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Manchester United must 'stick together' amid poor form - Phil Jones

Manchester United must 'stick together' amid poor form - Phil Jones

ESPN

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola wouldn't completely close the door on a January move for Alexis Sanchez, and again called on referees to protect players after Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne were injured in Sunday's draw at Crystal Palace.

Both Gabriel and De Bruyne face tests to determine the extent of the injuries picked up in game that also saw Palace's Scott Dann and Jason Puncheon leave the pitch on stretchers.

The injuries could speed up a move for Arsenal attacker Sanchez, who was close to joining City in the summer.

Sanchez is available on a free transfer at the end of the season and sources have told ESPN FC that he would favour a move to City.

Asked whether City will make a move when the transfer window reopens on Jan. 1, Guardiola said: "I don't know. He is a player for Arsenal and I think he is going to stay there.

"We will have internal meetings and see what is for the best, but he is an Arsenal player and I think he will be [after January]."

Referee Jon Moss had initially refused to allow medical staff to come onto the pitch to give Gabriel treatment shortly after he hurt his knee trying to control a ball.

The Brazil international now faces "one or two months out," according to Guardiola.

De Bruyne was stretchered off after a strong tackle from Puncheon, but was seen walking back to the City dressing room accompanied by two medical staff and told reporters he was OK.

Puncheon was booked for his tackle on De Bruyne, in which he also injured himself, but could easily have been given a straight red card.

Guardiola has voiced unhappiness at some challenges on his players in recent weeks, citing poor tackles from Tottenham's Hotspur's Harry Kane and Dele Alli and another from Newcastle United's Jacob Murphy.

"We were lucky against Tottenham and against Newcastle. Today we were not lucky," he said.

"Referees have to protect. We know how strong physically it is in England but teams miss big players, not just Manchester City.

"The replay [of the Puncheon challenge] speaks for itself. We have to protect players."

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.

MANCHESTER -- Phil Jones has warned that Manchester United must start winning games again soon to avoid being sucked into a battle for a place in the top four.

Jose Mourinho's team were Manchester City's closest challengers for the Premier League title for most of the first half of the season, but a run of two wins in six, and three consecutive draws, has seen them drop to third in the table, a point behind Chelsea.

Jones insists United must face up to the reality that a top-four finish is not guaranteed.

"It's obvious if you look at the table," said the defender after the 0-0 draw with Southampton on Saturday. "We've got to stick together. It's difficult, we're going through a patch where we're picking up a few draws and not winning games like we should be but we'll get there.

"In another few weeks' time we might be standing here saying we're in a very controlled position again but we've got to make sure we do that rather than just say it."

United's run of three straight draws has been peppered with missed chances.

Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford all missed opportunities to win the game against Leicester while Lingard and Romelu Lukaku were guilty against Southampton.

Jones added: "It's tough to take. It's not as if we're not creating the chances but unfortunately at the moment we can't put them away. We need to stick together and keep going, that's all we can do. 

"I don't like using the word unlucky because you create your own luck but there are times in the games where you're thinking it.

"We have to take the chances. There's no two ways about it.

"The good thing and the positive thing is we are creating chances, we are getting into good positions and soon hopefully we'll beat a team three or four nil again."

United have the chance to bounce back immediately when they face Everton at Goodison Park on New Year's Day.

Lukaku is set to miss the game against his former club after suffering a head injury against Southampton while Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been ruled out for a month.

"We have got to win games," Jones added. "At the moment we're not but we've got another chance to pick up three points against Everton. We've got to prepare right, it's going to be difficult because it's a quick turnaround but we've got to do it.

"We have to concentrate on ourselves. It sounds so cliched but we need to look after each other, stick together which is what we will do and keep going and keep battling.

"It's frustrating for us, frustrating for the fans of course and everyone involved but there's no point sitting here and sulking about it."

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.

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