Will Paul Pogba lead Manchester United to league success this season?

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It was something of a coup for Manchester United when they signed their former player Paul Pogba in a record-deal from Juventus last summer.

The French midfielder was seen as the future Ballon d’Or winner in the footballing circles and had almost all the major European clubs interested in his services. He finally arrived at Old Trafford amid lofty expectations from the fans – who were once again hopeful following the arrival of Jose Mourinho. However, Pogba’s first league season back with United turned out to be a disappointment as he failed to match the expectations and the Red Devils finished in the sixth spot. Continue reading

Retaining Perisic a huge win for Inter and Spalletti

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The future of Ivan Perisic was one of the big talking points of the summer. It was no secret that Manchester United coveted the Crotian winger and that José Mourinho pushed hard to get a deal done. At the beginning of the summer, when the Financial Fair Play restrictions were still a problem for Inter, it looked like the management resigned itself to letting Perisic go and the player was very much willing to move to England.

Then, June passed and Inter gathered what they needed to fulfil the economic requirements through smaller transactions, so they started to resist the idea of selling one of their very best elements. The reports about the asking price are not unanimous, but it was at least €50M, if not up to €60M, which is not insane in today’s market, even though Perisic is a little older than some of the other stars that have moved for mind-boggling sums.

Throughout the summer, the newly appointed Luciano Spalletti worked on Perisic, trying to change his mind and making him commit to his cause. The coach, after some early openings, became a strong supporter of the permanence, especially in August, when it became clear that Inter would have struggled find a proper replacement.

Inter did not budge in the final days of the summer window and Perisic has been on fire early on. He has scored with a header against Fiorentina and with a beautiful volley against Spal and has assisted thrice in three games, providing two key dimes in the all-important Roma game. Perisic has always been excellent since joining from Wolfsburg, but he is now taking it up a notch: the sample size is small, but he never looked so engaged and so efficient. Spalletti has an history for getting the max out of his players and it looks like has done the trick again.

On top of the brilliant start, Perisic has signed an extension through 2022, which will earn him a base salary of €4.6M, making him the highest paid player on the roster, alongside Mauro Icardi, who could be getting a new deal soon. The resistance has paid dividends for Inter and it is a notable difference compared, for instance, to Juventus’ philosophy, which in the past has sold key players, such as Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Leonardo Bonucci, as soon as they expressed the slightest intention to leave.

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Premier League Midfielder Spotlight

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The 2017/18 season of the Premier League is a couple of weeks old now, and while some sides have leapt out of the gates at blazing speeds others have sauntered out at little more than a meaningless wander.

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La Liga powerhouses losing their grip in transfer market?

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It’s like an unwritten rule in football – When Real Madrid and Barcelona come calling for your players, you have to let them go.

Over the years, Premier League clubs have suffered in transfer market due to the footballing reputations enjoyed by both of these clubs. There is no doubt that these reputations still remain intact, but in the recent years, we have witnessed a slight but significant trend in the transfer market. Due to the recent influx of money in Premier League (and in Paris Saint-Germain), both clubs have ceased to enjoy the stature in the transfer market like they used to before. Continue reading

Paul Pogba – Manchester United’s worst ever signing!

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He came with great expectations from Juventus, the Frenchman Paul Pogba arrived, no he came back ‘home’ to Manchester United last summer in a deal reported to be worth a staggering £89m, but after a most forgettable season at least in the league for the Red Devils, the question needs to be asked, is Paul Pogba Manchester United’s worst ever signing?

Pogba is currently the most expensive player to ever have been transferred from one club to another. He cost United £3.5m more than Gareth Bale’s transfer to Real Madrid and a cool £9m more than Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s fair to say that United have not got their bang for their buck so to speak when comparing players.

Of course it’s not Pogba’s fault that United decided to break the transfer record to get him, but after the dust has settled down and we’ve had a good 10 month look at him on English shores Pogba seems to be a decent player, but hardly a special one.

Of course Pogba was the fish that got away and the sheer cost of bringing him back to United was seen by many as grotesque if not daft. United under Sir Alex Ferguson had got Pogba from French side Le Harve back in 2009. The cost has never been made clear, though it was alleged that the deal was signed for £87,000 plus a house for the Frenchman. But just three years later Pogba refused to sign a new contract and was off to Juventus for the grand old sum of £800,000. His transfer history at least in football terms was still incredibly low.

That was until Pogba was deemed to have had a superb Euro 2016 with France, the eventual runners up to Portugal in that summers tournament and with a new manager at the helm in Jose Mourinho, Pogba was brought back, but for a kings ransom.

Earlier in the season United legend Gary Neville hinted that Pogba was confused when playing against the better teams, though admitted that Mourinho needed to incorporate the player better into his role. In March Paul Merson commented that Pogba’s play is being hampered by United forward Zlatan Ibramhimovic, in that Zlatan did not play to Pogba’s strengths and therefore the Frenchman could not get into what is his favoured position- the final third.

For the sum of money and return Pogba would statistically be the worst signing for United. However one should not forget other players that have come and gone from Old Trafford, most of them cruelly becoming the butt of pub jokes.

Massimo Taibi was signed from Italians Venezia in 1999 where he was struck off the books almost the moment he landed in Manchester. The goal keeper who was bought for £4,5m made just 4 appearances conceding on average almost 3 goals a game.

More recently was the swoop for Bebe from Guimaraes for a whopping £7.5m. United went for the player even though in Portugal he was relatively unknown and local media couldn’t believe that a club like United were coming in for him. Bebe went on to make just 7 appearances for the club before being loaned out. And then there was the deal for Wilfried Zaha who ended up being Sir Alex Ferguson’s final signing at £12m. Zaha went on to play just 4 games for the Red Devils.

And we can’t finish this piece without of course mentioning Eric Djemba-Djemba cruelly labelled the next Roy Keane. Djemba-Djemba came from Nantes for £3.5m and was sold to Aston Villa two years later after his career failed to take off at United.

As for Pogba it could well be that we will see the best of the player next season, but as it stands it could well be one of the worst signings in United’s history. And one can’t fail to think that had he stayed in Italy he would have won another league title and be playing a certain Champions League final on June 3rd. All of this seems very distant at United right now.

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United to spend big next season

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Life without Sir Alex Ferguson still seems odd, incomplete and the unknown is just too alien for Manchester United fans after nearly 25 years at the top. But since Ferguson’s retirement in 2012, United have not been the same team.

Fellow Scot David Moyes was drafted in by Ferguson, but the ex Everton manager was like a kid at the Ritz, out of his league, even if he had proven himself with the Toffee men by consistently getting the club in the top six. Bottom line and a hint would have been that in his 11 years with the club they didn’t win a single trophy.

United turned their attentions to proven European pedigree and in came Louis van Gaal- who had enjoyed success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but was much more successful in the Dutch League. Van Gaal spent big but the return was feeble. True he did get United back to playing Champions League football but he also left them without it. An FA Cup in his second and final season was won but a succession of poor to average results and player turmoil was the memory as van Gaal was finally sacked by the club.

The appointment of Jose Mourinho was seen to be third time lucky and it made sense for United to take on the Portuguese since Mourinho had been vying for a decade for the job. Now he had it and now he had what seemed to be a bottomless pit of money to reinforce the squad.

In his first summer in came Eric Bailley, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba, these players alone cost a reported £140m. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a shrewd free capture from PSG.

Mourinho’s debut season with the Reds started slow and cautious but the club started to respond to his methods. Winning a league title was never seen at least this season as possible. Stability and at least one trophy were. In that Mourinho has already delivered with the EFL Cup. Victory over Southampton in the final ensured that Mourinho became the first United manager to win a trophy in his debut season.

United have not lost a game since last October stretching to 23 matches and the belief in the team does remind one of Inter Milan when Mourinho delivered the treble including the Champions League. Whilst Europe’s hottest trophy is off limits for this season United are giving it a great go to win the Europa League. Having reached the semi finals the club will be confident in beating Celta Vigo to reach the final.

Is this it then, have United reached a cross roads where they can move on from the Fergie era? The only way of doing that would be to win the Premier League title, a trophy where Ferguson rewrote the rule book with his 13 wins. And this will be Mourinho’s priority for next season.

He is already talking about spalshing some serious money on players with Antoine Griezmann being tipped to join the club from Atletico Madrid in a transfer that could well brake the world record.

For now Mourinho is wiping away the bitter memory with Chelsea last season and regaining his reputation as one of the best managers in the world. That would have been his own personal goal back in August and he is succeeding emphatically.

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No shocks in this round of World Cup qualifiers

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There were no shocks in a weekend of World Cup qualifiers, where all of the top-seeded European sides ran out comfortable winners. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and current European Champions Portugal all recorded wins and between them they scored a phenomenal twenty-two goals and conceded just two.

France, arguably, had the toughest group game of the teams mentioned with a home tie against Sweden. They went behind in the 54th minute, however Sweden only managed to hold onto their lead for three minutes when Paul Pogba scored for France. Dimitri Payet secured the points for France just under ten minutes later as they ran out 2-1 winners to remain at the top of the group, three points ahead of the Netherlands and Sweden.

It took Germany just seven minutes to open the scoring in their away tie against San Marino. Werder Bremen striker Serge Gnabry, who spent six seasons in the Premier League and scored just one goal, scored a hat-trick as they romped to an 8-0 win with defender Jonas Hector scoring a double.

Italy, who were away to Liechtenstein cruised to victory with four goals in the first half. Torino striker Andrea Belotti who has scored eight times in the Serie A thsi season, continued in his rich vein of form with a double for Italy. Ciro Immobile, who has nine in the Serie A this season for Lazio scored one with Antonio Candreva also scoring. There were no further goals in the second half as Italy took their foot off the gas, which was probably a good thing for Liechtenstein.

Spain, who are drawn alongside Italy in group G, have no margin for error and made no mistake against the country who are without a win in their qualification campaign. They eased to a 4-0 win thanks to goals from Vitolo, Nacho Monreal and Aduriz. They face a tougher task this week though as they travel to London for a friendly against England, who themselves are not in the greatest of form, but still managed to dispose of Scotland with a 3-0 win.

European Champions Portugal trail Switzerland in their World cup qualification group by three points thanks to a 2-0 loss at the hands of the leaders. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 28th minute, but a goal for Latvia in the 67th minute levelled things. The Latvians’s managed to hold on for just two minutes when William Carvalho restored the lead for the home side. Goals from Ronaldo and Bruno Alvers ensured a comfortable win for the Portugese, although for a while it wasn’t all plain sailing.

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Pogba and Higuain enjoying different starts

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During the past summer transfer market, Paul Pogba and Gonzalo Higuain were football’s biggest transfers. However, both players have enjoyed different starts for their respective new clubs, Manchester United and Juventus.

Pogba’s struggles

Pogba made the switch from Serie A to the Premier League, with the Red Devils putting a record fee of €105 million on the table for the French midfielder. That amount surpassed the €100 million paid by Real Madrid to Tottenham for Gareth Bale in 2012. However, it was considered a solid deal, as Pogba has massive marketing appeal and United expected a serious boost in shirt sales, for example.

On the pitch, however, the 23-year-old hasn’t been that impressive compared to his marketing numbers. Jose Mourinho has opted for a 4-2-3-1 line-up with his Old Trafford squad, playing Pogba in front of the defence alongside Marouane Fellaini and using Wayne Rooney as the team’s attacking midfielder.

Pogba became big in Juve’s 3-5-2 system as a box-to-box midfielder, running up and down the pitch and able to use his athleticism in his advantage. The France international always played alongside a deep playmaker, but in Mourinho’s system Pogba is forced to play that role. One that doesn’t suit him, as he’s robbed from his best attributes by playing too deep.

A role behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which is now played by Rooney, could be a better alternative. But the best one is deploying a solid passer alongside Pogba, not a bruiser like Fellaini. Morgan Schneiderlin would fit the bill in this regard, or even Ander Herrera. This would free up Pogba’s box-to-box skills, as he doesn’t have to be the link between the defence and the midfield. The big reason why he’s been struggling so far.

Higuain’s perfect fit

Meanwhile, Higuain moved from Napoli to Juventus for a Serie A record €90 million. The 28-year-old turned up in Turin overweight and was mocked for being “too fat”. The Argentine striker was consequently forced to come off the bench for the Bianconeri’s first two games, against Fiorentina and Lazio, but started in place of Mario Mandzukic against Sassuolo.

After just 117 minutes in three league games, Higuain has already provided three goals for the Old Lady. He scored the winner against Fiorentina and hit the net twice against Sassuolo, one coming from a scissors kick. The Argentine became a star in 4-3-3 systems at Real Madrid and Napoli, but has already shown to be his old self in Juve’s 3-5-2. His relationship with Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic has already proven to be deadly.

Conclusion: one big transfer is not the other. Pogba has much to prove at United in a system that doesn’t suit his abilities, while Higuain is already fitting in at Juventus. Only time will determine how these summer moves will be judged in the future.

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