Bruno Fernandes has refused to single Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out for blame following Manchester United's humiliating 4-1 defeat against Watford on Saturday, insisting it is a collective failure.

Josh King, Ismaila Sarr, Joao Pedro and Emmanuel Bonaventure helped themselves to goals against the Red Devils who had Harry Maguire sent off after receiving a second yellow card.

The result means United have won just once in their last six Premier League games, losing four and conceding 12 goals in that run, with pressure intensifying on Solskjaer's position as manager. Indeed, a board meeting is rumoured to have taken place in the wake of the loss.

Fernandes however, instead directed the blame for the side's poor form at the team as a collective unit.

"It's everyone's fault," Fernandes said to beIN Sports after the game. "It's not the coach, it's not one player or two, it's everyone. Everyone has to take responsibility because everyone has to do better, everyone. Not one of us can say 'I'm doing well'."

Fernandes feels United only turned up for one half of the game and described the first half as "sloppy", while also highlighting the Red Devils' defensive issues.

"We [played like a wounded animal] but just for one half and that is not enough in these kinds of games in the Premier League," Fernandes continued. "It's not enough playing just for one half.

"Watford are a good team, they are aggressive, they have quality up front, and if you give them chances, you will concede goals. That has been a problem for us for many games and I think the attitude in the second half was there but in the first half, it was too sloppy from everyone.

"We didn't go on the front foot, we didn't tackle, we didn't win our duels and against these teams, you have to do that. You have to try to keep the same intensity as them and after that, show your quality, show why you play for Manchester United."

International football is officially over for another year. *Pauses for cheers or jeers*

With the November international break done with, we turn our attention back to domestic football, with a hectic period set to begin in the Premier League.

More fantasy points will be available over the next seven weeks or so than at any other period in the season, such is the jammed nature of the schedule, and there's no better time to get ahead of the curve.

Stats Perform has delved into the Opta data to pick out seven picks for this week, hopefully giving you the edge...

EDOUARD MENDY (Leicester City v Chelsea)

Leicester City may represent a tricky opponent for any team, particularly given their good options going forward, but if anyone can keep them at bay, it's Mendy.

Not only has the Senegal international conceded the joint-fewest goals (four, excluding own goals, minimum of three appearances) in the Premier League, he also leads the way with 3.4 goals prevented, according to expected goals on target data.

In terms of form goalkeepers this season, Aaron Ramsdale runs him close, but Mendy is the outstanding candidate.

JOAO CANCELO (Manchester City v Everton)

City's versatile Portuguese full-back enjoyed an exceptional 2020-21, but he seems to have stepped things up even further this term.

In 17 games in 2021-22 across all competitions, Cancelo has already reached seven goal involvements (two goals, five assists), just one fewer than his haul of eight in 43 outings last term.

He has been hugely influential at City, while it would also hardly be a surprise if they keep a clean sheet against an out-of-sorts Everton.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Liverpool v Arsenal)

Liverpool's right-back became something of a scapegoat – fairly or not, that's a discussion for another day – in 2020-21. It is safe to say his critics are rather quieter at the moment.

Only Bruno Fernandes (37) can better Alexander-Arnold's 30 chances created in the Premier League this term, while no defender has more than his four assists.

A resurgent Arsenal could cause Liverpool issues, so a clean sheet is no guarantee, but there is no defender more likely to nab you an assist or two.

CONOR GALLAGHER (Burnley v Crystal Palace)

On-loan Chelsea youngster Gallagher has been a revelation for Palace this season, with his all-action style proving a great addition to Patrick Vieira's team.

He has also provided plenty of quality in the final third, having a hand in a team-high six goals (four goals, two assists).

Gallagher has already beaten his combined tally (two goals, two assists) from 2020-21 when he was on loan at West Brom, and he won his first England cap against San Marino earlier this week.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Watford v Manchester United)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have seemingly hobbled from 'crisis' to 'crisis' this season, and while Fernandes arguably has not been as impressive as last season, he is still essential to the Red Devils.

He leads the way with the most chances created (37) in the league this term, and that fits into his wider excellence ever since joining United, a period that has seen him supply the most assists (22) and craft the most goal-scoring opportunities (162) of anyone in the competition.

Additionally, only Mohamed Salah (55) has been involved in more goals than Fernandes (52) in the same period. Regardless of perceptions of his form, the Portugal star is a must-have, particularly given United will fancy their chances of bouncing back at Vicarage Road.

GABRIEL JESUS (Manchester City v Everton)

While he may not be playing in the striker role many might have expected before the season started, instead featuring largely as a right-sided winger, Jesus has made a strong start to 2021-22.

With the South American World Cup qualifiers not extended to a triple-header this month, Jesus is also less of a selection risk than he was after the international breaks in September and October.

But above all, he loves playing Everton. In eight Premier League games against them, Jesus has scored eight times, or roughly one every 69 minutes, and he will be aiming to give the Toffees plenty to chew on yet again this weekend.

SON HEUNG-MIN (Tottenham v Leeds United)

Among the players Antonio Conte will be hoping to get more out of after a slow start to the season, Son is surely near the top of the list.

Since the start of last season, no player has outperformed their expected goals (xG) tally by a greater margin than the South Korean (8.2), with 21 goals from 12.8 xG.

Obviously that can suggest a degree of unsustainable fortune on Son's part, but we all know he is an exceptional player capable of the extraordinary. Leeds are a side who let other teams play, and that might be just what the doctor ordered for Son and Spurs.

Bruno Fernandes says every Manchester United player must "look in the mirror" and accept blame for the club's poor run of form.

United were outclassed on home soil by one of their fiercest rivals for the second game running on Saturday as they fell to a 2-0 loss against Manchester City.

While City did not rack up the five unanswered goals managed by Liverpool at Old Trafford two weeks ago, the manner of the loss was just as chastening for the Red Devils. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side had just four touches in the opposition box – their fewest in a league game since 2008-09 when Opta first began recording such data.

Those four touches were also the fewest by a home team in a Premier League game since Fulham against Arsenal in September 2020.

A fourth defeat in six Premier League outings heaps yet more pressure on Solskjaer, who is one month short of celebrating three years in charge at Old Trafford.

Fernandes defended Solskjaer ahead of Saturday's game but understands that supporters are growing tired of the same excuses after this latest setback.

"Obviously everyone is frustrated about the result, about the performance too," the Portugal international said.

"We know we can do much better and we know this is not enough for players who are representing this big club. We have to look in the mirror. I'm saying again the same things probably from the last interview, but that's it.

"We have to look at ourselves, everyone at his home, understand what we can do better to help the team. We just have to apologise to the fans and that's it, because it was not good enough from us.

"They created a great atmosphere. They pushed us until the end, they tried to give that energy to us but from us, it was not enough."

United have lost eight home games in all competitions in 2021 – their most in a calendar year since 1989 – and are nine points off top spot in the Premier League after 11 games.

Eric Bailly scored a calamitous own goal to give City the lead in that latest of those defeats, before Bernardo Silva profited from some poor defending and questionable goalkeeping from David de Gea to poke in a second.

Now without a clean sheet at home in 14 matches in all competitions – their worse run since in 62 years – Fernandes admits United are making it "too easy" for opponents.

"It's always a bad time to concede a goal," Fernandes said. "The problem is the way we concede goals. It's too easy. As I said many, many times, if not for David, the result could be much more higher and worse for us.

"We have to protect better, David, because he is protecting us a lot and we have to help him because he cannot make every game eight, nine saves and then still concede goals."

City had 67.4 per cent possession and managed 16 attempts to United's five, while the 753 passes they completed was the most of any team in a league game against the Red Devils since 2003-04.

Fernandes told MUTV: "City were much better than us. They go around the pitch, they touched the ball many times, they made us run.

"It's hard to play against them. They are good and we knew that. Obviously when they go up with the result, it's even worse. They played much better than us and that's it."

The international break comes as welcome respite to those connected to United, who return to action after the international break at Watford.

"Yeah, it will be long but now it's time for everyone to focus on the national team who goes on the national team. The ones who stay here try to work hard, recover well and be ready for the games that are coming."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves credit for making "big improvements" at Manchester United as he approaches his three-year anniversary in charge, says Bruno Fernandes.

United manager Solskjaer remains under intense pressure ahead of Saturday's Premier League derby with Manchester City following an underwhelming start to his third full season in charge.

The Red Devils have won just half of their opening 10 Premier League matches, a run that includes a record 5-0 home loss to fierce rivals Liverpool in their most recent match at Old Trafford.

A 2-2 draw with Atalanta in the Champions League in midweek has scarcely lifted the pressure off Solskjaer, who has yet to win any silverware since his appointment in December 2018 on an initial caretaker basis.

But Fernandes – brought to United in January 2020 – insists the players are just as much to blame as their manager for results.

"He brought me to the club, he gave me the chance to play in this amazing club, he made my dream come true," Fernandes told Sky Sports. "He is a great person and everyone knows the human part of him.

"It's normal people get upset because the results don't come, but it's too easy to blame only the coach. We go on the pitch, we should do better.

"We could say the system is not good enough, but we played 4-2-3-1 for three years. We got to some finals, which we didn't win, I understand that, but we got to second place last season and no one was expecting us to have as good a season as we did.

"It was not as good as we want, but it was a good season overall after what everyone was thinking.

"If we didn't drop those points in January, February, we could have been much closer to City. There has been big improvements in the team, big improvement in the club since he arrived, and I think he deserves credit.

"I think he's capable to do more and us as a team are capable to do more. That doesn't depend only on the coach. We have to try to help him because he is trying to help us."

United have 17 points from their opening 10 league games and are eight points adrift of leaders Chelsea. That compares to 19 points at the same stage last season when going on to finish third and 13 after 10 games in 2019-20 when finishing sixth.

"It's not what we want, of course, and we dropped points against Everton, Aston Villa, and Liverpool at home," Fernandes said.

"Last season it was a problem at home, we started the season really well at home to Leeds and Newcastle and in the Champions League too. But we're still dropping points at home and we know that. It's not only the coach's fault."

 

Fernandes was directly involved in 46 goals in all competitions last season – 13 more than next-best Marcus Rashford – and again leads the way among United players this term with his four goals and seven assists.

The most recent of the Portugal international's four goals this term arrived against Newcastle United on September 11, though, and there is a perception that his importance to United is dwindling now that Cristiano Ronaldo is back at the club.

However, Fernandes is creating more chances per 90 minutes this season compared to last season (3.94 to 2.69) and more big chances (0.74 to 0.65), all while playing in a more reserved midfield role.

"The way we played in the last two games, I've played a little deeper,, but it's because we changed system and you have to adapt," Fernandes said. "Everyone was adapting themselves. We have to do what is better for the team.

"I can still do my game wherever I play. I know people are upset because the numbers are going a little bit low – goals are going low, but assists are coming up.

"The importance for people of scoring goals is always better than doing assists or a great game. Last season everyone was like, 'he's scored a lot of goals but he also scores a lot of penalties and he doesn't perform'.

"Now I perform and give a lot of assists and people say 'he's not scoring goals'. There will always be a problem. I'm never happy with myself. I want always to improve and do better."

He added: "The teams know me better and I don't get the space I got in the beginning because I was someone coming from Portugal and most players didn't know who Bruno is.

"Now the space is a little bit short for me, the time is a little bit short, and I have to improve on that to be quick on shooting and passing and everything to make my game work."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer urged his critics to keep targeting him because he is fuelled by the flak that has come his way since Manchester United's 5-0 defeat to Liverpool.

A Mohamed Salah hat-trick inspired Jurgen Klopp's men to their biggest ever winning margin at Old Trafford on October 24, with United losing by at least five goals without scoring at home for the first time since 1955.

It was a humiliating day for United, and Solskjaer looked as though he was going to pay the price, but Alex Ferguson reportedly played a major role in buying the Norwegian time to turn things around following a four-game winless run in the league.

United followed that defeat up with a comprehensive win at Tottenham on Saturday, Solskjaer's decisions to switch to a back three and deploy a strike partnership of Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo paying dividends – they kept a clean sheet and the two forwards each scored a goal.

That defeat ended up costing Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo his job as it eased the heat slightly on Solskjaer, but with a Champions League trip to Atalanta to be followed by the Manchester derby, he is only another disappointing result away from being under intense pressure again.

But he says the criticism that comes with such pressure is what keeps him on his toes.

"Criticism can make you doubt yourself or you can stand up for yourself," he told reporters ahead of the clash with Atalanta.

"I've always enjoyed criticism, keep it coming. Journalists, pundits – we've all got different jobs and it's their job to give their opinion. I am not here to fight with them, I don't need a spat with them."

Despite the excellent response against Tottenham, Solskjaer is not getting carried away about United's situation.

"The next one is the one that matters and we've been looking, working together for consistency and when we get that we'll get consistent results. One swallow doesn't make a summer.

"We will keep focusing on what we did well. [The schedule] is relentless. It is a chance tomorrow to prove we can go again."

Bruno Fernandes, sat alongside Solskjaer, was asked about the slightly different role he was asked to play on Saturday, as he featured behind two strikers rather than a lone frontman who was flanked by two wingers.

The Portugal international had a fine performance individually, playing three key passes – including a wonderful assist for Ronaldo's stunning volley – and also had a major role in Cavani's well-worked goal as he robbed Oliver Skipp in the build-up.

But as long as he is able to supply the frontline, he is not bothered who Solskjaer picks in attack.

"I think, honestly, we have such good quality, not just them [Cavani and Ronaldo]," he said. "They scored so take a big part of the result, but honestly I think the quality we have makes it easy to play behind any striker and serve them. All of them can score goals. They're all different but can all score goals many times and from any place on the pitch.

"We have many talents in this team – Edi, Cristiano, Anthony [Martial], Marcus [Rashford], Jadon [Sancho] – it doesn't matter who plays. I know I'm there to try to serve them and make them happy."

United – who had to come back from 2-0 down to beat Atalanta in their last Champions League outing – are aiming to avoid losing four consecutive away games in Europe's elite competition or its predecessor the European Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Portugal cruised past Luxembourg 5-0 in Tuesday's World Cup qualifying clash.

Ronaldo took just eight minutes to open the scoring at the Estadio Algarve as he finished from the penalty spot before doubling his tally soon after in the same fashion.

Bruno Fernandes netted a third inside a decisive opening 20 minutes before the Manchester United playmaker assisted Joao Palhinha for the fourth in the second half.

Ronaldo then secured his hat-trick with three minutes remaining to cap the hosts' dominant performance and ensure they remain a point behind Group A leaders Serbia – who have played a game more – ahead of the next international break.

Sebastien Thill and Anthony Moris were the guilty parties for the early penalties with fouls on Bernardo Silva and Ronaldo, the latter clinically converting both.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Fernandes made it 3-0 despite Moris getting a hand to his right-footed drive following Silva's throughball after 17 minutes.

Ronaldo almost claimed his hat-trick on the stroke of half-time but was denied by Moris, who also saved Silva's acrobatic volley.

Danel Sinani brought a rare save from Rui Patricio, with both Palhinha and Fernandes missing the target at the other end after being found by Nuno Mendes' searching deliveries.

Ronaldo's overhead-kick deserved to complete his treble, but Moris tipped over before Palhinha headed home from Fernandes' resulting corner.

Luxembourg almost grabbed a consolation goal through Gerson Rodrigues, but his left-footed strike was turned away by Patricio and Ronaldo completed the scoring as he headed in from Ruben Neves' deep cross.

Premier League football takes a back seat again for the best part of a fortnight now as the international break arrives, but the past weekend gave us plenty to chew on in the interim.

Liverpool and Manchester City played out a belter of a match at Anfield on Sunday, as Mohamed Salah shone yet again on English football's biggest stage.

That contest provided further evidence of the gap between those two and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Manchester United, though Bruno Fernandes' latest achievement suggests the Norwegian should be doing better given the talent at his disposal.

Below, Stats Perform looks at some of the quirky Opta facts from the weekend…

Salah a double threat

Sunday's 2-2 draw between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield was utterly engrossing, and Mohamed Salah played a key role in that.

Not only did he set up Sadio Mane's opener with a brilliant run and pass, he then got Liverpool's second at the end of an incredible run that saw him evade most of the City defence.

That was the 20th time he has both scored and assisted during a single Premier League game, which is six more than anyone else in the top-flight since his Reds debut on 2017-18 — Son Heung-min is next with 14.

There is also no Liverpool player particularly close to him in that regard in the club's entire Premier League history, with Steven Gerrard second to Salah with 16 instances of getting a goal and assist in the same game.

Fernandes setting the pace

Manchester United may be erratic, but Bruno Fernandes certainly isn't when it comes to decisive moments in the Premier League.

He set up Anthony Martial with a lovely turn and throughball for the first goal in United's 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday, that assist taking him to 50 goal involvements in 58 Premier League matches — only Andy Cole (43), Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona (both 54) reached that mark in fewer games.

But putting his achievement into modern-day context, Fernandes (30 goals, 20 assists) sits top of the pile for most involvements since his debut, his 50 being four more than Salah (34 goals, 12 assists).

The only other player on more than 40 in that time is Harry Kane (44 involvements, 30 goals, 14 assists).

The Premier League's deadliest attack… Sort of

So, you think you know which team is the most clinical in the Premier League this season? Well, you're wrong.

It's not Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester City. It's certainly not Tottenham or Arsenal… It's Brentford. In a way.

When it comes to the amount of goals scored from their shots on target, the Premier League new boys have been the most clinical, netting 10 (or 45.5 per cent) of their 22 accurate attempts following the 2-1 win at West Ham.

Liverpool are the league's leading scorers with 17, but those goals have come from 53 shots on target, meaning only 32.1 per cent of their accurate efforts are beating the goalkeeper.

Norwich City prop up the table (11.8 per cent), with Spurs (18.8 per cent) and Arsenal (19.2 per cent) also in the bottom three.

Vardy almost the 'golden oldie'

Jamie Vardy's story is a familiar one these days. His journey to the top wasn't straightforward, but since getting there he's been absolutely devastating.

Of course, his 24-goal haul was essential in Leicester City's incredible title triumph of 2015-16, but he's continued at a great level, only recording under 15 Premier League goals in a single season once since.

He already looks well on track to better his tally of 15 from 2020-21 this season, with the former England man on six in seven league games, and now he's closing in on a record.

Vardy's goal against Crystal Palace at the weekend was his 90th in the top-flight since turning 30 in January 2017, with Arsenal great Ian Wright (93) the only player in the competition's history to score more after his 30th birthday.

Bruno Fernandes vented his frustration at Manchester United's form after their draw with Everton, acknowledging silverware will be a pipe dream unless they improve.

Fernandes became the joint-fourth quickest player to reach the 50 goals involvements landmark in the Premier League as he teed up Anthony Martial for United's opener on Saturday.

But Everton were good value for their second-half equaliser, as Demarai Gray twice shrugged off Fred before feeding Abdoulaye Doucoure, who then teed up Andros Townsend for a straightforward finish.

United have now won just two of their past seven home league games, while their run of nine successive top-flight matches at Old Trafford without a clean sheet is the second-worst in the club's history (10, 1970-71).

Everton created better quality chances as well, with Rafael Benitez's men recording 1.22 expected goals (xG) to United's 0.88, which suggests the hosts were perhaps slightly lucky to even score once.

Understandably, Fernandes was frustrated.

"We should win this game," the Portugal international told BBC Sport.

"We should create more chances, we should not concede that kind of goal. It's not the first time and we have to look at our mistakes and see what we can do."

Victory for United would have taken them top, even if just temporarily. Despite such fine margins, Fernandes is concerned about their form, having also lost to Aston Villa last time out in the Premier League.

In his opinion, their silverware chances will be in doubt if they do not improve.

"We don't look at the league table at this moment but of course we should have more points," he continued.

"We drop points at home and we should not do that. These last two games at home were not good enough in the Premier League.

"If we want silverware at the end of the season, we have to do much better."

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under pressure in recent weeks, with some once again suggesting he is not the right man to turn the Red Devils into title contenders.

And his comments may increase the cause for concern among some fans, with the Norwegian suggesting United did not afford Everton many chances despite the Toffees managing 10 shots inside the box – the hosts managed nine.

"We didn't concede many chances today but we conceded a goal, so sometimes you have to deal with one or two moments and we didn't," he told BT Sport. "In that break we got outmuscled, we should've cleared it.

"We gave them a few counterattacks. I don't know the stats but I know we had the ball most of the time. They didn't play through us at all really. How not to be counterattacked is the key lesson here.

"Every game in the Premier League, you can work on a system, on defending, but that [counter] has to be dealt with."

Manchester United playmaker Bruno Fernandes has become the joint-fourth quickest Premier League player to reach 50 goal involvements after achieving the feat in 58 appearances.

Fernandes reached the milestone towards the end of the first half of United's meeting with Everton, turning before feeding Anthony Martial into the left side of the box for the Frenchman to convert.

Only three players have reached the 50 involvements mark quicker than Fernandes.

Former Red Devil Andy Cole leads the way after recording the half-century in 43 games. Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona both reached the landmark in 54 matches, while Fernandes slots in alongside Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, who also took 58 matches.

The 27-year-old's half-century in the competition breaks down into 30 goals and 20 assists, with no player appearing more times for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer since his debut in February 2020.

Indeed, 13 of those goals have come from the penalty spot, ranking him top of the Premier League for spot-kicks in the same time period, with Jamie Vardy and Jorginho next with nine.

The signing of the former Sporting CP playmaker has revolutionised Solskjaer's side, who finished second behind Manchester City last season.

Before Fernandes' move, United won 22 (47.8 per cent) and lost 13 of 46 league games under the Norwegian, which changed to 33 wins in 57 games (57.9 per cent) after his introduction at Old Trafford.

Last term, the Portugal midfielder led the English top flight for chances created with 95, while no player created more than his 20 big chances (a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, according to Opta), perhaps explaining United's improved conversion rate with Fernandes in the team.

On five occasions, Fernandes has been directly involved in three goals in a single game, including twice against rivals Leeds United.

Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes said he always believed the Red Devils could win after Cristiano Ronaldo's stoppage-time winner completed a stunning 2-1 Champions League comeback against Villarreal.

United were staring at back-to-back defeats to start their Group F campaign when Paco Alcacer gave visiting Villarreal a 1-0 lead in a repeat of last season's Europa League final at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Villarreal upstaged United in the Europa League decider, but they were unable to shock Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's underperforming side again as Alex Telles equalised with a spectacular volley on the hour before Ronaldo sparked wild celebrations via his 95th-minute strike.

It was a largely frustrating night for United in Manchester, where the Premier League giants relied on some spectacular goalkeeping from David de Gea to remain in the contest, however stand-in captain Fernandes was always confident of a result.

"I always thought we could win, even after they scored," Fernandes, who wore the armband in the absence of injured skipper Harry Maguire, told BT Sport.

"I felt we could always come back into the game and turn it around. After the goal of Alex everyone feels the atmosphere, it was unbelievable. The push from the fans was incredible.

"Some big saves from David who helps a lot to keep us in the game.

"After that at the end Cristiano, strikers always have the feeling to score, and he had it once again."

United have lost only once in their last 13 home games in all European competition (W10 D2), with Ronaldo the first Red Devils player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Champions League since Marouane Fellaini against Young Boys in November 2018.

Ronaldo (36 years and 236 days) became the second oldest United player to score a goal in European competition at Old Trafford after Bryan Robson (36y 282d) against Galatasaray in 1993.

No player has scored more 90th-minute winning goals in champions League history than Ronaldo (three) – level with Sergio Aguero.

It comes after United superstar Ronaldo who made his 178th Champions League appearance – breaking the record for most games played by a single player.

Bruno Fernandes expressed his delight in working with a proven winner in Raphael Varane as Manchester United look to challenge for trophies this term.

Varane completed a move to United in a deal worth a reported £42.7million (€50m) in August, following a decade at Real Madrid.

The France international boasts a World Cup medal from 2018, along with three LaLiga titles and four Champions League triumphs to his name from his time in the Spanish capital.

Since his debut against Wolves at the end of August, no player has played more Premier League minutes for the Red Devils than Varane (360) and Fernandes hailed the impact the centre-back could have on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

"Of course, he’s a winner," Fernandes told United Review. "Everyone knows that. He’s a nice guy and works really hard and is always pushing everyone to do better.

"I think he has a great mentality but, at the same time, we cannot forget the other players. Rapha [Varane] has been brilliant, but Victor [Lindelof] has had an amazing, brilliant beginning to the season.

"Eric [Bailly] comes later because of the Olympic Games, but he’s a player we trust a lot. 'H' [Harry Maguire] we already know is doing really well."

 

Indeed, Varane led from the front for Madrid last term as well in the absence of Sergio Ramos.

United's new acquisition ranked second for Los Blancos among defenders for duels won (110) and interceptions (36) in LaLiga, while recording 73 aerial successes – more than double the tally of any of his defensive colleagues.

And Fernandes is looking forward for the leadership aspects Varane will bring to United, who currently sit fourth in the top flight after losing to Aston Villa last Saturday.

"Rapha is really important for us, and has been really important for us," he continued. "But the main point is everyone being okay to do the best that they can.

"In football, we all have different qualities, and Rapha has different qualities to Victor, H, Eric and Phil [Jones], but they can all add different things.

"Still he [Varane] is a little bit shy in some ways, because it’s the beginning for him at United, but I think he’s a leader. I think he can help in that part of the game."

Manchester City made something of a statement in their 1-0 win over potential title challengers Chelsea on Saturday, whereas Manchester United seemed to take another step back as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign stuttered again.

But Solskjaer is certainly not the only top-flight manager feeling the heat – Nuno Espirito Santo's honeymoon period as Tottenham boss is well and truly over, with the Portuguese now among the favourites to be the first Premier League boss sacked this season following a 3-1 defeat in the north London derby.

Without any further ado, here are some of the more curious facts and stats from across the Premier League this past weekend…

City defence putting the 'guard' in Guardiola

It may not have been the thrill ride neutrals were likely hoping for, but City's 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge was another impressive indicator of just how good Pep Guardiola's team is as a unit.

Of course, they won the Premier League only a few months ago, so saying City are "good" probably won't cut it for analysis – but what is really making people sit up and take note at the moment is how their unity and cohesion is translating into defensive solidity.

City have conceded just one goal in their six Premier League games this term, the fewest they've ever shipped at this stage of any league campaign.

Let's not forget that Chelsea had been widely praised for their own start to 2021-22, yet on Saturday they were prevented from having a single shot on target in a home league game since November 2012, which coincidentally was also against City.

But even more impressive from City's perspective was the fact Chelsea's expected goals (xG) value was just 0.2, the worst they've recorded in a home Premier League game since Opta records began in 2008-09.

While Chelsea fans will understandably be frustrated, it would seem their struggles on Saturday were more down to City being in a groove defensively.

They've only faced six shots on target this season, a record no Premier League has bettered over the first six matches in a campaign since at least 2003-04. If they keep this up, the title will surely be staying at the Etihad Stadium.

Fernandes' penalty miss not Man Utd's big issue

It was another day to forget for United on Saturday as they lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.

They were presented with a great opportunity to equalise in second-half stoppage time, but Bruno Fernandes sent his penalty over the crossbar.

Much of the focus afterwards was on Fernandes and his miss, though it would be unfair to pin the blame on him – after all, of the 23 spot-kicks he has taken since his United debut, he's only failed to convert two.

In the same time period, Cristiano Ronaldo – seemingly Fernandes' main penalty rival now – has taken 22 and missed four. This is not a problem that United need to dwell on much.

Instead, they'd be wise to look into their glaring tactical inefficiencies, with Solskjaer's team sorely lacking identity, cohesion and a defined playing style. Too often they are bailed out by moments of individual brilliance, which is an unsustainable approach to solely rely on in a title challenge.

Against Villa, those instances of individual excellence never arrived, despite United mustering 28 shots. That was the most efforts attempted by United without scoring in a home league game since October 2016 (38 shots in 0-0 draw with Burnley).

They have now conceded in each of their past eight league games at Old Trafford, their worst such run in 49 years, and lost three successive home matches (all competitions) for the first time since 1962.

Norwich set new benchmark for worst start

With every match that passes, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to become ever dimmer for Norwich City.

A 2-0 defeat at Everton on Saturday leaves Norwich pointless and with a -14 goal difference after six matches – that makes their start to the season the worst after six matches in Premier League history.

Only twice before had a Premier League side begun a campaign without a single point from six games, the last of which was Frank de Boer's infamous Crystal Palace team in 2017-18 – the Dutchman was sacked after the fourth match in that sequence.

Norwich have at least been a little more patient than Palace, with Daniel Farke's record of overseeing two promotions seemingly ensuring he retains some good will at the club, even if he now has the highest loss percentage (75 per cent, 33/44) of any manager to take charge of at least 20 games in the Premier League.

Most would already consider Norwich to be doomed for relegation, though perhaps there is some reason for optimism.

There have only been nine teams to start a top-flight season (prior to 2021-22) with six or more successive losses, but four of them – including Palace – have avoided relegation.

Vardy joins exclusive club

Jamie Vardy ended up having a peculiar day when Leicester City drew 2-2 with Burnley on Saturday, the former England striker scoring three of the four goals.

It was his own goal that gave Burnley an early lead, while he also got both Leicester equalisers, including one late in the day.

That was his first own goal ever in 360 appearances for Leicester, while he became the first player to net at both ends for the club in a single Premier League game.

It's happened to some of the best, though. He joins an illustrious list containing 11 others who have scored at least 100 goals but also put past their own goalkeeper, with Harry Kane, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney among them.

On top of that, Vardy is now only one of five players in Premier League history to score at least twice at the right end and an own goal in the same game after John Barnes (Liverpool v Spurs 1995), Niall Quinn (Sunderland v Charlton Athletic 2001), Rooney (Man Utd v Stoke City 2012) and Tammy Abraham (Chelsea v Wolves 2019).

But he is still doing more than his fair share at the other end, his brace in this game taking him to eight goal involvements in his past seven league games, which is 89 per cent (8/9) of Leicester's goals in that time.

Bad omens stacking up for Nuno

After three wins from his first three Premier League games in charge, everything was looking rather rosy for Tottenham boss Nuno.

Three matches and three defeats later, some will doubt whether he'll still be in charge this time next month, let alone this time next season.

Sunday's north London derby was his 10th in charge of Spurs and the 3-1 loss made him the first manager to lose as many as four of his first 10 matches at the helm of the club since Glenn Hoddle in 2001.

Hoddle was also the last Spurs boss to conceded at least three goals in three consecutive league games in September 2003, and he was sacked after that run.

Nuno will probably make it to the next match but the last team to begin a season with three wins and then lost the next three (Everton, 1993-94) finish as low down as 17th.

His future arguably rests on getting something out of Kane, who's failed to score in five straight league games for the first time since August 2016, but things aren't looking great given Spurs' 35 open-play shots is the second fewest in the division and their expected goals (xG) total is just 3.2, only higher than three teams.

While a lack of quality chances might usually be masked by Kane's excellence, he's not bailing them out any longer – if that continues, it's difficult to see Nuno keeping his job for the long term.

Manchester City showed exactly why they are the reigning champions as they overcame previously unbeaten Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.  

As for neighbours Manchester United, they suffered a damaging 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, who were good value for the victory, while Liverpool were held to a 3-3 draw by Brentford, despite another record-breaking goal from Mohamed Salah. 

Elsewhere, Michail Antonio's fine start to the season continued as his late goal helped West Ham overcome Leeds United. 

Using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at the key statistics from Saturday's most notable fixtures. 

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City: Jesus seals record-breaking victory for Guardiola

City bounced back from last weekend's surprise 0-0 draw with Southampton by ending Chelsea's unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign. 

Gabriel Jesus scored the only goal of the game, the Brazilian becoming the fifth player to score 20 or more match-winning goals for the club in the Premier League, after Sergio Aguero (48), Raheem Sterling (23), Yaya Toure (22) and David Silva (20). 

It was Jesus' 52nd Premier League goal, with City never losing a game in the competition in which he has scored in (P44 W42 D2) – extending the record for most games scored in without ever losing for a single side. 

The victory also allowed Pep Guardiola to set a new club record for most wins by a manager, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss moving past Les McDowall with a 221st victory. 

Chelsea, meanwhile, have lost their last two home Premier League games against the defending champions (also 0-2 vs Liverpool last season), after going unbeaten in each of the previous 13 such matches (W7 D6). 

Manchester United 0-1 Aston Villa: Hause secures memorable win at Old Trafford

Manchester United suffered their first defeat of the Premier League season as Aston Villa sealed a first top-flight win over the Red Devils since December 2009. 

Kortney Hause grabbed the decisive goal in the 88th minute, the latest winner scored by an away team at Old Trafford in the Premier League since Patrick van Aanholt secured victory for Crystal Palace in the 93rd minute in August 2019. 

That goal meant United have now conceded in each of their past eight league games at Old Trafford, their longest top-flight run without a clean sheet on home soil since February 1972 (also eight games). 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side did have the chance to seal a point in stoppage time, but Bruno Fernandes blazed his spot-kick over the crossbar. That was only the Portugal international's second penalty miss in his 23 attempts for the club, the other coming against Newcastle United in the Premier League in October 2020. 

Brentford 3-3 Liverpool: Reds held by brilliant Bees

Premier League newcomers Brentford secured a memorable point against Jurgen Klopp's men in a pulsating match. 

The result marked the first time Liverpool had conceded three goals in a top-flight away game against a newly promoted side since January 2016 against Norwich City (a 5-4 win), while Brentford scored three goals in a top-flight game for the first time since January 1947 (4-1 against Wolves). 

Salah scored his 100th Premier League goal for the Reds, reaching that figure in 151 games – fewer than any other player in Liverpool's history. 

Indeed, only Alan Shearer for Blackburn (124 games), Harry Kane for Tottenham (138) and Sergio Aguero for Man City (147) have reached a century of Premier League goals for a single club in fewer appearances than Salah. 

Brentford have enjoyed an impressive start in the top tier, though. Their eight Premier League goals have been scored by seven different players – excluding own goals, only Chelsea (10) and Manchester City (nine) have had more different scorers in the competition this term. 

Leeds United 1-2 West Ham: Hosts suffer late Antonio hammer blow

David Moyes' side left it late to wrap up back-to-back wins at Elland Road for the first time in their history. 

Raphinha had put the hosts ahead early on with his fifth Premier League goal from outside the penalty area, the joint-most of any player since he made his debut in the competition in October 2020, tied with Son Heung-min. 

A Junior Firpo own goal pulled the Hammers level, before Antonio sealed all three points in the 90th minute. 

That goal meant Antonio became just the third player to score a 90th-minute winner against Leeds at Elland Road in the Premier League, after Nolberto Solano for Newcastle in December 2001 and Scott Parker for Charlton in December 2002. 

Bruno Fernandes' stoppage-time penalty miss capped an awful day for Manchester United as they deservedly lost 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.

A point would have taken United top of the Premier League, with Chelsea losing to Manchester City on Saturday, but they could have no complaints about the outcome at Old Trafford despite a dramatic finish.

Kortney Hause looked to have gone from hero to zero when he followed a headed goal at one end with a handball at the other.

But Fernandes, taking the spot-kick ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, blazed over the crossbar to condemn United – who lost Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw to injury – to a first league defeat of the campaign.

The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

Two of the favourites meet early on Saturday, as Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

At the same time, Manchester United – joint-top alongside the Blues and Liverpool – host Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

With the season really kicking into gear, so are the title races in fantasy leagues. So, to avoid getting left behind, take heed of our Opta-powered picks for matchday six...

 

DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Despite their EFL Cup defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, United remain unbeaten in the league and moved onto 13 points thanks to some late drama last Sunday, also in a match against David Moyes' Hammers.

Jesse Lingard came off the bench to score against the club for whom he starred on loan last term, but West Ham were awarded a last-gasp penalty and a chance to rescue a draw. However, substitute Mark Noble, with his first touch, saw his penalty saved by David de Gea.

It ended a run of 40 penalties without a save from De Gea, who has now this season prevented more goals (2.5) than any other keeper in the Premier League, according to expected goals on target data.

SHANE DUFFY (Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion)

Has Graham Potter's luck at Brighton and Hove Albion finally changed? His team have impressed over the past few seasons, yet a clinical edge was often missing. Now, though, the Seagulls have won four of their five games and sit pretty on 12 points.

A key figure in their strong start has been Shane Duffy. The centre-back's career looked to be petering out after a poor loan spell at Celtic last season, but he has come back strong this term.

No Premier League defender has had more shots (10) or scored more goals (one) than Duffy so far this season, while only Man City have faced fewer shots on target than Brighton in 2021-22.

REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester City)

Reece James is of course an expensive option for fantasy players, though it is an investment worth making, given his ability going forward and the fact he plays for one of the competition's strongest teams.

Despite only playing 158 minutes so far in the league, James has been directly involved in three goals, more than any other defender.

He has scored once and provided two assists, averaging a goal involvement every 53 minutes.

BRUNO FERNANDES (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

Given the hype around Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, it would be understandable if many fantasy players had elected to sacrifice his compatriot Bruno Fernandes in order to free up funds for the former Real Madrid and Juventus superstar.

But Fernandes is still one of the most reliable players in the league when it comes to accumulating fantasy points, and he would have had an assist in the win over West Ham had Ronaldo's initial effort gone in before he netted the rebound.

Fernandes has scored in all three of his Premier League appearances against Villa, with all three of his goals coming from the penalty spot. Only one player has scored more goals against an opponent with 100 per cent of them being penalties in the competition – Troy Deeney against United (four). No player has more goal involvements (49) than Fernandes since he made his debut in February 2020.

DEMARAI GRAY (Everton v Norwich City)

Rafael Benitez's unbeaten start at Everton came to an end at Aston Villa last week, before the Toffees then crashed out of the EFL Cup in midweek, with James Rodriguez's departure to Qatar completing a difficult few days.

Benitez, a contentious pick as Everton manager, could do with a win on Saturday against Norwich City, who are on a 15-match losing streak in the Premier League.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison likely to miss the game through injury, Everton need Demarai Gray to carry on his fine form. He has scored three goals so far this season from just three attempts on target. Only in 2018-19 has the winger scored more goals in a single top-flight season (four).

RAUL JIMENEZ (Southampton v Wolves)

After winning at Watford to finally get their first points on the board, Wolves went down 2-0 at home to 10-man Brentford last time out.

Wolves have played some exciting football under new boss Bruno Lage, but they need to start converting their chances, and Raul Jimenez coming back into form would be key to doing just that.

Although he has yet to score or assist in the Premier League this season, Jimenez has been directly involved in 29 shots (14 shots, 15 chances created). Only Mohamed Salah (37) and Sadio Mane (31) have been involved in more. The Mexican has created the most chances without an assist and taken the joint-most shots without a goal, so surely his luck will change soon. 

JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City v Burnley)

It has not been a flying start to the season for FA Cup holders Leicester City, who have had some inconsistent results and performances to match.

They lost to Brighton last week, going down 2-1, with Jamie Vardy scoring his 150th goal in all competitions for the Foxes.

Vardy has been directly involved in six goals in his past six Premier League games (five goals, one assist), with these involvements accounting for 86 per cent of Leicester's total goals in that run (six of seven).

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