Manchester United are top of the Premier League at this stage of the season for the first time since Alex Ferguson's final year in charge.

Few would have predicted such a turn of events when United fell to a tame 1-0 loss against Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 1.

Since then, though, United have gone on an 11-match unbeaten run in the league that contained nine victories, including the 1-0 away win over Burnley on Tuesday.

As a result, they sit three points clear of Premier League champions Liverpool ahead of their huge trip to Anfield on Sunday.

We have used Opta data to look at who has performed best, both for United and across the league, during this resurgent period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

IMPRESSIVE ATTACKING STATS

United have conceded a respectable 11 goals in as many matches, but it is their attacking play which is really separating them from the pack.

They have scored 25 goals in those 11 games, five more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool are next with 20, though they have played one game fewer, followed by Leeds United and Leicester City (both 18).

United have racked up 122 attempts at goal, which is second-best in the league – only Leeds (132) rank higher.

And United's efforts have been more accurate, as they have the most shots on target (72), well clear of Leeds and Liverpool (both 56).

BRUNO AND RASHFORD STAND OUT

It will surprise few to learn that Bruno Fernandes has been United's best performer over the past 11 games, just as he has been since his debut a year ago.

He has scored eight goals for United in the 11-match period, with the next best contributors being the impressive Marcus Rashford (five) and new arrival Edinson Cavani (three).

Fernandes also comes out on top for assists with five. Rashford again follows closely with three, which is also the tally registered by Anthony Martial.

Once again Fernandes (27) and Rashford (24) both come out on top when it comes to shots, with Martial also generating a good number of attempts (22).

As you might expect, that trio subsequently fare best when it comes to attempts on target, with Fernandes (18) ahead of Rashford and Martial (both 14).

The Portugal international has 316 successful passes in the opposition half over those 11 games. Rashford (221) is second and a welcome sight for United is Paul Pogba (195) coming next in the list.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who asssisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved in offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who assisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

Fernandes leads United for chances created over the 11 matches with 34. Improving full-back Luke Shaw is a surprise second with 17, followed by Martial and Rashford (12).

FERNANDES IN ELITE COMPANY

The eight goals scored by Fernandes since November 2 puts him two clear of the next best in the league, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (six).

Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (six) just edges him for assists and is the only man with a higher number across all Premier League teams during that span.

When the metrics are adjusted to calculate contributions per 90 minutes spent on the pitch, some other United players come to the fore

Fernandes and Cavani (0.79) fare best for United in a tie for fifth for goals per 90 minutes, with Aston Villa star Anwar El Ghazi, who has been on a hot streak, topping the list on 0.94.

Everton's Lucas Digne is averaging one assist per 90 minutes over the period, though his sample size is a little smaller after missing time for injury.

De Bruyne averages 0.67 assists per 90 minutes, while United's top player in the category is Cavani on 0.53, ahead of Fernandes on a still impressive 0.49.

That suggests Cavani, despite his relatively quiet return from suspension at Turf Moor, could have more to offer than just goals and an aerial threat if deployed regularly as a number nine.

When it comes to shots on target, Martial is in a tie for third in the Premier League with Fernandes (both 1.78 per 90).

The rampant El Ghazi (2.99) and resurgent Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette (2.04) top the charts during the timeframe.

Perhaps surprisingly it is Nemanja Matic who averages the most completed passes in the opposition half per game among United players (34.11).

Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones are ranking as the league's best in that category since November 2 at 52.86 and 48.28 respectively.

With chances created, Fernandes (fourth, 3.36 per 90 minutes) and Shaw (eighth, 2.88) both come out well.

But it is reported United target Jack Grealish (4.22) who has been far and away the most creative player in the top flight over the period.

It is clear the form and fitness of Fernandes will continue to be imperative to United's hopes of sustaining a serious title challenge.

But if Rashford, Martial, Cavani, Pogba and Shaw can build on their positive contributions during their surge to the top in support of Fernandes, the goals should be able to keep flowing.

If they do and a positive result at Anfield leads to a six-point advantage, perhaps fans can dare to dream.

Manchester United players can sense they have a chance to make this a special season, says Gary Neville.

Paul Pogba scored a volley with 19 minutes remaining on Tuesday to give United a 1-0 away victory over Burnley.

That moved them top of the Premier League, three points clear of champions Liverpool ahead of the two teams' crunch clash at Anfield on Sunday.

Former United captain Neville believes Liverpool are in for an uncomfortable few days and urged fans of the Red Devils to relish their return to the summit.

The last time United were top at this stage of the season was in 2012-13, Alex Ferguson's last season which ended in title glory.

"I believe these players feel they can have a really special season," Neville said to Sky Sports.

"It's odd, it's changing every single week, you don't know what is going to happen - there's an element of unpredictability and Manchester United could exploit that.

"It's a big win, to go top of the league before Sunday feels like a big moment. Six to eight weeks ago you wouldn't have thought Manchester United would have been anywhere near this position.

"Yet, now, they find themselves with something building, the spirit is growing as you could see with the way they celebrated with each other.

"Some performances haven't been great all the time away from home but they have won when they haven't been at their best. It's a little bit more exciting and l am going to enjoy these next three or four days!

"I don't think anyone is saying Manchester United will win the league but the fact that they are in a title fight - wow! I never would have imagined it.

"It's a strange season. Why shouldn't Manchester United fans believe? Why shouldn't this side believe? Look at the front three, that midfield four, Bruno Fernandes - they have some fantastic players.

"The other teams aren't in great form. Man City are sitting there cool and calm, nobody is really talking about them, but they are hitting very good form and that is a real danger. 

"But in the next few days it is time to have a little bit of fun. It won't be a comfortable few days for Liverpool."

Neville added: "We know full well how quickly this season has turned around: it was Chelsea four weeks ago and Man United looked dead, but it is all turning around again.

"It shouldn't stop Manchester United fans get carried away in the next few days. Why shouldn't they? It's been a really difficult few years." 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted United are ready for the challenge of facing Liverpool.

"It's a brilliant position to be in," said the United manager.

"Of course we know we're going to the champions who have had an unbelievable three-and-a-half-seasons, we know it's going to be a difficult game for us, but we are ready for it.

"We couldn't have asked for a better time to play them because we are in good shape, good form and hungry. These boys want to get better and that's the test of their character and quality.

"Of course, we enjoy being [top of the league] at any time, be that the first game or the last game, which is a big, big difference. We're looking forward to it, it's a great test of where we're at.

"We're almost halfway through the season so it's a little bit of an indication of where you're at, but no one will remember the league table on January 12."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United are "getting better and better" after edging past Burnley 1-0 on Tuesday to move top of the Premier League.

Paul Pogba made the breakthrough at Turf Moor 19 minutes from time to move United three points clear of Liverpool ahead of Sunday's showdown between the bitter rivals.

It is the first time the Red Devils have occupied top spot this deep into the season since December 2012 in Sir Alex Ferguson's final campaign in charge.

United head to Anfield as the division's only unbeaten side on their travels this term, winning seven out of eight, while going further back they are 15 without defeat away from home in the league.

And after seeing his side win for a ninth time in 11 unbeaten matches overall in the top flight, Solskjaer wants his side to take on the reigning champions with no fear.

"We are getting better and better. We're almost halfway through the season but nobody will remember the league table on January 12," he told BBC Sport.

"We feel very confident going into games. Away from home we have really done well. We have to believe in ourselves and we do. 

"We've done a great job - it's good times for us. It's going to be a test against the champions, who have been fantastic, That's a great test for us."

Speaking to Sky Sports, Solskjaer added: "They've had an unbelievable three seasons so we're ready for it. 

"But we're ready and we're excited, we're hungry for it and it's a test of character and quality again. We're in a good position going into it."

Despite their impressive away form, the clean sheet against Burnley was United's first on their travels this season in the league, conceding 11 in their previous seven outings.

The visitors dominated a game in which their opponents failed to register a single attempt on target, though it looked as though it may be a frustrating day until Pogba converted Marcus Rashford's cross.

A couple of controversial VAR calls went against United in the first half, including Harry Maguire's header being disallowed for a perceived challenge on Erik Pieters.

That made the eventual victory all the more pleasing for Solskjaer, even if the scoreline was tighter than he would have liked.

"Frustrations were there for everyone to see - it affected our performance," he said. "We can't let that happen. Harry's goal was a perfectly good one. Half-time helped us. We came out second half really well and deserved the win.

"I'd rather win 4-0 - it's so much more comfortable. At 1-0 you have to see out one or two big moments. They pegged us back, you expect that. But we put our body on the line, of course the mentality is getting better. I'm very pleased with the spirit."

Pogba's last seven Premier League goals have all come away from home, this latest strike taking his tally for the season to four in all competitions.

"I've always said Paul is a big player for us," Solskjaer said. "He's a good character in the dressing room, someone the lads look to, a world champion. 

"We're seeing the best of Paul at the moment - he's been injured and he's had COVID so it's natural to need to get back to fitness after that."

Paul Pogba volleyed in the winning goal as Manchester United moved top of the Premier League by winning 1-0 at Burnley.

United only needed a point on Tuesday to move above champions Liverpool ahead of the two teams' crunch clash at Anfield this weekend.

But the resurgent Pogba converted Marcus Rashford's cross with 19 minutes left to ensure United moved three points clear of their great rivals.

Burnley defended well but did not manage a single shot on target, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side had a first-half goal Harry Maguire goal disallowed.

The hosts went close early on when Eric Bailly made a key block to divert Chris Wood's effort away from David de Gea's goal.

Anthony Martial fired off target when a presentable chance was given to him by Nemanja Matic before VAR took centre stage.

After a long review, Robbie Brady's foul on Edinson Cavani just outside the area was rescinded and Luke Shaw was booked for a foul on Johann Gudmundsson earlier in the move, with Burnley calling for a red.

Maguire impressively headed in a Shaw cross only for a foul to be awarded for his duel with Erik Pieters. Nick Pope then impressively kept out a Martial curler to ensure the first half ended goalless.

A golden opportunity went begging after the break when Cavani scuffed a close-range effort straight at Burnley keeper Pope after Martial had squared into his path.

Rashford had been enduring a quiet evening out on the right until he picked out Pogba at the edge of the penalty area just as it began to look like United would have to settle for a draw.

Pogba latched on to it and superbly volleyed in, with a deflection off Matthew Lowton ensuring Pope was powerless to keep it out.

There were a couple of late scares for United, with James Tarkowski squandering an opportunity and Maguire not penalised amid claims of handball, but they held on with only late injuries to Martial – who had a last-gasp shot saved by Pope - and Nemanja Matic dampening the mood.
 

Ordinarily, Burnley v Manchester United wouldn't be the sort of match that receives much attention from those without a vested interest in either team.

A somewhat local encounter it may be, Burnley perhaps aren't – with all due respect – the sort of team that attracts swathes of neutrals.

Nevertheless, Tuesday's fixture at Turf Moor holds genuine significance for United as it provides them with the opportunity to go top of the Premier League.

Granted, it may only be January 12 and we aren't quite at the halfway point of the season, but such an opportunity represents real progress.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men go into the match – which was postponed at the start of the campaign due to United's run to the Europa League semi-finals – level on points with the Liverpool, who they host at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Once the leading power in the Premier League under Alex Ferguson, United have not been at such a level for a while – could this be the start of a sustained resurgence?

A long time coming

In Solskjaer's pre-match news conference, he initially downplayed the importance of going top in January, suggesting such matters were trivial until March or April.

Yet, he also made a point of telling the team that it is time United establish themselves as title challengers again.

It would be generous to suggest they have been worthy of that distinction at any point since Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

Their highest finish during this time was second in 2017-18, though United finished 19 points adrift of a devastating Manchester City side that looked like champions-elect for much of the season as they amassed a record 100 points.

Indeed, United have been top of the table for a grand total of 51 days in the post-Ferguson era – 41 of those were under Jose Mourinho, eight with Louis van Gaal and just two during David Moyes' ill-fated reign.

The last time they finished the day top of the Premier League table was in August 2018, though considering their 2-1 win over Leicester City was the sole game on the very first day of the season and they did not retain their place for 24 hours, one has to ask whether that even counts.

But what most highlights the strides Solskjaer has made is the fact that none of those previous 51 days at the summit were this far into a season.

Of course, Burnley could yet pull off an upset and United may finish the season without ever sitting in top spot – or this could be a watershed moment for them and Solskjaer.

The Fernandes factor

Every team needs its talisman and even the most ardent United supporter will surely admit any title challenge would be impossible without Bruno Fernandes.

The Portugal midfielder's influence since joining United at the end of the January 2020 transfer window has been nothing short of remarkable.

While Liverpool have certainly not been without personnel issues, Fernandes has more than played his part in bridging the gap.

When we look at the Premier League table during Fernandes' time in England, United sit top with 65 points from 30 games, three clear of Liverpool who have played a game extra.

United's 19 wins is a league high and their three defeats is the lowest over the same time period, while only Liverpool (66) have scored more than their 63.

They might already be way out in front without the defensive issues that have intermittently reared their head, though few would accuse the team of lacking character – United have claimed 25 points from losing positions since Fernandes' first game.

'On the road is where I really come alive'

If there's one thing Solskjaer's Man United and The Office character David Brent have in common, it's that they relish life on the road.

United's record away from home over the past year has been in a league of its own, as they are unbeaten in 14 games away from Old Trafford.

It's also away from home where their never-say-die attitude has been most prominent. They seldom see a foregone conclusion when they fall behind, with 20 of their 36 points on the road coming from being at least a goal down. That's double any other team.

If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain, but thankfully for United they are yet to slip up on their travels since February.

They are averaging 2.6 points per away game, with no other side managing more than 1.7.

Solskjaer won't be counting on a free ride at Turf Moor on Tuesday, but he will surely expect at least the point they need to go top.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he is excited by the openness of the Premier League title race this season as the Red Devils eye silverware.

United visit Burnley on Tuesday level on 33 points alongside rivals and defending champions Liverpool atop the table, and with the chance to move to the summit having played a game less.

Liverpool cruised to Premier League glory by 18 points last season, but only a point separates the leaders and third-placed Leicester City this term, while Chelsea are just seven points adrift in ninth position through 17 rounds.

Solskjaer is relishing the competitiveness as United seek to win their first Premier League trophy since 2012-13.

"I think all the teams want to take a grip on the Premier League, of course," Solskjaer told reporters.

"But it's just that kind of season, kind of year, kind of situation where there will be ups and downs, less consistency in results and performances.

"For me, it's exciting. As a supporter or as a fan, it's more interesting, of course, when there are more teams in and around each other compared to last season, where one just ran away."

Once English football's leading power under Alex Ferguson, United have spent just 51 days top of the table since the legendary Scottish manager retired in 2013.

The last time United finished a day at the summit was the very first of the 2018-19 season after beating Leicester 2-1 – their meeting was the only game that day, and the Manchester club were knocked off top spot by the end of that weekend.

United are unbeaten on the road in the top flight in 16 games and Burnley have not won successive league meetings with the Red Devils since 1968.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has already forced the postponement of fixtures – Solskjaer said: "I think it's going to be very important if you've managed to keep a fit squad. It's not just about fitness injury-wise, of course – it's also the COVID. You can see teams being really badly hit at times.

"Our boys have done well in that regard. We've not really lost many. The players themselves have done better. 

"You've got less things to do outside football than you might. You stay at home, you rest and recover and maybe for your own mental health you do some things back in your own gym. You're working and looking after yourself. I think that's also a factor here.

"I don't think they'd be going out too much anyway, but you've got no chance of going out [at the moment]. Hopefully they'll find out that we can live this way for the rest of our careers and get the most out of our careers!"

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Edinson Cavani is "ready to go" for Tuesday's Premier League clash with Burnley following his recent ban, but Paul Pogba is a doubt. 

Cavani was suspended for three matches and fined £100,000 by the Football Association for posting a message in response to an Instagram story after he scored twice in United's 3-2 comeback win at Southampton on November 29.

The post from Cavani featured a Spanish word often used as a term of endearment in Latin America, with Cavani later apologising and deleting when he is said to have become aware the word could be construed as having racist connotations in English.

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker had been in good form before the ban, scoring three goals and creating two more for his team-mates from just two starts in the Premier League. Indeed, the Uruguay international has been involved in a goal every 59.4 minutes in the top flight this season.

United make the short trip to Burnley as the only side still unbeaten away from home in the Premier League this season, winning six of their seven games so far.

Another victory over Sean Dyche's Clarets will see United move three points clear of Liverpool – whom the Red Devils face on Sunday – at the league summit and Solskjaer has no doubts Cavani will be in a position to contribute. 

"Edinson has trained well when he's been banned," the United boss told a media conference. "He's had a couple days off as well, you can't train too much. He is ready to go. 

"He gives us a different option, he's a different type of forward to the others, so I'm glad to have him back, that's why we brought him in. 

"He's contributed really well so far. I'm sure he'll be really important for us until the end of the season. We feel the season starts tomorrow night."

Pogba, meanwhile, was absent from United's squad for the 1-0 FA Cup win over Watford on Saturday and Solskjaer confirmed a decision on his involvement at Turf Moor will not be made until Tuesday. 

"All of them trained today," he added. "Paul and Eric [Bailly, who went off injured against Watford with a neck issue] didn't do all of it but Luke [Shaw] and Victor [Lindelof] did, so I've got a decent amount of players to pick from. Let's see with Paul and Eric how they are tomorrow."

While Solskjaer confirmed several fringe players may leave Old Trafford during the January transfer window, he suggested the club would only dip into the market themselves if a "long-term target" becomes available. 

"January is always difficult but if something comes up about a long-term target, that's another scenario," he said. 

"Not many teams want to lose their players in January, so it's unlikely something will happen on the 'in' side. 

"There might be a few players going out. For one thing, they deserve to play more football for their own good and their own careers."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has urged Manchester United to finally establish themselves as Premier League challengers once again as they aim to go top of the Premier League table against Burnley on Tuesday.

After a somewhat shaky start to the season, United have steadily climbed up the table and head into their next Premier League game level on 33 points with defending champions Liverpool, who have played a game more.

Indeed, ever since the start of 2020-21 United have been playing catch-up due to their involvement in the extended Europa League campaign last term, and Tuesday's contest will finally see them back on level footing in terms of matches played.

Once English football's leading power under Alex Ferguson, United have spent just 51 days top of the table since the Scottish manager retired in 2013.

The last time they finished a day at the summit was the very first of the 2018-19 season after beating Leicester City 2-1 – their meeting was the only game that day, and United were knocked off top spot by the end of that weekend.

Solskjaer was eager to play down the importance of being top in January, though he did accept United have to take this chance to confirm themselves as challengers again.

"We're better off this season than we were at this stage last season; we've scored more goals, won more games, played better football," he told reporters on Monday. "Nobody remembers who's top on January 12, and for us it's about developing the team - we're progressing and we've shown we can bounce back from disappointment.

"We're improving. It's been since [Ferguson] left [that United challenged]. We've been second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth seventh, so it's up to us to establish ourselves among the top four. We've only been there three times since Ferguson left."

It was then put to Solskjaer that the inevitable comparisons of every Man United team with Ferguson's era might be unfair, and the Norwegian seemingly agreed, adamant the Premier League is an entirely different landscape in 2021.

"It's a different ball game to when I was a player," he said. "We were disappointed if we didn't win the league. But now so many teams consider themselves candidates.

"The league table doesn't really matter now, you pick up points and when you get to March, April, that's when the league is going to be decided.

"We knew this would be a difficult season for us, we had to catch up. I said we needed to hang in there, but that's not what I meant.

"I meant we had to pick up points and get performances right, don't let teams run away with it. We've done well."

The omens look good for United ahead of their trip to Turf Moor – they are unbeaten on the road in the top flight in 16 games and Burnley have not won successive league meetings with the Red Devils since 1968.

Their next game after Burnley is a mouth-watering clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Scott McTominay as a "monster of a human being" after his goal sealed a 1-0 win over Watford in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. 

McTominay, captaining United at Old Trafford, headed home Alex Telles' corner in the fifth minute to secure United's 34th victory from their last 36 third-round ties. 

It was the Scotland international's fourth goal of the season in all competitions, one short of his best tally in a single campaign (five goals in 37 appearances last term).

"Scott has had a very good season," Solskjaer told BBC Sport. "He is being more and more dangerous, we know he can be a box-to-box midfielder.

"He should have scored a few more on set-plays before now because he is a monster of a human being. I am very happy he got the goal."

United did not have it all their own way against the Hornets, who attempted 18 shots in the match – the second-most they have had away from home this season. 

"The most important thing in the cup is that you go through so that will make everyone happy but the first 15-20 minutes I think were the highlights of our game," Solskjaer added. 

"I think we played some very good stuff, created chances and then we let them back into the game but we are through.

"I'm delighted we are through. I told them I didn't expect them to start like a house on fire. I expected them to grow into the game. The opposite happened more or less. We started brightly."

McTominay captained United for the first time and led by example, completing 45 of 56 attempted passes, creating one chance and making a joint team-high three clearances.

The 24-year-old told BT Sport: "When the manager told me it was a surreal moment. 

"I've been here since I had just turned five, so that's 18 or 19 years associated with the club and it is a huge honour. I love this club and it has been my whole life."

McTominay and goalkeeper Dean Henderson were the only two players to keep their places from the side that lost to Manchester City in the EFL Cup on Wednesday and the midfielder acknowledged a general lack of match fitness may have contributed to United's sluggish second-half display. 

"We started really well and then for the first half an hour we were really good, moved the ball really well and there was some good combination play," McTominay added.

"Then we couldn't find it after that as well. The second half I didn't think we played anywhere near our level.

"For the boys coming into the team it is difficult, they haven't played for a long time. The manager said 'get your rhythm' and he probably wasn't expecting the rhythm we got in the first 30 minutes. But then there were some tired minds, but credit to the boys."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has underlined his desire to keep Donny van de Beek at Manchester United despite a difficult start to his Old Trafford career.

Since arriving from Ajax in a reported £40million deal in pre-season, the Dutchman has made just eight starts in total, with only two of those coming in the Premier League.

That lack of action prompted Van de Beek's boss at international level, Frank de Boer, to suggest this week that the midfielder might need to move on in January in order to strengthen his chances of featuring in the Netherlands' European Championship squad.

However, Solskjaer has reiterated his faith in the 23-year-old and revealed he will be handed a rare opportunity to start when United face Watford in the FA Cup on Saturday.

"I've answered this question so many times," the Norwegian said.

"There are so many examples of players needing a little bit of time – quality players. We have many players ourselves and there are other clubs with examples. Sometimes it takes time. You don't expect people who care for him to be quiet at times, especially when they want the best for them.

"Donny is going to play tomorrow. There's another chance for him. Yes, I've spoken to him and reiterated and made him aware how much we rate him. But he'll play tomorrow, and that's a good chance to kick on."

One player who could be set for a January departure from Old Trafford is Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

The 23-year-old, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has made just three appearances this term, including one start.

And Solskjaer is open to the idea of allowing him to move on should the right offer arrive.

"I'm not sure if Tim is going to stay or [if] he's going to take an option now," he said.

"He's not played enough, so of course he's been allowed to speak to clubs, with a view to leaving now in January. It's difficult when you've got good players, talented players, and you can't give them game time.

"He's now at the stage where he needs to go and play again.

"It might be [at the] end of January, or it might be in the summer that he finds somewhere else. So, he's working hard, Tim, he's ready for a move for any club that he feels ready for."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no doubt his Manchester United side are ready to bounce back to their EFL Cup disappointment against Manchester City when they host Watford this weekend.

The Red Devils were defeated 2-0 by Pep Guardiola's side at Old Trafford and have now lost each of the four semi-finals they have contested under Solskjaer.

Saturday brings another opportunity when United face the Hornets to start their FA Cup venture this season and Solskjaer expects his team to respond to this latest setback.

"The reaction has been as expected, of course you're disappointed when you go out, we wanted to go one step further but we've shown many times this season we can bounce back after a disappointment," he told a news conference ahead of the third-round tie.

"We did it after defeat against Arsenal, did it after we lost to Tottenham, after we went out of the Champions League - the boys have reacted well.

"I don't envisage anyone with any other mindset than we have to win. We enter the competition wanting to win.

"We have a few players with a few knocks, so there'll be a few changes, but I'll still field a team I feel confident in."

Odion Ighalo was drafted in as emergency cover a year ago following an injury to Marcus Rashford but his loan stint from Shanghai Shenhua comes to an end this month.

Solskjaer expects to give the striker game time against his former club, while he also offered an update on Argentine duo Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo – both of whom are being tipped with January exits with their contracts to expire at the end of the season.

"It's special for him [Ighalo] against Watford, he will be involved," Solskjaer added.

"He's training really well, I don't know how many goals he scored today but by miles he was our top scorer in the round robin in training. 

"He's not lost sharpness or quality, it's difficult to be out of the squad of course. He did well until the summer. This season he's not had as many opportunities but he's never let himself down as a professional or a human being. 

"In training he always works hard. He's in the squad, hopefully I don't need to put him on to need goals but hopefully he can join in."

On Romero and Rojo, he added: "Both of them have contracts until the summer, they're not gonna be extended so we're looking for them to find clubs. 

"Marcos has been given time to go home, so he's still in Argentina. Sergio he has been back home as well to see family but he's back in England now. They're professionals, working hard and ready if they're called in for us. Marcos would have to travel in and do quarantine before."

Solskjaer, who confirmed Facundo Pellistri has tested positive for coronavirus but has not been involved with the first team, was asked about the worrying rise in COVID-19 cases across the Premier League.

The Norwegian acknowledged the growing concern for society but is keen for the competition not to be halted.

"First of all, you're worried what's happening in society and in and around the country," he said. 

"I personally feel safe within our bubble, I think we've taken all the steps that we've had to follow protocols, guidelines. The club have been good and the players are following the rules as well as they can. 

"Of course what's happening at different clubs and society is frightening, we have a duty to try and stay clear, stay within bubbles.

"I hope we can continue playing, I think it's [football] had a positive impact – I feel it as well at home when you don't have a game you're looking forward to watching football on the tele. The mental wellbeing of football has been a big positive, I think."

Manchester United have completed the signing of teenage winger Amad Diallo from Atalanta, and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reckons he has landed a future star. 

Diallo has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract, tying him to the Premier League giants until June 2025.

United's pursuit of Diallo began in 2016 and the 18-year-old has since broken through in Serie A, playing five first-team games and scoring once for Atalanta. 

A deal had been agreed in October and now a work permit has been secured that allows the move to take place. 

United said, in a statement on their website, that Diallo would join up with them as soon as he receives a visa.

Reports have indicated the transfer will cost United £37million, but Solskjaer believes they are getting a rare talent. 

Solskjaer said: "As a club, we have followed Amad for a number of years and having watched him myself, I believe he is one of the most exciting young prospects in the game. 

"Manchester United has such a proud history of developing young players and everything is in place to enable Amad to reach his potential here. 

"It will take time for him to adapt but his speed, vision and fantastic dribbling ability will stand him in good stead to make the transition. He is a player with all of the raw attributes that are needed to be an important player for Manchester United in the years to come." 

Diallo is relishing his big chance at United, saying: "After waiting since the summer, it is finally a dream come true to complete my move to Manchester United. I am hugely ambitious and there is so much that I want to achieve in the game; when I spoke to the manager I knew that I had joined the perfect club. 

"This is a really exciting squad with so many great players, I can promise that I will work hard every day to learn from them and give everything to develop my game. The coaches have been fantastic since I signed, we have been in touch regularly and they have already given me a lot of great advice. 

"I have had time to prepare for this move, both physically and mentally, and I have worked really hard to be ready to make the step up to this amazing club."

Paul Pogba has warned Manchester United they will continue to fall short of winning the "big stuff" if they do not improve on "details" after losing to Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final thanks to two set-pieces.

City became only the second side to reach four successive finals in the competition on Wednesday, while it was a third semi-final elimination in four EFL Cup campaigns for United.

On top of that, it was a fourth consecutive semi-final defeat for United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer across all competitions, having fallen to City in the same competition in 2019-20 as well as losing to Chelsea and Sevilla in the FA Cup and Europa League respectively.

United have made undoubted progress under Solskjaer, as evidenced by the fact a point against Burnley next Tuesday will take them top of the Premier League for the first time since the opening day of the 2018-19 season – their 2-1 win over Leicester City was the only game that day.

But Pogba has warned United they will not win the biggest matches if they do not sharpen up around certain situations, with City's two goals on Wednesday coming from dead-ball situations.

Speaking to MUTV, the France international said: "It is disappointing because it is not the first one against City at home. We are disappointed with the result, obviously, with the two goals from set-pieces.

"It is very annoying to lose because there is a trophy behind all of this. We have to do better, we have to do better for sure. It is about details.

"Details make the difference all of the time and now when it is big games like this, it is details and at set-pieces we lost. We have to learn because it is not the first time.

"We have to learn, we have to get through this because, after this, there are big games coming up. Next time, we will do better, we will do better.

"We are improving. Last year they [City] were obviously more dominant and they dominated us [in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final]. That wasn't the case [this time], so obviously we are improving.

"We are improving in the league and, even though we lost in the semi-final, we are still going far and that is what we want. But now it is about details. It is good to improve but we have to go to the next step now, all of us."

Up next for United at the weekend is an FA Cup clash with Championship side Watford, before then going to Burnley for their rearranged fixture from the start of the season on Tuesday, and a top-of-the-table showdown with Liverpool follows that.

Pogba looked to remind the team that they cannot afford to mope in the wake of defeat to City given the importance of the games on the horizon.

"There is no time to be disappointed for a week because we know where we are. We are in a good position now. We don't have time to be disappointed. We don't have the time. We will get through this and we will go again," he added.

"It is difficult, and it is going to be difficult, and you learn from these games. It is going to hopefully help us to get through, to get better and to have a positive result in the next games.

"Football and playing for Man United is not easy, it will never be easy, but it makes the victory prettier and more beautiful when we get through a tough time, then we get through this.

"It is beautiful, and you get the emotion. That is all we want. That is what the fan wants, that is what the team wants, everyone wants this. The club is built on winning and big things, so that is all we want to get – the big stuff."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put Manchester United's latest semi-final heartbreak down to facing "probably the best team in England" rather than a psychological issue after their derby defeat to Manchester City.

John Stones scored his first City goal since November 2017 early in the second half and Fernandinho sealed a 2-0 EFL Cup victory seven minutes from time at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

United had just two shots on target as they suffered a fourth semi-final defeat out of four since Solskjaer took over as manager.

City looked ominous once again as they extended their unbeaten run to 12 matches, setting up a showdown with Tottenham at Wembley, where they will be favourites to win the competition for a sixth time in eight seasons on April 25.

Solskjaer was disappointed by the way United conceded but gave great credit to Pep Guardiola's in-form side.

"Manchester City can score many great goals. You can accept that. When you concede two simple set-plays, it's very disappointing. Just not good enough in those moments," he told Sky Sports.

"We didn't create enough big chances. They didn't either. We didn't have the extra finesse we've had in the games lately, we weren't good enough.

"We played against a very good Manchester City team, they played well. When they play well you have to play very well to beat them. We were just lacking that little bit."

Yet Solskjaer does not see any need to read too much into the Red Devils' record in semi-finals during his reign.

"We're getting closer. This is a much better version of United than a year ago in those semis," he added.

"It's not psychological [losing another semi-final]. Sometimes you meet good teams in the semis. At the moment, City are probably the best team in England."

As Manchester City's players huddled around the centre circle in number eight shirts to pay a poignant pre-match tribute to Colin Bell, it occurred a Pep Guardiola team might never have been so fittingly dressed.

England international Bell, widely revered as the finest player in City's history, passed away after a short illness on the eve Wednesday's 2-0 Manchester derby win the semi-final of the EFL Cup.

Bell, according to the loud and often repeated refrain of the Kippax Stand at City's old Maine Road home, was the greatest inside forward that the world had ever seen.

A technically gifted all-round midfielder, somehow simultaneously graceful and powerful, Bell thrived in those dangerous pockets between winger and centre-forward to cause maximum damage in Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison's celebrated City teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The inside forward had long gone out of fashion before Pep Guardiola ushered in his era of "free eights". From Xavi and Iniesta, through Thiago Alcantara and Toni Kroos to David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, City's former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss delights in filling his side with such players.

During Sunday's swaggering 3-1 win over Chelsea, De Bruyne was joined in the line-up by Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva. That quartet of playmakers probably would have resumed duties together at Old Trafford had Silva not been suspended.

After paying tribute to City's eternal eight, Guardiola's team of number eights got to work. Where the league fixture on this ground a month ago was as stodgy as the pitches Bell graced in his heyday, the pop and fizz to the early passing was much more in "Nijinsky's" image.

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