Manchester United star Marcus Rashford admitted former manager Jose Mourinho's style of play prevented him from playing his best football.

Mourinho spent two and a half years in charge of United, where he worked with Rashford before being sacked by the Premier League giants in 2018.

Rashford scored five league goals during Mourinho's first season in 2016-17 and followed that up with another seven in 2017-18 as the Portuguese often preferred either Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Romelu Lukaku at the time.

The 23-year-old Rashford, who won the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield during Mourinho's tenure, finished with just 15 Premier League goals under the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss prior to his sacking midway through the 2018-19 season.

England international Rashford has since flourished under Mourinho's replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he reflected on the Portuguese's tenure in Manchester.

"I think that's when we play our best football [when we can be flexible]," Rashford told BT Sport when asked if Mourinho allowed the players to express themselves in attack.

"Under Jose I would say everything was a bit [points] 'you play there, you play there, you play there'.

"And yeah, you can do a job, but it was difficult for me to play my best football."

Having scored a career-best 17 Premier League goals in 2019-20, Rashford has 10 goals this season and 20 across all competitions.

Rashford has broken the 20-goal mark for United in back-to-back seasons under Solskjaer.

His form has helped United to second in the Premier League and a Europa League final berth against Villarreal.

Rashford, meanwhile, has scored more Premier League goals against Leicester City than he has versus any other side in the competition (five) as the Red Devils prepare to host Brendan Rodgers' team on Tuesday.

Iconic former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson put aside any anti-Liverpool agenda as he saluted the impacted Steven Gerrard has had on another of his old clubs, Rangers.

Gerrard played for United's bitter rivals Liverpool from 1998 to 2015, a period that coincided with Ferguson's glory years at Old Trafford, and was Reds captain for much of that time.

But despite their respective roles in one of English football's fiercest rivalries, Ferguson can appreciate the job Gerrard has done since trying his hand in management.

Gerrard took over at Rangers – with whom Ferguson spent two years as a player in the 1960s – in 2018, the club having been without a top-flight title since 2010-11. They had to start all over again in the third tier in 2012 after insolvency.

Rangers' great rivals Celtic went on to claim nine successive Scottish Premiership titles, but under Gerrard's guidance they ended the Bhoys' dominance this term, cruising to the crown in remarkable fashion.

They wrapped it up in early March having not lost a single game and, with two games left, are in with a chance of completing the campaign undefeated, a feat they have not managed since 1898-99.

And Ferguson, who won 16 top-flight titles with United and Aberdeen, has been impressed.

"Oh, he's done magnificent," Ferguson told the Guardian ahead of the release of a documentary about his life.

"He really has, both on and off the field. A press interview can lose you your job in management. But Steven's press conferences are fantastic.

"He's cool, he's composed, he gives the right answers. He's really top because it's an art."

Nevertheless, Ferguson stressed he has not exactly become an avid follower of Rangers in his retirement – he is only really bothered when it comes to one game in particular.

"The only time I really support Rangers is when they play Celtic. The big one," he added. "Jason [his son] is a Celtic fan.

"I love phoning him up when Rangers have beaten them. The funny thing is that the one team I always look for on Saturday night is Queen's Park, my first club.

"I had a great learning experience as a 16-year-old lad playing for them. People think it's an amateur team but you had to be tough to play for Queen's Park. That was a great foundation for me."

Fulham became the third and final team to be relegated from the Premier League when they were beaten 2-0 by Burnley on Monday.

Scott Parker's side got that sinking feeling at Craven Cottage, where first-half goals from Ashley Westwood and the in-form Chris Wood – his 50th for the club – consigned them to an immediate return to the Championship.

It is the first time in Premier League history that all relegation slots have been confirmed with as many as three matches remaining.

Matej Vydra set Westwood up for the opener after 35 minutes and Wood clinically fired home his eighth goal in as many games to leave Fulham shellshocked just before the break.

The Cottagers have picked up only one point from seven games since a surprise 1-0 victory at Liverpool in March.

The London club's fate was confirmed with three games to play, as they are 10 points behind Southampton and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Burnley were able to celebrate retaining their top-flight status after marking Sean Dyche's 350th league game in charge of the club by securing three precious points.

Fulham go down along with rock bottom Sheffield United and West Brom, who were sent down with a 3-1 loss at Arsenal on Sunday.

The Cottagers, who have won just five matches, are the 17th club to go straight back down having won the Championship play-offs the season before.

When Manchester United confirmed the signing of Edinson Cavani on a free transfer last October, it's fair to say there was by no means universal praise for the deal.

The announcement, which came on transfer deadline day, smacked of desperation to many. United hadn't been able to sign their primary target, Jadon Sancho, but couldn't face the prospect of heading into the new season without strengthening the frontline.

Granted, failing to add reinforcements wouldn't have been a good look for the club, but Cavani's signing wasn't exactly much of a consolation in the eyes of supporters.

Doubts over his age, form during his final season at Paris Saint-Germain and the simple fact he was still without a club at the start of October all appeared to be valid concerns, particularly given his one-year deal (with the option for an extra 12 months) was a kind of short-termism not associated with the previous signings made by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

But such concerns quickly evaporated once he was fit, his class and striker's instinct still undeniable as the Uruguayan gallops across the United attack as if he was still in his twenties.

In recent weeks Cavani's form has hit another level and, for a while at least, it seemed a possibility that United were going to rue not signing him to a two-year deal, rumours of a move to Boca Juniors making officials at Old Trafford a little tense.

But on Monday, United confirmed Cavani will be staying put for another year at least, his renewal a just reward for an excellent first season in England.

Golden oldie

Ryan Giggs played Premier League football into his forties, owing much of his longevity to conditioning aiding by yoga, as the story goes. Perhaps then Cavani's seamless adaptation to the league isn't as surprising as many have suggested.

After all, the 34-year-old is known to do yoga and ballet in an effort to keep himself fit and nimble, elements of his game that have certainly been notable this season, even after injury absences.

Of course, Solskjaer has been eager to restrict Cavani's minutes, stressing early in the season that he didn't want to put him under too much physical strain as he joined the club having not played competitively since March due to Ligue 1's cancellation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That approach has been adopted throughout the season, as demonstrated by Cavani's 18 starts from 35 appearances, and it seems to have paid dividends as he's really hit his stride since the start of April, scoring eight goals in seven appearances across all competitions.

This run has helped him to a minutes-per-goal ratio of 124.1. The only Premier League forwards (five or more goals) who can better than are Gareth Bale (110.2 minutes per goal), Kelechi Iheanacho (110), Olivier Giroud (106.3) and Carlos Vinicius (97.7), though the latter's record is clearly warped by a hat-trick he scored against non-league side Marine in January.

Anthony Martial still seemingly had credit from his form in the latter part of 2019-20 earlier this term, given Cavani was largely used as a backup option while the Frenchman was fit, but it's difficult to see him getting his place back at the start of 2021-22 given what we know now.

The end for Martial?

After the Premier League's resumption last season, Martial was one of the standout performers – his six goals from nine games was only bettered by Danny Ings, Harry Kane (both seven in nine), Michail Antonio (eight in nine) and Raheem Sterling (nine in nine).

It seemed that, finally, he was reaching the level many had expected of him when he joined from Monaco five years earlier. He'd seemingly cemented his place as United's first-choice central striker and looked comfortable for arguably the first time since his first season.

But, prior to his injury, Martial had been underwhelming this term. It brought to light a theory previous speculated about: the idea that he doesn't react well to competition. First there was Zlatan Ibrahimovic and then Romelu Lukaku. He outlasted both, found his niche, and then, all of a sudden, Cavani arrives.

Only Martial knows what is to blame for his drop-off, but it's undeniable that there has been one. His six non-penalty goals comes from an xG (expected goals) value of 9.7, meaning he was wasting more chances than the average player ordinarily would.

The fact that his xG per 90 minutes dropped from 0.42 to 0.36 shows the quality of chances coming his way weren't as good, while last season he massively outperformed this, scoring 0.58 goals per game.

Before his injury this season, Martial was averaging just 0.26 goals every 90 minutes, highlighting his wastefulness or a perhaps lack of confidence – it's certainly not down to playing a different role, as he averaged the same amount of touches in the box (6.9 per 90 mins) as in 2019-20.

When we bring Cavani into the equation, the data shows how much of a gulf there is between the two with regards to their ability to make chances with clever movement, or instinct.

Cavani's xG per game of 0.64 is a significant improvement on Martial, and he's even outperforming that (0.73 goals per 90 mins), finding the net almost three times as frequently as the France international.

"He [Cavani] has got all the attributes of a top-class footballer and human being," Solskjaer said last November. "He's had a great career, scored goals wherever he has been. He's so professional, meticulous with his preparation, with his recovery, what he does at mealtimes, before the game, during the game.

"But also to have a focal point in the box is important for us because we've not really had that since Romelu [Lukaku] left."

And there lies a key issue: Solskjaer seems to have accepted Martial cannot play that role. You have to wonder whether he'll get another opportunity.

Facilitating the succession

In the eyes of most United fans, if any of their current forwards are the long-term heir to Cavani in the central role, it's Mason Greenwood.

Granted, the jury may still be out on him in that position, but his ability in front of goal would suggest he is the best man for the job, particularly given he's showing that quality at such a young age.

2020-21 hasn't been the easiest of seasons for him. He had to cope with the death of a close friend and was at the centre of controversy while away on international duty with England.

But since the start of April he's scored five times in the Premier League, a haul bettered by no one. It's form that's reminiscent of his breakthrough campaign in 2019-20, when he scored 10 league goals from an xG value of just 2.9. Excluding penalties, no player in the division could rival such a differential.

Figures like that are rarely sustainable because they suggest either a player's been extremely lucky, they're remarkably good, or perhaps a combination of both. After all, Greenwood scored just once from an xG of 2.7 between the start of this season and the end of March.

But his recent purple patch has seen him score three goals more than he'd be expected to (1.95 xG). He's finding his feet again, and another season learning alongside Cavani can surely only benefit Greenwood in the long run.

The one area of Greenwood's game that has been questioned in rare opportunities through the middle is his off-the-ball movement, arguably Cavani's greatest strength.

There's no question Cavani is an asset to United in terms of his on-field ability – the data proves just how effective he's been, but his importance goes beyond that.

Greenwood is probably the best talent to come out of the United academy since Paul Pogba, and if some of Cavani's wisdom rubs off him over a two-year period together, what a player he could become.

Manchester City's wait for a third Premier League title in four years went on after they suffered a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea at the weekend.

Pep Guardiola's side do have an unwanted statistic to their name in that ratio, however, having now lost three of their past four league outings at the Etihad Stadium.

Another trend to continue was Manchester United falling behind before beating Aston Villa 3-1.

As the season reaches its final stretch, players will be well aware it's a marathon not a sprint. Indeed, one of the division's most noted pace merchants has proved again he is adept at lasting the course.

Using Opta data, we take a look at these talking points from the most recent round of Premier League fixtures.

Aguero's Panenka woe continues City's penalty torment

Sergio Aguero knows a thing or two about scoring the goal to clinch a Premier League title, so City probably felt they had the perfect man standing over Saturday's penalty against Chelsea, with Guardiola's much-changed side 1-0 up thanks to Raheem Sterling.

But Aguero's awful chipped effort gave Edouard Mendy chance to go to ground, stand up again and catch the ball – a moment of complete embarrassment for the Premier League's all-time leading overseas goalscorer.

None of the misses have been quite as, well, hilarious as the one Aguero conjured up, but he joins Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Sterling in having failed from 12 yards this season.

These are not new problems, with those misses making City the first team since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95 to fail from four or more penalties in consecutive seasons.

Overall, City have missed 32 of 130 Premier League penalties, with Spurs (33), Liverpool, Aston Villa (both 34), Arsenal (36) and Manchester United (40) the only teams more profligate.

Of teams to have taken at least 50 Premier League penalties, Villa's 67.6 conversion percentage (71 from 105) is the worst. City have scored 98 out of 130 (75.4 per cent).

Marcos the marksman

When wing-back Marcos Alonso scuffed home Chelsea's winner at the Etihad Stadium, the inclination was to celebrate an "unlikely hero". However, the Spain international is no stranger to the scoresheet.

Alonso has now netted 24 goals for the Blues – the same number as Alvaro Morata and Daniel Sturridge and three more than Andriy Shevchenko.

In the Premier League era, only John Terry (61), Branislav Ivanovic (34) and Gary Cahill (25) have scored more often as Chelsea defenders.

Among his current team-mates, strikers Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham, with 39 and 30 respectively, are the only players with more goals for the club.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the forthcoming transfer window sees Alonso go into next season as Chelsea's leading club scorer.

Premier League record in sight for Solskjaer's comeback kings

When Bertrand Traore put them ahead on Sunday, Villa might have been forgiven for fearing the worst.

Sure enough, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani were on target after Bruno Fernandes equalised from the penalty spot.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side now have 31 points from losing positions, bettering their previous best of 29 in 2012-13, when Alex Ferguson rounded off his celebrated tenure with one last title success.

In their four remaining games this term, United could overhaul the Premier League record of 34 points gained after falling behind, set by Bobby Robson's Newcastle United in 2001-02. Their 10 wins after conceding first in 2020-21 is already a competition best.

The Red Devils also claimed 24 points after going behind in 1999-00, when they retained the title. Arsenal emulated that feat in the same season, also doing so in 2011-12.

The equivalent of eight wins from behind has also been achieved by Everton in 2002-03 and Tottenham in 2010-11, the same campaign when West Brom turned deficits into 27 points.

Game of two halves for Traore

Coming from behind to win obviously requires a certain level of collective improvement throughout games. Individually, Adama Traore certainly seems to warm to his task as matches progress.

The Wolves winger netted the equaliser before Nuno Espirito Santo's men beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1.

That was his seventh career goal in the Premier League – all of which have been scored in the second half.

Traore's haul is the highest of exclusively second-half goals in the competition's history. His old Villa team-mate Rudy Gestede, former Middlesbrough midfielder Phil Stamp and ex-Newcastle and Ipswich Town forward Alex Mathie each have six.

Karel Poborsky, Gerald Sibon, Emre, Craig Fagan, Pablo Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Jose Holebas and Adam Smith all have five second-half Premier League goals, having never troubled the scorers before half-time.

Edinson Cavani has ended speculation over his future by signing a new one-year deal with Manchester United.

Cavani joined United as a free agent on transfer deadline day last October and has scored 15 goals in his first season in England.

The in-form striker was only contracted to the Red Devils until the end of next month, but he will remain at Old Trafford.

Cavani looked set to be on the move again after his father, Luis, in stated in March that the Uruguay international was not happy at United and wanted to join Boca Juniors.

After he completed the scoring in Sunday's 3-1 win at Aston Villa, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave a strong hint that the in-form 34-year-old would be going nowhere and that has now been confirmed.

Cavani told the club's official website: "Over the season, I have developed a great affection for the club and everything that it represents. I feel a deep bond with my team-mates and the staff who work behind the scenes here. They give me extra motivation every day and I know that, together, we can achieve special things.

"From the very first moment that I arrived, I felt the confidence of the manager. As a player, this belief gives you the perfect opportunity to play your best football and I want to thank him for that.

"I have been touched with how much the supporters have wanted me to stay, and I will give everything to bring them happiness and joy with my performances on the field. I've not yet been able to play in front of the Old Trafford crowd and that is something that I cannot wait to do."

The former Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli frontman has scored eight goals in his past seven matches for United, who look set to finish second in the Premier League table behind neighbours Manchester City.

Five of those strikes - including doubles in both legs of a resounding semi-final success over Roma - have helped the Red Devils set up a Europa League final against Villarreal in Gdansk on May 26.

Edinson Cavani has ended speculation over his future by signing a new one-year deal with Manchester United.

Cavani joined United as a free agent on transfer deadline day last October and has scored 15 goals in his first season in England.

The in-form striker was only contracted to the Red Devils until the end of next month, but he will remain at Old Trafford.

Cavani looked set to be on the move again after his father, Luis, in stated in March that the Uruguay international was not happy at United and wanted to join Boca Juniors.

After he completed the scoring in Sunday's 3-1 win at Aston Villa, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gave a strong hint that the in-form 34-year-old would be going nowhere and that has now been confirmed.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he will do everything he can not to jeopardise the fitness of his Manchester United players during this week's packed schedule.

United continued their habit of coming from behind to win by sinking Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday, goals from Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani after a Bruno Fernandes penalty maintaining their slim mathematical hopes of winning the Premier League title.

Victories over Champions League-chasing Leicester City and Liverpool at Old Trafford on Tuesday and Thursday would close them to within four points of leaders Manchester City before Pep Guardiola's side travel to Newcastle United on Friday.

City only need three points from their remaining three matches to clinch a third championship success in four seasons, and Solskjaer does not feel it would be responsible to select full-strength teams and risk injuries.

"I wish I could have said let’s go full out in all the games but it’s impossible," said the United boss, who has frequently criticised the decision to reschedule the Liverpool game for this week after the initial encounter was postponed due to protesting fans storming Old Trafford and blockading the team hotel on May 2.

"That's the hard bit for me – knowing that if I do play these XI again on Tuesday and Thursday, it's impossible.

"I run too much of a risk of injuring them, so talking about integrity in the league and stuff, don't blame me when I have to make changes, because I have to. It’s not safe for them to play all four, so I’ve got to prioritise."

As such, Solskjaer will look towards some of the younger members of his squad, with Amad Diallo and Shola Shoretire pressing to feature.

"They're in contention, yeah, and they're in the first team squad, they're training with us every day so I would think that some of the young boys will get an appearance, definitely.

"If it's coming on towards the end or if it's starting I don't know because I don't know how the players will be on Tuesday when we see them."

Forwards Anthony Martial and Dan James are set to miss out once more, while Harry Maguire is expected to be sidelined as United wait to find out the full extent of the ankle injury their captain suffered at Villa Park.

Eric Bailly replaced Maguire at the weekend and would appear best-placed to start, although Axel Tuanzebe provides another centre-back option.

UFC superstar Conor McGregor has reiterated he is interested in purchasing Manchester United and has also held discussions over buying shares in Celtic.

The 32-year-old has accumulated significant wealth through a number of high-profile bouts, including a crossover into boxing when taking on Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

He moved into the world of business when launching a whiskey brand in 2018 and the Irishman is now looking to add a sports team to his profile.

McGregor revealed last month he was considering buying United amid the fallout from the collapsed Super League proposal, with the Glazers under pressure to sell up.

Pressed on Twitter whether that remains the case, McGregor said: "A conversation came up regarding Celtic first to be honest. To acquire shares from [majority shareholder] Dermot Desmond.

"I am certainly interested in acquiring a sports team at some stage! 

"Both Celtic and Man United are teams I like for sure. But I am open. I feel I could do big things for a club."

Irish businessman Desmond is the largest individual shareholder of Scottish giants Celtic and previously held a stake in United before selling them to the Glazers in 2005.

McGregor, who has made no secret of his admiration for Celtic, was knocked out by Dustin Poirier in his last fight four months ago and will face the same opponent in July.

As the 2020-21 season comes to an end, Jadon Sancho's future is dominating headlines.

Having been tipped to leave Borussia Dortmund at the start of the campaign, the England international is once again in the spotlight.

A move could be on the cards but remaining in Germany is also an option.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN TO SWOOP FOR SANCHO?

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are considering a move for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to The Telegraph.

Sancho has long been linked with Premier League giants Manchester United, as well as Liverpool and Chelsea in the past.

But Bayern are believed to be ready to prise Sancho from Dortmund as they also reportedly wait to prise in-demand team-mate Erling Haaland to Bavaria.

Haaland, who has a release clause that is not valid until 2022, is wanted by Bayern, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- After re-signing Neymar, PSG are on the right track to lure Madrid captain Sergio Ramos to the French capital, claims ParisFans. Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season and yet to renew with Madrid.

Leicester City are set to sign Lille star Boubakary Soumare for less than £26million (€30m), reports Fabrizio Romano. He has previously been linked to United.

- Romano and L'Equipe say Julian Draxler has signed a contract extension with PSG. Arsenal and Bayern had reportedly been eyeing the German.

- Telefoot continues to link PSG with Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, who has a host of admirers, including United, Barca and Madrid.

Roma and Juventus are eyeing former Inter captain Mauro Icardi as ParisFans says the PSG striker's future could be away from Paris at the end of the season.

In this world, nothing is certain except death, taxes, Manchester United coming from behind and West Brom getting relegated from the Premier League.

It was not remotely surprising to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United bounce back from an early setback at Aston Villa, while West Brom's relegation confirmation was similarly expected.

On a day without a single draw, there were also wins for Wolves and Everton, who got one over former manager – and rival for European football – David Moyes.

Take a look at the key stats from Sunday's action.
 

Wolves 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion: Seagulls rue reds as Traore ends drought

It was a day to forget for Brighton, who became the latest club to fall victim to Wolves' impressive bounce-back powers.

Nuno Espirito Santo's squad have now claimed 51 points from losing positions since their return to the Premier League in 2018, a figure bettered by only Manchester United (57).

They were certainly given a helping hand, however, as Lewis Dunk – the scorer of Brighton's opener – was dismissed for pulling back Fabio Silva as the last man, making him the third player to net and be dismissed in the same game this season.

Neal Maupay was then sent off as well after the full-time whistle, meaning Brighton are now level with Arsenal as the team with the most red cards this term, while Dunk is the only player in the division to receive two reds in 2020-21.

Adama Traore cancelled out Dunk's opener as he ended a 25-game home league drought that stretched back to December 2019 against Manchester City.

Meanwhile Wolves' match-winner, Morgan Gibbs-White (21 years, 102 days), became the youngest English player to score a 90th-minute winner in the Premier League since Marcus Rashford in November 2018 (21 years, 3 days).

Aston Villa 1-3 Manchester United: Red Devils enjoy customary comeback

When Aston Villa went into half-time 1-0 up on Sunday, there almost seemed to be an acceptance that their opponents were going to turn things around.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men certainly delivered in the second half, going on to win despite conceding first for the 10th time, a Premier League record.

They are now just three points behind the all-time record number of points recovered from losing positions, with Newcastle United having rescued 34 in 2001-02.

The victory also took Bruno Fernandes close to a Premier League record. He has not lost any of his first 25 away games in the division, one adrift of Gabriel Jesus' benchmark of 26.

Fernandes played his part in the turnaround by scoring a penalty, which took him to 27 goals across all competitions this term, the most by a midfielder for a Premier League club in a single season since Frank Lampard (27) for Chelsea in 2009-10.

That penalty came as a result of Douglas Luiz fouling Paul Pogba, the exact same scenario that led to a spot-kick when the two teams played earlier this season. It is the first time since 2001-02 (Olof Mellberg on Jermain Defoe) that an individual has conceded a penalty against the same opposing player in one campaign.

West Ham 0-1 Everton: Toffees at home on the road

A top-four finish for West Ham and David Moyes now looks desperately unlikely after defeat at home to Everton leaves them five points adrift of fourth-placed Leicester City with three games to go.

The fact that this was West Ham's first home league match without a shot on target since Moyes' first spell in December 2017 highlighted their issues.

As for Everton, Carlo Ancelotti's side have been impressive on the road and made it 14 away wins from 15 in which they have open the scoring under the Italian.

On top of that, this was Everton's 11th away win in the league this term, a haul bettered only by Manchester City (13) and the Toffees' best such record in a top-flight season since 1984-85 (12), when they won the title.

The winning goal came via Dominic Calvert-Lewin's 16th league strike of 2020-21, making it the joint-most by an English player for Everton in a single Premier League season.

Romelu Lukaku is the only Everton striker to score more across one season than Calvert-Lewin. The Belgian plundered 18 in 2015-16 and then 25 the following campaign.

Arsenal 3-1 West Brom: Big Sam's Baggies equal relegation record

It had been a long time coming. West Brom have looked doomed for most of the season, and their relegation was finally confirmed with defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.

In a way, this match was a microcosm of their issues as they actually finished with an xG (expected goals) value nearly double that of Arsenal, yet the Gunners scored triple the amount of goals.

While it suggests Arsenal perhaps got a little lucky, it also highlights West Brom's problem with scoring – pundits have claimed they would have had a better shot of survival with a more effective central striker, and this backs that up.

It's their fifth relegation from the Premier League, equalling a record set by Norwich City last year, but the first from the competition for Sam Allardyce in his managerial career.

West Brom have only once had their relegation confirmed with more games remaining than this term (three), having had four fixtures to play in 2002-03 when their fate was sealed.

The focus for Arsenal, however, was on their young guns.

Bukayo Saka's assist for Emile Smith Rowe's opener was his 19th for Arsenal since his November 2018 debut, more than anyone else for the club in that time.

Similarly, Smith Rowe became the fourth player aged 21 or under to score for the Gunners in the Premier League this season (along with Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah), a record no team can better.

Mikel Arteta praised "unique" teenager Bukayo Saka after Arsenal ended a miserable week by relegating West Brom with a 3-1 Premier League victory on Sunday.

The Gunners are facing the prospect of missing out on European football for the first time in 25 years next season after they were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage by Villarreal on Thursday.

A drab goalless draw against the Spanish side – coached by former Gunners boss Unai Emery – was a new low for Arsenal and piled more pressure on Arteta, but they responded with a first home win in seven games.

Emile Smith Rowe scored his maiden Premier League goal before Nicolas Pepe added a second with a sublime finish to put Arsenal in command.

Matheus Pereira pulled a goal back midway through the second half, but Willian finally opened his Arsenal account with a brilliant late free-kick as Baggies boss Sam Allardyce suffered the agony of relegation from the top tier for the first time.

Saka laid on the opening goal for Smith Rowe and has provided 19 assists in all competitions, the most of any player for the club since making his debut in November 2018.

The 19-year-old was a constant threat, delivering five crosses and producing two key passes in a performance that Arteta was more than happy with.

He told BT Sport: "Going forward we know Saka is a threat, he gives you something unique. He adapted. We believed we were going to attack against them and he gave us a lot of joy."

Arsenal are ninth in the table with surely only pride to play for and Arteta is determined to avoid finishing such a disappointing season with a whimper.

He said: "We will try to win every match and see where we finish. The only thing we can do is win our games." 

The Spaniard added: "We needed that win. It has been a while since we won at home. We scored three fantastic goals and we had some great spells in the game. When we conceded the goal we did look nervy.

"We knew the necessity to win the game. They scored out of nothing and then throw everything at you, they know the situation they are in and we struggled to play that kind of game.

"We scored three fantastic goals but we missed some big chances too."

Sam Allardyce finally suffered the sinking feeling of relegation from the Premier League after Arsenal beat West Brom 3-1 at the Emirates Stadium.

Albion needed a victory in north London on Sunday to keep their slim hopes of avoiding the drop alive, but the Gunners sent them down with three games to play.

Emile Smith Rowe put Arsenal in front with his first Premier League goal and Nicolas Pepe added a stunning second six minutes later in a devastating first-half spell for the Baggies.

Matheus Pereira pulled one back midway through the second half, but Willian rubbed salt into Albion's wounds by scoring an elusive first Arsenal goal late on with a brilliant free-kick.

Victory for Arsenal, who are facing a tough task to qualify for European football next season, shattered Allardyce's proud record of having never been relegated from the top flight.

Manchester United are guaranteed to finish in the top four of the Premier League thanks to Everton's 1-0 win at West Ham on Sunday.

The Red Devils won 3-1 at Aston Villa earlier in the day, Bruno Fernandes, Mason Greenwood and Edinson Cavani securing all three points after Bertrand Traore's opener.

It was the 10th time this season United have recovered from conceding first to win, which marks a record in the Premier League.

Former United manager David Moyes then saw his West Ham side lose at home to his old club Everton courtesy of Dominic Calvert-Lewin's first-half strike.

That result means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are now certain to finish in the top four in the table – and return to next season's Champions League – regardless of their results in their final four games, or the Europa League final, the prize for winning that competition being a place in UEFA's flagship tournament

It will be the first time United have recorded back-to-back top-four finishes since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013.

The news will be a boost to Solskjaer, who must prepare his players for home games against fellow European hopefuls Leicester City and Liverpool in the coming four days.

Solskjaer has already warned he will be forced to rotate his side in order to reduce injury risks, although captain Harry Maguire has already given him cause for concern after being forced off with an apparent ankle problem against Villa.

United face Fulham at home and Wolves away in their final league games of the season before they meet Villarreal in Gdansk on May 26.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer talked up the importance of Manchester United getting the best out of Edinson Cavani next season in a possible hint over the striker's future.

Cavani came off the bench to score United's third as they rallied from a goal down to beat Aston Villa 3-1 on Sunday and prevent Manchester City from being crowned champions.

A defeat would have guaranteed the trophy for Pep Guardiola's side and the Red Devils were losing at half-time thanks to a brilliant strike from Bertrand Traore.

However, a Bruno Fernandes penalty and a Mason Greenwood finish turned the game on its head in the second half before Cavani nodded home his eighth goal in seven games.

Cavani also became the third United player to score five Premier League goals in a single season as a substitute, following in the footsteps of Javier Hernandez in 2010-11 and manager Solskjaer in 1998-99.

As yet, there has been no confirmed agreement between the Uruguayan and the club over extending his stay at Old Trafford by another 12 months, but Solskjaer appears optimistic of keeping the 34-year-old.

"His movement, his desire to score goals... A great cross from Marcus [Rashford]," Solskjaer told Sky Sports when asked about the qualities that Cavani brings to the side.

"We're getting to learn Edinson as well, and hopefully, we can use him more next season."

Greenwood's goal took him to 16 in the top flight, surpassing the previous record of 15 for a Red Devils teenager in the competition set by Wayne Rooney.

"He's top," said Solskjaer. "I was thinking maybe curl it far post, but he goes near post. He's got all the finishes. Mason had a long night on Thursday [against Roma] and worked really hard today.

"You think maybe you could take him off at half-time, because the boy needs some rest, but it just shows that he can do the best."

While United's win ensured the title race will continue for now, the 10-point gap to City at the top means they must realistically win their remaining four matches and hope their rivals pick up no more than a point from their final three games.

With fixtures to come against Leicester City and Liverpool between now and next weekend, United's chances of prolonging City's wait for the trophy appear to be slim.

Solskjaer, though, was delighted to prevent City from celebrating on Sunday, especially given his players had been on duty for the Europa League semi-final second leg against Roma three days ago.

"That's a good thing, that's the best thing with today. At least I don't drive into a blue army tonight," he said. "We'll try to deal with it as long as we can.

"[It is a] massive result; it takes a little bit of the pressure away, we can go into the next one confident, enjoy it. I'm delighted. It was always going to be difficult after being in Europe; [we] didn't come back until half four in the morning on Friday.

"Great reaction at half-time again, even though I felt first half we were the better team, created the better chances but couldn't find the goal.

"The advantage of being fresh going into a game like this is quite high. We could have scored the first goal, they scored from nothing, with a good goal by the way, but I'm pleased with everyone. I know how hard it is towards the end of a long, long season."

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