Manchester United will have no trouble attracting star signings as they remain "the biggest and best club in the world", manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says.

With the transfer window opening in three weeks' time, the Red Devils have been tipped to bolster a squad that has at times been stretched to breaking point this season.

Strikers including Erling Haland and Mario Mandzukic have been linked with moves to Old Trafford, while Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, Leicester City playmaker James Maddison and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez are rumoured longer-term options.

With United fifth in the Premier League and far from certain to return to the Champions League this season, it has been suggested they could struggle to land their priority targets, although recent victories over Tottenham and Manchester City have assuaged some doubts about their progress this season.

It was put to Solskjaer on Thursday that some agents have expressed concern over players joining the United project, but the manager has no such fears.

"You said agents, but I'm sure players would want to be here," he told reporters ahead of Thursday's Europa League clash with AZ.

"I don't speak to too many agents. Man United is the biggest and best club in the world and I'm sure there are so many players who would want to be part of the rebuild of Man United. We want to play the type of football our fans and players enjoy."

United had failed to win against Sheffield United, Astana and Aston Villa prior to their impressive victories over Spurs and City, and Solskjaer is now keen for consistency from his young side.

The former striker says it is important for his players to learn how to deliver "when they don't feel like it" if they want to win silverware.

"Consistency is vital in football if you want to win trophies," he said. "This young team need to learn how to put performances in maybe when they don't feel like it, when they don't feel great.

"We've had some games this year where we've not been able to perform as well as we'd like, but that's a learning curve. I'm sure they'll improve on that over the next couple of years and the rest of the season because we've come through a sticky patch."

United face AZ at Old Trafford knowing a draw will be enough to secure top spot in Group L.

Nemanja Matic is expected to return from injury, but Paul Pogba and Diogo Dalot remain unavailable, while Jesse Lingard is a doubt after missing Wednesday's training session with a knock sustained against City.

Nemanja Matic is set to play for Manchester United against AZ in the Europa League on Thursday but Paul Pogba is not yet ready to return, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Matic, 31, has been sidelined with injury since a 0-0 draw with the Eredivisie side back in October.

The former Chelsea midfielder has been tipped to leave United in January, having found his place in Solskjaer's first-team plans come under threat during the opening weeks of the season, with Serie A clubs including Milan and Inter said to be interested.

Matic is due to be given a chance to impress at Old Trafford, though, as United go in search of the draw they need to secure their place as winners of Group L.

"He's fit," Solskjaer said on Wednesday. "He's due to be involved."

Solskjaer also confirmed "it's a bit early" for Diogo Dalot to return, the full-back having only this week resumed training, while midfielder Pogba is still not ready to play following a troublesome ankle injury.

"It's too early," Solskjaer said of Pogba. "We hope so [that he will return in 2019]. He's working hard to get fit so hopefully we can get him back on the pitch.

"Let's get Paul fit first and then back in form and he'll play loads of games. He's one of the best players in the world and we're looking forward to having him back."

In the absence of Pogba and Matic, Fred has begun to cement his place at the heart of the midfield, the Brazil international producing arguably his best performances for the club in the past week in the 2-1 Premier League wins over Tottenham and Manchester City.

"Fred's had the confidence of the coaching staff and me and the players all the time," said Solskjaer. "This form is down to him because he's been working really hard. When he got the chance with Paul injured he grabbed it with both feet and we're really happy to see him perform at this level."

Those two wins over some of United's biggest rivals have eased the pressure on Solskjaer, which had been growing due to his team's frustrating lack of consistency.

Solskjaer, though, insists the belief in his plans to rebuild the team has never wavered, while he felt the decision to take largely a team of youngsters to Astana two weeks ago paid off thanks to the Spurs and City results.

"Inside [the club], we've always had belief in what we're doing. It might change on the outside but it's results, you can't change that," Solskjaer said. "It's the nature of football. Sometimes, you've got the margins on your side.

"I think the decision we made to send the young players to Astana made sure the players who stayed here were more ready because it was a hard week.

"Results are always the proof in the end, but we've always believed in what we're doing it. It's going to be ups and downs, but we're on the right track. I see these boys every day in training, the attitude and skills they have got, so I'm not that worried."

United have already qualified for the knockout phase and need only a point to guarantee top spot in the group, but Solskjaer insisted he wants to beat AZ.

"Of course I'm bothered [about the result]," he added. "I'm not going to send the boys out and say, 'I don't care if you win or lose'.

"Every game you play for Man United is a chance to prove yourself and to me and the supporters that you deserve to be part of the team for a long time."

Manchester United claimed the derby bragging rights with a 2-1 victory over Premier League champions Manchester City last Saturday – concluding a validatory week for their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

A blistering first-half performance on the counter-attack saw Anthony Martial score what proved to be the winner after Marcus Rashford netted from the penalty spot.

The result came after Solskjaer claimed midweek victory over predecessor Jose Mourinho and his Tottenham side by the same scoreline, handing a huge boost to an Old Trafford reign that was attracting mounting scrutiny.

United have also beaten Chelsea and Leicester City this season, while they remain the only side to take points off runaway leaders Liverpool.

However, Everton sitting 14th in the table ahead of Sunday's match suggests they could spell trouble.

Hitting the 'big six' for six

Although no longer the fixture they were under Alex Ferguson when it comes to the biggest prizes in the game, United certainly have it in them to rise to the big occasion against teams aspiring to those heights.

When facing sides who have started the game in the Premier League's top six, Solskjaer has won four, drawn three and lost two of nine matches after the success at the Etihad Stadium last time out.

That amounts to a win percentage of 44.4 per cent, a number greater than the 40.7 per cent Mourinho enjoyed over the course of 27 games during his United tenure.

Solksjaer's numbers are even more impressive when considering games against fellow members of the widely regarded 'big six' – City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea – and Leicester, the 2015-16 champions currently riding high in second.

In 12 games against those opponents since succeeding Mourinho, Solskjaer has won half and drawn four, losing only twice – 2-0 at home to City last April, having done likewise away to Arsenal a month earlier.

Mourinho only succeeded nine times in 22 of those games, a win percentage of 40.9, losing eight.

Overrun by the also-rans

Sitting alongside those wins over City, Chelsea, Leicester and Tottenham this season are Premier League losses to Crystal Palace, West Ham. Newcastle United and Bournemouth.

Of that quartet, only 10th-placed Palace reside in the top half of the table.

In games facing opponents in the bottom six on matchdays under Solskjaer, United have won six, drawn four and lost three, giving him a win percentage of 46.2.

Mourinho was far more successful in such presumed straightforward encounters, winning 60.7 per cent (W17 D7 L4).

Pogba to pick the lock?

The sight of Martial, Rashford, Daniel James and Jesse Lingard tearing into the big spaces behind City's midfield at the Etihad did much to explain the unusual trend in United's results.

That quartet in tandem amount to a formidable, livewire threat on the counter attack. However, operating in the small spaces afforded by deep-lying defences is a different proposition entirely.

Paul Pogba is closing in on a return from an ankle injury and, whatever the France star might lack in tenacity, his added creativity and guile could prove a significant asset.

Since returning to Old Trafford for a then-world record £89.3million from Juventus in 2016, Pogba has scored 24 goals in 97 Premier League games.

He has also contributed 25 assists and has created 164 chances – one every 50 minutes.

Lingard, who would probably be most vulnerable to a returning Pogba in Solskjaer's current XI, as Fred and Scott McTominay have thrived at the base of the midfield, has 22 goal involvements compared to Pogba's 49 over the same period.

That breaks down into 13 goals and nine assists. He has created 87 chances, a little more than half Pogba's overall amount.

Although the feelgood factor has returned to United in Pogba's absence, he could yet be the man to make it grow into something more sustainable under Solskjaer.

With Neymar's future far from certain, Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly planning for life without the star forward.

Neymar appears to covet a Barcelona reunion, after leaving the LaLiga champions two years ago.

Should Neymar's wish be granted, an African sensation lighting up Anfield is said to be on the agenda.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR OUT, MANE IN

Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want Liverpool star Sadio Mane to replace Neymar, report France Football and Mundo Deportivo.

PSG star Neymar wanted to leave Paris during the previous transfer window, but a proposed return to Barcelona did not materialise.

Doubts remain over Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a €222million transfer in 2017 – and the French powerhouse are said to have identified Mane should the Brazilian depart the capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Calciomercato, Napoli have agreed a deal for former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso to replace head coach Carlo Ancelotti. It comes with Ancelotti on the brink amid a nine-match winless streak ahead of Tuesday's crucial Champions League clash against Genk.

Manchester City are set to rival Chelsea for Bournemouth's Nathan Ake, says Sky Sports. Chelsea want to bring Ake back to Stamford Bridge following his exit in 2017. However, Premier League champions City are reportedly interested amid their defensive woes.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been offered an 18-month contract by Napoli, reports Gazzetta dello Sport. The 38-year-old is a free agent after leaving MLS outfit LA Galaxy and he has been linked to Milan and Inter.

- Sport claims Inter want to sign either Ivan Rakitic or Arturo Vidal from Barcelona in January. Antonio Conte is determined to bolster his squad as Inter challenge for Scudetto honours and juggle Champions League commitments. Rakitic has also been linked to Serie A holders Juventus.

Everton hope to have Vitor Pereira installed as manager for Sunday's Premier League fixture at Manchester United, according to Sky Sports. After sacking Marco Silva, the Toffees are ready to offer the Shanghai SIPG coach a three-year deal. It comes as Sky Sports also reports former Arsenal boss Unai Emery was approached about the Everton job.

- The Mirror says Manchester United are ready to show their faith in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer by backing him in moves for Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez and Salzburg sensation Erling Haaland. The spotlight was on Solskjaer following a poor run of form and Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham exit. However, the Norwegian has overseen consecutive victories over Tottenham and Manchester City.

Bayern Munich and Manchester City are monitoring the progress of Rangers teenager Kai Kennedy, says the Daily Record.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Marcus Rashford can reach the level of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Rashford continued his excellent form to start the season with another goal in United's stunning 2-1 derby win at Premier League champions Manchester City on Saturday.

The 22-year-old United and England star has scored 13 goals this term – 10 of those coming in the Premier League.

And Solskjaer backed Rashford to emulate five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, who claimed three Premier League titles and the Champions League with United before leaving for Real Madrid in 2009.

"It's very easy to compare the two of them, yeah," said United boss Solskjaer. "Both with skills, body shape, attitude, attributes - everything.

"The boy [Rashford] has every chance in the world to become a top, top player. Let's hope he continues like this.

"I don't want to talk about the amount of goals. As long as he keeps being positive and being direct and thinking about getting in front of the goal and getting chances, he'll score goals."

United – up to fifth in the Premier League standings following wins over City and Tottenham – welcome Everton to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Not before United face AZ in their sixth and final Group L Europa League fixture on Thursday.

Manchester United have the firepower to push for a top-four finish in the Premier League, says Harry Maguire, but the defender stated Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side must not get ahead of themselves.

United claimed their second successive victory as they secured a 2-1 derby victory over Manchester City on Saturday, three days after defeating Tottenham - managed by former boss Jose Mourinho - by the same scoreline.

The wins have taken United up to fifth, five points shy of fourth-place Chelsea, who on Saturday lost 3-1 to managerless Everton - United's next opponents in the league.

With Marcus Rashford having already matched his total tally of league goals from last season and Anthony Martial having netted what proved to be the winner against City, Maguire believes United's frontline has the quality to push them towards Champions League qualification.

However, the England centre-back is adamant United's squad will stay grounded, with the league outside of the top four still heavily congested.

"I think you need to look after your own results, don't look elsewhere, keep winning games," Maguire told Sky Sports. "We've won back-to-back games against Spurs and City. We've got another big game next week now.

"The top four is in sight but we just keep looking after our own results, keep trying to get the three points and keep improving.

"Over the last month or so, I feel like as a defender I look at the forwards and think they're going to score goals.

"At the start of the season, we didn't really score more than one goal in a game but now I think it's a few games on the spin where we're back to scoring goals.

"They're a big threat, they're top players, great talent and I think it's all coming together now."

Before hosting Everton on Sunday, United face AZ in their final Europa League group match, with an EFL Cup quarter-final against Colchester United coming up prior to the festive period.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged his Manchester United players to raise their game against the Premier League's "lesser teams".

United picked up back-to-back wins over Tottenham and bitter rivals Manchester City in the space of four days to revive their domestic campaign.

The Red Devils also beat Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day of the season and are the only side to have taken a point off leaders Liverpool this term.

However, they have lost to two teams in the bottom six and drawn against two more struggling sides in Southampton and Aston Villa.

With games against bottom-half teams Everton, Watford and Burnley to come in three of their next four league outings, Solskjaer admitted a change of mentality may be required.

"If it's a mental thing, then we can sort it out," he said, according to several British newspapers. "We'll work with the mentality of the boys.

"For me, it's been very much about margins in those games. Some freak results that we can't control.

"But if you look behind the results, I'm not as negative as you are. I'm not so worried, so concerned. If the boys are then telling me they can't get up for these games then we've got a problem.

"Then I've really got to work with them because, when I played, that's how we won the league.

"We never gave points away against the lesser teams, the not-so-good teams. The Premier League is difficult – if you don't have that mentality you won't get results.

"You've got to earn the right to win. Sometimes you've got to earn it by passing quicker, winning the ball back – there are different ways of winning games of football."

A key part of United's success against Tottenham and City has been the improved form of Jesse Lingard, who was reprimanded earlier this year for a video posted on social media.

Lingard started both matches and Solskjaer is delighted with the way the United youth product has bounced back of late.

"He's Man United through and through," Solskjaer said. "He's a red, he's got a great attitude and a great work rate.

"Every one of us have things to deal with on the pitch and off the pitch and what he has had to deal with, that will be between us. It's great to see him back.

"You can criticise anyone about anything but for me as a manager, I have to look after these boys in the good and the bad times.

"It's great to work with him. I had him in the reserves, gave him his debut against Burnley. It's good to see him back to his old self."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed Fred's star performance after Manchester United won 2-1 away to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League.

Goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial set up victory at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with Nicolas Otamendi's late reply proving only a consolation for the champions.

A fourth league defeat of the season leaves City 14 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool, while United are a further eight points back despite securing successive wins.

Fred's form has improved in recent weeks after some strong criticism for much of his United career, and he shone against champions City, who had also reportedly been interested in signing him from Shakhtar Donetsk.

The 26-year-old's display was particularly noteworthy given he was part of an unsavoury incident in the second half, in which he was hit by a missile thrown from the crowd and appeared to be subjected to alleged racist abuse.

"[He was] Arguably man of the match today," Solskjaer told reporters of the Brazil international. 

"He took the ball, he's playing against Kevin De Bruyne, probably the best player in the league and I thought he was excellent.

"It's great to see it; the boy deserves it. But when you get a run and keep the team together, Scott [McTominay] and Fred have made a great partnership."

The game was overshadowed by those second-half scenes when United had won a corner, with Fred hit after several items were thrown to the pitch, while he and team-mate Jesse Lingard appeared to be targeted by abuse.

City and Greater Manchester Police have confirmed they are working together to investigate the incident, while Solskjaer called for a life ban from football grounds for any individual found guilty of such an offence.

Rashford was among the players to speak out over the incident, with United captain Ashley Young also posting on Twitter: "Should never have to post anything like this because I'd have thought it's obvious but racism has no place in football or society.

"Kudos to Man City for the swift statement, I hope the individual is properly dealt with."

The Fred incident will make the headlines, but Solskjaer was keen to highlight United's first-half display and the importance of holding on for a victory.

"I was so happy with the way we started the game," Solskjaer said. "The way we created big chances, we looked like we could score every time we had the ball.

"And the intent was there to go forward, every time we had the ball. It's not about keeping it or slowing it down; we go for the kill and should have been three or four-nil up.

"But then again, you're playing against the best team in the world, so you have to defend well.

"I think the way we had to prepare for this game, because you follow this team for three years, and they're so hard to defend against because they're so good, I'm very pleased with how they dealt with everything, our boys."

Manchester City are working with police to investigate allegations of racial abuse after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said two Manchester United players were targeted in the derby.

During the second half of United's 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium, the visitors' midfielder Fred seemed to be hit by an object thrown from the crowd as he prepared to take a corner.

Lighters and a plastic bottle could be seen by the corner flag while television footage appeared to show a supporter making racist gestures in the direction of Brazil international Fred and his team-mate Jesse Lingard.

Shortly after full-time, City released a statement saying they were investigating and threatened to issue life bans to any individual found to have committed racial abuse.

"Manchester City FC are aware of a video circulating on social media which appears to show a supporter making racial gestures during the second half of the match against Manchester United this evening," their statement read.

"Officials from the club are working with Greater Manchester Police in order to help them identify any individuals concerned and assist with their enquiries.

"The club are also working with GMP regarding an instance of objects being thrown onto the field of play.
 
"The club operates a zero-tolerance policy regarding discrimination of any kind, and anyone found guilty of racial abuse will be banned from the club for life."

Solskjaer confirmed he had seen the incident and he too called for anyone found guilty of such abuse to be banned from grounds for life.

"I've seen it on video, of course," he told Sky Sports.

"Fred and Jesse in the corner taking coins from the City fans, first of all, so they've got to go away. Then there's this not-so-intelligent fella chanting racist abuse towards my two players.

"I hope City and the authorities will deal with it because he shouldn't be watching football again, not live anyway.

"We have to stamp it out. We keep talking about that every single week and it's not acceptable and he should not be allowed back into grounds. That's how simple it is."

Lingard tweeted after the match in response to footage of the alleged incident, saying: "Not even this idiot can ruin tonight's feeling, shameful behaviour, it may be the derby but there is never ever a reason to be racist!"

Anti-racism and discrimination organisation Kick It Out said it had "been inundated with reports of alleged racist abuse from a number of individuals" and called for "swift action" to identify those responsible.

City boss Pep Guardiola added that he supported his club's pledge to take action.

"I think the same as the club," he told Sky Sports.

"I support the club. We are going to work to avoid it happening again."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saw Manchester United produce a terrific derby victory and said that was how he had always envisaged his team playing.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial fired United to a 2-1 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Solskjaer told Sky Sports News: "It's a Man United performance in my mould - I love the boys going forward when there's a chance."

It was a display comparable at times to how Alex Ferguson's great sides could pick apart defences at will, but Solskjaer is adamant this is a team of his own design.

After a slow start to the season, his United have come alive over the past week, deservedly beating Jose Mourinho's Tottenham on Wednesday before crossing Manchester to pick off their neighbours.

Their pace in attack left Pep Guardiola's City players standing at times, while Scott McTominay and Fred were impressive in anchoring the midfield.

And Solskjaer was quick to point out their 2-0 lead after half an hour was far from flattering.

He described the display as "fantastic", saying: "At the start of the game, we were exceptional, attacking every time we got the ball. It looked like we could carve them open every time.

"We could have, should have been three, four, five up, really. That's testament to the boys because they played so well.

"We were playing against, for me, the best coach in the world, the best team. It's so hard to play against them, players coming from everywhere, every angle.

"We were brilliant in the first half, especially. First half an hour, excellent. Some great, quick, attacking football.

"It wasn't just the direct ball or long ball. It was on the floor, quick transitions. I'm so pleased for the boys - they deserve it."

Solskjaer, whose job looked to be under threat only a week ago, added: "Of course, there's a time today when we don't keep the ball as well as we could have. But we're away at the best team in the world, for me.

"We're improving all the time. The boys are getting experiences to remember."

As the Christmas season unofficially began on December 1, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked anything but merry.

Manchester United had been held to a 2-2 draw at home by promoted Aston Villa and the Red Devils' performance was utterly rancid for much of the game. Solskjaer appeared helpless at full-time.

Ahead of a particularly bleak run of mid-winter fixtures, reports suggested Solskjaer could join Santa in expecting to be burdened with the sack for Christmas. Two games to save his job, some said, with Mauricio Pochettino looming large.

Those two matches; Jose Mourinho's Tottenham and Manchester City in the derby – it wasn't the sleigh bells that were ringing. 

Some might have been content with two points, yet they've managed to take six and left City's title defence in tatters after a 2-1 win over the champions.

Much of the build-up was dominated by 'we're back' talk among both sets of supporters. City had crushed Burnley comprehensively, while United produced arguably their best display under Solskjaer in a 2-1 win over Tottenham.

Saturday's performance left no such room for argument – it was undoubtedly the greatest of his tenure. 

So much of the Norwegian's time at the helm has been mired by worryingly erratic form – one week they barely manage to salvage a draw against Villa, showing a concerning lack of desire, and then follow that up with a genuinely laudable performance at home to a resurgent Spurs.

Such inconsistency has understandably led to questions over Solskjaer's game-management, with United frequently struggling against opposition that sit back despite boasting a solid record of only two defeats in 11 meetings with 'big-six' opponents and Leicester City before the derby.

Solskjaer did little wrong on Saturday, however.

A devastating first half an hour showed just how good this United team can be, particularly going forward.

The fluid front three of Daniel James, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial was electric, while the much-maligned Jesse Lingard showed the kind of technique and drive not seen from him for a long, long time.

United's strengths are by no means a secret – they are blessed with immense pace in attack and are at their best hitting teams on the counter.

City fell into a trap entirely of United's making.

The midfield pair of Scott McTominay and Fred sat extremely deep, while the front four also dropped well back, essentially becoming a second midfield. As such, the gap between United's defence and attack was often minimal, allowing them to break as a unit.

The dynamism and agility of United's attack was plain to see for both goals – firstly Rashford driving into the box and winning the penalty that he converted, before James and Martial linked for the Frenchman's well-worked goal.

But United's effectiveness was about more than just three players running really, really fast. Defensively they had several players who were imperious.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka dealt with Raheem Sterling impressively, making five tackles and seven clearances in a fine display, while McTominay was similarly impressive. The Scotland international won possession back via three tackles, three interceptions and came out on top in 81.3 per cent of the 16 duels he was involved in.

Added to that, Fred enjoyed his best match for United, creating two chances and showing a general awareness that could rarely be associated with the Brazilian previously. On this evidence, you can begin to understand why Pep Guardiola had been so keen to bring him to City.

City's second-half desperation predictably saw United come under pressure and, for a moment it looked like the Red Devils would yet again cave and throw away a lead after Nicolas Otamendi pulled one back.

But it wasn't to be.

While reservations over Solskjaer's suitability for the role will remain as long as his team continue to falter against teams they should beat, there's no doubt in his ability to squeeze every last drop out of his players in the big games.

And in the biggest of matches, United rose to the occasion to leave City 14 points adrift of the summit, their title hopes torn to shreds like so much festive wrapping paper. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tasted sweet victory in the derby as his Manchester United side stunned Manchester City with a 2-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium.

United were brilliant in the first half, as impressive as they have been in the 12 months of their Norwegian manager's tenure, and a penalty from Marcus Rashford followed by Anthony Martial's sharp finish made it their day. A late Nicolas Otamendi header could not save the hosts.

City now sit 14 points behind leaders Liverpool in the Premier League, hopes of defending their title surely all but extinguished by this result. Questions will be asked of Pep Guardiola's leadership, and how he has allowed their defence to become such a weakness.

But for Solskjaer, months of speculation about his job security can be swept aside for now. After beating Jose Mourinho's Tottenham on Wednesday and following up with a terrific performance against their 'noisy neighbours', United suddenly look a team to be reckoned with.

United's first three attempts all forced Ederson to make sharp saves, the goalkeeper denying Daniel James from the edge of the penalty area, then a lively Jesse Lingard and the marauding Martial.

And with City in disarray at the back, the fast-breaking visitors were handed a penalty after a VAR review when Rashford went down following a mazy run, sideswiped by a clumsy Bernardo Silva challenge.

Rashford slotted low and into the right corner for the 23rd-minute opener, and the England striker went close twice in the next four minutes: firstly, when stroking a shot just wide after City's defence was unpicked by a high-pace counter-attack, and then with a 20-yard curling shot that hit the crossbar.

Martial gave United the two-goal lead they richly deserved in the 29th minute when he swivelled and cracked a low, left-footed shot in off the base of the right post, after working the chance patiently with James.

City striker Gabriel Jesus might have narrowed the lead before half-time but headed wastefully wide from Kevin De Bruyne's cross, before the hosts were aggrieved to be denied a spot-kick by referee Anthony Taylor when Fred appeared to handle a cross.

Guardiola made his annoyance known in a passionate appeal to fourth official Mike Dean before the second half began.

United centre-back Victor Lindelof made a superb intervention to thwart De Bruyne soon after the restart, deflecting the Belgian's thumping shot over the crossbar.

Fred was struck by an object thrown from home supporters and appeared to suffer racist abuse from the same section.

Otamendi headed in an 85th-minute City consolation and fellow substitute Riyad Mahrez went close to a leveller moments later, denied by a fine save by David de Gea, but this was emphatically United's day.

 

What does it mean? A great day for the Red Devils, but a better one for the Reds

United have toiled and looked shambolic on occasion this season, the Premier League's once-dominant club becoming the subject of ridicule at times. But here they were terrific, a formidable attacking force in the opening half an hour and a disciplined unit thereafter. The one negative, from their fans' point of view, is that this result comes as a huge boost to arch-rivals Liverpool. Maybe Leicester City are the only team that can deny Jurgen Klopp's side now.

Angelino heaven-sent for United

Guardiola put huge faith in Angelino by starting the 22-year-old at left-back, ahead of the benched Benjamin Mendy. It turned into a gift of a selection for United, who found space in abundance behind the heavily tattooed Spaniard, James revelling in the space.

City's manager came into this season believing his defensive ranks were adequately stacked, but how wrong he was. Every team suffers injuries, and City's repeated buckling at the back this season points to neglect of that department.

What's next?

City wrap up their Champions League group campaign with a trip to face Dinamo Zagreb on Wednesday, having already secured top spot. United, sure to advance to the knock-out rounds, face Dutch side AZ in their final Europa League group game on Thursday. Both Manchester giants then return to Premier League action next Sunday, with City travelling to Arsenal and United at home to Everton.

Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw have come into the Manchester United team for a crunch derby against Manchester City at Etihad Stadium.

Forward Martial takes the place of young striker Mason Greenwood, while Shaw steps in at left-back for Ashley Young.

Both Greenwood and Young were named as substitutes by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

It means United will start with Martial in attack along with Marcus Rashford, who scored both his side's goals in the 2-1 win over Tottenham on Wednesday, and Daniel James.

With captain Young out of the starting XI, Harry Maguire takes the armband for the visitors.

City boss Pep Guardiola has made a single alteration to the side that trounced Burnley 4-1 on Tuesday, as England defender John Stones replaces Nicolas Otamendi, who begins on the bench.

United sit eighth in the Premier League and are in desperate need of following one strong performance with another, to show they can produce consistently under Solskjaer's much-scrutinised leadership.

Reigning champions City, meanwhile, begin the game a distant 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool, who were resounding 3-0 winners at Bournemouth earlier on Saturday.

It's March 2016. Excitement and expectation are through the roof for one particular teenager ahead of his first Manchester derby.

The local lad had already risen to the occasion in the Europa League and against Arsenal, but this was a far bigger deal for the 18-year-old who'd grown up a Manchester United fan.

Marcus Rashford started in attack with Antony Martial and their pace and mobility proving a lethal combination, particularly with respect to the former.

Highlighting his ice-cold mentality on the big stage, Rashford was decisive. Roasting Manchester City defender Martin Demichelis in the 16th minute, the striker nutmegged him at pace and left the experienced centre-back for dead before clinically dispatching past Joe Hart.

If onlookers hadn't sat up and taken notice already after his heroics against Arsenal and Midtjylland, they were now. Rashford proved he was no mere flash in the pan.

A leader's mentality

Since that bright debut derby, Rashford has gone on to feature another seven times against City and he'll be desperate to leave is mark in Saturday's clash. It is the sort of occasion that has started to typify his status as a big-game player with an elite mentality.

Rashford's most recent Manchester derby came in April, as City comfortably dispatched of United 2-0 at Old Trafford. It was this encounter that seemed to suggest their wretched form after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's permanent appointment was anything but a blip.

More than anyone, Rashford was scathing of United.

"It was quite clear who the better team was," Rashford said to Sky Sports. "We didn't play like Man United and the last few weeks it hasn't felt like Man United. It's not right. The bare minimum should be to work hard and give your all for the supporters and the badge.

"We need the mentality and willingness of running for your team. We never call each other out but we have to be real with each other. It's a matter of trying to improve each other."

While some may have put Rashford's comments down to 'holier than thou' posturing in an attempt to win a new contract, which duly arrived in July, there's little doubt he is now the talisman that should be speaking out.

Motivation an issue?

Rashford has become the player many fans are still hoping Martial will develop into. With nine goals in 15 Premier League matches, the England international is already just one behind his personal best for a full campaign.

With 12 goals in his past 13 matches for club and country, Rashford is in the form of his life – yet even as recently as this season he has been a target for criticism.

It has been suggested he struggles to make the difference against opponents who sit back, the games United are expected to control and data backs this up.

In 85 matches against teams not in the current top four or traditionally part of the so-called 'big six', Rashford has scored just 19 times, an average of one every 275.9 minutes.

It's a record that does raise valid concerns – after all, the best strikers score against pretty much everyone and anyone.

At home on the big stage

But what highlights Rashford's true ability and gives a clear insight to his mindset is the forward's record against the biggest clubs.

In 41 Premier League meetings against the 'big six' and Leicester, he has an impressive haul of 17 goals, one every 163.4 minutes.

Rashford's effectiveness in front of goal increases remarkably in such matches. Even though his shot frequency goes down from one every 28.8 minutes to 39.1 minutes, his accuracy is boosted significantly.

Against the biggest sides, Rashford's shot accuracy rises to 48 per cent from 40 per cent, while his chance conversion increases from 10 per cent to 24 per cent.

Rashford proved his decisiveness last time out against Tottenham and former manager Jose Mourinho, who often did little good for his confidence.

He suggested United generally do better against teams who don't invite pressure on to themselves – backed up by the fact they've only lost two of 11 matches against the rest of the 'big six' and Leicester.

And with a City side that hasn't kept a clean sheet in the Premier League for nearly two months next up, Rashford has another chance to prove any lingering doubters he's worthy of being regarded United's new talisman.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted the Red Devils are still a bigger club than two-time reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.

United are 20-time English champions but they have not won the title since 2012-13, with neighbours City taking centre stage.

Since 2013, City have won three Premier League trophies and Pep Guardiola's men are eyeing a three-peat this season as United struggle.

But Solskjaer – whose side are 11 points behind City – talked up United ahead of Saturday's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Asked if United remain a bigger club than City, Solskjaer told reporters: "Yeah."

Solskjaer – a six-time Premier League winner with United after joining in 1996, months following City's relegation – added: "At least we play every year now! It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself.

"But it's changed in a way. Of course Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. I think football has changed quite a lot. I think it allowed a few more proper tackles - with every little angle, everything being scrutinised now, it's more of a technical, tactical game than physical and mental one.

"But, still, a derby should be played as a derby. We don't play basketball, so we're ready for that if that happens."

Solskjaer is hoping to build on United's 2-1 victory over Tottenham with another big performance against City.

Pressure is on City to keep up with unbeaten Premier League leaders Liverpool, who are eight points clear atop the summit after 15 matches, while United are sixth.

"I don't want to put any feelings into any other teams or managers," said Solskjaer. "We might not want them to be scared of us, we might want them to be arrogant and confident.

"For me, as a player as well, you don't have to shout the loudest to throw the sucker punch, it's not about shouting the loudest, it's about doing the talking on the pitch.

"City had an unbelievable season last year and are now trailing the teams in front of them as well. They haven't had the results of last season but they're still the best team in the league when they're playing the way they can."

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