Pogba needs to let his feet do the talking again and more Man United discussion points

Matt Jones 19/08/2018
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Manchester United head to the south coast to take on Brighton in their second fixture of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign.

The Red Devils opened up with a 2-1 home win against Leicester City last week, while the Seagulls had their wings clipped in a 2-0 defeat at Watford.

Ahead of the game, we look at three key talking points:

Better call Paul

Paul Pogba wore the captain’s armband against Leicester.

Superb on the opening day against Leicester, Paul Pogba seemed to undermine his own performance in the aftermath when he alluded to getting in trouble if he were to lift the lid on things behind the scenes at Old Trafford.

For all the criticism thrown Jose Mourinho’s way in handling his United players, Pogba isn’t entirely blameless. He will know himself he was way below the standards expected of an £89m player when he was in and out of the side last season. And his latest comments were hardly conducive to a drama-free start to the season for all concerned at Old Trafford.

It would be great to see Pogba – like last week – let his feet rather than his mouth do the talking, and put in another commanding performance.

United – bar the visit of fellow top-four contenders Spurs next weekend – have a kind start to the campaign.

And a Pogba-inspired charge towards a possible title tilt would work wonders in quashing the summer’s doom and gloom while at the same time quelling Mourinho’s moans.

On the back of a rousing World Cup win in Russia, Pogba’s sumptuous performance against Leicester had United fans purring. His comments post-match against the Foxes, however, were more than a little sly.

It undid much of his brilliance. After firing in a fine penalty to give them the lead, his was a performance full of craft, cunning, courage and confidence. More of the same this week please Paul.

Is Rom Luk-ing towards Premier League history?

Prolific record: Romelu Lukaku.

Romelu Lukaku would probably be the first person to admit his technical ability still needs some work – but the man is a pure goalscorer, of that there is no doubt.

The Belgian has only just turned 25 yet is one of just 28 players to have found the back of the net 100 times or more in the Premier League.

He has 101 goals in 220 games. Only Harry Kane (108 in 153 games), Sergio Aguero (143 in 206) and Jermain Defoe (162 in 491) are those ahead of him who are still playing. His ratio of a goal every 0.46 minutes places him joint seventh.

If he were to match last season’s haul of 16 he would shoot up to 18th place on the list by the end of this campaign – overtaking such illustrious names as Didier Drogba, Paul Scholes and Ian Wright along the way.

The question is, how much farther can he go? All the way to the top, Alan Shearer’s 260? Doubtful perhaps, but he, and Kane, should realistically push the Newcastle and England icon close.

Say what you will about United’s boring style of play under Mourinho or their general travails since Sir Alex Ferguson’s exit, they will always be challenging for the trophy at the business end of seasons.

Lukaku, as evidenced by last season’s tally, will be provided with a steadier stream of chances at Old Trafford than at Goodison Park. As he matures as a player and hones his game, we should also expect his scoring prowess to improve.

Let’s see if he can get off to a flying start against the Seagulls.

Will the real Jahanbakhsh please stand up

What can we expect from Jahanbakhsh?

After a scintillating season at club level in 2017/18, it’s safe to say a lot was expected of Alireza Jahanbakhsh heading into the World Cup.

His Eredivisie campaign with relative minnows AZ Alkmaar – the club have won the Dutch top-flight twice (1980/81 and 2008/09 in their modest 51-year history) – was nothing short of stunning. In 39 games in all competitions he rocketed in 22 goals.

During three seasons in the north of the Netherlands, the 25-year-old notched 34 league goals in 85 games and 37 in 111 total appearances.

Three in 29 during his maiden 2015/16 campaign ratcheted up to 12 in 43 a year later before he really turned it on last term. Not bad at all, especially for a winger/attacking midfielder.

Let’s talk about assists. Jahanbakhsh registered 12 in 33 outings. Brighton, it seems, have got some player on their hands.

They will hope to get more from him than Iran did in Russia. Perhaps we should temper our criticism. Iran are a side built on defensive solidity by Carlos Queiroz and their opponents contained the 2010 world champions Spain and reigning European champions Portugal, as well as African heavyweights Morocco. So we were hardly likely to witness Jahanbakhsh at his swashbuckling best.

He made his Brighton bow in a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Watford last week, emerging for a 20-minute cameo from the bench.

He only touched the ball eight times yet made one key pass – which jointly led Brighton – and went on one dribble. With the Seagulls tipped by many to struggle to soar to last season’s heights, the Iranian schemer’s skill could prove pivotal.

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'You cannot buy class', Man United boss Jose Mourinho tells Man City

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Mourinho and City manager Pep Guardiola have endured a fractious relationship.

Jose Mourinho has said Manchester City might be a rich club that signs the best players but they “cannot buy class”.

The Manchester United boss was responding to a question about City’s Amazon Prime documentary, which aired this week.

“I think you can have a fantastic movie, respecting others,” he told Sky Sports.

“You don’t need to be disrespectful to have a fantastic movie.

“You can be a rich club and buy all the best players in the world but you cannot buy class.”

More to follow…

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Jose Mourinho claims he's never been happier with Paul Pogba

Simon Peach 17/08/2018
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Jose Mourinho says he has never been happier with Paul Pogba as the Manchester United manager dismissed talk that tensions had come to a head this week.

The 25-year-old produced a captain’s performance as he opened the scoring and helped United start the Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win against Leicester a week ago.

The display would have gone a long way to silencing talk about Pogba’s Old Trafford happiness was it not for a striking post-match interview in which he claimed that “there are things that I cannot say otherwise I will get fined”.

A report this week said that those comments had led to an angry exchange, but Mourinho diffused such talk ahead of Sunday’s trip to Brighton.

“The truth is we are together for two years and a couple of weeks, and I’ve never been so happy with him as I am now,” the United boss said. “That’s the truth.

“I cannot demand more from him, I cannot ask more from him.

“He came here on a Monday, he trained three days, I asked for his support, for his contribution in an important match for us when the team had difficulties.

“He did it better and for more time than we could expect.

“When he says he did it for the fans and for the team, it is exactly what I want. It is exactly what I demand from my players is what he is giving me.

“He’s working well, he’s playing well, he does for the fans, he does for the team and that’s what I want.

“I want him to play for the team which he is doing, and, I repeat, I couldn’t be happier than what I am.”

JoseMourinhoManUnited

Mourinho’s relationship with Pogba and the club-record signing’s contentment dominated a press conference nominally previewing the Brighton match.

The United boss confirmed that the France international will wear the captain’s armband again on the south coast, but the cloud of the player’s post-match interview continued to linger.

“I don’t care,” Mourinho said of the interview. “I don’t care.

“I repeat, I want him to play well, I want him to play for that team, the fans, and that is what it is.

“He’s working extremely well here, but I have to say in his defence that write what you want about him, write what you want about me, please don’t say lies.

“Please don’t put him in a situation where people can think he’s not a polite, educated guy, which he is.

“He’s very polite, he’s very educated, he never had a fight with me.

“We never had a warm or hard – I don’t know how you like to say – change of words. Everything is respected, I have no problems at all.”

When pressed on the reasons for Pogba making his comments about possibly being fined, Mourinho added: “You have to ask him, you have to ask him.

“I am here for two years and a couple of months and the only player that was fined was Anthony Martial, so it is not easy to be fined here.

“So, you have to ask him. I didn’t ask him, I am not going to ask him.

“I repeat, I want him to work the way he is doing and to play the way he is doing and for me that’s the only thing that matters.”

Mourinho confirmed Martial’s fine revolved around recent events involving his late return following the birth of his second child.

The Frenchman was on the bench against Leicester last week, when Matteo Darmian started despite his explicit intention to return to Italy this month.

But with the transfer deadline on Friday evening, Mourinho now expects the full-back to stay despite links to Napoli, Inter Milan and Juventus.

“I don’t think he will go and he cannot have any bad feeling towards us because we opened the door for him in case his desire was to go,” he said.

“But it looks like it’s not going to end in a transfer, and for me it is good news.

“For me, it is good news that Matteo is staying. He’s always an option for us, he’s always a reliable player.”

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