul Scholes and Cristiano Ronaldo and is just one behind Wayne Rooney and Van Persie.

He's been directly involved in 33 goals in his first 34 appearances (19 goals, 14 assists), a figure bettered only by Andrew Cole (41) in the history of the Premier League – all this despite not being involved in a goal in any of his most recent four appearances in the competition.

From his debut on February 1, 2020 until January 28 this year, he has had the most direct goal involvements in the competition (33); only Kevin De Bruyne had more assists (15 > 14) and only Mohamed Salah more goals (20 > 19). In fact, the impact of the attacking midfielder has been so great that United have won more points in the Premier League than any other side since his arrival (72) – one ahead of rivals City (71).

Such were his talismanic efforts on the pitch during 2019-20, Fernandes was crowned the club's Player of the Year, becoming the second Portuguese player to win the award after Cristiano Ronaldo. Since its inception in 1987-88, no player has won the award having played as few games in a season as Fernandes' 22 in all competitions in 2019-20.

So integral has he been to Solskjaer's plans that he has missed just two games in 2020-21 – domestic cup wins over Brighton and Hove Albion, and Watford – and, when he was finally given a rest against Liverpool in the FA Cup last weekend, he promptly came off the bench to score the winning free-kick.


Beyond the goals and assists output, Fernandes, as the odd defensive sprint highlights, is a player who likes to be involved. Examine shot-ending sequence involvements in the Premier League from his debut to January 28 this year – that's a measure of how players contribute to the creation of shots in open play – and only De Bruyne (220) is above Fernandes (212).

For such sequences ending in goals, Fernandes is top of the pile on 33, five above anyone else. Similarly, if you look at multi chance involvements (the number of unique shot-ending sequences in open play, where the player in question created the chance and was involved in the build-up), Fernandes (21) is second only to Jack Grealish (24) – the heartbeat of an exciting Aston Villa.

Former United captain Bryan Robson sees someone else in Fernandes, telling Stats Perform: "After the first six games, I couldn't give him any bigger compliment than say he's the closest to Paul Scholes I've seen," he told Stats Perform. "The way he turns with his back to play, the vision he's got, the touch on the ball, the great goals he scores…

"Every time he gets on the ball, his first thought is to look forward and try and put somebody in. He's so quick on little one-twos in and around the last third. He's a bit like De Bruyne. He doesn't lazily pass it backwards; he's always looking to try and hurt the opposition.

"I like that he demands from his team-mates around. It's okay demanding, but if they can see the work and effort you are putting in, then you get a good response."


Many Fernandes detractors will argue that his goal tally is inflated due to the propensity that United are awarded penalties.

He has scored nine times in the Premier League from the penalty spot since his debut, but he's still scored 10 league goals when excluding spot-kicks. He's posted a non-penalty expected goals/90 average of 0.24, which is just below that of De Bruyne (0.26) over that period. To put this simply, even if you take away penalties, he's getting in positions to score a goal every four games from open play – a decent return for a midfielder.

Fernandes has added a new dimension to United's attacking play and they have certainly found a player that can unpick opposition defences with the regularity that they have so often missed in recent years.

He has an expected assists total of 6.5 from open play since his Premier League debut – only Grealish (6.8) and De Bruyne (7.5) can boast a higher level of creative input for their teams since February 1, 2020.

In the 12 months before Fernandes' arrival at the club, United's best creative player from open play was Marcus Rashford with an open-play expected assists tally of 3.9 – nearly half that of Fernandes' total in his first year at the Red Devils.

After that shock defeat to bottom club Sheffield United, United find themselves a point off City with their rivals still having a game in hand. With their next four league games coming against tricky opposition all placed between fifth and 11th, this period could make or break their title challenge.

Fernandes has spent a year making United better, but Solskjaer's men still rely on him to lead by example to get results. He has dragged the Red Devils back into a title battle, but he cannot win it alone.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Martin Odegaard can cause problems for any team in world football ahead of his possible debut against Manchester United.

Arsenal have signed Odegaard on loan from Real Madrid until the end of the season.

He is building up his fitness and it is yet to be confirmed if he will be able to make his debut when Arsenal host United at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

Solskjaer, whose team are reeling from their stunning 2-1 home defeat to bottom-of-the-table Sheffield United on Wednesday, is clear about his fellow Norwegian's ability.

But he hopes Odegaard will not make his mark on the Premier League right away.

"Martin is a very talented young player," he told reporters as he looks to avoid Arsenal beating United for a third straight top-flight game for what would be the first time since 1998.

"We know from the national team that he can cause anyone problems. 

"Just hope he isn't finding his form on Saturday! We wish him all the best.

"Arsenal have been impressive lately, turned it around. Since the Chelsea game they have got really good results.

"Always great games against Arsenal. Some classics between the two sides."

United are winless in all four Premier League games against Arsenal under Solskjaer, having lost three of those.

He is the only United manager to face Arsenal more than once in the top flight without winning a game.

Solskjaer, though, is optimistic his team will bounce back from the Sheffield United defeat and feels the media reaction to that loss showed a lack of respect to the Blades.

"You never want to lose a game to learn from it and we have been terrific," he said. "But it is that kind of season. We didn't expect to finish it unbeaten, but we wanted to.

"We have always bounced back after defeats. Other than when we played Arsenal and then Istanbul Basaksehir.

"Of course, you analyse the games as you ordinarily do. A lot has been made of it because it was top against bottom but that is the Premier League.

"And I think people show a lack of respect for Sheffield United as well, because they've been unlucky this season and they got what they have deserved so many times earlier. 

"They've got players who can hurt you, they've got an organisation that works with Chris [Wilder].

"We are disappointed, it was a setback. But when you don't hit your level in the Premier League against any opposition you get a tough game and unfortunately we couldn't work it out in the 90 minutes."

Anthony Martial (shoulder) and Eric Bailly (knock) are both expected to travel to London.

While United have struggled in recent meetings with the Gunners, they are unbeaten in 17 Premier League away games.

Opta data shows it is their joint-longest run without defeat on the road in their top-flight history, tied with the run that started in the treble season of 1998-99. 

Solskjaer's side have won 26 points away from home so far this season, more than any other Premier League side.

Mikel Arteta is adamant Martin Odegaard's arrival does not have to negatively impact Emile Smith Rowe's form, with the Arsenal manager convinced they can play together.

Arsenal completed the loan signing of Odegaard from Real Madrid on Wednesday, the Norwegian adding creativity to a squad that had not included Mesut Ozil at all this season prior to his move to Fenerbahce.

The 22-year-old Odegaard had struggled at Real Madrid this term, making just three LaLiga starts for Zinedine Zidane after returning from an impressive temporary spell at Real Sociedad.

But there is great hope that he could make a real impact for the Gunners if he is able to rediscover the form he displayed with La Real, for whom he created a team-high 62 chances and provided six assists in 2019-20.

Despite some expressing doubts over his compatibility with Smith Rowe, Arteta believes the two can play together, while Odegaard's signing will alleviate some of the creative burden.

"Of course, they can play together, and it is not about pushing somebody else [out of the team]," Arteta told reporters ahead of Saturday's clash with Manchester United.

"Emile has earned his right to play the way he is performing - and Martin has to earn that.

"Emile cannot play every single game, as we knew the other day. For example, in the FA Cup he was injured, he could not play.

"The other day [against Southampton on Tuesday], he could only play certain minutes because he was struggling for the last minutes.

"It has been a massive step for him from what he was doing three, four months ago and what he is doing right now. We need options."


Smith Rowe has enjoyed a sudden rise to prominence with the Gunners – before Christmas he was exclusively used in cup competitions, but he has started six Premier League matches in a row since.

The first of those was the 3-1 win over Chelsea on Boxing Day, a result that ended a run of seven games without a league victory and began to ease the pressure on Arteta. The Gunners are unbeaten with Smith Rowe in the side in the league this season.

His three assists from open play across the same period is more than anyone else has managed in the Premier League, so concern for Smith Rowe's momentum was an understanding by-product of the initial links to Odegaard.

But, Opta data lends credence to Arteta's assessment they can play together.


None of Smith Rowe's key passes or assists have come from the central third of the attacking half, with all of them coming from wider positions.

While Odegaard operated predominantly from the right at Real Sociedad last term, the highest proportion (31.2 per cent) of his assists and key passes came from the central zone directly outside the penalty area.


Creativity in this zone has been a weak point of Arsenal's this season, with most of their threat coming down the left – Odegaard's arrival might just offer the Gunners a little more balance.

Gareth Bale has reached "a crucial moment" in his second spell at Tottenham and must help the team soften the blow of losing Harry Kane, according to Jose Mourinho.

The on-loan Real Madrid forward has struggled to make a major impression this season with Spurs, starting only one Premier League game.

Taking into account four appearances as substitute, Bale has played a mere 170 minutes in the English top flight this season, scoring once and creating four chances.

Barring a turnaround in fortunes in the second half of the season, his switch looks set to go down as a disappointing gamble by the club.

Bale scored 42 goals and had 20 assists in 146 Premier League games across his first spell at the club, productivity which heralded a big-money move to Spain.

With Kane facing a lay-off after injuring his ankle in Thursday's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, head coach Mourinho wants other players to "step up", starting from Sunday's game at Brighton and Hove Albion.

And asked whether Bale can do that, Mourinho said: "Yes, I hope so. He didn't play much [against Liverpool], he played 15 minutes with the team losing 3-1.

"But he played 90 minutes in the [FA] cup and that for him is a big impact for him, to play 90 minutes.

"It's a crucial moment for him, he's feeling better and better. When you lose a player of Harry's quality and dimension, the other guys have to step up and hopefully he can help us."

Bale's appearance in Monday's 4-1 cup win over Wycombe, a match in which he scored, was a signal that his fitness is returning, but Mourinho knows it will take a big effort from several players to fill the void created by Kane's setback, given the England captain is such a linchpin of the side.

"Harry Kane is Harry Kane, there are players in some teams that are not replaceable," Mourinho said.

Spurs were without a host of forwards for a time last season, with Kane and Son Heung-min particularly missed, and Mourinho was forced to field several makeshift line-ups.

Mourinho pointed to having Carlos Vinicius, Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura and Bale all available this time.

However, he stressed Bale could not be a like-for-like replacement for star man Kane, who has 12 Premier League goals and 11 assists this season.

Removing penalties, Kane has nine goals from an xG (expected goals) rating of 7.2, meaning he is exceeding what he might be expected to achieve based on his chances.

"I don't think Gareth is a striker and I don't think he likes to play as a striker," said Mourinho.

"It was something we spoke about when he joined us and he was very objective with me by saying that he doesn't feel he is a left winger, like he was before, or a number 10, like he was before too.

"The position he likes to play is the position where we are playing him every minute we are giving him, which is on the right side of attack.

"When Gareth plays, starting or coming from the bench, that's his position in our team."

Mourinho said Dele Alli, linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, is injured and would not be available for the Brighton trip.

Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have struggled at Chelsea as they have yet to adapt to the different styles in the Premier League, according to Gus Poyet.

The Germany internationals moved to Stamford Bridge before the start of the season as part of a massive squad overhaul costing upwards of £222million.

Neither player has found top form in England, though, as Chelsea's run of two wins in eight league games saw Frank Lampard sacked as head coach and replaced by Thomas Tuchel.

Werner has nine goals and five assists in 28 games in all competitions this season, with only Tammy Abraham (11 goals and four assists) registering more direct goal involvements for the club. However, the former RB Leipzig star has scored just once in his previous 10 appearances, in a 4-0 FA Cup victory over League Two Morecambe.

Havertz, with five goals and five assists, is the only other Chelsea player to have recorded at least 10 goal involvements in 2020-21, but the reported £72m arrival from Bayer Leverkusen has been outshone in midfield this term by Mason Mount.

Former Leverkusen coach Tayfun Korkut told Sky Sports that Havertz "will probably never be the darling of the supporters because he is not someone who fights", although he insisted the 21-year-old should be given time to show his true quality.

Poyet, who spent four successful years at Chelsea, thinks the early "adrenaline" Havertz and Werner had after their transfers has worn off and that the differing approaches by opposition teams in England is posing them problems.

"I think at the beginning [of the season] it was decent [for Chelsea]," he told Stats Perform News. "I think when you have new players, the adrenaline of these players is incredible. They bring something special to the club, but then to maintain that, especially for young players, is very, very difficult.

"So, there is a period of adrenaline, in which you're going to give a lot. There is a period of adaptation and then there is English football, which even if you think that you know, I promise you, you don't until you are on the pitch every weekend, because every game is a different story, every game is a different challenge.

"Today, you play against a team that they're going to keep the ball, and tomorrow you're going to get a team that is going to play long ball and you're going to have to defend 100 balls in the box. And then the next day, somebody's playing on the break, and the next day somebody plays the same system as you, and then you change and they change. Every game is a different challenge.

"I think it's been tough especially for the youngest ones, especially for [Kai] Havertz and [Timo] Werner. Because you know they're playing now in a low moment and, normally it happens unfortunately for us, the decision to bring something different is by changing the manager."

West Ham have exercised a purchase option on Said Benrahma early in order to free up space for the mooted loan signing of Jesse Lingard from Manchester United.

Reported issues with his medical in October led to Benrahma's initially agreed transfer being renegotiated to a season-long loan move that included "an agreement to make the transfer permanent".

It is claimed West Ham paid an initial £4million to take him on loan from Championship side Brentford, with the permanent deal set to cost the Hammers £21m, plus £5m in variables.

West Ham are said to have triggered the purchase early to create space for Lingard, who is reportedly on the verge of completing a loan switch from United.

Premier League clubs are restricted to two domestic loan players in their squad, vacancies that were filled by Benrahma and Craig Dawson.

West Ham are rumoured to be spending £1.5m on bringing Lingard in until the end of the season, as they look to boost their push for European football.

David Moyes' men are flying high in the Premier League, their 35 points from 20 games enough to put them fifth in the table, just two points behind defending champions Liverpool a place above them.

Winger Benrahma is perhaps still acclimatising to top-flight football, as he has only played 12 times in the Premier League and has just a couple of assists to his name.

His eight chances created is also relatively underwhelming for such an explosive player – that figure translates to 1.2 per 90 minutes, which is only high enough for seventh in the West Ham squad.

He is attempting (5.2) and completing (2.9) more dribbles than any other West Ham player, though in the long run they will be expecting greater attacking productivity considering his form with Brentford over the previous two seasons.

He was directly involved in 54 goals in all competitions (29 goals and 25 assists) for the Championship club, which was more than any other Brentford player in that time.

Also across the same period, no player in England's second tier could match his 50 goal involvements (27 goals and 23 assists) in the league.

And across the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, Benrahma created 188 goalscoring chances in the Championship – which was second only to Pablo Hernandez (204) – and his 233 successful dribbles was 32 more than any other player in the division.

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