Scott McTominay

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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.

Three things learned: Man United v. Chelsea

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MANCHESTER — Manchester United eased to a 4-0 victory against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Saturday, but that didn’t tell the whole story.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Marcus Rashford scored in each half and Anthony Martial and Daniel James both scored in the second half, but Chelsea hit the woodwork twice in the first half and new manager Frank Lampard will be scratching his head after a proper thumping.

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform on debut? ]

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s name reverberated around Old Trafford as this new-look United side dug deep, rode their luck and showed there may be good times ahead.

Here’s what we learned from Old Trafford.


UNITED’S NEW BOYS SETTLE IN QUICKLY

Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka were both making their home debuts as Manchester United players and both had their name sung loud and proud by the Stretford End. They snapped into tackles, looked calm defensively and even though Chelsea caused United problems defensively, it was more so down to Luke Shaw and Victor Lindelof being caught out of position or sloppy passes in midfield.

Daniel James then jumped off the bench to score on his Premier League debut to make it 4-0 as the Welsh winger proved he can be a real menace as an impact player. All three of United’s new boys made a positive impact on their debut and Solskjaer will hope that Maguire and AWB continue as they’ve started off. With those two in defense, they look a much better defensive unit.


CHELSEA’S DEFENDING WILL BE A WORRY

Kurt Zouma may well have been Man United’s best player on Sunday. That’s a tad harsh, but he gave away a penalty kick, looked all over the place positionally and the pace of Marcus Rashford was too much for him to handle. David Luiz has been sold, N’Golo Kante didn’t start due to injury and Antonio Rudiger is still out, so this Chelsea defensive unit will look a lot different when it is fully fit.

That said, the way Chelsea capitulated in the second half will be a worry for Lampard and even when Rudiger and Kante are fully fit, who starts at center back? On this showing neither Zouma or Christensen did themselves any favors.


BEST AND WORST OF POGBA ARRIVES

In the first half Paul Pogba‘s display summed up the vacuum present in United’s midfield. He and Scott McTominay couldn’t get on the ball and when they did, they lost it. Pogba’s second half was superb. He pinged over a pinpoint ball to Rashford to make it 3-0, then surged towards goal and slotted in Daniel James for the fourth.

We saw the best and worst of Pogba on Sunday and that is the main problem.

That is why fans are so divided when it comes to his worth at United and don’t forget, he could still move on to Juventus or Real Madrid later this summer when their transfer windows close. He was booed and cheered when his name was read out over the PA announcer. That sums up the feeling towards him right now. He is infuriatingly inconsistent.

Pogba played like he wanted to be at United, but only in the second half. If he can become more consistent, United can really challenge for a top four finish this season.

Manchester United pummels Chelsea behind Pogba playmaking

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Paul Pogba set up two goals and Marcus Rashford scored twice as Manchester United clobbered Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The Blues were the better team for the first hour aside from a conceded penalty, but the dam exploded in the second half.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

American winger Christian Pulisic came off the bench for Chelsea with an hour to play.

Both Daniel James and Anthony Martial also scored in the win.


Three things we learned

1. Paul Pogba looked a man inspired, chipping in at both ends and scooping up two assists. The first was an audacious, inch-perfect ball to lift the lid on the defense and the second came after leading a marauding counter attack and playing a scintillating little pass to James.

2. Both Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer want to give the kids a chance, even if the former didn’t give our American kid a start. Scott McTominay and Andreas Pereira held places in United’s XI, and both Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham opened business for Chelsea.

Lampard, however, perhaps got a little too cute in handing the Abraham an opening day start at Old Trafford when he had Olivier Giroud‘s experience in the mix (albeit with the knowledge that Giroud doesn’t have a great record at United). Abraham was quick and industrious but perhaps a bit tipsy from the stage.

UPDATE: Jose Mourinho, speaking on Sky Sports, agrees.

“Alonso, Kante and Giroud were on the bench. To come to Old Trafford, even if it’s not the huge Manchester United team that used to scare people, it’s still Manchester United, it’s the first match at home, first match of the season, people are excited. A little bit of experience would fit well with the team. You look at the performance of Mount, Abraham and Christensen and I think for matches of this dimension you need a bit more.”

3. Top strikers — and we have no idea if Marcus Rashford will prove to be one — score even when they’re struggling, and Rashford won and converted a penalty despite looking out of place for the first 15 minutes of the match.

Man of the Match:  Aaron Wan-Bissaka


[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Tammy Abraham hammered a shot off the post in the fifth minute, and it didn’t even appear to spin (and may have been heard to whimper).

At the other end, a poor giveaway allowed Anthony Martial a prime chance. The French hit a low drive to Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Mason Mount hit a hard shot that deflected off Harry Maguire but spun to David De Gea in the 12th.

Marcus Rashford had a poor first quarter-hour but his mistouch put Kurt Zouma off balance and the Chelsea man chopped him down for a penalty. Rashford roofed his effort for a 1-0 lead.

De Gea made a fine leg save on Ross Barkley as the match neared halftime, and Victor Lindelof blocked Jorginho‘s mediocre attempt to volley the rebound home. And Emerson smashed a shot off the top of the near post moments later.

Emerson forced De Gea into another fine save in the 56th minute.

Chelsea introduced Christian Pulisic around the hour mark, and the Blues had all of the ball but gave up a goal at the next United opportunity.

That came when Martial bodied up to meet Andreas Pereira’s cross at the center of the box.

Two minutes later, Rashford ran onto an inch-perfect long ball from Pogba and put his shot behind Arrizabalaga for 3-0.

Pogba then led a free kick counter attack down the left of the pitch before slipping a sensational pass through to James, whose shot turned off Emerson and past Arrizabalaga.

Analyzing Manchester United’s offseason with under 48 hours to go

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There is certain unease about Manchester United, whose fortunes have dipped wildly after a remarkable 20-year run as one of the best sides in the world.

The Red Devils’ have maintained their status as one of the biggest clubs in the world, but have finished 7th, 4th, 5th, 6th, 2nd, and 6th in the six seasons since it completed a run of 13 Premier League titles in 21 years.

[ MORE: Manchester United season preview ]

At this point, it seems that United chairman Ed Woodward is more or less going all-in on the idea that his most recent firing, Jose Mourinho, was the problem and not the club he assembled for the Portuguese veteran, while also heeding Mourinho’s advice that the team badly needed to address the defense.

New boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s credentials going into the new season are three:

  1. He immediately led United on a 12-match unbeaten run against a lot of PL clubs he was supposed to beat, and Spurs.
  2. He engineered an unlikely comeback against Neymar-less PSG in the Champions League to bring some magic to Old Trafford.
  3. He’s not Jose Mourinho.

United has spent big on Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, two of the best in England at their respective positions, and also picked up young winger Daniel James from Swansea City.

Gone are Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia, a far cry from the expected departures when the window began earlier this summer.

The Red Devils have the talent to contend for a place in the Top Four, but they’ll need a lot of things to go their way including the continued development of young players. It would be a boon for Romelu Lukaku to remain at the club in the hopes of an expected bounce back season, but it seems that United believes Marcus Rashford will take even bigger strides after a pair of 13-goal seasons at Old Trafford.

They’ll need that, as well as continued growth from Scott McTominay and Diogo Dalot (On the flip side, Alexis Sanchez turning back the hands of time sure would be nice).

There are two days left in the transfer window, one which as it stands has been a decent success. That could of course change if Pogba is sold, or if Lukaku lands them a haul such as the rumored Mario Mandzukic and Blaise Matuidi switch.

If not, was their offseason enough? You’d have to say probably not, or only if Paul Pogba asserts himself as one of the best midfielders in the world over 38 matches, seizing the chance to prove his doubters wrong.

And if the season does not deliver, then it might be the final straw for Woodward.

Romelu Lukaku left out of Man United squad

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Romelu Lukaku has yet to feature for Manchester United in preseason and speculating regarding his future at Old Trafford will continue to swirl.

The Belgian star was left out of United’s 26-man squad for their trip to Norway to play Kristiansund on Tuesday, and there was no reason given for his absence on the club website.

Lukaku, 26, has been linked with moves to Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan throughout the summer and it appears the end-game is near.

Reports suggest that Juve will offer Paulo Dybala for Lukaku, while Inter have been negotiating with United for some time but the Red Devils are said to want over $90 million for their Belgian striker and Antonio Conte‘s side are yet to offer anywhere near that.

An extra caveat to all of this is that Lukaku traveled with United to Australia and China for their lengthy preseason tour but didn’t play a single second due to a minor injury.

He could often be seen training on his own or working out on an excercise bike in the gym, as his future remains up in the air.

Do United need him?

Given his penchant as a proven goalscorer, you always need those around. But given the fact that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants young, speedy strikers and he has a lot of them, Lukaku’s skillset makes him surplus to requirements right off the bat.

We saw him chucked out wide at times during the second half of last season and although he caused problems in that role, he never looked comfortable. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and youngsters Dan James and Mason Greenwood looked more natural fits for United’s new high-octane playing style.

Lukaku has talked about his love for Serie A on multiple occasions and it appears his time in the Premier League is about to come to an end.

When we look back on his United career, 42 goals in 96 appearances isn’t a bad record at all. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

His hold-up play didn’t improve much, neither did his record against the top six clubs, and the lack of service he received — especially in the opening months of Jose Mourinho’s final season in charge — saw him frustrated so when chances did arrive he snatched at them.

Along with Paul Pogba, Lukaku always seemed to be under pressure at United and it seems close to the mark to say both have been too inconsistent over the past few seasons.

Here is United’s squad in full for the trop to Norway

David De Gea, Lee Grant, Joel Pereira, Sergio Romero; Diogo Dalot, Phil Jones, Victor Lindelof, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Ashley Young; Fred, Angel Gomes, Daniel James, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Paul Pogba; Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford.