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Paul Pogba’s Free Role In Man Utd’s Win Over Leeds Shows How Best For Ole Gunnar Solskjaer To Use Him

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Paul Pogba‘s long-term future at Manchester United remains uncertain as he enters the final year of his contract, but did his starring performance against Leeds show how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can get the best out of him while he is still there?

 

 

 

The most striking thing about Paul Pogba’s four assists in Manchester United’s 5-1 thrashing of Leeds on Saturday was that they were all completely different.

 

 

A first-time dink to find Bruno Fernandes charging in behind for the first. An exquisite through-ball from deep in his own half for the second. A quick turn and pass in the No 10 position for the third. A measured cut-back from the left-wing position for the fourth.

 

 

Pogba’s quality is such that he can hurt opponents from all angles and in varying ways. His range of passing has long been one of his best attributes and his vision, evident for all four of his assists at Old Trafford, is similarly impressive.

 

As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United well know, however, unlocking those qualities can be challenging. Indeed, in the space of one game on Saturday, Pogba created more goals than in each of the last two Premier League seasons.

 

The Frenchman has been deployed in different positions and in different systems since his return to Old Trafford from Juventus in 2016. The debate about where best to use him has run and run.

 

But his creative masterclass on Saturday, during which he became only the seventh player in Premier League history to register four assists in a single game, was a reminder that in Pogba’s case, it is probably best not to get bogged down in tactical intricacies.

See also  Messi Considering Other Offers, Says Barcelona President

 

“Today was just about, ‘go out there enjoy yourself’,” said Solskjaer after the game. “We just gave him the freedom of roaming wherever he wanted to go and getting on the ball.

 

“All the best players would want to feel our trust and confidence, and Paul is one of those who can create moments out of nothing.”

 

It is obvious Pogba enjoys this level of freedom. In fact, he admitted as much in conversation with Sky Sports in April. “I just like to be free; free to play my football,” he said when asked to name his preferred position. “I am better when I play my football.”

 

 

Pogba was granted that freedom at Juventus, where Claudio Marchisio, Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo and others gave him a platform to shine as part of a three-man midfield, and it has been a similar story with France, for whom the indefatigable N’Golo Kante gets through so much defensive work behind him.

 

“He has a fairly free role,” France coach Didier Deschamps said of Pogba during this summer’s European Championship. “He is not limited on the offensive aspect. His position can change. It depends on the placement and movement of other players.”

 

 

Juventus certainly benefitted from giving Pogba creative licence, winning four consecutive Serie A titles during his time in Turin, and the same is of course true of France, reigning world champions thanks in large part to his fine displays in Russia in 2018.

 

 

It is hardly surprising, in hindsight, that Pogba struggled to shine under Jose Mourinho, a manager whose rigid tactical approach leaves little room for artistic expression.

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Pogba featured prominently in his first two seasons in charge but his form was patchy. By the time Mourinho departed the club in December 2018, their relationship had broken down spectacularly, costing the Frenchman his place in the team.

 

 

Pogba is far from blameless for his leaner periods of form at Manchester United, of course, and there have been more of them since Mourinho’s exit. But the circumstances have not been ideal.

 

In central midfield, a dearth of truly elite quality around him. With the arrival of Fernandes, a switch to a 4-2-3-1 system for which he is not a natural fit.

 

 

Solskjaer’s decision to move Pogba to the left last season was not a universally popular one but, given the personnel at the manager’s disposal and the importance of Fernandes in the No 10 role, it is probably the most effective way of getting the best out of him.

 

 

To use Pogba in a deep-lying midfield role is to waste his talents but on the left of the front three, he is able to operate in his preferred zones, dovetailing with Fernandes – no player found the Portuguese with more passes against Leeds – in the knowledge that Luke Shaw will provide the width outside him.

 

Pogba cannot open up defences from the base of midfield and nor can he produce the kind of switches of play that helped Manchester United stretch Leeds to such good effect on Saturday.

 

 

Pogba’s strengths lie in the offensive side of the game but the central-midfield roles in Solskjaer’s preferred formation demand defensive diligence and tactical discipline. They are best left to Fred and Scott McTominay.

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Of course, not every opponent will allow Solskjaer to afford Pogba the kind of freedom he craves. Marcus Rashford’s return from a shoulder injury will also give the 28-year-old stiff competition for the left-sided spot in Manchester United’s attack.

 

 

But Pogba’s performance at Old Trafford on Saturday was a reminder of his unique qualities – and proof of the impact he can have when the circumstances are right for him.

 

 

Solskjaer must make the most of his presence while he still can.

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ALL GONE RON Barcelona fans demand Koeman is sacked after he plays Pique as STRIKER vs Granada and rules out ‘tiki-taka’ football

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Barcelona

BARCELONA fans are calling for boss and club legend Ronald Koeman to be sacked after playing Gerard Pique as a STRIKER.

 

 

The Spanish club are struggling for goals after allowing star forwards Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to leave in the summer.

 

 

Barca needed a 90th-minute equaliser against Granada on Monday evening to secure a 1-1 draw and maintain their unbeaten start in LaLiga.

 

 

A late goal from defender Ronald Araujo spared Koeman’s blushes but the manager was still heavily criticised for the team’s woeful performance.

 

 

#KoemanOUT was trending on Twitter throughout Monday evening and many were perplexed as to why Pique was playing up front.

 

 

The Spanish defender was brought on in the 75th minute and did make an impact, controlling the ball in the box for Gavi, 17, to assist the goal.

And Pique has played as a striker before, with Pep Guardiola shoving him up front in Barca’s Champions League defeat to Inter Milan in 2010.

 

 

But fans were still furious with Barca’s display, leaving Koeman to defend his players and their prospects for this season.

 

 

As quoted by the Daily Mail, Koeman said: “If you see the squad list today do you really think we can play tiki-taka?

“Barca right now is not the Barca of eight years ago.

“We play the Barca way but we don’t have the speed in wide areas because we have Coutinho who cuts inside and Demir who doesn’t reach the byline much.

See also  Ronald joins Barcelona

 

 

“When Ansu Fati and [Ousmane] Dembele come back then we will be different but they are not fit so we have to find alternatives.”

 

 

Monday evening’s result leaves Barcelona seventh in LaLiga, five points behind leaders and rivals Real Madrid with a game in hand.

 

It also comes just six days after Koeman’s team were thrashed 3-0 at home by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

 

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Tottenham Boss Nuno Espirito Santo Insists He Wouldn’t Swap ‘Amazing’ Harry Kane For Chelsea Hot Shot Lukaku

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The Spurs boss said: “I don’t even consider that option because it’s something that I don’t think about – for me, it doesn’t make sense. Harry is an amazing player.”

 

Nuno hailed Kane’s ability and attitude after the England captain failed to force through a move to Manchester City this summer.

 

 

He said: “I have been impressed with his quality and talent.

 

 

“I think he still can improve. We are in that process of trying to find the best levels of fitness. But his dedication has been huge.”

 

 

Striker Son Heung-min, defender Eric Dier and midfielder Ryan Sessegnon are all injured and set to miss tomorrow’s home clash with Lukaku’s Chelsea.

 

Attackers Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura are also big doubts after picking up knocks in the 2-2 Europa Conference League draw at Rennes on Thursday.

 

 

But Tottenham could be boosted by the return of Argentina duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero, plus Colombia centre-back Davinson Sanchez.

 

 

The trio have been training in Croatia where they have been self-isolating, after travelling to South America on international duty without the club’s permission.

 

 

Nuno said: “They arrive back Saturday and will have a training session in the afternoon. If they are available and fit, they will be in the squad.

 

 

“They are working hard in Croatia with the sports science department. We’ll assess them properly.”

 

 

Nuno is not surprised by how quickly Thomas Tuchel has turned things around at Stamford Bridge.

See also  Pogba Wont Be Captain Again, Mourinho Vows

 

 

The German guided the Blues to Champions League glory in May, just four months after taking over.

 

 

Nuno said: “Chelsea are a very good team and Thomas is doing an amazing job.

 

 

“They have lots of strengths, talented players, they play good football, they are organised and intense.

 

 

“They are European champions so we must value that. But we will compete, that’s a promise.”

 

Tottenham won all three of their opening top-flight fixtures, before the wheels came off in a 3-0 loss at Crystal Palace last week.

 

 

But defender Matt Doherty – who played under Nuno at Wolves – is backing his gaffer to get it right.

 

 

He said: “He is only at the start of his reign, it takes time. You see what he did at Wolves, it takes a few seasons to master it.”

 

 

 

SUN

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The Micro-Economy Spinning Around Messi’s Paris Adventure

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MESSI

For Paris photographer Olivier Sanchez, there is only one story in town: the new life of Lionel Messi.

Newspapers and magazines around the world harangue his Crystal Pictures agency for images of the Argentine footballer, his wife and children settling into the French capital a month after arriving.

“Today, for me, it is Messi and no one else,” he said. “Everybody wants a piece of him. He is king. Simple.”

When Messi’s childhood club FC Barcelona announced they could not afford to keep the six-times Ballon d’Or winner, French club Paris St Germain (PSG) swooped.

PSG agreed a staggering net salary of 71 million euros ($84 million) over two years, according to media, but club chairman Nasser al-Khelaifi said bluntly that people would be “shocked” by the revenue he would fetch.

The money train extends far beyond the club.

From luxury real estate agents to Argentine restaurant owners, paparazzi to private concierge, Messi represents a financial opportunity.

Sanchez said he had at least two photographers collecting tips and following Messi and PSG for the first shots of the family when they finally break cover from their hotel.

In Barcelona, he won the admiration of locals for his down-to-earth lifestyle, waving at neighbours, enjoying seafront meals and taking his children to bouncy castles.

“If we can get them in a park, or strolling in town, or out at Disneyland Paris, the newspapers will lap it up,” Sanchez said.

Luxury real estate agent Susie Hollands, meanwhile, is scouring the market for a property worthy of a man listed by Forbes as the world’s second highest-paid athlete in 2021. Hollands, founder of boutique real estate group Vingt Paris, has collaborated with PSG before and is familiar with players’ demands.

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“Typically, they’re going to want 1,000 square metres – that barely exists in central Paris – and parking for their cars,” Hollands said.

Top-notch security and privacy are also important.

One PSG player, whose housing Hollands worked on, was paying 35,000 euros ($30,000) per month, she said, adding that such a rental contract would earn her 50,000-60,000 euros in fees.

“We’re taking a look to see if we can find something. But you either have it or you don’t,” Hollands said, adding that she was one of a select group of agents the club worked with.

MESSI BOUNCE

For several years after the Emir of Qatar bought PSG in 2011, Yves Abitbol’s concierge company helped settle some of its highest-profile players, organising the house hunt, dealing with banking and insurance paperwork, and finding house staff.

Sometimes he catered for a player’s fancier needs, including visits to sports car dealerships and luxury watch boutiques.

Abitbol said his firm MyConcierge had worked closely with PSG until it created its own internal team several years ago, cutting the likes of him out.

Nonetheless, Abitbol’s upmarket travel agency has seen a Messi bounce. “I’ve got people around the world asking us to organise three days in Paris with seats for match day to watch Messi,” he said.

The red-hot demand to see Messi in person – even when he was just watching from the stands rather than playing – saw tickets for PSG’s first game after his signing, at home to Strasbourg, sell secondhand for over 800 euros.

On Wednesday night, he was set to join fellow superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in a frightening attacking trio away to Brugge in the Champions League.

See also  Ronald joins Barcelona

His number 30 jersey, which retails at 108 euros, has sold faster than any other, PSG said. Activity tracker Talkwalker said that from the Friday Messi was first linked to the club in early August to the following Tuesday when he signed, PSG gained 3 million followers across social media platforms.

Again, the club was not alone

“We saw a jump on social media,” said Enrique Tirigall, co-founder of Volver, an upmarket Argentine restaurant chain in Paris. Reservations for his flagship steakhouse, a popular haunt for PSG stars including Messi compatriot Angel Di Maria, flooded in after the Argentine sealed his deal.

“Everybody want to eat what he eats,” Tirigall said.

($1 = 1.1814 euros)

Reuters

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