Rio Ferdinand warns Manchester United not to sell star midfielder Paul Pogba

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Rio Ferdinand has warned Manchester United not to sell Paul Pogba.

With speculation about the France midfielder’s future once again rife amid reports of interest from Barcelona, former United defender Ferdinand has told executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to keep the 25-year-old.

Manager Jose Mourinho has already predicted a “difficult season” if United do not do more business, so losing a World Cup-winning midfielder would only add to that.

As a result, Ferdinand – who made over 450 appearances for United – wants Pogba to stay and Spurs defender Toby Alderweireld to come in.

Referencing reports that Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, is looking at the Camp Nou as a possible new home for his player, Ferdinand said on Twitter: “Don’t you dare allow this ED… #MUFC is Pogba’s home!! Silence these rumours ASAP & get @AlderweireldTob through the door.”

United start their Premier League campaign on Friday at Leicester and, speaking on Sunday, Mourinho told MUTV: “My CEO knows what I want and I still have a few days to wait and see what happens.

“The other clubs who compete with us are really strong and already have fantastic teams. Or they are investing massively like Liverpool, who are buying everything and everybody.”

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Anthony Martial may end up following in the footsteps of other star Jose Mourinho outcasts

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Will Martial be the latest talented player to flourish away from Mourinho?

Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Romelu Lukaku … and Anthony Martial. Is that a game of spot the pattern, or a “one of these is not like the other”?

Jose Mourinho got a lot of grief last season as De Bruyne and Salah shone for Manchester City and Liverpool respectively.

Both were Chelsea discards during Mourinho’s second spell at the club. So was Lukaku, but he’s ended up playing under Mourinho at Manchester United and has flourished – unlike his team-mate Martial.

The young Frenchman arrived with much fanfare at the end of the 2015 summer window, with United having plucked a seemingly unknown for an eye-popping transfer fee – the initial £36million outlay was itself the highest transfer paid for a teenager at that point.

And, if you add on add-ons, the overall sum has the legs to exceed £57million. One of those such contractual terms is said to include a clause for Martial winning the Ballon d’Or.

In today’s market, £57million for a future Ballon d’Or winner would be a steal. Kylian Mbappe‘s transfer fee is roughly three times that.

Whether Martial has the potential to the best player in the world in the future remains to be seen. He’s shown flashes of immense talent – instantly, at United, scoring a famous solo goal within minutes of coming on during debut against rivals Liverpool, and on plenty of occasions since.

Indeed, talent is the not the question. The question is whether he applies himself well enough or not – and whether his manager is stifling him.

Martial embodies two of the loudest criticisms of Mourinho – that he wastes or ruins young players, and that he can’t work with players who have flair. And it’s true that the former Chelsea, Porto, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid manager demands a certain work rate in defence from his attacking players, causing some of those players to struggle as a result.

Thus the belief, seemingly held by the player himself along with many fans and pundits, is that Martial would thrive under a different manager. If he were given more freedom to express himself, he could well end up being the best player in the world.

Yet he’s actually coming off the most productive season of his United career, tallying 11 goals and nine assists in all competitions in 2017-18. He had a great first-half to the season, before fading after the arrival of Alexis Sanchez.

Which brings up the second criticism of Mourinho. Buying a big-name star in a season where an established young player was doing well is cited as one of the reasons for Martial’s poor second-half to the campaign.

The Frenchman, who was left out of the Les Bleus World Cup squad, was moved over to the right wing to accommodate the Chilean, despite having thrived on the opposite flank, and ended up getting fewer minutes as he slipped below Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata in the pecking order, thus losing form and confidence.

And then this summer, which began with his agent saying Martial wanted to leave United, ended with him being left behind in Manchester as the squad flew to Munich for their final pre-season friendly. In the middle, he became a father, but took flak from Mourinho for not returning quickly enough after the birth of his child.

The club don’t want to grant his wish to leave, as they see the same talent that Martial’s fans do and are loathe to the idea of that talent flourishing elsewhere, as De Bruyne, Salah, and Lukaku have after leaving a Mourinho-managed club. Mourinho is apparently less fussed, disgruntled by a player who doesn’t meet his standards of work rate and commitment to the cause.

However legitimate the criticisms of Mourinho may be, though, he’s not foolish enough to discard a player with “best in the world” potential without reason – especially not after spending a year hearing about Salah and De Bruyne. If he’s willing to let Martial go, his complaints about a lack of application or work ethic may be worth heeding.

After all, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil, and Eden Hazard have all excelled under Mourinho, even if they didn’t exactly love playing for him.

United fans are hoping Martial joins that list of players, rather than the one headlined by De Bruyne, Salah, and Lukaku. But is there a possibility that he doesn’t have the dedication to join either?

It may end up being his next manager’s job to find out.

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Boring football set to continue, Rashford's new role and more Man United talking points

Matt Jones 6/08/2018
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Manchester United wrapped up their 2018 pre-season schedule in Germany as Jose Mourinho‘s men went down to a slender 1-0 defeat to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Despite the margin of victory there was little on the pitch for United fans to get excited about, with virtually nothing created by the Red Devils as Bayern exerted control on proceedings.

It’s been an uninspiring summer for United, both on and off the field, and fans will hardly be filled with positivity ahead of the new Premier League season which kicks off at Old Trafford with the visit of Leicester City next Friday.

Here are three talking points from the game.

 

Pedestrian football does little to offer hope

<> at Allianz Arena on August 5, 2018 in Munich, Germany.

It’s been a long and insufferable summer for Manchester United fans. Firstly there’s the inactivity in the transfer market, with Fred the sole acquisition of any note or excitement.

Then there is the football. Dull, lifeless and lacking in quality. United were thrashed 4-1 by rivals Liverpool Stateside while uninspiring draws were recorded against MLS minnows Club America and San Jose Earthquakes.

Their summer programme was bookended by this lifeless outing in Germany against Munich on Sunday night, during which they mustered just one shot in 90 minutes, and none on target.

Their two victories have come via a penalty shootout against AC Milan and a 2-1 victory over Spanish giants Real Madrid, who were playing their first game of pre-season and failed to emerge from second gear.

Of course, Mourinho can and rightly will point to the fact that his preparations have been hindered by the majority of pre-season being undertaken with the Portuguese shorn of at least half his squad.

Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard are yet to play a minute of United’s warm-up games as they recuperate from an exhausting summer at the World Cup.

Yet, as Bayern harried and pressed United’s defenders high up the pitch on their home field, United dawdled and showed little invention or even willingness to attack. Alexis Sanchez once again cut a frustrated and isolated figure up front.

There were encouraging outings for new man Fred who got more minutes under his belt having not played one for Brazil at the World Cup. Luke Shaw continued to show signs of progress and looks in decent shape ahead of next weekend’s Premier League opener against Leicester.

And while pre-season is a mere gauge of how the season might pan out, United have done little so far to dispel the fear that 2018/19 could produce more mediocrity.

 

Number 10 role for Rashford

Rashford Bayern

Marcus Rashford was often used as a stick to beat Mourinho with last season – but the familiar yet tired cries of “Jose ruins youth” were hallow to say the least.

The Wythenshawe wonderboy was as much a victim of his own continuing growth as he was any wide of the mark vindictiveness labelled at his manager for not playing him. Rashford actually had plenty of chances, he was just inconsistent.

He played 1,810 minutes in the Premier League, placing him 11th among team-mates. Yet he only scored seven goals, although his five assists was joint third behind Pogba (10) and Lukaku (seven).

Even the much maligned Anthony Martial found the net more times (nine) despite seeing 226 minutes fewer on the field.

The 20-year-old went significant periods without scoring – six weeks and nine games from late October to early December, and 10 games and more than two months between early March and mid-May.

Mourinho must shoulder some of the blame as Rashford was rarely played centrally and asked to contribute defensively out wide – something he does much more diligently than sulky Frenchman Martial.

But rather than critics claiming Mourinho is killing the club’s academy – he took seven youth team players on the US tour – they should concentrate on the fact Rashford is still very much learning his craft.

An indicator of his standing within the squad should be his new jersey number for 2018/19 and could provide an insight into a possible elevated role.

Hours before kick-off in Bavaria it was revealed that Rashford will wear the No10 shirt this season – donned most recently by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Teddy Sheringham and David Beckham.

Ultimately, you have to give both Mourinho and Rashford a break. He’s still just a kid and his time will come.

Why won’t Jose release the shackles?

Jose Bayern

Mourinho prides himself on his teams’ resilience and ability to keep shape, and that’s admirable. But while that may have been allowed and even championed at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, United are a club at which entertainment and enterprise is etched into their core.

It’s not as if this side are a supreme defensive unit. Their impressive and improved record under Mourinho is more down to his refusal to let the handbrake off rather than any impenetrable or fearsome wall they represent.

Only Eric Bailly could be considered an elite operator, and his inability to keep himself healthy – he unsurprisingly went off here with a knock – has stunted his progress since a 2016 arrival from Villarreal.

Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have their uses but have more critics than fans. Victor Lindelof had an indifferent debut season in 2017/18 and Marcos Rojo is unpredictable and rash at best. Meanwhile, their first choice full-backs are converted wingers.

So why the hesitance? United have built up a resplendent and respectable reputation on swashbuckling, gung-ho football over the last half a century and more.

Mourinho will have heard some dissenting voices in the stands last season. They will only grow if the stagnant football remains a feature this term.

Those voices would be virtually non-existent if he unlocked the shackles and let his flair players loose on opponents. If United lose games but go down fighting, it is eminently more acceptable than doing so while meekly surrendering and trying to appear solid.

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