Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Manchester United: Mata praises ‘very complete’ Pogba

Leave a comment

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.

Pogba explains Solskjaer’s secret: ‘He trusts us, we trust him’

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
1 Comment

Take Manchester United’s 2018-19 season as the latest example of what a positive atmosphere around a club can do for results on the field.

[ FA CUP DRAW: Man City, Man United avoid derby showdown ]

When Jose Mourinho was fired on Dec. 18, Man United sat sixth in the Premier League table and had won just two of their last eight games. Under the direction of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils have failed to win just twice in 13 games (all competitions) and have climbed up to fourth in the PL, along with reaching the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with a resounding 2-0 victory away to Chelsea on Monday.

After their triumph at Stamford Bridge, Paul Pogba, who’s been nothing short of a born-again megastar under new management and raised the bar once again with a goal and assist on Monday, praised Solskjaer for creating an atmosphere — built around “trust” — that the players once again enjoy, and that is a big reason why the club’s fortunes have turned around so sharply — quotes from the Standard and the BBC:

“He trusts us and we trust him. We go for it. You never know if you are going to win it, but we will play to win.”

“It is a beautiful win. Today was a great performance from the team, all of them. It wasn’t easy. We did it. We are really pleased with that win.

“The team helped me get to my best. I give everything for them. They help me score goals and get assists. We are enjoying playing together.”

As for Solskjaer’s tactical approach, which has seen Pogba more involved in the attack than during Mourinho’s rigid tenure, it’s clearly by design, and it’s clearly suiting Pogba well:

“The tactics worked. We asked Ander (Herrera) and Paul, our midfielders next to Nemanja (Matic), to go a bit higher and get into the box more often with Rom (Lukaku) and Marcus (Rashford) wide, so it worked.”

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

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

Key battles: Chelsea v. Man United in FA Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.

PSG chasing another kid named Kylian Mbappe

Getty Images
Leave a comment

What’s in a name? Probably a lot for the 11-year-old named Kylian Mbappe whom Paris Saint-Germain is reportedly interested in signing.

While his older namesake is hailed as the best young player in the world playing for PSG’s senior team and the world champion French national team, younger Kylian Mbappe currently plays for Roissy-en-Brie, the same youth club Paul Pogba played for as a young child before moving to Le Havre’s youth system and then Manchester United.

According to the child’s father, PSG has made an approach to add him to their youth ranks, but the family is taking its time to make a decision about Mbappe’s future.

“He will do what he wants and we will not push him at all costs to become a professional footballer,” said the boy’s father Eric, who is Cameroonian, just like the father of older Kylian Mbappe. “If it is the case that he goes to PSG, who have approached us, we would of course become closer to the other Kylian.”

“I have often been asked if I did it on purpose to call my son what his name is,” Eric added, speaking to French publication Le Parisien. “People quickly forget that there is only an 8-year age difference between the two and so obviously he was not a footballer when my son was born.”

Child Kylian said, “Since the other one became big, I have got used to it. I don’t even pay attention to it even if it generally makes me feel good. I am a PSG fan, I would like to have the same career as him.”

Wouldn’t we all, Kylian, wouldn’t we all.