Manchester City have four players in the running for the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Men's Footballer of the Year award.

City cruised to Premier League success this term, with Ruben Dias, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne all key to their triumph.

All four have been named on the PFA's six-man shortlist for the prize, which is voted for by the players.

Portugal centre-back Dias – winner of the Football Writers' Association gong – is seen as arguably the favourite after a stellar first campaign at City following his move from Benfica last year.

While City only conceded three goals fewer (32) than in 2019-20 (35) when they finished second to Liverpool, many have compared his quick adaptation and influence to that of Virgil van Dijk after he joined the Reds from Southampton.

Admirers have also credited Dias' steadying of the City backline with playing a major role in the improvement of John Stones alongside him, the England international finally reaching a level many suspected he may never find despite his potential.

For a while earlier in the season Gundogan looked as though he would probably be the frontrunner for end-of-season prizes, as he embarked on a remarkable scoring run that ultimately helped him finish with 13 in 28 Premier League appearances – more than double his previous best for a domestic season.

Only Bruno Fernandes (18) can better that among midfielders, though nine of his were penalties – none of Gundogan's were, with the German deployed in a more advanced role as City largely played without an out-and-out striker.

De Bruyne's nomination did not come as a surprise either, the Belgian having laid on 12 assists this term, a haul bettered by only Harry Kane (14).

Foden is the youngest of the six nominees and it is likely to be the first of many for him, with the 21-year-old having a hand in 14 goals (nine scored, five assisted) in what was a breakthrough season – his 1,611 minutes played not far off double the 892 he managed in 2019-20.

Fernandes and Kane are the two non-City representatives up for the award – they are also the two players with the most goal involvements in the 2020-21 season.

Tottenham star Kane took home the Golden Boot thanks to his tally of 23, while he also topped the assist charts.

Fernandes netted 18 times for Manchester United and equalled De Bruyne's assists haul of 12.

They are two of just nine players across the top five European leagues to reach double figures for assists and goals in 2020-21.

Foden is also up for the Young Player of the Year award with Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mason Greenwood, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Bukayo Saka – an all-English shortlist.

Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood has withdrawn from England's provisional squad for Euro 2020 due to injury.

United on Tuesday revealed that Greenwood would not be in Gareth Southgate's party for the upcoming tournament due to an underlying problem that also kept him out of the Under-21 European Championship in March.

The announcement came on the day that Southgate will cut his squad from 33 to 26 players.

United stated on their official website: "Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood has withdrawn from the provisional England Euro 2020 squad, in order to recover fully from an underlying injury that also kept him out of the Under-21 European Championship in March.

"Mason's club appearances were managed carefully to maintain his availability through the intensive 2020/21 Premier League and Europa League schedules.

"But a further spell of tournament football would not be beneficial and Mason will remain at Manchester United to recuperate and prepare for pre-season training."

Trent Alexander-Arnold received praise to go with his recall from Gareth Southgate as the England boss hedged his bets for Euro 2020 by naming a 33-man provisional squad.

The Liverpool right-back could yet face exclusion agony when Southgate trims his list to 26 next week, but for now Alexander-Arnold is back in the England picture.

Once seen as a player who would hold down the right full-back berth for England for years to come, the 22-year-old was dramatically dropped from Southgate's squad in March, with the head coach questioning his recent level of performance at club level.

Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier and Manchester City's Kyle Walker – both title winners with their clubs this season – look to be ahead of Alexander-Arnold, who may be battling Chelsea's Reece James for a place in the final group.

After a late-season surge to a Champions League place by Liverpool, helped by an improved Alexander-Arnold, the England head coach was left with a quandary.

"I could easily get drawn into individuals who might be in the 26, get myself in a mess," said Southgate in a news conference following his squad announcement.

"People feel I have an obsession with right-backs. I see four good footballers. Trippier can play right-back or left-back, Trent can play right-back, wing-back. I think he can play in midfield.

"In the last few days I've seen Reece James play right in a three, at wing-back, in midfield. We're going to a tournament and those sorts of flexible players that can fulfill different roles but are good footballers are going to be hugely important for us.

"We don't know how it will play out with injuries, what our best systems will be with people available, we've got too many question marks.

"That will all become far clearer. We know what we'd like to do, we've got good contingencies in place."

Southgate selected an expanded squad because of injury worries over the likes of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson, the captains of Manchester United and Liverpool. By including Alexander-Arnold, Southgate at least delays any criticism over his exclusion, and it may be that a space opens up for the attack-minded defender.

Alexander-Arnold is a slightly different flavour of defender to Southgate's other options, as a player who had 13 assists in Liverpool's 2019-20 title-winning campaign and seven in the league season just ended.

James has just two Premier League assists in 2020-21 and Walker only one, with the City defender creating just eight chances compared to the 77 set up by Alexander-Arnold. Trippier assisted on six goals in LaLiga, however.

 

James, Walker and Trippier are all well ahead of Alexander-Arnold in terms of dribble and tackle success rates, and Southgate can be expected to be aware of such factors.

Alexander-Arnold's 2020-21 league dribble success rate stood at just 47.06 per cent, with Walker posting 53.33 per cent, James 65.38 per cent and Trippier 76 per cent.

In tackling success, Alexander-Arnold's 58.93 per cent success rate was beaten by his three right-back rivals, who each scored at least 63 per cent, led by 65.52 per cent by Walker.

The Liverpool man's attempted dribbles may at times have been high-tariff manoeuvres, given he regularly plays high up the field, but Alexander-Arnold loses possession at a rate that could give England problems. He gave up the ball 25.49 times on average per 90 minutes in 2020-21 league action, compared to 14.83 by James, 16.35 by Trippier and a mere 13.32 by Walker.

As Southgate toys with that big call, he must also decide whether Mason Greenwood, United's 19-year-old forward, makes the cut.

Greenwood scored just seven Premier League goals at one every 261 minutes in 2020-21 but, after a strong end to the campaign, he has again caught the eye of England's manager, who sent him home along with Phil Foden at the start of the season after a breach of COVID-19 protocol while on national team duty in Iceland.

"In terms of the past it is absolutely the past," Southgate said. "Young people make mistakes, we move on from it, the same with Phil [Foden].

"He's an absolutely outstanding finisher, no question about that."

It wasn't too long ago that the idea of Mason Greenwood getting into Gareth Southgate's England squad was farfetched.

After a stunning breakthrough campaign in 2019-20 that saw him score 10 times in the Premier League, 2020-21 got off to a difficult start for the teenager.

It took him until December to score his first league goal of the season, and it took him a little over four months to net again.

Although he was in England contention at the start of the season, such form had seemingly seen him fall well out of the reckoning. When he was unsurprisingly absent from the March selection, few eyebrows were raised.

After all, it was back in September when Greenwood – having just won his first senior cap against Iceland – was involved in controversy involving two local girls being brought to the team hotel. He and Phil Foden were subsequently sent home and left out of the next squad.

But Foden was swiftly recalled in November having impressed early on, and he looks set to take on a key role at the Euros such has been his influence at Premier League champions Manchester City.

It's a slightly different scenario for the similarly talented Greenwood, and the reality is he will probably miss out, but his return form has at least given him a chance.

Perseverance and focus

As previously mentioned, Greenwood's form really suffered in the first part of the season, and that seemed to linger well into this year.

When considering what went wrong, it's of course natural to look at his performances and on-pitch habits.

For example, shot map data earlier in the season suggested he has potentially been found out by defenders. He wreaked havoc in 2019-20 when cutting inside on to his left foot and shooting, but it looked as though opponents had become wise to this, forcing him outside more often.

That's one theory – another worth considering is the human side of football. Let's not forget, Greenwood – a teenager – went through a lot last year.

There was the death of a close friend, the controversy on England duty and subsequent vilification of him from certain sections of the British media. All of that would be difficult for anyone to contend with, let alone a kid of 18 or 19 years.

Perhaps then it was just a matter of time, patience and perseverance for him to get back to his best, which he appears to be on the evidence of the past six weeks or so.

The fact we are even talking about his chances of going to the Euros is a triumph for Greenwood in itself.

From drought to downpour

Greenwood went on a run of 15 appearances without a single goal from late January, but he ended that barren spell against Leicester City on March 21.

Life has been rather different for him since then, finding himself back among the goals in the Premier League on April 4, netting the late winner as United defeated Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 with a diving header.

That's one of six league goals in a run of eight matches, more than any other English forward in that time, netting at a rate of once every 88 minutes – by comparison, Harry Kane's recent form has him scoring every 125.8 minutes in the league.

Greenwood is once again showing the kind of killer-instinct in front of goal that made him so feared in 2019-20, when he scored 17 goals across all competitions.

Ten of those came in the league from an expected goals (xG) value of just 2.9, meaning he scored 7.1 goals more than expected. No player in the division could match that xG overperformance.

This would generally indicate elite-level finishing or a player getting lucky. Greenwood's form earlier this season suggested it was the latter, but since April 4 his xG overperformance in the league is 2.6 – the next best in this regard is Danny Ings (1.9 overperformance).

However, the caveat is that Greenwood's expected goals on target (xGOT) of 2.7 is lower than his xG of 3.4, suggesting that he's actually been a little fortunate, benefiting from goalkeeping errors, for instance.

For example, against Burnley his goal took a deflection en route to goal, while his effort against Aston Villa went in off the hand of Emiliano Martinez.

In terms of the difference between his xG and xGOT, Greenwood actually ranks poorly when compared to his rivals for a place in the England squad since April 4, with Ollie Watkins' 3.95 xGOT better than his 3.0 xG, which suggests his four goals have come about via good finishing because he has outperformed the underlying quality of his chances.

Ings, Kane and Marcus Rashford have also done better than Greenwood in this area of late, however the counter-argument would be that the teenager perhaps creates his own luck with unpredictable play on the ball and his comfort with either foot.

Southgate will make his decision regarding the squad on Tuesday, and Greenwood is likely still seen as an outsider, but there's no question he has given the manager food for thought.

Mason Greenwood is focused on Manchester United's bid for Europa League glory as his late season form continues to propel talk of an England recall for Euro 2020.

The 19-year-old enjoyed a breakout season at Old Trafford last term, his 17 goals making it the joint most prolific season for a teenager in United's history – level with George Best (1965-66), Brian Kidd (1967-68) and Wayne Rooney (2004-05).

He found the going somewhat tougher this time around and had five goals in 39 appearances across all competitions heading into the March international break, when he failed to make Gareth Southgate's squad.

Since April 1, Greenwood has eight goals in 11 games, with six in seven in the Premier League making him the division's joint-top scorer alongside Burnley's Chris Wood during this period.

United take on Fulham on Tuesday before closing their Premier League campaign at Wolves. All attention will then turn to the Europa League final against Villarreal in Gdansk, when the Red Devils will seek to win a first major honour since lifting the same trophy four years ago.

"To win something with United would be amazing," Greenwood told Sky Sports.

"I want to do that. We are in a good position to do it. A good finish to the Premier League season and a win in the final would be nice. We need a bit of silverware, we have not had any for a few years, so to bring it back home would be a good feeling.

"It would be nice to go to the Euros but I just want to be fully focused on United for these two games and the Europa League final.

"What happens, happens. I have not really been thinking about it too much. I have just been going out there thinking about my performances for United, how to score and help the team score.

"I have just been focusing on my football."

Greenwood found himself under scrutiny for actions off the pitch earlier in the season when, after making their England debuts in Iceland, he and Manchester City playmaker Phil Foden were sent home for breaching coronavirus protocols.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer believes the United youngster has come through that episode a stronger person and, with Euro 2020 squads now expanded to 26 players, the clamour for Gareth Southgate to include Greenwood as a wildcard pick in attack is mounting.

"I totally agree with him, I have come through it stronger," Greenwood said.

"All of these little things make you into a better person, a better human being and a better footballer. It makes you learn a few things. It is like when you are playing, you learn from your mistakes. You either let it affect you or you push forward. Why not push forward?"

Greenwood added: "The manager has been fully focused on me and he has helped me a lot. He speaks to all the lads a lot, individually and as a group. I am really pleased to have him there."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer applauded Mason Greenwood for playing with responsibility alongside some of Manchester United's younger players against Leicester City and wants him to retain that authority when teaming up with first-team regulars.

United lost 2-1 at home to Leicester on Tuesday, a defeat that confirmed Manchester City as Premier League champions for the third time in four years.

The result did not come as a huge surprise, however, given Solskjaer had made 10 changes to his starting XI from the 3-1 win over Aston Villa just two days earlier – Greenwood the only player to keep his place.

The England international got United's goal, a tidy finish into the bottom-left corner after skipping past Caglar Soyuncu to cancel out Luke Thomas' spectacular opener.

Alongside him in the United attack were 18-year-old Amad Diallo, making his Premier League debut, and Anthony Elanga, who was playing his first ever game for the senior side – Greenwood, although only six months older than the latter, was making his 102nd appearance.

Solskjaer felt Greenwood – occupying the central striker position – played with greater authority and responsibility as a result and he wants the 19-year-old to take that into their next game against Liverpool on Thursday, when the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba can expect to be back in the team.

"You saw some definite leadership, the way he had to take responsibility," Solskjaer said.

"He's got Amad and Anthony next to him, looks at them and thinks, 'I've got 100 games here so I need to help them', which is great.

"He did really well, considering his age he's got 100 games and has got loads of experience.

"The way he took responsibility, I was really pleased with it. That's maybe not as easy when you've got Bruno, Paul, Marcus and Edinson [Cavani] next to you, which is natural.

"I still want him to take that responsibility when he plays. No matter how old you are, if you believe in yourself, trust in yourself, and think it's the right decision, you make that decision.

"He did that [against Leicester] and I still want him to do that on Thursday, when he plays with the more experienced ones."

It has been a testing season for Greenwood, who struggled early on to replicate the remarkable form he had shown in 2019-20.

The teenager had to cope with the death of a close friend and was then involved in controversy on England duty, finding himself sent home after making his debut and then being excluded from the next selection.

Greenwood also appeared to become something of a target for certain sections of the British media, and his form suffered considerably, only managing three goals across all competitions between the start of the season in September and the end of 2020.

His struggles continued into 2021 and the forward went on a run of 15 appearances without a single goal from late January, but he ended that barren spell against Leicester City on March 21 and has since netted eight times in 11 matches.

No Premier League player has scored more goals on all fronts over the same period, with Greenwood once again showing the kind of killer-instinct in front of goal that made him so feared in 2019-20, when he scored 17 goals.

Ten of those came in the league from an expected goals (xG) value of just 2.9, meaning he scored 7.1 goals more than expected. No player in the division could match that xG overperformance.

This would generally indicate elite-level finishing or a player getting lucky. Greenwood's form earlier this season suggested it was the latter, but since March 21 his xG overperformance across all competitions is 5.0 – almost double the next-most efficient player in that time, Kelechi Iheanacho (xG overperformance of 2.9).

After a shaky period, Greenwood is seemingly back on track and showing the finishing talents that made people sit up and take note last season.

While Solskjaer wants him to keep playing with authority for United, on current form many would even be backing him to take extra "responsibility" with England at Euro 2020.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says it will take a couple of new signings for Manchester United to seriously challenge Manchester City for the Premier League title next season.

A United side showing 10 changes from Sunday's victory at Aston Villa fell to a 2-1 loss at home to Leicester City on Tuesday - a result that crowned City as champions with three games to spare.

It is City's seventh top-flight title triumph, five of those in the last decade, while United's wait for Premier League glory will stretch into a ninth season.

While Solskjaer feels his side deserve praise for pushing City as far as they did, the Norwegian accepts it will take some spending in the close season to fully close the gap.

"If you want to take up the challenge with them we need to strengthen our squad," he told BT Sport. "Congratulations to them. They have had a fantastic season. 

"I am very pleased with my boys that have made it to the last 10 days with a Manchester City side ahead of us that are lauded as the best in Europe.

"We want to take the next step and it might be that we need a couple more to strengthen the squad."

Mason Greenwood was the only player to keep his place in United's starting line-up for the loss to third-placed Leicester, who are now within four points of their opponents.

Solskjaer hinted ahead of the game he would prioritise the upcoming clash with Liverpool, which comes a little over 48 hours after the visit of Leicester to Old Trafford.

The United boss believes his side performed well given the circumstances as he again hit out at the Premier League for rescheduling the game versus Liverpool for this Thursday.

"We started off slow, as you might expect because they have not had any time to prepare for the game, but after they scored we had nothing to lose," he said.

"We played some very good stuff and I was pleased with it. We have not had too much time to prepare and we went into half-time pleased. 

"They didn't get out of the traps and they got a goal from a corner that should have been a throw.

"But it can't be like this again. We can't play Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday. It is impossible. That's the reason we made the changes. 

"It's unheard of. It is impossible for the players to perform at this level going from Thursday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday."

Greenwood's smart finish cancelled out Luke Thomas' impressive volleyed opener, before Caglar Soyuncu headed in a winner for Leicester 24 minutes from time.

England international Greenwood now has 29 goals in all competitions since the start of last season, which is the most of any teenager in Europe's top five leagues.

On a day that saw Amad Diallo and Anthony Elanga make their Premier League debuts for United, Solskjaer reserved special praise for Greenwood.

"Mason looked like a seasoned professional and he is only 19," Solskjaer said at his post-match news conference.

"You saw some definite leadership in he had to take responsibility. He did really well considering his age.

"No matter how old you are, if you believe yourself and trust yourself then you make that decision."

The defeat for United was their fifth at Old Trafford in the Premier League this season, which is as many as in their previous two campaigns combined.

Leicester City enhanced their Champions League hopes with a 2-1 win over Manchester United – a result that crowned Manchester City as Premier League champions.

United were the only team with a mathematical chance of overhauling Pep Guardiola's side, but a line-up bearing 10 changes from Sunday's 3-1 victory at Aston Villa showed how realistic Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thought those hopes were.

Liverpool are at Old Trafford on Thursday for their rearranged game, and Solskjaer's youthful line-up for this second of three matches in five days fell behind when Luke Thomas brilliantly steered in a 10th-minute volley for his first Premier League goal.

Mason Greenwood extended his recent purple patch to eight goals in 11 outings shortly afterwards but United carried little threat and Leicester centre-back Soyuncu was left to make his most telling contribution at the other end of the field midway through the second half.

It meant a third title in four seasons for Manchester City – an outcome that felt slightly fanciful when they lost 5-2 at home to Leicester back in September.

There was an injury scare for United left-back Alex Telles early on and Leicester's opener came as Youri Tielemans made progress down his flank, possibly over hitting the cross from which Thomas finished with aplomb.

A teenager more familiar with the scoresheet quickly got United back on terms, Greenwood drilling home in superbly assured fashion after Amad Diallo got the better of Thomas.

David De Gea pushed another awkwardly dipping Tielemans cross behind for a corner in the 28th minute, as the lively start to proceedings gave way to a more fragmented contest.

The Belgium midfielder remained the only Leicester player who looked frequently capable of unlocking a patched-up United and he slid a pass into Kelechi Iheanacho – De Gea sharply denying the striker with his boot.

Leicester's deliveries from open play left plenty to be desired, although Marc Albrighton's 66th-minute corner picked out Soyuncu to power home as substitute Marcus Rashford was caught napping.

Rashford, Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes amounted to some particularly prolific cavalry, the latter slicing wastefully wide six minutes from time as City readied the champagne corks.

Harry Maguire could miss the Europa League final after Manchester United confirmed he suffered ankle ligament damage against Aston Villa, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful he can face Villarreal.

The England centre-back was visibly hurt following a challenge with Anwar El Ghazi in Sunday's 3-1 comeback win and had to be replaced by Eric Bailly after 78 minutes.

Solskjaer was unclear how long United would be without Maguire initially, suggesting there was a chance he could be fit for Tuesday's visit of Leicester City before also acknowledging his season may be over.

He was able to offer a little more clarity on Tuesday, with Maguire left out of the squad to face his former club, revealing there has been ligament damage rather than a fracture.

A statement on the United website said that "he could also be absent for the remaining league fixtures", while also stating he faces a "race against time" to be fit for the Europa League final on May 26.

Solskjaer stressed he remains optimistic, though he could not be certain that Maguire will feature in Gdansk.

Speaking to MUTV ahead of the clash with Leicester, Solskjaer said: "He's obviously had the scans and the good news is there is no fracture.

"[There's] ligament damage but hopefully we will see him again this season. Hopefully, he'll be ready for the final."

Maguire had previously played every minute in the Premier League since joining from Leicester prior to his withdrawal on Sunday.

His run of 71 games in succession put him tied with only Gary Pallister for an outfield United player in the competition – with the ex-Red Devils defender coincidentally also seeing his streak ended by injury at Villa Park in the 1995-96 season.

When Manchester United confirmed the signing of Edinson Cavani on a free transfer last October, it's fair to say there was by no means universal praise for the deal.

The announcement, which came on transfer deadline day, smacked of desperation to many. United hadn't been able to sign their primary target, Jadon Sancho, but couldn't face the prospect of heading into the new season without strengthening the frontline.

Granted, failing to add reinforcements wouldn't have been a good look for the club, but Cavani's signing wasn't exactly much of a consolation in the eyes of supporters.

Doubts over his age, form during his final season at Paris Saint-Germain and the simple fact he was still without a club at the start of October all appeared to be valid concerns, particularly given his one-year deal (with the option for an extra 12 months) was a kind of short-termism not associated with the previous signings made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

But such concerns quickly evaporated once he was fit, his class and striker's instinct still undeniable as the Uruguayan gallops across the United attack as if he was still in his twenties.

In recent weeks Cavani's form has hit another level and, for a while at least, it seemed a possibility that United were going to rue not signing him to a two-year deal, rumours of a move to Boca Juniors making officials at Old Trafford a little tense.

But on Monday, United confirmed Cavani will be staying put for another year at least, his renewal a just reward for an excellent first season in England.

Golden oldie

Ryan Giggs played Premier League football into his forties, owing much of his longevity to conditioning aiding by yoga, as the story goes. Perhaps then Cavani's seamless adaptation to the league isn't as surprising as many have suggested.

After all, the 34-year-old is known to do yoga and ballet in an effort to keep himself fit and nimble, elements of his game that have certainly been notable this season, even after injury absences.

Of course, Solskjaer has been eager to restrict Cavani's minutes, stressing early in the season that he didn't want to put him under too much physical strain as he joined the club having not played competitively since March due to Ligue 1's cancellation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That approach has been adopted throughout the season, as demonstrated by Cavani's 18 starts from 35 appearances, and it seems to have paid dividends as he's really hit his stride since the start of April, scoring eight goals in seven appearances across all competitions.

This run has helped him to a minutes-per-goal ratio of 124.1. The only Premier League forwards (five or more goals) who can better than are Gareth Bale (110.2 minutes per goal), Kelechi Iheanacho (110), Olivier Giroud (106.3) and Carlos Vinicius (97.7), though the latter's record is clearly warped by a hat-trick he scored against non-league side Marine in January.

Anthony Martial still seemingly had credit from his form in the latter part of 2019-20 earlier this term, given Cavani was largely used as a backup option while the Frenchman was fit, but it's difficult to see him getting his place back at the start of 2021-22 given what we know now.

The end for Martial?

After the Premier League's resumption last season, Martial was one of the standout performers – his six goals from nine games was only bettered by Danny Ings, Harry Kane (both seven in nine), Michail Antonio (eight in nine) and Raheem Sterling (nine in nine).

It seemed that, finally, he was reaching the level many had expected of him when he joined from Monaco five years earlier. He'd seemingly cemented his place as United's first-choice central striker and looked comfortable for arguably the first time since his first season.

But, prior to his injury, Martial had been underwhelming this term. It brought to light a theory previous speculated about: the idea that he doesn't react well to competition. First there was Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Romelu Lukaku. He outlasted both, found his niche, and then, all of a sudden, Cavani arrives.

Only Martial knows what is to blame for his drop-off, but it's undeniable that there has been one. His six non-penalty goals comes from an xG (expected goals) value of 9.7, meaning he was wasting more chances than the average player ordinarily would.

The fact that his xG per 90 minutes dropped from 0.42 to 0.36 shows the quality of chances coming his way weren't as good, while last season he massively outperformed this, scoring 0.58 goals per game.

Before his injury this season, Martial was averaging just 0.26 goals every 90 minutes, highlighting his wastefulness or a perhaps lack of confidence – it's certainly not down to playing a different role, as he averaged the same amount of touches in the box (6.9 per 90 mins) as in 2019-20.

When we bring Cavani into the equation, the data shows how much of a gulf there is between the two with regards to their ability to make chances with clever movement, or instinct.

Cavani's xG per game of 0.64 is a significant improvement on Martial, and he's even outperforming that (0.73 goals per 90 mins), finding the net almost three times as frequently as the France international.

"He [Cavani] has got all the attributes of a top-class footballer and human being," Solskjaer said last November. "He's had a great career, scored goals wherever he has been. He's so professional, meticulous with his preparation, with his recovery, what he does at mealtimes, before the game, during the game.

"But also to have a focal point in the box is important for us because we've not really had that since Romelu [Lukaku] left."

And there lies a key issue: Solskjaer seems to have accepted Martial cannot play that role. You have to wonder whether he'll get another opportunity.

Facilitating the succession

In the eyes of most United fans, if any of their current forwards are the long-term heir to Cavani in the central role, it's Mason Greenwood.

Granted, the jury may still be out on him in that position, but his ability in front of goal would suggest he is the best man for the job, particularly given he's showing that quality at such a young age.

2020-21 hasn't been the easiest of seasons for him. He had to cope with the death of a close friend and was at the centre of controversy while away on international duty with England.

But since the start of April he's scored five times in the Premier League, a haul bettered by no one. It's form that's reminiscent of his breakthrough campaign in 2019-20, when he scored 10 league goals from an xG value of just 2.9. Excluding penalties, no player in the division could rival such a differential.

Figures like that are rarely sustainable because they suggest either a player's been extremely lucky, they're remarkably good, or perhaps a combination of both. After all, Greenwood scored just once from an xG of 2.7 between the start of this season and the end of March.

But his recent purple patch has seen him score three goals more than he'd be expected to (1.95 xG). He's finding his feet again, and another season learning alongside Cavani can surely only benefit Greenwood in the long run.

The one area of Greenwood's game that has been questioned in rare opportunities through the middle is his off-the-ball movement, arguably Cavani's greatest strength.

There's no question Cavani is an asset to United in terms of his on-field ability – the data proves just how effective he's been, but his importance goes beyond that.

Greenwood is probably the best talent to come out of the United academy since Paul Pogba, and if some of Cavani's wisdom rubs off him over a two-year period together, what a player he could become.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talked up the importance of Manchester United getting the best out of Edinson Cavani next season in a possible hint over the striker's future.

Cavani came off the bench to score United's third as they rallied from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday and prevent Manchester City from being crowned champions.

A defeat would have guaranteed the trophy for Pep Guardiola's side and the Red Devils were losing at half-time thanks to a brilliant strike from Bertrand Traore.

However, a Bruno Fernandes penalty and a Mason Greenwood finish turned the game on its head in the second half before Cavani nodded home his eighth goal in seven games.

Cavani also became the third United player to score five Premier League goals in a single season as a substitute, following in the footsteps of Javier Hernandez in 2010-11 and manager Solskjaer in 1998-99.

As yet, there has been no confirmed agreement between the Uruguayan and the club over extending his stay at Old Trafford by another 12 months, but Solskjaer appears optimistic of keeping the 34-year-old.

"His movement, his desire to score goals... A great cross from Marcus [Rashford]," Solskjaer told Sky Sports when asked about the qualities that Cavani brings to the side.

"We're getting to learn Edinson as well, and hopefully, we can use him more next season."

Greenwood's goal took him to 16 in the top flight, surpassing the previous record of 15 for a Red Devils teenager in the competition set by Wayne Rooney.

"He's top," said Solskjaer. "I was thinking maybe curl it far post, but he goes near post. He's got all the finishes. Mason had a long night on Thursday [against Roma] and worked really hard today.

"You think maybe you could take him off at half-time, because the boy needs some rest, but it just shows that he can do the best."

While United's win ensured the title race will continue for now, the 10-point gap to City at the top means they must realistically win their remaining four matches and hope their rivals pick up no more than a point from their final three games.

With fixtures to come against Leicester City and Liverpool between now and next weekend, United's chances of prolonging City's wait for the trophy appear to be slim.

Solskjaer, though, was delighted to prevent City from celebrating on Sunday, especially given his players had been on duty for the Europa League semi-final second leg against Roma three days ago.

"That's a good thing, that's the best thing with today. At least I don't drive into a blue army tonight," he said. "We'll try to deal with it as long as we can.

"[It is a] massive result; it takes a little bit of the pressure away, we can go into the next one confident, enjoy it. I'm delighted. It was always going to be difficult after being in Europe; [we] didn't come back until half four in the morning on Friday.

"Great reaction at half-time again, even though I felt first half we were the better team, created the better chances but couldn't find the goal.

"The advantage of being fresh going into a game like this is quite high. We could have scored the first goal, they scored from nothing, with a good goal by the way, but I'm pleased with everyone. I know how hard it is towards the end of a long, long season."

Harry Maguire is a potential fitness doubt for Manchester United's Europa League final after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said his captain could miss a "few weeks" with the injury sustained against Aston Villa.

The England centre-back was visibly hurt following a challenge with Anwar El Ghazi in Sunday's 3-1 comeback win and had to be replaced by Eric Bailly after 78 minutes.

Red Devils boss Solskjaer is waiting to learn the extent of the damage to the lower leg injury, and with the Europa League final against Villarreal scheduled for May 26, Maguire's status for the fixture is unclear.

"Hopefully that [the final] will be okay with Harry," Solskjaer said. "I don't know. We need to check it. It might be a few weeks or a month - we don't know.

"It was his calf or lower leg. I think the player landed on him and he twisted something."

However, Solskjaer clarified that the damage may not be too bad as he waits to learn of the damage.

"I don't know how serious it is. He might be available on Tuesday, he might not," he added.

Maguire had previously played every minute in the Premier League since joining from Leicester City. His run of 71 games in succession means he only tied Gary Pallister for an outfield United player in the competition – with the ex-Red Devils defender coincidentally also seeing his streak ended by injury at Villa Park in the 1995-96 season.

"Harry has been excellent and it's almost unheard of, the minutes he's played," Solskjaer said. 

"His fitness is very good – he's robust. But, today, it looked like the boy landed on him and he twisted his ankle."

For the 10th time this season, United had to come from behind in an away league match to avoid defeat, with a Bruno Fernandes penalty and efforts from Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani cancelling out Bertrand Traore's fine first-half strike.

Greenwood – who with 16 Premier League goals now has the most as a teenager for United, beating Wayne Rooney's previous benchmark of 15 – hailed the character to fight back again.

"It is some achievement. We don't really want to go behind but it gives us a little boost to come back and get the win," he told BBC Sport.

"It was well-improved [in the second half]. Ole said his bits in the changing room. It seemed to pay off.

"To be on the main stage and scoring important goals like today, it means a lot.

"We just concentrate on ourselves, we take it game by game. We want to get as many points as we can and keep the pressure on [Manchester City]."

Mason Greenwood's strike against Aston Villa on Sunday saw him surpass Wayne Rooney to set a new record for the most Premier League goals scored as a teenager for Manchester United.

Greenwood put United 2-1 up shortly after Bruno Fernandes levelled with a penalty, the 19-year-old receiving a pass from Aaron Wan-Bissaka and spinning away from Tyrone Mings in one movement before finding the bottom-right corner. United went on to win 3-1.

It was the 16th Premier League goal of his career, having got his first in November 2019 shortly after turning 18.

As such, Greenwood surpassed Rooney's haul of 15 goals scored for United as a teenager. 

Greenwood could yet extend his record considerably as well, given he does not turn 20 until October.

He has largely struggled to reach the same heights as last term when he scored 10 times in the Premier League, however the England international has hit a purple patch since the start of April.

Greenwood now has five Premier League goals in that time, a tally that no player can better. It took him 29 league outings to score his previous five in the competition.

It was the kind of form that had Greenwood's 2019-20 looking even more remarkable, given his 10 goals came from an xG (expected goals) value of just 2.9.

No one in the Premier League had a better xG overperformance last term, suggesting his finishing was either spectacularly clinical or he was getting lucky an abnormal amount.

While it seems it was a blend of both, his recent showings suggest Greenwood's got his career back on track after a bit of a wobble.

Manchester City's champagne remains on ice after Manchester United fought back to beat Aston Villa 3-1 and delay their rivals' Premier League title celebrations.

A late defeat for City to Chelsea on Saturday has seemingly only prolonged the inevitable but United had to work hard to preserve their unbeaten away status in the league at Villa Park.

Bertrand Traore's fine strike, albeit United's defending left plenty to desire, had Villa dreaming of a first home win over the Red Devils since an EFL Cup tie in 1999.

But Bruno Fernandes' penalty preceded Mason Greenwood putting United in front and Edinson Cavani's late header came before a red card for Villa's Ollie Watkins as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side – who reached the Europa League final in midweek – maintained the slimmest of title hopes.

United started strongly and Luke Shaw stung the palms of Emiliano Martinez before Marcus Rashford got in behind to tee up Fernandes to stab wide.

It was Villa who went ahead in style, though. Douglas Luiz picked up the pieces after Niall McGinn had dispossessed Scott McTominay to tee up Traore, who turned Victor Lindelof and fired into the top-right corner.

Greenwood's shot across the face of goal brought the best out of Martinez, while Dean Henderson also palmed away Watkins' low shot.

United were level in the 52nd minute when Fernandes rolled home from 12 yards after Luiz clumsily tripped Paul Pogba in the area.

Four minutes later, Greenwood had spun Tyrone Mings and beaten Martinez with a drive into the near corner he really ought to have saved.

United lost captain Harry Maguire to an ankle complaint but Cavani's glancing header from Rashford's pinpoint cross gave Villa no hope, and Watkins received a second yellow and a subsequent red for a needless dive late on.

What does it mean? Comeback kings delay City's ticker-tape

United are now unbeaten in 25 consecutive away Premier League games, while it is now 22 games unbeaten away at Villa for the Red Devils.

Solskjaer's side have enjoyed doing things the hard way this term. This was the 10th occasion in which they have conceded the first goal in an away league fixture – but United have won nine and drawn one of those.

This was the first of three league matches in the space of five days for United due to the rearranging of their fixture against Liverpool, postponed last week due to fan protests against the Glazer family, and this win will do little but delay the arrival of the trophy in the blue half of Manchester.

Bruno influential again

Fernandes' goal was his 27th goal in all competitions this term, the most by a Premier League midfielder in a single campaign since Frank Lampard in 2009-10.

The Portuguese was a figure of calm for United, converting his spot-kick with trademark coolness, while he also finished with three key passes.

Greenwood beats Rooney benchmark

Greenwood is a man in form for United, with this his fifth goal in as many Premier League matches. His previous five strikes in the competition came across 29 games.

In total, he now has 16 Premier League goals for United – the most of any teenager for the Red Devils, beating the 15 managed by Wayne Rooney.

What's next?

United have a quick turnaround with Leicester City visiting Old Trafford on Tuesday. Aston Villa host Everton on Thursday.

As we head into the decisive matchdays in the Premier League season, match-winners will become worth their weight in gold to all 20 sides in the division.

With that in mind, our latest suggestions for fantasy football enthusiasts include a good number of forwards who will be expected to chip in with goals.

There are also two of the league's most in-form defenders and a goalkeeper who might just have won himself the number one spot.

Our tips for this week – powered by Opta, as always – are below...
 

DEAN HENDERSON

Since taking over Premier League duties while David de Gea was in Spain for the birth of his daughter, Dean Henderson has made it clear he does not intend to relinquish the Manchester United starting spot.

The former Sheffield United loanee has the best save percentage (82.4) in the competition this season, while he has conceded just 0.6 goals per game on average – the best rate of any keeper to play at least 200 minutes.

Henderson will likely keep his spot for the trip to Aston Villa, a team who have beaten United just once in their previous 44 Premier League meetings.

BEN CHILWELL

Fresh from celebrating reaching the Champions League final, Ben Chilwell will be looking to keep up his strong league form for Chelsea.

The left-back has been directly involved in seven goals this season (two scored, five assisted) – no defender in the competition has been involved in more.

Expect him to provide his customary threat on the break when Chelsea take on Manchester City.

AARON WAN-BISSAKA

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer challenged Aaron Wan-Bissaka to improve his attacking output, and the tough-tackling right-back appears to have heeded the call.

Three of his four goal involvements (75 per cent) and 21 of his 26 chances created (81 per cent) have come since the turn of the year.

The United man also boasts 13 Premier League clean sheets this season; among defenders, he is behind only Ruben Dias and Matt Targett (14).

MOHAMED SALAH

Liverpool might have struggled for consistency this season, but Mohamed Salah's goal output has remained impressively high; he has 20 in the league, behind only Harry Kane (21).

On Saturday, he will meet some of his favourite opposition in Southampton, a team against whom he has scored seven goals in seven league appearances, including five in three at Anfield.

Saints have also lost their past three league games away to Liverpool by an aggregate score of 10-0.

GARETH BALE

With a hat-trick against relegated Sheffield United, Gareth Bale proved he could still be a vital asset in Tottenham's European chase.

Bale has scored nine goals in 727 minutes in the division this season, averaging a goal every 81 minutes, which is the best record in the competition in 2020-21.

Should he take his tally to 10 against Leeds United, Bale will set a new record for the longest gap between 10-goal seasons in Premier League history (eight), overtaking Paul Scholes and Nwankwo Kanu (seven).

MASON GREENWOOD

Mason Greenwood has recaptured some of his better form in recent weeks to help United... well, if not catch Manchester City, at least consolidate second place.

The forward has four goals and one assist in his most recent four league games, which is more direct goal involvements than he managed in his previous 28 appearances.

Solskjaer will likely have to rotate given the hectic week ahead, but expect Greenwood to be involved at Villa Park, even if it's as a substitute.

KELECHI IHEANACHO

Speaking of rediscovering form, nobody in the league has done so quite as spectacularly in recent weeks as Kelechi Iheanacho.

The Leicester City striker has scored nine goals and assisted two in his most recent eight league appearances – that's one more direct goal involvement than he managed in his previous 57 league games.

The Foxes are also on a run of eight wins in 10 league games against Friday's opponents Newcastle United.

Page 1 of 3
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.