Manchester United are in the market for a midfielder. 

With a long-rumoured target looking unlikely, United are shifting their gaze from one England midfielder to another. 

Could they prise another up-and-coming star from Leeds United? 

 

TOP STORY – UNITED SHIFT SIGHTS TO PHILLIPS

Kalvin Phillips is Manchester United's latest target in an effort to shore up the midfield, the Daily Star reports. 

The Leeds star has gained favour at Old Trafford as United have given up hopes of adding West Ham's Declan Rice thanks to his reported £90million price tag.

Phillips, 25, is under contract at Elland Road through 2024 and reportedly is valued at £60m. 

 

ROUND-UP

– Barcelona are still in pursuit of Matthijs de Ligt and are prepared to offer Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Memphis Depay to Juventus in a deal for the Netherlands defender, who is valued at €75m, according to Calciomercato.

– Franck Kessie has turned down Milan's latest contract offer and is eyeing a move to the Premier League, 90min reports, with United and Liverpool said to be interested. 

– Juan Mata is considering a move away from Old Trafford in January due to a lack of playing time this season, the Manchester Evening News reports. 

– Everton are considering loan deals with Real Madrid for Isco and Luka Jovic, claims Defensa Central.

– West Brom teen Reyes Cleary is drawing attention from Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim, says the Daily Mail. 

– Steven Nzonzi is nearing a move from Roma to Al Rayyan, Calciomercato reports. 

France forward Anthony Martial's future at Manchester United is unclear.

The 25-year-old is struggling to fit into United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans.

Martial signed a five-year deal with United in 2019, meaning he is contracted until 2024.

TOP STORY – MARTIAL FREE TO LEAVE IN JANUARY

Martial will be free to leave United in the January transfer window with Barcelona an option, according to Eurosport.

Red Devils officials have given Martial's representatives the green light to explore his options, although he is understood to be willing to remain in the Premier League.

Cash-strapped Barcelona are willing to take a chance on Martial who has fallen down the pecking order at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival along with competition from Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani.

ROUND-UP

- Dean Henderson is pushing for a loan move away from United in January, according to The Sun. Henderson has lost the battle with David de Gea for the number one shirt at Old Trafford.

- TeamTalk claims Manchester City are keeping an eye on Real Sociedad's Spain international forward Mikel Oyarzabal.

- Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has set his sights on signing Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi in the January transfer window, reports the Daily Express.

- The Daily Star claims that there is a "special release clause" in Chelsea target Matthijs De Ligt 's contract with Juventus that becomes active in mid-2022.

United are monitoring Milan's Franck Kessie, who they see as a potential replacement for Paul Pogba, claims The Sun.

Erling Haaland was not lured away from Borussia Dortmund in the most recent transfer window despite widespread interest.

But the race to sign the 21-year-old Norway international will heat up in the coming months.

Haaland scored 41 goals for Dortmund last term, making him one of European football's hottest properties.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID LEAD HAALAND RACE

Real Madrid have a verbal agreement for Dortmund star Haaland to join the club next year, reports Diario Madridista.

The Spanish club leads the way amid widespread interest in the Norwegian forward, including from BarcelonaChelsea and Manchester City.

Additionally, Los Blancos' decision to respect Dortmund's stance to not sell the 21-year-old during the previous window has helped any potential deal.

 

ROUND-UP

Leicester City are planning to make a move to sign Sassuolo and Italy winger Domenico Berardi in January, reports CalcioMercato. Berardi, who has attracted interest from Milan and Fiorentina previously, could be available for approximately €35million (£30m).

- Dortmund will not sell Jude Bellingham amid reported interest from Liverpool as they plan to offer the 18-year-old England international a new contract, claims 90min. Bellingham's current deal runs until 2025.

- Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is on Chelsea's radar as they plan for Jorginho's potential departure, seeing him as a replacement, according to the Daily Express. Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in Kessie, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Chelsea will revive their interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde in January, but the Blues still only want to offer approximately €50m (£42m), according to ESPN. Sevilla previously demanded a deal in the region of €70m (£60m), before then informing the English side only depositing his release clause – understood to be between €80m (£68.3m) and €90m (£76.8m) – would suffice in the final two days of the transfer window.

- Fichajes claims Tottenham are planning to hand 34-year-old French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a new two-year deal, with his current contract due to expire in June 2022.

Are three stars set for Real Madrid?

Madrid have long been linked with soon-to-be free agent Kylian Mbappe, who reportedly wants to leave PSG for the Santiago Bernabeu.

In-demand forward Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba are also believed to be targets of the Spanish powerhouse.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE, HAALAND AND POGBA WANTED IN MADRID

Real Madrid are eyeing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, according to Marca.

Madrid tried to sign Mbappe before the transfer deadline but the LaLiga giants are expected to reignite their interest at the end of the season, when the PSG star is set to become a free agent.

It could be a busy off-season at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Haaland and Pogba are also wanted.

Haaland has been linked with United, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona, while Pogba is reportedly wanted by PSG and Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

- FootMercato claims PSG have started their pursuit of Milan star Franck Kessie, who is also reportedly attracting interest from Tottenham. Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season.

Inter could target Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso to replace soon-to-be free agents Aleksandar Kolarov and Ivan Perisic, per Calciomercato. The Serie A champions have also been linked with Eintracht Frankfurt's Filip Kostic.

Bayern face competition from Barca and Liverpool for Salzburg forward Karim Adeyemi, says Bild.

Liverpool have recently re-signed a number of key players in their squad, but talks are under way with star forward Mohamed Salah. 

The two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner has less than two years remaining on his current deal with the Reds. 

Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and skipper Jordan Henderson all recently committed their long-term futures to Liverpool, as well as full-back pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. 

TOP STORY - SALAH DEMANDS BUMPER LIVERPOOL DEAL

Salah is demanding a major pay rise to re-commit to Liverpool, claims The Mirror. 

The Egyptian forward, according to the report, wants to earn £500,000 a week to extend his time at Anfield, having moved to Merseyside from Roma in June 2017. 

If the deal is agreed, it would make Salah the highest paid player in Liverpool's history. 

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports that Aston Villa are plotting a January move for Weston McKennie. The Juventus midfielder had been linked with a move away recently, though the Serie A club could not find a suitable buyer before the closure of the transfer window. 

Phil Foden will be presented with a new contract offer by Manchester City which will quadruple his current wages, according to the Daily Star. The new six-year deal is reportedly worth £150,000 per week. 

- Former France international Franck Ribery is set to complete a deal with newly promoted Serie A club Salernitana as a free agent, claims Fabrizio Romano. He will undergo a medical on Monday. 

Franck Kessie has turned down a new contract offer from Milan, claims Gazzetta dello Sport, putting Premier League trio Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea on alert. 

Milan director Paolo Maldini hinted Franck Kessie could be sold, insisting the Serie A club must do what is "sustainable" amid contract negotiations with the Rossoneri star.

Kessie is in the final year of his Milan contract and the Ivory Coast midfielder appears no closer to re-signing, despite voicing his desire to remain at San Siro "forever".

The 24-year-old has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and even city rivals Inter, while Tottenham reportedly had an offer rejected by Kessie.

Having already lost star pair Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain) and Hakan Calhanoglu (Inter) on free transfers at the end of 2020-21, Milan would like to keep Kessie but Maldini warned not at the expense of the club's economic structure.

 

"I think there is a common line in talking about a renewal and a signing," Maldini told Sky Italia prior to Monday's season-opening 1-0 win at Sampdoria. "We must act following sustainability, without going beyond certain lines dictated by the ownership.

"In the past we have done it and we have paid. Both the renewals of players that we have not been able to. to do, both acquisitions will be made following this spirit.

"I do not start with preconceptions for players or about players who have played in other leagues, I am open to many solutions."

Kessie scored 13 goals – 11 of those coming from the penalty spot – and provided four assists as Milan finished second behind city rivals Inter in Serie A last season.

In-demand midfielder Franck Kessie says he wants to stay at Milan "forever" and plans to sign a new deal when he returns from the Olympics.

Kessie is in the final year of his deal with the Rossoneri and has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

The 24-year-old, currently representing Ivory Coast at the Games in Tokyo, has assured Milan he has no intention of moving on.

"I'm proud to have chosen Milan and it is not my intention to leave. Indeed, I want to stay forever," he told Gazzetta dello Sport: 

"When I come back from the Olympics, I'll fix everything. I just want Milan. Sporting director Paolo Maldini knows my thoughts.

"I want to be the 'president' of Milan for life."

 

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli said he has no concerns about Kessie departing earlier this month.

Asked about the prospect of Kessie signing a new deal, he said: "These are club things. We all know how important Franck is and how happy he is to be at Milan.

"Franck has grown a lot, we talk about him but the others have also grown. He can still do a lot, both I and the club know how important Franck is, I have already heard it. First he rested, then married, now he will go with the national team."

Kessie scored 13 goals – 11 of those coming from the penalty spot – and provided four assists as Milan finished second behind city rivals Inter in Serie A last season.

Milan have completed the signing of Sandro Tonali on a five-year deal from Brescia.

The midfielder spent last season on loan with the Rossoneri, making 37 appearances for Stefano Pioli's side.

Milan had the option to buy the 21-year-old and on Thursday confirmed an agreement has been struck with the Serie B club.

Pioli earlier stated that the club must strengthen their squad to be a force next season and Franck Kessie is happy at San Siro amid speculation over his future.

The Rossoneri finished second in Serie A last seaon but have since seen Gianluigi Donnarumma depart at the end of his contract and Hakan Calhanoglu join city rivals Inter.

Fikayo Tomori returned to San Siro in a permanent deal from Chelsea and Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan replaced Italy international Donnarumma.

Milan head coach Pioli wants more new faces to take the club to another level, but knows he will have to be patient.

He said in a press conference on Thursday: "The club and all of us want Milan to be competitive, we need to give continuity to our work, we want to improve the quality of our players and raise the level of the team.

"We start today on July 8, I would prefer to have the whole squad today but I know that the market is long.

"It is clear that both the club and I want to make Milan a competitive team, giving continuity to what we are doing.

"Our journey started a year and a half ago and we want to grow further. To do this we know we must try to improve the level of the team."

Ivory Coast midfielder Kessie is in the final year of his contract and has been linked with the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham but Pioli is not concerned about losing the 24-year-old.

Asked about the prospect of Kessie signing a new deal, he said: "These are club things. We all know how important Franck is and how happy he is to be at Milan.

"Franck has grown a lot, we talk about him but the others have also grown. He can still do a lot, both I and the club know how important Franck is, I have already heard it. First he rested, then married, now he will go with the national team."

 

Pioli says there is no point in Milan dwelling on losing Donnarumma, who is set to join PSG, or Calhanoglu.

He added: "We have to look forward and not back. I am attached to them for what they did last year, but now we are only thinking about the new season."

Milan returned to training on Thursday but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not expected to join in with the group for a couple of weeks as he recovers from knee surgery.

Will Kylian Mbappe move to Real Madrid?

Will Lionel Messi leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain?

The star pair are dominating headlines in the transfer market.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE TO MADRID?

Real Madrid believe they will be able to prise Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain if the Ligue 1 giants sign Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Diario AS.

Mbappe – entering the final year of his contract – has long been tipped to join LaLiga powerhouse Madrid, while Liverpool have also been linked.

Messi is out of contract at Barca and while the Catalan club remain confident of re-signing the superstar captain, PSG and Madrid are hoping to make the most of the situation.

 

ROUND-UP

Arsenal have joined PSG and Atletico Madrid in the chase to sign Lyon star Houssem Aouar, reports Le10 Sport.

- Calciomercato says Serie A champions Inter and Ligue 1 outfit Lyon are both eyeing Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana.

Milan have increased their contract offer for star midfielder Franck Kessie, per Gazzetta dello Sport. Having already lost Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu, the Rossoneri are keen to re-sign Kessie, who has been linked with PSG, Tottenham, Arsenal and Inter.

Manchester City are interested in Napoli star Piotr Zielinski, according to Tuttosport. Napoli are believed to be willing to listen to offers. Premier League champions City have also been linked with the likes of Tottenham's Harry Kane, Inter forward Romelu Lukaku, Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland and Madrid defender Raphael Varane in the transfer window.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and Varane both moving to Manchester United, while not impossible is "remote in reality", according to Sky Sports.

Is Lionel Messi's future on the verge of being resolved at Camp Nou?

Messi's contract with LaLiga powerhouse Barcelona expires this week and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with a move.

But, if reports are to be believed, the superstar is poised to extend his long stay at Barca.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA READYING MESSI ANNOUNCEMENT

Barcelona are preparing to officially announce an agreement has been reached with Messi, according to Football Espana and Fabrizio Romano.

The superstar captain has been linked with Premier League champions Manchester City and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

But Messi is now set to renew for a further two years at Barca, where the 34-year-old has spent his entire senior career.

 

ROUND-UP

City will renew their attempts to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham after Euro 2020, claims Romano. City are among a host of clubs interested in Kane, who is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United, Chelsea, Barca, Real Madrid and PSG. Spurs, however, are unwilling to sell the England star. City have also been linked with Inter's Romelu Lukaku and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Brahim Diaz will join Milan from Madrid on loan with an option to buy, reports Sky Sport. The Spaniard spent the 2020-21 season on loan at San Siro. Milan are also interested in Alvaro Odriozola if they are unable to bring Diogo Dalot back from United.

- Gianluca Di Marzio says Arsenal are trying to sign Benfica full-back Nuno Tavares, who has also been linked with Napoli and Lazio.

- Serie A champions Inter are eyeing Franck Kessie amid his contract stalemate with neighbours Milan, according to Tuttosport.

- Tuttosport reports Arsenal are pressing to bring Italy forward Andrea Belotti to London from Torino. Roma have long been linked with Belotti, as well as Milan.

Juventus are ready to make a bid for Lille and Portugal star Renato Sanches, per Calciomercato. Milan are also interested as Juve look to prise Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo.

- Mundo Deportivo says Atletico Madrid are interested in former Barca midfielder Paulinho. The Brazilian is a free agent after leaving Chinese outfit Guangzhou FC.

- There are two clubs trying to sign Luka Jovic from Madrid, claims Diario AS. Jovic, who returned to former club Eintracht Frankfurt on loan in 2020-21, has been linked with Milan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Achraf Hakimi will complete his move to PSG from Inter, who are eyeing Arsenal's Hector Bellerin as a replacement.

Franck Kessie's penalties gave Milan a 2-0 victory that secured their return to the Champions League after a seven-season absence as Atalanta finished with 10 men.

Milan led the way in the Scudetto race until February but fell off the pace and went into the final weekend knowing that defeat could see them slip to fifth and miss out on a place in Europe's premier club competition. 

They showed little desire to attack Atalanta, who were already guaranteed to finish in the top four, but moved ahead two minutes before half-time thanks to Kessie's first spot-kick. 

Marten de Roon was shown a red card – a little shove on the referee in response could land him in further bother – following the awarding of a second penalty in second-half stoppage time that Kessie slotted home to spark jubilation in the Milan camp.

Milan spent much of the first half successfully absorbing Atalanta pressure but they were awarded a chance to go ahead when Joakim Maehle felled Theo Hernandez in the box.

Former Atalanta midfielder Kessie confident stepped up and drilled the resulting penalty into the bottom-left corner in a massive moment for Milan.

Gian Piero Gasperini sent on Luis Muriel for the second half but the hosts struggled to test Gianluigi Donnarumma.

They nearly fell two behind in the 69th minute when Kessie surged forward and fed Rafael Leao, who saw his dink over Pierluigi Gollini hit the upright.

Milan continued to defend well as Atalanta looked for an equaliser that would have secured an unprecedented second-place finish for the club.

However, referee Maurizio Mariani pointed to the spot when Hakan Calhanoglu's mishit deflected off Jose Luis Palomino and struck Robin Gosens on the arm.

De Roon was dismissed for violent conduct in an ensuing melee and he responded by pushing the referee.

Kessie was eventually able to take his penalty and he converted again to ensure it was Napoli who missed out on Champions League qualification.

What does it mean? Milan save some face

The Rossoneri were in danger of becoming only the second team to finish outside the top three in Serie A after leading at the halfway stage – Juventus being the other side when they slipped from first to fifth in 1935-36.

However, Kessie's penalties clinched a valuable victory that secured their best league finish since 2011-12, lightening the blow of seeing arch-rivals Inter lift the trophy earlier on Sunday.

The Rossoneri also made history by becoming the first team to win 16 Serie A away games in a single season, breaking a record that was set by Inter in 2006-07.

Franck deserves a Kessie

With a pair of penalties, Kessie became the first Milan player to score 11 spot-kicks in a single Serie A campaign in history. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (12) and Ciro Immobile (14) have registered more across one season.

Maehle has a mare

The way Atalanta were playing it seemed like it would only be a matter of time until they got the opening goal, but Maehle's reckless challenge on Kessie changed the game. He gave away possession 12 times and failed to win any of his eight duels.

Key Opta Facts

- Milan will return to play in the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14 (when they were eliminated in the last 16 by Atletico Madrid).
- The Rossoneri have set a new all-time record for away wins in a Serie A season: 16. No side has ever done better in the top-five European leagues in a single campaign (16 also for Real Madrid in 2011-12 and Manchester City in 2017-18).
- Franck Kessie is the first Milan player to score two penalties in a single Serie A match since Kaka in April 2009 against Palermo.
- Atalanta have failed to score in only two of their past 21 Serie A matches: both against Milanese sides (the previous against Inter last March).
- Milan have kept a clean sheet in five consecutive Serie A games for the first time since March 2006.
- Stefano Pioli's side have taken the most penalties (20) in a single Serie A season since 2004-05 (when Opta started to collect this data).

What's next?

Milan will hope Champions League qualification enables them to tie Gianluigi Donnarumma and Calhanoglu down to new contracts, with Atalanta also able to look forward to another season in Europe's premier club competition.

Milan emphatically enhanced their Champions League hopes at Juventus' expense after a thumping 3-0 win at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday. 

Rumoured Juve target Gianluigi Donnarumma enjoyed a quiet game after a controversial week in which Milan supporters reportedly demanded he missed the clash after contract negotiations had stalled, but the same could not be said for his Juve counterpart. 

Wojciech Szczesny's tepid punch allowed Brahim Diaz to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time, although the Poland international redeemed himself to some extent by keeping out Franck Kessie's second-half penalty. 

There was little he could do about Ante Rebic's stunning strike, however, and Fikayo Tomori's late header made certain Stefano Pioli's side moved up to third in the table. Juve, meanwhile, drop down to fifth with just three games remaining.

Giorgio Chiellini had failed to take a glorious chance to open the scoring just after the half-hour mark, the veteran defender heading wide at the back post from a corner with a flailing Donnarumma nowhere to be seen.

Milan then went ahead in stoppage time when Diaz superbly whipped into the top-right corner after Szczesny's weak clearance from Hakan Calhanoglu's free-kick had fallen kindly to him.

Szczesny made amends for his role in the opener, turning away Kessie's 58th-minute spot-kick after Diaz's shot had hit Chiellini's arm - the penalty given after referee Paolo Valeri had reviewed the incident on the pitchside monitor – but the reprieve did not trigger a Juve fightback.

Instead, Rebic, who had replaced the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the 66th minute, put the game out of the home team's reach with a glorious long-range strike into Szczesny's top-left corner.

On-loan Chelsea defender Tomori powered home a header from Calhanoglu's cross with eight minutes remaining as Milan ended a run of nine straight away league defeats to Juventus in eye-catching style.

Ten-man Milan were made to sweat in their 3-1 win against Parma at Stadio Ennio Tardini after having Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off for dissent as they tightened their grip on second place in Serie A.

Last week's 1-1 home draw with Sampdoria all but ended the Rossoneri's Scudetto hopes, but they responded with all three points on Saturday to boost their top-four prospects.

Ibrahimovic claimed an impressive assist for Ante Rebic's early opener and played a big part in Franck Kessie's goal that had Milan in control at the midway point.

However, the veteran striker was dismissed on the hour mark for something he said to the referee and Riccardo Gagliolo pulled back a goal soon after, but substitute Rafael Leao settled Milan's nerves with a third goal in added time.

Barcelona have reportedly joined the queue chasing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

Haaland is a player in demand following his exploits for Bundesliga outfit Dortmund.

The Norway international could be among a number of new recruits at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND WANTED AT CAMP NOU

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman is leading the club's recruitment this off-season and has identified Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a key target, according to Diario AS.

Haaland has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Liverpool.

Koeman is also reportedly eyeing City defender Eric Garcia, Lyon captain Memphis Depay and soon-to-be Liverpool free agent Georginio Wijnaldum.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh from netting a hat-trick to knock Tottenham out of the Europa League, Dinamo Zagreb's Mislav Orsic has been linked with a move to London rivals Arsenal by The Sun, which claims the Gunners are looking at the Croatian attacker as an off-season signing.

- Marca claims Arsenal will not be able to sign on-loan Martin Odegaard on a permanent deal as parent club Real Madrid see him as part of their long-term future plans.

Roma want either Maurizio Sarri or Massimiliano Allegri to be their next coach to replace Paulo Fonseca, according to Messaggero.

- Calciomercato says rumoured Premier League target Franck Kessie has rejected Milan's latest contract extension offer.

- Schalke's California-born 20-year-old Matthew Hoppe is hot property and Valencia are the latest club to join the chase, alongside TottenhamBarcelona, Ajax and PSV, according to AS.

- The Sun reports in-form Leicester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho will sign a new deal with the club.

Stefano Pioli hailed his "extraordinary" Milan players after they secured a last-gasp 1-1 draw at Manchester United in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie on Thursday.

United had looked like taking a slender advantage into next week's second leg at San Siro when teenage substitute Amad Diallo scored after 50 minutes in Manchester. 

Milan defender Simon Kjaer had other ideas, though, heading home his first goal in 18 European games deep into stoppage time.

It was no less than they deserved, with the Serie A side carving out 15 shots to the hosts' seven. 

The result might have stretched Milan's winless run against English sides in European competition to eight games, but head coach Pioli was delighted with the Rossoneri's ability to grind out a late equaliser and believes they deserved even more from the game. 

"The team played with personality," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. "We suffered in the difficult moments. We know they have quality, but this performance must boost our self-confidence.

"When we were drawn with Manchester United I thought they were the right opponent for us.

"We are working to improve and try to win again. We want to take Milan where we belong and these are the games where you can improve.

"We want to go all the way through and to do so we have to beat these teams. Today's result is positive, but we have another tough game ahead. The job is not done. They are a great team.

"I am satisfied. I keep repeating to my players that I am not training a regular group. This is an extraordinary group, under any aspect.

"When I see the lads give their soul to get a good result, I can only be happy. It's probably a result we would have accepted before the game. After it, I can say we may deserve something more, but it's a good result.

"The team's spirit was great, we wanted to dominate the game and give our best. We must have a high level of application to play as we do.

"We've been playing one game every four days since September, but these guys never give up. We must continue, it's a crucial part of the season."

Rafael Leao saw a fifth-minute effort ruled out for offside before a wonderful Franck Kessie volley was chalked off six minutes later after a VAR check spotted the midfielder had handled the ball.

Pioli, though, said Kessie was adamant there was no such infringement. 

"That goal would have given us more strength, especially on a mental level," the Milan boss added. "Franck is convinced he didn't touch the ball with his hand, but the referee thought otherwise."

Milan – second in the league standings – host Napoli in Serie A on Sunday before the reverse fixture against United on Thursday.

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