Nemanja Matic

Pogba, Shaw, Martial remain sidelined

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Paul Pogba will miss a second straight Premier League match as he continues to overcome a persistent ankle injury.

Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ahead of his side’s league matchup at West Ham United on Sunday, confirmed that Pogba, along with left back Luke Shaw and forward Anthony Martial will all miss out on the match-up. Pogba hasn’t played since suffering an ankle injury in Man United’s 1-1 draw with Southampton before the international break.

Pogba missed a chance to join up with the France National Team for Euro 2020 qualifiers and according to Solskjaer, via the Manchester Evening News, Pogba hasn’t returned to full training. At the same time, Wales international and rising star Daniel James could also miss the match with an undisclosed injury. James reportedly suffered the injury during Man United’s 1-0 win over Leicester City.

The quartet of players all missed out on Man United’s 1-0 win over Astana in the UEFA Europa League group stage opener. Man United is now 2-0 since losing Pogba, with the wins over Leicester City and Astana. It will be fascinating to see whether Nemanja Matic retains his place alongside Scott McTominay, and whether that gives Man United a little more defensive balance.

Pogba so far has played four matches for Man United this season. Both Shaw and Martial have just played three times, though Martial already has two goals on the season.

Matic criticizes Solskjaer’s team selections

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It’s no surprise that Nemanja Matic is unhappy with his current situation.

The Manchester United veteran central midfielder has not only appeared to have lost a step, losing the pace that helped him close down defenders all over the park as well as beat others on balls in the air, but it’s in more real terms lost his place in the starting lineup. So far this early Premier League season, Man United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has preferred 22-year-old midfielder Scott McTominay as the holding midfielder for the team, leaving Matic to stew on the sidelines.

If Man United fails in its quest to finish in the top four, Matic says the blame lays solely at the feet of Solskjaer.

“The coach must opt for the team that will fight for the title and if he does not win, he bears the responsibility,” Matic said at a press conference ahead of Serbia’s Euro 2020 qualifying match against Portugal on Friday. “I have been in football for a long time, I have played almost all the games for all the clubs in the last 10 years. In order for me to play, one had to sit on the bench and accept that fact, and so do I now.”

It’s been three straight matches without a win for Man United, after a rollicking 4-0 victory over Chelsea where the Red Devils certainly finished all of their chances. The side could do with a player of Matic’s ability – at least in the past. Someone who can put out fires in central midfield, but could also dribble or have the technical ability to play the ball to forwards in tight spaces.

At the same time, Matic’s suggestion that Man United would surely achieve all its objectives with him in the lineup is doubtful. In addition, the players and Solskjaer will equally share the blame if Man United continue to struggle this season. At some point, it’s not just the manager.

At 31, Matic might be at the point where he has to change his game, either shifting to a centerback or playing a new role. With Pogba, it’s never an easy partnership, as Pogba likes to drift around to be available to play the killer pass, but that could leave another central midfield partner with more space to cover.

Ultimately, Matic seemed to understand that it’s up to him to get himself back in the Man United starting eleven.

Report: Man United shuts door on Pogba departure

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If the latest reports are to be believed, Paul Pogba is staying for at least another few months in Manchester.

Despite dropping hints through media interviews and his agent, Mino Raiola, that he wanted to leave Old Trafford this summer, Paul Pogba won’t be allowed to leave this window, according to a report from the Telegraph. It states that with the close of the Premier League transfer window, Pogba opportunity to leave is closed, at least until January or next summer.

[READ: Report: Eriksen turns down new Spurs offer]

Pogba is coming off a wild last 12 months. He went from winning the World Cup with France to re-joining his Man United teammates under Jose Mourinho. The pair famously feuded and Mourinho clearly lost his touch with the squad, leading to his dismissal and the introduction of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. All the while Pogba had an up and down season, but for a time in February and March, he was one of the best players in the Premier League. However, the lack of a summer break last year caught up with him, and his performances suffered late in the season.

Heading into this year, it appeared that Pogba was hoping to move, especially reportedly to play for his idol, Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid. However, Pogba signed a five-year contract with an option year when he re-joined the club in 2016. Ultimately, it seems that Pogba is much too valuable to Man United’s fortunes this season, especially if he were to leave for Real Madrid or even Juventus after the Premier League window is closed.

Pogba is going to be counted on by Solskjaer to be a key member of the squad this season. Nemanja Matic appears to be on the way down after a tremendous career in England, while Scott McTominay, Fred, James Garner and Angel Gomes all are in need of experience in top games. Based on Pogba’s assists against Chelsea, the club’s fortunes clearly rest on his outstanding talent. It’s now up to Pogba to put his head down, and keep his eye on leaving for next year.

Lukaku instructed to take down Twitter post with leaked Man United data

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According to a report by James Ducker of The Telegraph, Romelu Lukaku was instructed by Manchester United brass to remove a social media post that contained confidential club data.

Lukaku tweeted on Friday a video of individual running speeds from Manchester United training that saw him second only to Diogo Dalot. The post had the caption “Lack of pace” with a laughing emoji and a running emoji, clearly meant to rebuff any detractors to the speed of Lukaku on the field. Unfortunately, as Lukaku pans across the entire set of individual data ranked from lowest to highest, the video contained the speeds of every player who took part in training, information that Manchester United would almost certainly wish to keep confidential.

The post also did Lukaku himself a disservice, as the Belgian has missed all of Manchester United’s preseason to this point. While the club claims that Lukaku has been dealing with an ankle injury, the public has speculated that Manchester United is doing its best to sell Lukaku, with the Belgian linked heavily to Italian club Inter. With Lukaku publishing the training speeds, his own performance detracts from Manchester United’s already weak excuse of injury and stokes the fire of speculation.

It also had the unintended side effect of embarrassing those at the bottom, with Luke Shaw dead last followed by Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic. Mata laughed off the post publicly, with a comment that read, “Thanks for finally showing the world that I’m quicker than @LukeShaw23 bro.” Unfortunately, Shaw’s comment wasn’t as lighthearted, claiming he was running “at 70 percent.”

Ducker’s report states that the post angered manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and subsequently the post was removed, although it did not detail who precisely ordered it taken down. The report also says that Shaw did not take the public shaming well internally, as the England international is known as one of the fastest players in the Manchester United squad and was upset at having his reputation as such tarnished.

The whole situation will do nothing but increase pressure on Lukaku at Old Trafford and push him closer to a move away.

6 days to go until new PL season: Modern number 6 is flourishing in Premier League

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We are officially inside the final week of preparations for the new Premier League season, with just six days to go until the opening match of the new 2019/20 campaign.

With 6 days standing in the way of now and the new season, we take a look at how the Premier League has led the charge for the meteoric rise of the modern number 6 and is experiencing a golden age for the defensive midfielder. To make the argument that the current iteration of the defensive midfielder is the most important position in modern football, one simply has to look at the makeup of the Premier League over the last five years.

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Just this summer, in fact, Manchester City – the defending league champions – broke its club transfer record bringing in a new defensive midfielder in Rodri. With 34-year-old Fernandinho‘s occasional absence last season exposing the two-time Premier League champions, Pep Guardiola identified a position of need and filled it with a bang.

After Fernandinho made his way to the Premier League with his title-winning physicality and passing precision, N’Golo Kante engineered one of the most spectacular underdog stories of this generation, leading Leicester City to the title. One season later, he was shipped off to Chelsea and promptly saw the Blues to the top of the table, winning consecutive Premier League titles with two different teams.

Prior to Kante, Nemanja Matic helped Chelsea to the 2014/15 Premier League title, arriving from Benfica to patrol the Blues midfield and log over 3,000 league minutes in a season to remember.

As top-end Premier League teams look to play out from the back, the defensive midfielder is a critical component of the new style of domination football, but there’s more to it than that. The best defensive midfielders in the world possess an inate sense of the field that allows them to cover passing lanes and grab interceptions, turning possession back over to teams that want to possess the ball.

Taking a peek at the interception leaders in the Premier League last season, the top of the list is dominated by teams dominated in possession which gives them far more opportunities to cut out passes. Still, it proves teams up and down the table have begun employing a modern two-way defensive midfielder to cover the back line, with Watford’s Etienne Capoue leading the charge at a wonderful 2.6 interceptions per 90 minutes, followed by Huddersfield Town’s Jonathan Hogg and Everton’s Idrissa Gueye among the league leaders. Leicester City’s Wilfried Ndidi and Wolverhampton’s Ruben Neves both appear near the top, fitting as they both proved leaders of form for their clubs last season – where they go, the team goes. Lucas Torreira was a heralded signing at Arsenal and quickly proved he could help cover a struggling defensive side. Luka Milivojevic has become a vital part of Roy Hodgson‘s structure at Crystal Palace.

Aside from Pep Guardiola’s use of Rodri and Fernandinho at Manchester City as the club looks to transition from older to younger, one of the most interesting league storylines for the coming year is how Frank Lampard looks to make use of Kante one season removed from a change of scenery. Kantee took significant time to adjust after Maurizio Sarri yanked him from his best position and moved him higher up the pitch, with Jorginho slotted into the role. In the end Sarri was out after just one season and Lampard is left to pick up the pieces. A formerChelsea midfielder himself, Lampard has kept his cards close to his chest and Kante has seen zero playing time this preseason due to injury. Will the French international return to his favored defensive midfield role, or will Lampard continue Jorginho in that role as Sarri did to mixed success?

The new season is nearly upon us, and the modern game is very much alive in the growth, expansion, and dominance of the number 6.