Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic says Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has become a better manager since last year.

After a run of two wins in seven games in all competitions at the start of 2020, the Red Devils have shown encouraging signs of progress in recent weeks, particularly since the arrival of January signing Bruno Fernandes.

Thursday's 5-0 Europa League thrashing of Club Brugge stretched United's unbeaten run to seven matches, while they have kept clean sheets in six of those.

With a Europa League last-16 tie with LASK and an FA Cup fifth-round trip to Derby County to come, United have high hopes of ending the season with a trophy.

They are also just three points outside the Premier League's top four, making a return to the Champions League a realistic possibility.

Solskjaer's job appeared to be under scrutiny during the their more difficult runs this season, but Matic, who initially struggled for regular first-team football under the Norwegian but has become increasingly important to the side, thinks his manager is getting better with experience.

"He's improving, for sure, getting more experience, and for sure he will be better and better," Matic told Sky Sports.

"Like every manager … Carlo Ancelotti, now and 20 years ago, for sure he's not the same. He knows more, he has more experience. For sure, it will be the same as Ole.

"He is a much better manager than one year ago, in my opinion, because now he knows all the players, he knows exactly what he needs to do before the game, after the game. For his job, experience is very important."

United face Everton at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday before the cup clash with Derby on March 5.

They then host Premier League champions Manchester City on March 8.

Perhaps Jadon Sancho will remain at Borussia Dortmund beyond this season.

Sancho, 19, has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League after impressing with the Bundesliga side.

But the England winger could yet stay at Dortmund a little longer.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO MAY STAY AT DORTMUND BEYOND THIS SEASON

Sancho is happy at Dortmund and an exit in the close season is not certain, according to Ruhr Nachrichten.

The teenager is contracted at the club until 2022 so may at least begin the 2020-21 campaign at Dortmund.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all reportedly interested in Sancho.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Liverpool and the Premier League leaders may have received more good news. Sport1 reports RB Leipzig star Timo Werner's release clause is £25.2m (€30m) plus a guarantee of performance-related bonuses. Previous reports said the forward's release clause was £50.4m (€60m).

- Marcelo Brozovic has done enough to impress Antonio Conte. CalcioMercato reports Inter are ready to begin contract talks with the Croatia international, who is set for a salary increase but could also have his release clause of €60m removed. Brozovic's current deal runs until 2022.

- Could George Clooney be set for a foray into … Malaga? AS reports a group with business links to the American actor are in talks to buy a stake in the Spanish club.

- With his Manchester United contract expiring at season's end, Nemanja Matic appears set for a move from Old Trafford. CalcioMercato reports the midfielder's agents have offered the 31-year-old to Milan, Juventus and Inter.

- Leicester City are considering offering defender Christian Fuchs a new deal, according to the Daily Mail. Fuchs is out of contract at the end of the season.

Eric Abidal's interview tipped Lionel Messi over the edge.

Normally quiet, especially on social media, Messi used Instagram to hit out at Barcelona director of football Abidal, who had earlier suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Barca superstar Messi is reportedly unhappy with how things are unfolding at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TIRED OF BEING BARCA SCAPEGOAT

Lionel Messi is tired of being held responsible for everything that happens at Barcelona amid doubts over his future, according to COPE and Marca.

Contracted until 2021, captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi snapped back at Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players at the club as he discussed Ernesto Valverde's exit.

It comes amid discontent towards the board and Barca's struggles on the pitch.

Clubs in China, the United States and the Middle East would all be interested should the Argentine opt for a change of scenery.

 

ROUND-UP

- Has Paul Pogba played his last game for Manchester United? The Red Devils are resigned to losing Pogba at the end of the season, reports The Mirror. Linked to Real Madrid and former club Juventus, Pogba has not featured since December due to an ongoing ankle problem.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United will prioritise signing Aston Villa star Jack Grealish as fellow midfield target James Maddison nears a new deal with Leicester City.

Atletico Madrid will consider Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach if they move on from Diego Simeone, reports the Telegraph. Pochettino continues to be linked with United, who are struggling under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- Standard Sport claims Chelsea will sign Lyon striker Moussa Dembele at the end of the season after failing to land the Frenchman in January.

- Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Arsenal, reports The Sun. Arsenal enquired about the 22-year-old Brazilian's availability last month.

Milan snubbed the chance to sign Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic in January, says Calciomercato. Matic is out of contract at season's end but is open to extending his time in Manchester.

Nemanja Matic has said he wants to stay at Manchester United and will snub his "many" admirers if offered a contract extension.

Serbian midfielder Matic can leave Old Trafford on a free at the end of the season if United decide against renewing his deal.

The 31-year-old has started each of the club's past six matches in all competitions and scored the only goal in Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second-leg win over Manchester City, before being dismissed for two bookable offences.

Pep Guardiola labelled Matic "outstanding" after the match, and the former Chelsea man hopes United will reward his return to form.

"I've got a contract until the end of the season," Matic told reporters. "I'm at Carrington every day and open to talk if they think I can help. If not, life will go on.

"No discussions have happened yet, but my position is clear. It's a pleasure to represent this club. I came here to win and if they want me to stay then of course I'll give my best to win trophies."

Matic can already ink a pre-contract agreement with clubs elsewhere in Europe and revealed he had options.

"I can't tell who is asking for me but for sure, when you play at Manchester United, many clubs are looking to sign you," he said.

"That's not only me, it's for every player – especially when you're out of contract.

"My first option is Manchester United, but if they decide something else then there are always solutions."

United's victory at the Etihad Stadium failed to earn them an EFL Cup final berth as rivals City advanced 3-2 on aggregate.

Their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League also remain in the balance, with six points separating Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men and fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.

Matic suggested more signings like Bruno Fernandes were necessary for the club to achieve success.

"The club wants to give chances to youngsters, and there is nothing wrong with that, but at a club like this, people also demand results," he said.

"Supporters are used to trophies. The young players are giving their best but they need time, and the problem is that in these kinds of clubs you do not have time."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer slammed referee Kevin Friend's "joke" decision to send off Nemanja Matic but was impressed with Manchester United's display in Wednesday's EFL Cup win at Manchester City.

Matic scored the only goal of the game in the first half, though the 1-0 victory for United was insufficient to book their passage through to the final, with City's 3-1 first-leg win ultimately proving decisive.

With United chasing a second goal towards the end, Matic was shown a second yellow card for a cynical trip on Ilkay Gundogan, adding to the earlier booking he received for catching Riyad Mahrez.

Solskjaer fumed at the dismissal and questioned why referee Friend was so harsh on Matic yet seemingly allowed several City players to escape punishment for infringements, with Pep Guardiola's men regularly criticised before for an apparent reliance on so-called tactical fouls.

"Of course, it's hard to come here [to the Etihad Stadium] and score a goal with 11 [men] never mind 10 [men], and it was never a sending off," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"It was an absolute joke, for me. It was ironic really that he gets a yellow on his first foul, almost gets a yellow on his second foul - which wasn't even a foul - and then the last one wasn't a yellow.

"How many times did they foul us? How many times was Daniel James fouled? How many times in the first half did they foul Jesse [Lingard]?

"That's the first question asked, and it shouldn't be like this because I'm so proud of these players.

"They've beaten City now twice in six weeks, at their place. We've come so far with these boys, they've given absolutely everything."

Despite the second-leg defeat, City will face Aston Villa in the final on March 1.

Manchester City will get the chance to defend their EFL Cup title in the final against Aston Villa after beating Manchester United 3-2 on aggregate, despite Nemanja Matic – who was also sent off – inflicting a 1-0 defeat in Wednesday's second leg.

City produced a wonderful display in the first meeting at Old Trafford and were arguably unlucky to only win 3-1, though it proved to be enough to send Pep Guardiola's men to Wembley even though they failed to meet expectations at home.

Despite finding themselves under extreme pressure at times in the first half, United managed to go into the break ahead thanks to Matic's satisfying strike in the 35th minute, casting some uncertainty over City's command of the tie.

But United were unable to use that goal as a launchpad, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men failed to craft further meaningful chances and Matic's late dismissal for a second booking effectively ended their hopes.

City looked eager to kill off United's chances as early as possible, with Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez forcing David de Gea into fine saves in the first seven minutes.

United weathered that storm and took the lead just past the half-hour mark – Matic slamming a crisp half-volley into the bottom-right corner after Fred's delivery was only partially cleared.

Raheem Sterling seemingly erased United's lead just before half-time when he turned Bernardo Silva's pass home, but the England international had strayed offside.

Sterling had another opportunity in the 58th minute when he was played through on goal, but after checking back to evade Victor Lindelof and then De Gea, he blazed his effort over from 12 yards.

United were reduced to 10 men 14 minutes from time when Matic cynically tripped Ilkay Gundogan to halt a counter-attack, and City had little difficulty seeing out their aggregate win from there despite Aguero's late strike being disallowed for offside.

 

What does it mean? Bruno Fernandes arrival a necessity

Although United's midfield had plenty of bite from Fred and neat touches from Matic, creativity was sorely lacking – hence their difficulty to create opportunities.

Following Wednesday's news United have agreed a deal with Sporting CP for Fernandes worth €80million, it does at least seem as though the club's hierarchy is trying to solve their midfield issues.

De Gea gives United a chance

It is fair to say De Gea has come in for plenty of criticism over the past 18 months, and rightly so. But on Wednesday he showed just how important he can be for United, making several vital saves. His efforts proved irrelevant in the end as his team lacked quality in attack, but he at least gave them a chance.

Sterling fails to shine

Sterling certainly gave Aaron Wan-Bissaka plenty to think about, but he made an unnecessarily early run for his goal that was chalked off and then spurned a wonderful chance to make it 1-1.

What's next?

City go to Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday, as Guardiola renews his rivalry with Jose Mourinho. United host Wolves the day before.

Paul Pogba has had his ankle cast removed as he steps up his attempt to return from injury for Manchester United.

The France international has only started one Premier League match since August in a campaign heavily interrupted by his fitness woes.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unable to put a timescale on Pogba's return to action ahead of Wednesday's derby against Manchester City in the EFL Cup.

But Solskjaer reported Pogba has made a key step in his recovery following surgery, as has fellow midfielder Scott McTominay, who is no longer wearing a knee brace.

"It's hard to put timescales on long-term injuries because they also need the training before [being] injury-free and need to be fitter," Solskjaer told reporters.

"Paul's had his cast off and Scott took his brace off so at least they can now start doing some work on the grass."

Reports have suggested Pogba and McTominay are both targeting injury returns after the mid-season break, with United to play Chelsea on February 17 after a 16-day stint without a game.

After suffering a small issue in United's 6-0 FA Cup win over Tranmere Rovers on Sunday, Nemanja Matic is in a race to be fit for the EFL clash with rivals City, who lead the tie 3-1 after a win at Old Trafford this month.

Solskjaer added: "Just Nemanja got a slight problem, so he had to come off at half-time. He has played loads of football so hopefully we can get him back on the pitch, but I haven't seen him. 

"Let's see how he is in training. To make sure we give him the best possible chance for Wednesday night we took him off. I think he should be all right but let's see."

Eric Bailly is pushing for a return to the line-up, while David de Gea and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be back after getting a rest against Tranmere.

Manchester United or Real Madrid?

Ajax star Donny van de Beek is a wanted man following his exploits for the Eredivisie champions.

But the LaLiga giants are reportedly poised to get their target at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – VAN DE BEEK SET FOR MADRID

Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek is on the verge of joining Real Madrid instead of Manchester United, claims The Mirror.

United have reportedly emerged as a suitor for Van de Beek in January due to injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

But a transfer to Madrid at the end of the season "is more than 80 per cent certain", according to the report.

 

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- The Metro says Premier League champions Manchester City have joined the race to sign Aston Villa's Jack Grealish. Rivals United have been heavily linked to the midfielder.

Tottenham are nearing a deal to bring Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes to London on an 18-month loan contract, reports Sky Sports. West Ham have also been looking to sign the 21-year-old.

- United midfielder Nemanja Matic is in talks to swap Old Trafford for MLS outfit Chicago Fire, according to The Sun. Linked to Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan, the Fire want to bring in the veteran as a replacement for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Arsenal are considering a loan deal for Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, reports The Mirror.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter have reached an agreement with Christian Eriksen for a contract until 2024. Now, Inter must strike a deal with Tottenham for the soon-to-be free agent. Spurs reportedly want €20million (£17m) for the Dane.

- Sporting CP captain Bruno Fernandes has agreed personal terms with United for a contract until 2025 with yearly wages of €6m, according to Italian journalist Nicolo Schira.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hit back at criticism from Robin van Persie, insisting the Dutchman "doesn't have a right" to question his methods.

Working for BT Sport for United's 2-0 loss to Arsenal on New Year's Day, Van Persie questioned Solskjaer's demeanour in the aftermath of such a disappointing result at Emirates Stadium.

"I would like to see him a bit more mean at times, just be angry," the former United forward - who was signed from Arsenal - said. "I see him smiling now after a game like that. This is not the moment to smile."

Yet Solskjaer made clear he was not impressed by the comments on the eve of his team's FA Cup tie away at Wolves.

"I don't know Robin and Robin doesn't know me," a defiant Solskjaer told the media. "He probably doesn't have a right to criticise my management style and I won't change. That's definite.

"Yeah Robin, he took my No.20 [shirt at United] and that's probably all he's going to take from me as well."

United sit in fifth place in the Premier League table, but missed the chance to close the gap on Chelsea as they continue to struggle for consistency.

Their cause will not be aided at the start of 2020 by the absence of midfielder Paul Pogba, who is expected to be out for three to four weeks with a new ankle injury. Solskjaer revealed the issue was bone fragments, explaining: "It's not a big, massive injury."

The Norwegian also responded to comments made by the player's agent, Mino Raiola, over the Frenchman's long-term future at Old Trafford.

Asked if agents should be offering their opinions on the state of clubs, Solskjaer replied: "No."

He added: "I don't think I should be talking to agents or about agents that talk about us, but Paul Pogba is our player and agents are hired by players, not the opposite way around. What me and Paul Pogba are talking about, I don't have to talk to you about. That will be between us."

With Pogba joining Scott McTominay on the sidelines, Nemanja Matic is not only set to stay during the January transfer window but could yet extend his time at the club beyond the 2019-20 season.

"Nemanja will stay. He's been working hard to get back in and now he's here and he’s playing well," said Solskjaer, who added "there's always a chance" of the Serbia international getting a new contract.

Some of Europe's top clubs are already making signings ahead of the January transfer window, but Real Madrid's focus, at least for now, looks to be on securing the services of a current player.

Karim Benzema remains one of Madrid's key men, with 12 goals in 17 LaLiga matches this term.

Los Blancos will reportedly reward the striker's fine form with a contract renewal in the coming months, keeping him at the Santiago Bernabeu for another two seasons.

 

TOP STORY – BENZEMA TO STAY UNTIL 2022

Karim Benzema has agreed to sign a new contract with LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Benzema's current deal had been set to expire in 2021, but an extension is imminent. The newspaper reports the Frenchman will be rewarded improved terms on a new contract to run until 2022 due to his outstanding form.

With Madrid enjoying a midseason break, they are said to have agreed a deal with Benzema that will be made formal at the end of the campaign.

Benzema's future is apparently a priority for Madrid, with the report suggesting the deal was only capped at an additional year as the player is determined not to outstay his welcome, leaving before his outstanding career wanes.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United reportedly have an interest in Benfica star Gedson Fernandes. Sky Sports say the 20-year-old midfielder, who has fallen out of favour with his club, could be available for £34million (€39.8m) following a loan, rather than for a loftier release clause of £102m. United are desperate to bolster their midfield, with Nemanja Matic tipped to join Inter, Milan or Atletico Madrid.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Suns says United are eyeing £50m-rated Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin after Erling Haaland signed for Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund.

- The Mirror claims Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will leave Emirates Stadium at the end of the season in pursuit of silverware. Aubameyang has 18 months remaining on his contract.

Chelsea have made enquiries about the release clause in RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner's contract, says The Telegraph. Werner has been linked to Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich.

- El Desmarque says Everton are leading the race to sign James Rodriguez from Real Madrid. Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti worked with James during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Serie A champions Juventus lead the race to sign Dejan Kulusevski, according to Sky Sport Italia and La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 19-year-old, on loan at Parma from Atalanta, has been linked to United, Arsenal, Napoli, Inter and Liverpool. But Juve are reportedly poised to pay Atalanta €40-50m, while allowing Kulusevski to remain on loan at Parma until the end of the season.

- Calciomercato.com reports Jean-Clair Todibo has an offer from Milan. A deal is said to be done for the Barcelona defender - an initial loan, followed by a €20m fee with no buyback option - but he has not yet agreed to the transfer.

- Having already signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan must move on others in the next month. However, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the Rossoneri are only interested in selling Ricardo Rodriguez and Suso, rather than accommodating loan deals that would suit Watford and Sevilla, respectively.

Napoli are set to announce the signing of Stanislav Lobotka for an initial €16m, according to Calciomercato.com. The midfielder will leave Celta Vigo and sign a contract with the Partenopei until 2024.

With Atletico Madrid struggling for regular goals, Diego Simeone is keen to address the problem.

Atletico have only scored 20 goals in 18 LaLiga matches this season – the club relying heavily on Alvaro Morata's seven strikes.

Simeone's solution could be about to arrive from the French capital, where a Paris Saint-Germain star has fallen down the pecking order.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID NEARING CAVANI DEAL

Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani is close to joining Atletico Madrid in January, according to Marca.

Cavani has reportedly agreed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Atletico, while PSG would prefer to keep the 32-year-old until the end of the season.

The soon-to-be free agent has found himself behind loanee Mauro Icardi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar this season.

Signing Cavani in the January transfer window could force Atletico to sell due to their salary-limit issue, with Thomas Lemar a possible casualty.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United pair Nemanja Matic and Marcos Rojo have been told they will be sold in January, according to the Daily Star. Matic has been linked with Serie A duo Milan and Inter, while Atletico have emerged as an option for the veteran midfielder.

- According to AS, Valencia want to sign right-back Joao Cancelo from Premier League champions Manchester City. The LaLiga outfit are keen for a January reunion with Cancelo, who initially joined Valencia in 2014 before leaving permanently in 2018. Valencia want to re-sign the Portugal international on an initial loan.

Hertha Berlin have entered negotiations with Granit Xhaka to bring the former Arsenal captain back to the Bundesliga, reports RMC Sport. Hertha have turned their attention to ex-Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Xhaka after failing to prise Lucas Tousart from Lyon.

Chelsea have been offered the chance to sign Isco. The Daily Express says Real Madrid are trying to offload players to free up funds to bring in Tottenham star Christian Eriksen in January. City are also reportedly interested in Madrid's Isco.

Mario Mandzukic's proposed switch to Qatari outfit Al-Duhail from Juventus has broken down due to wage expectations, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Barcelona only want to loan out defender Jean-Clair Todibo in January amid interest from Milan and Bayern Leverkusen. United have also been linked with the 19-year-old.

Marcus Rashford can do "much, much more" and still has plenty of scope to mature into a better player, Manchester United team-mate Nemanja Matic says.

Rashford has scored 14 goals for United in all competitions in 2019-20, which is already his best return for a whole season in senior football.

The 22-year-old has emerged as something of a leader in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's young side and has been a consistent performer amid a hugely up-and-down few months for the team at Old Trafford.

Matic, though, thinks Rashford can still become a much better player, provided he is given time to develop.

"Marcus has great potential," he told Omnisport. "He's a great guy also off the pitch, but I think he hasn't used all his qualities yet. He needs to mature more and I can say every year, every month, he's getting better and better.

"I think in the future, in the next two or three years, he will show what he can really achieve because he can do much, much more in my opinion. But he's still young. We can't expect him to play 40 games at the same level because he's still young, still learning, he's still developing his body, his mentality.

"He can be one of the best strikers in the world, for sure."

United have mostly performed well against stronger opponents this season, beating Tottenham and Manchester City this month, but Sunday's 2-0 loss to bottom-of-the-table Watford underlined their struggles against the Premier League's so-called lesser lights.

Matic thinks the playing field has mostly levelled in England's top flight, though, given the amount of funds at the disposal of the clubs.

"I think every year the Premier League improves," he said. "Top-six teams have always been top six and they always play good football. They always had the best players but, over the last 10 years in the Premier League, I think the small clubs have improved a lot.

"They've started to invest more. Even the clubs who fight to stay in the league, they can buy players for 30, 40million. I think the standards in the Premier League are higher and that's why the big teams find it very hard now to win. I think this is good for football, good for the Premier League and I think in the future it will be even harder for the top teams."

Former United stars have been quick to criticise the current team when on duty as television pundits, something Matic thinks can be unfair at times when it is focused on the younger players.

"I think it's their job if they go on television, it's their job to say something," he said. "Sometimes they say the truth, probably; sometimes they criticise the younger players, which isn't good, in my opinion, especially if you're an ex-player of Manchester United and you criticise the players and you know you've been there 10, 15, 20 years ago.

"You have to help the players if you can. But they probably get money to work there and they have to say something. To be honest, I don't watch that much, when I see some clips or something, yeah, but I know what my job is and for me, the most important opinion is my coach, my club. If they're happy with my work, that's it."

Matic has watched former Chelsea team-mate Frank Lampard enjoy an encouraging first season as Chelsea head coach, and the Serbia international is thrilled to see him making the most of a challenging role.

"I'm very happy because I saw Lampard, I saw Petr Cech is back at the club and I think it's very important for Chelsea because they know what Chelsea is, they have experience in football, and I'm happy that they are there," Matic added.

"I'm sure they can help the team and if you speak about Frank, I played with him, and he's great, a great person, he was amazing as a player, as you know, and I'm sure that he will improve Chelsea and he will do great. I wish him all the best."

Could Chelsea gazump their Premier League rivals in the race for Jadon Sancho?

According to reports, the Blues are working on a club-record deal for the Borussia Dortmund winger.

Frank Lampard was among Sancho's idols growing up and the Chelsea boss has been open about his desire to bring in a replacement for Eden Hazard.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO SET FOR STAMFORD BRIDGE?

Chelsea could celebrate the end of their transfer ban by splashing out £120million to secure Borussia Dortmund and England star Jadon Sancho, according to The Sun.

The huge price tag attached to one of Europe's brightest prospects has reportedly quashed Liverpool's interest and Manchester United are also said to be at risk of missing out on a long-term target.

The Sun claims Chelsea head coach Lampard believes Sancho, 19, can be the man to fill the attacking void left by Hazard's close-season departure to Real Madrid.

Sancho has scored nine Bundesliga goals this season and hit eight in seven games across all competitions prior to Dortmund's 2-1 defeat to Hoffenheim on Friday.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Premier League champions Manchester City are monitoring Marquinhos' contract impasse at Paris Saint-Germain, writes Le 10 Sport. The Ligue 1 leaders are reportedly unwilling to meet the Brazilian's financial demands as they seek to extend his deal beyond 2022.

- There is a "big question mark" hanging over Paco Alcacer's future at Dortmund as the striker struggles to carve out a regular Bundesliga starting spot, reports Ruhr Nachrichten.

- Tottenham have opened talks over a January move for Flamengo midfielder Gerson, says 90min. The 22-year-old started for Flamengo in their Club World Cup final loss to Liverpool on Saturday.

- Barcelona included Arturo Vidal in their starting XI against Deportivo Alaves on Sunday and are now seemingly determined to block his expected Camp Nou exit. According to Mundo Deportivo, the Chilean's agent has met with club executives in a bid to secure a mid-season switch to Serie A, where Inter are rumoured to be his strongest suitors, but €20m will not be enough to do a deal.

- The Nerazzurri's city rivals might have more success in making a midfield acquisition. La Gazzetta dello Sport claims Stefano Pioli's Milan are interested in United outcast Nemanja Matic, who has been linked to Inter.

Nemanja Matic has told Manchester United's young players to improve their concentration levels in Premier League matches against low-profile opposition.

United have thrived in high-pressure fixtures, beating old boss Jose Mourinho's new Tottenham side and following that win with victory in a local derby away to Manchester City this month.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, who have been without senior players including Matic, Eric Bailly, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba for much of the 2019-20 season, have been found wanting in matches against teams further down the table.

United have failed to beat Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Everton in their past seven league games, having previous lost away matches to Newcastle United and West Ham and a home fixture with Crystal Palace.

Matic, fit again after two months out with an injury sustained on international duty with Serbia, feels consistency is key if United are to push on from sixth in the table.

"It's difficult to explain, but I think that we have a very young team," the 31-year-old told Omnisport when asked why United appear to be more impressive against better sides.

"When we play big games against big players, big teams – when I say big teams, I mean teams at the top of the league like Liverpool, Chelsea, City, Tottenham – then I think these young players have more concentration.

"I think they give more on the pitch and, in small games, that's not the case in my opinion.

"If we manage to keep the same concentration in big games and also in small games then we can be more consistent and win more games.

"As you know we are fifth, sixth in the table and I'm sure that this team can do more."

United are away to bottom side Watford on Sunday, seeking to extend a run of six games without defeat in the Premier League.

"Nice guy" Eden Hazard will prove he is one of the best players in the world at Real Madrid, according to his former Chelsea team-mate Nemanja Matic.

Hazard finally joined Los Blancos in June for an initial €100million after months of speculation linking with him a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Belgium international left the Blues having scored 16 Premier League goals in his final season at Stamford Bridge, though Madrid fans have only seen fleeting glimpses of his talent since his move.

Hazard, who has scored just one goal for Madrid in 13 appearances, is sidelined by an ankle injury and had struggled with a hamstring problem earlier in the season.

Matic, though, is adamant his former Chelsea colleague can be a success in Spain.

"Eden Hazard's only problem is that he's such a nice guy," Matic told Omnisport.

"He's so nice and he will take some more time to adapt.

"At Real Madrid, if you don't score in the first two, three games... if you don't score or play well, they criticise you a lot.

"The pressure is big, but he also had an injury, but I'm sure in the next five, six months and next season he will be again one of the best players in the world."

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