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Pogba vs. Pogba and other subplots of PL teams in Europe

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Paul Pogba could face his older brother when the UEFA Europa League begins its Round of 32 on Feb. 16.

That’s one of many subplots, including a chorus of “Give us a break!” from Arsenal supporters, as five Premier League teams are alive in European competition.

[ MORE: Full UCL draw | Europa draw ]

Arsenal

Well, darn. That has to be the take from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who has rightly lauded his team’s performance and chances in the UCL this season.

Last season it was Barcelona. Prior to that? Monaco, Bayern again, Bayern a third time, AC Milan, Barcelona. The last time the Gunners won a round in the UCL was the 2009-10 tourney, when they blasted Porto before falling to Barcelona.

Arsenal split with Bayern in last season’s group stage, winning 2-0 at home and losing 5-1 at Allianz Arena.

Manchester City

Given that unseeded City could’ve faced Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, or Juventus, Pep Guardiola will likely be okay with Monaco.

After a disappointing season in the Europa League last season, Monaco will hope to repeat 2014-15’s feat of knocking off a Premier League side in the Round of 16 (Arsenal). Les Rouges et Blancs then took Juventus to the limit over two legs, with just one goal scored between the sides.

Despite hamstring and head injuries, Radamel Falcao has been humming for Monaco. The same Colombian striker who managed very little production for Chelsea and Manchester City has netted 14 times in 16 matches this season.

Leicester City

Nasri has three goals for Sevilla (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images).

The Foxes get tournament-tested Sevilla, although Europa League threepeat mastermind Unai Emery is now with Paris Saint-Germain.

There are a lot of familiar names in the Sevilla side, with Samir Nasri, Steven N’Zonzi, Mariano, and Vitolo.

Still, with names of its own in Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani, and Jamie Vardy, Leicester has a decent shot to break down the Spanish challenge. And the duo of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth has broken down 1-forward formations a time or two.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs will like their chances of heading to the next round, with current Belgian fifth place side Gent.

De Buffalo’s did advance to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 last season, finishing ahead of Valencia and Lyon before bowing out to Wolfsburg.

Florida-born winger Kenny Saief is one of Gent’s best threats, the Israeli national team man nabbing five goals and three assists this season.

Manchester United

Jose Mourinho’s men have a fairly simple path to the next round of European competition, duking it out with offensively-challenged Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne.

While ASSE is led by a clever boss in Christophe Galtier, the side is eighth in France and has trouble manufacturing goals (17 in 17 domestically; 11 in 10 in Europe). Their leading scorer in France, Robert Beric, has a grand total of three goals.

A fun subplot sees United midfielder Paul Pogba potentially going head-to-head, literally, with his older brother: ASSE centerback Florentin Pogba. Florentin hasn’t been a fixture in Ligue 1, but went 90 minutes in five of six UEL group stage matches.

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“Three trophies and CL”: Mourinho relieved after “most difficult season”

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Don’t try to tell Jose Mourinho that his first season at Manchester United wasn’t a raging success, because all you’d get in return is a simple shake of the head before he walks away.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

Following Wednesday’s Europa League final victory over Ajax, one which put Man United into next season’s UEFA Champions League, Mourinho was adamant that the club’s 2016-17 season was a success, despite the fact the Red Devils finished sixth in the Premier League.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League,” as Mourinho put it, in his “most difficult season as a manager” — quotes from the BBC:

“We totally deserved the win. I am so happy to see the boys with the crutches with the trophy and now I am on holiday. I don’t want to see any international friendlies, I am selfish. I can’t do it.

“For me, enough is enough. It has been a very hard last few months, we were short of numbers.

“Three trophies in one season and the Champions League. I am very happy in my most difficult season as a manager.”

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

As for his summer shopping list and Wayne Rooney‘s future at the club, well… Mourinho was much clearer about one than the other — quotes from the BBC:

“Ed Woodward has my list, what I want, what I would like for more than two months. So now it’s up to him and the owners. But I don’t care about football for now.

“Wayne Rooney was ready to play, he was a big option. But I didn’t need to attack at 2-0. I told him yesterday that he could be the key man but he can perfectly be here next season. He is a very important player for us. If he stays next season I’d be very happy.”

USMNT’s Gedion Zelalem out 6-9 months with knee injury

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Following much fanfare as he rose through the ranks of Arsenal’s youth academy system, and even more after officially pledging his international allegiance to the U.S., Gedion Zelalem‘s progress stalled a fair bit this season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | U-20 World Cup ]

After failing to force his way onto the fringes of Arsenal’s first team, the 20-year-old was sent out on loan to VVV Venlo, where he made just nine league appearances (one start) in the Dutch second division. Now, with the U.S. U-20 national team at the U-20 World Cup in South Korea, his tournament is over after just 34 minutes.

Zelalen suffered ligament damage to his left knee during the first half of the Americans’ tournament-opening draw with Ecuador. The Washington Post received confirmation on Wednesday, from Zelalem’s family, confirming that he’ll be sidelined for at least six months. An earlier report, from Football.London, pinned the recovery time at up to nine months.

[ MORE: Pogba, Mkhitaryan fire Man United to Europa League trophy ]

“For Gedion, this was his second U-20 World Cup, so his experience was invaluable for us,” said U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos. “His passing ability is second to none in this tournament, and we’ll miss that. He was running the team from his position.

Europa League final: Man United too tough for Ajax, qualify for UCL

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Though it may have required a minor detour in the journey to the intended destination, Jose Mourinho’s first season as Manchester United manager ultimately reached the promised land: qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Once it became clear that Man United’s season was unlikely to result in a top-four finish in the Premier League (they eventually wound up sixth), Mourinho put every Mancunian egg into the Europa League basket, and it paid off on Wednesday, as United topped Ajax, 2-0, in the Europa League final inside the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

Paul Pogba put United 1-0 ahead after just 18 minutes (WATCH HERE), benefitting from a wicked deflection off a defender’s shin, and Mourinho’s famously rigid, organized midfield and defensive structure frustrated a young Ajax side (a starting lineup with an average age of just under 23 years old) that reached the final on the back of a free-flowing, attacking tidal wave.

[ WATCH: Pogba gives United an early lead ]

Down just a goal, Ajax needed little more than a moment of brilliance from any number of rising stars sure to fetch massive transfer fees and land big-money contracts elsewhere in Europe, in the not-so-distant future.

That hope lasted less than 180 seconds into the second half, though, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan doubled the lead, thanks to some unbelievably quick reflexes and a tidy overhead kick from three yards out. Ajax would manage just two shots on goal all night (four for United).

Not only did Mourinho deliver Champions League qualification, alongside a European trophy, United also claimed the EFL Cup back in February. With the allure of UCL football next season, expect another busy (and expensive) summer of spending at Old Trafford.

AT THE HALF: Man Utd lead Ajax in UEL final, thanks to Pogba (video)

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After 45 minutes of Wednesday’s Europa League final, between Manchester United and Ajax, in Stockholm, Sweden, Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils have one foot in next season’s UEFA Champions League.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

After a cagey opening 15 minutes that saw neither side create anything of consequence, Man United pulled ahead on a fair bit of luck in the 18th minute. Paul Pogba received the ball 25 yards from goal, took a touch toward goal and fired a low shot toward goal. Davinson Sanchez did everything he could to get his body in front of the strike, but the ball glanced off his shin, sending it one direction and goalkeeper Andre Onana the other.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League final ] 

Having conceded just eight goals in 14.5 Europa League games thus far this season, would you bet on United conceding an equalizer in the final 45 minutes? Hit the link above to follow along, live.