Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had fine words for Paul Pogba, but was tickled by the performance of 21-year-old Scott McTominay in the Red Devils scoreless draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.
[ RECAP: Sevilla 0-0 Man Utd ]
The visitors emerged unscathed, though without an away goal, and Mourinho raised eyebrows when he kept Pogba on the bench to start the match. The young McTominay started the match, and was paired with Pogba once Ander Herrera left the match with injury.
When a reporter asked Mourinho about McTominay after the match, the boss asked if he could give the reporter a hug before elaborating (via the BBC):
“In the press conference, the questions were about Paul [Pogba] but the question should be about the kid. He was fantastic. He did everything well. He put pressure on Ever Banega and stopped him playing, he’s their playmaker. I think Scott was brilliant.
“I think Paul made a big effort to try to give the team what I asked of him. Paul replaced Ander, he tried to bring to the game the same kind of qualities. He lost a couple of possessions but he also gave us stability because we had a good percentage of possession for the way we played.”
Mourinho was sure to include Nemanja Matic as a big part of the midfield trio.
The Pogba-Mourinho questions aren’t going to go away any time soon, though it should be noted — perhaps strongly — that the player was ill this weekend and United has to face Chelsea in Premier League play this weekend.
Still, he couldn’t help but mention how much he believes “Old Trafford has missed a big European night,” and how he’s looking forward to a potentially big win come March 13.
Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.
[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]
Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.
The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.
Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.
Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.
Like the move for Newcastle?
Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.
[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]
Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.
The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.
From The Players’ Tribune:
There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.
Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.
West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.
[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]
Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.
Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.
Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.
“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”
In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.
[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]
There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.
Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.