Ole Gunnar Solskjaer followed the Jose Mourinho method of parking the bus in Manchester United's draw with Liverpool, according to Paul Ince. 

The Red Devils maintained their place at the top of the Premier League, three points ahead of the champions in fourth, with a 0-0 stalemate at Anfield on Sunday. 

Despite enjoying just 34 per cent of the possession, United limited Liverpool to very few opportunities as the Reds went three league games without scoring for the first time since March 2005. 

In fact, United should perhaps have snatched victory in the second half, with Alisson making good saves to deny Bruno Fernandes and a clear-cut Paul Pogba chance. 

Solskjaer stated after the match that he did not feel his side deserved to win, though, arguing they should have done more throughout to threaten a centre-back partnership of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson. 

And Ince, who played for both teams, claimed Solskjaer deployed the same tactics that saw Mourinho "absolutely slaughtered" during his time as manager at Old Trafford.

"You could see the game plan with Manchester United, you saw it from the first whistle – they defended very, very deep," Ince told talkSPORT 2. "I thought United were very poor in the first half. 

"I remember a few years ago when Mourinho took United to Anfield, he parked the bus and got absolutely slaughtered for it. That's exactly what Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did in the first half. 

“We knew they were going to defend and rely on their quick players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford to counter-attack Liverpool. But I've played in Man United teams… you don't go to Anfield to defend, especially at a time where they've got two of their best midfield players playing at centre-half and they haven't scored in the last two games. 

"I wanted to see them have a go at Liverpool because they were there for the taking. This was an opportunity for Manchester United to go there and show what they were all about, but they just sat deep and it disappoints me."

WERE UNITED OVER-CAUTIOUS?

Solskjaer admitted he was unhappy with his side's first-half display and it was certainly not an enterprising one. 

United had just one shot in the first half, a Bruno Fernandes free-kick that went narrowly wide, while Liverpool attempted nine. It was the first time since December 2019 that the Red Devils failed to hit the target before the interval in a league game. 

Part of the problem, Solskjaer said, was an eagerness to release striker Rashford at the wrong moments. The England international was caught offside four times in the first half, more than he ever had in a complete league game before. 

Still, the leaders were a little more adventurous after the break. They had seven shots to Liverpool's eight and finished the game with four on target, one more than the home side, with Pogba's chance the best of the contest. The expected goals tally for each side was a little over one.

PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES

Ince's frustration seemed to be that United were no better on Sunday than they were in December 2018, when a one-sided 3-1 defeat at Anfield spelled the end of Mourinho's time in charge.

They were certainly happy to give up the ball. United ended this most recent game with 34 per cent of the possession, their lowest figure in a league game at Anfield under Solskjaer and both slightly down from Mourinho's final visit. 

And yet, United had a far greater degree of control on the game than in their previous two trips to their bitter rivals. 

Their shot count was done by just one on last season's game, which ended 2-0 to Liverpool, and was higher than in any of their visits to Anfield under Mourinho. Similarly, they faced just one more Liverpool shot than last term and a whopping 19 fewer than they did in December 2018. That 3-1 loss also saw United make 41 clearances, eight more than they had to make on Sunday. 

And while Mourinho's final game saw them attempt 59 passes into the final third – much higher than the 35 they managed this time – the majority of those were long balls aimed at alleviating pressure on the defence.

Indeed, United on Sunday attempted 22 passes into the Liverpool box, four more than they managed in Mourinho's last visit to Merseyside, highlighting a greater level of poise about their forward play.

Real Madrid star Sergio Ramos' future appears no closer to being sorted.

Ramos, 34, is out of contract at the end of the season and reportedly turned down a one-year deal from Madrid.

And the Spain international's future remains uncertain.

 

TOP STORY – RAMOS, REAL MADRID NEGOTIATIONS AT A STANDSTILL

Negotiations between Real Madrid and Sergio Ramos are at a standstill, according to Le 10 Sport.

Amid the uncertainty over his future, Ramos has been linked with numerous European giants.

But Telefoot reported there had been no contact between Ramos and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Starting to find form again for Borussia Dortmund, Jadon Sancho is set to be the subject of transfer speculation ahead of 2021-22. But Sky Sports reports talks about a move for the reported Manchester United target are unlikely in January, with an off-season switch possible.

- PSG seem keen to land Dele Alli in January. Fabrizio Romano claims the midfielder is pushing to join the Ligue 1 giants on loan and Mauricio Pochettino's PSG will not give up on a deal.

- Milan appear set to add depth to their squad. The Serie A leaders have agreed a deal with former Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic, according to CalcioMercato.

- Staying at Milan and they are also reportedly set to land Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea. Romano says Tomori is set to join on loan with an option to buy for €30million (£26.7m).

John Stones scored twice as Manchester City moved into second place in the Premier League by sweeping aside Crystal Palace 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium.

With league leaders Manchester United and defending champions Liverpool sharing the spoils in a goalless stalemate at Anfield, City took full advantage to move within two points of first place.

On top of another top-class defensive display alongside Ruben Dias, Stones broke the deadlock 26 minutes in with his first league goal for City – Kevin De Bruyne the creator with a sensational cross to bring up his 100th assist for the club.

Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead early in the second half prior to Stones celebrating an unlikely second, and a classy finish from Raheem Sterling wrapped up a fifth successive league win for Pep Guardiola's ever-improving City.

In search of his milestone moment, De Bruyne attempted to tee up Sterling with a quick exchange of passes in the 26th minute, when the Belgian might have been better served to shoot.

Yet his 100th assist did not take long to arrive. His initial poor corner was cleared, but De Bruyne was found by Sterling and, with the outside of his right foot, placed a wonderful cross onto the head of Stones, who turned in his first league goal since he scored for Everton in April 2015.

Gabriel Jesus was unable to beat Vicente Guaita after latching onto Gundogan's flick-on, but the Germany midfielder took matters into his own hands 11 minutes after the restart, robbing Andros Townsend on the edge of Palace's box and dispatching a fantastic finish into the top-right corner.

Jordan Ayew mustered Palace's second shot soon after, though it was blocked by Dias, who then played a key part in City's third.

Dias' header was parried out by Guaita, but the Portuguese's defensive partner Stones was on hand to drill in his second.

Sterling had the final say, the England forward – who missed a late penalty against Brighton and Hove Albion – curling a sublime free-kick into the top corner to add further gloss to a resounding triumph.

Roy Keane thought Manchester United’s defence-first approach at Anfield deserved praise, even though he was frustrated with a missed Paul Pogba chance.

Despite Liverpool fielding midfielders Jordan Henderson and Fabinho in defence, United surrendered possession and territory on Sunday in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash. 

It finished goalless, with the draw taking Premier League leaders United onto 37 points, keeping them three clear of the champions.

After a fast start from Liverpool, the match settled into a tense affair. The hosts had 17 attempts – nine more than United – yet only managed three on target.

It was the third league game in succession in which Liverpool have failed to score, with Jurgen Klopp's side without a top-flight win since they thrashed Crystal Palace 7-0 before Christmas.

United, who managed four efforts on target to the hosts' three, had the chances to snatch Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first league win over Liverpool, who had goalkeeper Alisson to thank for a string of impressive stops in the second half.

Arguably United's best chance fell to Paul Pogba, but the France star – employed in an unfamiliar right-wing role – struck straight at Alisson from close range.

Though United great Keane was left frustrated by the failure to take full advantage of Liverpool's mini-malaise, he believed his old club deserved credit for a resilient rearguard performance.

Keane told Sky Sports: "The big opportunity is the [Pogba] chance. You can tell by his reaction. His first touch is excellent, my goodness, he has to score. Go anywhere, across the goalkeeper, but not straight at him.

"Because his first touch was so good he's given himself that opportunity to go across the goalkeeper – a huge moment in the season for United. Credit to the goalkeeper, he's stood up, but that's the moment they might've been praying for before the game.

"It's easier said than done [to come out of defence]. We knew Liverpool would be quick out of the blocks, they haven't played for nine days.

"United were always going to be on the back foot for the first half-an-hour. They were sloppy in some of their play. You knew United would get the opportunities, it was a case of whether they could take them.

"You can't say Liverpool have played badly, but they've lost their spark, definitely, and when you get the opportunities like Pogba did, it's so disappointing. We've been giving Pogba a big build-up, we've been quick to criticise him but that was a moment for him to say he wants to be the main man, you've got to take that chance.

"I wouldn't be too critical of United, I thought they showed a good mentality."

Scott McTominay and Fred both made a game-high five tackles for United, while Victor Lindelof – preferred to Eric Bailly alongside Harry Maguire – made 10 clearances, more than any other player.

Though disappointing going forward (he lost possession more times than anybody else), Pogba managed to keep Andy Robertson under wraps, and gained back the ball nine times, behind only Trent Alexander-Arnold (11) and Thiago Alcantara (10).

"I thought the back four, which always worries me, were brilliant," Keane continued.

"I know they gave up one or two chances in the first half-an-hour. [Luke] Shaw was brilliant defensively and going forward. When I look at the couple of chances United created, they still created the best chances in the game. Huge moments."

After a build-up dominated by talk of the danger of goal celebrations in the pandemic era, Liverpool and Manchester United did their bit to calm the nerves of concerned viewers on Sunday.

Two sides being tipped as title rivals this term simply eschewed goals completely as they produced a spectacle that didn't quite live up to the pre-match hype.

But, while there weren't exactly fireworks at Anfield, the 90 minutes did at least offer some insight into the championship credentials of two bitter rivals.

For Liverpool, it was another game that highlighted the true reasons behind their recent Premier League malaise.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez's absences continue to dominate analysis of the champions' performances, but it was telling that Jurgen Klopp's most notable selection looked to supplement his attack.

That saw Xherdan Shaqiri, whose two goals in one game against United in December 2018 means he has scored twice as many times in this fixture as Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, brought into midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Unfortunately for the Swiss, he couldn't reinvigorate a front three whose struggles have gone under the radar as a result of the focus on those defensive injuries.

Having failed to trouble the scoresheet in successive Premier League fixtures against Newcastle United, Southampton and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side, Liverpool are on a three-game scoreless run for the first time since March 2005.

But this latest streak is all the more criminal given the wealth of talent at the manager's disposal, particularly when it is compared to Milan Baros and an ageing Fernando Morientes.

How Klopp must regret using Diogo Jota in that dead rubber against Midtjylland in December - a decision that ultimately resulted in him turning to Divock Origi in search of a goal here.

By contrast, Solskjaer had an embarrassment of riches on his bench and made use of them in bringing on Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood as he searched for a breakthrough.

That both players were used said a lot about United's performance, which incrementally improved throughout to the point that they looked the likelier winners as full-time approached.

Yes, they had been forced to dig in during the first half but, as former United captain Gary Neville pointed out on commentary for Sky Sports, that is exactly what even the truly great sides he was part of were expected to do at Anfield.

And, when Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba were denied only by Alisson brilliance in the final 15 minutes, another Alex Ferguson-style smash and grab on Merseyside looked on the cards.

In the end, Liverpool held on, ensuring both sides were left with a point that did little good to their hopes of claiming the title this term but plenty for Manchester City's.

Pep Guardiola's men have a favourable run of fixtures approaching and an opportunity in the aftermath of this stalemate to truly take hold of the race at the summit.

However, of their two rivals, it is United who will feel they did the most on Sunday to convince observers that they will be the closest challenger to their neighbours as the season wears on.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt Manchester United missed an opportunity against Liverpool after they played out a 0-0 draw with the champions on Sunday.

Premier League leaders United maintained a three-point advantage over their Anfield hosts after an uneventful encounter, as they stretched their unbeaten away league run to 16 matches.

Liverpool had 66 per cent of the possession and 17 shots to United's eight, but they rarely had visiting goalkeeper David de Gea troubled.

Indeed, United had the best two chances in the second half, with Alisson saving from Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba to preserve the Reds' unbeaten home record in the top flight which has now reached 68 games.

Solskjaer thought his side did not show enough composure in possession and was disappointed they did not do more to test a makeshift centre-back pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson.

Asked if United deserved to win, Solskjaer told Sky Sports: "No, we didn't, because I don't think we played well enough. We didn't impose ourselves on the game, especially first half.

"I think we grew into the game and at the end, you felt 'yeah, it's here for us to win'. We created two massive chances and two brilliant saves by the keeper.

"We can play better than this – we know that. We can be more composed, have the ball more.

"We had to defend really often and I thought we gave the ball away too often, maybe some moments we missed, when Marcus [Rashford] makes his runs in behind, maybe sometimes we don't pass it every time he runs and sometimes we missed it when he should have had it. [There are] a couple of things to improve on.

"I've got to be honest and say I'm a bit disappointed at the moment. We're playing against a fantastic team and they had more of the possession, but still, you want to go here, you know the injuries they've had lately, you think you can go here and get a result. We didn't, but a point might be okay if we win the next one."

When asked if United should have been braver, Solskjaer replied: "It depends on what you mean with bravery, in team selection or on the ball. I think we could have been better on the ball, been more quality, but I'd probably start with the same team, if that's what you're asking.

"I know we can play better but we're still coming away with a point, which I think shows how far we've come in a year or even six months.

"Of course it's a positive, you take a point, but you want to win every game so you can't be sat or standing here smiling too much. But we go again. We know we can do better than this, which is the big positive."

Pogba's late opening was the best chance of the game, the France midfielder firing straight at Alisson after being set up by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

It was otherwise a strong performance from United's record signing, who attempted more passes in the opposition half (22) than any team-mate and regained possession a joint-high nine times from an unorthodox role on the right wing.

"I think Paul was absolutely brilliant," said Solskjaer. "We knew he had to do a job defensively, block and help us with [Andy] Robertson, and I thought he was excellent and he should have got the goal his performance deserved."

Manchester United kept their place at the top of the Premier League after a 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.

An encounter of few chances saw the Red Devils extend the champions' scoreless run to three matches, their longest such streak in the top flight since March 2005, in what was Jurgen Klopp's 200th league game in charge.

Alisson denied Paul Pogba from arguably the best of the opportunities as United's winless league run against the Reds reached five matches for the first time since 2002.

Still, the result edged them two points clear of Leicester City and ensured Liverpool remain one further back.

It was 14 minutes until either side managed a shot, Roberto Firmino seeing an effort blocked and Andy Robertson drilling the loose ball over.

Liverpool were controlling possession as United looked to exploit the makeshift centre-back pairing of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson on the break, with Robertson doing well to stop Marcus Rashford after a promising move.

Bruno Fernandes whistled a free-kick just wide and Firmino scuffed a shot straight at David de Gea as Liverpool broke forward quickly, that effort proving the only one on target of the first half.

United captain Harry Maguire did well to deny Firmino a clear opening from a Robertson cross and divert a Mohamed Salah effort wide, before Fernandes fired his side's first shot on target straight at Alisson with 65 minutes played.

Edinson Cavani came off the bench as United sought a little more presence in attack, with Pogba then heading straight at the Liverpool keeper from a Fernandes corner.

Fernandes was thwarted after United's best move of the match, Alisson sticking out a foot to save after the midfielder turned Luke Shaw's cross goalwards.

De Gea flung himself to tip Thiago Alcantara's fierce strike wide before Pogba was foiled by Alisson, the midfielder blasting straight at the Brazil international after Aaron Wan-Bissaka's pass.

Xherdan Shaqiri surprisingly starts for Liverpool in their top-of-the-table clash with rivals Manchester United at Anfield. 

The Swiss set up two goals after coming off the bench in last weekend's FA Cup win at Aston Villa and has earned himself a place in the XI against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side as a result. 

Jurgen Klopp has gone with a forward-thinking 4-2-3-1 formation in order to fit Shaqiri into the team. 

However, centre-back Joel Matip misses out despite resuming training this week after overcoming a groin injury. 

Klopp has instead opted for Jordan Henderson to partner Fabinho in central defence, with youngsters Rhys Williams and Nat Phillips overlooked. 

Although the Reds name a midfield without their club captain, they are able to give Thiago Alcantara his Anfield debut, four months on from his arrival. 

As for United, they make three changes to the side that earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over Burnley in midweek. 

Nemanja Matic, Eric Bailly and Edinson Cavani make way to be replaced by Scott McTominay, Victor Lindelof and Fred, meaning Paul Pogba keeps his place after scoring the winner at Turf Moor. 

Anthony Martial is fit to start having been described as an injury doubt in the build-up.

 

It is December 16, 2018 – Liverpool have just beaten Manchester United 3-1 at Anfield in Jose Mourinho's final match in charge of the Red Devils.

Victory sends Liverpool to the top of the Premier League, and while they ultimately narrowly missed out on the title that season, hindsight shows it was a signpost for their potential and depths United have plumbed.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in soon after on an interim basis and, despite there being critics who consistently call his abilities into question, there can be no doubt of the impact he has had.

Sunday January 17, 2020 – United go to Anfield top of the Premier League, three clear of their bitter rivals. It is an achievement in itself, though Solskjaer has taken every opportunity to play it down – his terse response when asked in his pre-match news conference if he had received messages of congratulations from former team-mates highlighted his indifference.

After all, in an ideal world for United, this is just the start – they must now look to make the summit their permanent residence in the table and continue to develop.

While Solskjaer would surely not say so publicly, there is one area in particular where United should seek inspiration from their old nemesis.

 

FULL-ON FULL-BACKS

One of the Liverpool's greatest strengths over the past few years on their ascension back to the top of the pile in English football has been their first-choice full-backs.

Generally speaking, it is quite rare for a side to have a right-back and left-back who are both effective at either end of the pitch, yet Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold are just that, and especially so from an offensive perspective.

They can help to create overloads in attack, with their presence in the final third still ensuring they carry a threat out wide even if the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have tucked inside, as they frequently do.

It's difficult to say United find themselves in a similar situation, however.

Luke Shaw has demonstrably improved as an attacking presence, suggesting the signing of Alex Telles motivated him to work harder.

The left-back is producing more crosses, successful crosses, key passes and passes into the box than he was last season, whereas Aaron Wan-Bissaka has regressed in each of those areas.

A reported £50million signing from Crystal Palace in 2019, Wan-Bissaka was billed as potentially United's right-back for the next decade, but at the moment he looks out of place in a team that generally attacks with speed, precision and commitment.

 

WAN-BISSAKA'S REGRESSION

Of course, a full-back's primary function is – for the most part – to defend, but as champions Liverpool prove, having players comfortable with both sides of the game provides a real advantage.

Wan-Bissaka certainly did not look to be a lost cause last season – his tally of three open-play crosses per game, while not outstanding, at least showed a desire to get forward. This season, there are only 13 players who have featured at least 10 times in the league to have averaged more than three.

But in 2020-21, Wan-Bissaka's numbers have shot down. Now he is delivering just 1.1 crosses per 90 minutes and his overall key passes total of eight only puts him level with United's back-up left-back Telles, who has played just six games.

Robertson leads the way among defenders with 32, while Alexander-Arnold, Joao Cancelo and Aaron Cresswell have 25 each, and next is the improved Shaw on 22.

 

UNBALANCED UNITED

So, what does this mean for United?

Above all it contributes to them being lopsided. It's no secret that they have issues on the right side of their attack, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford both preferring to operate from the left if not through the middle, while Mason Greenwood simply hasn't managed to recapture his form from last term yet.

This arguably makes it even more important to have a presence on the right, but seemingly Wan-Bissaka's team-mates do not have the same kind of trust in him as they do Shaw and Telles on the left.

Just 33 per cent of United's passes from the wing into the box this season have come from the right flank, which means they go down the left about twice as often.

There is no such disparity for Liverpool, though.

Even in a season when Alexander-Arnold's level is being criticised, Liverpool still frequently look to try their luck down the right.

In fact, 52 per cent of their passes from the wing into the opposing penalty area have been from his side of the pitch. They have much greater balance, and therefore this ensures they are less predictable.

Of course, this isn't just on Wan-Bissaka. As mentioned, it highlights an overriding issue with United's right wing, but it does also raise questions about whether they feel he is their best bet long-term at right-back.

In Wan-Bissaka's first season, his remarkable tackling numbers – which do remain impressive this term – and effort to get forward fairly frequently showed promise, even if some fans expected more from a £50m full-back.

But with United hoping this is the start of them establishing themselves among the leading powers of English football once again, there's little doubt a right-back with greater attacking presence would offer them another dimension.

West Ham manager David Moyes insisted the club have had no contact from Chelsea or Manchester United as he warned the Premier League giants off Declan Rice.

United are reportedly prepared to rival Chelsea for West Ham star Rice at the end of the season.

But Moyes denied West Ham have received an offer for the 22-year-old, who can play in midfield or defence.

"They're not true [rumours of a bid], we've had no contact from either of those clubs regarding Declan and we wouldn't want any anyway," Moyes told Amazon Prime after West Ham's 1-0 victory over Burnley on Saturday.

"He's doing great for us, he's a big leader now, he's taken a lot of the weight off Mark Noble.

"He's turning out to be a really good player but also a really good boy and good around the club."

Rice left boyhood club Chelsea for London rivals West Ham in 2014 after being released at the age of 14.

The 13-time England international made his professional debut for West Ham the following year.

After appearing in all 38 Premier League fixtures last season, Rice has played in all of West Ham's opening 18 league matches in 2020-21.

Will a Juventus-Paul Pogba reunion become a reality?

The future of Manchester United star continues to dominate headlines.

A move back to Turin could be on the cards for Pogba.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE TO MAKE POGBA OFFER

Serie A champions Juventus will try to prise Paul Pogba from Manchester United at the end of the season, according to the Calciomercato.

Pogba appears set to leave United following the 2020-21 campaign after his agent Mino Raiola claimed the French midfielder was unhappy in Manchester.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked but Juve, who signed Pogba from United in 2012 before losing him to the Red Devils four years later, want to bring the World Cup winner back to Turin.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph reports Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will be given £200million to spend on new players in the next transfer window. Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku are on the list of potential targets, as well as Benfica's Darwin Nunez amid doubts over Sergio Aguero 's future. Haaland has also been linked with neighbours United , Madrid , Barca , Liverpool and Juve .

Bayern Munich are interested in Madrid defender Eder Militao , claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Bayern look to replace David Alaba , who is set to leave the Bundesliga champions on a free transfer. Alaba has been tipped to join Madrid .

Milan  are close to re-signing star pair Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu , says Tuttosport. Corriere dello Sport reports Milan are also nearing a deal to sign veteran forward Mario Mandzukic .

- The Athletic claims Mesut Ozil is poised to leave Arsenal for Turkish giants Fenerbahce after reaching an agreement in principle to terminate his Gunners contract.

- The Transfer Window Podcast claims Madrid are considering the possibility of using Eden Hazard in a deal to lure Kylian Mbappe from PSG.

Memphis Depay has been strongly tipped to move to Barca , however, Ok Diario reports the Lyon captain could join Madrid following Luka Jovic's loan return to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not ruling out further departures from Manchester United before the January transfer window closes.

Defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah joined Bayer Leverkusen on a permanent deal earlier this week and striker Odion Ighalo's loan deal is set to expire at the end of the month.

A number of other fringe players have been linked with the Old Trafford exit, meanwhile, with the likes of Jesse Lingard, Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo all in need of minutes – the Argentinian pair have been told they can leave.

Daniel James, Brandon Williams and Dean Henderson are others reportedly seeking loan moves to further their development.

And Solskjaer is prepared to sanction more exits in the coming weeks as he attempts to trim his squad.

"You can't really say no because, in football, things just crop up," he told the club's official website.

"There are opportunities that we can't really say no to and, if it's the best for the club and the player, then it's something we'll look at.

"At the moment I can't update you on any of them, I don't really know where any negotiations are [up to]."

Academy product Fosu-Mensah left the club having made just 30 senior appearances since his first-team debut in February 2016.

"We wish Tim all the best - six-and-a-half years I think he was here," Solskjaer said.

"He's an exciting talent and he's got the attributes, but he needs to play.

"When he gets regular game-time I think we'll see him for Netherlands and we'll see how good a player he is."

United are not expected to be especially busy with regards to incomings, though young winger Amad Diallo - signed in October - officially linked up with the squad this week for the first time following the completion of his move from Atalanta.

Despite only just arriving at the club, Solskjaer is seemingly open to the idea of using the 18-year-old in Sunday's huge top-of-the-table Premier League showdown with Liverpool.

"Let him have some time. But whether it is against Liverpool in the league, Liverpool in the FA Cup, this weekend, or in two or three weeks… It is questionable," he told Dagbladet.

"We have a very fresh stable, there are only one or two that are questionable for the weekend. I don't rule out that he is in the squad for the Liverpool match. 

"Things can happen. You see how fast things happen over here in England. Suddenly, a team has six players out with coronavirus. So, you don't know. 

"I don't want to put any time on it, but he is at least in the group, trains with us and can be chosen in the squad."

Mohamed Salah believes faltering Liverpool "need to win" against Manchester United because of the high stakes involved in Sunday's showdown.

Premier League top-scorer Salah expects the always hotly contested north-west battle to have an extra edge because both are chasing the title this season.

The Egyptian striker, who has 13 league goals this season, has scored only once in his five previous Premier League encounters with United.

He has also failed to hit the net in Liverpool's last three league games this term, during which time they have mustered just one goal and two points.

As a result of Liverpool's slump, United have bolted three points ahead of Jurgen Klopp's Reds at the top of the table, with nine wins from their last 11 league games sending Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men soaring.

"The game is really big at the moment, especially because now they are first and we are second," Salah told Norwegian broadcaster TV 2.

"They are playing well this season as well. It's a good game but at the end of the day we need to win that game, I think that's the most important thing.

"I always say it's just one game, it's only one game. But because this one, if they win they are going to be six points [ahead of Liverpool] and if we win we're going to be the same, it's a little bit special this game."

The prospect of sliding six points behind their rivals from along the East Lancs Road is one that is hard to stomach for Liverpool.

When they beat United 2-0 last January, it took Liverpool 30 points clear of their great rivals, the title already in sight.

The narrative is distinctly different this season, and what is clear is that Liverpool's finishing must sharpen up.

In the 1-0 defeat at Southampton on January 4 - their last league outing - Liverpool had 56 touches in the opposition box, more than they have managed in any other Premier League game this season.

However, they had just one shot on target and 11 that missed.

In the same game, they had 79 ball recoveries, matching their season-high total which came against Leeds United on the opening weekend of their campaign. Liverpool put 61 passes or crosses into the Saints box - more than they have against any other side this term.

There is plenty that Liverpool are still doing right, but they are not finishing off sequences as they did during last season's championship-winning effort.

Salah knows many will be looking to him to put right the wrongs of recent games.

"When I'm scoring goals and can help the team, that makes me happier," he said. "When I don't score and the team doesn't win, that's a nightmare!"

Thiago Alcantara could be just the option Liverpool need to kick-start their title defence as Jurgen Klopp ponders whether to hand the midfielder a first Anfield start against Manchester United.

The reigning Premier League champions are yet to see the best of the high-profile signing from Bayern Munich, Thiago having seen his early months on Merseyside hampered by illness and injury.

However, having recovered from a knee issue suffered on October 17 against Everton, the Spain international has featured in Liverpool's past three games, including playing the full 90 minutes of the 1-0 defeat away at Southampton on January 4.

Next up for the Reds is a clash with table-topping United, leaving Klopp to decide if he hands the 29-year-old a long-awaited home debut on Sunday.

"We will see," Klopp said on the possibility of Thiago being in the starting XI to face United. "The most important thing is he's fit, trained, all good.

"He had now 90 and 45 minutes in the last two games. So, we will see if he can play, which position he will play because there are obviously different options and all that stuff.

"But it's really good to have him around now because he's a really good guy and obviously an exceptional football player. It's like a new signing obviously.

"Now he's here and let's hope that it will stay like this for a long, long, long time."

Thiago played in a deep-lying role in Liverpool's midfield at Southampton, completing 89 per cent of his passes and creating one chance as the visitors dominated possession after falling behind early to a Danny Ings goal. The visitors finished with an xG of 1.5, yet managed just one attempt on target for all their dominance.

John Barnes believes Thiago's ability to pick a pass in tight spaces could be crucial in certain circumstances during the remainder of the campaign, particularly as Klopp's much-vaunted forward line has struggled of late when faced with opponents willing to cede territory and get players behind the ball.

Since putting seven past Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on December 19, Liverpool have mustered one league goal in three games. 

"He is very important because it gives us an option," Liverpool legend Barnes told Stats Perform News.

"You need a player like him. I always felt that as much as we've done really well, we've won the league and not lost many games, there are times when teams defend in numbers, get 10 men back behind the ball, and our three midfield players aren't as creative.

"And they don't have that. It's not even flair, it's the insight for the passes in really, really, tight areas, and being able to receive the ball in tight areas and be more creative.

"But that doesn't happen for 90 per cent of the time, as 90 per cent of the time our three midfield players are [Jordan] Henderson, [Georginio] Wijnaldum and Fabinho, those types of players. They stand us in good stead. Not that we've had to change anyway, because we've won the league and lost two games, it's not as if we needed that.

"However, there are the odd games when that's what we need, and therefore that's what he gives us.

"Now, that's not to say that he's going to play every week, or if we were going to play against Manchester City, who may dominate possession more than we do, would we rather play like Thiago Alcantara? Or would you rather have a player like Wijnaldum or Henderson or [James] Milner, who's going to get around and tackle because that's what we need?

"What he's done, though, is he's given us options. And Jurgen has used him wisely, because the games we have used him in is when he knows we're going to dominate possession, whereby he wouldn't be needed that much defensively."

Liverpool, who go into the United game three points behind their opponents, could have Joel Matip available following an adductor injury, Klopp admitting the centre-back is "close" to a return.

Jurgen Klopp insists Manchester United can never be considered underdogs despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer making that pre-match claim.

United boss Solskjaer takes his side to Anfield on Sunday with a surprise three-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

The last time they sat top at this stage of the season was in Alex Ferguson's final year at the club.

Amid his opponents' impressive 11-match unbeaten run in the top flight, Liverpool manager Klopp was surprised to see Solskjaer suggest a United win would represent a "shock" and an "upset".

"I have been five years in England and United was never an underdog," said Klopp. "They cannot be. It is just like it is.

"They are always a good team, always great players, always really good managers and coaches. It was always there and now they are top of the table. That is how it is.

"They cannot be underdogs."

Champions Liverpool have failed to win their past three league matches since thrashing Crystal Palace 7-0 a month ago.

But Klopp is confident they are over their slump as the chance to return to the summit presents itself, while he also replied to another Solskjaer remark that caught his attention.

He continued: "I'm really looking forward to this game, to be honest. I know Ole said that this is the best moment to play against Liverpool - yeah? Let's see!

"We are now in a place where we want to be. We know what we have to do and what went wrong. We want to change. Now, we have to put that in place on the pitch. That is the situation.

"These boys did not go for an excuse in one second that I was here. Not for one second. But that does not mean things cannot go wrong.

"Obviously we did not do outstandingly well since mid-November. But who cares? We still have 33 points.

"We have learned a lot from this season. The circumstances, dealing with the situation. It is not because of the boys' attitude. It's just because it didn't work out.

"Still, we have scored the most goals in the league, which is absolutely crazy.

"We just had to step a little bit back, work on the basics and get strong – as strong as we can be again. That's what we did. That is what we will do. I think that can work."

Returning his focus to United, Klopp added: "Usually they change system against us. 

"They played 10 times with four at the back and against RB Leipzig they played with five at the back, so maybe they will change that.

"Those are things we have to think about - not who is the outsider. It is Liverpool versus United and that in itself is a massive game.

"Wherever I would be in the world I would watch it definitely. This is the game!"

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