Manchester United's 5-0 mauling at the hands of Liverpool could prove to be the beginning of the end, or indeed the final straw, for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The team have performed poorly this season, failing to win any of their last five domestic games (losing four) and requiring last-minute winners from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League following an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Young Boys.

Sunday's embarrassing scoreline set a number of unwanted records, including United's largest margin of defeat against Liverpool at home and the first time the Red Devils had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Solskjaer only signed a new three-year deal with an option for an additional year in July, but disappointing results have sparked speculation about the Norwegian's future.

If Solskjaer is indeed replaced, who might take his spot and be charged with guiding United back to the top? Stats Perform takes a look at some of the favourites.

 

Antonio Conte

Conte seems, in many ways, to be an ideal appointment for United. For starters, the Italian is a free agent, having left Inter after winning Serie A last season – breaking Juventus' nine-year grip in the process and ending the Nerazzurri’s long wait for a league title.

The first three of those nine consecutive league titles for Juventus were won by Conte himself, who took a Bianconeri side that had not won the Scudetto since their revoked success in 2005 and established an era of dominance, going undefeated in the league in his first season (2011-12) and setting the Serie A points record (102) in his third.

His achievements in Italy are coupled with experience and success in England, winning the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017 (racking up an impressive 93 points) and claiming an FA Cup the year after.

Conte does have a reputation for being a volatile coach, but his track record of titles will surely be tempting for United, who have not won the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

However, former United defender Gary Neville does not think the ex-Italy coach is a good fit for the club, telling Sky Sports: "Conte's available but I wouldn't bring him to Manchester United. I wouldn't bring him here now. I don't think Antonio Conte is a fit for Manchester United."

Zinedine Zidane

Another free agent – and a particularly glamorous option – is Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman's second stint as Real Madrid boss came to an end in May and he remains available.

Zidane won the Champions League three times in a row in his first spell as Los Blancos head coach and also claimed two LaLiga titles over his five years in the role.

The 49-year-old is the record holder for most consecutive LaLiga away wins (13) and the longest unbeaten run in Spanish football (40 games) and United would surely see him as an upgrade on Solskjaer.

He has also previously coached Cristiano Ronaldo, to great success, and might be the perfect candidate to get United's stars working together cohesively. 

 

Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers is less decorated than the previous two names on this list, but has a wealth of experience in the English game and has done an admirable job in his current post as Leicester City head coach, guiding the Foxes to their first-ever FA Cup last season as well as successive fifth-placed Premier League finishes.

He also claimed back-to-back domestic trebles in his two-and-a-half seasons with Celtic, but his association with United's rivals Liverpool may prove to be an obstacle, having come within two points of winning the Premier League in his second season on Merseyside.

Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino has reportedly long been admired by United, being regularly linked with a move to Old Trafford in his five-year spell in north London, having taken Tottenham to a Champions League final in that time.

However, the Argentine only joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and signed a contract extension until 2023 in July, and is coaching a team that includes Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, not to mention the rest of PSG's star-studded squad.

Never say never, but this deal would certainly be a difficult one for United to pull off given the timing.

 

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag has impressed in his time in the Netherlands, winning two Eredivisie titles with Ajax and embarking on a memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19, knocking Madrid and Juventus out before falling going out on away goals to Pochettino's Spurs.

Ajax have been entertaining and effective under Ten Hag and are four points clear at the top of the league once more this season, beating title rivals PSV 5-0 on Sunday.

However, it remains to be seen if the Dutchman – who has also been linked with Newcastle United – would be willing to leave mid-season.

Steve Bruce will still be Newcastle United head coach for the visit of Tottenham in the Premier League on Sunday, despite reports of his imminent departure following a lucrative takeover.

This weekend's game is Newcastle's first since Mike Ashley sold the club, with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund taking on 80 per cent to become the richest owner in world football.

Bruce was widely expected to be sacked ahead of that encounter, with Amanda Staveley, whose PCP Capital Partners bought 10 per cent of Newcastle, initially unwilling to confirm a decision either way.

But Bruce remained involved in training this week and a statement on Friday, shortly before a news conference taking place at a later time than usual, confirmed he would remain in his position at least until the end of the week.

Staveley said it had been "an extremely busy week reviewing the business and getting to know people".

"Change does not always happen overnight, it demands time and that we follow a carefully considered plan and strategy," she added.

Despite repeated reports of Bruce being set to depart, prompting uncertainty throughout the club, Staveley said: "We met Steve and the players on Monday and have given them the time and space this week to focus on preparing for what is a very important game on Sunday.

"Steve has been very professional in our dealings with him, and he and his coaching team will take the team on Sunday.

"If we make any changes going forward, Steve will be the first to know, but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1,000th match as a manager and will be joining you in getting right behind the team."

Bruce said he only had a "brief, 10-minute conversation" with Staveley on Monday, in which he was told to "carry on until I hear otherwise".

"There were no discussions on me whatsoever," he said. "Certain discussions will need to be private, but it was all about the team, injuries, how we're looking for the weekend. It was very, very informal.

"And I have to say: they were very, very good people. It was good to see them and good to see them around the training ground.

"Let's not forget it's a great thing that's happened for the club and the city. If it takes this great club, then great."

Asked if he would hope to impress the owners and remain at Newcastle longer term, Bruce replied: "I'll have a crack. I'll try my utmost. If they see fit, then great.

"Who wouldn't want this opportunity now? Any manager would love this opportunity and love to be sitting in my chair. I'll make a fist of it, try my utmost and, as always, try what's best for the club."

A number of names have been linked to Bruce's job, with Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers prominent among them.

But he said on Friday: "[I am] 100 per cent [committed to Leicester]. I've got a contract until 2025. I absolutely love being here.

"I'm very fortunate. I've got a great chief exec and a director of football, and a group of players I enjoy working with. We have a structure here that allows us to compete. I want to be here.

"I've seen the reports around it. It doesn't help anyone, particularly Steve and Newcastle. It's the type of week I don't like in the modern game.

"We are trying to work hard but the speculation can destabilise players and supporters. I've been in the game long enough to focus on my role."

Rafael Benitez was manager at St James' Park before Bruce and would be a popular appointment, but he remains committed to Everton.

"I can tell you a lot of friends were asking me the same thing [about returning], and people there, a lot of messages, but from day one when I was talking with the board here, they didn't need to worry about that," Benitez said.

"I decide to stay here. I am really happy, trying to improve everything I can here, focused, wishing [Newcastle] all the best but when I decide to come here, I keep my word and I continue working here."

In the hours after the takeover of Newcastle United was confirmed, Steve Bruce admitted he would not be surprised to lose his job.

The former Manchester United defender has rarely been too popular in his two years at St James' Park, and with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and their astonishing financial might now in control of things, fans are expecting a more high-profile candidate to lead the first team.

While Bruce is expected to have talks with the new owners next week, there are suggestions he could leave his role before the home game with Tottenham on October 17.

Who might be chosen to lead the Magpies into their new era of promise? Stats Perform looks at some of the favourites.

 

Antonio Conte

Having left Inter at the end of last season, Conte represents an ideal choice for Newcastle: an elite coach with Premier League experience who is presently a free agent.

Conte won the 2016-17 Premier League title with Chelsea and the FA Cup the following year. He won 50 of his first 73 games in charge in England's top flight, a record bettered only by Jose Mourinho (50 wins in 63) and Pep Guardiola (50 wins in 69) at the time.

The Italian then ended Inter's decade-long wait for the Scudetto before walking out before this season, highlighting the risk that comes with appointing such a volatile coach. Still, back his demands in the transfer market and it will usually pay dividends in the short term. If Newcastle's owners are after a statement of intent, there are not too many better candidates.

 

Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers was tipped for the Tottenham job when Mourinho left but was apparently committed to Leicester City. However, recent reports have suggested he could be tempted by the project now developing at Newcastle.

The former Liverpool boss has done extremely well with Leicester, with back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the league and a brilliant FA Cup triumph last term, but he has perhaps taken the Foxes as far as he realistically can. Indeed, while fifth place cannot be snubbed at, Leicester held a spot in the top four for the majority of the previous two seasons, while they have had an indifferent start to this term.

Rodgers would also offer Newcastle fans the kind of attractive football they will be craving for the new era.

Steven Gerrard

According to reports, Gerrard is keeping a close eye on developments at St James' Park and would be a welcome choice among supporters given his pedigree as a Premier League player.

Last season, the ex-Liverpool captain led Rangers to the Scottish title without losing a single game, and they are on course to defend that crown after a promising start to 2021-22.

Gerrard would be more of a gamble than some of the more experienced candidates, but he has arguably earned the opportunity.

 

Roberto Martinez

Barcelona were said to be trying to work out how they could afford to replace Ronald Koeman with Martinez last month, although the former is keeping his job for now.

After watching Belgium give up a 2-0 lead to lose to France in the Nations League semi-finals, a deeply frustrated Martinez accused his side of throwing away five years of work, adding fuel to rumours that he feels his time with the Red Devils is coming to an end.

Martinez sprung a shock by winning the FA Cup with Wigan Athletic in 2013, although his commitment to attacking football could not keep them in the division and his Everton spell ended in disappointment after an initially bright start. But he said only this week to Goal that his ideal next job was a long-term project and that it "doesn't matter where it might be in the world".

Eddie Howe

Despite being considered for the Celtic job, Howe surprisingly remains unattached since leaving Bournemouth, the club he helped to lead from England's fourth tier to the Premier League.

Like Martinez, Howe won praise for the attractive football he was able to coax out of relatively unheralded players, although he too could not quite master the balance between positive play and defensive discipline, with Bournemouth relegated in 2019-20.

There was also criticism of Bournemouth's transfer spending during Howe's time in the Premier League: Dominic Solanke, signed for roughly £19m from Liverpool in 2019, only scored three times in 42 appearances in the top flight (although his Championship form since has been much improved).

 

Rafael Benitez

The return of Benitez would undoubtedly be welcomed by Newcastle fans, who generally hold him in high esteem following his three years at the club before his move to China.

Despite failing to save them from relegation in 2016-17, the Spaniard was considered a top-drawer coach who was hamstrung by the ownership of Mike Ashley and a lack of significant investment in the squad. After winning the Championship in 2017, Newcastle finished 10th in their first season back in the top flight but only 13th in the following two campaigns.

Prising him away from Everton would be neither easy nor cheap, but his experience of winning big trophies and his relationship with the supporters would arguably make him the most popular choice as manager.

Kelechi Iheanacho will miss Leicester City's Europa League match with Legia Warsaw on Thursday after he was denied entry to Poland by border authorities.

Manager Brendan Rodgers said there was an issue with the striker's documentation, which meant he was not allowed into the country.

The news was an unexpected blow for the Foxes, with Iheanacho having two goals and two assists in nine appearances in all competitions this season, a tally bettered only by Jamie Vardy (five goals and one assist).

"We've had an issue with Kelechi," Rodgers said on Wednesday. "His documentation coming into the country wasn't sufficient, so unfortunately he isn't available to play, which is a shame because he would have played in the game.

"He will be unavailable for the game. The paperwork didn't allow him into the country. It's unfortunate, but we'll have to look into that when we get back."

Leicester will also be without the suspended Wilfred Ndidi against Legia, while centre-back Jonny Evans remains sidelined with a foot injury.

The Premier League side drew 2-2 with Napoli in their opening group game, while Legia won 1-0 at Spartak Moscow.

This will be the third English side Legia have faced in European competition. They were knocked out of the Cup Winners' Cup in 1990-91 by Manchester United before taking four points from Blackburn Rovers in the Champions League group stages in 1995-96.

Jonny Evans may have suffered a fresh injury setback with Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers revealing he will need to be assessed.

Evans returned to the Leicester starting line-up for Thursday's 2-2 draw with Napoli in the Europa League after a foot injury but was replaced at half-time.

The Northern Irishman had returned competitively for the first time since the FA Cup victory in May as a substitute in Saturday's 1-0 home loss to Manchester City.

Rodgers would not elaborate on the specifics of the injury but admitted Evans was in doubt for Sunday's Premier League clash with Brighton.

"It probably will do," Rodgers said when asked if the issue will affect Evans' availability.

"I felt he was struggling to push off, so we’ll see how he is in next 24-48 hours."

The former Manchester United defender made 28 league appearances last season for the Foxes.

Leicester had been leading 2-0 against Napoli after goals from Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes, before Victor Osimhen's late double earned the visitors a point.

Wilfred Ndidi was shown a second yellow card in stoppage time to compound a disappointing end to the game for Leicester.

“We’re obviously disappointed we didn’t win the game," Rodgers said. "We were in a great position, but we were playing against a really experienced team and we just couldn’t see it through. We’ll learn from that.

“I said to the players afterwards, there was so many good things in the game, but we’ve got to keep the ball better because by the end, when you don’t have the ball so much and you’re chasing the game, you can tire that little bit.

“We had some players getting their first 90 minutes of the season as well, and then obviously, their big striker [Osimhen], who’s £70-odd-million, so you can see his quality, and he gets his two goals.

“Overall, if you can’t win it, even though we were in a good position, you make sure you don’t lose it and the point is a start for us. Now, we’ve got another nine or 10 to go.”

West Ham duo Michail Antonio and Said Benrahma created a piece of Premier League history on Monday as they once again made crucial contributions in a 4-1 thrashing of Leicester City.

The pair had been prominent in an opening-weekend 4-2 win over Newcastle United, with both recording an assist and also getting a goal at St James' Park.

They repeated the feat against Leicester and, in doing so, became the first players in the competition to both score and assist for their side in the opening two games of a Premier League campaign.

Benrahma set up Pablo Fornals to open the scoring, then doubled the lead shortly after half-time following excellent work by Antonio, who added a late brace after Leicester had pulled a goal back.

With his double, Antonio now stands alone as West Ham's all-time leading Premier League scorer, having previously sat level with Paolo Di Canio on 47.

Speaking after the game, West Ham boss David Moyes told reporters: "[Michail] has got a big personality, he's a big character, and I think he's probably just needed a little bit of real direction. But I think he's got it himself.

"I think his family life, his home life has given him something nice and steady. We've come in and given him a position where I feel he's playing really well.

"He's probably looking back and thinking, 'why was I not a centre-forward earlier? I might have scored loads more goals!'

"Because he's now enjoying the feeling. You can see what he thinks of it in his celebrations. I think he can score more goals, and this year, we're hoping that he can do."

Opposite number Brendan Rodgers, whose five defeats against Moyes rank as his worst managerial head-to-head record in the competition, was impressed by Antonio's performance

"Michail has finished his last two goals really well, and puts a shine on it," the Leicester manager said.

"Michail's performance was outstanding, he was strong and aggressive, but 'Cags' [Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu] has had better days."

After weeks of reports that Arsenal were poised to make a move for James Maddison, Brendan Rodgers has dismissed that notion as "all gossip", saying no bids have been made made. 

The Leicester City manager said ahead of Monday's trip to West Ham that he believes everyone in the squad wants to remain at the King Power.

That marks a significant step for the Foxes, who have grown accustomed to losing key players to big-money rivals. 

Maddison appeared to be the man in demand during the off-season but Rodgers insisted there have been no offers for the 24-year-old England international. 

“There’s obviously been things around James this summer but the reality is that it was all gossip, as there was never an inquiry or a bid made," Rodgers said. "There was no drama there.”

The Gunners' £30million move to land Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid may have pre-empted an official bid, but the bottom line is the same for Leicester. 

On the heels of a second successive fifth-place finish in the league and with a new training facility up and running, Rodgers said he believes the club is ready to retain its players. 

"Players have felt the need to move on and further their careers, which is fine, and that's the nature of the game," Rodgers said. "It will always happen and some of the biggest clubs in the world will lose their players.

"You've always got to be preparing this pipeline of players going forward so if you do lose them you get the next ones coming in. That's something we are very clear on as a club.

"I just think this summer the players have been able to reflect on where we're at as a team and a club and feel they want to be a part of that, which is great news."

Leicester City have handed winger Harvey Barnes a new four-year contract.

The 23-year-old has signed improved terms and is now tied to the Premier League club until June 2025, one year longer than his previous deal.

Barnes joined Leicester as a nine-year-old and has become a key first-team player since returning from loan spells with MK Dons, Barnsley and West Brom over recent years.

He made his England debut last year but a knee injury in February ended his season early and dashed his hopes of appearing at Euro 2020.

"I've been here for so many years now, it feels like home," said Barnes, who has played 101 times for the Foxes and scored 21 goals.

"For me, it was a no-brainer. Of course, I wanted to extend my stay here.

"It's been something that's been going on in the background and to sign now is great. It's right at the start of a new season as well, which I know everyone is excited about."

Barnes scored 13 goals in 35 appearances for Leicester last season prior to his injury and had returned in time to play in the FA Cup winners' Community Shield victory over Manchester City to kick off the new campaign this month.

He impressively outperformed his expected goals (xG) number of 5.9 in league action in 2020-21, scoring nine times from 56 shots while also creating 26 chances for his team-mates.

As well as defeating Manchester City, Leicester also beat Wolves to open the Premier League season but face a tough test away to West Ham in their second game on Monday.

West Ham completed a league double over Leicester last season and the Foxes have kept a clean sheet in just three of their 28 Premier League games against the Hammers (11 per cent).

Of teams they have faced at least 15 times, they only have a lower percentage against Manchester United (seven per cent).

Brendan Rodgers has announced Wesley Fofana will not play again until 2022 after sustaining a medial ligament injury in a pre-season friendly against Villarreal.

Fofana was carried off on a stretcher on Wednesday after a tackle from Fer Nino injured his left leg, with the centre-back later revealing on Instagram he had fractured his fibula.

The France Under-21 international is expected to undergo surgery on Monday, though the extent of the damage is worse than initially feared.

Following Leicester City's 1-0 Community Shield triumph against Manchester City at Wembley Stadium, Rodgers provided a further update on Fofana.

"He has his operation on Monday and he won't play until 2022," the Leicester boss said in his post-match news conference. "At what point that will be we'll have to assess over the next six months or so.

"He's an incredible talent. He's in really good spirits. He'll be back in the training ground on Thursday or Friday next week and will begin his rehab then.”

Fofana became an integral part of Rodgers' team following his arrival from Saint-Etienne.

Out of all Premier League defenders, Fofana was just one of two to attempt at least 50 tackles, complete 50 interceptions and produce 50 headed clearances – Aston Villa's Matt Targett being the other.

"It's such a shame for the Premier League not to have a talent like that and certainly for us as well," Rodgers continued after Kelechi Iheanacho's late penalty had defeated the reigning Premier League champions.

Asked for clarification as to whether the defender had broken his leg, Rodgers responded: "In and around his medial ligament there was a lot more damage than we had hoped, quite substantial damage unfortunately."

While Leicester will be without Fofana for the remainder of the year, they will be buoyed on by the return of Harvey Barnes.

Barnes, who scored nine goals and provided four assists in 25 top-flight fixtures last term, suffered a setback in April with a knee injury ruling him out of the remainder of the season and subsequently contention for England's Euro 2020 squad.

"Unfortunately, I had to watch the amazing scenes [in the FA Cup final]," the 23-year-old told ITV after Saturday's win. "This time, to be on the pitch and be a part of it was amazing.

"I don’t think we approached it as a friendly. It’s a chance to win some more silverware – and something we’ve not won before. We knew it was a great opportunity to win something before the season started, so we’re over the moon with it.

"It’s obviously been a tough few months for me. It’s amazing to be back out there now. This is the first competitive game I’ve played in and for the fans to be back in at Wembley was special. I’m feeling really good and looking forward to the season now."

Brendan Rodgers will "200 per cent" be in charge of Leicester City next season despite his side missing out on Champions League qualification with defeat to Tottenham.

The Foxes started the final round of Premier League games in fifth and would have finished above fourth-placed Chelsea – beaten 2-1 by Aston Villa on Sunday - had they defeated Spurs.

But Leicester failed to preserve a 2-1 lead given to them by a couple of Jamie Vardy penalties, either side of Harry Kane's strike, as they lost 4-2 at the King Power Stadium.

Kasper Schmeichel punched a corner into his own net and substitute Gareth Bale added a couple of late goals to earn Tottenham a comeback win that saw them finish seventh.

Rodgers, who guided Leicester to their first FA Cup triumph with victory over Chelsea in last week's final, has been linked with a move away ahead of next season.

However, the ex-Celtic boss intends to stay on at Leicester. Asked if he was willing to allay supporters' fears amid links with Tottenham, Rodgers told talkSPORT: "200 per cent I can... I love it here."

Rodgers added at his post-match news conference: "The fans need have no worries about myself, I love it here, even more so that we've just missed out. 

"That motivates me even more to be here to push the club even closer to that level. We'll plan and get ready."

Leicester lost just six of their first 25 Premier League games of 2020-21, compared to six losses in their last 13 to see out the campaign.

They ended more days (242) in the top four than any other Premier League side this term, yet they have to settle for a place in the Europa League again next season.

Rodgers replaced Claude Puel as Leicester boss in February 2019 with the club 11th in the league and has since guided them to successive fifth-placed finishes in his first two full seasons in charge. 

And while the 48-year-old is disappointed to have missed out on the Champions League again, he is pleased with the progress made in his time at the helm.

"It's hugely disappointing for us to miss out," he told BBC Sport. "We fought so hard all season. You're judged after 38 games and unfortunately we couldn't quite make it.

"I have nothing but pride and admiration for the players. They've constantly had things go against them with injuries.

"When we started work together we were mid-table and just over two years later we're challenging the elite and won the FA Cup for the first time in our history.

"We're on the right path without the resources [of other teams]. I have nothing but pride. The ownership have given me amazing support. 

"The players have given me their heart and souls every day. I'm so disappointed for them we couldn't get over the line."

Leicester finished the campaign as the joint-third highest scorers in the league with 68 goals, but Rodgers is looking to add to his attacking options during the close-season.

"We would like to strengthen the top end of the field – we need more of a goal threat," he said at his post-match news conference.

"We also need a little more physicality in the team and need more players with a winning feeling to add to the ground of talented players we have."

Harry Kane's reported desire to leave Tottenham has created a race for his signature.

A lack of silverware is believed to be behind Kane's alleged urge to move on, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea the leading suitors.

In the post-COVID world where club finances have been hit hard, some clubs are getting creative.

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA'S PLAYER-PLUS-CASH SWAP DEAL

Chelsea are launching a player-plus-cash swap deal to land Kane from Tottenham involving goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and forward Tammy Abraham, claims ESPN.

Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris is expected to leave the club, hence the lure of Kepa who has been back-up to Edouard Mendy, while Abraham, who is not a regular starter for the Blues, could help to fill the void left by Kane.

Kane is contracted with Tottenham for another three seasons and Spurs are believed to want a transfer fee of £150 million, so the addition of players would drop that figure down to an affordable level.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian reports that Sergio Aguero has agreed to a two-year deal with Barcelona, with his departure from Manchester City this off-season already confirmed.

- Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac will leave the Gunners, with Schalke 04 and Lazio circling for the Bosnian's signature, reports Football London.

- Fernandinho was set to exit Manchester City, but The Times claims he will renew with the club on a one-year deal.

- The manager merry-go-round is in full swing, with The Mirror claiming that Wolves are looking at ex-Roma boss Paulo Fonseca, while The Sun reports that Tottenham will try to convince Brendan Rodgers to join the club if Leicester City fail to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Leicester City captain Wes Morgan has announced his retirement from football.

Morgan, who skippered Leicester to their astonishing maiden Premier League title in 2015-16, will hang up his boots after the Foxes' closing game of the season at home to Tottenham on Sunday.

Christian Fuchs, another of the heroes of Leicester's title win, will also leave the King Power Stadium when his contract expires next month.

"In terms of what Wes has given me since I’ve been here, it’s been immeasurable really," said manager Brendan Rodgers, who sent on Morgan to close out Leicester's FA Cup triumph last weekend.

"I always knew it was going to be important for my senior players and, in particular, my captain to be on side in terms of the vision of how we wanted to go forward.

"He's provided me with fantastic support. On the pitch, his career was obviously coming to an end, but he still played a very important role for me, even though he wasn't playing every single week. He has a warrior sprit."

The 37-year-old defender has played more than 750 games in his professional career, with 324 appearances - and 14 goals - coming in Leicester colours, but will forever be associated with one incredible campaign.

"This group came together to create something that I'm not sure will ever happen again, a team like Leicester, at that time, winning the Premier League against all odds," Morgan told Leicester's official website.

"It's something that doesn’t really happen but we made it happen. It was a very, very special moment for everybody involved.

"To win the Premier League, it was amazing and something you can never talk enough about."

Fuchs was an invaluable part of that triumph, having joined on a free transfer after a spell with Schalke, and went on to play 152 games for the club.

"I came to a club where you'd probably assume, for the next couple of years, you'll be fighting relegation, maybe eventually playing in mid-table if the team improved," he told lcfc.com.

"But it went completely upside down and I'm very, very happy with that choice to join Leicester City.

"It was very unexpected, but we've played at a very high level, always with the desire of the owners to improve the club, trying to get better every year we were working together.

"I'm looking back without any regrets, looking back very proud, and I have a big smile on my face. It has definitely been the best six years of my career."

Morgan and Fuchs then helped Leicester to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Rodgers' side can return to Europe's elite competition next season if they manage to better either Chelsea or Liverpool's results on Sunday.

Thomas Tuchel's team are third, a point better off than Leicester in fifth, and travel to Aston Villa. Liverpool, who are fourth on goal difference, host Crystal Palace.

Thomas Tuchel railed against VAR after Chelsea claimed a crucial win in their pursuit of Champions League football.

The Blues leapfrogged Leicester City into third place in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory that means they remain in control of their top-four destiny ahead of the final game of the season.

But they were made to work for their win – not only by the Foxes but also by the officials, according to Tuchel.

The German was aggrieved at the failure to award a penalty when Timo Werner was tripped by Youri Tielemans in the first half, a decision he felt was in keeping with a recent theme.

He told Sky Sports: "It's a clear penalty. Honestly, VAR decisions are horrible against us and it's the third time in a row.

"We had a goal against Arsenal denied with a handball, we have a goal against Leicester in the cup [disallowed], and then today it's a penalty but it's a foul against us.

"This has to stop, of course. But we were not worried at half-time, we just said let's do it again and force it."

With the sides facing off just three days on from their FA Cup final meeting, it was perhaps inevitable that tempers would flare.

And Tuchel was unimpressed with Leicester's contributions to a touchline spat involving both sets of players that kicked off as the match reached its conclusion.

He said: "It's not so easy to lose in difficult games. We had to swallow it, we showed respect in the cup final. It got a bit heated up but it's like this.

"I didn't say that, I said it's hard to lose in big matches."

Chelsea were without Kai Havertz on Wednesday and also lost the influential N'Golo Kante to injury just before half-time.

Asked about the pair's prognosis, Tuchel replied: "I don't know yet, we will check them tomorrow. I have a good feeling with N'Golo, he said he felt something and didn't want to go into the risk of a muscle injury so I hope for Sunday. With Kai, the same."

Brendan Rodgers also aired his grievances with the referee after the game, suggesting Wesley Fofana was unfortunate to concede a penalty for a trip on Werner in the second half.

He said: "We're obviously disappointed with the goals, we conceded a needless corner and then didn't pick them up well enough.

"And the penalty I think is very, very, very, very harsh, but it's one that Wesley will learn from.

"He's so good in so many ways but you've just got to be patient in that one, and Luke as well.

"But they're 19 and 20 years of age the two boys, they've been absolutely amazing, and tonight will be really good learning for them."

Defeat for the newly crowned FA Cup winners means they are likely reliant on a Liverpool slip-up to secure their place in the Champions League next season.

But Rodgers insists the disappointment of missing out would be tempered by the fact that his players have achieved so much already this term.

He added: "It'd be really disappointing but I think our story and your story is different.

"Our story is the players have been fantastic in terms of their consistency and if we just fall short after 38 games then the team with the eighth-biggest budget fighting against the level we've been fighting at means we've fought really hard and just missed out.

"However, there are still points to play for, we just need to win our game at the weekend and see where we are."

Jamie Vardy is looking to add to his growing medal collection with Leicester City after helping the Foxes to win their first FA Cup.

Leicester, who won the Premier League with Vardy in the side in 2015-16, finally got their hands on the cup with a 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Youri Tielemans scored the sole goal for Brendan Rodgers' team at Wembley, with a late own goal from Wes Morgan disallowed following a VAR review.

Vardy has now played in every round in the competition including the preliminary stages, having started his career in non-league football, but had a quiet final.

Neither of the striker's two shots under the arch hit the target, while he lost possession with five of his 14 touches.

It mattered not, though, as Leicester claimed the FA Cup after four previous final defeats, and that encouraged Vardy to set his sights higher still.

"It's a brilliant feeling, a really brilliant feeling. We've managed to do it," he said.

"But when the gaffer came in over two years ago, he said he wanted us to keep progressing, how he wanted us to play, he wanted us to be challenging for trophies.

"Now we've got one, we're going to be wanting some more. Now it's hard work, dedication and keep progressing as much as we can."

Leicester could cap a stunning stretch by qualifing for the Champions League if they beat Chelsea again at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Such an achievement would firmly establish manager Rodgers' side among the elite in English football.

"It was the big challenge I wanted to take coming to Leicester," Rodgers told a news conference.

"Having worked at incredible clubs like [Liverpool] and Celtic, could I go to a club outside of the top six and could we challenge and could we disrupt that hierarchy within the league?

"We'll always be a way behind in terms of financial perspective, but can we compete, can we perform and can we fight to challenge?

"And then obviously, on days like today, when you have the opportunity to create history, can you do that? Thankfully, we've been able to do it."

But Rodgers, repeatedly emphasising the financial gulf between Leicester and their opponents along with the rest of the 'big six', could offer few assurances on the futures of his cup final stars.

Tielemans, who now has nine goals in all competitions this season, would surely interest rivals, it was suggested.

Leicester fans did not have to look far for reminders of past departures on Saturday as N'Golo Kante started for Chelsea and Ben Chilwell almost turned the game on its head from the bench.

Kante had a relatively quiet outing, contesting just six duels, but Chilwell drew a superb save from Peter Schmeichel and forced the own goal that was then disallowed for his offside.

"I know the direction that we're going in and I know that Leicester in the future, I'm sure, will lose players," Rodgers said.

"We don't want to, it's not something we think about so much, but it's the nature of the game.

"But it's not to think about at this stage. You can see the happiness in the players, you can see the ambition we have, and of course you see the level that they play at.

"I don't think about it so much, I don't worry about it so much.

"I've got a really talented group of young guys that want to get better, and while I'm the coach and manager, until the very last day they're at the club, I'll always continue to do that."

Brendan Rodgers hailed Youri Tielemans' instant FA Cup classic after the midfielder spectacularly gave Leicester glory with a 1-0 final win over Chelsea at Wembley.

The Belgium international took aim from 25 yards in the 63rd minute to spark bedlam among the Leicester supporters in a 21,000 crowd at England's national stadium – the largest attendance for a sporting event in the UK since the coronavirus lockdown last March.

Leicester needed heroics from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and VAR spared another of the favourites from their Premier League success five years ago.

Substitute Wes Morgan turned a ricocheted shot from Ben Chilwell into his own net to apparently herald extra time, but replays showed the ex-Leicester left-back was offside.

Delirious celebrations, with fans and players as one, greeted the full-time whistle and Tielemens was deservedly named man of the match

"Youri's goal was like an old school FA Cup-winning goal but also Kasper Schmeichel's save, those are the special moments you need in games," Rodgers told BBC Sport.

"Overall I thought we were the better team, we pressed the game really well, super-aggressive tactically. We were always a threat with the ball.

"Chelsea are an amazing team, that's why they're in a Champions League final but I thought we deserved it."

As was the case when Schmeichel, Morgan, Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton starred in Leicester's 2015-16 Premier League title win, this was a maiden triumph in the FA Cup.

"It's an amazing feeling, I wasn't aware before I came to Leicester that they'd never won the FA Cup, they'd lost in four finals previously," said the former Liverpool boss.

"So, to be able to give that to the supporters and the owners, so special.

"I'm so proud. It's a real collective effort at Leicester City - the board, the players, staff, supporters, an amazing day for the city. I'm just so proud for everyone."

Rodgers added: "I've been lucky enough to be in six finals [with Celtic] before and lucky enough to win them. Today being the seventh was truly special.

"It's the FA Cup and as a British coach it means so much to us. I'm so proud, but happier for everyone else."

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