Aston Villa’s Leander Dendoncker has joined Napoli on loan for the rest of the season.

The midfielder moves to the defending Serie A champions as they struggle to retain their title, sitting ninth and 21 points off leaders Juventus.

He has made 15 appearances for Villa this season, scoring once, having joined from Wolves in 2022.

Erik ten Hag expects Rasmus Hojlund to keep scoring after Manchester United’s £72million man finally broke his Premier League duck to seal a stunning 3-2 comeback win over Aston Villa.

United looked destined for a 14th defeat of the season in all competitions when Aston Villa scored twice in the space of six first-half minutes through John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker to take a 2-0 lead in at half-time as boos rang around Old Trafford at the break.

But with INEOS director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford watching on after Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority stake-holding was confirmed, United rallied in the second half with Alejandro Garnacho scoring twice before Hojlund won it in the 82nd minute.

Although the summer signing from Atalanta finished as United’s top-scorer in their short-lived Champions League campaign, he had failed to find the net in 16 matches in domestic competition, but made no mistake when McGinn could only flick the ball into his path eight minutes from time.

“Of course I’ve had several talks with him and every time I’ve pointed out he has scored for Denmark a lot, he has scored in the Champions League, he has demonstrated his ability so you can do it, believe,” Ten Hag said of the 20-year-old Dane.

“I’m sure now he has the first goal he will score more…

“When a striker doesn’t score it’s a problem but he has a strong character, he is so solid, determined. He has a big personality. I think this is what a striker needs. When you keep investing, the goals will come.”

Brailsford’s presence came two days after Ratcliffe’s purchase of a 25 per cent stake in the club – which will come with control of footballing operations – was announced subject to ratification by the Premier League.

The former British Cycling boss would have been worried by how easily Villa scored their goals. McGinn’s free-kick from wide bounced through a crowded box before Dendoncker was left almost unmarked to flick home from a corner.

But asked if Brailsford had seen both the best and worst of his United side, Ten Hag said: “It wasn’t the worst. I think already in the first half we played solidly. It was a little bit slopping to give two goals away but after we changed the pressing slightly and we kept going.

“Already we created chances in the first half, we kept believing in ourselves and that is what I demand. I said at half-time, keep believing and we will win this game.”

Rasmus Hojlund claimed to be the “happiest man alive” after breaking his Premier League duck to earn Manchester United a stunning 3-2 comeback win over Aston Villa.

Under-fire striker Hojlund, who cost an initial £64million from Atalanta in the summer, grabbed the 82nd-minute winner on his 15th top-flight appearance.

Villa were on course to move level on points with Liverpool at the top of the table following first-half finishes from John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker before Alejandro Garnacho’s double brought the hosts level.

Hojlund’s decisive strike, which followed five goals in the Champions League, further eased the pressure on manager Erik ten Hag as United celebrated victory in their first match since Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment in the club was confirmed.

“It’s been a while but I’m happy,” the 20-year-old Denmark international told Amazon Prime.

“I’m the happiest man alive right now – you can see in the celebrations as well. We believe until the end and we showed a lot of character again today.”

United had failed to score in their previous four matches in all competitions and looked set to see their winless run stretch to five matches before the dramatic turnaround.

Hojlund hopes to increase his tally in the league after ending his lengthy wait to hit the net.

“I’ve scored a couple in the Champions League but of course it’s been a while in the Premier League,” he said.

“I’m happy to get the first one and now hopefully I can keep going.”

The Stretford End sang the names of both of United’s goal scorers in the closing stages of the match and at full-time.

Argentina forward Garnacho, who also had a goal disallowed for offside, believes the performance has answered some of the critics.

“I’m very happy – happy for Rasmus also,” said the 19-year-old. “Too many people talk about the strikers in Manchester United, (saying) we never score goals.

“It’s one of the best days of my life.”

United rose to sixth place courtesy of the win, while Villa remain third after blowing a major opportunity.

Manager Ten Hag said: “I’m so happy that the strikers scored – that is what we needed.

“I know we are capable of it, they are good at finishing.

“(Marcus) Rashford, Garnacho and Hojlund, they’re all good finishers and we have more. Also, they have to show it every game.”

The Dutchman added: “I said before the game, we are competitive with Arsenal, we are competitive with Liverpool. If we play our best, we can beat anyone, so believe in that.

“Even when you’re 2-0 down it doesn’t matter; keep going, show the character and today I think we showed it.

“We have the personalities to do it and today was a very good team performance.”

Rasmus Hojlund broke his Premier League duck as Manchester United celebrated Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment in the club by battling back from two goals down to beat Aston Villa 3-2.

Villa were on course to move level on points with Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table following first-half goals from John McGinn and Leander Dendoncker at Old Trafford.

But the hosts levelled thanks to Alejandro Garnacho’s double before 20-year-old Hojlund, who cost an initial £64million from Atalanta in the summer, stole the headlines with an 82nd-minute winner on his 15th top-flight appearance.

The rousing comeback victory came two days after Ratcliffe agreed to buy a 25 per cent stake in United and ended a four-match winless run without scoring to ease mounting pressure on manager Erik ten Hag.

Ten Hag’s side rise to sixth, while Villa remain third after blowing a major opportunity.

Earlier on Boxing Day, Liverpool climbed to the summit after Darwin Nunez ended his goal drought in a 2-0 success at second-bottom Burnley.

Nunez fired Jurgen Klopp’s men into a sixth-minute lead at Turf Moor with his first strike in 13 matches in all competitions before substitute Diogo Jota sealed victory late on with his 50th goal for the club.

Mohamed Salah hit the crossbar and Harvey Elliott saw his second-half strike ruled out for offside with the score still 1-0, while Jacob Bruun Larsen almost snatched an equaliser for the Clarets.

Victory for the Reds lifted them two points above Arsenal, who host West Ham on Thursday, while lowly Burnley are five points from safety following a 14th defeat of the season.

Chris Wood retuned to haunt Newcastle with a stunning hat-trick as Nottingham Forest handed new boss Nuno Espirito Santo the first Premier League victory of his reign.

Wood, who joined Forest from the Magpies in January, produced two fine second-half finishes to secure a 3-1 comeback success at St James’ Park.

Newcastle went ahead through Alexander Isak’s 23rd-minute penalty but slipped to a sixth defeat in seven games in all competitions after Wood tapped home Anthony Elanga’s cross just before the break and went on to complete his treble in style.

Forest remain two points above the relegation zone after 18th-placed Luton pulled off a 3-2 success at bottom club Sheffield United thanks to two late own goals.

Blades pair Jack Robinson and Anis Ben Slimane each turned the ball into their own goal during the final 14 minutes of a chaotic clash at Bramall Lane.

Chris Wilder’s hosts had looked set for a vital three points after second-half strikes from Oli McBurnie and Anel Ahmedhodzic overturned Alfie Doughty’s 17th-minute opener.

In-form Bournemouth continued their remarkable resurgence by moving into the top half of the table thanks to a thumping 3-0 victory over Fulham.

Justin Kluivert put the Cherries ahead just before half-time at Vitality Stadium before Dominic Solanke’s eighth goal in seven games – a penalty after Joao Palhinha brought down Antoine Semenyo – doubled the lead.

Substitute Luis Sinisterra sealed an emphatic success late on as Andoni Iraola’s hosts made it 19 points from the last 21 available.

Aston Villa have announced the signing of Leander Dendoncker from Wolves amid rumours Douglas Luiz will join Arsenal before the transfer window closes.

Dendoncker initially joined Wolves on loan from Anderlecht ahead of the 2018-19 season, before making the move permanent ahead of the following campaign.

The 27-year-old, who has been capped 29 times by Belgium, scored 12 goals in 159 appearances across all competitions for Wolves.

He arrives at Villa Park for a reported fee of £13million.

His signature could be a sign that Villa boss Steven Gerrard is prepared to let Douglas Luiz join Arsenal.

The Gunners, who beat Villa 2-1 in the Premier League on Wednesday, have reportedly had multiple bids for the 24-year-old turned down, but they are expected to make at least one more before the window shuts on Thursday.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has been open about his desire for more signings ahead of the closure of the transfer window.

The London club have been one of the big spenders during this transfer window but Tuchel believes they need more reinforcements to be competitive in the title race.

The Blues have lost Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Emerson Palmieri and Timo Werner, while Romelu Lukaku departed on loan and Marcos Alonso is expected to join Barcelona.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PLOTTING AUBA SWOOP

Chelsea are plotting a deadline day move to land ex-Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona, reports The Guardian.

Blues boss Tuchel has asked owner Todd Boehly to free up £200million with three targets in mind before Thursday's deadline, headlined by the Gabon international.

Chelsea are set to close out a deal for Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana for £70m, while Everton's Anthony Gordon is also on their wish list.

Aubameyang has only been used once for eight minutes off the bench this LaLiga season, with Robert Lewandowski starring up front for the Blaugrana.

ROUND-UP

–  Liverpool are pondering a late £42m bid for Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Moises Caicedo,  according to The Sun. Brighton, however, believe that the Ecuador international is worth almost double that price.

– Metro reports  Cristiano Ronaldo could seal a move from Manchester United to Napoli this week. Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes is working on a swap deal, possibly involving Victor Osimhen .

– La Gazzetta dello Sport claims  Paris Saint-Germain 's €23m offer with add-ons for Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz has been accepted and he will undergo a medical on Tuesday. The Spaniard has been frozen out after refusing to extend his contract, which has less than 12 months to run.

Tottenham have revived their interest in Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco,  according to the Telegraph. The 28-year-old Belgian has two years to run on his contract.

– The Sun claims  Wolves have rejected a bid worth £8.5m from Everton for midfielder Leander Dendoncker .

– Barcelona and Manchester United have not reached an agreement on a deal for USA international Sergino Dest , reports Cadena COPE.

Belgium star Eden Hazard feels he is returning to his best after his side came from 1-0 down against Poland on Wednesday to storm home for a 6-1 Nations League win.

From the moment Robert Lewandowski put Poland ahead in the 28th minute, it would be all Belgium, controlling 60 per cent of the possession for the match while producing nine shots on target to zero in the second half.

Axel Witsel made it 1-1 before half-time, before the Red Devils' dynamic duo combined, with Hazard assisting Kevin De Bruyne to pull ahead 2-1.

The last 20 minutes was an attacking exhibition from the Belgians, with two goals to Leandro Trossard, one to Leander Dendoncker, before Lois Openda completed the rout in the 93rd minute.

Speaking to RTL Sport after the win, Hazard said consistent playing time will be the key to returning to his top form.

"I'm going back to being the player I was," he said. "I will become the player I was again by stringing together games, minutes. 

"In the team, there was no more desire than against the Netherlands, it's the score that is very different. 

"But it's true that after Friday's defeat, we talked to each other and made resolutions. But it remains between us, a secret.

"It's a great reaction from the team. We needed to answer after the defeat, it's done, I think a lot of people will sleep well – and me too."

Hazard also highlighted the depth of the Belgian squad, and that he hopes there will be some rotation in the starting-11.

"There are two matches left, we will go to Wales and Poland to win," he said. "I hope coach [Roberto] Martínez will consider that there are plenty of players who can play – not just 11 or 12 players. We really are a group"

While Hazard wants to see some fresh faces getting some run, Martinez made it clear that the Real Madrid man is not willing to be the one to take a seat – and that he is looking like his former self.

"When you see Eden Hazard walk into a room, you can see straight away if he is happy or not," he said. "And there it is clear: there is no more pain. 

"He was better today, his physical stats today are as good as they have been in the past. Hazard's idea is to be in all four games to give him the rhythm he needs."

Martinez was also full of praise of the combination of Trossard and Dendoncker, saying the future of Belgian football remains bright.

"There is a lot of satisfaction tonight, in many areas," he said. "Players have met expectations, such as Leandro Trossard or Leander Dendoncker in defence.

"Leandro Trossard, we have seen him grow over time. And he is one of the examples why Belgium should never worry about the talent there is in this country. For some, talent must take its time to develop.

"Hans Vanaken, Leandro Trossard have had a constant evolution since their arrival in the national team. Leandro must be inspired by boys like Eden Hazard to understand the 'gap' that can exist with the world's top, but he has come so far.

"Dendoncker, sometimes we don't give him enough credit because he is versatile, between a defender and a midfielder. But he never let the team down, defensively he was very alert.

"We saw that Dendoncker could project himself as a midfielder. It was Leander's most mature performance with the national team. There were a lot of games where he proved he could be trusted, and that was the case again tonight."

Kevin De Bruyne recorded an astonishing four-goal haul as Manchester City restored their three-point lead at the Premier League summit with a 5-1 win over Wolves.

In Ruben Dias, John Stones, and Kyle Walker, Pep Guardiola's team were missing several key defenders as they looked to respond to Liverpool's 2-1 win over Aston Villa on Tuesday, but recorded a routine victory courtesy of a talismanic showing from De Bruyne.

The Belgian's hat-trick, sealed with a stunning left-footed strike from long range, put City in charge after Leander Dendoncker briefly restored parity in an absorbing first half.

De Bruyne grabbed a fourth to make the points safe before Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring late on, as City took another huge step towards defending their title.

Guardiola's men needed just seven minutes to hit the front, with De Bruyne playing a brilliant one-two with Bernardo Silva before drilling a low effort into the bottom-right corner. 

Wolves responded within four minutes when Dendoncker converted Pedro Neto's cut-back following a devastating counter-attack, but the visitors were back in front after 16 minutes when De Bruyne latched onto a loose ball to fire into the roof of the net.

The midfielder secured his treble nine minutes later as he arrowed a terrific strike into the bottom-left corner after 24 minutes.

The visitors were denied a fourth as Sterling was flagged offside having tucked home two minutes after the restart, but ended the contest when De Bruyne steered in after Rayan Ait Nouri's weak clearance after 60 minutes. 

De Bruyne teed up Phil Foden to side-foot against the post before Sterling wrapped up another dominant City win by tapping home a late fifth, with De Bruyne then striking the woodwork himself at the end of a terrific performance.

What does it mean? City remain in pole position

De Bruyne's brilliance saw City overcome their defensive injury crisis to extend their unbeaten run to 10 Premier League games (eight wins, two draws) as they edge closer to consecutive titles.

With only West Ham and Aston Villa to play, Guardiola's men require just four points to beat Liverpool to their eighth top-flight title.

Devastating De Bruyne stars

De Bruyne's four strikes took him to 19 goals in all competitions this term, his best tally in a single season for the club, and restored City's all-important advantage over Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the Belgian became just the second City player to score four goals in an away Premier League game, after Edin Dzeko did so at Tottenham in August 2011.

City extend record away run

The victory ensured City stretched their unbeaten away run to 17 away Premier League matches (14 wins, three draws) – the longest such sequence in the club's league history.

However, Dendoncker's goal prevented Guardiola's side from keeping a sixth consecutive away clean sheet in the competition.

What's next?

City continue their push for the title when they travel to West Ham on Sunday, while Wolves host relegated Norwich City on the same day.

Gabriel Jesus scored a late double as Manchester City landed a 21st straight win and matched their club-record unbeaten run with a 4-1 defeat of Wolves at the Etihad Stadium.

Conor Coady's first Premier League goal brought Wolves level just after the hour mark, with Leander Dendoncker's own goal having given City an early lead.

Aymeric Laporte had a goal ruled out for offside, but Jesus struck 10 minutes from time and Riyad Mahrez added a third in stoppage time.

Jesus netted his second right at the end following a VAR check for offside as City took another stride towards regaining the title, going 15 points clear of second-placed Manchester United ahead of the derby on Sunday. They are unbeaten in 28 games now, equalling a run set in 2017, and a cut above all the rest.

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo went with five at the back in a bid to frustrate City, but the leaders were in front in the 14th minute.

Rodri picked out Mahrez with a sublime raking pass and although Dendoncker got to the winger's driven cross ahead of Raheem Sterling, the Belgium international could only turn the ball into his own net.

City continued to zip the ball around with purpose and Laporte thought he had doubled their lead when he prodded in from close range but was adjudged to be fractionally offside following a VAR check, before Rui Patricio superbly out Bernardo Silva's header on the stroke of half-time.

Patricio produced another sharp diving save when Kevin De Bruyne's left-footed strike looked destined for the far corner as City remained on the front foot early in the second half.

Nuno replaced Jonny with Fabio Silva in a positive tactical switch and Wolves were level from out of the blue on the hour, when Coady nodded in Joao Moutinho's inviting free-kick.

Patricio was called into action once again to brilliantly thwart Jesus from a tight angle, and at the other end Adama Traore wasted two good chances with Wolves posing a much bigger threat.

Sterling's deft flick flashed wide of the far post as Pep Guardiola's men applied the pressure that paid off when Jesus fired in a loose ball after a cross from Kyle Walker, with the VAR check this time going in City's favour.

Mahrez added a third by sweeping home after Owen Otasowie gave the ball away cheaply, and Jesus completed a double right at the end after he had initially been given offside when he swept home after Ilkay Gundogan's shot was saved.

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