Sevilla defender Jules Kounde admitted he could leave the LaLiga side in the off-season amid links with Manchester United.

Kounde has emerged as one of the most sought-after centre-backs in the transfer market after countryman Dayot Upamecano joined Bayern Munich and Ibrahima Konate agreed to swap RB Leipzig for Liverpool.

United have long been linked with a move for Kounde, who helped Sevilla to a fourth-placed finish in LaLiga this term, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Premier League giants reportedly eye a new partner for Harry Maguire.

The 22-year-old France international – also a reported target for the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Arsenal – said he wants to win trophies.

"Regarding my future, I may change this summer," Kounde told reporters as France prepare for Wednesday's international friendly against Wales, ahead of the upcoming Euro 2020.

"Nothing is for sure yet, I did not take a final decision.

"Obviously, my goal is to play one day in one of the greatest clubs to keep improving and to win trophies.

"Starting every year the season knowing that the goal is to win this or this trophy. I may move but for now, it is not the case."

United already boast captain Maguire – the most expensive defender in history – Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in defence, while Axel Tuanzebe has struggled for regular game time.

When comparing Kounde to Maguire, Lindelof and Bailly across domestic league action in 2020-21, the former ranks first in passing accuracy (90.11 per cent) and clean sheets (15).

Kounde is only second to Maguire in tackles (27 to 29), tackle success (55.6 to 58.6 per cent), interceptions (40 to 60), clearances (100 to 122), recoveries (100 to 122), duel success (60.7 to 65.7 per cent) and aerials won (102 to 135).

Eric Bailly has warned Manchester United he will only remain at Old Trafford as long as he is a first-team regular, despite last month signing a contract extension.

The centre-back's new deal keeps him at United until 2024, when his previous contract had been set to expire at the end of next season.

But Bailly suggests that agreement will count for little if he remains on the fringes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team.

The ex-Villarreal defender, who hopes to face his former club in Wednesday's Europa League final, has featured in only 20 (33.3 per cent) of United's 60 games in all competitions so far this season, ranking 19th in the Red Devils squad.

And that mark is roughly par for Bailly's United career, having appeared in only 105 (35.7 per cent) and started just 92 (31.3 per cent) of the 294 matches the club have played since his 2016 signings.

Injuries have played their part, with knee and groin issues keeping the player out for extended periods over the past five years, but he has been an unused substitute 18 times this term alone.

This season's 1,590 minutes are Bailly's most since his debut campaign in England (3,230) but still trail Harry Maguire (4,653) and Victor Lindelof (3,908) by some distance.

"Competition is always good to improve," Bailly told The Times. "I just say that I want to stay in case I get the chance to play.

"I don't want to be a starter one game and a substitute for another five.

"If that happens, I will have to look for another solution. The new contract is fine but if I don't play I will be open to listen to other proposals."

Only 39 of Bailly's United outings have come since Solskjaer was appointed in December 2018, in which time the 20-time English champions have played 150 times.

But the defender, who has therefore featured in just 26.0 per cent of the manager's games, was encouraged by discussions prior to signing the contract extension.

"I spoke to him and he told me he wanted me to stay," Bailly added.

"The most important thing was not the renewal but the conversation we had: we sat down, we talked and he told me what he wanted from me and that he wanted me to continue."

Manchester United ended the Premier League season without losing an away match as they beat Wolves 2-1 at Molineux on the final day.

With one eye on next week's Europa League final and with second place in the table secure, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer rested the majority of his key players against a Wolves side playing under coach Nuno Espirito Santo for the final time.

Anthony Elanga marked his second Premier League start with the opening goal, but Nelson Semedo equalised for the home side to the delight of the reduced-capacity crowd.

Juan Mata, perhaps playing his final league game for the club, restored United's lead from the penalty spot deep into first-half injury time.

It proved enough for the Red Devils, who also handed a first-team debut to youngster Hannibal Mejbri as a late substitute.

Elanga's control and shooting had let him down with two early opportunities, but he made no mistake with his third, planting a firm header past Rui Patricio from a superb left-foot cross from Daniel James.

Wolves, who lost the lively Adama Traore to an apparent hamstring problem, levelled six minutes before the break after exploiting the United left. Nemanja Matic's slip allowed Leander Dendoncker to play in Fabio Silva, who cut the ball back for Semedo to sweep into the bottom-left corner.

Brandon Williams had an unlikely chance to restore United's lead but Patricio saved well at the near post from the full-back's effort.

However, the visitors got their second goal before the interval, Mata sending Patricio the wrong way from the penalty spot after a VAR check showed Romain Saiss had caught the ankle of Donny van de Beek.

Wolves enjoyed the majority of the second-half possession but struggled to muster attempts on Dean Henderson's goal, with Silva denied a good chance by the covering Axel Tuanzebe after Eric Bailly's error.

Elanga and Amad Diallo threatened on the break late on but Patricio was on hand to keep the difference to one goal.


What does it mean? United complete 2020-21 unbeaten on the road

United are just the fourth team to go an entire English top-flight season without losing an away match, after Preston North End (1888-89), Arsenal (2001-02) and Arsenal again (2003-04).

They end the season second, their highest finish since 2017-18, although the 12-point gap to champions Manchester City shows their need to strengthen before next term. Wolves end the campaign in 13th, with 45 points.

Elanga makes his mark

Elanga is the 19th teenager to score in the Premier League for United, a tally bettered only by Arsenal (20).

The 19-year-old may not be involved against Villarreal, but he has made significant strides into the first-team picture in recent weeks and could prove a reliable option for Solskjaer in 2021-22.

Bailly a concern ahead of Europa League final

With Harry Maguire unlikely to be fit, it is expected Bailly will partner Victor Lindelof against Villarreal next week.

However, the Ivorian's performance was far from steady here and he needed his young centre-back partner Tuanzebe to spare his blushes.

What's next?

While Wolves now look ahead to a new season with a new man in charge, United have three days to prepare for the Europa League final in Gdansk.

Manchester United secured a place in the Europa League final with an 8-5 aggregate victory over Roma coming after a 3-2 defeat in Thursday's second leg.

Despite United's commanding lead from the first leg, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fielded a strong side in the Italian capital and was rewarded when Edinson Cavani opened the scoring in the first half.

Edin Dzeko, who also scored at Old Trafford, nodded in an equaliser and Bryan Cristante struck soon after to give Roma some slender hope of a famous turnaround, with David de Gea making 10 saves in total to keep the scoreline down.

Cavani headed in a second midway through the second half to ease some of the nerves for United, who will face Villarreal in what will be their first cup final since Solskjaer took over from Mourinho back in December 2018, despite Nicola Zalewski's late winner on the day.

De Gea made a brilliant close-range stop from the returning Gianluca Mancini after only four minutes, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan nodded wide at the far post from a corner shortly afterwards.

Cavani sent a lob over Antonio Cristante's goal and then fired a powerful effort straight at the keeper after being put through by Bruno Fernandes' clever pass.

Roma saw Lorenzo Pellegrini thwarted at close range by De Gea as they continued to push for a lifeline in the tie, but United struck with their next chance six minutes before the break.

Fernandes and Fred combined well, the latter slipped the ball to Cavani and the striker smashed a finish past Mirante from the edge of the box.

Roma, to their credit, continued to play positively and drew level in the match 57 minutes in, Dzeko heading the ball home after Pedro had scuffed a half-volley across goal.

Three minutes later, and Roma had the lead, Cristante firing a superb first-time shot past De Gea after Fred was dispossessed on the edge of the United box.

Dzeko fired straight at De Gea from point-blank range as Roma suddenly sensed United were there to be attacked, but Cavani ghosted in behind Mancini to head in Fernandes' cross from the left and make sure of his side's place in the final in Gdansk on May 26.

Zalewski struck a third for Roma on 83 minutes, his volley deflecting through De Gea's legs, but it was not enough for the Giallorossi.

Eric Bailly has signed a new contract to keep him at Manchester United until at least June 2024.

Bailly's previous deal was deal was due to expire at the end of next season, but the 27-year-old defender has agreed terms to extend his stay.

The Ivory Coast centre-back, who has the option of a further 12-month extension on his new contract, has made only 15 appearances in another injury-hit season for United and is eager to but those troubles behind him.

"I'm very happy. This decision is something I didn't have to think about, I love this club and I love playing for Manchester United," Bailly said.

"I'm happy and so are my family, everything is good. Now the moment with my injury has passed and I'm fit and feel good, and that's it. A new contract is like a new challenge and I'm ready for this."

Jose Mourinho has been out of work less than 48 hours but speculation of his next job is already mounting.

The Portuguese has already declared he is "ready to go again", despite a sizeable pay-out from Tottenham.

Tottenham sacked Mourinho on Monday with Spurs sitting seventh in the Premier League.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO ENTERS CELTIC COACHING RACE

Mourinho is in the mix to be the new coach of Scottish powerhouse Celtic according to The Sun.

Former Bournemouth coach Eddie Howe is the favourite to be appointed Neil Lennon's replacement at Celtic Park.

But 'The Special One' is in contention, despite his hefty wage demands and line of suitors.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich's David Alaba has agreed a five-year deal with Real Madrid with the contract to be signed in the coming weeks according to Sky Sports.

- Departing Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero has been offered a two-year contract by Barcelona according to TyC Sports.

- Football Insider reports Aston Villa may enter the race for Jesse Lingard who has enjoyed a super loan spell at West Ham United from Manchester United.

- Manchester United defender Eric Bailly is wanted by Spanish LaLiga club Real Betis claims The Sun.

- Julian Draxler is ready to leave PSG with a return to his homeland to join Bayern Munich his preference reports Foot Mercato.

Manchester United are in talks with Eric Bailly over a new contract, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed.

The centre-back, who played in his 100th game in all competitions for the Red Devils as they drew 1-1 with Milan in the Europa League last-16 first leg on Thursday, sees his deal expire next year.

Bailly joined for a reported £30million from Villarreal in 2016, making him the club's first signing under Jose Mourinho, but persistent injury troubles mean he has started just 27 league matches in the past four seasons.

The Ivory Coast international, who turns 27 next month, has largely impressed when called upon this season, with United keeping eight clean sheets and conceding 12 goals in the 15 matches Bailly has played.

Indeed, since his debut in August 2016, United have won 65 per cent of matches with Bailly in the starting line-up compared with 53 per cent without him. They have also averaged more points per game (2.1 compared to 1.8) and fewer goals against (0.8 compared to 1.0).

Solskjaer is expected to pursue the signing of a new central defender in the transfer window but he appears keen to keep Bailly at the club regardless of potential incomings.

"We've started talking to Eric and Eric's representatives," Solskjaer said. "Eric's been keeping fitter for longer and you can see Eric's performances as well. I've been very happy with him.

"His playing style has sometimes made him lose too many games because 100 games is not enough for the period he's been here. He's getting more and more robust, so he's one we're talking to."

United host West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday hoping to build on last weekend's 2-0 derby win at Manchester City, while also moving nine points ahead of David Moyes' side in fifth.

While he accepts the gap to league leaders City is perhaps too big to bridge - Pep Guardiola's men are 14 points clear, having played a game more - Solskjaer is keen to strengthen the grip on second spot.

He is also happy not to have to face in-form Jesse Lingard, who has impressed on loan at the Hammers since his January move but is ineligible to play against his parent club.

Solskjaer said: "For Jesse, it's really worked out; for David [Moyes], it's really worked out. And for us as a club as well, because we know that Jesse's position is a 10 and we've got Bruno [Fernandes] there.

"For me, it was a no-brainer to get Jesse the chance to prove himself and play some football again. He's really been bright for them. He's finding back to himself.

"I think they've been brilliant. We played them in the FA Cup not long ago as well. We went to extra time, it was a tight, even game, he's got players who score goals, creative, defend really well, really difficult on set-plays, and David's done a tremendous job that we know he's capable of.

"We're very happy for him and we know this is a big game for us. It's maybe too far ahead to City, so we need to consolidate our place in the top two or three, hopefully."

United have something of an injury crisis for the match. Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata may not be fit before the international break in the final two weeks of March, while goalkeeper David de Gea may still need to quarantine for a few more days after returning from Spain following the birth of his daughter.

Forwards Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani are also unlikely to be fit, meaning 18-year-old Amad Diallo, who scored his first goal for the club as a substitute against Milan, could be called upon again.

"It's a big change for him, he's moved over here by himself but he's coming into training every day, he's working really hard, he knows he's got a lot to learn," Solskjaer added.

"He's an exciting talent, of course, but he'll have to get used to the tempo and the quality of the level he's playing at now.

"He didn't play much for Atalanta, either, so we're gradually giving him more and more, but he's been hungry to learn. His appetite in training has been spot on."

Jurgen Klopp out, Steven Gerrard in?

Klopp ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for league glory last season, but the German manager could be set for a return to his homeland.

His exit could see Gerrard return to Merseyside.

 

TOP STORY – GERRARD TO REPLACE KLOPP IN LIVERPOOL RETURN

Steven Gerrard may soon return to Anfield but as manager to replace Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, according to The Mirror.

Liverpool reportedly expect Klopp to take up an opportunity with Germany in the near future amid doubts over long-time head coach Joachim Low.

As a result, Liverpool legend Gerrard has been sounded out as he has Rangers on a cusp of a drought-breaking league title in Scotland.

Gerrard, who made more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, took control of Rangers in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland seems to be on every club's wish list but the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the queue for the Borussia Dortmund star. City manager Pep Guardiola and Haaland's agent Mina Raiola have a testy relationship but the Premier League leaders will press ahead with an alleged £100million (€115m) deal. English pair Chelsea and Manchester United are also reportedly interested along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea want to keep veteran defender Thiago Silva beyond the 2020-21 season. Chelsea signed Silva on a free transfer following his PSG exit.

- LaLiga giants Barcelona are in the market for a young defender and have set their sights on Inter's 21-year-old Alessandro Bastoni, according to Calciomercato.

Arsenal are in the hunt for Wigan Athletic sensation Kyle Joseph, with the teenager scoring five goals in 14 appearances. The Mirror claims the Gunners have joined Celtic and Rangers in their interest in the London-born Scotland youth international whose current contract expires in June.

Liverpool and rivals United are eyeing Leicester City's Harvey Barnes, reports the Mirror. The 23-year-old has established himself as a key player for the Foxes.

- Eric Bailly is in talks with United over a new long-term contract, claims The Sun. The 26-year-old defender, who has been plagued by injuries at Old Trafford, is out of contract in 2022. It comes amid United's reported interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig and Brighton and Hove Albion star Ben White.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledges Manchester United must sharpen up in defence if they are to achieve their ambitions of winning major trophies. 

United eased into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday after a goalless draw with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford secured a 4-0 aggregate victory. 

It was their 16th clean sheet in all competitions this season, the third-most of any Premier League team, behind only Chelsea (19) and Manchester City (24). 

However, conceding goals has been a problem throughout 2020-21. The Red Devils have shipped 46 across all competitions – more than twice as many as City (20) – with 32 of those coming in the league, more than any other side presently in the top five. 

Although 11 of those were conceded in United's first three league matches of the season – an aberration Solskjaer put down to a lack of pre-season preparations – their defensive frailties have cost them valuable points despite scoring 53 goals, the most in the top flight, and 85 in all competitions, as many as rivals City. 

Ahead of Sunday's clash with Chelsea, who are unbeaten under new head coach Thomas Tuchel, Solskjaer highlighted the need to become more resolute at the back in order to close the gap to Pep Guardiola's men, who are top by 10 points.

The United manager told reporters: "We're on a good path. We feel we have improved but we're nowhere near where we want to be, and that's higher up the table, winning trophies. So, the hunger in the group and the mentality in the group is good, and that's the main thing now: that we keep on improving. 

"We know we've scored quite a few goals; of course, we need to be a better team defensively. 

"Certainly, the amount of goals we've conceded, even though we had 11 in the first three games, those three games almost don't count in my head because we were so far away from a Man United team in the preparation, no pre-season. 

"Even then, we've conceded too many goals, so we need to improve on that, definitely. And win tighter games: we've had many games against, you know, City, Chelsea, nil-nil, Liverpool nil-nil, so get the goals in those games. 

"We just have to focus and tick one game off at a time. The [next] three games are massive. We've got Chelsea just behind us, City a way in front of us, and we can't let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can't give Chelsea too much hope of catching us, either. 

"It's still 38 games for every team, so if you get a run, either good or bad, it might impact you. Of course, as a group and a culture, bouncing back for us after a couple of setbacks we've had, it's an important period. 

"But our group mentality is really good, and we look forward to these games. We know Thomas has come in, it's changed a little bit at Chelsea, so it's going to be a great challenge for us. 

"You can see the results, the stats, the possession they've had. They keep teams away from their goal, keep the possession. He's done really well. 

"It's never easy coming into a season halfway through, so he must be pleased as well. Hopefully, we can stop that run. That's my job now." 

With captain Harry Maguire rested, Eric Bailly produced a strong performance against Sociedad alongside Victor Lindelof, making three clearances and winning all four of his contested duels. 

"Both of them played well, so Eric and Victor and Harry, three very good centre-backs that I can rely on, and Axel [Tuanzebe] as well. I've got four to choose from," said Solskjaer, who has a decision to make for his team against Chelsea. 

"Sometimes it's the opposition, sometimes it's the form, sometimes it's little things. I think the two of them will keep on playing and they might be playing together as well." 

Anthony Martial endured another goalless outing, producing only one shot on target. The 25-year-old has now failed to score in 14 of his past 15 appearances in all competitions and has not found the net in his six games since scoring twice in the 9-0 demolition of Southampton. 

"Anthony knows what we want and Anthony's working really hard to do well for the team. That's what's pleasing me," Solskjaer added. 

"I see him every day in training. He's not going to sit down and wait for things to happen; he knows he has to make things happen for himself. 

"We encourage him, coach him, and we know he's got this quality and class. Everyone goes through a little difficult patch at the moment, or at times, and Anthony, I think we saw tonight, he's working harder and that's the main thing."

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