Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has no concerns over Bruno Fernandes' form or fitness ahead of the clash with Fulham.

Fernandes has not registered a goal or an assist in his last three appearances for the Premier League leaders.

He showed his frustration when being substituted late in Sunday's 0-0 draw against champions Liverpool at Anfield.

Much has been made of United's reliance on Fernandes and how much of a risk it would be to rest him.

And Solskjaer has no plans to do that ahead of the away game with Fulham on Wednesday, having launched a staunch defence of the Portugal international's recent displays.

"His form is very good, he was just voted [Premier League] Player of the Month," Solskjaer said about Fernandes.

"He is not tired, no, no chance. 

"He is one of the players that runs and covers the ground every single game, very good at recovering, very good at recharging his batteries.

"If he scored his free-kick [against Liverpool], if it just had a little air on the ball when Luke [Shaw] put the cross in, he would have been lauded as best player in Premier League again.

"Since he came in, he's been absolutely immense. He is not tired and if I ask him he will say there is no chance he is tired."

Fernandes only completed 11 of his 20 passes in the Liverpool half on Sunday and crafted a solitary chance, but Solskjaer believes such performances come with the territory when a player shoulders so much of a team's creative burden.

"He is expected to create goals, score goals and sometimes the margins are against him," he said. "That free-kick, thought that was in, some passes he plays are marginal, on or offside.

"So he's always on the verge of creating something even when he loses the ball.

"That's the position I want him in and what he's been told to do, he has to be the creative one. I want him to play the passes he sees."

United are unbeaten in their past 11 league games against Fulham and have scored 29 goals in the process.

The have also not lost any of their previous eight Premier League matches against promoted sides, winning six of them.

But Solskjaer is wary of a team who have improved since a miserable start to the season, drawing with Liverpool and Tottenham recently as well as running Chelsea close with 10 men.

"I think they have had a good turnaround from a slow start," he said.

"They have made some very good signings towards the end of the window and they are very well coached. 

"Scott [Parker] and the team trust their own organisation, team shape, and it is one of the hardest teams to break down.

"It's hard enough to go to Craven Cottage anyway but at the moment they are really well structured on and off the ball, quick strong players defensively and players that can make the difference."

United are the only side without an away defeat in the Premier League so far this season, having won seven of their nine games. 

Solskjaer's men have the most points (23) and have scored the most goals (22) on the road in the top flight this term.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WERE UNITED OVER-CAUTIOUS?

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

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

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

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

PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"They cannot be underdogs."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manchester United have been so reliant on "fantastic" Bruno Fernandes that it can lead to inconsistent results and performances, according to John Barnes.

Fernandes has made an incredible impact for United since signing from Sporting CP a year ago and was on Friday named Premier League Player of the Month for a fourth time.

That was the first occasion any player has won the award four times in a single calendar year.

Fernandes will again be central to United's chances as they travel to Anfield to face champions Liverpool on Sunday holding a surprise three-point lead at the top of the table.

Liverpool great Barnes believes similarities can be drawn to the Reds side which ran through Philippe Coutinho and believes having one star dominating the ball does not always lead to the best results.

Barnes also feels there are signs United are adapting in their ongoing 11-game unbeaten run in the Premier League but believes the presence of Fernandes can still detract from other stars like Paul Pogba.

His views came after being asked whether Fernandes' signing was similar to that of Liverpool landing defender Virgil van Dijk.

"They have done it in a different way," Barnes said to Stats Perform News.

"Fernandes has come and he has dominated the game – Virgil doesn't dominate the game, doesn't dominate the midfield players or the front three, he doesn't want the ball all the time.

"He's not the focal point of the way we play, he calms them down psychologically but he isn't, 'Give me the ball, I'm going to do everything'.

"That's not what Virgil does, he gives enough sense of security, whereas that is what Fernandes does. 

"I suppose that probably adds to the inconsistency [for United]. It's a bit like when Coutinho was at Liverpool, when you have a player who's going to be a number 10, or a ball player who dominates.

"All the attacking impetus of the team - the ball has to go through him all the time. It takes away from the other players - maybe other players feel 'Every time we get the ball, we have to look for Fernandes'.

"Then what's going to happen to Pogba, [Anthony] Martial, [Marcus] Rashford and all these other players who also want to be the main player.

"So he does it in a different way and in many respects, I think that has probably added to the inconsistency of Man United because when he doesn't do it, or when he's not playing, United do miss him. 

"They miss him physically in terms of what he actually gives them. Whereas Liverpool miss Van Dijk psychologically. 

"The way Manchester United physically play is really dictated to by Fernandes. 

"Sometimes it really detracts from Pogba because Pogba wants to do that, and then you have got Martial and all the players who also want to get involved in that."

Barnes believes if Barcelona's Coutinho was to return to Liverpool it would not necessarily improve the team, despite his quality.

He added: "I'd liken it to Coutinho coming back which people talk about.

"Coutinho would be fantastic - the team wouldn't, because it will all be about him being the main player, getting man of the match and people saying he's the reason why we're winning because of the way he plays. 

"Fernandes is a fantastic player. And I think of late, if you look at him, I think he's become much more of a team player than he was early on. 

"That's probably helped him at Manchester United because you can see Pogba, you can see Rashford and Martial.

"In his first 13, 14 games, it was all about him [Fernandes], which meant that he was playing well, but Man United were inconsistent. So maybe they have addressed that."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists a Manchester United win at Liverpool on Sunday would be a "shock" despite his team going into the match ahead of the Reds at the Premier League summit.

United and Liverpool have not faced each other as the Premier League's top two since April 1997. While Tottenham and Leicester City could potentially move above Jurgen Klopp's men before they clash at Anfield, it still highlights how rare it has been for both clubs to be fighting near the summit at the same time.

Liverpool were the last team to inflict an away defeat on United in the Premier League, as they emerged 2-0 victors in January last year - the Red Devils have since gone 15 unbeaten on the road, drawing just twice.

At that point, Liverpool moved 30 points clear of United in the league, but this time around require a victory to just go level with them.

But for all the positivity and momentum sweeping through United, Solskjaer is remaining reserved and realistic, putting the pressure back on Liverpool as he is adamant an away win would be an upset given the fact the Reds have not lost in their past 67 home league games, a run that stretches back to April 2017.

"The next one is always the biggest, most important," Solskjaer told reporters when asked if this was the biggest game of his managerial career.

"Being of course where we are in the league, that gives us more confidence, it's a sign, indication of where we're at.

"But it's a game versus the champions, they've an amazing record at Anfield, not lost there in the league for many years, so it's a great test for us. Can we go there and cause an upset?"

Solskjaer was pressed on that assertion again soon after, with the Norwegian asked if it could really be considered a shock if a United side top of the league beat Liverpool.

"If you look at the last few seasons, it would be an upset, it would be a shock," he insisted.

"I think our position at the moment is a product of all the hard work we have done in the training ground, what the players are putting down every single day.

"We probably deserve to be where we are at the moment, but I don't think many would have thought of another word [other than upset] for us beating Liverpool at Anfield if you go six weeks back. But we are looking forward to it and hopefully we can cause an upset."

Solskjaer also addressed the gulf in points between the sides after their previous meeting, suggesting it was an unfair reflection of the difference between the two.

However, he believes his side is far better equipped 12 months on.

"Of course, we're a much better side now than a year ago but then we lost that game to a [Virgil] van Dijk header from a corner and counter-attack at the last kick of the game from our corner," he said.

"So, I don't think we were a million miles away from them then either, I think that's a misperception that people said that. We did have some moments in that game ourselves.

"Of course, the league position shows we are competitive, we are up there with six, seven or eight other teams, it's a tighter season this year. The last few years there have been two teams running away with it by the end of October, now at least we are in it, so we're halfway."

John Barnes has cast doubt on whether Manchester United can sustain the form that has taken them to the Premier League summit ahead of Sunday's huge clash with Liverpool.

The Anfield battle between the long-time rivals gives United an opportunity to pull six points clear of Jurgen Klopp's men, which is a scenario few envisaged even a matter of weeks ago.

Nine wins and two draws in 11 games means United have soared from a lowly standing to the top of the table, yet Liverpool legend Barnes believes one setback could trigger a slide.

He compared Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team to Mikel Arteta's inconsistent Arsenal, and expressed confidence it will be Manchester City and Liverpool who finish the season as the top two in England.

"I think it's too early to say for Manchester United," Barnes told Stats Perform News.

"Because of course, remember when Ole first came after 13 games, they felt that everything was okay. Then they went through a period. And of course, they're very similar now, whereby they're being inconsistent, as much as inconsistency can be being top of the league, with going out of the Champions League.

"But I think that they're showing a resilience that even if they don't play well, they can get results, which is the sign of championship contenders.

"But very much like if you look at Arsenal, and winning one or two games and all of a sudden everything's rosy for Mikel Arteta, lose one or two games and everything will be all doom and gloom.

"I think Manchester United are similar. I still see Man City as our biggest challengers for the title, I still think us and Man City will be first and second.

"Man United are in a good moment now. But will that harmony continue, knowing that one or two bad performances or defeats, well then the old questions about Ole again, the old questions about [Paul] Pogba?

"You need to get rid of all of those of uncertainties if you really want to push for the league, but at the moment, they're doing really well."

Barnes added: "We know what we're going to get from Liverpool. But the intangible is we don't know what we're going to get from Man United."

Sunday's game will be Klopp's 200th Premier League match as Liverpool manager, and Barnes says he has "improved them beyond measure", even if the recent dip in form has cast some doubt over their prospects of back-to-back titles.

Two points from a possible nine since Christmas has been a worrying twist in Liverpool's campaign.

Barnes said: "We're going through a phase now but we'll come out of it. We were top of the league until Man United went above us. So if this is what's being called having a blip, whereby we can go back top of the league if we beat Manchester United, long may this continue.

"I think we've just become so spoiled and expecting Liverpool to be scoring every weekend, beating everybody 5-0, that when they don't, everyone sees that as a bit of an issue."

The goals have dried up in the league since a 7-0 drubbing of Crystal Palace on December 19, with the front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino looking to sharpen up their form.

"I have no fears that those three players will start to score goals," Barnes said. "And we'll be where we should be in the coming weeks and months."

Manchester United are top of the Premier League at this stage of the season for the first time since Alex Ferguson's final year in charge.

Few would have predicted such a turn of events when United fell to a tame 1-0 loss against Arsenal at Old Trafford on November 1.

Since then, though, United have gone on an 11-match unbeaten run in the league that contained nine victories, including the 1-0 away win over Burnley on Tuesday.

As a result, they sit three points clear of Premier League champions Liverpool ahead of their huge trip to Anfield on Sunday.

We have used Opta data to look at who has performed best, both for United and across the league, during this resurgent period for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

IMPRESSIVE ATTACKING STATS

United have conceded a respectable 11 goals in as many matches, but it is their attacking play which is really separating them from the pack.

They have scored 25 goals in those 11 games, five more than anyone else in the league. Liverpool are next with 20, though they have played one game fewer, followed by Leeds United and Leicester City (both 18).

United have racked up 122 attempts at goal, which is second-best in the league – only Leeds (132) rank higher.

And United's efforts have been more accurate, as they have the most shots on target (72), well clear of Leeds and Liverpool (both 56).

BRUNO AND RASHFORD STAND OUT

It will surprise few to learn that Bruno Fernandes has been United's best performer over the past 11 games, just as he has been since his debut a year ago.

He has scored eight goals for United in the 11-match period, with the next best contributors being the impressive Marcus Rashford (five) and new arrival Edinson Cavani (three).

Fernandes also comes out on top for assists with five. Rashford again follows closely with three, which is also the tally registered by Anthony Martial.

Once again Fernandes (27) and Rashford (24) both come out on top when it comes to shots, with Martial also generating a good number of attempts (22).

As you might expect, that trio subsequently fare best when it comes to attempts on target, with Fernandes (18) ahead of Rashford and Martial (both 14).

The Portugal international has 316 successful passes in the opposition half over those 11 games. Rashford (221) is second and a welcome sight for United is Paul Pogba (195) coming next in the list.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who asssisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

A continued renaissance for Pogba, particularly if Solskjaer can get him more involved in offensive areas, could provide United with an x-factor in addition to the consistent numbers being produced by Fernandes and Rashford, who assisted the World Cup winner's goal against Burnley.

Fernandes leads United for chances created over the 11 matches with 34. Improving full-back Luke Shaw is a surprise second with 17, followed by Martial and Rashford (12).

FERNANDES IN ELITE COMPANY

The eight goals scored by Fernandes since November 2 puts him two clear of the next best in the league, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah (six).

Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (six) just edges him for assists and is the only man with a higher number across all Premier League teams during that span.

When the metrics are adjusted to calculate contributions per 90 minutes spent on the pitch, some other United players come to the fore

Fernandes and Cavani (0.79) fare best for United in a tie for fifth for goals per 90 minutes, with Aston Villa star Anwar El Ghazi, who has been on a hot streak, topping the list on 0.94.

Everton's Lucas Digne is averaging one assist per 90 minutes over the period, though his sample size is a little smaller after missing time for injury.

De Bruyne averages 0.67 assists per 90 minutes, while United's top player in the category is Cavani on 0.53, ahead of Fernandes on a still impressive 0.49.

That suggests Cavani, despite his relatively quiet return from suspension at Turf Moor, could have more to offer than just goals and an aerial threat if deployed regularly as a number nine.

When it comes to shots on target, Martial is in a tie for third in the Premier League with Fernandes (both 1.78 per 90).

The rampant El Ghazi (2.99) and resurgent Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette (2.04) top the charts during the timeframe.

Perhaps surprisingly it is Nemanja Matic who averages the most completed passes in the opposition half per game among United players (34.11).

Liverpool duo Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones are ranking as the league's best in that category since November 2 at 52.86 and 48.28 respectively.

With chances created, Fernandes (fourth, 3.36 per 90 minutes) and Shaw (eighth, 2.88) both come out well.

But it is reported United target Jack Grealish (4.22) who has been far and away the most creative player in the top flight over the period.

It is clear the form and fitness of Fernandes will continue to be imperative to United's hopes of sustaining a serious title challenge.

But if Rashford, Martial, Cavani, Pogba and Shaw can build on their positive contributions during their surge to the top in support of Fernandes, the goals should be able to keep flowing.

If they do and a positive result at Anfield leads to a six-point advantage, perhaps fans can dare to dream.

Manchester United players can sense they have a chance to make this a special season, says Gary Neville.

Paul Pogba scored a volley with 19 minutes remaining on Tuesday to give United a 1-0 away victory over Burnley.

That moved them top of the Premier League, three points clear of champions Liverpool ahead of the two teams' crunch clash at Anfield on Sunday.

Former United captain Neville believes Liverpool are in for an uncomfortable few days and urged fans of the Red Devils to relish their return to the summit.

The last time United were top at this stage of the season was in 2012-13, Alex Ferguson's last season which ended in title glory.

"I believe these players feel they can have a really special season," Neville said to Sky Sports.

"It's odd, it's changing every single week, you don't know what is going to happen - there's an element of unpredictability and Manchester United could exploit that.

"It's a big win, to go top of the league before Sunday feels like a big moment. Six to eight weeks ago you wouldn't have thought Manchester United would have been anywhere near this position.

"Yet, now, they find themselves with something building, the spirit is growing as you could see with the way they celebrated with each other.

"Some performances haven't been great all the time away from home but they have won when they haven't been at their best. It's a little bit more exciting and l am going to enjoy these next three or four days!

"I don't think anyone is saying Manchester United will win the league but the fact that they are in a title fight - wow! I never would have imagined it.

"It's a strange season. Why shouldn't Manchester United fans believe? Why shouldn't this side believe? Look at the front three, that midfield four, Bruno Fernandes - they have some fantastic players.

"The other teams aren't in great form. Man City are sitting there cool and calm, nobody is really talking about them, but they are hitting very good form and that is a real danger. 

"But in the next few days it is time to have a little bit of fun. It won't be a comfortable few days for Liverpool."

Neville added: "We know full well how quickly this season has turned around: it was Chelsea four weeks ago and Man United looked dead, but it is all turning around again.

"It shouldn't stop Manchester United fans get carried away in the next few days. Why shouldn't they? It's been a really difficult few years." 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted United are ready for the challenge of facing Liverpool.

"It's a brilliant position to be in," said the United manager.

"Of course we know we're going to the champions who have had an unbelievable three-and-a-half-seasons, we know it's going to be a difficult game for us, but we are ready for it.

"We couldn't have asked for a better time to play them because we are in good shape, good form and hungry. These boys want to get better and that's the test of their character and quality.

"Of course, we enjoy being [top of the league] at any time, be that the first game or the last game, which is a big, big difference. We're looking forward to it, it's a great test of where we're at.

"We're almost halfway through the season so it's a little bit of an indication of where you're at, but no one will remember the league table on January 12."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer feels Manchester United are "getting better and better" after edging past Burnley 1-0 on Tuesday to move top of the Premier League.

Paul Pogba made the breakthrough at Turf Moor 19 minutes from time to move United three points clear of Liverpool ahead of Sunday's showdown between the bitter rivals.

It is the first time the Red Devils have occupied top spot this deep into the season since December 2012 in Sir Alex Ferguson's final campaign in charge.

United head to Anfield as the division's only unbeaten side on their travels this term, winning seven out of eight, while going further back they are 15 without defeat away from home in the league.

And after seeing his side win for a ninth time in 11 unbeaten matches overall in the top flight, Solskjaer wants his side to take on the reigning champions with no fear.

"We are getting better and better. We're almost halfway through the season but nobody will remember the league table on January 12," he told BBC Sport.

"We feel very confident going into games. Away from home we have really done well. We have to believe in ourselves and we do. 

"We've done a great job - it's good times for us. It's going to be a test against the champions, who have been fantastic, That's a great test for us."

Speaking to Sky Sports, Solskjaer added: "They've had an unbelievable three seasons so we're ready for it. 

"But we're ready and we're excited, we're hungry for it and it's a test of character and quality again. We're in a good position going into it."

Despite their impressive away form, the clean sheet against Burnley was United's first on their travels this season in the league, conceding 11 in their previous seven outings.

The visitors dominated a game in which their opponents failed to register a single attempt on target, though it looked as though it may be a frustrating day until Pogba converted Marcus Rashford's cross.

A couple of controversial VAR calls went against United in the first half, including Harry Maguire's header being disallowed for a perceived challenge on Erik Pieters.

That made the eventual victory all the more pleasing for Solskjaer, even if the scoreline was tighter than he would have liked.

"Frustrations were there for everyone to see - it affected our performance," he said. "We can't let that happen. Harry's goal was a perfectly good one. Half-time helped us. We came out second half really well and deserved the win.

"I'd rather win 4-0 - it's so much more comfortable. At 1-0 you have to see out one or two big moments. They pegged us back, you expect that. But we put our body on the line, of course the mentality is getting better. I'm very pleased with the spirit."

Pogba's last seven Premier League goals have all come away from home, this latest strike taking his tally for the season to four in all competitions.

"I've always said Paul is a big player for us," Solskjaer said. "He's a good character in the dressing room, someone the lads look to, a world champion. 

"We're seeing the best of Paul at the moment - he's been injured and he's had COVID so it's natural to need to get back to fitness after that."

Paul Pogba volleyed in the winning goal as Manchester United moved top of the Premier League by winning 1-0 at Burnley.

United only needed a point on Tuesday to move above champions Liverpool ahead of the two teams' crunch clash at Anfield this weekend.

But the resurgent Pogba converted Marcus Rashford's cross with 19 minutes left to ensure United moved three points clear of their great rivals.

Burnley defended well but did not manage a single shot on target, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side had a first-half goal Harry Maguire goal disallowed.

The hosts went close early on when Eric Bailly made a key block to divert Chris Wood's effort away from David de Gea's goal.

Anthony Martial fired off target when a presentable chance was given to him by Nemanja Matic before VAR took centre stage.

After a long review, Robbie Brady's foul on Edinson Cavani just outside the area was rescinded and Luke Shaw was booked for a foul on Johann Gudmundsson earlier in the move, with Burnley calling for a red.

Maguire impressively headed in a Shaw cross only for a foul to be awarded for his duel with Erik Pieters. Nick Pope then impressively kept out a Martial curler to ensure the first half ended goalless.

A golden opportunity went begging after the break when Cavani scuffed a close-range effort straight at Burnley keeper Pope after Martial had squared into his path.

Rashford had been enduring a quiet evening out on the right until he picked out Pogba at the edge of the penalty area just as it began to look like United would have to settle for a draw.

Pogba latched on to it and superbly volleyed in, with a deflection off Matthew Lowton ensuring Pope was powerless to keep it out.

There were a couple of late scares for United, with James Tarkowski squandering an opportunity and Maguire not penalised amid claims of handball, but they held on with only late injuries to Martial – who had a last-gasp shot saved by Pope - and Nemanja Matic dampening the mood.
 

Ordinarily, Burnley v Manchester United wouldn't be the sort of match that receives much attention from those without a vested interest in either team.

A somewhat local encounter it may be, Burnley perhaps aren't – with all due respect – the sort of team that attracts swathes of neutrals.

Nevertheless, Tuesday's fixture at Turf Moor holds genuine significance for United as it provides them with the opportunity to go top of the Premier League.

Granted, it may only be January 12 and we aren't quite at the halfway point of the season, but such an opportunity represents real progress.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men go into the match – which was postponed at the start of the campaign due to United's run to the Europa League semi-finals – level on points with the Liverpool, who they host at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Once the leading power in the Premier League under Alex Ferguson, United have not been at such a level for a while – could this be the start of a sustained resurgence?

A long time coming

In Solskjaer's pre-match news conference, he initially downplayed the importance of going top in January, suggesting such matters were trivial until March or April.

Yet, he also made a point of telling the team that it is time United establish themselves as title challengers again.

It would be generous to suggest they have been worthy of that distinction at any point since Ferguson's retirement in 2013.

Their highest finish during this time was second in 2017-18, though United finished 19 points adrift of a devastating Manchester City side that looked like champions-elect for much of the season as they amassed a record 100 points.

Indeed, United have been top of the table for a grand total of 51 days in the post-Ferguson era – 41 of those were under Jose Mourinho, eight with Louis van Gaal and just two during David Moyes' ill-fated reign.

The last time they finished the day top of the Premier League table was in August 2018, though considering their 2-1 win over Leicester City was the sole game on the very first day of the season and they did not retain their place for 24 hours, one has to ask whether that even counts.

But what most highlights the strides Solskjaer has made is the fact that none of those previous 51 days at the summit were this far into a season.

Of course, Burnley could yet pull off an upset and United may finish the season without ever sitting in top spot – or this could be a watershed moment for them and Solskjaer.

The Fernandes factor

Every team needs its talisman and even the most ardent United supporter will surely admit any title challenge would be impossible without Bruno Fernandes.

The Portugal midfielder's influence since joining United at the end of the January 2020 transfer window has been nothing short of remarkable.

While Liverpool have certainly not been without personnel issues, Fernandes has more than played his part in bridging the gap.

When we look at the Premier League table during Fernandes' time in England, United sit top with 65 points from 30 games, three clear of Liverpool who have played a game extra.

United's 19 wins is a league high and their three defeats is the lowest over the same time period, while only Liverpool (66) have scored more than their 63.

They might already be way out in front without the defensive issues that have intermittently reared their head, though few would accuse the team of lacking character – United have claimed 25 points from losing positions since Fernandes' first game.

'On the road is where I really come alive'

If there's one thing Solskjaer's Man United and The Office character David Brent have in common, it's that they relish life on the road.

United's record away from home over the past year has been in a league of its own, as they are unbeaten in 14 games away from Old Trafford.

It's also away from home where their never-say-die attitude has been most prominent. They seldom see a foregone conclusion when they fall behind, with 20 of their 36 points on the road coming from being at least a goal down. That's double any other team.

If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain, but thankfully for United they are yet to slip up on their travels since February.

They are averaging 2.6 points per away game, with no other side managing more than 1.7.

Solskjaer won't be counting on a free ride at Turf Moor on Tuesday, but he will surely expect at least the point they need to go top.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he is excited by the openness of the Premier League title race this season as the Red Devils eye silverware.

United visit Burnley on Tuesday level on 33 points alongside rivals and defending champions Liverpool atop the table, and with the chance to move to the summit having played a game less.

Liverpool cruised to Premier League glory by 18 points last season, but only a point separates the leaders and third-placed Leicester City this term, while Chelsea are just seven points adrift in ninth position through 17 rounds.

Solskjaer is relishing the competitiveness as United seek to win their first Premier League trophy since 2012-13.

"I think all the teams want to take a grip on the Premier League, of course," Solskjaer told reporters.

"But it's just that kind of season, kind of year, kind of situation where there will be ups and downs, less consistency in results and performances.

"For me, it's exciting. As a supporter or as a fan, it's more interesting, of course, when there are more teams in and around each other compared to last season, where one just ran away."

Once English football's leading power under Alex Ferguson, United have spent just 51 days top of the table since the legendary Scottish manager retired in 2013.

The last time United finished a day at the summit was the very first of the 2018-19 season after beating Leicester 2-1 – their meeting was the only game that day, and the Manchester club were knocked off top spot by the end of that weekend.

United are unbeaten on the road in the top flight in 16 games and Burnley have not won successive league meetings with the Red Devils since 1968.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has already forced the postponement of fixtures – Solskjaer said: "I think it's going to be very important if you've managed to keep a fit squad. It's not just about fitness injury-wise, of course – it's also the COVID. You can see teams being really badly hit at times.

"Our boys have done well in that regard. We've not really lost many. The players themselves have done better. 

"You've got less things to do outside football than you might. You stay at home, you rest and recover and maybe for your own mental health you do some things back in your own gym. You're working and looking after yourself. I think that's also a factor here.

"I don't think they'd be going out too much anyway, but you've got no chance of going out [at the moment]. Hopefully they'll find out that we can live this way for the rest of our careers and get the most out of our careers!"

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Edinson Cavani is "ready to go" for Tuesday's Premier League clash with Burnley following his recent ban, but Paul Pogba is a doubt. 

Cavani was suspended for three matches and fined £100,000 by the Football Association for posting a message in response to an Instagram story after he scored twice in United's 3-2 comeback win at Southampton on November 29.

The post from Cavani featured a Spanish word often used as a term of endearment in Latin America, with Cavani later apologising and deleting when he is said to have become aware the word could be construed as having racist connotations in English.

The former Paris Saint-Germain striker had been in good form before the ban, scoring three goals and creating two more for his team-mates from just two starts in the Premier League. Indeed, the Uruguay international has been involved in a goal every 59.4 minutes in the top flight this season.

United make the short trip to Burnley as the only side still unbeaten away from home in the Premier League this season, winning six of their seven games so far.

Another victory over Sean Dyche's Clarets will see United move three points clear of Liverpool – whom the Red Devils face on Sunday – at the league summit and Solskjaer has no doubts Cavani will be in a position to contribute. 

"Edinson has trained well when he's been banned," the United boss told a media conference. "He's had a couple days off as well, you can't train too much. He is ready to go. 

"He gives us a different option, he's a different type of forward to the others, so I'm glad to have him back, that's why we brought him in. 

"He's contributed really well so far. I'm sure he'll be really important for us until the end of the season. We feel the season starts tomorrow night."

Pogba, meanwhile, was absent from United's squad for the 1-0 FA Cup win over Watford on Saturday and Solskjaer confirmed a decision on his involvement at Turf Moor will not be made until Tuesday. 

"All of them trained today," he added. "Paul and Eric [Bailly, who went off injured against Watford with a neck issue] didn't do all of it but Luke [Shaw] and Victor [Lindelof] did, so I've got a decent amount of players to pick from. Let's see with Paul and Eric how they are tomorrow."

While Solskjaer confirmed several fringe players may leave Old Trafford during the January transfer window, he suggested the club would only dip into the market themselves if a "long-term target" becomes available. 

"January is always difficult but if something comes up about a long-term target, that's another scenario," he said. 

"Not many teams want to lose their players in January, so it's unlikely something will happen on the 'in' side. 

"There might be a few players going out. For one thing, they deserve to play more football for their own good and their own careers."

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