Members of Manchester United's coaching staff have been forced to self-isolate but Sunday's Premier League game against Newcastle United will go ahead as planned.

United announced unnamed members of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's backroom staff are isolating in a brief statement.

The club did not disclose whether or not the personnel in question had tested positive for coronavirus.

Nicky Butt and Mark Dempsey will join Solskjaer on the Old Trafford bench for the Newcastle game.

Assistant manager Mike Phelan and first-team coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna are usually the main members of the United boss' matchday support staff.

United are second in the Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, who travel to Arsenal earlier on Sunday.

Manchester United's opening-day 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace was a chastening reminder of the team's frailties, but there was a somewhat surprising voice behind the subsequent call-to-action for the club's hierarchy.

Luke Shaw provided undoubtedly the most honest assessment of the situation among United players, this from a player who had rarely come across as a natural leader during his time at the club.

"We have a very good group, but personally I think we need more players to strengthen the squad," he told Norway's TV2. "It can give us a boost. When you look around at how other teams are strengthening their teams, then we must also do it to keep up with the others."

Perhaps the fact he wasn't speaking to a British outlet resulted in a more relaxed, open response from Shaw, who then also went on to criticise their pre-season.

But it was a new, authoritative look for a player who has always seemingly preferred to keep away from the media spotlight, and few United fans would have disagreed with him.

What happened next, however, he probably didn't expect – among the four players signed on deadline day in October was a new left-back, a Brazil international with the kind of attack-minded profile many had hoped Shaw would develop at United.

While Shaw definitely showed signs of progress in 2019-20, Alex Telles' arrival was the clearest sign that his position was no longer assured – he needed to respond.

 

A SHAW THING

The fact Telles has made just six Premier League starts in his debut season at Old Trafford is as good a starting point as any when highlighting Shaw's improved standing, and in fairness to the new signing, he's hardly put a foot wrong.

Telles has looked a solid acquisition and certainly fits the bill as a forward-thinking full-back who is also capable defensively, but Shaw has reached a level he has arguably never shown before in his career.

As an attacking outlet, Shaw's output has improved almost across the board, as such he has made himself almost undroppable.

 

His five assists is already a personal high for a Premier League season, having only managed seven in total before 2020-21, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. He is creating 2.3 chances per 90 minutes, which is up from one last term and well clear of his previous best of 1.2 each game for an entire campaign.

Undoubtedly one reason for that is the fact he is taking more set-pieces, yet his average of 1.4 open play chances created per 90 minutes remains a frequency he has never matched before over the course of a season, proving his increased familiarity with dead-ball duties isn't skewing the data.

A quick glance at his average position activity maps shows his involvement in the left-hand channel of the attacking third is up on each of the past two seasons, as well as his final year with Southampton.

 

This shows Shaw is embracing greater attacking responsibility, and where that is reflected most is the number of passes (including crosses) he is playing into the box each game (7.4). His last season with Saints had been his best in this regard (4.4), yet he's way up on that, and his productivity here is more than two-and-a-half times what it was in 2019-20 (2.9).

Shaw's early days with Southampton appeared to promise much. Finally, he appears to be back on track, not that it's been smooth sailing.

 

COPING, OUTLASTING, PROGRESSING

Shaw's relationship with Jose Mourinho became something of a distraction at times during the Portuguese's ill-fated reign.

Granted, Shaw wasn't the only player Mourinho seemed to have a problem with, but his treatment of Shaw in particular did leave a sour taste.

In two-and-a-half years playing for Mourinho, Shaw only made 33 Premier League appearances. While he did have injury and fitness problems, the manager's attitude seemingly did little to endear himself to the player.

Mourinho publicly criticised him after a 2016 defeat to Watford, saying: "For the second goal, [Nordin] Amrabat on the right side, our left-back is 25 metres distance from him, instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, then you have to jump and go press. But no, we wait."

Mourinho then used Shaw's positive performance against Everton in 2017 against him. He said: "He had a good performance, but it was his body with my brain. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him."

This isn't to say Shaw has been faultless this season. In fact, his defensive focus has been questionable at times in 2020-21, such as against Tottenham and Manchester City, for example.

But it's fair to say the greater attacking impetus he is showing this term compared to under Mourinho means he is more than making up for the occasional defensive lapse, and it's not like he's being beaten time after time – on average Shaw is dribbled past once every two games, the second lowest frequency for a single season in his entire career.

The difference? Well, according to the man himself, belief and competition.

"I feel really good, obviously big credit to Ole for that for believing in me and pushing me," Shaw said last month. "Alex [Telles] as well, we have a great relationship and he pushes me each day in training. We get on really well. It's nice to have that type of competition, but we push each other to get the best from ourselves. When he plays, I want the best for him, and it's the same the other way round. It's a positive way for both of us to look at it and push each other."

 

THE BEST?

There was a time – not even that long ago – when the very suggestion of Shaw being among the Premier League's best full-backs would have drawn a chuckle of derision in response.

Granted, across the four seasons prior to 2020-21, Shaw's best record of open play chances created per 90 minutes was 0.2, but there can be no doubt he is now at least in the conversation.

 

Liverpool's Andy Robertson is generally seen as the standard-bearer for left-backs in England's top flight, and Shaw compares well from an attacking sense with the Scotland international.

Shaw's 40 chances created this term is one more than Robertson, while the latter is just ahead in terms of key passes in open play (29 to 24) – though the United man has made 20 appearances to his rival's 24.

Robertson is proving a more regular source of service, with his 213 passes into the box and 201 total crosses/corners far more than Shaw's respective numbers (129 and 105), but the United left-back's deliveries are far more reliable.

Shaw's 37 successful crosses/corners is just five fewer than Robertson despite playing almost half the amount of overall deliveries.

But what really highlights Shaw's growth is his xA (expected assists) figures. His xA per 90, so the amount of assists he would ordinarily be expected to get per game, is 0.21 in 2020-21. Not only is that better than his previous best by some distance (0.12), Joao Cancelo (0.24) is the only full-back doing better here this term.

 

Shaw has made himself almost indispensable to United, his influence all the more important given Aaron Wan-Bissaka isn't particularly refined as an attacking outlet and they very rarely play with conventional wingers on either flank.

Therefore, Shaw offers the kind of threat from the wings that arguably no one else in the United squad does – and as his xA record shows, he is proving a consistent danger that marks him out as one of the league's best.

After being plagued by questions relating to his mentality for years, it's fair to say he is responding in the ideal fashion, with Telles' signing seemingly an important catalyst.

While it might be a little early to declare him outright the Premier League's best, his current trajectory at least shows that to be a realistic aim.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims Dean Henderson is "maturing all the time" as the England international takes small steps towards dislodging David de Gea as Manchester United's first-choice goalkeeper.

The Premier League matchday gloves have gone to De Gea on a regular basis for coming up to 10 years at United, often even when the Spaniard's reliability has been called into question.

Henderson had a short run in the side late last year, starting twice in the league after De Gea took a knock that forced him to be substituted at Southampton.

But De Gea quickly returned to favour once fit and has remained Solskjaer's go-to goalkeeper for domestic league games, with Henderson mostly picking up appearances in the FA Cup, EFL Cup and the occasional European match.

A clean sheet against Real Sociedad, as United won 4-0 in the Europa League on Thursday, was exactly what Henderson would have wanted.

It led to questions about why the goalkeeper who shone on loan for Sheffield United last season is not getting more opportunities with the Red Devils.

Former United midfield star Paul Scholes said on BT Sport: "Ole must know he's a quality keeper but does he have the trust in him that he's better than David de Gea at the minute? I don't think he does. Because with the mistakes David made, he would have been in if he had full trust in him."

Solskjaer is keen to praise both Henderson and De Gea, but it would be a major shock if it was the former who lined up against Newcastle United in the Premier League this Sunday.

"Of course Dean is in with a shout," Solskjaer said in the wake of the Sociedad game. "He was clean in his handling, clean in his performance, so it was a good performance.

"He's maturing all the time, but I have a very good goalkeeper in David and he saved us against West Brom.

"I always speak to the players first before I say who's not playing so they'll know."

Henderson this season has a save percentage of 76.92, far exceeding De Gea's modest 61.70 per cent.

De Gea kept out 71.97 per cent of shots last season, and his percentage this term is far worse than for any campaign since joining United in 2011 from Atletico Madrid. A 2013-14 rate of 68.57 per cent ranks as his lowest save percentage for a full season.

Englishman Henderson has played in only 12 games this season, against De Gea's 27 matches, and the opposition has at times been more modest, but those figures suggest United may soon be wise to make a change.

Henderson has conceded nine times and De Gea has been beaten 36 times.

A strong performance last time out in the 1-1 draw at West Brom, as Solskjaer mentioned, has made De Gea difficult to drop for now.

But United are working on Henderson's game, looking for the marginal gains that can advance his career.

When it comes to distributing the ball to players within his own half, Henderson has a 90.29 per cent accuracy rate this season, compared to 88.32 from De Gea.

However, the Spaniard is proving more adept at finding team-mates in the opposition half, topping Henderson by 31.03 per cent to 16.42 per cent in that category.

An early chance for Marcus Rashford against Sociedad came from a kick upfield by Henderson that gave the striker a chance to run behind the Spanish team's defence.

It was no fluke that the goalkeeper almost created a goal, with United encouraging Henderson to strengthen that area of his game.

"He was very solid, good kicking and could have - should have - had an assist for Marcus," Solskjaer said, "which is another thing we worked on."

Manchester United will holds talks with Edinson Cavani "in the near future" as his short-term contract nears its end, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has declared.

The Uruguayan striker joined in October on a season-long deal as Solskjaer found an experienced frontman to complement the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.

At the time of his arrival, United announced they had an option to extend Cavani's stay for a further year, and the former Paris Saint-Germain player is reportedly eager to remain at the club.

He has scored six times in eight Premier League starts and nine substitute appearances, at an average of one goal every 140.83 minutes.

That is the best minutes-per-goals ratio in the United squad, in terms of this season's Premier League, with Bruno Fernandes (144.21 minutes per goal) in second place.

Solskjaer has said he considers Cavani as "definitely a starter" and has included the 34-year-old in United's line-up for their last four Premier League games.

"I can only say Edinson has done well," Solskjaer said, ahead of Sunday's home game against Newcastle United.

"I've been impressed by him. He's really gelled in the group and we'll sit down with him and speak with him in the near future to see his plans and our plans.

"It's a good discussion. You always speak to your players, and with his contract situation at the moment, we're very pleased with what he's done."

With his words and his actions, Solskjaer appears keen for Cavani to stay at Old Trafford.

Having become PSG's record scorer with 200 goals, Cavani has helped United mount a title challenge in England, albeit one that now appears to be fading.

Manchester City have streaked 10 points clear of United and Leicester City in the Premier League, heading into the weekend, and it would take some turnaround for Pep Guardiola's team to be denied a third Premier League crown in four years.

"We can't hide the fact we have dropped off on our form in the last few weeks," Solskjaer said.

United's Norwegian boss said the team needed to rediscover their verve, saying: "Newcastle will be a very important game for us."

To acknowledge the title is heading to City at this stage would be a weak move for any manager of United.

"I don't think anyone would say they're not going to go for it," Solskjaer said. "We're going to go for a win in every game we play.

"Whatever other teams do, we can't control. We've just got to control ourselves. We are second, and of course your ambition then is to not end any lower than that.

"We're going to have to get a good run together if we're going to put pressure on City, and it should start on Sunday of course."

Cavani and Donny van de Beek missed the 4-0 Europa League win at Real Sociedad on Thursday with muscle injuries but could come into contention for the Newcastle game, but Paul Pogba remains sidelined.

Solskjaer says United's players must give their all at this stage of the campaign, saying: "Of course it's relentless. You've got to put your body on the line."

Manchester United rediscovered their "X-factor" in the resounding 4-0 Europa League win over Real Sociedad, according to boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

United had won just two of their previous six games across all competitions before Thursday's last-32 first-leg clash in Turin, but they turned on the style against their LaLiga opponents. 

Bruno Fernandes scored either side of half-time to take his goal involvement tally in the competition since his debut in February 2018 to 24 (16 goals, eight assists) – more than any other player. 

Marcus Rashford and Daniel James then sealed the biggest away victory by an English side against a Spanish opponent in the UEFA Cup/Europa League, surpassing Newcastle United's 3-0 win at Mallorca in 2004. 

Solskjaer was thrilled with his side's display, which stretched their unbeaten run away from Old Trafford to nine games, and says there is plenty more to come from them. 

"We scored some good goals and played some nice football," he told BT Sport. "We deserved to win but maybe not by four goals. On a night like this when we find spaces we can be a dangerous team.

"We had to defend well. They have some terrific players up front and we earned the right to counter-attack quickly. They opened up and we got the spaces we wanted.

"Every team attacks you, it's about finding the moments to find the space. We are a work in progress, we are learning and some games we have not been able to win lately. We got our X-factor back today."

Manchester United host Newcastle United in the Premier League on Sunday before La Real visit Old Trafford for the second leg next Thursday. 

 

Paul Pogba will not play again in February, with the Manchester United midfielder still needing a couple of weeks to recover from a thigh injury.

Pogba has not featured for United since sustaining the injury in their 3-3 draw with Everton on February 6.

He seemingly faces a race against time to be fit for the derby with Manchester City on March 6, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ruling him out of Premier League games against Newcastle United and Chelsea as well as the two legs of the Europa League last-32 tie versus Real Sociedad.

Speaking ahead of the first leg of that tie, Solskjaer told a media conference: "Paul, his recovery, he's starting the treatments, it'll still be a few weeks.

"He won't be playing in February that's for sure. Still a few weeks until we see Paul, definitely.

"Apart from that we have a couple of doubtful ones if they'll be fit enough [to face Sociedad].

"Anthony [Martial] and Scott [McTominay], we'll have to check them tomorrow and Donny [van de Beek] and Edinson [Cavani] definitely not travelling."

Muscle injuries will keep Van de Beek and Cavani out of the away leg against Sociedad on Thursday, which will take place in Turin rather than San Sebastian because of coronavirus concerns.

Though the away leg will be played at a neutral venue, Solskjaer still sees a side fifth in LaLiga as the toughest opponent they could have been given.

"You've got to be very, very good against Sociedad, it's probably the hardest you could pick from our unseeded group," he said.

"They were top of LaLiga for a while, now they're still in the hunt for the Champions League for next year, got some top players, some very experienced players, some quality players, some young very good ones.

"We have to play at a high level to get a result, of course we do, because the Spanish league is a quality one."

United are winless in their past nine meetings with Spanish opposition since beating Celta Vigo 1-0 in the semi-finals of the 2016-17 Europa League.

They have lost six of those matches, but Solskjaer is not concerned by the history that appears to be against them.

"It's probably down to the level of teams we've played against," Solskjaer said of that record. "Spanish teams are good, make no mistake about that, and we haven't performed well enough, that's for sure.

"We have to perform very well to beat a Sociedad team who are aggressive defensively, they're very good on the ball, good possession team, got good pace, got most of the ingredients of a top team.

"We don't go into games worrying [about that record], but we know we have to perform well to get a good result."

Mason Greenwood has signed a new contract at Manchester United that ties him to the Premier League giants until June 2025.

United said the deal includes the option for a further year, emphasising their belief that academy product Greenwood, 19, is poised to play a big part in their future.

The teenage forward has emerged among Europe's leading players in his age group, having made his debut as a 17-year-old and been a regular within the first-team squad ever since.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said Greenwood, who joined United's youth system as a seven-year-old, is primed to be a big part of the team in years to come.

"Mason is a fantastic talent and yet another fine example of the type of player that our academy produces," Solskjaer said. 

"He has made great progress this season, showing real maturity and adaptability to his game, which has seen him develop into one of the best young players in the country."

Solskjaer believes Greenwood, who has scored just once in 18 Premier League appearances this season, has boundless scope for improvement in his game.

The United boss told the club's website: "Whilst it is easy for people outside of the club to forget that Mason is just 19, it is our job as coaches to ensure he reaches his phenomenal potential and every step we take is to help him along that path.

"Mason is naturally gifted and has a brilliant attitude; we know how important he is going to be for Manchester United over the coming seasons."

Greenwood's previous deal, signed in October 2019, would have taken him through to the end of the 2022-23 season.

Now, along with the likes of Marcus Rashford, he looks like being a long-term piece of United's first-team dressing room.

Greenwood, who has one England cap, said: "I've worked so hard to reach this level and the last two years have been amazing. 

"There is so much that I want to achieve in the game and I know that this is the perfect environment to play my football.

"With the support from the manager, his coaching staff and so many great players to learn from; I know that I am developing every single day. 

"There is a lot more to come from myself and this team and I am so committed to working hard week in, week out to help the group achieve success.

"I want to repay the club for the support that everyone has given me over the years and show everyone just what I am capable of."

Mason Greenwood has signed a new contract at Manchester United that ties him to the Premier League giants until June 2025.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he was unconcerned about Anthony Martial's form.

Martial went without a shot at goal as United were held to a 1-1 draw by West Brom in the Premier League on Sunday.

The Frenchman has scored just four league goals in 19 games this season, but Solskjaer backed the forward, who was racially abused on social media after the draw.

"I know Anthony is working hard to get back to where he was. He'll score goals, his work and his attitude is very good," he told a news conference.

"Form is sometimes temporary but class is permanent and the kid's got class.

"And we know that when he works hard, we're going to get a big performance out of him again."

Martial is converting just 33 per cent of his big chances in the Premier League this season, his lowest since arriving at United in 2015.

The draw against West Brom means United are seven points adrift of rivals and league leaders Manchester City, who also have a game in hand.

OIe Gunnar Solskjaer said "someone must have been asleep in the VAR office" and recommended they brew some coffee after Manchester United's draw with West Brom.

United were held 1-1 at The Hawthorns on Saturday, with West Brom taking the lead inside two minutes despite Mbaye Diagne appearing to put his hand on Victor Lindelof's face in the process of scoring.

Bruno Fernandes equalised before half-time with a fantastic volley, but Solskjaer's men were unable to avoid dropping points for the fourth time in their past five games.

Referee Craig Pawson awarded United a penalty in the 62nd minute for Semi Ajayi's foul on Harry Maguire; although the England international appeared to be in an illegal position, the decision was overturned despite there being no check for offside.

While he acknowledged the correct outcome was reached, Solskjaer was baffled by the VAR process in overturning the spot-kick.

"I think we all want consistency and a fair game but then again there is human error that we all expect, that's what happens. But the penalty we could have had it today is a clear foul," said Solskjaer.

"If you only look at the clash between their centre-back and Harry it is a foul, but I see Harry in an offside position.

"Someone must have been asleep in the VAR office. Someone needs to brew some coffee because it could have been easily avoided by saying, 'No, he's offside. Done, let's move on.'"

When asked about the decision to allow Diagne's goal, Solskjaer pointed to Maguire having a goal chalked off for a foul on Erik Pieters against Burnley in January.

"It is more of a foul than what Harry gave away against Burnley, put it that way," said the United boss.

"When that goal is taken away from us, if there is any consistency at all, this is a foul as well. Then again being a striker as I was, it would be harsh to lose a goal like this, so both should have stood for me.

"I've not really looked at it, I just saw it live. But consistency is what we need. It is definitely more of a foul than what Harry did against the Burnley kid."

The result left United seven points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester City, who have a game in hand.

City have won their past 16 games in all competitions and are unbeaten in their last 15 top-flight matches, but Solskjaer does not believe the chasing pack are now in a battle for second place.

"No, I don't think so. No one will give it away this early. This season is so unpredictable, anything can happen. Of course we are not going to settle for second," he said.

He added: "It is disappointing of course. We have come away with two points less than we wanted to.

"The start was difficult. They put us under pressure as you expect when they get the kick-off, and we couldn't clear our lines. Then again, we got 90 minutes plus to score two goals.

"I would rather concede in the second minute than the 92nd. [We] just couldn't get enough big chances."

Harry Maguire and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were left confused as to why West Brom's opener in Manchester United's 1-1 draw on Sunday was allowed to stand after an apparent foul.

United dropped points for the fourth time in five Premier League games, as the Red Devils were unable to make the most of their dominance at The Hawthorns.

Bruno Fernandes got United's goal on the stroke of half-time, taking him to 38 goal involvements for the club in as many league games, a record bettered by only Andy Cole (46) in his first 38 Premier League games.

But United failed to build on that as they struggled to break West Brom's packed defence down, meaning Mbaye Diagne's early goal consigned them to another disappointing result.

But there was more than a hint of controversy around Diagne's goal, which stood despite the striker clearly catching Victor Lindelof in the face with his hand.

The situation left Maguire and Solskjaer baffled.

Maguire, who had a goal of a similar nature disallowed against Burnley, told Sky Sports: "We created a lot of chances - enough to win the game.

"It was tough for ourselves with the goal we conceded - for us it was a foul. We played the game in their half. We can do more and improve but it's disappointing. It was a tough job against a team that defends deep."

Speaking to beIN SPORTS, Solskjaer added: "I'm an ex-forward, so it's not as if I'm going to say it's a big foul against Victor, but why did Harry's goal against Burnley – and I know I'm going back a bit here – [get disallowed] … Where's the consistency here? There's absolutely no consistency in any of these decisions.

"If Harry's against Burnley is a foul, that is miles worse. As a striker you say well done, because if that had been taken away from me I would have been disappointed, so it's just the consistency we're looking for."

The draw put United second again but meant they were seven points adrift of leaders Manchester City, who also have a game in hand.

Bruno Fernandes has urged Manchester United's emerging stars to seize their moment as they seek to make an impression at Old Trafford.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed ahead of Sunday's trip to West Brom that teenage trio Shola Shoretire, Hannibal Mejbr and Amad Diallo would all be involved with the senior side.

Fernandes has been a leading light for United this season, helping to propel the Red Devils into possible Premier League title contention.

The Portuguese playmaker hopes the injection of youth into the United first-team fold will provide a boost, though he urged those making the step up to work hard and stay humble.

"They have to keep their heads clean, because it's easy to come in to the first team and your head goes a little bit, and it's also hard when you have to go back and train and play with the other teams again," he told the club's official website.

"I was in that position some years ago and I know it's hard, but if you work and are humble and you understand that every time you play is a chance, no matter where you are playing, every time is a chance to show you are ready or that you want to make that next step.

"For us as a team, it’s important that when they come [to train with us] that they come to help us and learn from everyone and also give the qualities they have to the team.

"If they come to the first team it's because they have something good and that is something that can help us."

We took a closer look at two of United's most promising prospects, in Mejbri and Shoretire.

 

HANNIBAL MEJBRI, 18 – ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

Many will have had an eye on Mejbri's development ever since he joined the club from Monaco in August 2019 in a deal that could potentially cost €10million (£8.75m).

A France youth international, Mejbri quickly progressed to United's Under-23s last term despite only being 17 and has become a regular.

A technically gifted attack-minded midfielder, Mejbri has impressed not only with his ability on the ball, but his knack of crafting opportunities for team-mates.

In Premier League 2 Division One, his 42 chances created in 13 games is more than any other player, while his six assists is a joint-best for the league.

He has combined his creativity and comfort in possession to good effect as well, as evidenced by the fact seven of his carries (a movement of more than five metres with the ball) have led to chances created, a figured bettered by only five.

Mejbri has also attempted 49 dribbles, the fourth-most in the division, and won a remarkable 94 fouls – almost three times as many as anyone else – two of which secured penalties in the recent 6-3 win over Liverpool's Under-23s.

In fact, Wood recently urged referees to do more to protect him from such rough treatment, concerned Mejbri will suffer a serious injury if it continues.

He can expect similar attention if he does get minutes in the top flight, though Wood is adamant Mejbri does not let it get to him, saying: "I think he's the type that he wants the ball all the time, he's not going to shy away from it and that's what we want, you don't want your top players being worried, he just needs a bit of protection or it could result in him being badly injured."

SHOLA SHORETIRE, 17 – FORWARD

Shoretire joined the United academy in 2014 having previously played for Newcastle United, and for several years now he has looked like one of the next high-potential kids to come off the Old Trafford production line.

He made his debut for the club's Under-18s in 2018, in doing so becoming the youngest player to ever feature in UEFA's Youth League at 14 years and 314 days.

Shoretire – whose name is pronounced 'Shor-ay-ti-reh' – is most-often used as a winger (on either flank) for the Under-23s, but given his excellent dribbling, vision and finishing abilities, he could potentially have a future as a more central striker.

He signed his first professional contract on Monday, just three days after netting a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers' Under-23s.

That took him to five goals in 13 appearances this term, while he also has four assists from 22 chances created.

Where he comes out particularly well is with regards to goal-ending passing sequences, of which he has been involved in 13 – only Mejbri (14) has a better record here.

Like Mejbri, Shoretire also has a penchant for taking the game to his opponents, as showcased by the fact he has created eight chances at the end of ball carries, the fifth-most in the league.

Given United's packed schedule over the next few weeks, with their European campaign set to resume, it wouldn't be a surprise to see these two make their first-team bows.

Even if they don't this season, it is surely only a matter of time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed on Friday that teenagers Shola Shoretire and Hannibal Mejbri will be promoted to Manchester United's senior squad.

The young attackers have been playing for United's Under-23s this season and blossomed in Neil Wood's free-scoring team.

Still just 17 and 18, respectively, Shoretire and Mejbri are seemingly now considered a level above that which United's second team play, with both looking destined for big futures.

Shoretire was spotted training with the United first-team squad last week and Mejbri is set to join him, with Solskjaer confirming it is his plan to integrate both into the senior group.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Solskjaer said: "Yeah, we've moved Shola up with us, Hannibal will probably join us, and we'll keep them with us for a while.

"Of course, it's a decision we have to make – are they going to train with us and travel by themselves and not be a part of the Under-23s group?

"We felt, with Shola, it was time for him to train with us. In the Under-23s games, he's just got to travel by himself; he can't be in the dressing room, but we felt it was the right thing to do for him.

"I think it's the next step in their development and we've just got to take the hit on them when they play in the Under-23s – that they've got to travel by themselves, because they're in our [first-team] bubble."

Shoretire and Mejbri have long been considered among the best prospects in United's academy, but what can they offer?

 

HANNIBAL MEJBRI, 18 – ATTACKING MIDFIELDER

Many will have had an eye on Mejbri's development ever since he joined the club from Monaco in August 2019 in a deal that could potentially cost €10million (£8.75m).

A France youth international, Mejbri quickly progressed to United's Under-23s last term despite only being 17 and has become a regular.

A technically gifted attack-minded midfielder, Mejbri has impressed not only with his ability on the ball, but his knack of crafting opportunities for team-mates.

In Premier League 2 Division One, his 42 chances created in 13 games is more than any other player, while his six assists is a joint-best for the league.

He has combined his creativity and comfort in possession to good effect as well, as evidenced by the fact seven of his carries (a movement of more than five metres with the ball) have led to chances created, a figured bettered by only five.

Mejbri has also attempted 49 dribbles, the fourth-most in the division, and won a remarkable 94 fouls – almost three times as many as anyone else – two of which secured penalties in the recent 6-3 win over Liverpool's Under-23s.

In fact, Wood recently urged referees to do more to protect him from such rough treatment, concerned Mejbri will suffer a serious injury if it continues.

He can expect similar attention if he does get minutes in the top flight, though Wood is adamant Mejbri does not let it get to him, saying: "I think he's the type that he wants the ball all the time, he's not going to shy away from it and that's what we want, you don't want your top players being worried, he just needs a bit of protection or it could result in him being badly injured."

SHOLA SHORETIRE, 17 – FORWARD

Shoretire joined the United academy in 2014 having previously played for Newcastle United, and for several years now he has looked like one of the next high-potential kids to come off the Old Trafford production line.

He made his debut for the club's Under-18s in 2018, in doing so becoming the youngest player to ever feature in UEFA's Youth League at 14 years and 314 days.

Shoretire – whose name is pronounced 'Shor-ay-ti-reh' – is most-often used as a winger (on either flank) for the Under-23s, but given his excellent dribbling, vision and finishing abilities, he could potentially have a future as a more central striker.

He signed his first professional contract on Monday, just three days after netting a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers' Under-23s.

That took him to five goals in 13 appearances this term, while he also has four assists from 22 chances created.

Where he comes out particularly well is with regards to goal-ending passing sequences, of which he has been involved in 13 – only Mejbri (14) has a better record here.

Like Mejbri, Shoretire also has a penchant for taking the game to his opponents, as showcased by the fact he has created eight chances at the end of ball carries, the fifth-most in the league.

Given United's packed schedule over the next few weeks, with their European campaign set to resume, it wouldn't be a surprise to see these two make their first-team bows.

Even if they don't this season, it is surely only a matter of time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauded Fred for building a career for himself at Manchester United after a rocky start, with the midfielder preparing to make his 100th appearance for the club.

Fred joined United in 2018 for a reported £52million from Shakhtar Donetsk, the deal seen as a significant coup for the Red Devils after he had been heavily linked with bitter rivals Manchester City. 

Pep Guardiola was said to have seen Fred as the ideal long-term replacement for Fernandinho, but United fans were left underwhelmed by what they saw in his first season at Old Trafford, making just 17 Premier League appearances. 

But he showed signs of improvement last season and has become one of Solskjaer's go-to players for the biggest matches, highlighting the manager's trust. 

In 2019-20, Fred improved virtually across the board statistically, averaging more passes (66.4 to 69.5), interceptions (1.4 to 1.6) and touches (85.3 to 91.1) per game than he had in his first season. 

He has dropped off in some of those areas this term, but his increase in tackle attempts (3.2 from 2.5) and interceptions (at 1.9 this season) per game, coupled with the fact he is losing possession less often (11.5 occasions, down from 14.5 per 90 minutes) suggests he has become more comfortable with his defensive role and the speed of the English game. 

His 3.2 tackles attempted per 90 minutes is the seventh-most of all Premier League players to have featured at least 10 times this term, and Solskjaer has no doubt where the praise should lie. 

"He's really done well. I've enjoyed working with him these past couple of seasons," Solskjaer told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to West Brom. 

"When I came in, he was a boy who was struggling a little bit. I got numerous questions about Fred in press conferences early on. As I said then, players coming into a new country, it takes time to settle - and it took some time for Fred to settle. 

"He has settled now, he's grown in confidence. There's less time in the Premier League than what he was used to. He's quickened up his game, he's not getting caught on the ball.

"I'm not going to take any credit for that, of course. It's the coaches - I think Michael Carrick and Kieran [McKenna], they've been brilliant with him, but it's Fred himself who has had the hunger and humility to learn and want to improve, stick at it and keep working. 

"There are not a lot of people who can say they've played 100 games for Manchester United. Hopefully there will be many more [games] to come - and hopefully he will score from outside the box soon, but I'm not sure it’s going to be with his right [foot]! I've tried to tell him." 

With Solskjaer confirming Paul Pogba remains sidelined with a thigh injury, Fred looks likely to play again this weekend and his most-likely partner behind Bruno Fernandes will be another United midfielder who has attracted praise this season. 

Scott McTominay scored the extra-time winner as United beat West Ham 1-0 on Tuesday to book their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals, taking the Scotland international's tally for the season to seven goals. 

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) and Marcus Rashford (16) have more than McTominay across all competitions in 2020-21, with Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani also on seven each, and Solskjaer is urging the midfielder to reach double figures. 

"Of course, to add goals from midfield is vital," Solskjaer continued. "Last season our three forwards were brilliant and really efficient and scored goals - 60 odd - and Bruno came in and scored goals. 

"We need more goals from midfield and Scott does have that ability to go box-to-box. He's a threat inside the box and he used to be a striker. 

"I think for us to move up the league and be successful in the cups, we need our forwards to keep on firing - getting more goals - and I wouldn't mind some midfielders adding a few.

"If Scott can get into double figures then that would be a very good season for a so-called defensive midfielder."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the pain of the late collapse against Everton inspired Manchester United to edge past West Ham in the FA Cup fifth round.

Scott McTominay's goal, seven minutes into extra-time, earned United a 1-0 win over the Hammers in a match the Red Devils dominated, leading the shot count 17-3.

Three days earlier, Solskjaer's side let a 2-0 lead slip and then conceded a stoppage-time equaliser in a 3-3 draw against Everton that dented their Premier League title bid.

Following some soul-searching after dropping the precious points at Old Trafford, Solskjaer believes United responded in the best way possible to advance to the FA Cup quarter-finals.

"We needed to have a good result and a good feeling today because we were low after the Everton game. It's hard to take but they were really focused and did the job," Solskjaer said.

"Of course you want to win every game. We want to challenge and we want to go to the final. That's what we're here at Manchester United for.

"Sometimes you're lucky with draws in the cup – we haven't been that lucky – but obviously we move another step closer to the final."

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