Herrera says Solskjaer tactics free ‘magic’ Pogba

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Paul Pogba has come alive since Manchester United let Jose Mourinho and instituted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as interim manager, scoring four goals in four matches in a collection of spectacular performances.

Fellow Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera has hinted that Pogba’s explosion under Solskjaer is due to the new boss’s tactics that specifically revolve around the Frenchman, with the other midfielders playing a supporting role.

“I think Nemanja Matic and me, and the other players, we have to help him to make him feel free and that’s what we’re doing,” Herrera said prior to Manchester United’s FA Cup match against Reading on Saturday. “When he is in the opponent’s half he has that magic to change the game, so we are really happy for him.”

That may not be intended as a thinly veiled shot at Mourinho, but it is easy to be digested as one. Mourinho was often criticized for shackling Pogba in his tactical layout, forcing the 25-year-old to stay home and defend, robbing him of his brilliance up front. Under Mourinho, Pogba appeared frustrated with his role and his off-the-field clashes with the Portuguese boss were made quite public. Now, it seems Pogba has been made the central figure in the attacking build-up, completing an enormous 300 of an attempted 352 passes in the four matches since Mourinho’s dismissal, good for an 85% pass completion rate.

Herrera then suggested that because he is happier on and off the field, Pogba is now much more willing to contribute defensively when needed, rather than it being his exclusive job under Mourinho.

“He is very important for the club – on the pitch and off the pitch as well,” Herrera said. “He’s playing really, really well. Not only with the ball. I think as soon as we lose the ball he is ready to defend, ready to help the team. He is playing very simple and effective in our half.”

The good form from Manchester United under Solskjaer – albeit against Newcastle, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, and Bournemouth – has seen the Red Devils jump to 38 points, just three back of fifth-placed Arsenal and six behind Chelsea in the final Champions League spot. Manchester United next visits Spurs in Premier League play before hosting Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley.

Watford chasing Rennes, Senegal star Sarr

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Watford may capture one of the rising stars of the game.

Ismaila Sarr would cost the Hornets a club transfer record fee, and Sky Sports says that Watford and Rennes are about $10 million apart.

The Ligue 1 side reportedly wants $34 million for the Senegal national team right wing.

[ VIDEO: Nketiah leads Arsenal win ]

Sarr, 21, scored a goal and an assist in Senegal’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final, playing opposite Sadio Mane of Liverpool.

He posted 13 goals with 14 assists last season between Ligue 1, the French Cup, and the Europa League. He was the lone Rennes player to score against Arsenal in the UEL Round of 16.

Watford has held onto Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dodi Lukebakio this offseason. Lukebakio is also a 21-year-old right wing, and had a sensational loan season with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2019-20.

Nketiah leads Arsenal past Fiorentina (video)

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Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal beat Fiorentina 3-0 in Charlotte on Saturday.

Joe Willock also scored for the Gunners, which beat Colorado Rapids and Bayern Munich in their first two matches of the preseason and meet Real Madrid in Maryland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]

Fiorentina took 18 of the match’s 30 shots, though Arsenal had nearly 60 percent of the ball.

Nketiah, 20, scored against Burnley in last season’s Premier League finale and then late against Bayern Munich earlier this week.

He was deft in a high-pressure spot for this one.

Premier League friendlies: Watford beats Bayer, Man Utd over Inter

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Arsenal and Fiorentina are set to kickoff in Charlotte tonight, with the Gunners the last of a bevy of Premier League sides to engage in preseason friendlies this muggy Saturday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]


Girona 1-2 Bournemouth

Juanpe’s late header pushed La Liga’s hosts past Eddie Howe and his 10-man Cherries, playing down after VAR deemed Jack Simpson‘s foul worthy of a sending off. Ryan Fraser scored Bournemouth’s goal, assisted by Jordon Ibe.

Northampton Town 0-4 Sheffield United

Oliver Norwood converted two penalties in an easy win for Chris Wilder in his return to a club he played for and managed.

Fulham 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Pascal Gross scored with an early free kick — a Megan Rapinoe special — but Tom Cairney scored twice after halftime for the Championship side.

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Leicester City

The Foxes collected a second win over a lower league side this week, with Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton on the board.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United (Shanghai)

New manager Steve Bruce watched from the crowd as the Magpies made amends for a 4-0 loss to Wolves by blanking West Ham. Jamie Sterry‘s cross for Yoshinori Muto was delightful, and the Japanese striker’s finish was well-taken.

Port Vale 1-3 Burnley; Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Burnley

Chris Wood, Matej Vydra and Robbie Brady scored as the Clarets overcame an early Nick Pope goal to beat Port Vale, but the Premier League side couldn’t do much in a simultaneous friendly at Crewe.

Inter Milan 0-1 Manchester United (Singapore)

Substitute forward Mason Greenwood, just 17, scored the late goal in a match United controlled, outshooting Inter 21-8.

Preston North End 1-3 Southampton

Brace-bagging Danny Ings doesn’t usually have a problem with finish, so passing the ball directly to him is not something we’d recommend to goalkeepers. Jake Vokins also scored for Saints at Deepdale.

Watford 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Will Hughes and Andre Gray scored as the Hornets collected a win over Champions League competition.

Man City (0-0, 2-3 pens) Wolves (Shanghai)

Rui Patricio was very good over 90 minutes, and stopped City’s first two penalty attempts as Wolves continue to perplex the PL champions.

WATCH: Marco Fabian smashes set piece goal

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Marco Fabian sent a missile toward goal, and perhaps it’s good the goalkeeper didn’t get to the hand-breaking shot.

Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead over Chicago on Saturday in Chester, Pennsylvania, thanks to the Mexican midfielder.

[ REPORT: Man Utd locks up De Gea ]

It was a pretty set piece from Jim Curtin’s men, a backwards played free kick was laid off to Fabian for his audacious rip.

Fabian hasn’t had a wonderful 2019 season, but his fourth goal of the season will give Union supporters hope that he’ll pick up his form and make the already East-leading side all the more dangerous.