Jose Mourinho expressed surprise over Gareth Bale ruling himself out of Tottenham's FA Cup fifth-round defeat to Everton.

Spurs took their hosts to extra time in a wonderfully chaotic game, eventually falling 5-4 to Bernard's 97th-minute winner.

Davinson Sanchez gave the visitors a third minute lead a Goodison Park and completed an unlikely brace to make it 3-3 before the hour - Erik Lamela having reduced the arrears after Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson were all on target during a crazy seven-and-a-half-minute spell.

Harry Kane came off the bench to net Tottenham's second equaliser, Richarlison having brilliantly doubled his tally, although Bale was not among the options on the bench to bolster Mourinho's attempts to save the game.

"I think it’s better for me to say," he said at a post-match news conference when asked to explain the Wales star's absence.

"So, we played against West Bromwich on the Sunday and he didn't play. On Monday, I was a bit surprised by him wanting to have a scan because he was not comfortable with some muscular area.

"So, he didn’t train on Monday and then on Tuesday he trained with the team but I was informed that his desire was to work with the sports scientists for a couple of days to strengthen that area. That's the reason why he’s not here.

"I don’t think it’s an obvious, clear injury. I would say he feels uncomfortable. Because of that he could not be 100 per cent, but I don’t think an injury."

Asked to elaborate further on whether Bale had disappointed him, Mourinho replied: "This is Everton post-match and Gareth was not here. The only thing I can say is I am being completely open and honest."

The incident marks another unhelpful chapter in Bale's as-yet deeply underwhelming return to Spurs on loan from Real Madrid, with the chances of a permanent switch back to north London looking increasingly remote.

A scorer in two of his four Champions League final successes at Madrid, fitness problems dogged Bale over recent seasons as he fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane.

The 31-year-old has four goals in 16 appearances for Spurs this term, although only two of his six Premier League outings have been starts.

Matters at the other end of the pitch look to be a more immediate concern for Mourinho ahead of Saturday's trip to face in-form Premier League leaders Manchester City.

"I enjoyed the way we played when we had the ball from the first minute," he told BT Sport after the breathless affair on Merseyside. "We had a great dynamic, great movement and great character to fight against incredible mistakes

"But attacking football only wins matches when you don't make more mistakes than what you create.

"We scored four goals and four goals was not enough.

"It was the mouse and the cat. The mouse was our defensive mistakes and the cat was trying to compensate for that and playing very well."

Spurs must now lick their wounds after a punishing encounter, having seen City rotate their XI and saunter to a 3-1 win in their own last-16 tie at Swansea City earlier on Wednesday.

"Of course, City are great team, they rested a big percentage of their team," Mourinho added. "We have this situation but you can't cry."

Bernard settled a topsy-turvy FA Cup thriller as Everton beat Tottenham 5-4 after extra time to claim a place in the quarter-finals.

The hosts were second best during the opening stages at Goodison Park, either side of falling behind to Davinson Sanchez's third-minute header, although Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson – the latter from the penalty spot – were all on target in a crazy seven-and-a-half-minute spell.

Then it was time for Tottenham's comeback, with Erik Lamela reducing the arrears before half-time and Sanchez improbably poaching his second of the match.

Richarlison arrowed a high-quality finish beyond Hugo Lloris on the angle to convert Sigurdsson's brilliant 68th-minute throughball and, although Harry Kane had the desired effect from the bench to bring extra time, fellow substitute Bernard had the final word.

Tottenham's dominant start gave little indication of what was to come, with Lamela's header forcing a superb reaction stop from Robin Olsen, while Lucas Moura blazed the follow-up over.

Everton did not heed that warning and stood passively as Sanchez headed in Son Heung-min's corner.

Olsen was alert to deny Steven Bergwijn at close quarters after the half-hour mark and his team-mates soon turned the contest on its head.

Lloris kept out a dangerous Calvert-Lewin effort earlier in the half, despite a slight deflection off Ben Davies, but the England striker's sweetly struck 36th-minute effort on the end of Sigurdsson's clever flick proved too hot to handle.

Calvert-Lewin, who limped off early int the second half with a suspected hamstring injury, turned provider with a slick backheel of his own for Richarlison to smash in from the edge of the penalty area with similar venom.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was culpable on the first goal and fouled Calvert-Lewin for Sigurdsson to make it 3-1 from the spot.

That could have been game over, but the defending remained generous and Lamela played a one-two with Son that Yerry Mina failed to cut out and finished with aplomb.

Mina's Colombia team-mate Sanchez prodded in when Olsen kept out Toby Alderweireld's 57th-minute header – Everton's set-piece defending again leaving plenty to be desired.

But there was only fine attacking at which to marvel when Sigurdsson and Richarlison combined, the Brazil forward whipping home a wonderful left-footed finish.

Abdoulaye Doucoure's goal-line clearance to deny Lamela a brace was in vain as Kane converted the latest fine Son cross with a diving header.

Another repeated theme decided matters in the seventh minute of extra time, when Sigurdsson produced an exquisite drag-back and chip for Bernard to lash past Lloris.

Jose Mourinho has explained the reasons behind leaving Eric Dier out of his Tottenham side for the 2-0 Premier League win against West Brom.

Dier had started 19 of Spurs' 21 league games before the Portuguese coach named the England international centre-back on the bench for the match against the Baggies.

The defensive partnership of Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez helped Spurs to their first clean sheet in seven matches as the North Londoners snapped a run of three straight defeats.

And Mourinho revealed Dier had suffered a loss of confidence after being one of a number of players to make individual mistakes during Tottenham's recent run of sketchy form.

Dier's positioning was questionable as Roberto Firmino scored Liverpool’s opener in the 3-1 win at Tottenham last month and, after being dropped for the next game against Brighton and Hove Albion, Dier came back to concede a penalty in the 1-0 loss to Chelsea.

"Players have moments," Mourinho said. "They can be very good, they can be strong personalities, they can be experienced, they can cope with a mistake but in the end, they are men. And they feel more than anyone else these little moments of confidence, of crisis.

"I have to admit that recently our team makes little important mistakes that are punished in terms of our results.

“And Eric was there, he was one of them. They feel it. And I believe confidence, that drops a little bit.

"But great personality, a team guy, as happy as we were when we won on Sunday. A guy that loves it here, a guy that is loved by the team-mates, a guy that I trust. And he will be back to normality and his normality is to play and be solid."

Mourinho must now decide whether to recall Dier for Wednesday's FA Cup fifth-round tie against Everton, ahead of a league game against Manchester City on Saturday.

The Spurs coach confirmed Sergio Reguilon and Giovani Lo Celso will miss the trip to at Goodison Park, while Serge Aurier is a doubt.

Jose Mourinho is adamant Dele Alli still has a role to play at Tottenham and he could return from injury in Wednesday's FA Cup clash with Everton.

Alli has not played for Spurs in any competition since the 5-0 cup win over non-league Marine on January 10, with the attacking midfielder suffering from a muscular injury.

Before that, the 24-year-old had fallen badly out of favour at Spurs, with his four Premier League appearances this term amounting to just 74 minutes.

He was strongly linked with a January exit, as Paris Saint-Germain – now coached by Mauricio Pochettino – were said to be interested, but a move never materialised.

Therefore he has been tasked with recapturing the form from his early days at the club – Alli's 63 top-flight goal involvements was bettered by only six players across his first three seasons in the Premier League.

He was proving a real weapon for Spurs in his role behind Harry Kane, and his 26 assists over the same period was the fifth highest in the division – Alli found such consistency despite being significantly younger than those he was competing with.

His Spurs career now appears to be at a crossroads, but Mourinho insists there is a way back for him.

"Dele trained yesterday with the team and well," Mourinho told reporters on Tuesday. "Long time away, couple of weeks no training with team and recovering.

"Can he play tomorrow? Well, he's not injured but I'm not sure he can. Can he help us? I believe he can. In terms of having Dele on the bench to come for a few minutes to try to help the team, is that possible? I have to speak with him but I believe he can."

When asked if anything had changed for him to sound optimistic for Alli, Mourinho said: "Nothing changed. He's not injured. He's not injured, he can train with the team.

"He went through a process of not training and trained with the sports science people and then jumped to team work, which he did yesterday for the first time.

"Nothing changed, what maybe changed is the speculation around him because in this moment everybody knows that he's a Tottenham player and he doesn't go to any place. So probably the end of the speculation will be the end of the questions.

"He can train and he can try to help the team because this is what we want. It's what we need. We need players to help the team. Hopefully he can do that.

"In a normal situation he wouldn't even be considered for tomorrow, but with the injuries we have with so many matches we have, maybe we have to accelerate his process and maybe we can.

"But of course, I want him to be fully on board and to agree and that depends on his feelings. But if he can be on the bench tomorrow and to come for 10 or 15 minutes to help the team, that would be good for us."

Kane returned from an injury of his own in the weekend win over West Brom, getting himself on the scoresheet, and Mourinho confirmed the England captain got through the 90 minutes with no major issues.

"No bad reactions, he played well as you could see. No problems, at least no big problems," Mourinho added. "Again, we need to go player by player, on two days between West Brom and Everton, we go player by player to have their feelings and discuss with them to see the best options.

"Of course, we want to go with a strong team [against Everton] but at the same time we don't want to create problems with the future of the players."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is awaiting the results of a scan to determine the severity of Paul Pogba's thigh injury after the star midfielder was substituted in the first half of a last-gasp 3-3 draw against Everton.

Pogba hobbled off the field with six minutes remaining prior to half-time as United capitulated at Old Trafford, where Everton sensationally salvaged a point in the 95th minute on Saturday.

United were in control when Pogba succumbed to injury – leading 2-0 at the interval thanks to Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes – before two goals in the space of three minutes to start the second half restored parity for Everton.

Scott McTominay put United ahead again with 20 minutes remaining, but just as the Red Devils looked like securing maximum points, Dominic Calvert-Lewin silenced the hosts in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Asked about Pogba post-match, Solskjaer told reporters: "It seemed like a muscle injury, his thigh.

"We will check him tomorrow, give him treatment and a scan, see how bad it is. We hope it's not too bad.

"He couldn't carry on, we had to take him off."

United's collapse dented their Premier League title hopes, with rivals and neighbours Manchester City – who have played two matches less – two points clear atop the table ahead of Sunday's showdown against champions Liverpool.

Saturday's result was just the fourth time in Premier League history United failed to win a fixture in which they led by two-plus goals at half-time, and just the second time at Old Trafford – 2-2 at Tottenham in December 1998, 2-2 at home to West Brom in October 2010 and 5-5 away to WBA in May 2013.

It was also just the fourth time United led a Premier League home game by at least two goals and failed to win, with Everton responsible for the last two occasions (also 4-4 in April 2012).

Fernandes scored a memorable long-range goal on the stroke of half-time to put United 2-0 ahead of Everton, following Cavani's opener.

Since his debut in the Premier League, only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (22) has scored more Premier League goals than Fernandes (21). Meanwhile, only Southampton star James Ward-Prowse (five) has scored more outside the box than the Portuguese (four).

It was raining goals at Old Trafford and St James' Park in another dramatic day of action in the Premier League.

Manchester United appeared certain to pick up another three points just four days on from their record-equalling 9-0 hammering of Southampton having led 2-0 and 3-2 against Everton.

But Dominic Calvert-Lewin netted a dramatic last-gasp equaliser to seal a 3-3 draw for the Toffees.

Newcastle United won by the odd goal in five in a 3-2 triumph against the free-falling Saints, while Arsenal were beaten by Aston Villa and Saturday's other two games finished all square.

Manchester United 3-3 Everton: Red Devils in late hell thanks to DCL

Manchester United squandered a two-goal half-time lead in the Premier League for just for the fourth time, having done so against Tottenham (December 1998) and West Brom twice (October 2010, May 2013).

Indeed, it was only the fourth time United led by two goals at Old Trafford in the competition and failed to win, Everton now responsible for each of the last two occasions.

Only Toffees' late hero Calvert-Lewin (five) has more headed goals than Edinson Cavani's four this season, while Scott McTominay has scored in back-to-back league games for the first time.

Everton scored with each of their three shots on target, the last of which was the 12th home goal United have conceded this term – one more than in the whole of the previous campaign.


Aston Villa 1-0: Villans channel class of '92-92

Arsenal's recent resurgence has ground to a shuddering halt as they followed a midweek defeat at Wolves with a 1-0 loss to Aston Villa.

Ollie Watkins' second-minute goal secured the Villans a first league double over the Gunners since the inaugural Premier League campaign in 1992-93 when Ron Atkinson was in charge.

Dean Smith's men now have 35 points from 21 games, equalling the tally they managed in the entirety of the 2019-20 campaign. It also represents their best return in the top flight after 21 matches since 2009-10 when they finished sixth.

Arsenal, for who Mat Ryan became the fourth goalkeeper to concede within two minutes of a full debut for a Premier League club, have lost 10 of their 23 games - the earliest they have reached such an unwanted tally in a domestic campaign since 1983-84.

Burnley 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls still soaring despite draw

After defeating Tottenham and Liverpool in their past two matches, Brighton and Hove Albion had to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw at Burnley.

Still, Graham Potter's side are now unbeaten in their past five in the Premier League – matching their best unbeaten run in the competition, last going on such a streak in March 2018.

Lewis Dunk was on target for the Seagulls and has scored nine goals in the Premier League since Brighton were promoted to the top flight for the 2017-18 campaign. Only three defenders can better that effort (Marcos Alonso -14, Patrick van Aanholt -11, Virgil van Dijk-10).

Newcastle United 3-2 Southampton: Debut Magpies joy for Willock

Newcastle United ran out 3-2 winners over Southampton in a corking game at St James' Park, despite having Jeff Hendrick sent off after 50 minutes.

Joe Willock became the 11th different player to score on their Premier League debut for the Magpies and the third this season after Hendrick and Callum Wilson. His only other goal in the competition also came against the Saints.

James Ward-Prowse scored his fourth direct free-kick of the season. Only David Beckham and Laurent Robert (both with five) have ever scored more in a single Premier League campaign.

For Newcastle, this was the first time they had scored three goals in the first half of a Premier League game since October 2015 against Norwich City.

Fulham 0-0 West Ham: Fulham draw a blank again

Fulham's goalless draw with West Ham was their fourth in the Premier League this season, the most in the competition this term alongside Manchester United.

The Cottagers have now failed to score in 11 of their league matches - only Burnley with 12 have failed to score in more.

West Ham may not have been able to get the job done but they now have 39 points in 23 games, as many as they racked up the whole of last term.

Fulham have gone 12 games without a victory for the first time since April-September 2014, and this is their longest run without a win in the top flight since November 2007 to January 2008 (both were also runs of 12).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer dismissed the suggestion Manchester United's defending is hindering a Premier League push as he claimed they should not even be in the title picture.

United missed the chance to move level with rivals Manchester City at the top of the table on Saturday when they drew 3-3 at home to Everton.

Solskjaer's side led 2-0 and 3-2 before Dominic Calvert-Lewin coolly slotted in a 95th-minute equaliser that will allow City to pull five points clear if they beat Liverpool on Sunday in the first of their two games in hand.

The United manager was critical of his team's defending, although they allowed only six shots and three on target, having 14 attempts at the other end.

But mention of sloppiness at the back impeding their hopes this season brought a swift response from Solskjaer, who feels his team are overperforming.

"We're not talking about winning titles," he told Sky Sports. "We've come a long way this team. We shouldn't even be considered as title chasers.

"That's one for you. We've got to be better as a team, then let's see how we end up. Going forward, very good. Let's stop conceding easy goals."

It is just the second time in Premier League history United have led by two goals at home at half-time and failed to win, also drawing 2-2 with West Brom in 2010.


Solskjaer was largely encouraged by United's attacking play, fluent again four days on from the crushing 9-0 win over Southampton, but was frustrated not to be able to celebrate another victory.

"The second half we played some good football, but we conceded three goals from three shots on target," he said.

"When they have three shots between the posts and you concede three, that's disappointing, of course. We played some very, very good stuff.

"They're poor goals, definitely. During the game, we expect one or two good moments from the opponents, but they had three shots between the posts and you concede goals.

"It's disappointing. Of course, when it's in the last minute, added time, that's very disappointing."

De Gea spilled Calvert-Lewin's tame shot for Everton's first goal, scored by Abdoulaye Doucoure, before hesitating to come off his line in the final seconds as the England striker levelled.

It was the fourth time in De Gea's Premier League career he has conceded three or more goals while failing to make a save.

Solskjaer was not looking to apportion blame, though, adding: "I wouldn't blame anyone for the goals, but we know we could have done better as a team to defend all of them."

Dominic Calvert-Lewin says Everton proved they can compete with any team even if he was not sure if his late goal in the dramatic 3-3 draw at Manchester United would be allowed to stand.

The Red Devils saw goals from Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes cancelled out by Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez at Old Trafford only for Scott McTominay's 70th-minute effort to put the home side back in front.

With the clock winding down, it looked as though United were about to move level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table.

But Calvert-Lewin notched after latching on to a 95th-minute free-kick, with the England striker not sure if the VAR would rule his effort out.

"There isn't [a better time to score]. Even still I ran off celebrating and didn't know if I could fully get into the celebration because of VAR," he said. 

"It was close. I knew I didn't handle it but I didn't know if it was offside.

"I didn't even see he [goalkeeper Robin Olsen] was up. It was just about getting in the right position. I knew I wouldn’t get first contact, it was about trying to get second contact."

Calvert-Lewin was disappointed Everton had surrendered the lead having fought back from 2-0 down but is convinced Carlo Ancelotti's men have the capability to mix it with the best in the division.

"It's frustrating when we get back level from 2-0 down and then let them get the lead again from a set-piece. We had to stay disciplined and then smell the goal at the end and put it in," he added to Sky Sports.

"We had a change of system a few minutes into the second half. It allowed us to commit more bodies forward. We let them have too much of the ball. It was about picking the tempo up and getting after people.

"We are capable of so much more. Every team we play we can compete and beat them. The spirit we showed to get back in the game is what we are about."

The result leaves Everton in sixth but only three points adrift of fourth-place Liverpool, who have played a game more.

Ancelotti – who explained James was withdrawn after 70 minutes as an injury precaution – was proud of the character his team showed after feeling they were a little reserved in the opening period.

"I think we started well and were a little bit shy in the first half. After that the game was in control. We would not have deserved to lose. We had opportunities in counter-attacks in the first half but were not clinical," the Italian said.

"Manchester United are really strong in midfield. The idea was to put one more player in there.

"Rodriguez had a tight calf - he could play but not all the game. He scored a fantastic goal and I took him off to avoid problems.

"I am really proud. The spirit is really good. We have a good run in this moment. We have to keep this spirit high. We showed that at 3-2 we did not want to lose."

Dominic Calvert-Lewin struck a 95th-minute equaliser to deal Manchester United's Premier League title hopes a huge blow in a 3-3 draw with Everton at Old Trafford.

United twice looked to have seen off the Toffees but first threw away the two-goal lead Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes had forged and then conceded for a third time right at the death.

Abdoulaye Doucoure scored one and created another for James Rodriguez, before Scott McTominay seemed to set Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on his way to victory in his 100th match as a Premier League manager.

But Calvert-Lewin's leveller from Everton's final attack denied United on an evening they lost Paul Pogba to an apparent thigh injury, meaning Manchester City can pull five points clear at the summit when they visit Liverpool in the first of two games in hand on Sunday.

Paul Pogba lasted only 39 minutes on his return to the Manchester United starting line-up against Everton on Saturday.

World Cup winner Pogba, who has rediscovered something approaching his best form in recent months, was left on the bench for the midweek 9-0 rout of Southampton at Old Trafford.

The France international replaced Fred against Everton in the only change to that side, yet it ended up being merely a temporary switch.

Fred was called from the bench shortly before half-time when Pogba pulled up immediately after playing a simple pass, seemingly indicating an issue with his thigh.

The midfielder was helped off the pitch and headed for treatment, dealing a blow to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his 100th match as a Premier League manager.

Raheem Sterling struck Manchester City's second goal in their 2-0 win at Burnley to move onto 99 for the club in the Premier League.

With Pep Guardiola's men starting to build an ominous lead at the top of the table, this weekend would be an ideal time for Sterling to score for just the second time against Liverpool in what would be his 11th league meeting with his former employers.

Burnley have had a poor couple of games but there's value to be had in backing three of their top performers to deliver when they host in-form Brighton and Hove Albion.

Meanwhile, Anthony Martial is back among the goals for Manchester United and could well be worth a spot in your fantasy line-up.

NICK POPE

Burnley's number one Nick Pope had a rare moment of misfortune last time out, flapping at a Bernardo Silva shot that allowed Gabriel Jesus a simple goal three minutes in.

Still, he made four saves in total to keep the scoreline reasonably respectable and take his tally to 204 in the competition since the start of last season. No goalkeeper has made more.

In fact, only Ederson (29) has kept more clean sheets than Pope (22) in that same time frame, and the man hopeful of becoming England's regular number one will be determined to add to that against Brighton and prove his City slip-up was a mere blip.

 

JAMES TARKOWSKI

Like his goalkeeper, James Tarkowski has also kept 22 Premier League clean sheets since August 2019, more than any other defender (Harry Maguire is next on 21). He has every chance of getting another here.

Brighton are on a roll after beating Tottenham and Liverpool 1-0 and they won this game last season at Turf Moor 2-1, Aaron Connolly scoring a second-half winner.

However, three of the seven Premier League meetings between these two have finished 0-0, including the reverse game in November. Indeed, this could be the first fixture in Premier League history to see no goals scored in both games in two separate campaigns (there were two 0-0 draws in 2017-18, too).

 

LUCAS DIGNE

Everton left-back Lucas Digne has already registered six assists this season, the most of any defender in the league. Since he joined the Toffees in 2018, only Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold (28) can better his tally of 17.

Digne actually splits the two Liverpool full-backs when it comes to chances created over the same time period, his 165 bettered only by Alexander-Arnold among defenders (166).

His battle with Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka could be key to the result at Old Trafford.

RAHEEM STERLING

As well as scoring 99 goals, Sterling has provided 55 assists in all competitions for City under Guardiola. Those 154 goal involvements are the most of any player in the Catalan's time in charge, eight more than next best Sergio Aguero.

The England forward has not always enjoyed facing his old club and City have a fairly miserable record at Anfield, having won just once in their previous 29 league visits – and that was back in May 2003.

But with the champions reeling from consecutive home defeats to Burnley and Brighton, Sterling may well sense the Reds are there for the taking.

 

JAMES MADDISON

In Leicester City's 2-0 win at Fulham, James Maddison set up both goals, marking the first time he has recorded multiple assists in a Premier League game.

In his previous 12 appearances in all competitions, the former Norwich City man has been directly involved in 12 goals (six scored and six assisted). There were just three games in that run where he failed to score or set up a team-mate.

Brendan Rodgers' men are flying high and will be confident of a result away to an inconsistent Wolves.

 

CHRIS WOOD

Chris Wood has only scored four league goals all season and just one of those has come in his most recent seven appearances.

That could all change against Brighton. Wood has scored eight times in league football against the Seagulls, making them his favourite opponent in English football.

 

ANTHONY MARTIAL

Anthony Martial had a positive cameo in that 9-0 demolition of Southampton, scoring twice and winning a (controversial) penalty after coming on at half-time.

Everton will not want to see Martial with renewed confidence. The France forward has managed six goals and three assists in his past 11 appearances in all competitions against the Toffees.

Even if Edinson Cavani starts in his place, Martial may well be a threat: he came off the bench to score one and set up another in a 2-0 EFL Cup win at Goodison Park in December.

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE REGRESSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A NEW THREAT

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAVANI THE MORE DEPENDABLE OPTION?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liverpool were stunned by Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield as they lost for the second home Premier League game in a row, while Manchester City stretched their winning streak at Burnley.

Having seen their 68-game unbeaten home league run ended by Burnley two weeks ago, the champions again came unstuck against an improving Brighton side.

Liverpool's next opponents are leaders City, who had less trouble seeing off Burnley as they made it 13 victories in a row in all competitions - the longest such run by a Premier League side since Arsenal between March and August 2002 (also 13).

There were also victories for Leicester City, Everton and West Ham on Wednesday, overcoming Fulham, Leeds United and Aston Villa respectively.

Here is the pick of the Opta facts on a day in which history was made as all five away sides triumphed.

Burnley 0-2 Manchester City: Jesus and Sterling keep winning run going

Twenty-four hours on from Manchester United's record-equalling 9-0 win against Southampton, City regained a three-point lead at the summit with a game in hand thanks to a routine victory at Turf Moor.

Gabriel Jesus scored for the third game in a row that he has started to give City an early lead and Raheem Sterling marked his recall to the starting line-up with his 99th goal under Pep Guardiola in all competitions.

Burnley offered little in response as they failed to register a single shot on target for the second game running, making them the first Premier League side to do so since Everton in January 2018.

It meant for a quiet day for City's defenders as they kept a sixth straight shutout in the competition - their joint-longest run without conceding - in what was a 12th successive victory in games played on a Wednesday, which is a Premier League record.

Burnley will be glad to see the back of City for another season having now lost to them by an aggregate 10-0 scoreline across their three meetings in all competitions this season, the other defeat coming in the EFL Cup.

Fulham 0-2 Leicester City: Maddison inspires Foxes to another away win

Kelechi Iheanacho's first Premier League goal in 15 appearances and a second strike of the season for James Justin earned Leicester all three points at Fulham.

James Maddison set up Iheanacho and Justin to take his goal involvement to 12 - six goals and as many assists - in his last 12 outings in all competitions, with this the first occasion he has laid on more than one goal in a Premier League match.

Leicester have now collected 26 points on their travels this season, which is already their second-highest tally in a campaign after their 2015-16 title success (39 points).

As for Fulham, they have now gone 11 games without a win in the Premier League and have lost their opening four home games of a calendar year in all competitions for the first time in their English Football League history.

Leeds United 1-2 Everton: Toffees earn rare Elland Road triumph

Everton made it four consecutive away league victories for the first time since December 1985 through first-half goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

This may just be the sweetest victory of the lot during that run, given it is only their second at Elland Road in the top flight in 38 attempts - the most recent before today coming in 2002.

It is the fifth home league match Leeds have lost in 10 games this term - the last time a Marcelo Bielsa side lost more at home in the league in a single season was Athletic Bilbao in the 2012-13 LaLiga campaign.

Sigurdsson put Everton on their way with another goal assisted by Lucas Digne - the sixth he has set up in the Premier League this season, which is the most by any defender. 

Only Liverpool pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson (both 28) have registered more than Digne's 17 assists since the start of the 2018-19 season.

Calvert-Lewin doubled his side's tally with his ninth headed goal in the Premier League since the start of last season - only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (12) has scored more in Europe's top five leagues over that period.

Aston Villa 1-3 West Ham: Lingard at the double on Hammers bow

Jesse Lingard marked his first appearance for West Ham since joining on loan from Manchester United with a couple of goals against Aston Villa.

The England international is only the second player for the club to achieve that two-goal debut feat after Trevor Sinclair against Everton in January 1998.

Lingard's double came after Tomas Soucek had given West Ham the lead with his eighth league goal of the season - the most of any midfielder when excluding penalties.

Ollie Watkins gave Villa temporary hope at 2-0 but the home side could not avoid a fourth defeat in their last six league matches, compared to only four losses in their opening 14.

David Moyes has plenty of reasons to be cheerful, having overseen three successive away wins in the competition for the first time since April 2014 when at Man United, with this latest victory taking West Ham to 38 points - their highest top-flight tally after 22 games since 1985-86.

Liverpool 0-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Alzate stuns stuns toothless champions

Liverpool's home struggles continued with defeat to Brighton, who picked up a victory in this fixture for the first time in 13 meetings in all competitions - and a first at Anfield since 1982.

The Merseyside club having now lost consecutive games at Anfield in the top flight for the first time since September 2012, having gone 68 without a home loss in the Premier League.

It is four Premier League games at Anfield without a win, meanwhile, the last three of those without scoring - the first time that has happened since October 1984 - in a goalless run spanning 348 minutes and counting.

Steven Alzate was the match-winning hero for Brighton with his first Premier League goal in his 28th appearance, coming from the first shot on target of the contest. 

Toothless Liverpool offered little in reply, testing opposition keeper Robert Sanchez just once as Brighton made it four top-flight clean sheets on the bounce for the first time in their history.

Liverpool's need for defensive reinforcements was always likely to dominate the headlines on transfer deadline day and so it proved as the Premier League champions made two late signings.

Centre-back Ben Davies arrived from Preston North End, while Liverpool made a further addition to the heart of their backline with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Bundesliga strugglers Schalke until the end of the season.

Those signings came on a day that saw Joel Matip ruled out for the rest of the season with an ankle ligament injury. Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees and Liverpool were forced to play Jordan Henderson and Nathaniel Phillips at centre-back in Sunday's win at West Ham.

Heading for the Anfield exit door is Takumi Minamino, the forward moving to Southampton on a six-month loan deal having only joined Liverpool last January.

It came after Southampton loaned veteran Shane Long to promotion-chasing Championship side Bournemouth.

Bournemouth also sanctioned the departure of Joshua King to Everton for a nominal fee until the end of the season.

There were outgoings at Arsenal as well, with Shkodran Mustafi signing for Schalke on a short-term deal and Joe Willock going on loan to Newcastle United, who let DeAndre Yedlin leave for Galatasaray.

Arsenal also sent Ainsley Maitland-Niles to West Brom on loan.

Turkish giants Galatasaray acquired Gedson Fernandes on a temporary deal from Benfica following an unsuccessful stint at Tottenham.

In Serie A, Parma landed Bayern Munich's teenage forward Joshua Zirkzee in a loan deal that contains the option to sign the 19-year-old permanently.

Atalanta are firmly in contention for a top-four finish in Serie A and bolstered their ranks for that push with the capture of Ukraine midfielder Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Roma can afford to have hopes of a title challenge and brought in teenage full-back Bryan Reynolds from MLS outfit Dallas on an initial loan deal, with an obligation to buy, to help them.

Frozen out at Juventus, midfielder Sami Khedira is back in the Bundesliga following a switch to Hertha Berlin, but one of European football's most exciting talents is heading to Italy after Udinese signed Jayden Braaf on loan from Manchester City with an option to buy.

Elsewhere, Everton defender Jonjoe Kenny joined Celtic on loan for the rest of the season, Brighton and Hove Albion signed highly rated midfielder Moises Caicedo from Independiente del Valle, West Brom loaned Okay Yokuslu from Celta Vigo and defender Teden Mengi moved from Manchester United to Wayne Rooney's Derby County on a temporary basis.

Sergio Ramos is reportedly set to quit Real Madrid and is eyeing Manchester United, while David Alaba is apparently not a target for Manchester City.

Ramos, 34, seems set to leave Madrid at the end of the season with his contract expiring.

With the defender appearing no closer to agreeing to a new deal, he could make the move to the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – RAMOS TO QUIT MADRID, EYES MAN UTD

Ramos is ready to quit Real Madrid and his camp are set to target Manchester United as his next destination, according to the Mirror.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Everton have also been linked with the defender.

Ramos has been at Real Madrid since 2005, winning five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other honours.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another defender set to move at season's end is David Alaba, with the Bayern Munich star linked with numerous European giants as his contract comes to an end. But 90min reports Manchester City will not be making an approach for the Austria international.

- Amid an injury crisis at centre-back, Liverpool could sign a defender before Monday's transfer deadline. The Evening Standard reports they are interested in Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Arsenal may not be done in this transfer window, either. The Mirror says Arsenal are considering a move for Crystal Palace left-back Patrick van Aanholt.

- Marcos Rojo is set to get a Manchester United exit. Sky Sports reports the defender will terminate his contract, which was due to expire at the end of the season, before joining Boca Juniors on a free transfer.

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