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Report: Pogba to replace McTominay in Man United midfield

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According to multiple reports Paul Pogba is set to start for Manchester United against Sevilla on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg after recovering from injury.

Pogba, 24, missed United’s 2-1 victory against Liverpool on Saturday after suffering a contact injury in the final minute of training last Friday.

Jose Mourinho had left Pogba out of his starting lineup in recent weeks after his reaction to the instructions from his manager on Jan. 31 in the 1-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.

McTominay has since risen to stardom in central midfield with Mourinho once again heaping praise on the 21-year-old following yet another mature display in the heart of midfield during the victory over Liverpool.

Bringing Pogba back in for the huge Sevilla clash (the score is locked at 0-0 after the first leg in Sevilla) is a big call but given the fact that McTominay has played a lot recently and United have an FA Cup quarterfinal clash against Brighton to prepare for next Saturday too, perhaps Mourinho is rotating his squad.

It’s not bad to have a $130 million man to step in when needed…

Mourinho slams United’s fans over McTominay treatment

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MANCHESTER — Jose Mourinho hailed Manchester United’s “perfect result” against Liverpool as his team won 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday to cement their spot in second place in the Premier League table and give themselves a five-point lead over their fierce rivals.

Although he said he “wouldn’t go as far” to call the performance perfect as United’s 2-0 half time lead, via two Marcus Rashford strikes, was halved by an own goal by Eric Bailly and came under threat from late Liverpool pressure, Mourinho was fairly happy with a characteristically dogged display from his side.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

However, he wasn’t happy with United’s supporters.

In the second half they loudly criticized academy graduate Scott McTominay who kept possession rather than going forward to give his team a breather with a veteran move. Mourinho applauded on the sidelines at the time, then hit out at United’s supporters over the way they treated the young midfielder.

Asked by reporters if he was unhappy with fans booing his decision to take off Rashford who was on a hat trick, Mourinho instead rounded on them for their loud criticism of McTominay.

“I am not upset at all with that reaction. I am upset with a reaction they had with Scott McTominay. A kid, 20 years old, was making all the right decisions and they want him to make the wrong decisions,” Mournho said. “When a kid decides to break the intensity of the game, not to lose, keep possession and play a back pass to give a solution and keep the ball in the opponents in the other half. It was a wonderful solution that many top players with experience, they don’t do it. The kid did it and the fans reacted against the kid. That, for me, was the bad one. To react against me and my decisions, that’s not a problem.”

It was another fine display from McTominay in the engine room alongside Nemanja Matic as United barely missed Paul Pogba who missed out through injury after getting injured late in training on Friday.

Mourinho was generally positive about the Old Trafford atmosphere, but he still isn’t happy with some of United’s fans and made his feelings very clear.

Scott McTominay to be called up by Scotland

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Manchester United’s rising star Scott McTominay has received the first international call up of his career.

And it is not from his country of birth.

New Scotland manager Alex McLeish has confirmed that he will name McTominay, 21, in their squad to face Costa Rica in a friendly later this month with McTominay, born and raised in England, ready to represent the Tartan Army.

England is said to have shown little interest in calling up the holding midfielder who has become a mainstay in the United starting lineup over the past few months, playing 16 times this season for the Red Devils.

“He will be in the squad,” McLeish said. “I don’t think that’s the world’s best kept secret at this particular moment. Scott was very receptive. I looked him in the eye and he gave me passion about playing for Scotland. I saw the passion and I really felt that we had nailed it that day.”

McTominay hasn’t played at the international level at all during his career but his grandparents are from Scotland and previous reports have suggested that he was leaning towards playing for them.

Even if he does play for Scotland in the friendly against Costa Rica on Mar. 23, he can still switch to England in the future as it isn’t a competitive game.

Looking at the depth of midfield options for England, McTominay’s decision may be a little hasty. Aside from Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson, how many other central midfielders playing regularly in the Premier League does Gareth Southgate have to choose from?

Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Cork and maybe Lewis Cook are other options, but there seems to be slim pickings in that area of the pitch. But with England’s U-17 and U-20 teams the current world champions, it’s likely that the Three Lions will promote their players from within the ranks rather than selecting someone who has risen to stardom over the past few months. Maybe that has swayed McTominay’s decision.

Still, if he continues to be a regular for United in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League in the coming months, surely he can change his mind? I’m sure that will go down very well with both the Scotland and England fans…

On a serious note, he is a tough tackling, composed central midfielder who reminds me of Michael Carrick in possession and his positional sense is spot on, something Mourinho loves. Is McTominay the best thing since sliced bread? No. But is he a top prospect who will get regular minutes at United under Mourinho in the next 12-18 months? More than likely that will be the case.

Mourinho: “Paul made a big effort”

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Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho had fine words for Paul Pogba, but was tickled by the performance of 21-year-old Scott McTominay in the Red Devils scoreless draw with Sevilla in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

[ RECAP: Sevilla 0-0 Man Utd ]

The visitors emerged unscathed, though without an away goal, and Mourinho raised eyebrows when he kept Pogba on the bench to start the match. The young McTominay started the match, and was paired with Pogba once Ander Herrera left the match with injury.

When a reporter asked Mourinho about McTominay after the match, the boss asked if he could give the reporter a hug before elaborating (via the BBC):

“In the press conference, the questions were about Paul [Pogba] but the question should be about the kid. He was fantastic. He did everything well. He put pressure on Ever Banega and stopped him playing, he’s their playmaker. I think Scott was brilliant.

“I think Paul made a big effort to try to give the team what I asked of him. Paul replaced Ander, he tried to bring to the game the same kind of qualities. He lost a couple of possessions but he also gave us stability because we had a good percentage of possession for the way we played.”

Mourinho was sure to include Nemanja Matic as a big part of the midfield trio.

The Pogba-Mourinho questions aren’t going to go away any time soon, though it should be noted — perhaps strongly — that the player was ill this weekend and United has to face Chelsea in Premier League play this weekend.

Still, he couldn’t help but mention how much he believes “Old Trafford has missed a big European night,” and how he’s looking forward to a potentially big win come March 13.

LIVE, UCL – Sevilla vs. Man United, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma

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Jose Mourinho has created a splash this morning by benching Paul Pogba despite utilizing a 3-man central midfield formation as Manchester United heads to Spain to take on Sevilla in their Champions League Round of 16 first leg meeting.

Pogba was left out of Saturday’s win over Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup due to illness, but having made the trip to Sevilla with the matchday squad, it seems his omission is instead due to tactical reasons. 21-year-old academy product Scott McTominay starts in Pogba’s place alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, with the Frenchman on the bench among the substitutes.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

The decision is surprising given Manchester United’s 16-point deficit in the Premier League table as they trail runaway favorites Manchester City, leaving the Champions League as the best competition remaining that the Red Devils have a shot to win.

Up front for Manchester United, Alexis Sanchez carries the creative load along with Juan Mata, with both supporting Romelu Lukaku at the striker position. Meanwhile, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof continue to work as the central defensive partnership, while Antonio Valencia captains the side as full-back, mirrored by Ashley Young on the other edge.

In the other matchup, Roma heads to the Ukraine to take on Shakhtar Donetsk, who finished 2nd in Group F three points behind Manchester City. The Ukranian side has only just returned from its winter break, with just a single game played since December 10th.

Roma, meanwhile, has pulled itself out of a rut just in time for the return of Champions League play, with three straight Serie A wins coming on the heels of a five-match winless run. They have scored eight goals over those three wins, with a pair of road clean sheets among the group. 20-year-old Turkish winger Cengiz Under is on fire over the win streak, scoring four goals over that span.


Today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 schedule

Sevilla vs. Manchester United – 2:45 p.m. ET
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma – 2:45 p.m. ET