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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Forbes' top 10 highest-paid footballers:

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

Paul Pogba has returned to Manchester United training after recovering from coronavirus but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unsure if the midfielder will be fit for the team's Premier League opener.

The 27-year-old was forced to pull out of France's Nations League double-header with Sweden and Croatia over the past week following a positive test for COVID-19.

However, after a period of self-isolation, he has now been cleared to link up with his United team-mates ahead of their trip to Crystal Palace on September 19.

Pogba has not played since the 2-1 Europa League semi-final defeat to Sevilla on August 16, though manager Solskjaer is hopeful the former Juventus man can quickly rebuild his fitness.

"Paul's had a couple of training sessions so he's lost out on a few sessions because of the virus, of course," Solskjaer told MUTV on Friday.

"But Paul is quick to get fit. Of course, he worked really hard to get back after lockdown last time and played the majority of the games.

"Hopefully he'll be ready for next weekend. I am not 100 per cent sure, though."

Pogba was used 22 times for United in an injury-plagued 2019-20, 14 of those appearances coming after football resumed in June.

He is not expected to play any part in this Saturday's pre-season friendly with Aston Villa, but left-back Luke Shaw is set to feature after recovering from an ankle injury sustained in the latter stages of last season.

New signing Donny van de Beek, brought in from Ajax earlier this month for a fee that could rise to £39million, is also likely to get his first minutes in a United shirt.

"Luke is looking really good in training," Solskjaer said. "He has come back, looking strong, and will play in the friendly against Villa.

"It's going to be a game to give players minutes. Some have trained more than others and some will be more ready than others.

"Some played international games, which actually sometimes you think you don't really want that but some of them have got valuable minutes there.

"We'll give the others minutes against Villa so they can all start on a decent level because it's going to be a long season."

Kai Havertz has become Chelsea's record signing after leaving Bayer Leverkusen in a reported initial £72million (€80m) transfer.

That deal also means the Germany international ranks among the most expensive deals in Premier League history.

We take a look at the top five signings made by England's top-flight clubs as Havertz aims to hit the ground running at Stamford Bridge.
 

NICOLAS PEPE – Lille to Arsenal (£72m)

Tying Havertz as the fifth-most expensive signing by an English club, Pepe has not quite yet made the impact Arsenal might have hoped for when splashing out a huge fee at the start of last season.

Pepe scored 22 times for Lille in his final Ligue 1 campaign but managed only a comparatively measly five goals and six assists in the Premier League last term. The winger has competition from academy graduate Bukayo Saka – a PFA Young Player of the Year nominee – for his place now, too.

ROMELU LUKAKU – Everton to Manchester United (£75m)

It would be harsh to call Lukaku a flop, but Chelsea will want more from Havertz than the former Blue provided at United, who fought off interest from Stamford Bridge to secure his signature at the end of a 25-goal 2016-17 campaign.

Although Lukaku started reasonably well at Old Trafford, scoring 15 times in the league by the end of March in his first season, the Belgium international never really hit the heights expected of a United centre-forward and departed last year for Inter, where he has proven hugely successful.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Southampton to Liverpool (£75m)

Such a fee for a defender seemed extortionate in January 2018, but Van Dijk has arguably proved the best buy on this list. Already a standout performer for Southampton, the Dutch centre-back has taken a huge leap in Liverpool red.

Van Dijk was influential in his new club's run to the Champions League final in 2017-18 and then helped them go one better and lift the trophy the following year. A Premier League title finally followed last term, with Liverpool's huge outlay rewarded with defensive displays of remarkable consistency.

HARRY MAGUIRE – Leicester City to Manchester United (£80m)

United certainly appeared to pay attention to Van Dijk's early success at Liverpool as they followed suit with a massive move for a centre-back with Premier League experience. Maguire was signed just a year ago but is already Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's captain.

That is not to say Maguire has fully justified his fee just yet, though. Mistakes crept into the defender's play late in the season, while there may be extra pressure placed on the England man in the coming campaign after an off-season incident in Greece.

PAUL POGBA – Juventus to Manchester United (£89m)

United could yet challenge this fee with a move for Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, but England's most expensive buy as it stands is a player the Red Devils previously let go for free. Pogba returned to Old Trafford in 2016 having developed into a world-class midfielder in Serie A.

Pogba has been the subject of criticism and transfer speculation almost since he arrived back at United, yet he remains a key performer and has scored precious goals in the Europa League final and against rivals Manchester City. The Frenchman is now forming an effective partnership with Bruno Fernandes.

Eduardo Camavinga is stunned to have been called up to France's senior squad so early in his career as he still sees himself as a child.

The Rennes midfielder, 17, made his breakthrough at club level in the 2018-19 season when he was barely 16 and his development since then has been impressive.

Reportedly tracked by many of the world's biggest clubs, the technically gifted playmaker made 36 first-team appearances for Rennes last season despite his tender age.

Camavinga played in both of Rennes' first two matches of the new campaign and scored a brilliant – and decisive – goal in Saturday's 2-1 win over Montpellier.

He received his maiden call-up last week after Paul Pogba's coronavirus diagnosis was confirmed and will be the youngest player to represent France since World War Two if he features against Sweden or Croatia in the Nations League.

When asked what it would mean to him if he played in either game, he told reporters: "It would be fabulous for me, for my family.

"It's a childhood dream, even though I'm still a child! It was important to them [his parents] that I represent my country, it was important for me too. It's something I've wanted since I was a kid."

Camavinga was born in Angola to Congolese parents before moving to France when he was just two.

Featuring for France, he says, had always been a desire of his and he feels well-received by the squad.

"I had a very good reception," he added. "The meeting with the players was very good. Everyone has been cool with me and I hope it will continue.

"I started very early in Ligue 1. Any player hopes to play with his [international] selection one day. It happened early for me, but I want to enjoy every moment."

Didier Deschamps has rarely shied away from giving young players a chance in his France side, with Kylian Mbappe's emergence a prime example of a youthful star being prominent for Les Bleus.

Camavinga acknowledged the Paris Saint-Germain forward's story might put a little extra pressure on him, but he prefers to see Mbappe as an inspiration.

He said: "Kylian has set the bar very high, but it's a source of inspiration for all young players for sure."

He holds Pogba in similarly high regard, adding: "I'm inspired by Paul Pogba. He's a very good player with great qualities.

"He proved it in the French team, just see what he did – he's a world champion. But I don't really like comparisons."

Paul Pogba is absent from France's squad for their upcoming Nations League fixtures due to coronavirus, but his Manchester United team-mate Anthony Martial has earned a recall. 

Martial, 24, initially broke into France's senior reckoning as a 19-year-old shortly before he joined United in 2015, going on to win 18 caps. 

But, after a promising first season in England, Martial's form suffered and he found himself struggling to hold down a regular starting position, which in turn saw others usurp him in the pecking order for France. 

The versatile forward has seen his career at Old Trafford reinvigorated by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, with the 2019-20 campaign seeing him finish with a career-best 23 goals across all competitions. 

United team-mate Pogba will not be joining him against Sweden and Croatia, though, due to the midfielder’s COVID-19 diagnosis – instead, he is replaced by 17-year-old talent Eduardo Camavinga. 

The Rennes prospect will become the youngest player to represent France since World War Two, should he feature in either match. 

There are also maiden call-ups for RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano and Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, while Adrien Rabiot - like Martial - is included for the first time since March 2018. 

Bayern Munich trio Benjamin Pavard, Corentin Tolisso and Kingsley Coman are rested following their team's Champions League success, though club colleague Lucas Hernandez is included. 

Nabil Fekir, Thomas Lemar and Tanguy Ndombele are also among those left out. 

France face Sweden in Solna on September 5, then host Croatia three days later at the Stade de France in a repeat of the 2018 World Cup final.

France squad in full:

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Lille), Steve Mandanda (Marseille); Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy, Raphael Varane (both Real Madrid), Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig); Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Steven Nzonzi (Rennes), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham), Houssem Aouar (Lyon); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Jonathan Ikone (Lille), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain). 

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has been left out of the France squad after testing positive for coronavirus, Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

The 27-year-old was due to be included in the squad to face Sweden and Croatia in the Nations League next month. 

However, head coach Deschamps revealed Pogba returned a positive test at short notice and Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga took his place in the squad. 

"At the last minute, we had to make a change to the list because Paul Pogba had been on the list but, unfortunately for him, he took a test yesterday that came back positive this morning," Deschamps told reporters on Thursday. 

"So, at the last minute, he was replaced by Eduardo Camavinga."

Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele was also left out of the squad and has reportedly tested positive for the virus.

France face Sweden on September 5 in Solna before hosting Croatia three days later.

United, who were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Sevilla this month, are due to start their 2020-21 Premier League season against Crystal Palace on September 19.

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has been left out of the France squad after testing positive for coronavirus, Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

Paul Pogba will stay at Manchester United and there have been talks over the prospect of a new contract, according to his agent, Mino Raiola.

The 27-year-old midfielder, who joined from Juventus for a then world-record fee of £89.3million (€105m), has a year to run on his deal at Old Trafford, although United have the option to extend it by 12 months.

Pogba has regularly been linked with a move away from the club, with a return to Juve or a transfer to Real Madrid his most likely destinations.

However, since recovering from ankle problems that blighted much of his 2019-20 season, Pogba has proved a key part of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans and has appeared much more content in Manchester, having helped the Red Devils secure a return to the Champions League.

With the coronavirus pandemic impacting finances at even the biggest clubs, a significant bid for Pogba has always looked unlikely this year, and it appears the World Cup winner is prepared to commit his long-term future to United.

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Raiola said: "He's still at the centre of an important technical project. Even in recent years, United have never wanted to open negotiations.

"We're talking very calmly [about a renewal]. No stress."

There have been rumours Juve could look to include Federico Bernardeschi as part of a deal to bring Pogba back to Turin, while Napoli have also been linked with the winger.

Raiola thinks the 26-year-old could enjoy a new lease of life at Juve under new coach Andrea Pirlo, but he is not ruling out a departure.

"Bernardeschi knows what he's been and what he wants to do," he said. "He understands that his career isn't at the point of ending, but at the beginning.

"I believe he's a player who could easily stay at Juventus, but if there are better conditions - for him or Juve - then we will evaluate things.

"I've never shut the door in anyone's face; I've always evaluated everything. I'll do the same for Bernardeschi.

"I think Juve are still planning with him. It would be a new challenge for him, too, with a new coach and a new tactical system."

Jules Kounde insists he is in no rush to leave Sevilla at the end of the season despite links with several European heavyweights, though he accepts not everything will be in his control.

Kounde, 21, joined Sevilla from Bordeaux last year in a deal that could reach €25million, which would make the centre-back the club's record signing.

The Frenchman has enjoyed an impressive adaptation and cemented himself as a regular partner for Diego Carlos, who, like Kounde, arrived from Ligue 1 last year and is attracting significant interest.

Kounde's impressive performances in the recent Europa League victories over Roma and Wolves have contributed to even greater exposure and admiration.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are just two of the clubs said to be interested in the France Under-21 international, who is reported to have a release clause greater than €75m.

Up next for Sevilla is a semi-final showdown with Manchester United, giving Kounde another opportunity to catch the eye, and while he sees it a good thing to be interesting other clubs, he is relaxed about the future.

"It is always good that you interest teams, be it Diego or myself," he told Marca. "We are very focused on winning this cup. I don't look at other teams.

"I'm good at Sevilla. Next year we are going to play in the Champions League and we all deserve it. I am very focused and very happy here.

"It is something that I control, but sometimes there are parameters that do not depend on me. I do not look away [from Sevilla]."

Despite Sevilla's pedigree in the competition and their 19-match unbeaten run, Kounde does not think Los Nervionenses will be considered favourites by most.

"I do not know if we are favourites. For most people I don't think so," he added. "But we don't care.

"Nobody wants to go to the final and win the cup as much as we do. We will give everything on the pitch. In the end, when we give everything, we can beat any team."

Sunday's contest will see Kounde come up against fellow Frenchmen Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial and he considers himself very familiar with the latter.

He said: "I have seen [Martial] play many times. He is a very good forward, very complete. Powerful, fast, skilful with the ball and we are sure that we will have to be very aware, as with Adama [Traore, against Wolves], even if he is another level of power.

"Diego and I will have to talk a lot. We cannot leave him spaces."

On Pogba, Kounde added: "He is an important player, a reference in world football. He has a lot of quality, one of the best midfielders in the world and is very important in the France team.

"Their individuals are very powerful, but we focus on the collective and ourselves. We know what United represents in the world, they are a reference."

So, the Jadon Sancho saga rambles on.

Manchester United want to sign Sancho, but Borussia Dortmund are adamant the 20-year-old will be staying put in 2020-21.

Could Barcelona and Real Madrid enter the mix?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BRACED FOR SANCHO BATTLE

Manchester United believe Barcelona and Real Madrid will enter the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to The Mirror.

United have identified Sancho as their number one transfer target, however, Dortmund continually insist the England international will not leave the Bundesliga team.

If United fail to land Sancho this off-season, the Red Devils are bracing for a three-way battle with LaLiga giants Barca and Madrid next year.

ROUND-UP

- Cristiano Ronaldo to Barcelona? The Juventus superstar's entourage told AS he is happy in Italy, despite claims the former Madrid forward has been offered to the LaLiga outfit as the Scudetto holders look to free up cash.

- Journalist Fabrizio Romano claims Premier League champions Liverpool are in contact with Bundesliga holders Bayern Munich regarding Thiago Alcantara. The Spanish star has also emerged as a possible target for Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Tuttosport says Paulo Dybala could be offered to United in exchange for Paul Pogba. Dybala has been linked with Juve exits as the Serie A champions look to slash their wage bill. Dybala could be the player sacrificed in a bid to lure Pogba back to Turin, while Madrid and PSG are believed to be interested in the Argentina international.

- Barcelona star Luis Suarez is wanted by Qatari outfit Al-Arabi, says beIN SPORTS. Suarez is contracted to the LaLiga giants until 2021 as Barca eye Inter forward Lautaro Martinez as his long-term replacement.

Juve are eyeing a move for Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata, reports Calciomercato. Zapata starred as Atalanta finished third in Serie A and reached the Champions League quarter-finals. Juve – now led by Andrea Pirlo – have also been linked with Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik and Roma veteran Edin Dzeko.

- The Sun claims City are considering a £40million bid for Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks.

United are challenging rivals Chelsea for Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell, who is valued at £80m, according to The Mirror.

Napoli are eyeing a double Roma raid, with Gazzetta dello Sport saying Cengiz Under and Jordan Veretout are on the list. With Jose Callejon and Allan set to leave, Napoli want to sign Roma's Under and Veretout.

Liverpool look set to have some major competition in their bid to sign Thiago Alcantara.

Out of contract at Bayern Munich next year, Thiago has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League champions.

However, two big-spending European giants are reportedly joining the race for the midfielder.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY, PSG EYE LIVERPOOL TARGET THIAGO

Manchester City and PSG are interested in reported Liverpool target Thiago, according to Le 10 Sport.

Sport Bild says Liverpool are prepared to pay £27.1million (€30m) for the midfielder, an offer which could be enough for Bayern.

However, it also reports the champions are worried a club like City may trump their bid.

ROUND-UP

- While it looks like Jadon Sancho may remain at Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United are not giving up on the star attacker. The Mirror reports the Premier League club have put other moves on hold as they chase Sancho.

- Staying at Old Trafford and Paul Pogba's future is yet to be sorted. Sky Sports reports the midfielder, who is contracted until 2021 with the club holding an option to extend it for a further year, is expecting talks over a new deal after United's Europa League campaign ends.

- After crashing out of the Champions League in the last 16, Real Madrid have been expected to strengthen. However, Marca reports Madrid have told players there will be no new signings.

- With Ismaila Sarr linked to Liverpool, Watford are seemingly holding firm. The Evening Standard reports Watford are demanding £40m for Sarr, who has also been linked to Wolves and Crystal Palace.

- Arsenal and Roma could be close to a swap deal. Nicolo Schira reports the clubs are in advanced talks about a deal that would send Lucas Torreira to the Serie A club and Amadou Diawara to Arsenal.

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba would be the "ideal gift" for Andrea Pirlo following his appointment as Juventus head coach, according to former team-mate Luca Toni.

The France international won eight major honours in four seasons with Juve - three of those playing alongside Pirlo - before returning to Old Trafford in 2016.

Pogba was strongly linked with a move back to the Allianz Stadium last year and is into the final season of his United contract, though there is an option to extend that by 12 months.

Retired forward Toni, who played with Pirlo at both club and international level, believes Pogba would be the perfect signing to mark a new chapter at former club Juventus.

"Knowing Andrea, he will start building from midfield," he told Tuttosport. "The ideal gift would be Pogba. I don't know if that's possible, but it would certainly be the best option.

"Andrea will not be a coach who focuses on defending and counter-attacking. He loves to dominate the ball and will want to impose that on his team.

"I don't know what system he will use and I don't think it matters. Andrea is intelligent and flexible."

Pirlo was named Juve's new head coach on Saturday, hours after Maurizio Sarri's sacking on the back of the Italian champions' last-16 exit against Lyon in the Champions League.

Fabio Capello tipped Pirlo to replicate the success of three-time Scudetto-winning boss Antonio Conte, but Toni thinks he is more similar to Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola.

"Character wise, he's more like Pep," he said. "Having said that, Antonio impressed him a lot during his three years at Juventus.

"But in terms of group management, he was fortunate enough to be coached by the two best: [Carlo] Ancelotti and [Max] Allegri.

"All useful experiences, but in the end, he will be himself. He will be Pirlo and he will go his own way. Without pretending or copying anyone."

Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future has dominated headlines.

With Aubameyang due to become a free agent in 2021, Arsenal have been desperate to re-sign the Gabon international.

Now, it looks like the 31-year-old will remain at Emirates Stadium for an extended period.

 

TOP STORY – AUBAMEYANG TO SIGN NEW DEAL

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is close to signing a new three-year contract with Arsenal, according to The Telegraph.

Aubameyang's current deal is due to expire next year and the Arsenal star has been linked to LaLiga giants Barcelona, as well as Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

But Aubameyang is set to sign a deal that will run until 2023, a two-year extension.

 

ROUND-UP

- Journalist Fabrizio Romano claims it is only a matter of time before Willian signs a contract with Arsenal until 2023. Chelsea midfielder Willian is free to talk to clubs as his deal at Stamford Bridge expires. The Gunners are also eyeing Thomas Partey but Atletico Madrid insist the midfielder will not leave unless his £45million (€50m) release clause is paid.

Paul Pogba is happy at Manchester United and is ready to sign a new contract, reports Romano. Pogba has been previously linked to former club Juventus and LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

- Staying at Old Trafford, and The Guardian claims United will listen to offers for Jesse Lingard as they try to prise Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. United and Dortmund are still negotiating a transfer for Sancho, according to widespread reports.

Edinson Cavani could be poised to join Brazilian outfit Atletico Mineiro, reports Globo Esporte. The 33-year-old Uruguay international is a free agent after leaving PSG. Cavani has been linked to Portuguese giants Benfica, newly promoted Premier League team Leeds United, MLS outfit Inter Miami, Atletico and Inter.

Everton are interested in signing Atletico's Thomas Lemar, says Le10Sport. Carlo Ancelotti's Everton are also hoping to bring United full-back Diego Dalot to Goodison Park, reports The Mirror.

- According to The Athletic, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is set to join Tottenham from Southampton. Spurs will pay £19m for the former Bayern Munich midfielder.

Liverpool will have to pay close to £20m for Norwich City left-back Jamal Lewis after the Premier League champions had a £10m offer rejected, says The Guardian.

David Silva looks set to move to Lazio. According to Sky Sport Italia, the Manchester City midfielder – a free agent – will swap the Premier League for Serie A following the club's Champions League campaign.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was indebted to Mason Greenwood for rescuing a draw for Manchester United against West Ham after Paul Pogba's costly first-half handball.

Pogba conceded a penalty for blocking a Declan Rice shot with raised arms, allowing Michail Antonio to put the visitors ahead at Old Trafford in first-half injury time.

Greenwood scored his 17th goal of the season to claim a point for a jaded-looking United, who went third in the Premier League, a point above fifth-placed Leicester City ahead of their meeting on Sunday.

Solskjaer accepted Pogba "should've took it in the mush" rather than react with his hands, but the United boss was full of praise for the "exceptional" Greenwood.

"He's bailed us out a few times and he's done it again. He's been absolutely top class since we gave him opportunities," Solskjaer told reporters.

"I think Cardiff City, last game of last season, was his first start and he was our best player in that game and he's just grown and grown in confidence and belief and he trusts himself. His talents, his qualities, his attributes, they actually were at the highest level. 

"You see him in training, you expect him to hit the target. Given the chance he had first half and [Angelo] Ogbonna blocked it, that's also a very good strike, a fantastic hit on the ball. The kid's just going from strength to strength.

"You know when he's had a good sleep and when he's stayed up late playing PlayStation because he might not hit the ball as cleanly in training! What he did today, he does that time and time and time again, every time with finishing, you see an exceptional finisher and you're not surprised when it hits the back of the net. I've probably run out of superlatives for him because he's that good a finisher."

He added: "On the penalty, it's a natural reaction. Paul's held his hand up knowing he should've took it in the mush instead, but it's a natural reaction if that ball comes flying at you at a hundred miles an hour.

"It wouldn't have made a difference anyway."

The draw means United need only avoid defeat at Leicester on Sunday to guarantee a top-four finish, something that had looked highly unlikely midway through the season when they were eighth in the table and 11 points behind the Foxes.

Having seen his side lose domestic cup semi-finals to Manchester City and Chelsea this term, Solskjaer is looking forward to the prospect of a one-off, decisive match.

"When we started after lockdown, we had to go for it, we really had to go for it and go for goal difference, go for points, and the effort's been fantastic, and results have been fantastic," said Solskjaer.

"Of course, you'd like to win against Southampton, conceding in the last second and here today you concede a penalty in the last second of the first half. But we've given ourselves a fantastic opportunity and a great starting point for Sunday. We've gone out in two semi-finals and now we've got a final, so we've got to embrace that – finally we're in one! 

"We pinpointed the Leicester game as, if we have a chance going there, beat them big, we'd be delighted, but then we caught up points, caught up goal difference, and we've given ourselves a fantastic opportunity, but we know we're going to play against a good team. They are very, very dangerous on different aspects, they can do different things tactically, so we'll enjoy the 24 hours extra we have between this one and Sunday and we'll be ready, physically and mentally."

Harry Maguire accepted Paul Pogba's apology for conceding a costly penalty at home to West Ham but insisted Manchester United would offer no excuses at Leicester City on Sunday.

United climbed into the Premier League top four with a 1-1 draw against the Hammers on Wednesday, although they trailed to Michail Antonio's spot-kick after Pogba inexplicably handled inside his own area.

Mason Greenwood levelled for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to ensure they now need only a point at fifth-placed Leicester in their final match of the campaign to clinch Champions League qualification.

Pogba's faux pas - described by Gary Neville as "embarrassing" - ultimately did not prove as pivotal as it might have, but United captain Maguire revealed the World Cup winner had apologised.

"It was soft," Maguire told Sky Sports. "You could say it's a natural reaction from Paul. Should he do it? He should probably take one in the face.

"But he's apologised in there, he's held his hands up, he knew he shouldn't do that.

"I think it's a natural instinct to protect yourself, protect your face. I haven't seen it back - I think it was his hands bang in front of his face.

"But it was soft because it's probably not ending up in a goal and you've given a penalty and they've got an amazing opportunity to take the lead."

With United winning just one of their past four matches while turning in increasingly ordinary displays, Maguire acknowledged a "ridiculous" schedule was taking its toll.

But the defender insisted United had not "run out of steam" and was confident they would deliver on the final day.

"We've got ourselves in a great position," Maguire added. "Six months ago, at Christmas, you'd have snapped someone's hand off to go to Leicester and have an amazing opportunity to get Champions League football, which we set out to do.

"So, we're ready. There's no excuses for us there to be tired. It's a big game - if you can't get up for that game then you're in the wrong sport."

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