Thomas Hitzlsperger believes clear improvements have been made with respect to diversity in football and hopes players from Europe's major leagues will soon feel comfortable coming out as gay.

Hitzlsperger – who earned 52 caps for Germany between 2004 and 2010 and helped Stuttgart win the Bundesliga in 2006-07 – came out in 2014, less than a year after his retirement. 

Having become the highest-profile player to come out, Hitzlsperger recognises the "courage" required for anyone to take such a decision.

However, citing evolving attitudes towards homosexuality in football and the impact of diversity campaigns, Hitzlsperger believes the sport is now more welcoming.

Speaking to Stats Perform at the Football Business Awards, Hitzlsperger said: "What I'm seeing is a lot of improvement in what clubs are doing to promote diversity. We see a lot of symbolism, symbols, and support. 

"But it's down to the player or the players to make that decision. It takes courage, it takes a good network of family and friends to finally go that way.

"I can't predict how long it's going to take, but I'm glad to see that among fans and clubs in the media and in general, there's a positive attitude towards it. 

"If we always pick out the people who discriminate on this, then we can always argue, but in general, I think there has been an improvement. 

"I can only hope that we see a player or some players [come out] one day because that would make another big change."

Hitzlsperger enjoyed three spells in the Premier League during his playing career, representing Aston Villa, Everton and West Ham.

The Hammers are gearing up to face Fiorentina in next month's Europa Conference League final, and Hitzlsperger is optimistic regarding their chances of continental glory.

"It's massive," he said. "Again, as a football fan, you're going into a European competition. That in itself is a great achievement. 

"But then ending up in the final means so much to the fans, the journeys across Europe, so I can only hope that they do well, win the final and give the fans something to cheer about because I remember being there. 

"Sometimes when you get relegated, I know how depressing it is for everybody involved, but the club has recovered and hopefully in the future they will also do well in the Premier League."

Leicester became just the second former Premier League champions to be relegated despite a 2-1 home victory over West Ham on the final day of the season.

The Foxes, who won the title seven years ago, needed to win and hope that Everton did not get three points in their clash at home to Bournemouth.

And for a large part of the afternoon that looked like playing out as they went ahead through Harvey Barnes and Wes Faes before the crushing news of Abdoulaye Doucoure’s goal for Everton came through.

And with the Toffees hanging on at Goodison Park it condemned Leicester to the drop which represents a huge fall from grace, joining Blackburn as the only teams to lift the Premier League trophy and then be relegated.

That remarkable 5000-1 title came in 2016 but they have enjoyed much more recent success as they won the FA Cup in 2021 under Brendan Rodgers, who also delivered back-to-back fifth-placed finishes.

Rodgers was fired at the start of April in a bid to beat relegation, with former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith parachuted in on an eight-game SOS mission.

But they ultimately fell just short and Smith will surely now depart as the Foxes prepare for life back in the Championship for the first time since 2014.

West Ham, who made a game of it in the second half through Pablo Fornals’ strike, were already safe and a disappointing league season sees them finish 14th – six points clear of the drop – but their attention is firmly on the forthcoming Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina.

Given the nature of their predicament it was essential for Leicester to start well and buoyed on by a loud home support, they began with impetus.

But the visitors began to get into the game and they enjoyed the better chances in the opening 20 minutes.

There was plenty of space for them to counter-attack and Michail Antonio forced Daniel Iversen into a  parried save after taking up a good position and then Fornals miscued his shot when he had more time than he thought after being played in by Vladimir Coufal.

Leicester needed to re-ignite the crowd and they did that in the 28th minute when they came within inches of going in front.

Iheanacho did well to keep Barnes’ overhit cross in, then he played a one-two with James Maddison before firing an effort that clipped the top of the crossbar.

That raised the volume levels and the roof came off the King Power Stadium five minutes later when Barnes did open the scoring.

He played a lovely give-and-go with Iheanacho, held off the challenge of Flynn Downes and then coolly stroked the ball into the bottom corner.

With Everton still drawing against Bournemouth the goal moved Leicester out of the bottom three and they surged forward for another, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall firing over and James Maddison curling wide.

Leicester were unable to recapture that spark in the second half and the atmosphere soured when news of Everton’s goal at Goodison Park was kindly delivered by goading West Ham fans.

It almost got even worse for them as a slick move saw Said Benrahma glide into the area but his shot struck the base of the post and the Foxes survived.

They knew that one goal on Merseyside would change things and were able to consolidate their own lead when Faes climbed highest from Maddison’s free-kick.

West Ham, whose fans were basking in their opponents’ misery and their own imminent trip to Prague, should have got one back midway through the second half when Jarrod Bowen, whose shot had been saved by Iversen, teed up Danny Ings, but the substitute embarrassingly skied over.

The Hammers did get on the scoresheet with 12 minutes remaining as Fornals surged into the area and struck home.

Leicester were able to see it out but the news they desperately craved from Goodison Park never came and a disappointing season ended in the worst possible way.

Leicester and Leeds were relegated from the Premier League after Abdoulaye Doucoure’s stunning strike secured Everton a 1-0 win over Bournemouth and survival on the final day of the season.

The Toffees were heading down as things stood at half-time in the campaign’s concluding round of fixtures, with their clash with the Cherries at Goodison Park still goalless while Leicester led at home against West Ham.

But Doucoure’s strike from just outside the area in the 57th minute subsequently gave Sean Dyche’s men the victory they needed to guarantee safety, rendering their rivals’ results irrelevant.

Dean Smith’s Leicester drop despite winning 2-1 against West Ham, Harvey Barnes having netted the first-half opener and Wout Faes adding a 62nd-minute header before Pablo Fornals pulled a goal back for the visitors.

Second-bottom Leeds join the Foxes and Southampton in the second tier following a 4-1 home loss to Tottenham as Sam Allardyce’s four-game mission to rescue the Yorkshire outfit proved in vain.

Harry Kane put Spurs in front in the second minute, Pedro Porro doubled their advantage in the opening stages of the second half, and after Jack Harrison’s 67th-minute reply, Kane – registering his 30th league goal of the season – and Lucas Moura then further boosted the visitors’ tally.

The result was not enough to see Tottenham claim Europa Conference League qualification, with Aston Villa cementing seventh place thanks to a 2-1 home win over Brighton.

Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins scored for Unai Emery’s side early on, with Deniz Undav then reducing the deficit just before the break.

Brentford also missed out on the final European spot despite winning, Ethan Pinnock’s late goal earning a 1-0 home victory over champions Manchester City having signed a new contract with the Bees earlier in the day.

Second-placed Arsenal thrashed Wolves 5-0 at the Emirates Stadium, where Granit Xhaka netted a brace and Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Jakub Kiwior also got on the scoresheet.

Manchester United secured third place as they came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 at home.

The Cottagers led through a 19th-minute Kenny Tete goal, then failed to take the chance to make it 2-0 seven minutes later as Aleksandar Mitrovic saw his penalty saved by David de Gea.

Jadon Sancho subsequently drew things level before Bruno Fernandes struck the winner 10 minutes into the second half.

Fourth-placed Newcastle drew 1-1 at Chelsea, with Anthony Gordon’s early opener for the Magpies being cancelled out by a Kieran Trippier own goal just before the half-hour mark. The Blues end their troubled season in 12th place.

Already-relegated Southampton signed off from the top flight by playing out a remarkable 4-4 draw with fifth-placed Liverpool at St Mary’s, in which they fought back from 2-0 down to lead 4-2.

Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino – playing his final game before leaving Liverpool – had Jurgen Klopp’s men two goals up early on before things turned around via a James Ward-Prowse finish, Kamaldeen Sulemana brace and Adam Armstrong effort. Cody Gakpo and Jota then hit back for Liverpool to see the game end up all-square.

Sunday’s other match also finished honours even, with Will Hughes’ second-half goal securing a 1-1 draw for Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park against Nottingham Forest, for whom Taiwo Awoniyi had scored a sixth goal in four games.

Leeds’ three-season stay in the Premier League is over after a 4-1 home defeat to Tottenham confirmed their relegation.

Harry Kane and Pedro Porro scored early in either half to put Spurs 2-0 up and, although Jack Harrison reduced the deficit, Kane struck a game-clinching second in what could be his last game for the London club.

Tottenham substitute Lucas Moura rubbed salt into Leeds’ wounds by waltzing through a porous defence in stoppage time to complete their misery.

Leeds went into the final day needing not only victory, but for relegation rivals Everton and Leicester to drop points and, since they both won, the Yorkshire club’s 21st league defeat of the season was immaterial.

The hosts have not kept a clean sheet since February and their hopes of doing so on Sunday went up in smoke in just the second minute.

The ease with which Porro and Son Heung-min combined to carve open the defence typified Leeds’ season, with Kane finding space among headless chickens to hit the first nail into the home side’s coffin.

Leeds fans responded to Kane’s 28th league goal of the season with raucous defiance, ‘We’re going down’ being one of their chants.

Leeds’ players rallied and did their best to give something back to the Elland Road faithful, but in terms of confidence and quality they have long been running on empty.

Robin Koch spurned their best chance, heading wayward from in front of goal from Rodrigo’s brilliant cross before Pascal Struijk’s shot was deflected for a corner.

Adam Forshaw’s fierce drive was blocked by Davinson Sanchez and another Koch header curled the wrong side of a post.

Leeds boss Sam Allardyce cut a forlorn figure in the dugout and saw his side waste further first-half chances as Rodrigo headed Forshaw’s cross off target and Rasmus Kristensen volleyed over.

Tottenham continually threatened on the break without creating any more first-half scoring chances, but they soon remedied that.

Just as they had done in the first half, Leeds conceded inside the opening two minutes of the second as Kane brilliantly set up Porro, who arrowed a low shot into the far corner from a narrow angle to put the visitors 2-0 up.

Leeds gamely searched for a goal of their own and were rewarded when Harrison made space on the edge of the area to drill a low shot into the far corner.

But within two minutes Tottenham restored their two-goal advantage. Sanchez’s simple long clearance caught Leeds’ defence all at sea and Kane curled a neat finish inside the far post.

As Leeds fans vented their fury at their club’s plight in the closing stages, Moura – on his last appearance for the north London club – completed the scoring after a mazy run from halfway before chants of ‘Sack the board’ rang out through the home terraces.

Liverpool blew a two-goal lead before battling back from 4-2 down to end an underwhelming Premier League season with a remarkable 4-4 draw at relegated Southampton.

Quick-fire finishes from Cody Gakpo and Diogo Jota salvaged a point for Jurgen Klopp’s side on a chaotic afternoon at St Mary’s.

Saints had looked set to end a miserable campaign in style after Kamaldeen Sulemana’s brace, either side of strikes from James Ward-Prowse and Adam Armstrong overturned early goals from Jota and Roberto Firmino.

But Southampton’s final match under manager Ruben Selles, who is expected to be replaced by Swansea boss Russell Martin in the coming days, ended all square after Gakpo and Jota struck in the space of a minute.

Fifth-placed Liverpool went close to leaving the south coast with maximum points as Mohamed Salah inadvertently struck a post and was denied by a fine stop from Alex McCarthy late on.

But the Merseyside club had to be content with extending their unbeaten top-flight run to 11 games, having begun the day knowing they would miss out on a top-four finish for the first time since 2015-16.

James Milner and Firmino started on their farewell appearances for the Europa League-bound Reds as manager Klopp made seven changes, including selecting Caoimhin Kelleher in goal.

With Southampton seeking to restore a modicum of pride after their fate was sealed a fortnight ago, Liverpool initially looked like they would canter to victory.

Dreadful defending gifted the visitors the 10th-minute opener as Jota fired into an unguarded net from close range after being teed up by a woeful pass from Romeo Lavia as Saints attempted to play out from the back.

Firmino swiftly doubled the Reds’ advantage, collecting a pass from Fabinho on the edge of the hosts’ 18-yard box before dummying his way beyond Lyanco and Jan Bednarek and driving through the legs of Saints goalkeeper McCarthy.

There was a strong sense of deja vu for long-suffering home fans who have witnessed just two home league wins all season but Southampton responded by showing the fight they have so often lacked.

Long-serving midfielder Ward-Prowse – who was potentially making his final Saints appearance ahead of a mooted summer move – halved the deficit in the 19th minute by coolly slotting into the bottom-right corner after being picked out by Carlos Alcaraz.

And Selles’ side were level just nine minutes later.

Firmino sloppily conceded possession to Lavia close to the halfway line as Liverpool attempted to break, allowing Theo Walcott to slide in Sulemana, who fired his first goal in English football under Kelleher.

Sulemana stylishly completed Southampton’s stunning comeback just two minutes into the second period.

The Ghana international collected the ball midway inside his own half, eased past Fabinho and then accelerated unchallenged to the edge of the box before bending into the bottom-right corner and celebrating with a backflip.

And the Reds were soon facing a major uphill battle to salvage something as substitute Armstrong made an immediate impact.

A minute after replacing Lavia, the striker intercepted Jordan Henderson’s careless pass and raced forward before his low-angled finish into the bottom-right corner seemed to catch Kelleher out of position.

Liverpool were stunned by the extraordinary turnaround but intent to protect an unbeaten run dating back to April 1.

Gakpo – a one-time Southampton target – halved Saints’ lead by tapping in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s volleyed cross in the 72nd minute before Jota found space to lash home his second from Salah’s pass moments later.

Salah almost snatched victory for the Reds 11 minutes from time but his attempted control from a long pass struck the left post after looping over the head of McCarthy and the spoils were shared.

Abdoulaye Doucoure scored the most important goal of his career and possibly Everton’s history to save the side from relegation with a 1-0 win over Bournemouth.

His powerful 20-yard strike, a bolt from the blue, was enough to extend the club’s top-flight stay to a 70th successive season but for long periods that proud record appeared in doubt.

But Doucoure’s 10th goal for the club capped a remarkable turnaround in four months for the Mali international who was training on his own in January after a fall-out with former manager Frank Lampard.

Five days after having his contract extended by 12 months – and with his side just over half-an-hour from heading into the Sky Bet Championship – he delivered when it mattered most and in a way the club can never adequately repay him for.

But it still required a clearance from Conor Coady under his own crossbar and a good save deep into 10 minutes of added time from Jordan Pickford to keep them safe after it initially looked like the Cherries’ second-choice goalkeeper Mark Travers would play a key role in sending the Toffees down.

The home side had started the most significant day in their 145-year history two points outside the drop zone but with Leicester winning at home to West Ham they were heading for only their third relegation and first since 1951.

Then, their top-flight exile lasted three years and the nightmare scenario was that there had been little to suggest over the last couple of seasons another absence would have been any shorter.

Everton had been in the last-day, last-chance saloon twice before in 1994 and 1998 but on both of those occasions their fate was not in their own hands.

In 1994 they beat Wimbledon 3-2 – coming back from 2-0 down – with rivals Ipswich, Sheffield United and Southampton faring worse and four years later they bettered Bolton’s result at Chelsea to survive.

But the stakes seemed much higher on this occasion, and with a new 52,000-capacity stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock due to open for the 2024-25 season this was potentially the last Premier League game at Goodison Park.

However, they are not out of trouble as the club have posted losses in excess of £430million over the last four years and have an outstanding Premier League charge for breaching profit and sustainability rules.

But for now survival, and the relief that brings, is enough.

With no fit full-backs, Sean Dyche was forced to start for the first time in his tenure with a back three, which at least utilised recognised centre-halves in Yerry Mina, Coady and James Tarkowski.

The men outside of them, however, were midfielder James Garner and winger Dwight McNeil and while the former coped relatively well on the left flank, McNeil, more accustomed to running forward, struggled to cope with David Brooks going the other way.

Up front, winger Demarai Gray found it tough adapting to the central role as, unable to hold up the ball, he resorted to trying to win cheap free-kicks but it was a ploy referee Stuart Atwell regularly saw through.

Gray, who had an early rising drive just over, also found being a striker tough in terms of his positioning as when Doucoure drilled a cross into the six-yard area, he was 10 yards too deep waiting for a cutback on the edge of the box.

Travers, only in the side due to Neto’s absence due to personal reasons, then came to the fore as he tipped over Idrissa Gana Gueye’s powerful strike, parried another long-ranger from the Frenchman and then clawed away Garner’s looping shot in first-half added time.

In recent home games around the half-hour mark, Everton’s initial fire had burned out and opponents claimed the upper hand but on this occasion it was bad news from the King Power Stadium which took some of the wind out of their sails.

Bournemouth looked like they were just biding their time and Marcos Senesi stabbed wide from a corner and Mina dived in to deny Dominic Solanke after Brooks had robbed Tarkowski.

Gray’s weak close-range header being scooped away by Travers six minutes into the second half only increased the sense it was not going to be Everton’s day until Doucoure smashed home a drive after a weak header dropped to him.

Crucial interventions from on-loan Wolves and former Liverpool defender Coady and then Pickford from substitute Matias Vina saw them scrape home and sparked the inevitable pitch invasion after relegation was avoided for the second successive season.

Granit Xhaka marked his farewell appearance for Arsenal with a brace to help the Premier League runners-up finish their fine campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Wolves.

Xhaka is set to depart the Emirates this summer to join Bayer Leverkusen and signed off a rollercoaster seven years in north London on a high with a first-half double, although he did later miss a great chance for his hat-trick.

It failed to spoil the perfect goodbye for the previously much-maligned former Arsenal captain with Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Jesus and Jakub Kiwior also on target to ensure Mikel Arteta’s men regrouped from their title disappointment at Nottingham Forest last weekend to secure a 26th league win of the season.

While Xhaka’s impending departure had yet to be confirmed, the huge cheer that greeted his name before kick off played into the narrative this was his final Arsenal outing.

It was the latest evidence of his own remarkable turnaround with the Emirates crowd, who he had clashed with so memorable in the winter of 2019 during a match with Crystal Palace – an incident that saw him stripped of the captaincy and on the verge of leaving before Arteta’s intervention.

Xhaka immediately set about living up to his lead role with a strong tackle on Matheus Nunes a matter of seconds into the contest.

While Nunes saw a fierce effort headed away by Gabriel Jesus during the opening exchanges, it did not take long for Arsenal and their number 34 to open the scoring after 11 minutes.

Unorthodox right-back Thomas Partey passed out wide to Jesus and his whipped cross was headed home by Xhaka from close range to begin his farewell in style.

After a group celebration with his team-mates, the Swiss international held his hands out in a thank you gesture to the home fans in the Clock End.

Three minutes later and Xhaka made it 2-0 to Arsenal.

Saka dribbled past Hugo Bueno before Martin Odegaard flicked on his pass, which Wolves captain Max Kilman sliced into the path of Xhaka, who side-footed beyond Jose Sa from six yards.

Xhaka celebrated his ninth goal of the season, the best tally of his career, by running over to embrace injured midfielder Mohamed Elneny, the only player still at the club from when he joined in 2016.

Arsenal were not ready to take their foot off the gas and Arteta watched his side move into a three-goal lead in the 27th-minute.

Odegaard and Leandro Trossard exchanged passes before the latter found Saka, who checked back inside Kilman brilliantly and curled into the corner to mark his new contract with a 15th goal this season.

It should have been 4-0 soon after.

A one-two between Saka and Odegaard on the right saw the goalscorer scuff an effort across the face of goal, but Xhaka fluffed his lines from 10 yards and sliced wide with a hat-trick at his mercy.

Wolves were able to avoid any further damage before half-time and Julen Lopetegui introduced Ruben Neves and Rayan Ait-Nouri but it failed to stem the tide.

Partey had the ball in the net for Arsenal in the 52nd minute but his joy was short-lived with the goal ruled out after Ben White had barged into Wolves goalkeeper Sa.

The Gunners faithful did not have to wait too much longer for the fourth goal.

Arsenal hurt the visitors down the left this time with Trossard able to chip in for Jesus to power home a header at the back post in the 58th minute.

All that was left was Xhaka’s farewell with the midfielder substituted to a standing ovation in the 75th minute, which was followed with chants urging him to stay.

Kiwior grabbed a fifth with 12 minutes left when he lashed home from a corner that Sa should have saved before Arsenal’s season ended to the backdrop of a partisan atmosphere at a sun-soaked Emirates with the home fans hoping this is just the beginning for Arteta’s young team.

Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest rounded off their respective seasons with a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park.

A sixth goal in four games from Taiwo Awoniyi for the visitors was cancelled out with an effort from Will Hughes after the interval.

Forest made three changes from their heroic efforts against Arsenal that secured their survival last week. Ex-Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, Willy Boly and Brennan Johnson came in.

The hosts, unchanged from their draw at Fulham, had the first chance when Michael Olise brought a decent save from the keeper after a fine solo run in the fourth minute.

Eberechi Eze almost marked his England call-up with a goal in the 17th minute, after an Olise free-kick was squared to him, but his effort went narrowly past a post.

Palace had the bulk of possession and Nottingham Forest were offering little up front, but they soaked up the pressure and took the lead in an amazing 60-second spell.

They were almost undone on the half-hour mark when a shot by Eze was blocked by Jordan Ayew, with Hennessey turning away a Hughes shot on the rebound.

A long ball out of the Forest half shortly afterwards by Morgan Gibbs-White found Awoniyi, who powered into the area. After getting the better of Joachim Andersen, he followed his goal against Arsenal last week with an effort into the bottom corner.

Odsonne Edouard should have done better with an Olise free-kick after 38 minutes when he put his header wide after finding space in the area.

With Harry Toffolo replacing Renan Lodi for the visitors at the interval, Crystal Palace pushed for an early equaliser.

A Cheick Doucoure effort in the 52nd minute was drilled over the crossbar, while a free-kick on the edge of the box three minutes later was put over by Eze.

Like the first half, the home side were generally on top, without forcing a significant opportunity in front of goal.

However, they made a breakthrough after 65 minutes, albeit with some good fortune. A cross by Olise into the box was flicked on by Hughes past Hennessey – although the ball deflected off the challenging Boly.

The hosts sent on James McArthur from the bench for his final appearance in a Crystal Palace shirt.

With the game finely poised in the closing minutes, both teams, to their credit, were looking for a winner.

Forest substitute Emmanuel Dennis fired a tame effort at Sam Johnstone after 81 minutes.

A link-up between Olise and substitute Jean-Philippe Mateta required a last-ditch intervention by Joe Worrall, while Eze fired at Hennessey in the final action of the game – and the season.

Manchester United sealed third spot as Bruno Fernandes’ smart finish completed a 2-1 comeback win against Fulham on the final day of the Premier League season.

Having sealed Champions League qualification with Thursday’s 4-1 victory against Chelsea, Erik ten Hag’s men overcame west London opposition once again on Sunday.

Kenny Tete opened the scoring and Fulham had the chance to extend their lead, only for long-serving United goalkeeper David De Gea – whose contract has yet to be extended beyond the summer – to stop Aleksandar Mitrovic’s spot-kick.

That save inspired an impressive United turnaround, with Jadon Sancho putting the hosts level before Fred slipped Fernandes through to coolly complete a 2-1 triumph.

The three points saw United beat Newcastle to third place, while Marco Silva’s Fulham headed to the northwest already guaranteed to finish 10th thanks to a brilliant season following promotion.

United’s win was a club record-equalling 27th at Old Trafford in all competitions and maintains the Red Devils’ momentum heading into next weekend’s FA Cup final against treble-chasing rivals Manchester City.

A second trophy of Ten Hag’s first season would be huge, but there remains underlying issues at the club and the United faithful made it clear throughout Sunday’s match – as they always do – that the Glazer family must sell.

Their team began on the front foot and Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno stopped a fizzing early Diogo Dalot cross potentially being directed home by Fred.

The Fulham shot-stopper pawed away a well-struck Marcus Rashford free-kick from distance as United started brightly, only to then be caught cold from a 19th-minute set-piece.

Willian swung over a corner from the left and Tete got ahead of Rashford to all too easily head home at the near post in front of the stunned Stretford End.

Things looked set to unravel further for United in the 24th minute.

Harry Maguire’s poor pass out from the back led to a move that ended with Casemiro catching Tom Cairney’s leg in the box as the Fulham captain cut inside.

Referee Robert Jones pointed to the spot and Mitrovic stepped at Old Trafford, where his meltdown in Fulham’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat brought him an eight-match ban.

The Fulham frontman will also want to forget this latest trip to United as his firm strike was saved by De Gea, meaning he failed to score his fourth penalty of the Premier League campaign.

Old Trafford erupted at that save, enlivening United’s play in the process.

Rashford whistled a long-ranger narrowly wide and quick build-up play after winning the ball ended with Alejandro Garnacho curling just wide.

The 18-year-old went closer still in the 29th minute. Tyrell Malacia shifted the ball onto Garnacho in the box, with the winger opening his body up and curling a right-footed shot off the crossbar.

Leno denied Casemiro from an acute angle as Fulham appeared to see off United’s onslaught, only to be pegged back in the 39th minute.

Fernandes sent Fred darting into the box and Tete’s challenge on the midfielder inadvertently sent the ball onto Sancho to prod home an equaliser.

United returned from the break on top and took a 55th-minute lead through ever-reliable Fernandes.

Fred showed great skill and awareness to slip a pass through to the Portuguese, who had ran behind the Fulham backline and smartly clipped the ball over Leno after taking a touch.

Fernandes was denied a second from distance by Leno, with Rashford also seeing an attempt saved as United looked to put the result to bed.

Cairney had Fulham’s best chances, holding his head in his hands after one miss and seeing another tipped over by De Gea.

The United goalkeeper stopped substitute Carlos Vinicius’ strike unaware he had strayed offside, with the Spaniard again alert when fellow introduction Manor Solomon took aim.

Wout Weghorst, on for his final home appearance before his loan expires, turned a fine late chance wide.

Ethan Pinnock consigned Treble-chasing Manchester City to a final-day defeat as Brentford completed a Premier League double over the champions.

Defender Pinnock celebrated signing a new four-year contract earlier in the day by scoring an 85th-minute winner to snatch a 1-0 victory for the Bees.

With the title long since sewn up, Pep Guardiola rested some of his big hitters ahead of next weekend’s FA Cup final, and a potentially historic Champions League showpiece seven days later.

With Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish missing completely and Erling Haaland left on the bench, it was a scratch City side and those established stars who did play, like Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez, had little impact.

Brentford still had something to play for, by contrast, as they were in with a slim chance of qualifying for the Europa Conference League before wins for Tottenham and Aston Villa ultimately scuppered their hopes.

Their players applauded the champions onto the pitch, but that was as far as the respect stretched.

The Bees may still be adjusting to life without suspended striker Ivan Toney but they remain a potent threat, with Yoane Wissa beating Emerson with a curler against the far post before an offside flag was raised.

Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, who looks destined to leave the club this summer, had to make an early diving save to deny Cole Palmer before Kalvin Phillips, getting another run-out in a midfield three alongside Palmer and Rico Lewis, sent a low shot wide.

Emerson saved well from Vitaly Janelt’s snap-shot at a corner as Brentford pressed, and the German midfielder lifted another effort over the crossbar.

After the break Brentford, who won at the Etihad in November, felt they should have had a penalty after Lewis slid in on Ben Mee.

But referee John Brooks waved away the appeals – with VAR agreeing – and then booked Bees head coach Thomas Frank for his protests.

By now City well and truly had their eye on the bigger battles to come, but the Bees kept driving forward and Frank Onyeka’s drive flew over before Bryan Mbeumo just failed to get a touch on to Janelt’s chip into the area.

The winner came from a cross by substitute Kevin Schade which was headed back across goal by Mbeumo and emphatically finished by Pinnock.

City briefly woke up and Raya somehow denied Palmer an equaliser from close range.

Defeat meant City did not break the 90-point mark for a record fourth time in the Premier League, which will irritate Guardiola,  but if they win their next two matches – at Wembley and in Istanbul – even the perfectionist will have forgotten that.

Aston Villa ended a 13-year European exile after a nervy 2-1 win over Brighton.

First-half strikes from Douglas Luiz and Ollie Watkins ensured Villa finished seventh in the Premier League.

Deniz Undav pulled one back – having also had a goal disallowed for offside – but the Seagulls were unable to find a leveller.

Seventh represents a triumph for Villa boss Unai Emery, having taken over a relegation-threatened side in October following Steven Gerrard’s sacking.

Villa have been transformed, booking their highest Premier League finish for 13 years, and with it a route into the Europa Conference League.

The Seagulls, in Sky Bet League One 12 years ago, are heading to Europe for the first time following their historic season.

A few weeks ago the Villa Park finale looked to be a straight shootout for a final European spot yet Brighton had already sealed sixth and the Europa League so all eyes were on the hosts.

It did not take long for them to threaten when Jacob Ramsey rampaged down the left and crossed for Leon Bailey to strike the bar from eight yards after four minutes.

It was a warning – one Brighton did not heed – as four minutes later Villa grabbed the opener.

Again, Ramsey was the architect when he was given too much time on the left to pick out the unmarked Luiz to guide in low from 15 yards.

The Seagulls then wasted a chance to hit back immediately when Evan Ferguson was sent clear, but he blazed over.

Roberto De Zerbi’s side refused to go quietly and were denied a leveller by a tight VAR call after 19 minutes when Julio Ensico’s cross was turned in by Undav, only for the provider to be ruled offside.

There had been more than enough to suggest Brighton would cause Villa problems – only for the hosts to double their lead after 26 minutes.

John McGinn won the ball in midfield and Bailey sent Ramsey scampering towards goal with Watkins in support.

Ramsey looked like had overrun the ball as Jason Steele came out, only to prod past the goalkeeper to give Watkins the easiest of finishes.

Boubacar Kamara’s last-gasp challenge denied Ferguson an instant reply before Brighton pulled a goal back seven minutes before the break.

Villa were caught napping from Pascal Gross’ quick free-kick and Undav darted clear to hook past Emi Martinez, the goal confirmed after a VAR check.

From a position of strength, Villa were nervous and needed Martinez to deny Undav a leveller just before the break.

Luiz nearly eased that anxiety seven minutes into the second half when his corner clipped the bar before Alexis Mac Allister drilled wide at the other end.

An open game continued to offer openings and it was Ramsey who missed the best of the lot after 56 minutes.

Bailey’s cross found the onrushing midfielder unmarked at the far post only for him to sky over from five yards.

It should have sealed the game, instead Brighton remained in the contention and with Kaoru Mitoma off the bench to cause problems.

Yet, despite finding good positions, the Seagulls failed to test Martinez and it was Steele who grabbed Watkins’ header to deny Villa a third before Lucas Digne curled a late free-kick wide.

Frank Lampard signed off as Chelsea manager with a 1-1 draw against Newcastle at Stamford Bridge that meant he failed to register a home win during his interim tenure.

It took a Kieran Trippier own goal, the defender deflecting the ball into the net midway through the first half, to cancel out Anthony Gordon’s early strike and spare the outgoing coach the ignominy of a ninth defeat in his 11 games in charge.

Newcastle had already sealed their objective and qualified for the Champions League, but they had not come to west London to hand Lampard the consolation of a victory to cap his brief reign, and so played with purpose and style.

For Chelsea at the end of an awful season, there were at last flashes of a brighter future with Noni Madueke, Lewis Hall and substitute Carey Chukwuemeka – none of them older than 21 – the outstanding trio.

Newcastle started the brighter. Allan Saint-Maximin ran at Trevoh Chalobah and, as the Chelsea defender backed off, slipped it through to Aleksander Isak, whose low shot was well blocked by the legs of Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Their opening goal was simple, but Chelsea made it so. A long ball out from the back was taken deftly on his left foot by Saint-Maximin who looked up and found Matt Targett overlapping on the left.

Cesar Azpilicueta and Chalobah seemed to leave the threat to one another to handle, and Targett had time to pick out Gordon, roaming free inside the six yard box, to tap home unmarked.

Newcastle were playing with the confidence of a side about to record their best finish in 20 years, and Isak nearly bent in a second minutes later, his arcing shot dropping just wide of Arrizabalaga’s left-hand post as Chelsea tottered.

Chelsea’s equaliser was a mix of brilliance from Raheem Sterling and misfortune for Trippier. Sterling collected the ball from a quick free-kick on the right of the penalty area and showed fine feet to slip inside and shoot left-footed low to the back post.

The effort looked to be going wide until a critical deflection off Trippier who, with help from Fabian Schar on the goalline, bundled the ball awkwardly with his arm past Martin Dubravka.

Newcastle should have restored their lead late in the half when Gordon’s header deflected off Hall into the path of Miguel Almiron. The forward has enjoyed his best season in black and white but could not cap it here with a goal, his effort instead ballooning high into the Matthew Harding Stand.

Chelsea, still unable to find the killer ball in the final third, looked rudderless in the first half.

Madueke tried to take matters into his own hands with a decent run and shot coming on off the right, but the strike dropped straight into Dubravka’s arms, before Almiron found himself in space again inside the box and produced a good, stretching save from Arrizabalaga.

The hosts were finishing the half the stronger. Hall’s deflected cross was met by Sterling, forcing Dubravka into a spectacular leaping save to his right, before Targett booted off the line from the England forward’s follow-up.

The final weeks of Chelsea’s campaign have largely been about looking for signs of promise among a squad whose confidence has been rocked, and Madueke gave a glimpsing reason for optimism when he cut from the right touchline and went close with a rocket shot early in the second half.

The January signing from PSV Eindhoven has started to find form after struggling for a place early in his Chelsea career.

Hall too at left-back has enjoyed a breakthrough year, and he went close with a shot that flew narrowly over the top after clever footwork to find space. It was his cutback 20 minutes from time that found Sterling free inside the box to shoot off target, that after fine work from the substitute Chukwuemeka who drove at Newcastle with purpose.

Sterling shot wide late on after the excellent Madueke had run the ball to the byline and crossed. Chelsea wanted a penalty for handball against Dan Burn but VAR ruled no infringement.

At the other end 17-year-old debutant Lewis Miley, on as a substitute, clipped the crossbar with a crisp drive from outside the box.

Joao Felix headed over with virtually the final action, perhaps a final touch in blue for the loan signing from Atletico Madrid.

But Chelsea could not find a home victory to send their outgoing manager off with. The rebuilding job starts here.

Willian believes success in football does not necessarily equate to a cabinet full of silverware, highlighting Harry Kane as an example.

The Fulham attacker was a two-time Premier League winner during his time with Chelsea, and collected medals in the FA Cup, EFL Cup and Europa League.

In addition, the 34-year-old won the 2019 Copa America with Brazil and was a member of his nation's squad when they came fourth at home in the 2014 World Cup.

But when asked what defines success in football, he suggested that trophies do not solely define the legacy of a player's career.

"I think it's a mix of several factors," he told Stats Perform. "It is to win titles, [it] is to be playing at a high level.

"Sometimes there are players who don't win titles, but play at a high level and are always playing well, always scoring goals. Harry Kane, for example, for me, is a great player

"[He] is always at a high level at Tottenham, playing very well and scoring goals, but I don't think he has any career titles as a professional. Can you say that he was not successful in football?

"It depends. It is a mixture of things. It depends a lot on what it means to be successful in football. For me, the most important thing is for the player to be playing well, and the title becomes a consequence of the work."

Despite his success, Willian acknowledged there are two major honours that have eluded him, at club and international level, but he adds their absence from his collection does not detract from his other successes.

"One is the Champions League and the other is the World Cup," he noted. "Every player has that dream.

"Those are the two titles I'd really like to win, but if I don't win them, I'm satisfied with my career and the titles I've already won."

Willian has spent nine seasons in the Premier League, more than he has in any domestic top-flight competition, and he maintains it remains the strongest he has played in.

"The Premier League is the best league in the world," he added. "You'll never have an easy match.

"It might get easier during the game, and you might beat the other team, but you're never going to go into the match thinking it's going to be easy, thinking you're going to win 4-0.

"It is a very difficult league. The last one can take points from the first one, and it is very competitive and that is why it becomes the best in the world."

League Managers Association (LMA) chief executive Richard Bevan feels enough support is given to Premier League managers in regards to their mental health.

Prior to his sacking at Chelsea, Graham Potter revealed his mental health and family life had suffered as a result of the pressures of Premier League management.

West Ham's David Moyes also discussed the impact of being an under-fire Premier League boss, citing the harmful effects media scrutiny can have.

But Bevan, who has been in his role since 2008, believes the LMA is doing its bit to help top-flight managers cope with the strain.

"I think since COVID, the world of sport, not just football, has put health and wellbeing at the forefront of all decisions," Bevan said when speaking to Stats Perform at the Football Business Awards.

"Certainly, in the LMA, we have two in-house psychiatrists and two in-house psychologists. 

"It's not just about the managers and coaches, it's looking after the people that work in that environment. We are very, very active in making sure that communication and the services that we offer are utilised as much by the families as well as by the coaches and the managers. 

"So it's really important to be as well as physically fit, emotionally fit, and mentally fit, in order to do the jobs, whether you're a coach or working in any environment today."

There has been a record number of managerial dismissals in the Premier League this season.

One of those, Patrick Vieira's sacking by Crystal Palace in March, left the Premier League without a black manager.

Bevan explained the LMA is encouraging clubs to diversify their coaching staff.

He said: "From our perspective, it's making sure that we have a very vibrant pipeline of coaches coming through.

"We're pushing the stakeholders to have a far greater number of coaches from diverse backgrounds that have, for example, the [UEFA] Pro Licence, so that pipeline which the employers are looking at can make a difference over the next five years."

As of the final day of the 2022-23 season, 10 Premier League bosses are from overseas, while the competition has been won by a foreign manager in each of the last 10 seasons.

Bevan lauded the impact managers from other countries had brought to the English game, adding: "They all bring excellence.

"I think we're very lucky that the Premier League and, indeed, all of our leagues are immensely popular around the world, and they attract overseas owners, overseas coaches, and overseas players, so ensuring that the very best in their profession I work in our leagues is really special.

"We're really grateful that we have a really diverse mix of managers and coaches."

Ethan Pinnock has signed a new four-year contract at Brentford.

The defender, who turns 30 on Monday, will now stay with the Bees until the summer of 2027.

Pinnock joined Brentford from Barnsley in 2019 and has made 153 appearances for the club.

Bees boss Thomas Frank told the club’s official website: “This is great news for Brentford and I am incredibly pleased that we have Ethan with us for four more years, I am sure our fans are delighted.

“Ethan has been a mountain in defence for us for the last four years. He played a key role in our journey to the top half of the Premier League. He is a top, top player and a great person.

“He has stepped seamlessly in the Premier League and it is an amazing story for him, and for football, that he can progress from non-league to the top of the game so quickly.

“He has proven himself to be a typical Brentford signing, he meets every challenge he faces and we think there is still more development for him.

“Ethan has been so reliable and consistent for us and I am sure that will continue. He will be spending the prime years of his career with us and we look forward to him helping the team be successful in the coming seasons.”

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