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Mourinho denies reports of Pogba exit from Man United

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It’s no secret. Paul Pogba is not playing at his best level right now.

The Frenchman’s recent form for Manchester United has been below his early-season standard, as well as the expectations around Pogba, and he’s certainly struggled in defeats to Tottenham and Newcastle in the last few weeks.

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But despite the dip in form, manager Jose Mourinho harshly ruled out reports on Friday that stated Pogba could leave Old Trafford this summer, calling them outright lies.

“I think you are nice with your words, because when you say ‘a lot of speculation’, you should say a lot of lies because I accept – and I can speak on Paul’s behalf without any problems – and Paul accepts that he’s not being playing well in the last few matches,” Mourinho said in a press conference. “But that’s all and if you want to speak about it, then that’s one thing and then your word ‘speculation’ makes a little bit of sense. But the majority of the things that you can read and you can listen – don’t be nice, be objective and say lies.”

Mourinho gave a little insight into Pogba’s struggles this season. The 24-year-old midfielder suffered a serious thigh injury in September that kept him out until November, forcing him to miss 12 Man United games. According to Mourinho, the injury was similar to Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele, who underwent surgery to fix the issue.

“Look – he had a big injury in the season,” Mourinho said. “A big injury. He had a big injury. He almost went to surgery like [Ousmane] Dembele at Barcelona had, with a very similar injury. The decision was not to do it [surgery] and to go with conservative treatment which went very, very well. Everybody was happy with the way things went.

“He was playing phenomenal before that, he played phenomenal after that. He had a red card against Arsenal, probably in his best match of the season and in his and the team’s best moment. He was out for a long, long time and, in this moment, he’s not playing well. Period.

“The team needs him at a good level and, when he’s not at a good level, the team is not as good as the team is when he plays phenomenal. I think it happens with every team when the best players, the most crucial players, for some reason are not performing. Period.”

There’s no doubt that Man United needs Pogba to be playing his best for the club to make it deep in the UEFA Champions League and to keep their place in the top two of the Premier League. Perhaps the week off from the Premier League can help get Pogba’s mind right for the backstretch of the season.

Video: Mbappe taps home to give France first blood

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The match is really opening up now, and France has begun to assert itself with an opener just beyond the half-hour mark.

[ MORE: Denmark, Australia draw, leaving Group C wide open ]

Kylian Mbappe has given Les Bleus a 1-0 lead over Peru after a deflected Olivier Giroud cross found the Monaco attacker just in front of goal for a tap-in finish.

The sequence began after Paul Pogba dispossessed Peru deep in their own half, before dishing the ball off to Giroud.

The goal for Mbappe is his first at a World Cup, as the 19-year-old continues to impress for both club and country.

American referee Geiger accused of asking for Portugal kit

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Morocco’s World Cup journey will conclude after the group stage, but the African side isn’t pleased with how their second match transpired on Wednesday against Portugal.

[ MORE: Spain gets win after Iran sees equalizer ruled off ]

The Moroccans have lodged a complaint with FIFA against referee Mark Geiger — an American who has become one of the most well-known officials in Major League Soccer.

Geiger was alleged to have asked Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo for his jersey at halftime of the 1-0 win over Morocco, to which Geiger has categorically denied the claims.

FIFA released the following statement on the matter:

The claims stemmed from Morocco player Nordin Amrabat, who addressed the matter in an interview following the match.

“I don’t know what [Geiger] is used to, but he was very impressed by Cristiano [Ronaldo],” Amrabat said. “I’ve been just told by Pepe that in the [first half], he asked if he could have his shirt. Come on, man. What are we talking about? … We are at the World Cup, not a circus here.”

Geiger returned to action on Thursday as video assistant referee for the Denmark-Australia match, which included an important alteration in a call that led to an Australia penalty kick.

Group C wide open as Denmark, Australia settle for draw

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Denmark and Australia settled for a 1-1 draw on Thursday, as this exciting Group C affair had nothing to separate the two nations at the end of 90 minutes.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

As it stands, the Danes lead the group with four points, while Australia earned its first point of the World Cup.

France will meet Peru later on Thursday, with Les Bleus having won its first match and Peru having suffered defeat to Denmark.

The Danes broke through after seven minutes when Nicolai Jørgensen picked out a perfect back-heel pass to Christian Eriksen at the top of the box, before the Tottenham Hotspur attacker volleyed home for a 1-0 lead.

Jørgensen nearly doubled the Denmark advantage in the 24th minute when the 27-year-old had an open header from close range that skewed just wide of the target.

Australia worked its way into the match following the opener, and were awarded a penalty kick in the 37th minute after VAR Mark Geiger altered an initial decision for a handball inside the box.

Mile Jedinak converted the spot kick to level the match at 1-1, giving the Socceroos life.

A dangerous free kick four minutes later almost gave Denmark the lead once again, however, Eriksen couldn’t get a crucial touch on the ball to knock it over the goal line before Ryan collected.

The second half continued with lightning pace from both sides, and Aaron Mooy‘s 71st minute blast came inches away from giving Australia an improbable lead.

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The two nations will conclude Group C play on June 26, as Denmark faces France and Australia takes on CONMEBOL side Peru.

Video: VAR awards Australia penalty, before Jedinak converts

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The Socceroos battled admirably in the latter stages of the first half, and Australia was rewarded for their efforts.

Australia has leveled the match at 1-1 after a Mile Jedinak penalty kick cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s stunning opener in the seventh minute.

After an initial decision to play on by the head referee, VAR Mark Geiger opted to award a penalty kick to the Aussies after Yussuf Poulsen was caught with his hand away from his body on a Mathew Leckie header.

Poulsen was also shown a yellow card for the infraction, which rules him out for Denmark’s group-stage finale against France.