Marcus Rashford deserves more credit for his "amazing" teamwork for Manchester United despite his goal return drying up, Bruno Fernandes says.

Rashford reached 20 for the season in all competitions with a penalty in the 5-2 Premier League win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford.

This has been the England forward's most productive campaign of his career in terms of goal involvements, but he has not yet scored from open play since the Premier League returned last month.

Fernandes has had no such trouble finding the net, his four goals in his past three league games helping him to win the Premier League Player of the Month award for the second time in a row.

But the Portugal star insists Rashford is hugely important for a United side unbeaten in 17 matches and with a top-four finish now in their own hands.

"I think everyone is talking about Marcus not scoring a lot of goals but he is doing an amazing job," Fernandes told United's website ahead of Monday's game against Southampton.

"The game he is playing now, maybe he is not achieving his goals and everything but, with everything we are doing now, he will achieve more goals and more assists. In the games, in the complete football, because football is not just about goals and assists, it is about the team and Marcus is playing very well for the team.

"I hope Marcus can find more goals because he deserves it for the work he is doing for the team, and nobody sees it because everyone sees the goals and who scores and assists. The work he is doing for the team is amazing.

"Marcus was injured for a long time so it's difficult to find that confidence again, to do things like shoot from far out. But he is doing an amazing job for the group and I think he deserves credit for this."

Fernandes drew attention to Rashford's off-the-ball run in the 3-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion that helped to create the space for the swift counter-attack that ended with Fernandes volleying in United's third goal.

"The play we did, the way we came to score, means it's one of the best goals from a team [perspective] that I've scored,” he said.

"That's because of all the teamwork. We won the ball with the header from H [Harry Maguire], Nemanja [Matic] takes the ball and Mason [Greenwood] did an amazing run but, at that moment, Rashy did a perfect run. He was one of the far [off] guys but comes so fast to the goal that defenders know if they give him space, he will score. 

"So maybe he [the defender] closes him down being closer to the ball and, when the cross comes over, and it was a great ball by Mason, after that I just need to score the goal."

Bruno Fernandes has become only the seventh player to win two successive Premier League Player of the Month awards.

Mohamed Salah, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dennis Bergkamp and Robbie Fowler are the only other players to have achieved the feat.

The Manchester United midfielder, who joined from Sporting CP in January, has made a remarkable start to life in the Premier League, winning both of the Player of the Month awards that he was eligible for.

Fernandes claimed the gong for February after an impressive first month at Old Trafford, before continuing that sparkling form into March.

He picked up where he left off when the Premier League resumed last month following the coronavirus-enforced suspension, with his performances across March and June taken into account for the latest award.

In United's five matches across those two months, Fernandes scored four goals and set up one more.

The Portugal international has helped transform United's fortunes since arriving from Sporting, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men unbeaten in 15 matches since his debut.

Fernandes beat Conor Coady, Danny Ings, Raul Jimenez, Allan Saint-Maximin and his United team-mate Anthony Martial to the June prize, while he also took home the Goal of the Month award.

The goal in question was his second in the 3-0 win at Brighton and Hove Albion on June 30, as he volleyed home from Mason Greenwood's pinpoint cross at the end of a rapid counter-attack.

While it was not a double success for United with the Manager of the Month award, it is the first time the two prizes have gone to Portuguese candidates in the same month.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo won the manager's accolade for a second time, as he presided over a five-match unbeaten streak either side of the coronavirus hiatus.

He left Steve Bruce, Frank Lampard and Solskjaer in his wake, though Wolves have lost both of their matches in July, denting their hopes of a top-four finish as they trail fourth-placed Leicester City by seven points with four games to go.

Paul Pogba scored his first Premier League goal in 15 months as Manchester United broke a Premier League record in a 3-0 victory at Aston Villa.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side became the first in the division's history to win four successive matches by a margin of three goals or more as they extended their unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions.

Bruno Fernandes set them on their way by converting a controversial penalty, before Mason Greenwood took his tally to four goals in three games prior to the break.

Pogba picked out the bottom corner of the net from a Fernandes corner in the 58th minute to leave United one point outside the top four.

Despite United's recent purple patch, it was Villa who began brighter and Jack Grealish missed the target with a volley early on from a back-post Ezri Konza cross.

They came closer still when Trezeguet dispossessed Pogba and bent a low effort against the outside of the post.

Yet, a minute later, United had a penalty. Fernandes attempted a double drag-back to go beyond Konza, but his left leg came down into the defender, an act that referee Jon Moss deemed worthy of a spot-kick.

The contentious decision stood after a VAR review and it was Fernandes, rather than Marcus Rashford, who stepped up to slot home United's record-equalling 13th Premier League penalty of the season.

Greenwood and Fernandes then both came close before the former continued his fine scoring streak by blasting home right-footed in first-half stoppage time.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka really should have added the third early in the second half with a header that missed the target, and although he could not register his first goal of the season, Pogba soon did.

Fernandes picked out the Frenchman on the edge of the box from a corner and the World Cup winner steered his effort inside the post.

Pogba's compatriot Anthony Martial came close to adding a fourth - firing against the woodwork - but relegation-threatened Villa suffered no further misery.

 

What does it mean? Free-scoring United continue rich vein of form

Villa had good opportunities to open the scoring - and they may feel aggrieved at the manner in which United went ahead - but once Fernandes slotted in the penalty only one team looked like winning.

United are two points behind third-placed Chelsea and one behind Leicester City in fourth, and they still have to play the Foxes. In this form, it is hard to imagine them not finishing in the top four.

Brilliant Bruno

The impact January signing Fernandes has had on United is clear to see and this was another awesome display from the playmaker.

He has now had 28 goal involvements in 27 league goals this season with Sporting CP and United, scoring 15 and providing 13 assists.

Mings not merciless

England international Tyrone Mings was the latest target for Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane's ire at half-time, the ex-United captain ripping into the Villa defender for not closing down Greenwood.

Anyone who has seen Greenwood of late knows he possess a venomous shot from distance and Mings' inability to close the teenager down was emblematic of Villa's problems.

What's next?

United will hope to make it 18 unbeaten against Southampton at Old Trafford on Monday, while Villa will see the visit of Crystal Palace on Sunday as a more realistic chance to pick up points.

Manchester United were awarded their 13th penalty of the 2019-20 season on Thursday, equalling a Premier League record for the most spot-kicks earned across a campaign.

Bruno Fernandes won a contentious penalty in the first half of United's trip to Aston Villa when referee Jon Moss adjudged Ezri Konsa fouled the Portuguese midfielder inside the area as he attempted a turn.

The ruling stood following a VAR review and Fernandes slotted home from 12 yards to give United the lead.

It was the 13th penalty Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team have been awarded in the top flight this term, a figure that only two clubs have achieved in the Premier League era.

Leicester City were given 13 penalties when they won the title in 2015-16, while Crystal Palace had the same number of spot-kicks awarded to them in 2004-05.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has insisted it is too early to compare Mason Greenwood to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo following the teenage forward's brace in Manchester United's 5-2 win over Bournemouth.

Greenwood further enhanced his reputation with clinical finishes in either half in Saturday's clash at Old Trafford to take him to eight league goals for United this term and 15 in all competitions.

He is the youngest player to reach that tally for the club since Rooney but Solskjaer was unwilling to put the 18-year-old in the same category as United's all-time leading scorer and fellow star Ronaldo.

"I have seen Wayne Rooney at the same age and Mason is a specialist finisher and specialist goalscorer," Solskjaer said at his post-match news conference. "He knows exactly what to do with the ball when he's on the pitch.

"If he shoots, he will score. He is going to get better and his general play has improved. But I don't want to compare Mason to Rooney or Cristiano – I don't think that's fair.

"The boy will create his own career and he is doing it his own way and they've had fantastic careers, both of them, and I'm sure if Mason keeps on doing the right things, making good decisions, he will have a fantastic career as well."

Anthony Martial, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford were also on target against Bournemouth, with the latter scoring from the penalty spot.

United's front three of Greenwood, Martial and Rashford now have 55 goals in all competitions this term – four more than Liverpool's triumvirate of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

But Solskjaer warned United's Premier League rivals that his side – fourth in the table ahead of Chelsea's game in hand against Watford later on Saturday – are only going to get better over time.

"Every day and every game and every session is a chance to improve," he said.

"We've seen improvement in Marcus, Mason and Anthony all season, so we will keep on improving the ones we've got but we will never stand still – we are always on the lookout for anything that is possible.

"You cannot think we've cracked it, as Gary [Neville] said, and the emphasis is just on improving the team all the time.

"They will improve, and we've seen that all season they have improved a lot this season, different parts of their game, maturity. We will work with these.

"Marcus is on course for his best season, Anthony the same but they can still improve and there are things they know I want them to keep improving on.

"Mason is in his first season, fantastic, but we've always known that there's a special kid there."

Solskjaer named the same starting line-up for the third league game running on Saturday, United winning each of those matches to make it their best-such run since January 2019.

But the Norwegian talked up the importance of his entire squad during their 15-game unbeaten streak in all competitions that stretches back to January.

"I wouldn't say that you could call it a first XI," he said. "We know we have to use the squad; we've had players who've played and really contributed.

"I can't say this is like the XI that's always going to play, no. Because Eric [Bailly] came on today, he's important for us; Scott [McTominay] and Fred have been exceptional all season. It's not easy leaving Dan James out either but we have started doing well."

Manchester United moved into the top four as Mason Greenwood struck a brilliant brace in a 5-2 victory over relegation-threatened Bournemouth.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side went above Chelsea ahead of the Blues' game against Watford with a win that extended their unbeaten run to 16 games in all competitions.

They fell behind to Junior Stanislas' opener, but led at the break through first-half efforts from Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.

Joshua King's penalty reduced the deficit, yet Greenwood's second stunning strike was added to by Bruno Fernandes' free-kick as United marched on.

The Cherries took a shock 16th-minute lead when Stanislas followed up his initial blocked effort and nutmegged Harry Maguire on the byline before beating David de Gea at his near post.

It was the first time United had conceded in 500 minutes in all competitions, but they soon roared back when Greenwood blasted in a venomous left-footed drive having been found by Fernandes.

And six minutes later, United were ahead. Adam Smith needlessly handled the ball following Martial's downward header and Rashford stuck the resulting penalty into the bottom-right corner of the net.

That put Rashford ahead of Martial in their personal goals duel, though the Frenchman also moved onto 20 for the campaign in emphatic fashion, cutting in off the left flank and rifling into the top corner with a brilliant right-footed strike.

Bournemouth were handed a route back into the match when United made a sloppy start to the second half.

De Gea had already saved from Lewis Cook and Arnaut Danjuma hit the post after Maguire gave the ball away before Eric Bailly handled trying to control Nemanja Matic's pass.

King converted the penalty against his old club, only for Greenwood to again deliver an emphatic response six minutes later, this time with his right foot.

Fernandes, with two assists to his name already, then got in on the act as United scored five at Old Trafford in a Premier League game for the first time since 2011.

 

What does it mean? Five-star United show resilience

This was not a vintage United display – certainly at the back – but they responded brilliantly on the two occasions Bournemouth scored when in the past they may have crumbled after conceding.

The Cherries, who sit 19th, climbed three places above United when they won the reverse fixture back in November, and the two teams have certainly been on opposite trajectories since.

Greenwood's golden finishing

Solskjaer says he wants another striker, but he will struggle to find one that can finish like 18-year-old Greenwood.

He was clinical with his left foot, then his right, and has already moved onto eight Premier League goals this term.

Dave doesn't save... again

Roy Keane's scathing criticism of United's number one last month was probably still ringing in De Gea's ears when he let Stanislas' effort beat him at his near post.

It did not cost United on the day, but the Spaniard's growing collection of mistakes must be factors when the club decide what to do with Sheffield United loanee Dean Henderson next season.

What's next?

United visit another side fighting to stay in the division when they travel to Aston Villa on Thursday, while Bournemouth host Tottenham on the same day.

Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho insists he would not swap Giovani Lo Celso for Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes or any other midfield player.

Fernandes revealed last year he had agreed to join Spurs but the north London club were unwilling to match Sporting CP's valuation and instead turned to Lo Celso.

The Portugal international went on to join Tottenham's Premier League rivals United in January and has proved good value for the reported £67million (€80m) spent to sign him.

He has been directly involved in eight goals in eight league outings, while Lo Celso - whose loan switch from Real Betis was made permanent in January - has yet to register a goal or assist.

Mourinho says he is not bothered Spurs missed out on Fernandes' signature during Mauricio Pochettino's time in charge, however, as he rates Lo Celso just as highly.

"I don't know anything about [an agreement], but if that is true, and if Giovani Lo Celso was the player that came to Spurs instead, then I would say I wouldn't change Giovani Lo Celso for any player," he told Sky Sports.

"[I wouldn't swap Lo Celso] for any player. It's not just for Bruno, but for any player."

Lo Celso struggled for minutes when Mourinho succeeded Pochettino in November but has since started 11 of Tottenham's last 15 matches in all competitions.

Mourinho has been pleased with the Argentina international's positive attitude and believes there is still plenty more to come from the £27m (€30m) signing.

"When I arrived I went in other directions and he did exactly what I love a player to do: 'I'm going to show you'," Mourinho said.

"[There was] no spoiled kid reactions, no crying, no moaning, no agents and family throwing messages to the press and to the social media. 

"It was just between him and me: I'm going to show you', and he showed me step-by-step.

"The way he was working every day, the way he was coming to matches, the way he was changing matches."

Mourinho added: "I remember the match against Liverpool: he was on the bench, he came on for the last half an hour and he changed the game. 

"The only thing that didn't happen was us changing the result because we were so unlucky, but he changed the game.

"When he had his first start: 'Goodbye, I give you no chance and this place is mine'. In this moment, what people can see from him is an injured player playing, or a player that during the week is not working like the others.

"He's working with lots of different conditions to try to play and to try to resist until the end of the season so what you see from Gio now is not the end product - he's a fantastic player for us."

Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes said strength in depth is behind the club's unbeaten run after his brace helped see off Brighton and Hove Albion.

Fernandes scored twice as in-form United outclassed Brighton 3-0 in the Premier League on Tuesday to stretch their undefeated streak to 15 matches across all competitions.

After Mason Greenwood's opening strike, January recruit and former Sporting CP captain Fernandes stole the show with goals in the 29th and 50th minutes at the Amex Stadium.

United have gone eight Premier League games without defeat to be fifth and two points adrift of Chelsea – who face West Ham on Wednesday – with six matches remaining in the Champions League qualification race.

"In the last games, before the stop, Scotty [McTominay] and Fred played very well and we have a lot of good results," Fernandes, who has scored five goals in eight league appearances, told MUTV.

"Now it's Nema [Matic], Paul [Pogba] and me, sometimes Andy [Pereira] or Juan [Mata] can play no.10, or Jesse [Lingard] - we have a lot of qualities and I don't think it is fair on the guys who are out to just talk about me and Paul.

"We have so much quality and this becomes higher because we train together and we push [each other]. I know if I'm not okay, another player will play. So I need to be at my best on the training field.

"I need to be better and better to help the team. Everyone thinks the same way and that's why we are playing this way and the results are coming. We know we need to give our best because we have such good quality."

United have not tasted defeat since losing 2-0 to Burnley in January – keeping 11 clean sheets – and Portuguese midfielder Fernandes added: "You need to be focused and give everything for the team, for the club.

"I think everyone here knows that we represent a big team, so we need to give our best and to push forward and to keep trying.

"This is what the players are doing now - that’s fantastic. It doesn't matter if we are tired, other guys are coming in and playing such a good game.

"They can bring more intensity because they are fresh, so we know we can give everything and if you are tired, you can come out. Now we have five changes this is better for us. The most important thing is the result at the end."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has described Mason Greenwood as a "special kid" following his superb display in Manchester United's 3-0 Premier League win over Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday.

United cranked up the pressure on fourth-place Chelsea with an effortless win at the Amex Stadium, with Greenwood getting them on their way early on.

That was followed by two Bruno Fernandes strikes – the second of which was superbly set up by Greenwood after a flowing counter attack.

Solskjaer was full of praise for the 18-year-old and says he is destined for a bright future.

"Mason's first goal was brilliant and he played fantastically," he told Sky Sports. "He's a special kid, we know when he gets faced up he looks dangerous. His link up play was great today.

"He's got a knack of that. He can go inside or outside and he is developing into a fine player."

Solskjaer was also fulsome in his praise of Fernandes, who took his tally to five goals in eight Premier League games following his January move from Sporting CP.

The 25-year-old has quickly become an instrumental figure for the Red Devils and his boss is delighted with his "winning mentality".

"We have some top players and Bruno has come and been fantastic," he told BBC Sport. "He has brought that winning mentality with him; that 99 per cent is not good enough – it has to be 100 per cent."

Bruno Fernandes insists Manchester United can secure a top-four finish in the Premier League this season.

The Portuguese was in scintillating form on Tuesday, scoring twice as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side ran out 3-0 winners over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.

The result moves United two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who play their game in hand against West Ham on Wednesday.

Fernandes – who has now scored five goals in his first eight Premier League games for the club since his January move from Sporting CP – is unfazed by a potential five-point gap with just six games to play and remains confident they can secure Champions League football for next season.

"We are fighting for a place in the Champions League and we know we can achieve this," he told Sky Sports.

"The most important thing is the three points but we played well and the result was good. We didn't concede again, which is important.

"We knew that we needed to push forwards and to try and score from minute one. I was lucky with the first goal and the second goal was amazing, an amazing pass from Mason [Greenwood]."

Paul Pogba teed up Fernandes for his first goal but the 25-year-old did not want to single out the French World Cup winner for specific praise.

"I don't want to talk too much about me and Paul Pogba," he added.

"We are happy to play together but I am happy to play with everyone. We can combine together, we have qualities, but we know that we have team-mates who can do well."

Manchester United's push for a top-four spot continued on Tuesday as they cruised to a 3-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.

United wasted little time stamping their authority on the game as strikes from Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes put them two up before the half-hour mark.

Greenwood was the provider for Fernandes' second after 50 minutes as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side made it eight games unbeaten in the Premier League.

The result moved United up to fifth, two points behind Chelsea, although they have played a game more. Brighton, meanwhile, remained in 15th, six points above the relegation zone.

United started on the front foot, with Fernandes crashing a long-range effort against the post after 12 minutes.

They did not have to wait long to open the scoring, though, Greenwood surging into the penalty area, bamboozling Lewis Dunk with a series of stepovers and clipping a smart finish past Mat Ryan at his near post in the 16th minute. 

That advantage was doubled in the 29th minute when Fernandes' strike from 20 yards took a wicked deflection off Alexis Mac Allister to wrongfoot Ryan.

A devastating counter attack led to United's third five minutes after the restart, Greenwood picking out Fernandes at the back post with a sumptuous cross, with the Portuguese volleying past a helpless Ryan from eight yards.

Substitute Leandro Trossard twice flashed efforts wide after the hour mark, while David de Gea tipped over Aaron Connolly's strike as Brighton belatedly woke from their slumber.

Graham Potter's men failed to score a consolation, though, as United strolled to the most comfortable of away wins. 

 

What does it mean? New-look United taking shape

Big things were expected from Fernandes when he joined from Sporting CP in January and he has not disappointed. Not only has he proven to be a potent goal threat – his brace took his tally to five goals in eight Premier League games – but he has elevated those around him.

United have been insipid in attack for so long but with Fernandes conducting an exciting forward line, fans might dare to dream of a title push in the coming seasons.  

Greenwood continues to sparkle

The 18-year-old has enjoyed a superb breakout season for United and once again showed why he is such an exciting talent. It is testament to his prodigious ability that he slots in so seamlessly alongside seasoned internationals like Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes.

Lewis slam Dunk-ed by Reds

The Seagulls captain endured a game to forget. He offered little resistance to Greenwood for United's first and failed to effectively marshal his defence throughout.

What's next?

United will be confident of securing a third consecutive Premier League win when a struggling Bournemouth visit Old Trafford on Saturday, while Brighton travel to Norwich City on the same day.

Bruno Fernandes will establish himself as a Manchester United great, according to former Portugal defender Abel Xavier.

Fernandes joined United from Sporting CP in January and had an immediate galvanising impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side

The 25-year-old has three goals and as many assists in seven Premier League appearances, with United unbeaten in 14 matches across all competitions and yet to taste defeat with Fernandes in their ranks.

Xavier told Stats Perform News his countryman can go on to be remembered alongside the likes of David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo by the Old Trafford faithful.

"My view of Bruno is that he is going to be one of the major players for Manchester United over the next years," he said.

"The way he plays, the way he controls the moments of the game... I think from what I know about the about the fans, they will love him for many years like they loved many legends from the past like Cristiano, David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, Eric Cantona, Paul Scholes – all these legendary players.

"Bruno I think will end up in this gallery of players."

One man whose standing has not been quite so lofty since returning to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2017 is Paul Pogba.

The France star's performances have been a frequent matter of debate, while injuries have decimated his 2019-20 campaign.

Pogba is back to full fitness now, however, and Xavier believes he and Fernandes can enjoy a fruitful midfield alliance.

"Pogba is compatible with him because Bruno Fernandes is a clever player," he said.

"He can adapt, he is flexible. I think he is a player who is very easy to manage for the coaches. Man United will be strong.

"We are not just talking about a great player but a player with a lot of personality.

"It is not easy to arrive to a different place like England, with a lot of history and a lot of comparisons in his position, and make a complete impact.

"He had a little profile. He was accepted, he made the difference. I think that Man United are building the team around him."

United face Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday in the Premier League, where they will aim for a victory to go level on point with Wolves and close to within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted it is more difficult for Manchester United to win titles now than it was under legendary manager Alex Ferguson.

Solskjaer and United – fifth in the standings this season – watched bitter rivals Liverpool end their 30-year wait for an English league crown on Thursday.

United enjoyed dominance during Ferguson's 26-year tenure, winning 13 Premier League titles and 38 trophies in total at Old Trafford.

However, United have not won the Premier League since Ferguson's final season in 2013, though the Red Devils have had Europa League (2017), FA Cup (2016) and EFL Cup (2017) success.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's FA Cup quarter-final against Norwich City, United manager Solskjaer said: "We've got to be honest enough to say it is more difficult now.

"We've always had challengers, whether it was Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool. But most of the time it was just one of them challenging us," Solskjaer said.

"Finishing third wasn't normal. Now there are at least four, maybe five teams that can win the league and the cups."

Solskjaer, meanwhile, talked up the partnership between star United midfielders Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.

Fernandes and Pogba – who has endured an injury-ravaged season – started together for the first time as United outclassed Sheffield United 3-0 in the Premier League on Wednesday.

Amid doubts over Pogba's future and whether the duo can work together, Solskjaer told reporters: "I'm certain they can play well together, yes.

"They've both played well in training and in the games they play together it's exciting. There will be rotations and there will be times that Paul will play up with Bruno, sometimes it's deeper, sometimes we will play with a diamond. It's encouraging to see them together. 

"It's also encouraging to see how Nemanja [Matic], Scott [McTominay] and Fred are making it difficult for me to keep them out.

"It's a good position to be in as a coach and you want to give Paul a chance to get 100 per cent fit with practice and rest. He's been out for so long and I think it says everything about the boy with the quality of his performances."

Former Barcelona and France star Jeremy Mathieu has retired after suffering a knee injury in training at Sporting CP - news that has left Bruno Fernandes "crestfallen".

Manchester United midfielder Fernandes paid tribute to his former Sporting team-mate who quit after damaging the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Wednesday, calling Mathieu "a centre-back with the quality of a number 10".

Mathieu, 36, won only five caps for France but shone in spells with Valencia and Barcelona, playing for the Catalan giants from 2014 to 2017 before joining Sporting.

At Barcelona, he won two LaLiga titles plus the Champions League in 2014-15, coming on as a late substitute in the 3-1 final win over Juventus.

Portuguese newspaper Record quoted a statement from Mathieu, in which he said: "I thought I would end my career in another way, but it is part of football. I wanted to finish on the pitch so badly, but destiny decided otherwise.

"Anyway, I spent 19 years living my life with intense passion, with ups and downs, joy and crying, victories and defeats and incredible trophies."

Mathieu played in France with Sochaux and Toulouse before moving to Spain with Valencia.

Fernandes posted on Instagram: "I had news that left me sad and crestfallen.

"I learned that the best centre-back I ever had as a team-mate was injured and decided to end a career full of titles and unforgettable moments."

Fernandes added: "I had two and a half years with you, two and a half years of apprenticeship, two and a half years of eternal bets in training to see who scored the most free-kicks, two and a half years to see magic come from the feet of a centre-back, yes from a centre-back."

He stressed Mathieu "was a centre-back with the quality of a number 10 and extreme speed" and said he intended to reunite with him on the golf course.

Fernandes said: "Thanks for the tears in the final of the Taca de Portugal that showed me what it is like to love the game and how all victories are as important as the first."

Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic lauded star team-mate Anthony Martial following his first senior hat-trick.

Martial scored his maiden treble as United outclassed Sheffield United 3-0 at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Wednesday.

A first-half brace set the tone before Martial became the first United player to celebrate a Premier League hat-trick since Robin van Persie in 2013.

Martial has scored a career-high 14 Premier League goals and 19 across all competitions this season as Matic hailed the French forward.

"I think it was very important for him to score goals, for every striker it's important, for his confidence," Matic told MUTV.

"I'm happy that our strikers are in good condition, tonight Anthony was man of the match, every chance he had went in.

"Let's see in the future what he can do for us. But I'm happy for him. Congratulations to him."

Matic also produced an impressive performance alongside Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in midfield as United kept their Champions League bid on track.

Fernandes and Pogba started together for the first time for United, who extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches in all competitions, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men fifth in the table – two points behind Chelsea and six adrift of stuttering third-placed Leicester City.

Matic said: "I think it's always good play with top players. Not only them, we're lucky we have top players in every position.

"So tonight I played with Bruno and Paul, I think we did well, it was good there, I'm sure in the future we can improve a lot together, and also with Scott [McTominay] and Fred, whoever plays with us; I'm happy with the team performance and the way we controlled the game.

"I think we had control during all 90 minutes, of course we knew they were going to have some dangerous counter-attacks because tactically they play well.

"We analysed them very well, we treated them with respect, I'm so happy with the team performance, 3-0 against a team who creates problems for every team in the Premier League."

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