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Manchester United: Mata praises ‘very complete’ Pogba

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Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata is among the crowd of Paul Pogba fans following Monday’s FA Cup takedown of Chelsea.

Mata lavished praise on the “complete” midfielder after United rode two first half goals to a 2-0 win.

[ POGBA: Solskjaer trusts us ]

Pogba assisted Ander Herrera‘s opener with a pinpoint cross before planting a diving header in the back of the net despite Kepa Arrizabalaga‘s touch on the shot.

From The London Evening Standard:

“Even in the second half, 80, 85 minutes he was still defending, going forwards. He’s very, very complete,” Mata said. “He’s got physique, he’s got quality, he’s got a pass, he can go box to box. He’s one of the best. Today he showed why.”

Pogba has 14 goals and 10 assists in 32 matches for United this season, though the lion’s share have come since the removal of Jose Mourinho as coach.

Mata will know a thing or two about rebounding post-Mourinho, and probably cannot help but be proud of Pogba.

FA Cup: Pogba scores, assists as Man Utd bounce Chelsea (video)

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Manchester United are through to the quarterfinals of the 2018-19 FA Cup, thanks to a superstar performance from Paul Pogba which was more than enough to see the Red Devils waltz past Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday.

[ MORE: New development in David de Gea contract situation ]

The game’s opening 20 minutes flew by with very few chances of note, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side established itself as the aggressors from the outset.

Man United were rewarded for their efforts and broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark, when Ander Herrera headed home a masterful cross from Pogba. It’s hard to believe this is the same Pogba, watching him run at Marcos Alonso before cutting inside and lofting the ball to the back post with pinpoint accuracy, who wasn’t good enough for Jose Mourinho’s team not so long ago.

It was Pogba who, given all the world’s freedom to maraud forward and join the attack these days, sent Marcus Rashford into acres of space with an aggressive through ball to begin the move for United’s second goal in the 45th minute. Pogba wasn’t done there, though, as he embarked upon a 50-yard, all-out sprint into the penalty area, where Rashford’s cross met his head, and the ball met the back of the net.

[ MORE: Premier League or UCL more important for Liverpool? ]

Nemanja Matic likely should have been shown a second yellow card and sent off in the 51st minute, after he tripped Eden Hazard to end a potential counter-attack, but referee Kevin Friend let the Serb off with one final warning

Down 2-0 at home, with a place in the quarterfinals quickly slipping away, Maurizio Sarri opted for not a single substitution at halftime. When the changes finally began in the 58th minute, Sarri seemed to follow a predictable, rigid script: Willian for Pedro (58th); Ross Barkley for Mateo Kovacic (71st); Davide Zappacosta for Cesar Azpilicueta (82nd) was, to be fair, less predictable but equally ineffective.

United fans added further insult to the defeat with 15 minutes let to play in the game. Oh, how the world can turn upside down in a couple months’ time.

New development in David de Gea contract situation

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It seemed like David De Gea‘s future at Manchester United was up in the air, with the Spanish goalkeeper having just over a year left on his current deal and some reports suggesting an impasse had been reached.

But it appears that United are willing to pull out all of the stops to keep DDG around.

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De Gea, 28, has been named United’s Player of the Season in four of the last five campaigns and since Sir Alex Ferguson retired he has bailed United out of sticky situations time and time again.

It has been reported that De Gea would be handed a new five-year deal which would see him pick up the largest basic salary of any current player in the Premier League, and therefore any PL player in history.

Our colleagues from Sky Sports News in the UK have more on the situation regarding De Gea:

United have been surprised at reports they rejected wage demands of £350,000-per-week, as Sky Sports News understands they would be prepared to pay that amount, but agent demands may be driving the price higher still.

In the past few months Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay have all signed new contracts with the Red Devils and Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward told investors in a call last week that he wants to “finish off the final few as rapidly as we possibly can.”

It is expected De Gea’s deal is at the top of that list, with Ander Herrera and Juan Mata (both out of contract this summer) the other top priorities to tie down to new deals.

De Gea’s importance to United is clear and just as star strikers and attacking players are rewarded handsomely, the value of having a star goalkeeper should not be understated. Even if, historically, they haven’t earned quite as much as outfield players.

The Spaniard has played 347 times for United in all competitions since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League.

After almost leaving in the summer of 2015 (United’s staff must do a daily salute to Real Madrid’s dodgy fax machine which scuppered the deal at  the eleventh hour) it is clear he is their most important player. Wonderful displays recently against Tottenham Hotspur and at Arsenal have proven De Gea’s worth, if anyone ever doubted it.

Key battles: Chelsea v. Man United in FA Cup

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A huge FA Cup fifth round battle takes place on Monday, as Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United collide at Stamford Bridge for a place in the quarterfinals.

Both Maurizio Sarri and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could really do with reaching the last eight of the FA Cup, as whoever prevails will be the second favorites to win the competition behind Manchester City.

Below is a look at three key battles on the pitch in west London which are likely to decide the outcome.


Eden Hazard v. Ashley Young
Expect to see plenty of hefty challenges flying in to Hazard from Young, as United’s most consistent performer over the past few seasons will have his hands full trying to shut Hazard down. The Belgian wizard has struggled in recent weeks and looks a little bit jaded. Boy, Chelsea need him to get back to his best form and you could argue that playing him as a true central playmaker has got the best out of him this season. It is likely Hazard will start on the left and drift inside and Young will need plenty of help from Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic to shut him down.


N'Golo Kante v. Paul Pogba
The two French midfielders are expected to lock horns closer than they have recently due to Kante’s new advanced position. Pogba has also been given a more attacking role under Solskjaer, but away from home against one of the big boys it is likely Pogba will start deeper and be asked to launch devastating counter attacks. Kante’s job in this Chelsea team is to win the ball high up the pitch and get himself into the box, which is something he still isn’t comfortable with. It will be intriguing to see if an out-of-form Jorginho plays for Chelsea or if Sarri finally buckles to the immense pressure of people calling for Kante to be restored to his rightful position in front of the back four. Either way, it should be an intriguing midfield battle between two stars of France’s World Cup winning team.


Cesar Azpilicueta v. Alexis Sanchez
The fact that Sanchez loves the FA Cup (he’s scored 10 goals and had nine assists in his 20 FA Cup appearances) is worrying for Chelsea and Solskjaer likening him to a bottle of Ketchup suggests his best is yet to come. Azpilicueta was undone by Raheem Sterling in Chelsea’s embarrassing defeat at Man City and although he gives his all, there’s no doubt his best position is as a center back in a three rather than an out-and-out right back. If Sanchez can get in-behind Azpilicueta, there will be big trouble for Chelsea.

Honest Alexis Sanchez on why Mourinho struggled at Man United

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Alexis Sanchez didn’t beat about the bush when discussing why Jose Mourinho’s time at Manchester United ended abruptly.

Sanchez, 30, spoke with the BBC alongside Ander Herrera before United’s FA Cup last 16 clash at Chelsea on Monday.

Speaking to Spanish reporter Guillem Balague, the Chilean forward gave his extremely honest opinion on why it went wrong for Mourinho.

“I’ll tell you personally. I say things as they are and in my opinion, Mourinho is one of the best coaches in the world. In the way that he coaches, how he studies videos, the way he goes about things,” Sanchez said. “But, then within the group there was that feeling that you were in the team then out. Sometimes I didn’t play, then I did, then I didn’t and as a player you lose confidence, each player lost their confidence, do you understand?

“And then an atmosphere was created that was very… confusing. Sometimes I’m playing well and I score a goal and he took me off. And I’d say ‘I love football, I love football.’ I’ve played football since I was five and if I have the ball taken away from me, it’s as if I love my joy.”

In a nutshell: Mourinho changed the players around too much, didn’t explain what he was doing and sucked the confidence out of every single Manchester United player.

Sanchez is saying what we were all thinking and perhaps this kind of honesty will allow the Chilean to move on from the worst period in his career so far.

He has struggled massively at United since Mourinho signed him from Arsenal last January — Sanchez has scored five goals in 37 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils —  and those struggles have got even worse under new caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

However, the former Arsenal star now has a huge opportunity to play regularly as both Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are out injured for a few weeks. Sanchez now has a chance to show he can deliver on a consistent basis but after so many months either injured, or battling back to fitness after a lack of game time, there is a long road ahead for Sanchez.