The 2018-19 season was not one Manchester United fans would remember particularly fondly, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's appointment provided cause for optimism.

United finished sixth in the Premier League but reached a Champions League quarter-final and gathered momentum in the second half of the campaign with Solskjaer at the helm.

Supporters could hope a number of the players at Old Trafford would be able to form the basis of a title-winning side in the coming years.

And so it proved this week as Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian got their hands on domestic silverware – in Inter colours.

That quartet played a combined 88 Premier League games for United in 2018-19 but this term turned out together for Inter, accounting for 107 Serie A appearances.

While Sanchez, Young and Darmian have each played their part, it might be Lukaku's success in Italy that causes United the most distress.

They made their money back on the £75million signing, but he is now a champion while Solskjaer's side, as when Lukaku left, trail rivals Manchester City.

Rom rewarded by Ron role

United had not been the only club willing to part with such a sum to sign Lukaku in 2017, as former club Chelsea, coached by current Inter boss Antonio Conte, sought to bring back the forward they had sold to Everton for around a third of the price three years earlier.

Despite 15 league goals – arriving every 170.8 minutes across 31 matches – on loan at Goodison Park as a 20-year-old in 2013-14, Chelsea and Jose Mourinho turned instead to Diego Costa to lead their successful title charge.

"[Lukaku] wanted to play for Chelsea but wanted to be the first-choice striker," Mourinho said. "That's very difficult to promise."

Delighted Everton manager Roberto Martinez's described Lukaku's "potential" as "quite unique", but criticism of the striker's finishing would find its root in his first season as a full-time Toffee.

Although there were 20 strikes in all competitions, just 10 came in the Premier League as chances worth 11.3 expected goals (xG) brought eight non-penalty goals.

Lukaku's conversion rate dipped to 9.5 per cent as he passed up 12 big chances – situations from which Opta would reasonably expect a player to score.

However, 11th-placed Everton's issues extended beyond a young player's slight regression.

In turn, Martinez moved away from the fast-breaking attack that brought 1.4 counters per game – none of which ended in Lukaku goals – in 2014-15 and opted instead to station his striker in front of goal. It provoked 220 touches in the box and 18 goals from Lukaku, yet could not rescue the manager.

Incoming coach Ronald Koeman may now be more familiar with making the most of the diminutive talents of Barcelona's attack, but he certainly knew how to get the best out of Lukaku.

The new Everton manager's solution was simple: build everything around Big Rom.

Heading away from the direction Martinez had taken the team and their talisman, Lukaku took just 12.5 per cent of his touches in the penalty area, as he instead had clear career highs in duels (588), aerial duels (322) and successful dribbles (63).

The forward scored 25 times in the league – taking 22.7 per cent of his chances to outstrip his xG by 9.5 – and had 31 goal involvements. He looked the complete package.

More Mou's man than Ole's

The complete package is certainly what United would expect for a £75m outlay. What they got was a steady debut season.

Ten goals in Lukaku's first nine matches for the club in all competitions hinted at a continuation of his 2016-17 Everton form, but the rest of the campaign had more in keeping with his earlier outings on Merseyside.

There were 16 league strikes, still ahead of his xG of 12.6, but also 11 big chances missed. No longer required to carry the load alone, Lukaku's total shots fell from 110 to 86 and his conversion rate dwindled to 18.6 per cent.

Still, Mourinho stood by his man.

Having started all but five of United's league games in 2017-18, Lukaku was again included in the XI in 12 of their first 17 matches the following season.

But when Mourinho was sacked shortly before Christmas, Solskjaer had no such loyalty to a striker who had failed to kick on, contributing just six goals.

Lukaku completed the full 90 minutes on seven occasions under Solskjaer, who turned instead to Marcus Rashford as his main striking option.

Rashford only scored one more goal than Lukaku over this period and missed two more big chances, but criticism hurt the Belgium international and a hamstring injury in April 2019 brought a premature end to his season – and his United career.

"A lot of people don't think I can be part of that team," Lukaku later told NBA star Josh Hart's LightHarted Podcast. "If it's like that, we can go our separate ways.

"You guys can find someone who really fits the bill and I can go."

Counted on by Conte

Lukaku certainly fitted the bill at Inter. New Nerazzurri coach Conte needed a replacement striker as Mauro Icardi's love-hate affair with San Siro's Curva Sud finally reached its conclusion.

Having failed to recruit Lukaku at Stamford Bridge in a move that might have suited all parties better than the United switch, Conte added the striker to a squad intent on ending Inter's wait for the Scudetto.

Not since 2009-10, with Samuel Eto'o and Diego Milito paired in attack, had Inter reigned, but they now had another forward partnership to enjoy.

On paper, Lautaro Martinez might have been considered the 'little man' to Lukaku's 'big man', yet Conte has increasingly resisted the urge to use his talented giant as a battering ram.

Although Lukaku remains capable of bullying defenders – only in two Premier League seasons did he win more aerial duels than 2019-20's 93 – Conte has followed Koeman's example and made sure to involve his number nine in everything Inter do.

Not since his final season at Everton has Lukaku attempted or completed more dribbles (97 and 52 in 2020-21), meaning he is back facing the goal again, involved in 13 counter-attacks – his most since 2014-15. He also has 10 assists for the first time.

Yet Lukaku is still taking the largest share of his touches in the box to date (18.3 per cent), leading to a career-high 35 big chances.

From such positions, he can afford to squander 17 big chances and net only 16 non-penalty goals from efforts worth 16.8 xG, another new benchmark.

"Lukaku has made exceptional improvements but can make even more," Conte says.

Martinez, now his coach at international level, feels the development is clear for all to see. He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "Romelu became a complete player, obviously thanks to Conte."

Lukaku is now scoring with a staggering 23.6 per cent of his shots – making him the first Serie A player since 2004-05 to tally 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season – and Inter are champions.

United and those critics have long since disappeared into the rear-view mirror.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he wants to keep Paul Pogba amid doubts over his future.

Pogba is out of contract at the end of next season and there have been question marks over the French star since his agent Mino Raiola claimed his client's time at United was "over" in December.

Linked with a Juventus return and move to Real Madrid, Pogba has been in inspired form for United, who are second in the Premier League and on the brink of the Europa League final following Thursday's 6-2 semi-final first-leg rout of Roma.

"No, of course not," said Solskjaer when asked if he would have the club cash in on Pogba at season's end ahead of Sunday's showdown against rivals Liverpool.

"I have always said with Paul that I enjoy managing him, I enjoy coaching him, I enjoy talking to him and I also enjoy challenging him because he is a winner.

"He wants to be better and that's why he listens. You can see he's enjoying himself here as well.

"He has a smile on his face. It's important we treat each other with respect and I try to treat everyone with the same amount of respect.

"But there are some players you have known since they were young lads and that's the case with Paul: the longer you have known them the easier it is to have a bond with them."

Pogba has scored six goals in all competitions for United this season, including three Premier League goals and as many assists.

United have avoided defeat in both meetings with Liverpool in all competitions this season (W1 D1) – the last time they faced the Reds as many as three times in a season without losing any was in 1998-99 (W2 D1), with this the eighth campaign they have met more than twice since then.

In the Premier League, United have won just one of their last nine meetings with Liverpool (D6 L2) and are winless in five against the Reds (D3 L2). They last had a longer winless run against Liverpool in the top-flight between December 1989 and October 1992 (seven games).

United have drawn seven league games 0-0 this season – only in 1980-81 (eight) have they been involved in more goalless draws in a single league campaign. The Red Devils have the most goalless draws of any side in the Premier League this season.

Liverpool's trip to Manchester United on Sunday will likely be the most watched and fiercely debated match of the weekend in the Premier League, but in a sense there is feeling of it being something of a damp squib.

Perhaps it would be different were fans allowed into Old Trafford, but for the time being they remain absent.

Make no mistake, both teams still have particular ambitions to achieve this season. It's not quite a dead rubber.

But regardless of achieving their respective current targets – reach the top four for Liverpool, and United securing second place in the assumption Manchester City won't suddenly capitulate – there will still be a sense of unfulfillment.

United want more, Liverpool expected more.

Realistically the best Liverpool can hope for now is fourth, and even then that looks a tough ask, while United will seemingly have to settle for second. Although by no means a poor season for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men, the Red Devils' fans will surely never be entirely happy with second, especially when it's their neighbours finishing above them.

City have, for the majority of the season anyway, been considerably better than the rest. So what can United and Liverpool do to potentially bridge the gap next season?

MAN UNITED

Seek more from the right side of the defence

In recent years, when United have had issues with their team they have perhaps been too willing to chuck a load of money at the issue – maybe that's the solution here, or maybe there are young talents coming through who are ready for the next level, only Solskjaer really knows that.

Nevertheless, an area where United can improve is the two right-hand berths of their defence.

While Aaron Wan-Bissaka has proven himself a very capable defender, it's fair to say he's still lagging behind in the attacking department. His 26 chances created isn't horrendous, but there's undoubtedly a lot of room for improvement.

For example, Wan-Bissaka's 78.7 touches per 90 minutes this term is only slightly fewer than Luke Shaw's 82.2, but the left-back has played 130 (196 compared to 66) more passes into the penalty area. He's far more forward-thinking and at the moment that gives United a certain predictability in the final third.

No one would say Wan-Bissaka is a lost cause, but currently he has no competition. Shaw's improvement since having Alex Telles to put pressure on him has been considerable – perhaps such encouragement would work for the right-back as well?

Wan-Bissaka's lack of effectiveness in attack is certainly not their only issue in defence, however – Victor Lindelof appears to have hit a ceiling.

Although stylistically he seems a decent fit for Solskjaer's system as he is comfortable in possession – as evidenced by his 13 goal-ending open-play sequences being bettered by only Maguire among Premier League centre-backs – teams tend to target him because he's far less domineering.

Not since 2016-17 has Maguire averaged fewer than three aerial wins per game: Lindelof's never even reached three, while there have also been concerns about the Swede's positioning.

That's highlighted by the fact he averages considerably fewer interceptions per 90 minutes compared to Maguire (0.9/1.8).

Get an actual right winger

Again, it remains to be seen whether United's move here would be to buy or trust youth – after all, they did spend a small fortune on Amad Diallo last year, though his influence has been minimal at most since linking up with United in January.

Mason Greenwood seems their best option on the right at the moment and his form has picked up significantly of late after an underwhelming first two-thirds of the season. His ineffectiveness at times this term paved the way for Daniel James to get back into the side, and few United fans would consider the Welshman to be anywhere good enough as a long-term, first-choice option.

While Greenwood has certainly been an effective presence out on the right at times, he's not exactly been an effective creator – nine players (to have featured at least 10 times) in the United squad can better his chance creation frequency of 0.8 per 90 mins.

Now, perhaps that's partly skewed by his early season form, yet only Bruno Fernandes (3.3) averages more shots than Greenwood (3.2) each game.

With Edinson Cavani reportedly set to stick around for another season, United might opt to begin moulding Greenwood to become his replacement, thus freeing up the right-wing slot for someone else.

Facilitate a Pogba and Fernandes partnership

You'd think this would be simple, and recent evidence has strongly suggested they can coexist – after all, both were excellent against Roma on Thursday.

But since Fernandes joined, United have only won 55.2 per cent of games across all competitions in which they've both featured, as opposed to 72.2 per cent when one or the other has been missing.

Few would disagree that they are United's two most talented players, but occasionally squeezing them both into the side has resulted in Pogba being shunted out wide. While still functional there, that's clearly not the best use of his talents.

Developing their partnership may require Solskjaer to loosen the strings of pragmatism a little. He likes to play Fred and Scott McTominay together in the midfield when some feel they might be better off with just one of them.

Now, whether that's because he doesn't truly trust Pogba and Fernandes off the ball, or if he's actually not convinced enough by Fred nor McTominay defensively, only he knows.

But allowing Pogba and Fernandes to consistently thrive in the same team would surely work wonders for United in the final third.

LIVERPOOL

Provide better cover for Alexander-Arnold

If there's one Liverpool player who's shouldered the most criticism in this underwhelming title defence it's arguably Trent Alexander-Arnold.

But some of the flak has been a little harsh, whether it's been focused on his attacking productivity or defensive positioning.

Granted, his chance creation is down from 2.5 to two per 90 minutes and that's understandably been reflected in an assists decrease from 13 to five.

But the flipside to that is in 2019-20 he massively over-performed his xG value of 9.7, whereas this term there's only a 0.8 difference (five assists, 5.8 xG). This suggests that, where he was benefiting from his team-mates' brilliant finishing last term, in 2020-21 that's not been the case.

As for his defensive output, there's little evidence to suggest he's doing worse. On the contrary in fact, he's actually averaging more tackles, tackles won and interceptions than in 2019-20, while only one perceived error by Alexander-Arnold has led to a shot this season. He was guilty of three in the title-winning campaign.

The key thing we have to consider when analysing Alexander-Arnold's season, however, is the extent of Liverpool's defensive injuries.

It would be fair to assume that he's not been quite as much of an attacking threat because he's been playing in an often-makeshift defence, holding back a little because the threat of an opposing attack is greater without the likes of Virgil van Dijk.

Presuming Van Dijk and Joe Gomez stay fit next season, that in itself is a much more solid base. That may, in theory, provide Alexander-Arnold with the necessary assurances that encourage greater attacking impetus.

Get more from Thiago

Another Liverpool player whose ability has been called into question a lot this season is, remarkably, Thiago Alcantara. A key cog of Bayern Munich's all-conquering 2019-20 side, but on Merseyside he's had to contend with plenty of doubters.

While he was initially seen as the final missing weapon to Klopp's arsenal, the kind of player who could provide greater creativity in a midfield that beforehand was more functional that fun, many have since gone full revisionist.

Many of the concerns have related to suggestions he's not the right fit for Liverpool's intense style of play, particularly how high up the pitch they press.

But there is very little evidence to back such claims up. PPDA data suggest it's actually nonsense. PPDA is the number of opposition passes allowed outside of the pressing team's own defensive third divided by the number of defensive actions by the pressing team outside of their own defensive third.  

Liverpool's this season is 10.6 whereas Bayern's last season was 9.8, indicating that Die Roten actually press slightly higher than the Reds.

No, the far likelier cause of Thiago's underwhelming season is probably the human side of football. It can be easy to forget sometimes that footballers are people too. Having your first season at a club mired by injury problems, which also affected you, and contracting coronavirus cannot be the ideal situation.

We'll surely only get a better grasp of Thiago's suitability at Liverpool next season.

Refresh the frontline

As Mohamed Salah continues to thrive, his excellence not only highlights himself, but also casts a shadow of doubt over Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

While critics have been unconvinced by Firmino for some time, despite clearly offering a lot to the Reds when at the peak of his powers, questions over Mane are a rather newer phenomenon.

In 2019-20 he had a hand in 25 Premier League goals (18 scored, seven set up), but he's on less than half of that at the moment (eight goals, five assists).

Having outperformed his xG by 4.4 last season, he's now 3.9 under his xG value of 11.9 for 2020-21. Firmino's under-performance in 2019-20 was five, this term it's 4.4.

For Mane, this means that where he was proving to be remarkably deadly in 2019-20, he's now wasteful – Firmino is spurning more opportunities than he should, again.

Nevertheless, Mane's form over the previous two seasons probably has him quite a lot of credit in the bank – if anyone's at threat, it's Firmino.

Diogo Jota has proven a versatile and dependable alternative to all of the front three, but Klopp might prefer more of a focal point at the tip of the attack in the long run.

If there's anywhere in the team attack where the Reds might feel that can get someone better, it's probably in the place of Firmino.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has urged Manchester United supporters to "keep it peaceful" with their protests against the club's owners.

A demonstration by disgruntled fans is expected to take place before Sunday's Premier League clash with Liverpool at Old Trafford.

The Glazer family's ownership of United has not been popular for many years, but the club's involvement in the recent European Super League plans saw confidence in the hierarchy take a further hit.

United signed up but then withdrew from the competition 48 hours after the league was launched, along with domestic rivals Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool. 

Executives and owners of those clubs have taken flak from fans who objected to the 'breakaway' nature of the Super League. There have been supporter protests at various grounds around the country, and now United's stadium could see a big turnout from disenchanted fans.

"It's important the fans' views are listened to and we communicate better," Solskjaer said.

He added: "When the protests are going on, it's important that they go in a good fashion and that we keep it peaceful."

Solskjaer was unsurprisingly not inclined to criticise the owners, instead pointing to the support he has found when looking to strengthen the United squad.

"My job is to focus on the football side," said the Norwegian, whose team sit second in the Premier League and have one foot in the Europa League final.

"I've been backed, I've had great support from the club and the owners, and I'm sure I will get the backing again to go one step further."

United's 6-2 win over Roma on Thursday in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final should mean the return game in Italy is as near to a formality as such matches can be.

Now United have a chance not only to tighten their grip on second place, but also to dent Liverpool's Champions League qualifying prospects.

Jurgen Klopp's Premier League champions have seen their crown slip this term, and they trail fourth-placed Chelsea by four points with just five games to play.

Defeat at Old Trafford would be a hammer blow to those hopes, but Solskjaer dismissed the idea it could be on his players' minds.

He said: "We're just thinking about winning ourselves. Whatever that does to Liverpool cannot be of our concern.

"Throughout the season you have games you look forward to and this Liverpool game at home is one of the biggest games of the season.

"It doesn't matter if we're first or second or third or fourth. No matter what, this is a massive, massive game."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it was a "good job done" rather than job done after Manchester United thrashed Roma 6-2 in the Europa League semi-finals.

Bruno Fernandes gave the Red Devils an early lead in a dramatic first leg at Old Trafford on Thursday, but Lorenzo Pellegrini's penalty and a goal from Edin Dzeko put Roma 2-1 up at half-time.

The luckless Giallorossi lost three players to injury in the first half - including goalkeeper Pau Lopez - and they were torn apart by a rampant United after the break.

A brace from the magnificent Edinson Cavani put the Premier League side back in front and Fernandes had a double of his own when he made no mistake from the penalty spot.

Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood added further goals to put United on the brink of a final against either Villarreal or Arsenal in Gdansk on May 26.

Ruthless United scored six or more goals in a single match in European competition for the first time since netting seven against Roma in April 2007; they are also the first side to net as many in a major European semi-final since Real Madrid in the European Cup in May 1964.

Still, Solskjaer says there is no chance they will be complacent heading into the second leg at Stadio Olimpico next Thursday.

The Red Devils boss told BT Sport: "No I don't feel the job is done but it was a good job done. We did well but we know they have quality.

"They scored two goals from the two chances we gave them. They didn't have loads of chances against Ajax. The second half was very good."

Solskjaer was impressed with the way his side stormed back after surrendering a first-half advantage.

"We took most of our chances today, so we're very pleased. The character showed – we came back, we didn't lose our heads," he added.

"For five, 10 minutes at the end of the first half we didn't look great, but we got it together."

Roma were unable to make any further changes in the second half after losing Jordan Veretout, Lopez and Leonardo Spinazzola in the opening 45 minutes.

Under-pressure coach Paulo Fonseca rued their misfortune but was at a loss to explain such an astonishing second-half capitulation.

He told Sky Sport "It's difficult to explain how the same team that did so well in the first half had that kind of second half. It's hard to play against a side like United without having the substitutions.

"It's positive to reach this stage of the competition anyway, and also to play like we did in the first half. But in the second half we got everything wrong."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says it would be "a dream come true" to lift silverware as Manchester United manager, with his side preparing for a Europa League semi-final against Roma.

While Solskjaer has improved United's Premier League standing since taking charge in December 2018, he is yet to win a trophy and has been beaten in all four of the semi-finals he has reached.

That included the semi-final in the Europa League last season against eventual winners Sevilla.

United are at home for the first leg against Roma, a team they have played six times before – all in the Champions League – winning four.

One of those victories was the famous 7-1 win in the second leg of a 2007 Champions League quarter-final tie that Solskjaer played in, the spirit from which he hopes to rekindle at Old Trafford on Thursday.

"It will be a dream come true the day I can lift a trophy for this club as a manager," said Solskjaer. 

"That is what we are building for. It is ifs and buts, but our ambition is to finish this season with a trophy and to celebrate. I know what that can mean for the group."

Asked if he had conducted a detailed analysis on the previous semi-final defeats, Solskjaer added: "We have looked at them and the reasons why.

"But every semi-final is a tough one against tough teams.

"Some defeats you dwell on a little bit more, but it is about putting things right and arriving with an almost fully fit squad.

"Now we are going to go all out, we play Liverpool in between but that will take care of itself.

"I would like to think [we have more belief now]. It was a strange end to last season with the mini tournament [in Germany]; the atmosphere and feeling.

"We have to go that one step further and win. We have had a great night in this tournament before [winning it in 2017]. Our focus is on ending the season with a celebration.

"As soon as we went out of the Champions League our focus was getting to a final. We feel we have been in a proper competition, we have enjoyed it.

"When you come to the business end of the season, first of all being there for the important games, having confidence and belief, but of course to have that luck and quality which is needed.

"We have done remarkably well to get to five semis. Now we want to go all the way."

United have only lost one of their last 12 games against Italian opponents in European competition (W8 D3).

The only defeat in this run came at home to Juventus in the Champions League group stage in 2018-19.

Roma, who are seventh in Serie A, have failed to win any of their last 12 away games in Europe against English clubs, a run that has factored in matches against seven different sides (D4 L8).

On the 2007 tie with Roma, Solskjaer added: "I remember both games, I started the first one. We dug out a very good result after 2-1 defeat [in the first leg].

"That night was magical. Alan Smith was excellent, we showed what United can do. We want a performance like this again!"

United have no new injuries after the 0-0 Premier League draw at Leeds, with Eric Bailly and Marcus Rashford available while Anthony Martial and Phil Jones are still out.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted his team will not be impacted by protests against the club's owners and the European Super League ahead of a defining week at Old Trafford.

Solskjaer's Red Devils were held to a 0-0 draw by rivals Leeds United in Premier League action at Elland Road on Sunday.

The pre-match build-up had been centred on the Super League controversy, which has fuelled an already negative view on Manchester United's owners – the Glazer family.

The breakaway competition, which sought to establish a closed-shop competition featuring 12 of the continent's elite clubs – including United – collapsed 48 hours after its launch, in the face of widespread opposition.

United fans have continued to protest against the Glazer family, with a plane trailing a banner – "2bn stolen – Glazers out' – flying over Elland Road prior to kick-off on Sunday.

As United look ahead to Thursday's opening leg of their Europa League semi-final against Roma, followed by a showdown against bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday, Solskjaer was asked if the protests would distract the players for the remainder of the season.

"I'm really happy with the boys' focus. They have such a determination to finish the season strong," Solskjaer told reporters as United sit second in the Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Manchester City and 13 points clear of sixth-placed Liverpool.

"Of course, the European disappointment of the last game of last season [against Sevilla in the Europa League], that still sticks in their minds and hearts.

"We're very, very focused to do well against Roma [UEL semi-final] and, of course, we've got Liverpool in between so we're not worried about [the protests] at all."

United are unbeaten in their last 24 Premier League away games (W15 D9), with only Arsenal between April 2003 and September 2004 (27) having a longer such run in English top-flight history.

"It's a really good achievement, no matter if there's fans or no fans," Solskjaer said. "With the 24 game [streak] without defeat, I think the players have prepared well for these games. We travel, the work by the coaches for every game is really, really good and planned down to a tee.

"I've got to say, we hope it continues because we've got a lot of big games coming up. We want to take as many points as possible."

United are on track to finish second this season, with the Red Devils eight points clear of Leicester City – who have a match in hand.

However, United's wait for Premier League glory is set to continue, having not hoisted the trophy aloft since 2012-13.

"We've taken baby steps in the way we play, in the way we train, in the fitness," added Solskjaer. "The coaches, the work that has been done on the training ground has been planned. We have been able to put down layer by layer by layer, as I said, and now we feel confident going into every game, trusting our way of playing.

"That's a big thing for us, knowing that whoever we play against, we have our own way of dealing with the opponent. Of course, there's little tweaks here and there but with an addition or two, we'll keep on strengthening this squad and keep on training hard.

"I've not seen many teams, in the second half, dominate as much as we did against Leeds. They're so fit, strong, they steam roller teams but we almost did that to them in the second half."

United have drawn seven league games nil-nil this season – only in 1980-81 (eight) have they been involved in more goalless draws in a single league campaign. The Red Devils have the most goalless draws of any side in the Premier League this term.

"Compared to last season, we've won a few more tight games," said Solskjaer. "We've won many games towards the end of the game, I think our fitness has been really good. Second half, we looked strong, like athletes. I really liked what I saw out there. We dominated, played in their half, kept them away from our goal, or even from our half really.

"So really happy with that but today we just didn't have the moments, we didn't take them when we had them. A draw is disappointing because we wanted to put pressure on Manchester City, but unfortunately we couldn't score."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer felt a dominant Manchester United performance just lacked a cutting edge in Sunday's 0-0 draw with Leeds United.

The Red Devils had won the reverse fixture 6-2 at Old Trafford back in December but there was to be no repeat of that high-scoring affair in the April sunshine at Elland Road.

A Marcus Rashford free-kick forced a smart save out of Illan Meslier in the first half, while Bruno Fernandes dragged a glorious opportunity wide not long after the interval.

The visitors had 16 attempts but managed to get just four on target, meaning a five-match winning run in the Premier League ground to a halt, pushing Manchester City a step closer to the title.

"I thought we played well. I thought we played really well," Solskjaer told Sky Sports after a seventh goalless draw in the league this season - only in 1980-81 have the club been involved in more.

"In the second half, I thought we dominated. We didn't really give any chances away, just didn't have the ball fall for us correctly. We had some decent chances but, unfortunately, couldn't take them.

"When two teams meet, you create problems and you solve problems. The opposition gives you things to think about and I think also we made them adjust to us, and we had to adjust to them because they are a unique team.

"I thought we did that really well. We put a really big shift down, worked hard. So many times I've seen Leeds run over teams in the second half, but I thought it was quite the opposite for us.

"Up until the last 18 yards, that's where we stopped. The quality, or the decision-making, let us down.

"Of course we are disappointed that we don't get three points, but I think the boys know they put a shift down and they really have a lot of respect for how Leeds play, plus the results they have had lately."

Leeds were restricted to only six shots in the match, their joint-fewest in a league game at Elland Road under Marcelo Bielsa.

The result also sees Solskjaer's squad extend their unbeaten league run on the road to 24 games, just three shy of Arsenal's record top-flight run of 27 between April 2003 and September 2004.

Manchester United are next in action on Thursday, hosting Roma at Old Trafford in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Mason Greenwood is reaping the rewards of his hard work on the training ground after helping Manchester United to a 3-1 win over Burnley.

The England international scored twice in Sunday's clash at Old Trafford, either side of a James Tarkowski equaliser, as United made it five Premier League victories in a row.

It is the third league game running Greenwood has scored in and takes his tally in the competition to 15, making him United's joint-top scoring teenager alongside Wayne Rooney.

Greenwood's opener was a well-taken first-time finish and the second saw the academy product cut in from the right and fire in a deflected shot six minutes from time.

Solskjaer is especially pleased with the way the youngster, who struggled for goals in the first half of the season, is developing his attacking game with age.

"I'm very happy for him. He's mixing up his game. He goes inside and outside, he's maturing all the time. It's lovely to see," Solskjaer told BBC Sport. 

"He's put the work in on the training ground and reaps the rewards. Last season he was young, now he's had almost two seasons in the first team. 

"Especially in the last three or four months I've seen how mature he is on the training ground and he plays with maturity and understanding. 

"He's very creative but plays simple when he has to."

Greenwood has scored more top-flight goals than any other teenager in Europe's top five leagues since the start of 2019-20 (15), one more than Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho.

"I've kept myself focussed. I knew my goals would come and kept my head down and I've taken my opportunities," Greenwood told Sky Sports.

"I'm happy I'm playing a lot. Ole trusts me and I do my best on the pitch and try to help my team-mates and it's showing on the pitch."

Asked about the manner of his goals, Greenwood said: "I like to do that, cut inside like that. I did it last season but you have to mix it up so defenders don't catch you out."

Half-time substitute Edinson Cavani added a late third to wrap up a win for United that moves them to within eight points of leaders Manchester City with six games to play.

With United on their best winning league run since January 2019 when winning six in a row, Greenwood is refusing to give up on catching City.

"You can never be sure - they might slip up. But we just have to concentrate on our next games," he said.

"Anything's possible. Hopefully they drop some points but we just have to keep focussed on our games."

United have won 19 of their 32 league games this term, which is one more than they managed throughout the 2019-20 campaign, and face a trip to Leeds United next weekend.

"We will keep concentrating on what we're doing and keep winning," Solskjaer added. "We need to keep the momentum going. It is always about the next game."

Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal should be relegated from the Premier League if they announce their intention to join a European Super League, Gary Neville has claimed.

UEFA was joined by the top five European Leagues and the English Football Association in opposing the plans, which are reportedly set to be announced on Sunday.

The Premier League's "big six" teams, plus Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Milan and Juventus are the 12 sides said to be involved. Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are not included.

During United's win over Burnley on Sunday, Neville suggested points deductions would be a reasonable punishment and, after the match, the Sky Sports pundit expanded on his fury at the proposals, labelling it a "criminal act against football fans."

"The reaction to it is that it's been damned and rightly so. I'm a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years but I'm disgusted, absolutely disgusted," said the former Red Devils full-back.

"It's an absolute disgrace and we have to wrestle back the power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league and that includes my club.

"I've been calling for 12 months to have an independent regulator to bring checks and balances in place to stop this happening, it's pure greed. They're imposters, the owners of Liverpool, United, City – they're nothing to do with football in this country, a hundred and odd years of history of fans who love their clubs and they need protecting.

"United aren't even in the Champions League, Arsenal aren't, they're a shambles of a club at the moment, Tottenham aren't, and they want a God-given right to be in there? Stop these clubs having a power base, enough is enough.

"The motivation is greed. My reaction earlier wasn't an emotional one, deduct them all points tomorrow, put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them.

"You've got to stamp on this, it's criminal, it's a criminal act against football fans, make no mistake about it. Deduct points, their money and punish them.

"If they announce a letter of intent has been signed then they should be punished, heavily, massive fines, points deductions, take the titles off them, who cares.

"Give the title to Burnley, let Fulham stay up, relegate United, Liverpool and Arsenal, those three clubs have the history and should be the ones that should suffer most."

Neville also hit out at the owners of the clubs involved, adding: "They're bottle merchants, you never hear from the owners of these clubs, absolute bottle merchants, they've got no voice, and they'll probably hide in a few weeks and say it was nothing to do with them, they were only talking about it.

"Seriously in the midst of a pandemic, a crisis, football clubs at national level going bust nearly, furloughing players, clubs on the edge and these lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away and creating more greed. Joke."

According to reports, a statement is expected at 21:30 GMT. It has been reported that Madrid president Florentino Perez will act as the competition's chairman, with Liverpool, United and Arsenal owners John W Henry, Joel Glazer and Stan Kroenke also having major roles.

"They'll be amending that statement as we speak, they'll have seen the reaction," Neville said. "They'll be backtracking down the road because they are bottle merchants these lot. 

"I'd like to think that United and Liverpool would stand and think something's not right here, let's collaborate with the game to try and get a better competition, a better Champions League, I'm not for everything standing still but this is a grab, when the timing is hideous. What world are these people living in?"

Put on the spot at full-time, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was unable to offer any insight, telling Sky Sports: "I saw the news and the speculation. I can't really say too much, my focus has just been on this game, I got the news today as well.

"I haven't looked into [what it would mean for United] so I just need to sit down and see what it is. The club will probably comment on it later."

Jose Mourinho says he "couldn't care less" about Paul Pogba's assessment of their relationship towards the end of his time at Manchester United.

Mourinho was dismissed by United midway through the 2018-19 season after two-and-a-half years in charge.

His relationship with members of United's squad was said to have deteriorated, with an apparent training ground argument with Pogba coming after the midfielder was stripped of his vice-captaincy role in September 2018.

Speaking ahead of United's game against Burnley on Sunday, Pogba suggested current Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a better man-management style than Mourinho.

"What I have now with Ole is different, he wouldn't go against the players," Pogba told Sky Sports. "He wouldn't go against the players.

"Maybe Ole wouldn't pick them, but it's not like he puts them on the side like they don't exist anymore. That's the difference between Mourinho and Ole.

"Once I had a great relationship with Mourinho, everybody saw that, and the next day you don't know what happened. That's the strange thing I had with Mourinho and I cannot explain to you because even I don't know."

Pogba's comments were put to Mourinho after his side's 2-2 Premier League draw with Everton on Friday – a result that leaves them five points adrift of the top four having also played a game more than all of their rivals.

The Portuguese coach told Sky Sports: "I would like to say I couldn't care less with what he says, I couldn't care less. I'm not interested at all."

Harry Kane scored twice as Spurs secured a point at Goodison Park, though the England international was unable to finish the game due to an ankle injury.

Marcus Rashford is a doubt for Manchester United's Premier League clash with Burnley on Sunday, boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed.

The England international did not make it off the substitutes' bench during United's 2-0 win over Granada on Thursday, a result which sealed a 4-0 aggregate victory to book a Europa League semi-final against Roma.

Rashford – who is suffering from an ongoing foot injury – took his tally to 20 for the season in the first leg, making him the first United player to hit double figures in consecutive campaigns since Wayne Rooney 11 years ago.

The 23-year-old has missed just three games for United this season and Solskajer said he will give Rashford as long as he needs to prove his fitness. 

"It's a big bonus that he didn't have to put any pressure on his foot [against Granada]," Solskjaer told a media conference. "I have got to hope he can be available and not make it worse. That is the decision I have got to make, so fingers crossed.

"He wasn't due to be on the bench really. He didn't train yesterday [Wednesday] but, just in case, he put his hand up and said 'if needed, I could do a job'. 

"So, it is a decision I have got to make on Sunday morning. But he is important for us. It is a difficult one. You have to go by how Marcus feels in a couple of days."

United host Burnley at Old Trafford looking to win five consecutive Premier League games for the first time since they won their first six under Solskjaer's leadership in January 2019. 

While another three points would take them another step closer to sealing a top-four finish, it is unlikely to help them rein in leaders Manchester City, who have an 11-point lead over their neighbours, having played a game more. 

Solskjaer is not prepared to write off United's title chances just yet, but he does concede it seems improbable that City will drop enough points to allow them back into the race. 

"Of course we'll never give up," he said. "Manchester United will never, ever give up. This club has had too many setbacks and too many great comebacks to have it in our DNA. 

"Is it realistic? No, probably not. When you have a team that is so consistent as Manchester City have been, you don't expect them to lose three games of the last six. 

"As long as we do our job, we want to finish the season strong and go one game at a time."

With a seven-point lead over Leicester City, United look well placed to improve on their third-placed finish last season. 

While Solskjaer is pleased with his side's progress this term, he will not be satisfied until they have won the Premier League title for the first time since Alex Ferguson's last season in charge in 2012-13. 

"You've got to make progress, step by step, that's the reality," he explained. "If we can manage second place and keep winning and get second, if Man City win all games and we win ours, you want to finish strongly. 

"Third last year, second this, close to a trophy. It's progress. It's not the end game; the end game is winning the league. But we are not in the era of Sir Alex and we've had a transformation period since he left.

"But it's progress, step by step, and if we do that well enough, that is when you get trophies and league titles which, of course, is our ambition."

Paul Pogba cannot explain why his relationship with Jose Mourinho turned sour at Manchester United, but claims to have a much different bond with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Pogba was United's marquee signing for 2016-17 – Mourinho's first season in charge at the club – and helped the Red Devils to a Europa League title that campaign.

Yet Mourinho's second term failed to live up to expectations and, after a difficult start to the 2018-19 season, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager was dismissed, with Solskjaer replacing him, initially on an interim basis before taking up the role full time.

Mourinho's relationship with members of United's squad was said to have deteriorated, with an apparent training ground argument with Pogba coming after the France star was stripped of a vice-captaincy role in September 2018.

Though Mourinho has since left United, Pogba's future remains unclear. His agent, Mino Raiola, has made several claims that the 28-year-old wishes to leave the club, and the midfielder's contract is up at the end of next season.

For Pogba's part, he revealed he enjoys his relationship with Solskjaer, while still being none the wiser as to why he and Mourinho failed to get along, though hinted he does not believe the Portuguese's man-management style is correct.

"What I have now with Ole is different, he wouldn't go against the players," Pogba told Sky Sports. "He wouldn't go against the players.

"Maybe Ole wouldn't pick them, but it's not like he puts them on the side like they don't exist anymore. That's the difference between Mourinho and Ole.

"Once I had a great relationship with Mourinho, everybody saw that, and the next day you don't know what happened. That's the strange thing I had with Mourinho and I cannot explain to you because even I don't know."

Pogba's numbers – then and now.

While Pogba's relationship with Mourinho ultimately failed to last, he did make more appearances (108) and starts (100) than any other United midfielder between August 2016 and December 2018.

Indeed, Pogba's goal tally from that time span is 20, joint-most among United midfielders, alongside Jesse Lingard, while the former Juventus man also registered 22 assists in all competitions. 

No United midfielder created more chances than Pogba (168) under Mourinho, while he also led the charts for minutes played (8,825).

In comparison, Pogba has played 6,240 minutes in all competitions under Solskjaer, ranking second for midfielders behind Fred (7,595) while he has made the third-most appearances (83) and starts (67).

Pogba's 17 goals in that time pale in comparison to Bruno Fernandes' 36, with his 15 assists seven fewer than the ex-Sporting CP playmaker's tally of 22.

An impressive tackle success rate of 62.18 per cent from 119 challenges does show a different side of Pogba's game, perhaps proving the more defensive role which has been asked of him during Solskjaer's stint.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes winning the Europa League title can be a catalyst for his team after they reached another semi-final.

United set up a semi-final showdown with Roma after Thursday's 2-0 victory over Granada at Old Trafford sealed a 4-0 aggregate triumph.

Solskjaer's United have reached four semi-finals and lost them all – the Red Devils beaten in last season's Europa League semi, having also missed out on trips to the FA Cup and EFL Cup deciders in 2019-20.

United – second in the Premier League standings – also fell to Manchester City in this season's EFL Cup semi-final, leaving Solskjaer hungry for that last elusive step.

Not since the 2016-17 season, when they claimed the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield under former boss Jose Mourinho, have United won silverware.

"You know, when you get to a semi, that's the nature of the game," Solskjaer said during his post-match news conference after United advanced to their 18th semi-final in all European competition – only Liverpool (19) have appeared in more among English sides.

"You are playing against good teams. We've played against good teams but we relish the chance again to go to a final.

"I've seen the determination, the attitude in every player that we want to go one further because the disappointment of the defeats that we've had, they give us the motivation to go one step further and hopefully end the season on a high."

The first leg of the semi-final against Serie A side Roma will be played at Old Trafford on April 19, followed by a May 6 date at Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital.

Since losing their first two home games in the Europa League in 2011-12, United have not lost any of their last 17 games at Old Trafford in the competition (W13 D4).

United – who have won three consecutive knockout-stage games without conceding in major European competition for the first time since 2008 – have kept five clean sheets in six Europa League games since the turn of the year, more than any other side in 2021.

"This season has been difficult with no pre-season. It's not been possible for us to practice anything really, since the pre-season of 19-20. That's one thing," Solskjaer added.

"I think the next step for the team, of course, is to get to a final, to win a trophy. I think that would give this group of players something extra.

"The motivation is there. I see it. The determination is there to improve all the time. I've seen before a catalyst for a team is often to win a trophy, to get over the line. That's what we're aiming to do at the end of the season."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded it was not worth the risk for him to keep Paul Pogba on the field as Manchester United ran out comfortable winners over Granada en route to the Europa League semi-finals, a move which the midfielder agreed with.

United booked their place in the Europa League semis with a 2-0 win on Thursday, sealing a 4-0 aggregate victory over the Spanish side.

Edinson Cavani scored his 50th European goal – his first for United in Europe – before Jesus Vallejo headed into his own net in the closing stages as the Red Devils set up a showdown with Roma.

United have sealed their place in the semi-finals of a European competition for the 18th time in total, with Liverpool (19) the only English club to have managed more in that regard.

Pogba, however, was taken off at half-time during the contest. He teed up Cavani's opener with a clever flick, but received a yellow card shortly after and committed a total of three fouls, including one on Yangel Herrera which resulted in Granada's players crowding the referee demanding a second booking.

Solskjaer was left reeling after deciding not to take Fred off while the midfielder was on a booking in a Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in December, only for the Brazilian to then see red, and took no chances on this occasion.

He told BT Sport: "I think sometimes in a game, Paul wants to win so much, he went into a couple of tackles after his yellow card, I thought no, I don't want to risk that. Even though he played well.

"We missed three [players] today, the season's been hard enough as it is anyway."

For his part, Pogba had no issue with the reason for his substitution.

"Some tackles, a yellow card. I had to come off obviously," he told BT Sport. "The yellow card was unfortunate. It wasn't a yellow card for me but you have to accept it. We won the game, that's the most important thing.

"I know the foul just after it, I saw all the players trying to get me out. [The manager thought] It's better I come off before red card."

Solskjaer also suggested United created their own problems to an extent, saying: "[Granada] do give you a game, a physical game. You do have to defend.

"When you can't keep the ball as long as you should do, it's more difficult."

Serie A side Roma – boasting former United players Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling – await in the final four after they overcome Ajax in the quarter-finals.

"I've not seen too much of Roma," Solskjaer continued. "They've had two good games against Ajax, they defend well, as Italian teams always do, experienced team, and we all know [Edin] Dzeko, so any ball in the box is a dangerous one.

"We're looking forward to it of course, we're in the semi-final, it feels like a proper European tie, Roma is a club with lots of tradition, history, but we've done well against Italian teams."

United reached the semi-finals last season, only to lose to Sevilla.

They have reached four semis previously under Solskjaer, twice in the EFL Cup, once in the FA Cup and once in the Europa League, though they are yet to win a trophy during the Norwegian's tenure.

"I don't think there's any," Solskjaer responded when asked if his team were scarred by previous defeats.

"You just go into every game wanting to win. We're going into them hoping to get to the final. If we can finish this season with a final and a trophy, great."

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