Manchester United left-backs Luke Shaw and Brandon Williams are both doubts for Thursday night’s crucial Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirming the pair are still suffering the effects of injuries suffered in Monday’s Southampton.
Shaw was forced off in the second half when he appeared to painfully roll his right ankle, while Williams, who replaced him as a substitute, suffered a nasty cut during an aerial challenge. He too was withdrawn and United completed the game with just 10 players.
United staff were waiting to fully assess the damage but Solskjaer has confirmed that both players still have swelling around the respective affected areas.
“Luke has got a swollen ankle, so hopefully I’ll give him as much time as possible to recover – it was a twist on his ankle,” Solskjaer said at his pre-game press conference, via ManUtd.com.
“Brandon’s eye, he cut up his eye there, so I don’t really know. We’ve not trained this morning, none of them trained yesterday, so they were both swollen and I’ll give them as much time as possible to get ready,” the United boss added.
Solskjaer also stated that he will not pick the team to face Palace with an eye on Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea, given that he can’t afford to compromise in the former fixture given what it still at stake in the Premier League.
If Shaw, Williams or both don’t make it back in time for the Palace game, Solskjaer has a few potential options, although all would involve a degree of gambling.
With no other recognised first-team left-back, the United boss could turn to versatile Portuguese right-back Diogo Dalot. However, the 21-year-old has only played 65 minutes of Premier League football all season and hasn’t even appeared on the bench in the league since February.
Axel Tuanzebe, a centre-back by trade but who played on the left earlier this season, is unfortunately injured. Therefore, Solskjaer’s other real option is to turn to youth.
Ethan Laird, 19, is a right-back on the fringes of the first-team, having already made two appearances in the Europa League so far this season. Teden Mengi is an impressive 18-year-old centre-back who has been used on the left once at junior level in recent months.
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Borussia Dortmund pulled out all the stops in order to land Birmingham City prodigy Jude Bellingham, with the youngster set to earn roughly €3m (£2.7m) per year with the German giants.
Despite only recently turning 17, Bellingham has been a regular for Birmingham in 2019/20, making 41 appearances in all competitions – operating primarily as a central midfielder, but also further up the field as well.
The Englishman’s displays have led to much interest in his services, with a number of top clubs keen. More specifically, it has been Dortmund and Manchester United who have led the pursuit of Bellingham.
The latter were confident of securing his signature, with a source confirming to 90min in May that the Red Devils remained adamant that they were in pole position, while they were also keen on signing his younger brother Jobe.
Dortmund, however, felt the same way, and it is the Bundesliga outfit who have seemingly won the race as it was later confirmed to 90min that despite United’s interest, Dortmund were closing in on his signature.
The Athletic now report that Bellingham will earn around €3m (£2.7m) a year in Germany – more than what United were willing to pay initially. As for the transfer fee, Birmingham will receive £20m as well as a ‘sizeable portion’ of any potential sell-on fee. He will sign a three-year deal until 2023 (as he is under 18), while there is also no release clause.
Christian Falk of Sport Bild further reaffirms that he will earn roughly €3m a year, but the transfer fee will be closer to €25m (circa £22.5m).
The Athletic further explain that Dortmund regularly reached out to Bellingham and ‘actively attempted to turn him into a bit of a BVB supporter’. The talented teenager was also sent shirts and invited for a tour of Signal Iduna Park and the club’s training ground before the winter break.
Furthermore, they also produced a ‘mood video’ which showed the ‘sensation’ of playing in front of the famous Yellow Wall, while also highlighting the development of young teenage talents (like Jadon Sancho) at the club.
And while United pushed hard and came very close to reaching an agreement, Dortmund’s efforts were successful. In fact, after their 4-0 win over Schalke after the restart, he sent the club a picture of himself at home, watching the game on BT Sport in a Dortmund shirt.
Atletico Madrid star and long-term Arsenal target Thomas Partey is now on the verge of signing a new contract, rejecting the opportunity to move to the Premier League, according to a report from his home country.
The Gunners’ desire to recruit the Ghana international has been well-documented, with rumours circling regarding a big-money move ahead of the 2020/21 campaign.
However, Mikel Arteta’s dreams of adding Partey to their ranks may have gone up in smoke, after it was claimed by Ghana Soccernet that the 27-year-old will instead sign a brand new ‘bumper contract’ with Los Colchoneros soon.
Atleti had begun to give up hope of tying down their midfield general to a new deal, especially after his father spoke out and talked up a move away from the Wanda Metropolitano stadium. However, it is said that in a last-ditch attempt to retain one of the key figures in their side, Los Rojiblancos offered to double Partey’s current salary of €60,000 a week, while also doubling his buyout clause to €100m.
And that, according to Ghana Soccernet, seems to have done the trick for Diego Simeone’s star midfielder.
If true, the news will come as a hammer blow to Arsenal, whose pursuit of Partey had become public in recent months. The Gunners are keen to bolster their midfield with some much-needed steel and style, and the Ghanaian would tick both boxes for Arteta.
Partey has grown to become the most influential figure in Simeone’s side, anchoring the midfield with a strength and elegance that would allow him to thrive in the Premier League.
He has been in immense form since football’s return in June, appearing in every league fixture, and helping Atleti to secure Champions League football for next season – something Arsenal are desperate to achieve.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has said that he wants ‘more’ from this team following Tuesday night’s 1-0 Premier League win over Norwich, but is prepared to wait for it because just getting the result is the most important thing at this stage of the season.
With only two games of the league campaign left to play, Olivier Giroud’s solitary goal in first-half stoppage time was enough to consolidate Chelsea’s grip on third place and massively boost their chances of qualifying for the Champions League at a crucial time.
Defensive fragility has threatened to cost Chelsea, who have suffered major slip-ups against both West Ham and Sheffield United since the restart last month, conceding three goals each time. But Lampard was pleased that Norwich didn’t have any real chances at Stamford Bridge.
“We didn’t concede any chances of big note for them to score a goal and we created quite a few ourselves. Maybe we could’ve been a bit better with our quality, but it was professional,” Lampard told Sky Sports soon after the final whistle.
“I want more, but that can wait. Where we’re at as a team, and the position we’re in the table, three points is everything,” the former midfielder added.
“I live the game, so I wanted a bit more quality during the first half. I believe the group has more quality than it showed in those early stages and we needed to move the ball quicker.
“We have to be more mobile which we did here in our last game against Watford, but if we really want to move on longer-term it has to be better, but I don’t want to be too critical as three points at this stage isn’t easy.”
The margins are so fine at this stage of the season that Chelsea could have started the game on Tuesday in fourth place behind Manchester United had it not been for a stoppage time Southampton equaliser only 24 hours earlier at Old Trafford.
Now, they are four points clear of United, and three ahead of fourth place Leicester.
Chelsea’s next game will actually give them a pause from the Premier League when they meet United behind closed doors at Wembley in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
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