Ralf Rangnick described Manchester United's thrilling win over Leeds United as the "best reply" to reports of dressing disunity.

The Red Devils ran out 4-2 victors over their trans-Pennine rivals in a Premier League classic at Elland Road.

First-half goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors coasting, but a quickfire double from Rodrigo and Raphinha had Leeds level by the 54th minute.

However, substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga were both on target to make it back-to-back Premier League wins for Rangnick's men.

The triumph comes at the end of a week in which captain Maguire and Marcus Rashford have both publicly denied articles claiming there is disharmony among Rangnick's squad.

Speaking at a news conference, interim boss Rangnick said: "We knew it was an important win today, similar to the one against West Ham, similar emotion at the end with a last-second goal.

"Today it was more important, not only that we won, but the way we reacted after conceding the equaliser, that was the best possible answer the team could give.

"It was perfect in regard to maturity and unity and the best reply they could give to some articles last week that there was disruption in the locker room.

"A game like this one today, you can only win as a team and the mentality of a team. Apart from the three points, this was the most important thing for me."

There is certainly no love lost between the two teams, but the hostile atmosphere at times boiled over with objects thrown in the direction of Manchester United players from sections of the home crowd.

Commenting on the unsavoury images, Rangnick added to MUTV: "As far as I know, there is some investigation going on from Leeds United.

"I don't think that anything happened in the end. Anthony Elanga looked well and he was happy about scoring his goal.

"Obviously things like that should not happen and I think even more so this game. The atmosphere was great.

"At times we had to cool down things on the pitch a little bit, but this is what I did when I walked onto the pitch [during a late fracas between the players]. I didn't want anything to happen – no yellow or red cards.

"In moments like this, I think it's important to try and cool things down."

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa said such things should not happen, though added he did not see what occurred.

"Any excess other than sporting should not be approved. I can't evaluate what you spoke about because I didn't see it," Bielsa said.

Ralf Rangnick praised the way in which Manchester United reacted to adversity in their thrilling win over Leeds United.

United had looked set for a comfortable win over their old rivals on Sunday when Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes gave them a 2-0 lead, but a rapid double from Leeds duo Rodrigo and Raphinha restored parity.

But substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga struck to ensure United opened up a four-point lead over fifth-placed West Ham in the Premier League. The Red Devils have scored 10 top-flight goals through substitutes this season, more than any other side.

And the character and maturity shown by United was of great satisfaction to Rangnick, who told reporters: "After the first 15 minutes, we had good control of the game and could have been three or four [goals] up.

"[But] within two minutes it was a completely different situation and atmosphere in the stadium. The five minutes after that were intense, very difficult for us, after that, the team showed maturity. 

"I don't know if this would have happened two or three months ago, but it happened today.

"It was not easy, even more so since we had [other] experiences like that, where we were 1-0 up or 2-1 up against Aston Villa and only got one point [in a 2-2 draw last month]. 

"It was important as an experience for the team, not only for the three points."

The 59 seconds between Rodrigo and Raphinha's goals marked the fastest that a team has scored twice in the same league game against United since West Brom in May 2013 (52 seconds), in what was Alex Ferguson's final game in charge.

But like his manager, captain Maguire was delighted with United's reaction.

"I think that [the reaction to Leeds' equaliser] was the most pleasing aspect," Maguire told Sky Sports.

"We had to stick together. We knew it's a tough place to come but we knew we had qualities and that we could hurt them."

Maguire's opener was the Old Trafford club's first goal from a corner since a 3-1 win over Burnley in April 2021, and represented the England defender's first goal of the Premier League season.

United also became the first team in Premier League history to reach 700 wins in the competition.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa acknowledged "it is impossible not to be worried" by the prospect of relegation after his side went down 4-2 to Manchester United.

Headers from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had United ahead on Sunday, before Rodrigo and Raphinha struck in the space of two minutes to level things up in the second half.

But substitutes Fred and Anthony Elanga secured victory for Ralf Rangnick's team to leave Leeds winless from their last four Premier League outings, and they sit just five points above the relegation zone.

Everton and the resurgent Newcastle United are the two teams immediately below the 15th-placed Leeds, propping the gap between Bielsa's side and the last relegation spot occupied by Watford.

Burnley, who are in 19th, are six points behind the Whites but also boast two games in hand as they look to make a late survival push following a 3-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

With key players Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford still injured, and Liverpool and Tottenham as Leeds' next opponents, Bielsa recognises the difficult task at hand.

"It is impossible not to be worried," Bielsa told Sky Sports. "We have conceded 50 goals. Do you think I cannot be worried? How can I not feel responsible?

"We have to defend better. We are missing Kalvin Phillips and Robin Koch was substituted and we could not count on Pascal [Struijk] in midfield because he went back into defence. 

"Not being able to come with the three defensive midfielders we have, there is a weakness in the recovery of the ball.

"In the first half we started well and ended well but didn't manage to score. In the moments we lost dominance they scored.

"After we got back level we had the chance to go 3-2 up and straight away they went up and scored again. 

"We played better trying to get back into the game than when we were trying to keep a result but something has repeated that is difficult to resolve."

It was the fourth time Leeds have conceded at least four goals in a Premier League game this season – no side has done so more often so far this term.

Substitute Fred was the hero as Manchester United withstood a second-half fightback to defeat rivals Leeds United 4-2 and become the first team to register 700 Premier League wins.

First-half goals from Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes had the visitors seemingly coasting towards three points in Sunday's contest at a sodden Elland Road.

But Leeds' reputation for chaos coupled with United's for showing a soft centre each came to fruition as two goals in the space of 59 seconds from Rodrigo and Raphinha turned the game on its head.

There would be another twist, though, as Fred drilled home just three minutes after entering the fray to help the Red Devils secure a double over their cross-Pennine rivals, with a slice of history confirmed when fellow sub Anthony Elanga netted late on.

Blood was literally spilled by Robin Koch after a clash of heads with Scott McTominay, which later led to the Leeds defender going off.

David de Gea beat away an Adam Forshaw stinger prior to Paul Pogba laying the ball across the face of goal for Cristiano Ronaldo, who scooped a close-range effort straight at Illan Meslier.

Meslier kept out Fernandes but from the follow-up corner Maguire emphatically headed in Luke Shaw's delivery.

Fernandes then nodded in a beauty of a dinked cross from Jadon Sancho at the end of a slick counter to double the lead on the stroke of half time.

A chaotic 59-second period in the second half dramatically saw Leeds level by the 54th minute.

Rodrigo's cross from the left deceived De Gea and found the far corner, before Forshaw robbed Fernandes of possession prior to Dan James' low cross being met on the slide by half-time sub Raphinha.

But United would regain the lead when Fred hammered past Meslier at his near post after being teed up by Sancho with 20 minutes to play, and Elanga rolled home a fourth with the clock winding down.

Cristiano Ronaldo's appearance in Manchester United's trip to Elland Road to face Leeds United saw the Portuguese legend record yet another entry into the Premier League record books.

In taking to the field on Sunday, the 37-year-old faced off against Leeds for the first time since October 18, 2003, marking the longest gap between a player's appearances against a specific opponent in the competition's history (18 years and 125 days).

Ronaldo was actually booked for diving on his first appearance at Elland Road, which came just two months into his first spell with the Red Devils, although Alex Ferguson's team stole a late 1-0 win on that day thanks to captain Roy Keane's header.

Ronaldo's goal in United's 2-0 win Brighton and Hove Albion last time out meant he has now scored against 168 different club and international sides during his glittering career, as the forward turns his attention to firing the Old Trafford club to Champions League qualification amid a frustrating campaign. 

Cristiano Ronaldo's future with Manchester United is uncertain amid a difficult season at Old Trafford.

The 37-year-old only joined United from Juventus in August, following interest from rivals Manchester City.

But the Red Devils are well out of the title race, with Ronaldo contributing nine league goals, in a tumultuous season that has seen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer axed as manager.

TOP STORY – MAN UTD WOULD BOW TO RONALDO TRANSFER DEMANDS

Manchester United will allow five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo to depart if he demands to depart in the off-season, reports the Sunday Mirror.

The Portuguese is ready to quit the Red Devils should they miss the top four and subsequently fail to qualify for the Champions League.

The report claims that Ronaldo was expecting to transfer United into title contenders but that his presence has become a sideshow, meaning they are willing to let him go.

 

ROUND-UP

- Raphinha has caught the eye of Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona but Leeds United plan to rebuff any offers him in the off-season according to The Mirror.

- The Mirror also reports that Arsenal are in the race for Napoli's Spanish midfielder Fabian Ruiz , joining Madrid and Barcelona.

- Liverpool target Fabio Carvalho is being pursued by Manchester United too, claims the Daily Star. The Fulham teenager came close to joining the Reds in January.

- Manchester City and Raheem Sterling are set for contract talks at the end of the season but the English leaders may sell him if he does not agree to a new deal, according to the Times.

- Fiorentina are interested in Manchester United full-back Diogo Dalot but would need to convince him to lower his wages, reports La Nazione. Dalot is in line for a new deal with United according to the Star.

- Liverpool Echo reports that Everton's Jean-Philippe Gbamin could join CSKA Moscow on loan with the Russian transfer window open until February 22.

Since Ralf Rangnick took charge at Manchester United, much of the focus on them has revolved around – unsurprisingly – how they press, or don't, for that matter.

Of course, the overriding narrative when he was appointed fixated on how he was the supposed 'godfather of gegenpressing' and would definitely have United pressing more effectively than Liverpool in a matter of weeks…

Okay, there probably weren't many making such grand claims, but the point remains: United's off-the-ball work became the focus.

That meant their rather underwhelming attacking displays went a little unnoticed until Rangnick started talking about their expected goals (xG) after their 1-1 draw with Southampton.

As it turns out, since Rangnick's arrival, United have underperformed their non-penalty xG by 5.5 across all competitions, the worst of any Premier League team in that time. When you do consider spot-kicks, that gap increases to 6.1. Brentford are the second-worst in both metrics (4.31 and 3.67, respectively).

United simply aren't scoring as many goals as they should given the quality of the chances they're creating, but you can spin that into a positive.

Assuming they continue to craft opportunities at a similar rate, they should – in theory – level out with respect to xG. Considering recent meetings with Leeds United and their own woes, could Marcelo Bielsa's men be the tonic they need?

LEEDS LATE TO RIVALRY PARTY

Matches against Man Utd are, in all likelihood, the first games your average Leeds fan will look for when the fixture list is released ahead of the season. While the rivalry may not be as fierce competitively on the pitch as it once was, the two sets of supporters still despise each other.

These rivalry clashes haven't been especially kind to Leeds since their long-awaited return to the Premier League, though.

Over the three games, Leeds haven't won once and trail 11-3 on aggregate, with United demolishing them 6-2 at Old Trafford last season and 5-1 there in August. The 0-0 draw at Elland Road in April last season is as good as it's got – that's also the last time the Red Devils failed to score on the road.

Leeds suffered those two Old Trafford nightmares having previously only conceded five or more goals away to United in all competitions twice in their previous 50 visits.

Further to that, the 6-2 was the first time a Bielsa team had conceded six times in a competition match since he was in charge of Newell's Old Boys in February 1992.

It was also the first occasion United had scored at least six goals since "I'd 8-2 be an Arsenal fan" happened, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men having netted just three times in their previous six home league games.

Of course, last season's clash at Elland Road was the opposite of a goal fest. The main difference this time is that the game won't be behind closed doors, though Leeds weren't quite this defensively feeble then.

LEAKS UNITED

It is worth mentioning that, indeed, Leeds were not as leaky last season, as has been said. But even when they were in good shape, few would consider them among the tightest teams at the back.

Their 54 concessions in 2020-21 may not have been alarming in itself, with six teams letting in more, but at a rate of 1.4 goals conceded every game they were always likely to find themselves in a little danger if, A) they stopped scoring as often, or B) they didn't improve the defence.

Sure enough, injuries have played a massive part in Leeds' struggles this season, with most of their key players spending at least a short period on the sidelines.

That's been especially felt at the back. While Leeds' goals scored per game remains at a similar – albeit slightly lower – rate (1.5 down from 1.6), their concessions have rocketed from 1.4 every match to 2.0.

Only Norwich City (50) have conceded more Premier League goals than Leeds this season (46), and 26 of those have come in the nine matches since their last clean sheet in November. It's a diabolical run.

Granted, it would appear they have been somewhat unfortunate. Their expected goals against (xGA) (40.4) is 4.6 lower than their goals conceded (excluding own goals) record, suggesting they have on occasion been punished by particularly impressive finishing.

But their xGA remains the third-poorest in the league and, as the graphic above suggests, they've been conceding higher-value chances than they've been creating on average practically all season. That -0.74 differential on their rolling average between non-penalty (np) xG for and xGA heading into the weekend highlights just how much worse they are defensively than they are good going forward at the moment.

THAT ONE'S A KEEPER

An interesting underlying narrative ahead of this clash is the form of the respective goalkeepers.

David de Gea is arguably back to his very best, the Spaniard enjoying a wonderful season after falling out of favour in 2020-21 – it's as though Dean Henderson's emergence as a viable replacement spooked him into pulling his finger out.

Whereas Illan Meslier is – according to the numbers at least – having a very difficult season.

That's not necessarily to say Meslier is entirely to blame. In fact, he's not made any Opta-defined errors leading to shots this term, whereas De Gea has made two. Similarly, as Leeds' xGA shows, they give away a lot of chances and there's only so much a goalkeeper – and a young one at that – can do.

Indeed, Meslier was considered one of few positives from Leeds' recent 3-0 battering by Everton, yet the numbers don't make for such kind reading.

According to Opta's 'goals prevented' metric, Meslier should have stopped as many as 7.3 of the goals he has conceded this season, by far the worst record in the league (Vicente Guaita: 5.1). De Gea, on the other hand, has apparently been the most decisive keeper, actively preventing 6.9 goals and making a division-high 92 saves.

Meslier is ranked second for saves (80), but it would also seem he has let in several goals the average keeper might've been expected to keep out.

Intriguingly, United's rolling average in terms of np-xG for and xGA has their current differential as the exact inverse of that of Leeds, with Rangnick's side enjoying a positive 0.74 difference in favour of xG for, meaning they are creating better chances than they concede and are seemingly at their most cohesive in attack all season.

It's by far the biggest rolling average gap United have seen this term – at least in favour of xG for – and the 2-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion in midweek looked like another step towards being a more ruthless attacking unit.

Creating chances hasn't really been a problem in recent weeks, the issue has been finishing them off. While rivalry meetings can be unpredictable, and a full house at Elland Road should at least ensure the hosts have a vocal backing, it wouldn't be in the least bit surprising if Leeds are proven to be the cannon fodder United need.

Ralf Rangnick has denied rumours of a power struggle between Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Manchester United captaincy.

Maguire has been widely criticised for his form this season and his underwhelming performances coupled with the apparent influence of Ronaldo was reported to have caused issues in the changing room.

A report in the Mirror on Thursday claimed interim boss Rangnick has tasked Ronaldo with mentoring the young players.

According to the story, Maguire has subsequently felt undermined by the former Real Madrid star.

But Maguire hit back on Twitter on Friday, insisting the claims "aren't true" and Rangnick has since lent his backing to the England international.

"Well, to start with, I must say this is absolutely nonsense," Rangnick told reporters ahead of Sunday's clash with Leeds United.

"I have never spoken with any player about a possible change of captaincy, Harry was fully aware of that, so was Cristiano and the other players. This has never been an issue for me.

"It's me who decides who's the captain and therefore there is no reason for me to speak about that with another person. Harry is our captain and he will stay our captain until the end of the season and there is nothing else to add on to that."

Maguire's response to the initial story on Twitter came after Marcus Rashford reacted similarly on Thursday.

Rashford was responding to a German journalist declaring that "English players" like himself and Maguire "are irritated that Ronaldo wants to lead the dressing room with his own clique".

The England forward suggested the reporter was "just making it up as we go along" and "looking for divides".

Rangnick is not especially annoyed by the situation, and even believes the atmosphere in the dressing room is much better than it was just a few weeks ago.

"Well I'm not frustrated at all because I know it's not true," he continued. "I told you about Harry being the captain, it's not an issue at all, it's never been an issue for us or myself as manager.

"All the other things, to be honest, I don't listen to that noise that much because my full focus is on preparing the team for the next training, for the next game.

"Obviously, I have heard about what was written. I can only tell you from my personal experience in the last 12 weeks, yes, there were players unhappy until the closure of the transfer window because, as I always said, the squad was too big, we had too many players who just realised they wouldn't get game time and this has improved, for sure.

"From what I can tell, the atmosphere in the locker room is better than it used to be a couple of weeks ago for all those reasons I just spoke about.

"As you quite rightly said, for us it's about performing well, showing togetherness on the pitch, getting the best out of our performance and winning games, that's our job. Those are the things we can influence, all the other things we can't."

Manchester United face the prospect of losing key midfielder Paul Pogba on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

The France international is into the final four months of his existing deal and there are few indications that he is prepared to extend his terms at Old Trafford.

And in a further blow for United, they could see Pogba head to one of their domestic top-flight rivals.


TOP STORY – POGBA OPEN TO PREMIER LEAGUE STAY

The Telegraph reports that Pogba, who rejoined United from Juventus in a big-money deal in 2016, is prepared to wait until the end of the season before deciding on his future.

Signing a new deal with United is said to remain an option, but Pogba will not be short of options should he become available to sign on a free – albeit with big wages to factor in.

The report indicates that the 28-year-old will weigh up any interest from fellow Premier League clubs, with Chelsea and Manchester City having previously been linked.


ROUND-UP

- It is shaping up to be a busy transfer window for United as a number of other players are also out of contract. According to Ekrem Konur, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata are attracting strong interest from clubs in the Middle East.

- Jesse Lingard is another who could be on his way out of Old Trafford, though The Express claims that the England international is not considering a free transfer to Tottenham. Lingard would reportedly prefer to move abroad ahead of next season.

- Arsenal have joined Everton and Wolves in the race to sign Rafael Leao from Milan, according to La Repubblica. The 22-year-old is enjoying his best campaign to date at San Siro, having registered double figures for goals.

- Italian outlet Tuttosport suggests that Juventus are pushing ahead with plans to sign Nicolo Zaniolo from Serie A rivals Roma, who are supposedly prepared to accept an offer in the region of €40million for a player with two years to run on his deal.

- Leeds United's in-demand winger Raphinha is holding off talks over a new contract at Elland Road, suggests GOAL. The Brazil international has previously been touted as a target for Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.

Manchester United's inability to take their chances came back to bite them once more as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Southampton on Saturday.

Che Adams struck early in the second half to cancel out Jadon Sancho's opener at Old Trafford.

In the 3pm GMT kick-offs, Everton ended a six-match winless streak in the Premier League as Frank Lampard oversaw a vital 3-0 win over Leeds United at Goodison Park, while Watford were beaten by Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace.

Later, league leaders Manchester City moved 12 points clear at the top with a 4-0 thrashing of strugglers Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Manchester United 1-1 Southampton: Rangnick's right, but that won't get the Red Devils points

Ralf Rangnick may have risked the wrath of some pundits after bringing up expected goals in his post-match comments, but the interim manager is correct – his side are creating plenty of chances without putting them away.

United finished the game with 12 shots to Southampton's 13, but an xG of 2.6 to the visitors' 0.9.

 

Nevertheless, for only the second time in their Premier League history, United have failed to win back-to-back matches despite being ahead at half-time in both, having last done so in December 1998.

Across their 10 top-flight games under Rangnick, meanwhile, they have averaged fewer goals per game than they have under any other manager in Premier League history (1.4).

United are at least unbeaten in their last 12 Premier League games against Southampton (W5 D7) since a 1-0 home loss in January 2016, while having only scored two goals in his first 23 appearances for the club in all competitions, Sancho has since netted two in his last three.

Brentford 0-0 Crystal Palace: Bees stop the rot

Brentford ended a run of five straight Premier League defeats and registered a clean sheet for the first time in 12 top-flight games (since a 1-0 win over Everton on November 28), as they drew with Palace.

It was a match of few clear chances (there were only 15 shots in total), though Wilfried Zaha was convinced he should have been awarded a late penalty.

Zaha was making his 250th Premier League appearance for Crystal Palace, just the third African player to hit that milestone for a single club in the competition, after Shola Ameobi (294 for Newcastle) and Didier Drogba (254 for Chelsea).

Everton 3-0 Leeds United: Lampard up and running

Lampard claimed his first league win as Everton manager in style, as the Toffees snapped a four-match losing streak in the competition with an emphatic 3-0 win over Leeds.

Everton went 2-0 up before half-time through Seamus Coleman's first league goal in 69 games, since May 2019, and Michael Keane's 10th goal in the top flight for the club.

 

Both of those were headers and no team have now scored more headed Premier League goals than Everton, who are level with United on 336.

It was the first time Everton scored twice before half-time in 40 Premier League games, last doing so one year and nine days earlier against, coincidentally, Leeds at Elland Road.

Anthony Gordon diverted in Richarlison's shot to seal Everton's biggest Premier League win since a 5-2 victory over West Brom in September 2020.

Watford 0-2 Brighton and Hove Albion: No home comforts for the Hornets

Watford have now lost six consecutive home league games for the first time since August to October 1990, a run which also included a defeat to Brighton.

Neal Maupay and Adam Webster got the goals for Brighton, who have lost just one of their past 12 away games in the Premier League, all coming in 2021-22 (W4 D7) – no side has lost fewer away games in the top flight this term than the Seagulls.

Watford have not kept a clean sheet in any of their past 17 home Premier League matches, equalling the competition's record run without a home shut-out.

Roy Hodgson has taken on a big job, and Watford will want a favour from Aston Villa against Newcastle United on Sunday to remain within three points of safety.

Norwich City 0-4 Manchester City: Perfect Sterling hat-trick sees leaders storm on

City lost on their previous league trip to Carrow Road, but there appeared little danger of a shock this time around as Raheem Sterling's perfect hat-trick helped them to a 4-0 win.

Sterling became the third City player to score a perfect hat-trick in the Premier League, after Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero (twice). Meanwhile, no player has scored more away hat-tricks for the club in the competition than Sterling, with each of his last three coming on the road.

 

The ex-Liverpool attacker became the sixth City player to score as many as 10 headed goals in the Premier League, with only Aguero (19) and Niall Quinn (13) netting more.

City scored at least four goals in a Premier League away game for the 21st time under Pep Guardiola, at least eight more than any other side since the Catalan coach joined the club.

Norwich, meanwhile, have conceded 50 goals in their 24 Premier League games this season – only in 1938-39 (21) and 1946-47 (19) have they shipped 50 in fewer games in a single league campaign.

Premier League leaders Manchester City collected a routine victory over Brentford to further their advantage at the top.

That victory saw Pep Guardiola's side extend their lead at the summit to 12 points, with second-placed Liverpool due to host Leicester City on Thursday.

Tottenham fell to a late defeat against Southampton as Antonio Conte suffered his first home league loss as Spurs boss, while Aston Villa shared the spoils in a six-goal thriller with Leeds United.

And strugglers Norwich City picked up a valuable draw at home to Crystal Palace, with Dean Smith's side now a point behind 17th-placed Newcastle United as the relegation battle continues.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data from the day's top-flight action.

Manchester City 2-0 Brentford: Citizens cruise to league double over Bees

Strikes either side of the interval from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez helped City to a 2-0 win over Brentford as the Citizens completed the league double over the Bees for the first time since 1936-37.

Mahrez opened the scoring as he netted in his seventh consecutive game across all competitions for City – only Lionel Messi (twice) and Sergio Aguero have previously achieved that feat under Pep Guardiola.

De Bruyne doubled the hosts' lead in the second half, the midfielder recording his 85th goal involvement (35G 50A) in his 96th top-flight appearance at the Etihad Stadium, where he has found the net five times in his last four games.

Brentford rarely troubled Ederson's goal and were caught offside 10 times in the match, the most by a Premier League team since January 2018 as City recorded their 100th clean sheet under Guardiola in the competition.

The Bees have now lost five consecutive league matches for the first time since December 2007, under Terry Butcher in League Two, and for the first time in the top flight since April 1947 (seven in a row).

Tottenham 2-3 Southampton: No home comforts for Conte

Southampton twice rallied from behind to earn a late 3-2 victory at Tottenham to end Conte's unbeaten start at home in the league as Spurs boss.

Jan Bednarek poked into his own net to give Spurs the lead, the centre-back now on a Premier League-high three own goals since the start of 2019-20. Similarly, Tottenham have benefited from the most own goals in the competition this season (three).

But Armando Broja soon levelled up. That was the Albania striker's sixth top-flight goal this term – only Kevin Davies (nine in 1997-98) managed more in the Premier League for Southampton while aged 20 or under.

Son Heung-min restored his side's advantage with his 12th strike against Southampton across all competitions, five more than he has registered against any other team for Spurs.

Saints fought back again, Mohamed Elyounoussi equalising before Che Adams sealed victory. Both finishes were set up by James Ward-Prowse, who assisted two goals in a single Premier League match for only the second time in 290 appearances.

Having equalised in the 79th minute, Southampton's victory was the latest they had been behind in a Premier League match that they would go on to win since March 2016 against Liverpool (equalised in 83rd minute).

Aston Villa 3-3 Leeds United: Whites continue away scoring run in Villa Park classic

Aston Villa, who had Ezri Konsa dismissed late on, shared the points with Leeds in a 3-3 thriller as Dan James, Jacob Ramsey and Philippe Coutinho dominated proceedings.

James scored his third and fourth Premier League goals this term, his best-ever tally in a season, though Marcelo Bielsa found his side 3-2 down at half-time.

Coutinho initially cancelled out James' opener as he became the sixth Villa player to score in each of his first two Premier League appearances at Villa Park, and the first since Carlton Cole in August 2004.

The Brazil international then teed up a Ramsey double as the midfielder became the youngest player to score more than one goal in a Premier League game for Villa (20y 257d) since Luka Moore got a hat-trick in February 2006 (19y 356d).

Diego Llorente restored parity in the second half as Leeds recorded three goals in consecutive Premier League away games for just the second time, and for the first time since March 1995, to earn a valuable point.

Norwich City 1-1 Crystal Palace: Zaha's penalty falter costs poor travelling Eagles

Norwich City raced out the blocks at Carrow Road but ultimately had to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.

Teemu Pukki – who has scored 43 per cent of Norwich's top-flight this season (6/14), the highest such share of any player in the competition – netted the fastest goal in the Premier League this season as he finished after just 38 seconds. 

Wilfried Zaha pegged Smith's team back with his 80th goal involvement in England's top division (53G 27A), 79 of which have been for the Eagles.

Michael Olise teed up the Ivory Coast international's second-half equaliser, his seventh goal involvement (3G 4A) across all competitions in 2022 – the most by any Premier League player.

Palace should have secured all three points but Zaha failed from the penalty spot for the first time, on his fifth attempt, meaning the Eagles have won just one of their last 13 away games in the league.

Leeds United will struggle to keep hold of talismanic winger Raphinha, as he could play "right at the top", according to former defender Jonathan Woodgate.

The Brazil international was linked with a big-money move to West Ham in January but has remained at Elland Road, where Leeds face a survival bid.

Only three Premier League players have scored more than Raphinha's eight this season, while he also has two assists, having a hand in 10 of Leeds' 24 goals.

The 25-year-old is excelling on the international stage, too, with three goals and two assists in World Cup qualifying.

In South America, among players with five or more starts, only Neymar (67.5) is averaging fewer minutes per non-penalty goal or assist than Raphinha (84.6).

Woodgate therefore expects bigger clubs than West Ham to come calling at the end of the season.

"[He could play] right at the top. He could play for Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea – not a problem," Woodgate told Stats Perform. "He is outstanding.

"What a signing he's been. They've done a great job on the recruitment side of it to get Raphinha in, and you can see how quick he is, how much he works, but he brings assists and goals with that work rate.

"If you look at wingers, the first thing I look at is how many does he score and how many does he assist, and the bonus is he absolutely works so hard for that team.

"That could be a struggle to keep hold of them if a massive bid comes in for him, which I expect in the summer.

"He was getting linked with different clubs this [January] transfer window, but if a top team comes in for him, it'll be hard to keep him."

West Ham were also linked with Kalvin Phillips, and Woodgate foresees similar issues with his future.

"Again, he could play right at the top," he said. You saw it in at the Euros, but then you look at how much he's developed under Marcelo Bielsa.

"It's flabbergasting to see the improvement in that player since Bielsa came in. It's extraordinary. He's worked so hard on his game.

"It takes buy-in from the player as well, so you've got to congratulate Kalvin Phillips on what he's done, but the work Bielsa has done with him, he's turned him into an outstanding holding midfielder.

"He's getting in the England squad, getting to the final of the Euros playing week in, week out for Leeds. Again, they need to try and keep him.

"How would you keep players? By buying other top players into your club to supplement that and see if you can climb up the league. A bit like we did when I was at Leeds, we kept on buying top players to get to that next level."

Erling Haaland remains tight-lipped on his plans for his future.

The 21-year-old Norway forward has drawn widespread interest after two outstanding years at Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland appears destined to exit BVB later this year but has a decision to make.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA LOOMS AS HAALAND'S PREFERRED MOVE

Haaland is holding off on a decision on his club future to see if Barcelona can raise the required €360million to put together a package for the striker, reports the Daily Star.

The report claims Borussia Dortmund representatives believe Barcelona is Haaland's preferred destination.

The 21-year-old also has interest from Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea .

 

ROUND-UP

- CBS Sports claims Saudi Arabia's  Al Nassr  have lodged a final bid for Arsenal outcast  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang , with the deal matching his Gunners salary and including a break clause after 12 months that would allow him to return to Europe. Gerard Romero claims  Barcelona have reached an agreement with Arsenal to sign Aubameyang, although the Blaugrana must offload Ousmane Dembele  first.

- Atletico Madrid are unwilling to allow Alvaro Morata to join rivals Barcelona ,   claims Sport. Morata is on loan at Juventus from Atletico amid talk of a switch to the Blaugrana, with Arsenal , Newcastle United and Tottenham also linked to the Spain striker.

Dejan Kulusevski  is set to be loaned from Juventus to  Tottenham ,   with the two clubs in advanced talks on a deal, according to Fabrizio Romano. The deal would include an option to buy.

- The Daily Star reports likely new Everton manager Frank Lampard will block  Dominic Calvert-Lewin 's proposed move to  Arsenal .

- Goal claims top-four hopefuls  West Ham  have made dual bids for Leeds United pair  Kalvin Phillips  and  Raphinha . The Sun claims the Hammers' bid for Phillips is worth £50m.

The race for Erling Haaland's signature will be a huge story in 2022.

The 21-year-old sensation has interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs.

Haaland has netted 63 goals in the past 18 months for Borussia Dortmund.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD GIVE UP ON HAALAND

Manchester United have pulled out of the race to sign Dortmund's Haaland, according to ESPN.

The Red Devils will focus on alternative attacking options with uncertainty around Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo's futures at the club while Haaland is favouring a move to Real Madrid.

United have had a long-standing interest in the Norwegian, who has a €75 million (£62m) release clause on his Dortmund contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are closing in on a deal for River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez, claims The Telegraph. As part of the imminent deal, Alvarez – who has interest from Milan, Inter and Juventus – will remain with River until June. The fee is expected to be no less than £20m.

- Liverpool have joined the race to sign Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, according to ESPN. The Reds will rival Dortmund and Bayern Munich who are both keen on the Swiss midfielder.

- Ajax's Mexico international Edson Alvarez is attracting interest from Premier League trio Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace, reports Football Insider.

- Leeds United have opened contract talks with Brazilian superstar Raphinha,  according to the Daily Star, amid interest from Chelsea and Liverpool .

- French club Nice are set to offer Tottenham's Bryan Gil a loan deal, according to L'Equipe. The Spaniard has struggled for impact since his move to England.

- Diario AS claims that Valencia are working on a January deal for Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez .

The Premier League is a week away from its winter break, but a feast of football awaits us before then, along with fantasy point-scoring opportunities.

Leaders Manchester City head to Southampton and will look to extend their 12-game winning run in the competition, at the expense of opponents who are unbeaten in their last seven league games at St Mary's.

Manchester United have a tricky assignment against David Moyes' West Ham, and you might consider a Hammers forward to break down Ralf Rangnick's defence at Old Trafford.

If the time is right to back your strong start to the season, there are proven fantasy league performers to choose from here among this week's picks, and a strong case to be made for others you may not have considered.

EDERSON (Southampton v Manchester City)

Pep Guardiola's trusted City goalkeeper has kept more Premier League clean sheets (12) and faced fewer shots on target per 90 minutes (2.2) than any other goalkeeper this season.

City have faced 50 shots on target across 22 games and have conceded only 13 goals, so another shut-out must be a realistic proposition on the south coast.

Ederson has played in all but one of those Premier League assignments for City this term, and although Southampton have won three and drawn four of their last seven 2021-22 home league games – their best record since going nine unbeaten from March to October 2016 – it is the visitors who start this clash as strong favourites.

JOAO CANCELO (Southampton v Manchester City)

City's defence has been close to watertight this season, but Cancelo's role at full-back is more than just about stopping the opposition.

Only the Liverpool duo of Trent Alexander-Arnold (10) and Andrew Robertson (6) have provided more Premier League assists among defenders this season than Cancelo (5).

He has also had 44 goal attempts, with 15 of them finding the target, and his tally of one goal scored will surely grow soon enough.

DAVINSON SANCHEZ (Chelsea v Tottenham)

Can Tottenham be trusted to keep a clean sheet against Chelsea, in Sunday's headline game? This choice would represent a gamble, albeit one that can to an extent be rationalised by data.

Since December 1, Sanchez has been involved in a Tottenham defence that has kept four clean sheets in seven Premier League appearances. Indeed, only Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte (5) has kept more clean sheets during that time among top-flight defenders. New boss Antonio Conte is making a difference at Spurs, no doubt about it.

The counter-argument here comes with the fact Chelsea have won five of their last six league games against Spurs (D1), and beat them in both legs of the EFL Cup semi-finals.

RAPHINHA (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Leeds United have woken from their slumber in the Premier League, winning twice in a row to climb to 15th place, just three points behind Leicester City in 10th spot.

Last time out it was Jack Harrison who was the hero, with a hat-trick at West Ham, but Raphinha is their Mr Consistency.

The Brazilian set up Harrison's match-winning third goal at the London Stadium, and since the beginning of the 2020-21 Premier League season, Raphinha is one of just five players to have registered 10 or more goals, 10 or more assists and created over 100 chances in the English top division.

JARROD BOWEN (Manchester United v West Ham)

Former Hull City forward Bowen has been involved in 13 goals in the Premier League this season (6 goals, 7 assists) and opponents Manchester United will be wary of his quality.

Indeed, only Mohamed Salah (25) and Bowen's West Ham team-mate Michail Antonio (14) have been involved in more Premier League goals this term.

To strike a slight note of caution, Bowen only has an expected assists (xA) total of 2.94, meaning West Ham have made more of his chances created than they would ordinarily be expected to, while Bowen is slightly lagging behind his expected goals (xG) total of 8.29. That said, the Red Devils will surely not underestimate his threat.

ROBERTO FIRMINO (Crystal Palace v Liverpool)

With Salah and Sadio Mane still away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Brazilian forward Firmino again looks set for a starting role as the Reds travel to Selhurst Park on Sunday.

Firmino has been involved in six Premier League goals against Palace in his last five appearances (4 goals, 2 assists), having been involved in just two across his first seven games against the Eagles in the competition (2 goals).

Starting with a double in a 7-0 win in this exact fixture last season, each of Firmino's last 10 Premier League goals have all come away from home. Liverpool have won their last six Premier League away games against Palace.

ALLAN SAINT-MAXIMIN (Leeds United v Newcastle United)

Can Newcastle beat the drop? Their best hope before the transfer window opened up a new world of possibilities appeared to lie with the fast feet of Saint-Maximin, and he remains their star attacker for now.

The French winger has scored in each of his last two Premier League appearances, with those goals earning 1-1 draws with Manchester United and Watford.

Now here lies the problem with trusting such form: he has never scored in three successive appearances in the competition. However, Saint-Maximin did score in the reverse fixture against Leeds in September, another 1-1 result for the Magpies.

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