Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could not hide his frustration at Manchester United's forwards after Sunday's 0-0 draw at Chelsea saw the club's disappointing run against the Premier League's other so-called "big six" sides continued.

The match was overshadowed by the controversial decision of referee Stuart Attwell not to award United a first-half penalty when Callum Hudson-Odoi handled in the area – the official sticking to his decision despite looking at the incident on the pitchside monitor.

While Solskjaer and Luke Shaw vented their anger at the situation in post-match interviews, the manager's news conference eventually turned to the other major talking point; United's inability to score against the league's better teams.

"We're not scoring enough goals, that's for sure," Solskjaer told reporters.

He is not wrong – the draw at Stamford Bridge was the fourth successive 0-0 draw United have played out against other "big six" opposition, while they have not scored in any of their past six meetings with teams of this calibre.

"We've come away with another good clean sheet, but as I said before this game, the next step for this team is to win these games, get the goal we need to get three points," he added.

"Of course, we should have got a penalty and I'd back Bruno [Fernandes] any day of the week, but we didn't have the right quality at the end in the four or five good breakaways in the second half."

While United did have 11 shots on Sunday, their xG (expected goals) rating was a poor 0.4 – Chelsea's was 1.16. While this suggests Thomas Tuchel's men were more wasteful, it also highlights the visitors struggled to craft quality chances.

This is by no means a new phenomenon in games of such magnitude either – United's overall xG in the matches in question is just 4.9, by no means a huge figure, yet they're still underperforming significantly in this area given their actual record of none scored.

"We haven't had the quality, fine margins or luck," Solskjaer said when asked to explain United's issues in these games.

"Today, it was mostly about the lack of quality in the last third. We had some moments when we were close, had some great counter opportunities, [but the] last pass or cross wasn't good enough.

"[We had] some near moments of course, Fred and Mason [Greenwood] had a few decent attempts, but we didn't have enough. That's the next step for us, and we will improve.

"Last season we had some great results but in a different manner. At the moment we try to develop this style and develop ourselves to win these games. Everything was really good defensively."

And that is perhaps the salient point – United have improved defensively in these games, with the solitary goal conceded in this run being a penalty against Arsenal.

But there's a chance this altered approach is impacting United's effectiveness going forward, with Solskjaer's men potentially preferring to play out a draw instead of going for it and risking defeat.

After all, United's shot count of 66 in the past six clashes with "big six" opposition is less than the 74 they've faced. While they may not be constantly sitting back, they're also not as threatening as the opponents.

The key to understanding this shift may lie with the game directly before the aforementioned run – it was the remarkable 6-1 defeat to Tottenham.

Only Solskjaer knows if that battering – which was obviously not helped by a sending off – has been playing on the minds of himself and his players, but it's also a thought former United captain Roy Keane has had.

"Maybe they are scarred from the Spurs game. I don't know the scoop, we're just guessing," Keane said. "But maybe their mindset is [impacted] going into these games. We've seen poor games.

"Sometimes you have a 0-0 and it's a fantastic game, the keepers are fantastic, missed penalties or whatever. But some of these games we've watched and covered have been really boring, considering there's some really good attacking players in the team."

For better or worse, United don't have to wait long for another opportunity to put this run right – the Manchester derby is less than a week away.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was left fuming at referee Stuart Attwell's failure to award Manchester United a penalty in Sunday's 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

In a game that saw the two sides largely cancel each other out, United were controversially denied an early opportunity to take the lead.

A Marcus Rashford free-kick was parried back into the danger zone by Edouard Mendy, with Mason Greenwood and Callum Hudson-Odoi subsequently drawn towards it.

The Chelsea man's hand was raised and came into contact with the ball, with the VAR urging Attwell to review the incident on the pitchside monitor.

However, he stuck to his initial decision of not awarding a penalty and it left Solskjaer bemused.

When asked by Sky Sports if he felt United should have had a penalty, Solskjaer said: "Yep, 100 per cent."

Then asked if he could understand Attwell's decision, he added: "No, not at all, especially when they stop it [the game in order to review the incident] and he walks across to watch it.

"For me, you can see it's a handball but you think it's our player who does it and they [the Chelsea bench] are shouting it's handball for our player and then look at the video and it's taken two points away from us."

United left-back Luke Shaw claimed in another post-match interview with Sky Sports that Attwell had told captain Harry Maguire awarding the penalty "would cause a lot of talk about it after".​

Although clearly aware of the accusation, Solskjaer did not explicitly repeat it, saying: "I can't say, because that's not going to be good for him [Attwell]. Of course it is [concerning]."

Shaw's exact words were then put to Solskjaer and again he expressed dismay, then going on to vent his anger at pre-match comments published on Chelsea's website that highlighted Maguire's recent brushes with VAR, suggesting such content can influence referees.

He added: "Exactly. Well, I didn't say it [Shaw's comments], so I don't want to cause controversy, but it's not right, is it?

"It's all this outside influence, even the VAR talk before the game here, that's cheeky, when they put that on the website – that's influencing referees.

"Go back and look at the website. You can read it, what they are saying about controversy and Harry Maguire – it's putting pressure on the referees for penalties against us."

Manchester United lost further ground at the top of the Premier League table as they drew 0-0 at Chelsea on Sunday, Thomas Tuchel's men benefiting from a contentious call relating to a potential penalty against them.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side came into the weekend 10 points adrift of pacesetters Manchester City, but this draw coupled with the leaders' 2-1 win at West Ham on Saturday saw the gap increase to 12 as Pep Guardiola closes in on another Premier League title.

While a win for United at Stamford Bridge would not have changed a great deal, they will likely feel hard done by, as Callum Hudson-Odoi escaped unpunished when handling the ball in his own area during the first period.

Both sides had their chances after the interval but neither managed to apply the finishing touch, meaning for the first time in the five meetings between Tuchel and Solskjaer, the away manager could not leave with the spoils.

A fast and furious first half saw the two teams largely cancel each other out with their comparable high-pressing setups and solid defensive work, but United were controversially denied the chance to take an early lead.

Marcus Rashford's free-kick stung the hands of Edouard Mendy before dropping between Hudson-Odoi and Mason Greenwood, with the ball clearly hitting the hand of the Chelsea wing-back, yet referee Stuart Attwell refused to award a penalty even after going to the pitchside monitor.

Hudson-Odoi had a more positive impact just after the half-hour mark when Olivier Giroud nearly met his early cross, though chances at either end were a rarity otherwise.

Chelsea were straight on the front foot after the break, with David de Gea forced into a reflex save by Hakim Ziyech before Luke Shaw vitally blocked the rebound from Reece James – introduced at the interval for the injured Hudson-Odoi.

But United soon woke up again, with Greenwood shooting agonisingly wide of the top-left corner and Scott McTominay testing Mendy after a well-placed cut-back from Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Timo Werner was denied a tap-in by Victor Lindelof and McTominay squandered a counter-attacking opportunity in the latter stages, with the game ultimately destined to end goalless.

Marcus Rashford was tasked with leading Manchester United's attack at Stamford Bridge, while Timo Werner dropped to the Chelsea bench.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer declared on Friday that he was unsure if Cavani, who has had a positive impact this season since arriving on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain, would overcome a knock which has kept him out since mid-February.

Paul Pogba was a confirmed absentee, however, and neither player featured as Solskjaer made five changes to his United team.

Rashford, who has been involved in seven goals in all competitions against Chelsea (five goals, two assists) – more than against any other side in his career – was instead given the central role that Anthony Martial had started in against Real Sociedad on Thursday.

That was one of five changes made by Solskjaer, who also brought back Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay and David de Gea.

United are unbeaten in 19 Premier League away games (W13 D6), a run that began with a 2-0 win at Chelsea in February 2020. 

This is the Red Devils' longest unbeaten away run in their top-flight history, though their previous longest of 17 between December 1998-September 1999 ended with a 5-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, and Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea team have been in strong form.

After a frustrating draw with Southampton last week, Chelsea beat Atletico Madrid in the Champions League thanks to Olivier Giroud's stunning winner.

Giroud is rewarded with a start up top, with Tuchel making three alterations.

One of the players to drop out is Werner, who ended his long goalscoring drought in Chelsea's last home game – a 2-0 victory over Newcastle United.

Hakim Ziyech is in to partner Mason Mount – who has scored two goals in his last three Premier League games, as many as in his previous 21 in the competition – behind Giroud, with N'Golo Kante replacing Jorginho in midfield and Ben Chilwell coming in at left wing-back.

Opposite Chilwell, Callum Hudson-Odoi retains his place, despite the youngster being subbed on and subbed off in the draw with Southampton.

The away team has won all four of the previous managerial matches between Tuchel and Solskjaer, with all of those games taking place between United and PSG in the Champions League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is relishing the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford after being blown away by the late-career rejuvenation of the Swedish great.

Manchester United and Milan were drawn together in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, giving the second-tier competition a glamour tie.

A serious knee ligament injury sustained in April 2017, near the end of his first season with Manchester United, raised doubts about whether Ibrahimovic would play at the highest level again. He got fit enough to make a first-team return before heading off to LA Galaxy, seemingly to wind down his career in the United States.

Yet Ibrahimovic was not finished with European football and in December 2019 embarked on a second spell with Milan, which has surpassed the most generous of expectations.

Ibrahimovic has scored 27 goals in 40 games so far for the Rossoneri, including 16 in 20 appearances this season to help Milan mount a title challenge. In doing so, the 39-year-old has passed the 500-goal mark in his club career.

Milan's lead in the Scudetto race was reined in by Inter, who now lead the way in Serie A, but Ibrahimovic's impact has been seismic in Italy.

United loanee Diogo Dalot, who has played 19 games for Milan this season, may also be heading back to Manchester for the March 11 first leg as he is eligible for the tie.

"Zlatan, of course, I've been so impressed, I've got to say, by how his career has gone," United manager Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them. They're on the up and have done really well this season.

"I've been so impressed by him, and Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he's learned a lot. He's played a lot more games this season, kept fit and, hopefully, we can give him some bother!"

Ibrahimovic hit 28 goals in 46 games in his first season at United, adding one more strike in seven games in the following season as he fought his way back to full fitness.

His United goals came at a rate of one every 139.1 minutes, compared to his stunning Milan average strike rate of 109.9 minutes per goal.

He has also boosted his big chance conversion rate from 35.7 per cent at United to 45 per cent with Milan.

Solskjaer, whose side face Chelsea in the Premier League this Sunday, may have wished for a kinder European draw, particularly as it came on the Norwegian's 48th birthday.

"It's a nice birthday gift, isn't it? To watch that draw!" he said. "We do have the tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws.

"It's one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game. It's good for us to have these games to look forward to. This team needs challenges and we enjoy challenges and we embrace them.

"The tradition and history of AC Milan, it's a great club that we welcome and it's a great stadium that we go to there, and we're looking forward to it."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer acknowledges Manchester United must sharpen up in defence if they are to achieve their ambitions of winning major trophies. 

United eased into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday after a goalless draw with Real Sociedad at Old Trafford secured a 4-0 aggregate victory. 

It was their 16th clean sheet in all competitions this season, the third-most of any Premier League team, behind only Chelsea (19) and Manchester City (24). 

However, conceding goals has been a problem throughout 2020-21. The Red Devils have shipped 46 across all competitions – more than twice as many as City (20) – with 32 of those coming in the league, more than any other side presently in the top five. 

Although 11 of those were conceded in United's first three league matches of the season – an aberration Solskjaer put down to a lack of pre-season preparations – their defensive frailties have cost them valuable points despite scoring 53 goals, the most in the top flight, and 85 in all competitions, as many as rivals City. 

Ahead of Sunday's clash with Chelsea, who are unbeaten under new head coach Thomas Tuchel, Solskjaer highlighted the need to become more resolute at the back in order to close the gap to Pep Guardiola's men, who are top by 10 points.

The United manager told reporters: "We're on a good path. We feel we have improved but we're nowhere near where we want to be, and that's higher up the table, winning trophies. So, the hunger in the group and the mentality in the group is good, and that's the main thing now: that we keep on improving. 

"We know we've scored quite a few goals; of course, we need to be a better team defensively. 

"Certainly, the amount of goals we've conceded, even though we had 11 in the first three games, those three games almost don't count in my head because we were so far away from a Man United team in the preparation, no pre-season. 

"Even then, we've conceded too many goals, so we need to improve on that, definitely. And win tighter games: we've had many games against, you know, City, Chelsea, nil-nil, Liverpool nil-nil, so get the goals in those games. 

"We just have to focus and tick one game off at a time. The [next] three games are massive. We've got Chelsea just behind us, City a way in front of us, and we can't let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can't give Chelsea too much hope of catching us, either. 

"It's still 38 games for every team, so if you get a run, either good or bad, it might impact you. Of course, as a group and a culture, bouncing back for us after a couple of setbacks we've had, it's an important period. 

"But our group mentality is really good, and we look forward to these games. We know Thomas has come in, it's changed a little bit at Chelsea, so it's going to be a great challenge for us. 

"You can see the results, the stats, the possession they've had. They keep teams away from their goal, keep the possession. He's done really well. 

"It's never easy coming into a season halfway through, so he must be pleased as well. Hopefully, we can stop that run. That's my job now." 

With captain Harry Maguire rested, Eric Bailly produced a strong performance against Sociedad alongside Victor Lindelof, making three clearances and winning all four of his contested duels. 

"Both of them played well, so Eric and Victor and Harry, three very good centre-backs that I can rely on, and Axel [Tuanzebe] as well. I've got four to choose from," said Solskjaer, who has a decision to make for his team against Chelsea. 

"Sometimes it's the opposition, sometimes it's the form, sometimes it's little things. I think the two of them will keep on playing and they might be playing together as well." 

Anthony Martial endured another goalless outing, producing only one shot on target. The 25-year-old has now failed to score in 14 of his past 15 appearances in all competitions and has not found the net in his six games since scoring twice in the 9-0 demolition of Southampton. 

"Anthony knows what we want and Anthony's working really hard to do well for the team. That's what's pleasing me," Solskjaer added. 

"I see him every day in training. He's not going to sit down and wait for things to happen; he knows he has to make things happen for himself. 

"We encourage him, coach him, and we know he's got this quality and class. Everyone goes through a little difficult patch at the moment, or at times, and Anthony, I think we saw tonight, he's working harder and that's the main thing."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects Manchester United supporters to see plenty more of Shola Shoretire in the future after the 17-year-old's history-making appearance against Real Sociedad on Thursday. 

Shoretire, who made his senior debut in United's Premier League win over Newcastle United at the weekend, was introduced for the final 14 minutes of the 0-0 draw with La Real to become the Red Devil's youngest ever player in European competition at the age of 17 years and 23 days. 

He was unable to make much of an impact as United booked their Europa League last-16 spot with a 4-0 aggregate victory over their LaLiga opponents, but Solskjaer believes the club have a hugely promising player on their hands. 

"Shola will be a good player for us," the United boss said at a media conference. "Sometimes you need to test them against good players and we know Real Sociedad are a good team and have good individuals, who press. Shola and Amad [Diallo] will need introductions to this level. 

"He is a young kid that we believe in; he has a great attitude. You can see the shape of him, psychically he'll be an athlete. Technically, he's very good and he makes good decisions.

"He's grounded, he works hard in training and he's a likeable boy who we hope we can see loads of in the future."

Mikel Oyarzabal missed an early penalty for La Real after Daniel James had fouled Andoni Gorosabel inside the area as United extended their unbeaten run in the Europa League at Old Trafford to 15 matches. 

Solskajer acknowledged the importance of that miss – the first failed penalty attempt at Old Trafford against the home side since Everton's Leighton Baines in October 2014 – to the result, which ensured United have progressed from all five of their last-32 ties in the Europa League. 

"We played against a very good team," he added. "They got an early penalty and thankfully they missed it. We didn't want to go into half-time one or two goals down. Of course, we are pleased to get through unscathed.

"I felt the first 10-15 mins were a bit slow, but we played some good stuff in the first half. In the second half we were not good with the ball, but we defended well. It just proves how good the performance last week was."

United are next in action on Sunday when they travel to Thomas Tuchel's in-form Chelsea in the Premier League.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has encouraged Marcus Rashford to follow the example of Cristiano Ronaldo in order to make the most of his Manchester United career. 

February 25 marks five years since the forward's memorable debut for the Red Devils, when he scored twice in a 5-1 Europa League defeat of Midtjylland at Old Trafford. 

Having been drafted hastily into Louis van Gaal's first-team squad due to injuries and then thrust into the starting line-up when Anthony Martial was hurt in the warm-up, Rashford, then 18, struck twice in 12 minutes to help his side progress. 

Rashford has since developed into a key part of United and England's plans, with 85 goals and 38 assists in 253 games in all competitions at club level, plus 11 goals in 40 appearances for the national team. 

His strike in the 3-1 win over Newcastle United last Sunday drew him level with David Beckham for United goals, just 33 behind Ronaldo. 

Manager Solskjaer hopes Rashford takes inspiration from the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who leads the goalscoring charts in Serie A this season after turning 36 three weeks ago. 

Speaking ahead of Thursday's Europa League last-32 second leg against Real Sociedad, Solskjaer said: "He's had an incredible impact on and off the pitch. He's matured, grown into a real proper young man.

"He knows what it takes to be a Manchester United player on and off the pitch, he's taken responsibility on it and off it. I do remember [his debut]: a young little lad coming on, two nice goals, celebration with his team-mates in the stand and I think he's living proof of what we want to do at the club. 

"When you sign for Man United, whether you're five, six, 10, 14, you have a chance to make dreams come true and long may it continue, he's got 10-15 years left in him. 

"You have to be meticulous to last for a long career. We've had the best possible example of that in world football with Cristiano. The way he has looked after himself, the way he came into the club and we all took notice the way he developed throughout his career and the way he looked after himself is major. 

"I'm sure Marcus as well is looking after himself. That's the only way to be at the top: you can't get distracted and if you play until you're 35 you can do whatever you want after that." 

Rashford scored in United's commanding first-leg victory in Turin, a result that puts them in a strong position to progress to the last 16. 

With Edinson Cavani, Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Donny van de Beek sidelined and a Premier League game at Chelsea to come on Sunday, Solskjaer could well hand opportunities to youngsters such as Shola Shoretire and Amad Diallo, although Hannibal Mejbri will miss out through injury.

"Amad and Shola will be involved, they're in the squad and I'm not going to tell you if they're starting or not," he said.

"I believe in the youth, I believe if young players, if they get a chance, they can really develop, improve, impress, even surprise you and that's just part of this club and it's part of me.

"I've always loved working with young players and hungry players with a good attitude. If you've got a good attitude, you've got a good chance; if you don't, then there's less of a chance."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still speaks to Erling Haaland and said "let's see what life brings" when asked about the striker's future.

The Norway star was a target for the Red Devils before he joined Borussia Dortmund from Salzburg in January 2020.

Haaland's progress in Germany has been remarkable, the 20-year-old having scored 27 goals in all competitions this season, second only to Robert Lewandowski among Bundesliga players.

Clubs including United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich continue to be linked with a bid for the player, who scored twice against Sevilla last week to become the first player in Champions League history to reach as many as 17 goals in his first 13 appearances.

Solskjaer is still in touch with a youngster who progressed through the system at Molde and is proud of the way he has developed.

"I think when you've had kids and players through as a coach you follow them, and I keep in touch with Erling," he said on Wednesday. "It's great to see him become the player he has become and I know he will improve.

"He's a Dortmund player and we wish him well there. Let's see what life will bring later on."

When pushed further on interest in Haaland last year and how well that reflects on United's recruitment efforts under Solskjaer, he said: "You know I can't speak about Erling because he's with Borussia Dortmund and it's disrespectful to talk too much about it, apart from that I know him and speak to him.

"Who wasn't interested in him a year ago? Everyone would say you take the best players in the world and he's a top player.

"In recruitment, we've done well. The signings we've made since I came to the club have contributed and added to the squad and that's what we have to do: we have to complement what we have with different types of players. I'm happy with our recruitment model and the processes we go through."

United are expected to sanction more outgoings in the next transfer window, with Juan Mata, whose contract expires at the end of the season, among those tipped to leave.

Although United have the option to extend the 32-year-old's deal by a further year, he has only started eight times in 2020-21 and has recently been linked with Serie A giants Juventus, Milan and Inter.

"I'm not surprised teams are interested in him," Solskjaer said. "He's a very good footballer, and a fantastic professional and human being.

"When the contracts are running towards the end, there'll be interest. I'm sure Juan has been able to speak to other clubs if he wanted to.

"I keep in touch with him all the time. We have a good dialogue."

Erling Haaland can be a star for the next decade but only 10 clubs are realistically in the running to buy the striker when he leaves Borussia Dortmund, according to Mino Raiola.

The Norway international has been prolific since joining the Bundesliga club midway through the 2019-20 season, soring 43 goals in as many appearances in all competitions.

Only Robert Lewandowski (56) at Bayern Munich and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo (50) have managed more for a team in the top five European leagues since the start of January last year – and Haaland is still only 20. His minutes-per-goal average of 79.51 is better than both, though.

Haaland's contract at Dortmund is rumoured to include an agreement allowing him to leave for a €75million fee at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

In an interview with BBC Sport, Raiola - who is the player's agent - explained why the list of potential buyers only just reaches double figures, with four possible destinations in the Premier League.

"It is obvious that everybody is looking at Erling as one of those potential new future stars because it's so difficult to do what he does at his age at his level," Raiola said.

"He will be one of the future stars of the next decade because we see that stars such as [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo and [Lionel] Messi are coming to an age where everyone asks themselves: 'How long can we still enjoy them?' So everyone is looking for the new generation.

"Only a maximum of 10 clubs can afford to buy [Haaland] and give the platform you would like after you've been in Dortmund… and four of those clubs are in [England].

"I don't think there's a sports director or trainer in the world who would say 'not interested'. It's like saying: 'Is there a Formula 1 team who would not be interested in having Lewis Hamilton?'"

Raiola made clear he does not expect the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic to have an impact on "extraordinary talents" such as Haaland and Paul Pogba, another of his clients.

He caused a stir in December when suggesting ahead of Manchester United's crucial Champions League game with RB Leipzig that the midfielder was not happy at Old Trafford, making a contract extension appear unlikely.

United lost that game in Germany, a result that saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side miss out on the knockout stages of the competition.

"I don't think that it destabilised anybody, because they had a fantastic run and they were even first, for a period, in the league," Raiola said of his comments.

"You think big players like Pogba - or Solskjaer, who won everything in his life - get destabilised by what Mino Raiola says? Come on, please."

Romelu Lukaku has revealed how training sessions at Inter are like a war zone, as well as making clear he wishes "nothing but the best" for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

Lukaku offered Twitter followers the chance to send in questions via social media – and the striker duly replied to a wide range of topics during the session, one that he moved forward to make sure he was free to play NBA 2K later on Tuesday.

The Belgian striker has once again been pivotal for the Serie A leaders this season, scoring 17 goals to help the Nerazzurri stride four points clear at the summit in their pursuit of a first league title since 2010.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was known for a combative approach during his playing days and, according to Lukaku, he will not accept seeing any of his squad hold back – even when they're facing each other!

Asked to name the hardest player to go up against in training, the 27-year-old replied: "Training is actually a war zone. Our manager don't play lol. He doesn't like it when we hold in haha. I love it."

Former Chelsea and Manchester United striker Lukaku has formed a successful forward partnership with Lautaro Martinez, who struck twice in the emphatic 3-0 win over city rivals Milan to take his tally in the league this season to 13.

Lukaku was also on target at San Siro on Sunday, in the process becoming the first Inter player to score in four successive derby meetings since 1950.

"Communication is key! We have a great feel for each other but most importantly we work for the team!" Lukaku tweeted about his on-field connection with Martinez.

Before moving to Italy, Lukaku spent time with four different Premier League clubs.

He started out in England as a teenager with Chelsea and first seriously caught the eye when on loan at West Brom and then Everton, who then signed him for £28million.

Despite being unable to make a significant breakthrough at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku insisted he had "nothing but love" for the Blues, saying: "They gave me an opportunity to come to the Premier League as a kid. You can't have everything in life and I'm cool with that. I'm glad that experience got me to where I am today."

There were also kind words for his former United boss in Solskjaer, who was in charge when Lukaku departed Old Trafford in August 2019.

When asked if he had a good relationship with the Norwegian, Lukaku responded: "He is doing great. You guys have to know I love him as a manager and as a person and I wish him nothing but the best."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Manchester United will focus only on themselves while preparing for any "surprises" in the Premier League run-in.

United beat Newcastle United 3-1 on Sunday to stay second, ahead of Leicester City on goal difference but 10 points behind runaway leaders Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's City would appear clear favourites for the title having capitalised on United's slip-ups over the past month.

Prior to seeing off Newcastle with goals from Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes, Solskjaer's side had just one win in five league matches.

But victory at Old Trafford, where United have lost to Newcastle only once in the Premier League era, got the Red Devils back on track and maintained their outside interest in the championship.

"We can't control any other team; we've just got to control ourselves and be the best possible Man United every single game," Solskjaer told BT Sport.

"That's the demands, the season is going to be demanding. You never know - things happen. There are many surprises in football."

Allan Saint-Maximin equalised six minutes after Rashford's opener and Newcastle finished the first half having had more attempts (six) than United (five).

Indeed, David de Gea finished the match with more saves (five) than opposite number Karl Darlow (four), but Solskjaer was much happier with the second-half display.

"We had to up the tempo a little bit – especially in the last third – and I felt we managed to do that," the manager said.

"It's always difficult after an away game in Europe to get going. We've had enough games this season. It took until half-time really.

"Even though we dominated possession and had all the ball, we still couldn't create too many big opportunities.

"It was about moving the ball quicker, be a bit clever in our positioning, and I felt second half we found our positions better – and some good goals."

The decisive goal came from James, who improved his tally to five for the season in all competitions.

Those strikes have come from just 13 outings, while the Wales winger netted only four times in 46 games in 2019-20.

After reaping the rewards of James' first league start of 2021, Solskjaer added: "He's never disappeared. He's been working hard behind the scenes, always been available.

"He's always a player that you can use in a few different positions with his energy and pace. He's learning the game, so I'm very happy for him.

"We worked with him. We try to help everyone, but of course, Dan came from the Championship up to Man United, hit a few goals in the first games, it's bound to take some energy away from you, all the headlines and media attention.

"But he's knuckled down and he's really worked to get back to full fitness and, maybe more so, confidence to believe in himself.

"That's the main thing. As soon as you come away from that little doubt, now he knows he's a good player."

Members of Manchester United's coaching staff have been forced to self-isolate but Sunday's Premier League game against Newcastle United will go ahead as planned.

United announced unnamed members of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's backroom staff are isolating in a brief statement.

The club did not disclose whether or not the personnel in question had tested positive for coronavirus.

Nicky Butt and Mark Dempsey will join Solskjaer on the Old Trafford bench for the Newcastle game.

Assistant manager Mike Phelan and first-team coaches Michael Carrick and Kieran McKenna are usually the main members of the United boss' matchday support staff.

United are second in the Premier League, 10 points behind leaders Manchester City, who travel to Arsenal earlier on Sunday.

Manchester United's opening-day 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace was a chastening reminder of the team's frailties, but there was a somewhat surprising voice behind the subsequent call-to-action for the club's hierarchy.

Luke Shaw provided undoubtedly the most honest assessment of the situation among United players, this from a player who had rarely come across as a natural leader during his time at the club.

"We have a very good group, but personally I think we need more players to strengthen the squad," he told Norway's TV2. "It can give us a boost. When you look around at how other teams are strengthening their teams, then we must also do it to keep up with the others."

Perhaps the fact he wasn't speaking to a British outlet resulted in a more relaxed, open response from Shaw, who then also went on to criticise their pre-season.

But it was a new, authoritative look for a player who has always seemingly preferred to keep away from the media spotlight, and few United fans would have disagreed with him.

What happened next, however, he probably didn't expect – among the four players signed on deadline day in October was a new left-back, a Brazil international with the kind of attack-minded profile many had hoped Shaw would develop at United.

While Shaw definitely showed signs of progress in 2019-20, Alex Telles' arrival was the clearest sign that his position was no longer assured – he needed to respond.

 

A SHAW THING

The fact Telles has made just six Premier League starts in his debut season at Old Trafford is as good a starting point as any when highlighting Shaw's improved standing, and in fairness to the new signing, he's hardly put a foot wrong.

Telles has looked a solid acquisition and certainly fits the bill as a forward-thinking full-back who is also capable defensively, but Shaw has reached a level he has arguably never shown before in his career.

As an attacking outlet, Shaw's output has improved almost across the board, as such he has made himself almost undroppable.

 

His five assists is already a personal high for a Premier League season, having only managed seven in total before 2020-21, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. He is creating 2.3 chances per 90 minutes, which is up from one last term and well clear of his previous best of 1.2 each game for an entire campaign.

Undoubtedly one reason for that is the fact he is taking more set-pieces, yet his average of 1.4 open play chances created per 90 minutes remains a frequency he has never matched before over the course of a season, proving his increased familiarity with dead-ball duties isn't skewing the data.

A quick glance at his average position activity maps shows his involvement in the left-hand channel of the attacking third is up on each of the past two seasons, as well as his final year with Southampton.

 

This shows Shaw is embracing greater attacking responsibility, and where that is reflected most is the number of passes (including crosses) he is playing into the box each game (7.4). His last season with Saints had been his best in this regard (4.4), yet he's way up on that, and his productivity here is more than two-and-a-half times what it was in 2019-20 (2.9).

Shaw's early days with Southampton appeared to promise much. Finally, he appears to be back on track, not that it's been smooth sailing.

 

COPING, OUTLASTING, PROGRESSING

Shaw's relationship with Jose Mourinho became something of a distraction at times during the Portuguese's ill-fated reign.

Granted, Shaw wasn't the only player Mourinho seemed to have a problem with, but his treatment of Shaw in particular did leave a sour taste.

In two-and-a-half years playing for Mourinho, Shaw only made 33 Premier League appearances. While he did have injury and fitness problems, the manager's attitude seemingly did little to endear himself to the player.

Mourinho publicly criticised him after a 2016 defeat to Watford, saying: "For the second goal, [Nordin] Amrabat on the right side, our left-back is 25 metres distance from him, instead of five metres. But even at 25 metres, then you have to jump and go press. But no, we wait."

Mourinho then used Shaw's positive performance against Everton in 2017 against him. He said: "He had a good performance, but it was his body with my brain. He was in front of me and I was making every decision for him."

This isn't to say Shaw has been faultless this season. In fact, his defensive focus has been questionable at times in 2020-21, such as against Tottenham and Manchester City, for example.

But it's fair to say the greater attacking impetus he is showing this term compared to under Mourinho means he is more than making up for the occasional defensive lapse, and it's not like he's being beaten time after time – on average Shaw is dribbled past once every two games, the second lowest frequency for a single season in his entire career.

The difference? Well, according to the man himself, belief and competition.

"I feel really good, obviously big credit to Ole for that for believing in me and pushing me," Shaw said last month. "Alex [Telles] as well, we have a great relationship and he pushes me each day in training. We get on really well. It's nice to have that type of competition, but we push each other to get the best from ourselves. When he plays, I want the best for him, and it's the same the other way round. It's a positive way for both of us to look at it and push each other."

 

THE BEST?

There was a time – not even that long ago – when the very suggestion of Shaw being among the Premier League's best full-backs would have drawn a chuckle of derision in response.

Granted, across the four seasons prior to 2020-21, Shaw's best record of open play chances created per 90 minutes was 0.2, but there can be no doubt he is now at least in the conversation.

 

Liverpool's Andy Robertson is generally seen as the standard-bearer for left-backs in England's top flight, and Shaw compares well from an attacking sense with the Scotland international.

Shaw's 40 chances created this term is one more than Robertson, while the latter is just ahead in terms of key passes in open play (29 to 24) – though the United man has made 20 appearances to his rival's 24.

Robertson is proving a more regular source of service, with his 213 passes into the box and 201 total crosses/corners far more than Shaw's respective numbers (129 and 105), but the United left-back's deliveries are far more reliable.

Shaw's 37 successful crosses/corners is just five fewer than Robertson despite playing almost half the amount of overall deliveries.

But what really highlights Shaw's growth is his xA (expected assists) figures. His xA per 90, so the amount of assists he would ordinarily be expected to get per game, is 0.21 in 2020-21. Not only is that better than his previous best by some distance (0.12), Joao Cancelo (0.24) is the only full-back doing better here this term.

 

Shaw has made himself almost indispensable to United, his influence all the more important given Aaron Wan-Bissaka isn't particularly refined as an attacking outlet and they very rarely play with conventional wingers on either flank.

Therefore, Shaw offers the kind of threat from the wings that arguably no one else in the United squad does – and as his xA record shows, he is proving a consistent danger that marks him out as one of the league's best.

After being plagued by questions relating to his mentality for years, it's fair to say he is responding in the ideal fashion, with Telles' signing seemingly an important catalyst.

While it might be a little early to declare him outright the Premier League's best, his current trajectory at least shows that to be a realistic aim.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims Dean Henderson is "maturing all the time" as the England international takes small steps towards dislodging David de Gea as Manchester United's first-choice goalkeeper.

The Premier League matchday gloves have gone to De Gea on a regular basis for coming up to 10 years at United, often even when the Spaniard's reliability has been called into question.

Henderson had a short run in the side late last year, starting twice in the league after De Gea took a knock that forced him to be substituted at Southampton.

But De Gea quickly returned to favour once fit and has remained Solskjaer's go-to goalkeeper for domestic league games, with Henderson mostly picking up appearances in the FA Cup, EFL Cup and the occasional European match.

A clean sheet against Real Sociedad, as United won 4-0 in the Europa League on Thursday, was exactly what Henderson would have wanted.

It led to questions about why the goalkeeper who shone on loan for Sheffield United last season is not getting more opportunities with the Red Devils.

Former United midfield star Paul Scholes said on BT Sport: "Ole must know he's a quality keeper but does he have the trust in him that he's better than David de Gea at the minute? I don't think he does. Because with the mistakes David made, he would have been in if he had full trust in him."

Solskjaer is keen to praise both Henderson and De Gea, but it would be a major shock if it was the former who lined up against Newcastle United in the Premier League this Sunday.

"Of course Dean is in with a shout," Solskjaer said in the wake of the Sociedad game. "He was clean in his handling, clean in his performance, so it was a good performance.

"He's maturing all the time, but I have a very good goalkeeper in David and he saved us against West Brom.

"I always speak to the players first before I say who's not playing so they'll know."

Henderson this season has a save percentage of 76.92, far exceeding De Gea's modest 61.70 per cent.

De Gea kept out 71.97 per cent of shots last season, and his percentage this term is far worse than for any campaign since joining United in 2011 from Atletico Madrid. A 2013-14 rate of 68.57 per cent ranks as his lowest save percentage for a full season.

Englishman Henderson has played in only 12 games this season, against De Gea's 27 matches, and the opposition has at times been more modest, but those figures suggest United may soon be wise to make a change.

Henderson has conceded nine times and De Gea has been beaten 36 times.

A strong performance last time out in the 1-1 draw at West Brom, as Solskjaer mentioned, has made De Gea difficult to drop for now.

But United are working on Henderson's game, looking for the marginal gains that can advance his career.

When it comes to distributing the ball to players within his own half, Henderson has a 90.29 per cent accuracy rate this season, compared to 88.32 from De Gea.

However, the Spaniard is proving more adept at finding team-mates in the opposition half, topping Henderson by 31.03 per cent to 16.42 per cent in that category.

An early chance for Marcus Rashford against Sociedad came from a kick upfield by Henderson that gave the striker a chance to run behind the Spanish team's defence.

It was no fluke that the goalkeeper almost created a goal, with United encouraging Henderson to strengthen that area of his game.

"He was very solid, good kicking and could have - should have - had an assist for Marcus," Solskjaer said, "which is another thing we worked on."

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