Pep Guardiola was uninterested in Manchester City's ascent to the Premier League summit for the first time this season after they beat West Brom 5-0 at The Hawthorns.

City endured a tough start to the campaign but have since won 11 games in succession in all competitions, most recently blowing the struggling Baggies away with four first-half goals on Tuesday.

That victory was enough to take Guardiola's team to the top of the table, although Manchester United could reclaim first place by beating Sheffield United on Wednesday. City would then have a game in hand.

This back-and-forth does not yet concern Guardiola at the season's midway stage, however.

"The last thing I'm thinking about is the table," said the City manager. "Now I want to come back home safe, have a few days off and then Sheffield United. That's my only concern.

"Today just finished the first leg – we have still 19 games, an incredible marathon. We are going to drop points, we are going to lose games.

"What is important is, whatever happens, be calm – like we were when we were 12th in the table.

"We have to understand why we didn't win a game and immediately win the next one. This is my only concern."

City are the ninth different team to end a day top of the pile this term, a statistic that prompted Guardiola to respond: "This is the Premier League. Welcome, this is the Premier League.

"It's so tough. You see the teams up front, then look at West Ham and the incredible season they're doing, Leicester look unbeatable, and the other teams.

"It's so tough, so tough for everyone, and every game is complicated.

"It's important we have a good run and say, 'Okay, this is the reason why we are here, now the next one'."

City moved ahead of United despite missing Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero at West Brom, with Ilkay Gundogan taking centre stage with a brace before the break.

The midfielder has scored seven league goals since December 15, making this the most productive season of his career.

Guardiola previously described Gundogan as "one of Europe's best players" and insists the Germany international is still performing at the same level, even if his goal rush is garnering greater attention.

"Sometimes you have to score goals to get the recognition as a football player that he was all the time," Guardiola said of his number eight, who also created a single chance, made a tackle and an interception and won all five of his duels.

"He's an exceptional human being, first of all – I know his parents, I understand why – and he's my neighbour, so we have a connection. And he's an outstanding player.

"He's a guy who has played as a holding midfielder – so, so clever – and when he plays close to the box, he has the right tempo to make the run.

"It's not arriving in the box 10 times or 20 times, one metre before or one metre later, you have to arrive at the right tempo and the right time. He's so good.

"And when he arrives, he has the calm to slow down the action to make a decision. I'm happy for him. He deserves the best."

Gundogan has never started more than 23 games in a Premier League campaign but has always retained Guardiola's backing.

"I would say improvement is not the case," he said.

"Always he showed his level, except the first season when he had ACL and we struggled a lot to settle him in the team because he was injured. Every time he played, he played at a high level."

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta confirmed the club are close to signing Real Madrid attacking midfielder Martin Odegaard on loan as he reflected on his side's 3-1 victory over Southampton on Tuesday.

Goals from Nicolas Pepe, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette helped the Gunners come from behind and claim all three points at St Mary's, where they lost 1-0 in the FA Cup just three days earlier.

The result moved Arsenal above Southampton and into eighth place in the Premier League table, and Arteta indicated his side's positive start to 2021 could soon be boosted further by Odegaard's arrival.

"I think we are pretty close but it's not finalised as I understand it," Arteta told reporters, when asked about the 22-year-old Norwegian playmaker.

"I haven't spoken to [Arsenal technical director Edu] or the club in the last few hours but we're very positive that we'll finalise the deal."

After a dismal run of one victory in 10 league matches between October and December, Arsenal are unbeaten in their past five Premier League games and have won four of them.

Arteta indicated that the upturn in form has restored belief to his squad, saying: "Football games are always judged by the result and that affects the confidence.

"The moment that we started to win and confidence went up and we started to grow and understand each other better, we got some players back and the spirit started to lift a little bit, things were much better to be fair."

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl lambasted his side's defending after they succumbed to a third defeat in six league games.

Hasenhuttl told BT Sport: "It's always frustrating when you concede goals, but when it is that easy I think it hurts even more.

"The first was a mistake in the build-up, but then still we had the chance to defend it and we didn't do it, and then the second one was similar.

"It's not the way we can defend, we can do it much better and we know this. After being down one at half-time it's difficult to come back. We had chances to do it, but also the final quality was not good enough.

"We know we are a good side when we play a perfect game, but today we were far off this."

Pep Guardiola could understand West Brom's frustration after Manchester City benefited from a marginal offside call in their 5-0 win at The Hawthorns on Tuesday.

Ilkay Gundogan scored twice in a rampant City display, but it was the second goal from Joao Cancelo that really took the match away from relegation-battling West Brom.

Home defenders appeared to stop playing when official Sian Massey-Ellis prematurely raised her flag while City were still on the attack, believing Bernardo Silva was offside.

Guardiola's side continued and scored in stunning fashion through Cancelo, his first Premier League strike awarded following a VAR review which showed Silva just onside.

It was the second consecutive league game in which City had benefited from such controversy, with Silva's opener against Aston Villa given despite Rodri retreating from an offside position to tackle Tyrone Mings.

Reports this week suggested the rule that allowed that contentious goal to stand would be tweaked, but the Baggies – despite Massey-Ellis' error – could only blame themselves for the slack defending that allowed Cancelo to capitalise.

Guardiola offered his sympathy after the match but explained City always play to the whistle, which did not sound until the ball hit the net.

"I can understand [West Brom being unhappy]," the City manager told BT Sport. "Now with VAR, in these situations, you have to follow the actions until the end.

"You never know what is going to happen. The goal is allowed, disallowed? Nobody knows, so you have to continue.

"Always we speak with the players: until the end of the action, continue because we don't know what happens."

West Brom were outclassed regardless of that call and have now conceded 29 home league goals this season, the most in Europe's top five leagues.

Of those, 22 have come in their past five matches at The Hawthorns, with Aston Villa in December 1935 the last team to ship as many over a five-game home stretch in England's top flight.

This was despite City playing without key men Kevin De Bruyne – out for up to six weeks – and Sergio Aguero, who is recovering from coronavirus.

After Gundogan's brace and Cancelo's controversial strike secured a three-goal lead inside half an hour, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling added to City's advantage either side of half-time.

Gundogan has scored seven league goals since December 15, making this the best scoring season of his career, but Guardiola believes any one of his players can profit when City are in this form.

"If you play good and everybody's involved in attack and defence and everybody can arrive and everybody can be in the position, everybody is able to score," he said.

City have now won both of their league games without De Bruyne this season, scoring six and conceding none.

Gundogan added: "We all try our best – it doesn't matter who's playing.

"Obviously we had a few players over the last week in different conditions, struggling from COVID or struggling with injuries. It's like the players get more and more ready to play.

"Obviously Kevin is a big miss for us for the next few games, but we have players who will get more game time over the next couple of games.

"We need them all. We need everyone to be involved, because everyone gives us a different quality, a different boost. We need to keep going."

Ilkay Gundogan scored twice as Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League for the first time this season with an outstanding 5-0 victory at West Brom.

Pep Guardiola's side stretched their winning run to 11 straight matches in all competitions on Tuesday, a sequence that has again seen City emerge at the forefront of the title picture after a rocky start to the campaign.

West Brom, then under Slaven Bilic, had been the last team to stop City winning when these teams met in mid-December, but Sam Allardyce's side were completely outclassed at The Hawthorns despite the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, the injured PFA Players' Player of the Year winner.

Joao Cancelo's first Premier League goal separated a first-half Gundogan double, which Riyad Mahrez and stand-in captain Raheem Sterling added to either side of the break.

West Brom's best spell came in the opening two minutes as City were penned in under an aerial barrage before countering through Phil Foden, whose low deflected shot was touched onto the post by Sam Johnstone.

Johnstone was helpless from City's next attempt, watching the ball nestle in the bottom-left corner after Gundogan controlled Cancelo's long pass and finished expertly.

The goalkeeper was then left awfully exposed for the second as West Brom defenders appeared to stop playing when Bernardo Silva was flagged offside. Cancelo had time and space to pick out the top-left corner with a gorgeous finish and the offside decision was overturned following a VAR review, meaning the goal stood.

Gundogan pinched the ball from Romaine Sawyers and slid a left-footed effort beyond Johnstone before the half-hour mark, and it was 4-0 heading into half-time as Mahrez moved inside from the right and lashed past the keeper.

The same pattern of play continued following the restart and, although Rodri's blast clipped the crossbar, City only had to wait until the 57th minute for Sterling to turn in Mahrez's first-time cross, finally then easing up slightly to spare their struggling hosts further punishment.


What does it mean? City on top in epic title tussle

In leapfrogging rivals Manchester United, who play Sheffield United on Wednesday but will grant City a game in hand, Guardiola's men became the ninth team to lead the table at the end of a day this season.

If City can maintain this high standard, though, the run-in might be a little more predictable. Even without De Bruyne, the four-time Premier League winners look back to their very best.

Ilkay in top form

City will surely miss De Bruyne as he faces up to six weeks out, but they have now won both of their league matches without their talisman this season, scoring six and conceding none.

His absence on Tuesday allowed those stars who have made up the supporting cast in recent weeks to come to the fore, including Gundogan.

The Germany midfielder now has seven league goals this term - the first of which came in the previous West Brom clash, kickstarting a superb spell - to make this his best ever scoring season.

Cancelo capitalises

Neither the officials nor the West Brom defenders came out of City's second goal well.

Sian Massey-Ellis correctly initially kept her flag down despite believing Silva was offside but then inexplicably indicated for the decision when City were still on the attack inside the area.

But the whistle did not blow until the ball hit the net and there was little excuse for West Brom's static defending, their porous back line now having conceded 29 home goals - more than any other team in Europe's 'top five' leagues - after the five here.

What's next?

City will hope to run up another handsome total at home to basement side Sheffield United on Saturday. West Brom have a huge clash with Fulham, where they will aim to end a five-game losing run at home.

Arsenal earned revenge for their FA Cup defeat to Southampton by coming from behind to beat Ralph Hasenhuttl's side 3-1 at St Mary's in the Premier League on Tuesday.

Having suffered a 1-0 loss on the same ground three days earlier, Arsenal looked a different team as they attacked with great panache, but fell behind to a superb Stuart Armstrong strike after three minutes.

Nicolas Pepe, who scored on his previous Premier League start at Everton in December, levelled before Bukayo Saka gave Arsenal the lead with his fifth league goal of the season.

Southampton created several chances to claim a share of the points but found Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno in good form, and Alexandre Lacazette scored in the 72nd minute as Arsenal leapfrogged their hosts into eighth place in the table.

The home side stormed ahead after just three minutes when Armstrong met a James Ward-Prowse corner with a shot on the half-volley that flew past Leno and into the top corner of the net, despite the Arsenal goalkeeper getting a hand to it.

The lead lasted five minutes, as Arsenal pounced on a sloppy Jack Stephens pass and Granit Xhaka played Pepe into the area where he fired a low shot into the far corner of the net from 10 yards out.

Leno made a superb diving save from Che Adams to keep the scores level before Arsenal, six minutes from half-time, went ahead when Lacazette's incisive pass found Saka, who rounded Alex McCarthy and drilled the ball into the gaping net.

Armstrong carved an opening for Theo Walcott early in the second half but Leno was equal to the former Arsenal winger's effort.

Lacazette then finished a sweeping Arsenal attacking move from point-blank range at the other end to seal the victory with his eighth league goal of the season.

 

Thomas Tuchel's appointment as the new Chelsea head coach was confirmed on Tuesday - and the new man does not have a lot of time to get settled.

Frank Lampard was sacked on Monday, with Tuchel's widely anticipated arrival promptly following.

The former Paris Saint-Germain coach took charge of training on his first day and will be thrust straight into the spotlight when Chelsea host Wolves on Wednesday.

The Blues entered the latest round of Premier League fixtures sitting ninth in the table and Tuchel will be looking for an immediate impact.

But there are long-term tasks to complete, too, if the German is to stay at Stamford Bridge beyond the end of his initial contract, which runs to 2022.
 

HELP WERNER AND HAVERTZ

Having worked with the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar during his time at PSG, Tuchel knows all about the challenges of motivating some of the world's top talents.

At Chelsea, that will mean eliciting an improvement in the performance of his much-criticised compatriots Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.

Werner, for whom Chelsea paid RB Leipzig close to £50million, scored 28 Bundesliga goals in 34 appearances last season but has mustered just four in 19 in the Premier League, the most recent of which came on November 7.

Meanwhile, Havertz arrived from Bayer Leverkusen with a price tag in the region of £70million and a reputation as one of Europe's most creative young stars but has one goal, two assists and just 11 key passes to date.

Tuchel will be asked to get more from the Germany pair to boost a Chelsea team who have scored only four goals in their past five league outings.
 

KEEP ACADEMY ACES INVOLVED

Hindered by a transfer ban in his first season in charge, Lampard at least made use of Chelsea's impressive academy to bring a number of young talents into the team.

Perhaps most exciting among those were Mason Mount and Billy Gilmour.

Both Mount, 22, and Gilmour, 19, started Lampard's final game in charge against Luton Town and formed a creative double-pivot in an attack-minded side, earning praise from the coach for their discipline and movement.

Mount will surely feature in Tuchel's immediate plans, but Chelsea will hope both the England midfielder and team-mate Gilmour can continue to develop over the coming years.
 

SETTLE ON HIS BEST SIDE

Between the big spending ahead of this season and the promotion of a number of academy talents, Lampard was certainly not short of options. But that might have been to his detriment.

Looking to pack an array of star names into a first XI, the team too often lacked balance.

Juggling club captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Reece James proved tricky, while Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma - seemingly Lampard's preferred centre-back pairing - have started together in only 14 of the 29 games so far this season in all competitions.

There has been concern regarding the form of N'Golo Kante, perhaps played out of position, while Lampard struggled to work out the best fit up front in his 4-3-3.

Tuchel must be more decisive.
 

EFFECTIVELY MANAGE UPWARDS

An increasingly strained relationship with director Marina Granovskaia reportedly contributed to Lampard's demise, so keeping the Chelsea board onside will be crucial for Tuchel.

Dealings with the top brass at PSG in his previous job were not always straightforward for Tuchel and may have been a factor behind his departure from Paris, which came despite impressive results across recent seasons.

Criticism of PSG's transfer business did not go down well with sporting director Leonardo, who fired back at the coach, telling him he "must decide to respect the choices of the sports management".

Tuchel could hardly complain about the level of investment at Stamford Bridge over the past year, so similar comments towards Chelsea power-brokers would be unlikely to go down well.

Odion Ighalo has said an emotional goodbye to Manchester United after his "lifelong dream" of playing for the Red Devils came to an end.

The striker was signed last February on loan from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, initially on a deal until the end of the 2019-20 season.

The 31-year-old enjoyed a productive first few months at Old Trafford as an alternative striker option to Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, providing five goals and two assists in 19 appearances in all competitions.

United won 13, drew four and lost just twice in games in which Ighalo featured last term as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side enjoyed a strong second half of the season, finishing third in the Premier League and reaching the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Europa League.

Due to the season being prolonged by the coronavirus pandemic, Ighalo's loan was extended until January 30 this year, but the signing of Edinson Cavani on a free transfer reduced the Nigerian's opportunities and he has played only four times in 2020-21.

On Tuesday, a heavy-hearted Ighalo confirmed via social media that his time at the club he has supported all his life is now over.

However, he was eager to thank manager Solskjaer for giving him the "honour" of playing in the famous red shirt.

"It's so hard to see this dream come to an end," Ighalo wrote. "But I give God the glory for helping me fulfill this life long [sic] dream of putting on a Manchester United shirt as a player and represent this great club, it was indeed an honor I will forever cherish and be grateful for.

"To the manager I say thank you for trusting and believing in me when many did not, to my amazing team-mates I will miss you guys, it was always fun and a time I look [sic] forward to training and spending time with all of you. And I pray we win the LEAGUE and FA cup this year.

"To the best fans in the world (the Manchester United fans) we have missed you, but we hear your voices cheering us on from afar, we can't wait to have you all back on the stands.

"I'm still and would remain a MANCHESTER UNITED FAN forever. Once a Red, always a Red."

Thomas Tuchel has been appointed Chelsea head coach following the dismissal of Frank Lampard.

Chelsea have handed former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel a contract initially until the end of next season.

The 47-year-old had been out of work since being sacked by PSG in December.

Chelsea confirmed on their official website: "Thomas Tuchel has been appointed as the new Chelsea head coach."

Tuchel said: "I would like to thank Chelsea FC for their confidence in me and my staff.

"We all have the greatest respect for Frank Lampard's work and the legacy he created at Chelsea. At the same time, I cannot wait to meet my new team and compete in the most exciting league in football. I am grateful to now be part of the Chelsea family - it feels amazing!"

Chelsea said there was a "possibility" of Tuchel securing an extended stay at Stamford Bridge, and director Marina Granovskaia urged him to grasp an opportunity to deliver instant success this season.

She said: "It is never easy to change head coach in the middle of the season but we are very happy to secure one of Europe's best coaches in Thomas Tuchel.

"There is still much to play for and much to achieve, this season and beyond. We welcome Thomas to the club."

Tuchel took training at Chelsea on Tuesday evening as he immediately began work with the squad.

Chelsea will be keen for Tuchel to make a quick impact on the pitch, with the Blues having let Lampard go after a run of two wins in eight Premier League matches.

They face Wolves at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday before entertaining Burnley in the top flight on Sunday.

Despite leading PSG to a first Champions League final, where they were defeated 1-0 by Bayern Munich in August, Tuchel was replaced by Mauricio Pochettino after overseeing four Ligue 1 defeats before the 2020-21 mid-season break. PSG were third, a point behind Lyon and Lille, when Tuchel was ousted.

The German won two Ligue 1 titles, the Trophee des Champions twice, the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue during his two and a half years at the helm in Paris.

Prior to that he spent two years with Dortmund, winning the DFB-Pokal in 2016-17 but failing to dethrone Bayern in the Bundesliga.

He left both his previous positions following an apparent breakdown in relations with senior leadership figures.

Tuchel had a disagreement with Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke after a Champions League game against Monaco was pushed back by just one day after the Bundesliga side's bus was attacked.

At PSG he was involved in a public dispute with sporting director Leonardo over the club's transfer policy and reportedly claimed he felt more like "a politician rather than a coach", though he later said that remark was mistranslated.

A day after club great Frank Lampard was shown the door by Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel has been confirmed as the new head coach at Stamford Bridge.

Having departed Paris Saint-Germain in late December, the highly regarded tactician will now continue his coaching career in England.  

Former Borussia Dortmund boss Tuchel won two straight Ligue 1 titles and steered PSG to the Champions League final last season, yet ownership decided the time was right for a change in the French capital.

Mauricio Pochettino's status as a free agent arguably persuaded PSG to act fast and the boot is now on the other foot for Tuchel, whose availability has allowed him to step straight in at Stamford Bridge.

FROM PARIS TO LONDON

There was little Christmas cheer for Tuchel, who left PSG with a record similar to his predecessor in the job - Unai Emery. Both recorded an average of 2.37 points per game in Ligue 1 - tied for the best in club history.  

The German tops the list when it comes to top-flight win rate at 75.6 per cent (62 wins from 82 games), though that number dips slightly when taking into consideration all competitions, albeit only down to 74.8 per cent (Emery's was higher, at 76.3 per cent).

Like Lampard, Tuchel lost his job on the back of a convincing home win. PSG thrashed Strasbourg 4-0 in his final game and, while that result on December 23 left them third in the table, they were sitting just a point behind leaders Lyon. 

Only Laurent Blanc (173 games) was in the PSG post for longer than Tuchel in the time since Qatar Sports Investments purchased the French club. 

Tuchel averaged 2.67 goals per game in Ligue 1.

It helps to have a squad that contains stars such as Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, of course, though he was the first PSG boss to make it beyond the quarter-final stage of the Champions League, the one trophy that has so far eluded the owners.

An unconvincing start this term was enough to lead to change. Tuchel became the first PSG head coach to be fired during a season despite sitting in the top three of Ligue 1 since Antoine Kombouare, who lost his job during the 2011-12 campaign.


FAMILIARITY, PLUS A CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

Roman Abramovich made clear he has the "utmost respect" for Lampard in the statement released to confirm his departure. Still, there was no doubt left over the reason for making the change. 

"We are grateful to Frank for what he has achieved in his time as head coach of the club," the statement read from Chelsea.

"However, recent results and performances have not met the club's expectations, leaving the club mid-table without any clear path to sustained improvement." 

Chelsea have a home game against Wolves on Wednesday and Tuchel will get up and running by taking training on the eve of the match. He takes over a team in ninth place, though just five points off fourth in what is a congested league table. 

It will be hoped the new man can get the best out of compatriots Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, two of Chelsea's big-money recruits in the previous window who have yet to fire. 

However, Tuchel will also need to tighten things up at the back, particularly on the road. At PSG, his teams conceded 0.81 goals per game, while it should be noted they leaked just six in Champions League action in 2019-20.

Since the start of the previous season, only Newcastle (54) have conceded more away goals in the Premier League than Chelsea (50).

They kept a clean sheet in just 17 per cent of their away games under Lampard; among those to have taken charge of 10 or more such fixtures in the competition, this is the lowest percentage of any Chelsea boss. 

Tuchel will, of course, be able to call upon his old PSG captain Thiago Silva in trying to mastermind a defensive revival.

There will also be an expectancy to improve the team's fortunes against their major rivals, too. 

Since August 2019, Chelsea have won just 15 points against fellow 'big six' sides, a joint-low tally alongside Arsenal. During that run, they have scored 17 goals and conceded 28 times. 

At least Tuchel understands the demands of working for owners with lofty expectations. There is still time to turn this season around but, like his most recent Stamford Bridge predecessors, he will be expected to produce instant results.

Thomas Tuchel has been appointed Chelsea head coach following the dismissal of Frank Lampard.

Chelsea have handed former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel a contract initially until the end of next season.

The 47-year-old had been out of work since being sacked by PSG in December.

 

Chelsea confirmed on their official website: "Thomas Tuchel has been appointed as the new Chelsea head coach."

Tuchel said: "I would like to thank Chelsea FC for their confidence in me and my staff.

"We all have the greatest respect for Frank Lampard's work and the legacy he created at Chelsea. At the same time, I cannot wait to meet my new team and compete in the most exciting league in football. I am grateful to now be part of the Chelsea family - it feels amazing!"

Despite leading PSG to a first Champions League final, where they were defeated 1-0 by Bayern Munich in August, Tuchel was replaced by Mauricio Pochettino after overseeing four Ligue 1 defeats before the mid-season break. PSG were third, a point behind Lyon and Lille, when Tuchel was ousted.

The German won two Ligue 1 titles, the Trophee des Champions twice, the Coupe de France and the Coupe de la Ligue during his two and a half years at the helm in Paris.

Prior to that he spent two years with Dortmund, winning the DFB-Pokal in 2016-17 but failing to dethrone Bayern in the Bundesliga.

He left both his previous positions following a breakdown in relations with senior leadership figures.

Tuchel had a disagreement with Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke after a Champions League game against Monaco was pushed back by just one day after the Bundesliga side's bus was attacked.

At PSG he was involved in a public dispute with sporting director Leonardo over the club's transfer policy and reportedly claimed he felt more like "a politician rather than a coach", though he later said that remark was mistranslated.

Chelsea will be keen for Tuchel to make a quick impact on the pitch, with the Blues having let Lampard go after a run of two wins in eight Premier League matches.

They face Wolves at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday before entertaining Burnley in the top flight on Sunday.

Aston Villa have completed the signing of midfielder Morgan Sanson from Marseille for a reported fee of £15.5million.

The 26-year-old has agreed a four-and-a-half-year contract with Villa.

Sanson has played with Marseille since he signed for them from fellow Ligue 1 side Montpellier in January 2017.

He was part of the Marseille team which made the Europa League final in 2018 and the one which finished second under Andre Villas-Boas last season.

Villa boss Dean Smith, whose team have had a strong first half to the Premier League season, was enthusiastic about Sanson's credentials after the deal was confirmed on Tuesday.

"Morgan has performed consistently at the highest level in French football for a number of seasons as well as in this season's Champions League," Smith said.

"He is a player with the quality and experience to play in any midfield position.

"He will add real competition for starting places and gives us more squad depth which is vital to competing successfully in the Premier League."

Sanson has two goals and three assists in 10 Ligue 1 starts and two substitute appearances this season.

In his first interview with Villa, he told the club's website: "I'm really happy to be here, very proud to join the Aston Villa family.

"In the future I hope we can do great things together.

"It's a magical club, a big club in England. When Aston Villa called me, I didn't have to think about it for a long time – it was the best opportunity for me and my career.

"I love the team; I love the spirit – I'm a warrior and I like it when all the players run for the team and run for the club. I appreciate watching Villa because it's good football.

"I hope the best for the club. I think we have a very good team."

Villa are eighth in the table, just five points behind fourth-placed Liverpool with two games in hand on the reigning Premier League champions.

Having beaten Newcastle United last time out, they return to action away to Burnley in the top flight on Wednesday.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes a "more mature" Mason Greenwood is set for a big second half of the season as he hailed the influence of Edinson Cavani.

The United boss has been amazed by the impact made by Cavani since he signed on a free transfer after leaving Paris Saint-Germain.

That has included the lessons he has taught Greenwood, who has not kicked on as expected after his stunning first-team breakthrough last season.

Greenwood ended a 10-match run without a goal with a composed finish in the 3-2 FA Cup win over Liverpool on Sunday.

Solskjaer thinks that is a sign of things to come for the teenager.

"We think Mason is going be very important in the second half of the season, but it is not just going happen by itself," Solskjaer said ahead of Wednesday's home Premier League game with Sheffield United.

"He scored against West Ham a while back as well and was expected to kick on.

"He's taken steps, he's grown, he's more mature and he's been training with Edinson for half a season, he is learning good habits. 

"And whoever doesn't learn from players like him [Cavani], or Bruno [Fernandes] or the players we've brought in, that's a pity.

"I'm very confident that Mason will chip in good performances and with goals and assists."

Solskjaer was asked to elaborate on Cavani, who turns 34 next month having delighted the United boss on and off the pitch.

He added: "How long have we got? 

"What he brings is when a striker of that age runs almost 12 kilometres, every time he chases down the centre-back when he has got the ball, every time the goalkeeper has the ball.

"He tackles centre midfielders!

"He made a mistake for Liverpool's [second] goal but he is the one who is closest to winning it back inside our own 18-yard box. 

"His reaction, his work-rate, his habits, and his threat in the box and the humility of coming in every single day to do your best.

"We could go on and on and on but his experience and attitude, of course, that’s given us a lesson, every single one of us."

Marcus Rashford, who impressed against Liverpool, should be fit to face the Blades after a minor knee issue.

"We are looking strong, which is a good place to be in," Solskjaer added. "Marcus is available for selection, he tweaked his knee a little bit but trained fully this morning."

United are two points clear at the top of the Premier League as they prepare to face the team sitting bottom.

They have won their last seven home top-flight encounters with Sheffield United, a run that stretches back to August 1975.

Opta data shows the Blades collected just one point in eight top-flight meetings with the Red Devils and the fitness of Rashford will come as a blow.

That is because the England forward has been directly involved in six goals in his three Premier League outings against Chris Wilder's men (three goals, three assists), averaging a goal or assist every 43 minutes.

Manchester United are yet to agree loan exits for Jesse Lingard or Brandon Williams, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer intends to keep Amad Diallo at the club.

Teams including West Brom, West Ham and Sheffield United have been linked with England international Lingard, who has started just twice and not made a single Premier League appearance this season.

Solskjaer has agreed to allow the 28-year-old, who last scored in the 2-1 Europa League win over LASK in August, to seek a loan move in order to find regular playing time and perhaps earn an international recall.

Full-back Williams, who has played only six minutes in the league this season, and young winger Facundo Pellistri are also set to be loaned out, with the latter tipped to join either Club Brugge or Deportivo Alaves.

However, United manager Solskjaer has different plans for Diallo, with the 18-year-old close to being declared ready for first-team duties despite arriving in England from Atalanta only on January 7.

"They're still part of our club, part of the squad, training well," Solskjaer said when asked about Lingard and Williams. "No deal has been struck for any players yet going out, there is still a little period left, of course. There have been many clubs interested in our players, so let's see what happens.

"For me, it's also important to take our wishes and our plans into consideration, but the players, of course, are Manchester United people and players through and through.

"There have been talks [about Pellistri] and there have been quite a few clubs interested in Facundo to go out on loan, and that is maybe something we will let him do now. He's had a few games in the reserves, we want him to have regular football at a high level.

"With Amad, it's a different scenario, he's going through a good training regime and training programme. He's doing well and it won't be too long before I can bring him into the squad."

The Red Devils face Sheffield United on Wednesday, looking to extend a seven-game league winning streak at home against the Blades that stretches back to August 1975.

Solskjaer's men sat top of the table after 19 games but knew Manchester City could move a point above them by beating West Brom on Tuesday.

Struggling Sheffield United will go into Wednesday's contest 35 points behind the Old Trafford outfit, which, paradoxically, could give them some hope: Manchester United have only won one of their past six league matches against teams over whom they have held such a points advantage in the table, losing two of the previous three at home.

Frank Lampard did not take the Chelsea job too soon and will make a swift return to management, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Chelsea sacked their all-time leading goalscorer Lampard on Monday just 18 months after he arrived from Derby County, where he began his career as a coach one year prior.

He steered the Blues to a top-four finish in the Premier League and to the FA Cup final, but a run of two wins in eight top-flight games left them 11 points off leaders Manchester United in ninth.

Ancelotti, who coached Lampard for two years at Stamford Bridge, does not think Lampard was too inexperienced for the role.

"No, I don't think so," the Everton boss replied when asked if Lampard had taken the Chelsea job too soon. "I think where you start a career as a manager or a player, every career you don't have experience.

"It's important to have knowledge. I think what Lampard did as a player and what he did as a manager before going to Chelsea, has knowledge of football. When you have knowledge of football you can grow your experience, but everyone that starts a career has no experience.

"I want to compare to [Juventus coach Andrea] Pirlo. Of course they don't have experience, but experience is not the most important part of your job. The most important part is the knowledge and the management. And after that with the knowledge you can grow, you can improve your experience."

Ancelotti considers being sacked to be part and parcel of football management and does not think it will take long for Lampard to find another position.

"It's not unusual that a manager is sacked. Frank Lampard knows this. My personal opinion is that getting sacked is part of our job. We have to understand this," said Ancelotti.

"I was sacked everywhere, so I have to consider the fact it's part of our job. Frank will soon find another opportunity because he's a good manager. He did well at Chelsea but for the club it was not enough. It's simple.

"In the end it's not sad news. One door closes and for him that is Chelsea – I understand that Chelsea was his club, he played for them, but for sure he is going to have another opportunity soon."

Jose Mourinho is the only manager to have led Chelsea for more than two consecutive seasons – he did it in both his stints at the helm – since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

However, Ancelotti does not consider the Blues to be a tougher place to work.

"Chelsea is not more difficult than other clubs, it's the same," he said.

"Every club has expectations and when things aren't going how they like, what are they going to do? They are going to change 20 players? The easiest way is to change the manager.

"This is what happens in football. All managers know this. We have to consider this part of our job and nothing more."

Chelsea have never had coaching staff who cared more about the club than the group led by Frank Lampard, according to his assistant Jody Morris.

Head coach Lampard and Morris were removed from their positions on Monday to make room for Thomas Tuchel, who is on the brink of being appointed at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea great Lampard released a statement ruing the fact he was not given more time to turn the situation around, the Blues having slumped to ninth in the Premier League at the halfway stage this season.

The former England international was nonetheless proud of what he had done to help promote younger players to the first team.

They were sentiments echoed by Morris, who praised Lampard for working "tirelessly" to improve the squad.

"I am immensely proud to say I have been stood next to our gaffa Frank Lampard who has worked tirelessly to improve the players and the culture every single day," Morris wrote on Instagram.

"Us as your staff could not ask for a better leader!!

"There has never been a bunch in that dugout that cared more inside Stamford Bridge!!

"I'm even prouder of the work that has gone on day in day out at Cobham in what has been the toughest period anybody has had to face in charge."

Former Chelsea midfielder Morris – who thanked the fans and owner Roman Abramovich – was also with Lampard at Derby County in the Championship.

He added: "Yesterday [Monday] was tough to take on all levels.

"It has hurt twice previously that I've had to leave this great club, but it's been on my terms and both times it was done with the bigger picture for myself and my family in mind.

"I've always felt lucky to be able to say I've played for the team I've supported since I was a young boy growing up on north end road.

"Chelsea is and always will be my club no matter what."

Former Chelsea player Pat Nevin, meanwhile, felt it would have been a difficult decision for Abramovich to take.

And he is most concerned about the impact on some of the youngsters Lampard brought through.

"I am desperately saddened to see Frank Lampard leaving the club, but then again who isn't," he wrote on the Chelsea website.

"I suspect those who made the decision are saddened too. In fact, if you aren't upset at all then you almost certainly aren't a true Chelsea fan.

"The players need to get their heads right after such a shock.

"It is going to be a particularly big ask for some of the younger players who have had Frank and his coaching team to thank for their opportunities and who each looked to him as a mentor. 

"They must be professional now and work with the new coach, but it is undoubtedly a concerning time for them."

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