Luis Enrique made it clear he will not accept anyone blaming David de Gea for Spain's Nations League defeat to Ukraine.

La Roja's 15-game unbeaten run came to an end in Kiev thanks to a second-half goal from Viktor Tsygankov.

Spain had nearly 72 per cent of the possession, attempted 21 shots to Ukraine's two and were denied eight times by goalkeeper Georgi Bushchan, although they did not create many clear-cut opportunities.

They paid the price for a moment of poor concentration 76 minutes in, as Andriy Yarmolenko played in Tsygankov right through the heart of the defence, and the substitute blasted past De Gea from the edge of the area with the Manchester United goalkeeper having been caught well advanced from his line.

The goal will likely prompt further debate about De Gea's place as Spain's number one, with his form for club and country having been questioned for much of the past two years.

However, head coach Luis Enrique was not prepared to listen to reporters apportion blame on the 29-year-old.

"You can always do more, but blaming De Gea is already a bad habit," he said.

"If David is blamed for a game like this, switch it off and we'll leave."

He continued: "If you attack in a continuous way, you know there are transitions. If a team defends and keeps it at 0-0, they grow, and in one action they've caught us. We have to congratulate them.

"Nothing happens because in one or two games you don't score goals. We created chances to kill them off. It was a game clearly under our control, with opponents closing the passes and the passing lines.

"We created chances with Adama [Traore] through his overlapping. In the end, we went into panic mode. I've lost lots of these games in my career. The opponent is growing and then in a transition…

"The conclusion is I liked the attitude of the players. I like what I see."

David de Gea insists he feels better than ever at the start of a pivotal season in his Manchester United career. 

The Spain international came under scrutiny last season following some high-profile mistakes and now faces pressure for his place after Dean Henderson – who starred on loan at Sheffield United – was kept at Old Trafford and signed a new long-term deal. 

Henderson impressed on his United debut in their EFL Cup win at Luton Town this week but De Gea remains number one going into Saturday's Premier League fixture with Brighton and Hove Albion. 

"Yeah maybe [people forget I'm still young] because I have been playing a lot since I was very young, but right now I feel probably the best I have felt in my career," the 29-year-old said to MUTV. 

"I feel very, very well and very confident and very positive and that's very important for me. 

"It's great to train every day here with the coaches and the goalkeepers. We always try to learn from each other and try to push altogether. It is great. 

"If you see the training it’s really good to see the goalkeepers together - very important to have good feelings with the other goalkeepers and the goalkeeping coaches as well. 

"We are training very, very well – the whole department of keepers. We need to be at this level every day and to show the players that the keepers are feeling 100 per cent."

A dreadful start to United's Premier League campaign saw them suffer a 3-1 home defeat to Crystal Palace, a blow after they made such a strong finish to end up third last season. 

De Gea saved a second-half penalty from Jordan Ayew but it had to be taken again after it was ruled he had fractionally stepped off his line, allowing Wilfried Zaha to net. 

"It was a bit crazy," reflected De Gea. "It is already difficult to save a penalty. 

"Even if you make the save and they repeat the penalty then they can change the taker so there is no pressure on the player who missed the penalty - it's a little bit strange. 

"Those are the rules though and I try to save the next penalty straight from the line, that's the football rules." 

He added: "It's true the first game wasn’t the best game for us. It was a strange time after last season not having enough time to rest properly but it's the same for all teams. 

"It's time to start winning games. Last season we finished really, really strong, so we need to try to play as we did in the last 10 games. This is the way we need to be and playing our best football. 

"Now it's time to be back to winning ways and winning trophies, that's the most important thing for us at the moment. We have to go for trophies."

Neville Southall believes Kepa Arrizabalaga and David de Gea could learn valuable lessons from world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

Chelsea made Kepa the world's most expensive goalkeeper in 2018 but he made the latest in a number of errors as the Blues went down 2-0 to Premier League champions Liverpool on Sunday.

He is now set to be replaced as Chelsea's number one, with Rennes keeper Edouard Mendy reportedly close to a £22million (€24m) move to Stamford Bridge.

Manchester United goalkeeper De Gea, meanwhile, has endured several difficult campaigns and is under additional pressure to retain his place between the posts following Dean Henderson's return from a fine loan spell with Sheffield United.

Southall, who helped Everton to two league titles, two FA Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup success during a 17-year stint at Goodison Park, pointed out boxer Joshua – who was knocked out by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 but reclaimed his belts six months later – as having the type of mentality top goalkeepers require.

"When you're an experienced goalkeeper, you have a track record that everybody judges you against," Southall told Stats Perform News.

"De Gea's suffered from that, most people do when you get to a certain age, which is weird because you've already proved you can do it.

"De Gea's proved he can be close to being the best in the world, but everybody doubts his ability, which for me doesn't make sense.

"It's like Anthony Joshua proving he's the best heavyweight in the world, because he's got the belts, and then losing one fight.

"Yes, the defeat spoils things for a bit but he won it back. I think there's a lesson in Anthony Joshua for all of those goalies – you might get a knockout blow, but you get back on your feet and you go and smash the rest of the world."

When asked for his thoughts on Kepa's predicament at Chelsea, Southall said: "Footballers are the prime ministers of the football world, aren't they? Everybody hates you or everybody loves you, depending on what you do for them.

"Like a prime minister you live and die on your decisions. Sometimes you make good ones and sometimes they're bad. The best goalkeepers make the least bad decisions. 

"Kepa, he's young. It's a learning process for him, maybe this season he might do a little better. [Frank] Lampard maybe doesn't seem to rate him that much, but he's obviously got talent.

"He's got to believe in himself and get better. If you're having a bad time, the only thing is to relax, know what you've done wrong and change it. There's no easy fix, it's about confidence.

"If you're not having the best of times and the manager isn't picking you, it's a double blow, but you've got to think what you really want. Do you want to show them that you're better, what you're really like? Chelsea haven't got an exceptional goalkeeper at the moment. For me, I'd give him another season."

The Premier League is in full swing after its second weekend of the 2020-21 season. How did we do without it for… about a month?

While fans remain barred from joining the players in the stadiums – which could yet be the case for much of the season – supporters are at least being treated to plenty of entertainment on TV.

The action certainly picked up where it left off from the previous week, as Saturday provided us with 21 goals across four matches, and that was followed by another 18 in Sunday's four – that's an average of nearly five per game.

Among those goals we saw James 'not Premier League proven' Rodriguez continue to impress and open his account for Everton, Wilfried Zaha down Manchester United and Son Heung-min score four, with each one set up by Harry Kane, remarkably.

An enthralling weekend brought about plenty of talking points and stats – read on for some of the quirkiest facts we could find with the help of Opta.

JAMES FINDS HIS RANGE

From the moment James arrived on Merseyside, the Colombian looked destined to provide plenty of excitement for Carlo Ancelotti's men.

His lovely 20-yard strike into the bottom-right corner during the Toffees' 5-2 win over West Brom meant 18 of his 53 goals scored in Europe's top five leagues have been from outside the penalty area. That's 34 per cent.

A fine record, though it's some way off the Premier League's deadliest from distance. Tom Huddlestone (10 of 12) has scored the greatest proportion of his top-flight goals (83.3 per cent) from outside the area among players to have reached double digits, while Frank Lampard (41) has the largest total.

 

DE GEA'S PENALTY WOES

When Zaha stepped up to a 74th-minute penalty in the hope of making it 2-0 to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, few will have been banking on David de Gea's chances of making a save – not because the Palace star is great from the spot, but because of the Spaniard's shocking record in such scenarios.

Stopping a penalty is obviously tough, that's literally the point, but, after conceding Zaha's, De Gea has saved just 7.1 per cent (two of 28), with Paul Robinson (three from 49 for 6.1 per cent) the only goalkeeper to have a worse record among those who've faced 25 or more in the Premier League.

By contrast, Simon Mignolet faced the same number as De Gea but produced six more saves, giving him a 28.6 per cent save rate.

 

AWAY DAYS IN 'GOD'S OWN COUNTRY'

Yorkshire, or 'God's own country' as it is playfully dubbed by locals, is usually renowned for being friendly and welcoming – but perhaps less so when football's involved.

The omens weren't great for Fulham ahead of Saturday's trip to Leeds United, and as it happened they lost 4-3 in a belting contest, meaning they have lost eight successive Premier League matches away to Yorkshire clubs since their first – a 1-0 win at Elland Road in 2002.

Of clubs from outside the region, only Oldham Athletic (0) have a worse points-per-game record than Fulham (0.33). Newcastle United boast the best record of teams to have played more than 10 matches in Yorkshire, winning 1.76 points on average across their 29 games.

In a blow to religion fans everywhere, the Red Devils also tend to do pretty well in 'God's own country' - United have averaged 1.68 points in their 34 Yorkshire away days, losing just nine.

 

KNOWING ME, KNOWING UNITED (ZAHA)

Zaha had the decisive impact against his former club United on Saturday, with his brace effectively the difference in the 3-1 win Palace deservedly clinched.

Not only were they his first goal involvements against United in the league, he became the first player to net a brace against the Red Devils having previously represented them in the competition.

Zaha is now the joint-most prolific former United player in games against them, having drawn level with Fraizer Campbell, Keith Gillespie, Mark Hughes, Paul Ince and Danny Welbeck on two goals.

JAMAL LEWSES

Although Jamal Lewis impressed for Norwich City as they were relegated last season, he became rather familiar with home Premier League defeats and that has continued since moving to Newcastle.

A 3-0 loss to visitors Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday means Lewis has lost 12 of his 16 home matches in the top-flight – that's 75 per cent, and a joint-record for players with at least 15 home games played in the Premier League.

Kevin Kyle (20 games, 15 defeats) is other player with a 75 per cent losing rate, while Tommy Miller (18 games, 13 defeats – 72.2 per cent), Bruce Dyer (21 games, 15 defeats – 71.4 per cent) and Terence Kongolo (23 games, 16 defeats – 69.6 per cent) round out the bottom five.

David de Gea got the nod over Dean Henderson for Manchester United's Premier League opener against Crystal Palace as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer backed his regular number one goalkeeper.

The battle to start in goal for United intensified when Henderson returned from a successful loan spell at Sheffield United.

His form for the Blades earned Henderson an England call-up and cast doubt on whether De Gea, after a number of costly errors, should remain as Solskjaer's first choice this season.

The 29-year-old De Gea, who joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2011, has been given the chance to show he deserves to keep the starting role.

United's paucity of close-season signings was reflected in their starting XI for the clash with Roy Hodgson's Palace.

There were no new faces in the home XI, although midfielder recruit Donny van de Beek was a substitute after his arrival from Ajax.

Mason Greenwood was also a substitute, with Daniel James surprisingly chosen ahead of the 18-year-old England international, whose off-field behaviour has faced scrutiny in the past fortnight.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka began on the bench too, last season's regular right-back lacking in match fitness as his slot went to Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial started, while Harry Maguire captained the Red Devils, keeping the role despite his arrest and court case in Greece during the between-season break.

Wilfried Zaha was selected as captain for Palace against his former club.

Lionel Messi has retained his place at the top of Forbes' list of highest-paid footballers after earning $126million over the past year, with Cristiano Ronaldo closely behind him in second. 

The Barcelona superstar sent shockwaves through world football last month when he told the club he has spent his entire career at he wanted to leave after a trophyless campaign in 2019-20.

Messi believed he could use a clause in his contract to leave for free, but Barca and LaLiga disputed that claim and insisted his deal could only be terminated should his €700m release clause be paid.

Amid frustration with the Camp Nou board, Messi performed a U-turn and elected to stay with the embattled LaLiga giants for at least the 2020-21 campaign.

He does so as the highest paid footballer in the world after earning $126million in salary and endorsements over the past 12 months.

His long-time rival Ronaldo is second on the list after bringing in earnings of $117m. 

Paris Saint-Germain stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are third and fourth respectively, with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah in fifth place.

Making up the rest of the top 10 are French World Cup winners Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.

 

Forbes' top 10 highest-paid footballers:

1. Lionel Messi - $126m
2. Cristiano Ronaldo - $117m
3. Neymar - $96m
4. Kylian Mbappe - $42m
5. Mohamed Salah - $37m
6. Paul Pogba - $34m
7. Antoine Griezmann - $33m
8. Gareth Bale - $29m
9. Robert Lewandowski - $28m
10. David De Gea - $27m

Luis Enrique demanded plaudits for David de Gea after the Spain goalkeeper's brilliant display during Thursday's 1-1 Nations League draw against Germany in Stuttgart.

Jose Gaya pounced deep into stoppage time to snatch a point at the Mercedes-Benz Arena after an excellent Timo Werner goal gave the hosts a 51st-minute lead.

But Manchester United goalkeeper De Gea was arguably the key to Luis Enrique's men taking a share of the spoils.

De Gea made sharp first-half saves to thwart Thilo Kehrer, Julian Draxler and Leroy Sane, while he also denied Niklas Sule at close quarters as the game moved towards its conclusion.

A string of errors for United saw the 29-year-old end the 2019-20 season at a low ebb, but Luis Enrique believes De Gea and Spain understudy Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has endured a tough time at Chelsea, have been unfairly singled out for criticism.

"He [De Gea] has played a lot of games like this in England," the Spain boss told reporters afterwards.

"We monitor him exhaustively, but he and Kepa are in the news if they make a mistake. They're used to it.

"With the game he's played we should be saying what a great goalkeeper we have.

"I'll encourage them to not fall apart and it's a position that I demand a lot from.

"But because the press give them such a hard time, I treat them more affectionately.

"They both know that their mistakes are more noticeable than those of other players, but they're used to it."

Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati became the second youngest full international in Spain's history when he came on at half-time.

Mikel Merino and Oscar Rodriguez also won their first caps from the bench, while Ferran Torres completed the whole game on his debut and the Manchester City winger's cross led to Gaya's equaliser.

"Ansu had a resounding debut," Luis Enrique added.

"There are players taking their first steps with the team and they worked well.

"They're going to play a lot more minutes. It's nice to see that people really want it."

Wolves winger Adama Traore is in line to become Luis Enrique's next debutant after he was cleared to play in Sunday's game against Ukraine, having passed medical tests following a positive test for coronavirus.

Dean Henderson warned David de Gea he was targeting his starting spot at Manchester United.

After impressing on loan at Sheffield United last season, Henderson has returned to Old Trafford and signed a five-year deal last month.

The 23-year-old, who is yet to make a senior appearance for Manchester United, started 36 games in the Premier League in 2019-20.

And Henderson said he was eager to make his mark for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, with De Gea having come under fire last season after several mistakes.

"David de Gea has been a great goalkeeper first and foremost for many years. He's been phenomenal," the shot-stopper told UK newspapers.

"That’s something I aspire to be, to have a career like him at the club, so I'll be going back in first day of the pre-season working my bollocks off to get in that starting line-up because it's something I've always wanted.

"I'm so close now so I'm not going to give up. I'm going to put the pressure on. I respect David, he's been a phenomenal servant for the football club and if not one of the best in recent years. It's down to me. I know what challenges are ahead. I'm well up for it."

Henderson has been on loan at Stockport County, Grimsby Town, Shrewsbury Town and Sheffield United in recent seasons.

But his performances in the Premier League last season suggested he could replace De Gea, and Henderson knows he needs to continue playing.

"I'm under no illusions that I'm going to improve just sat on the bench," he said.

"I need that game time."

Manchester United are set to begin their Premier League season against Crystal Palace on September 19.

Jesper Olsen believes Manchester United should continue to pursue a deal for Jadon Sancho as he hailed the quality of the Borussia Dortmund star.

United have been strongly linked with a move for Dortmund and England sensation Sancho, though his club have repeatedly insisted the 20-year-old will not be sold ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Sancho established himself as one of the hottest properties in European football last term after scoring 17 goals and supplying 16 assists for Bundesliga runners-up Dortmund, prompting links to the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool and Barcelona.

As United reportedly continue to try to negotiate with Dortmund – who remain unmoved on their £108million (€120m) valuation – former Red Devils winger Olsen told Stats Perform News: "It's always difficult because you see somebody and you like what you see and you would like them to play for your team. You have to come up with the money and after that, it's only when it begins because you want them to perform.

"If you can get somebody of that class and they want to come to United, of course you pursue it to the end. I've always tended to watch a lot of German and English football, but when you look at the likes of Bayern Munich and the way they perform, you know it's going to be very hard.

"You have incredible teams at the top of Europe, so you have to have bigger squads. Any player of that calibre that can add something to the squad, of course you look for that."

While a blockbuster deal to bring Sancho to Old Trafford is proving difficult, United are poised to sign star Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is determined to bolster his squad after leading United to a third-placed finish in the Premier League last season and Champions League qualification.

United enjoyed a 14-match unbeaten streak in the league as they secured a spot in the top four, while Solskjaer's side also reached the semi-finals of the Europa League, FA Cup and EFL Cup.

"Overall, it's fantastic for Manchester United but also Ole Gunnar Solskjaer," Olsen, who won the FA Cup during his four years at United, said. "All the flack that he got for a long, long time as you do when you manage United and not doing well. But you go back to [Alex] Ferguson's era, and it takes time to build up and get the players you want, the team playing the way you want. Sadly nowadays, you don't always have the time.

"We know how difficult it is to win anything in any sport around the world. Everybody says yeah we should win, but it is so tough to win anything, even getting into the semi-finals and final. To actually win something is not easy.

"I'm happy to see them play well. They were really getting into top gear at the end of the season. For Solskjaer too, he is a good guy. He is calm and collected and I think he is the right man for sure."

Bruno Fernandes played a key role in United's resurgence following his January arrival from Sporting CP – the Portuguese midfielder scoring eight goals and supplying seven assists in the Premier League.

Fernandes also managed 12 goals across all competitions as United featured in three semi-finals in 2019-20.

"He has shown, with the way he plays – simple and effective, and just makes things happen. This is what we need. He also has a good engine," former Ajax and Denmark star Olsen said.

"He's settled down some of the younger players too. Daniel James wasn't involved so much at the end of the season but then we look at [Mason] Greenwood. That's what we call exciting players. This is what you want to see."

Doubts over David de Gea's long-term position also emerged during the season, highlighted by his errors in the FA semi-final loss to Chelsea behind closed doors at Wembley amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think defensively, they made mistakes at the back. Sometimes it looked a bit like the goalkeeper De Gea and the defenders didn't fully understand each other but that happens in a lot of teams. For a long, long time we played structured with a strong defence," Olsen continued. "But suddenly, a part of the season something seems to go a bit – tiredness or playing in front of empty stadiums I don't know but certainly there were some things that could be avoided.

"That happens throughout the season. I think Barcelona are going to look back against Bayern and think it was like they weren't there. For everybody, even though we say thank God they can play and finish the season, but there's so many external things that happen to players with families. Not only around themselves but family abroad. It must be a worrying time, like for all of us, for them too. And then have to go and perform and kind of say, let's forget about that even though I think they're happy they can still play because it takes away mentally some of the other things. It must be the biggest nightmare for all of us, but also to go perform in empty stadiums, it makes no sense. We have to kind of allow them to have made a few mistakes given how the world is at the moment."

United finished 33 points behind bitter rivals and champions Liverpool last term but Olsen feels the Manchester club – who have not won the league since Alex Ferguson's final campaign in 2012-13 – can challenge in 2020-21.

"This season, I thought City were going to win the league again because when you look at Pep [Guardiola]'s record. It shows, there's some games and some part of the season that you don't always perform well. Then you have the added pressure of the Champions League, which is really, really important," Olsen added. "For status but money-wise. There's a lot around the Champions League these days and that's where the bigger clubs want to be. All the excitement of playing against the best in Europe.

"I think Manchester United, certainly with Champions League qualification, can test themselves. I think anyone that goes to Old Trafford, it will be hard to win there. If you can go away now, have a settled team, a structure and play how you want to play, then I think they have as much chance as anyone else to win the Premier League and go far in the Champions League for sure."

England manager Gareth Southgate has backed Dean Henderson to remain at Manchester United and challenge David de Gea for the number one goalkeeping role.

Henderson has returned to Old Trafford after impressing on loan at Sheffield United last season, his exploits earning a new five-year contract in Manchester.

The 23-year-old, who has been included in Southgate's squad for England's Nations League fixtures against Iceland and Denmark, is in line to compete with United star De Gea for starting honours.

Southgate feels the time is right for Henderson to challenge himself at the Theatre of Dreams following two successful seasons with Sheffield United.

"I think it's an opportunity for him really, " Southgate said. "Of course, he could take another season out and gain another year of Premier League experience but at his age as a goalkeeper you can't just think about the international situation. 

"You are building a career and here's an opportunity to challenge for the shirt at Manchester United if they are asking him to stay in the building.

"If I was him and I had the chance to push to be the Manchester United number one, then I'd make the same decision he has. He's got the chance to train every day in front of the manager, to influence him and put David de Gea under pressure for his place.

"I think for his career it's a logical decision given the number of matches United will have next season."

Southgate's England will face Iceland on September 5 before clashing with Denmark three days later in a Group A2 doubleheader in the 2020-21 Nations League.

England have not played since their 4-0 rout of Kosovo in November due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchester United star David de Gea said he trusts in himself to continue as the club's number one goalkeeper amid question marks over his future.

De Gea's position has been criticised in 2019-20 amid his inconsistent form, highlighted by his errors in United's FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea at Wembley last month.

Dean Henderson's form during his loan spell at Sheffield United, meanwhile, has prompted calls for the Englishman to return to Old Trafford and challenge De Gea for the starting role.

But De Gea, who has won the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011, is confident in his ability to perform for United.

"I trust in myself," De Gea – contracted to United until at least June 2023 – said. "I showed my qualities all the years, so I just keep available for the manager.

"I'm always ready to play and try to help the team as always -- as I did always."

United's season came to a disappointing end on Sunday after suffering a late 2-1 loss to Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals.

It was United's third semi-final defeat of the season following their final-four losses in the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United, meanwhile, managed to finish third in the Premier League, qualifying for the Champions League in the process.

"I think we improved this season," Spain international De Ge said. "We were 14 points behind the third position in the Premier League but we finished third at the end.

"We deserve to be in the final [of the Europa League], if we are honest. But maybe we need a bit of experience, more experience on the team, but we have to score the chances. I think we are playing very good football, attacking football.

"Let's keep improving, let's keep fighting for this club and let's try to win trophies next season."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would love to see Paul Pogba lift the Europa League again with Manchester United after sensing the Frenchman is fully committed to the cause.

The United boss has decisions to make in a host of areas and admits it is hard to see how senior goalkeepers David de Gea, Sergio Romero and Dean Henderson can all stay with the club.

But Pogba's status with United has shifted so considerably that Solskjaer knows he can rely on the French midfielder heading into Monday's quarter-final against Copenhagen.

There were previously question marks over the World Cup winner's interest in staying with United, but Pogba has once again become a central figure for his manager.

"We're delighted he's back playing, he's fit and he's enjoying his football," Solskjaer said.

"He's got to make up for lost time and he's trying to do that. He's training extra, he's always a great personality in and around the place.

"Hopefully we can see him lift this trophy that he's done before."

Pogba was in the United side that beat Ajax to win the 2016-17 Europa League, and next season a Champions League campaign awaits.

It remains to be seen which goalkeepers will remain at United for the 2020-21 season, and even to which one Solskjaer will turn for the Europa League games that bring the campaign to a close.

Romero and De Gea await the manager's verdict, with Solskjaer saying it was "a nice problem to have".

Henderson is waiting in the wings potentially for next season after showing stellar form while on loan at Sheffield United.

"We have Dean, Sergio and David at the moment in the ranks and Lee [Grant], the fantastic pro that he is, he's backing them up," Solskjaer told a news conference.

"It'll be difficult to keep three of them at the club so we'll see what the decision will be there."

Solskjaer was speaking in Cologne, where United's remaining games in Europe will take place this season.

He spoke in glowing terms of the progress made by Anthony Martial, saying the French forward has "made huge strides" and is "physically at the best level in his career".

Solskjaer also addressed the prospect of playing behind closed doors when there are such high stakes at play, expressing his regret that the pandemic has made such steps necessary.

"I think it is strange and it's not football as it should be," Solskjaer said.

"That little bit of passion and that edge to the game is missing because the fans have got to be there.

"But I have to commend my players. They've handled the situation really well and I know our fans can't want to get back to Old Trafford to support us.

"We have to make the most of this Europa League now - hopefully get as far as we can so they're looking forward even more to seeing the players."

Could Kasper Schmeichel follow in his father's footsteps?

Peter Schmeichel earned legendary status at Manchester United after winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League during his time at the club.

Now, Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper is being linked with a sensational move to the Theatre of Dreams.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED CONSIDER SCHMEICHEL MOVE

Manchester United are lining up a transfer swoop for Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to replace David de Gea, according to The Sun.

De Gea's position at United has come under threat following a slump in form for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, despite being contracted until 2023.

There have been calls for Dean Henderson, who has spent time on loan at Sheffield United, to return Old Trafford, however, Kasper – the son of Red Devils legend Peter – is reportedly seen as the perfect ready-made option.

 

ROUND-UP

Paris Saint-Germain are preparing a bid for Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara, says Le10Sport. Thiago has been tipped to join Premier League champions Liverpool, however, Ligue 1 holders PSG are believed to be in the mix for his signature.

- TF1 reports United have made contact with Monaco about a potential move for 19-year-old centre-back Benoit Badiashile, who has also been linked to Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona have ruled out a swap deal that would see Ivan Rakitic move to Juventus in exchange for Rodrigo Bentancur.

Milan have opened talks with Tottenham over the signing of right-back Serge Aurier, reports Sky Sport journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Juve are willing to offer Federico Bernardeschi and Cristian Romero to Serie A rivals Roma as part of a deal to sign Italian star Nicolo Zaniolo, claims SportMediaset. Zaniolo has also been linked to Madrid, Tottenham and former club Inter.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is willing to wait for a Madrid move until 2021-22, Marca claims. The 17-year-old has been heavily linked to the LaLiga champions as well as PSG.

Manchester United will need to have "a serious think" about the future of David de Gea, former Red Devils goalkeeper Mark Bosnich says.

De Gea's place in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side came back under scrutiny following a poor performance in the 3-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea.

The United manager kept faith with the Spain international and he kept a clean sheet in the 2-0 win over Leicester City on the last day of the Premier League season, which secured the Red Devils' top-four finish.

De Gea has been named United's player of the year four times in six seasons but a worrying number of mistakes have crept into his game over the past two years.

Indeed, since the start of 2018-19, he has made seven errors leading to goals in the Premier League – only Martin Dubravka and Jordan Pickford (eight) have committed more.

Bosnich, a league champion with United in 1999-2000, is backing De Gea to recapture some of his best form but thinks United must give serious consideration to the future of Dean Henderson or the prospect of bringing a younger keeper through to compete with their number one.

"I do believe [he will prove himself again], he's been outstanding for such a long time," Bosnich told Sky Sports News.

"Obviously, when you start making mistakes as he has done in the last six to 12 months, people start opening their eyes and because it has happened in certain situations which have cost Manchester United – for example, the FA Cup semi-final – people start asking questions.

"Also, having someone like Dean Henderson playing so well at Sheffield United [on loan], and being on Manchester United's books, it is only natural that people are going to ask if he is up to it.

"The people who truly know that will be Ole and his staff. They see him day in, day out, they made a decision to go with him even after the FA Cup debacle.

"He proved them correct, they qualified for the Champions League but going forward they really need to have a serious think about this.

"Even if they do decide to stay with him, which I believe that they will, and if Dean Henderson wants to stay out on loan, which is understandable to play first-team football, I would seriously consider bringing in a really young up and coming goalkeeper.

"When I say young, I would say less than 20 years of age because he [De Gea] is obviously not getting the competition he needs right now at this moment in time."

Bosnich thinks part of De Gea's drop in standards has been born out of a technical flaw in his methods, which has affected him mentally.

"The problem has gone from being a technical problem, which was quite evident when he was diving backwards, which he was doing a lot, and that started to infiltrate into his head," he said.

"He has to make sure in this time off to make sure he gets that right and I believe he will be given that opportunity to reassert his authority in that number one position but it will be up to him to do so."

Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel leapt to the defence of Manchester United counterpart David de Gea amid mounting criticism of the Spain star.

De Gea's position as number one goalkeeper at Premier League giants United has once again been thrust into the spotlight following his inconsistent performances in 2019-20.

Calls for highly rated English keeper Dean Henderson – on loan at Sheffield United – to be recalled have grown louder following De Gea's nightmare display against Chelsea in last week's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

De Gea failed to keep out Olivier Giroud's close-range effort before he was beaten with embarrassing ease following Mason Mount's speculative long-range effort in Chelsea's 3-1 triumph, though the long-serving keeper retained his place in Wednesday's 1-1 Premier League draw against West Ham.

As United – third in the table – prepare for Sunday's blockbuster final-day trip to fifth-placed Leicester, which will determine who qualifies for next season's Champions League, Schmeichel backed De Gea.

"It can be very difficult and you've got to remember, and this is with absolutely no disrespect to journalists or pundits, but you've actually never stood in that goal," Schmeichel told Sky Sports.

"You would classify things as mistakes or errors, and there are things that are glaring sometimes, but often this narrative can be created around a goalkeeper because it's the pundits' and journalists' job to educate and that's their job.

"They're telling their educated opinions about goalkeeping, things like hand positions, feet positions, technical things which sometimes is quite damaging to a goalkeeper.

"You hear comments like, 'going with the wrong hand', or other throw away things that they'll say which will make the consumer or viewer think, 'oh yeah, that's right, I see he's done it again'.

"That's sometimes quite a dangerous narrative because all of a sudden it starts building momentum and for someone like David, I really feel for him because he has been unbelievable for so many years and every goalkeeper goes through periods [of poor form].

"There is a lot of pressure also in the sense that you now have an England goalkeeper coming through and, like it or not, in this country when you have an English goalkeeper, that means so much and they really do tend to build them up.

"I genuinely hope for someone like Dean Henderson, who's had an amazing season, that he can be allowed to develop. I hope for him, he gets another season, maybe two at Sheffield United and play the way he's done and then he'll be ready.

"But for now, David de Gea is still a world-class goalkeeper. It's a lonely position and those are the margins you play in as a goalkeeper – you simply cannot make mistakes because you will be punished.

"So the difference between goalkeepers and outfielders is the little, tiny, minute details which are the difference and when they go against you, they are really glaring and they will be spotted.

"Outfielders don't have to have the same mentality and they say we're crazy, which we are because we're the only ones who dare to take the responsibility because if outfielders took that kind of responsibility, we'd have some unbelievable players everywhere."

De Gea, who joined United from Atletico Madrid in 2011, surpassed Peter Schmeichel – Kasper's father – to become the overseas player with the most appearances for the Red Devils earlier this month.

United are third in the Premier League after 37 rounds, level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea and a point clear of Leicester.

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