‘We trust him & he trusts us’ – Pogba backs Solskjaer after Man Utd dump Chelsea out of FA Cup

Paul Pogba hailed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as someone capable of handling the rigors of being Manchester United manager, and added the Norwegian has created an aura of trust at the club.

The Red Devils bounced back from a midweek defeat at Old Trafford to Paris Saint-Germain to eliminate Premier League rivals Chelsea from the FA Cup on Monday.

Pogba provided the assist for Ander Herrera’s opener, while scoring his team’s second just before the half to complete the 2-0 victory over Maurizio Sarri’s men at Stamford Bridge.

The win not only sent United into the quarter-final of the FA Cup, but was also Solskjaer’s 11th in 13 games since he took over as caretaker manager from Jose Mourinho in December.

Mourinho only won 10 games in 24 games in all competitions this season, meaning Solskjaer has surpassed his predecessor in 11 fewer contests.

Pogba has been a key performer for the club over Solskjaer’s brief tenure, scoring nine goals and adding six assists thus far – outpacing the five goals and four assists he managed in 20 games under Mourinho.

And Pogba has backed the caretaker boss to keep it up, believing Solskjaer knew what is required of a United manager when he took the job.

“We are Manchester United. We play to win trophies,” Pogba told BBC Sport after the victory. “He [Solskjaer] took this job because he can do it.

“He trusts us and we trust him. Obviously we go for it, and we never know if we are going to win. We go to win.”

Pogba’s future at the club appeared in doubt toward the end of Mourinho’s tenure, with the midfielder not even seeing the field in the manager’s final game – a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool in January.

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His resurgent form has been essential in Solskjaer’s turnaround, but Pogba credited his team-mates for today’s performance as well as for allowing him to perform so well over the past two months. 

“It is a beautiful win. Today was a great performance from the team, all of them. It wasn’t easy. We did it. We are really pleased with that win.

“The team helped me get to my best. I give everything for them. They help me score goals and to make assists. We are just enjoying playing together.”


‘I don’t know if the players are still with me’ – Sarri admits he could be losing Chelsea dressing room

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has claimed that he is not sure whether his players are still with him following his side’s 2-0 loss to Manchester United in the FA Cup.

The Blues have now lost three of their last five games in all competitions without scoring, with Bournemouth and Manchester City inflicting 4-0 and 6-0 defeats, respectively.

Sarri has just six days to try and pick his players up before their Carabao Cup final against City, a game which could prove decisive in whether or not he keeps his job.

And the Italian admitted he was not entirely sure if his players still backed him following the recent run of poor results. 

“I think [the players are still with me]. Of course, I am not sure, but I think so,” Sarri said after the game.

“I think the situation with the players is really very good for the relationship, but the relationship is not so important. 

“It’s important to play, it’s important to get good results, but my relationship with my players is good at the moment.”

Sarri also voiced his frustration at the lack of fight his players showed – a criticism he has levelled at them before.

“We need all to improve because I am not able to get out of my players a very high level of aggression and determination.” 

He defended his side’s performance as a whole, however, saying that his team were ‘unlucky’.

“I think that, with the result, we were unlucky,” he said.

“In the first half we played better than the opponent and, at the end of the first half, it was 2-0 to them. 

“Then in the second half, it was really very difficult to play because they are a really physical team and defended very low, compact. 

“So we played confused football in the second half. But, in the first half, we played well. 

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“We need, of course, more aggression, more determination in the situation inside our box, and inside the opposing box. 

“Because the difference was there. We played 78 balls in the opposing goal, and United played only 16 into our box, and it was 2-0. That was the difference.”

Chelsea play Malmo next in the second leg of their Europa League knockout tie, having won the first leg 2-1.


Klopp: We wanted Sancho at Liverpool, but English clubs don’t sell to competitors

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says he was interested in signing Jadon Sancho, but the culture surrounding transfers between English clubs prevented a deal from taking place.

Sancho left Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund this past summer and has rapidly become a key contributor for the German club.

In the same transfer window, Liverpool brought in the likes of Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Dominic Solanke, the latter of whom was sold to Bournemouth in January.

Sancho has gone on to provide eight goals and 10 assists in 28 games, prompting Klopp to admit that he had hoped to sign the youngster from Machester City last summer. 

However, the Reds manager says German clubs are in prime position to pounce on English talent like Sancho given the current culture between top clubs in the Premier League.

“Buying English players is a smart idea [for Bundesliga clubs] because we would never have a chance to get Sancho,” he said.

“We are not blind – we saw him, we liked him and then we think, ‘Can we get him?’ No. Because English clubs don’t sell to other English clubs.

“I don’t know exactly what the reason is for that but they don’t do it. Now, they can go to Germany which is a wonderful league.”

Klopp isn’t the only manager to admit to pushing to sign Sancho as former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenge says he too was interested in the young winger. 

German legend Lothar Matthaus said that signing Sancho was like “winning the lottery” for Borussia Dortmund, who sit atop the Bundesliga with a three-point lead over Bayern Munich, Liverpool’s Champions League opponents.

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The Reds are set to play host to Bayern on Tuesday at Anfield as the two powerhouses kickstart their round of 16 tie.

Dortmund, meanwhile, fell to Tottenham in their own round of 16 opener and will now look to erase a 3-0 deficit heading home for the second leg.

Next up for Dortmund, though, is a home match against Bayer Leverkusen, having failed to win any of the club’s last five matches in all competitions following Monday’s 0-0 draw with Nurnberg.


Messi’s trump card: Why Dembele is key to Barcelona winning the Champions League

That night still gives Barcelona players cold sweats.

Defeat in Rome was a season-crusher, a catastrophe, a stain on the club which grew only deeper as rivals Real Madrid stormed to their third Champions League victory in three years.

Barcelona headed to the Italian capital last April with a 4-1 lead from the first leg, one foot in the semi-final. They left with their tails between their legs after a crushing 3-0 defeat which inflicted a deep cut on the club’s soul.

One which is still healing, and perhaps only lifting the trophy will finally remedy it. It is Barcelona’s prime objective this season, something the Catalans have made no secret of.

Lionel Messi’s speech at their curtain raiser friendly at Camp Nou in August showed how much the Barcelona skipper – and by extension, the club – wants to win the Champions League.

The key to that locked door is Ousmane Dembele.

Valverde sat the Frenchman on the bench last season in Rome, even though his attributes would have been perfect to help Barcelona hit the hosts on the break as they attacked with abandon to try and make back the aggregate score.

Dembele was eventually called upon in the 85th minute, but it was far too late for him to rescue the Blaugrana, with Kostas Manolas’s crucial third goal dumping them out.

Ousmane Dembele Barcelona 2018-19

In mitigation for Valverde, Dembele was not the same player he is now.

Injuries suffocated his debut season, the former Borussia Dortmund star struggled for both form and fitness, with inconsistent displays and struggles to adapt to life at the club meaning the coach could not rely upon him.

Nearly a year on, Dembele has finally turned the page and as Barcelona head to his native France to face Olympique Lyonnais on Tuesday, their €147 million weapon is ready to detonate.

On a personal level it is also an opportunity for him to set a few things straight.

In France Dembele is viewed through the prism of his controversies, those are the stories which make it into the public eye back home.

The winger has not earned a starting berth in the national team, only participating in brief cameos during the World Cup in Russia. Without shining in a ‘big’ game for Barcelona either, his successes have gone under the radar.

His position on the scale between clown and genius is still being debated in France.

Barcelona fans, though, fully appreciate the transformation Dembele has gone through and how vital he has become.

From being touted for the transfer list, the forward is now a crucial cog in Barca’s attack. In the last few weeks following an untimely ankle sprain, the team has faltered without him.

Philippe Coutinho has been filling in on the left flank but offers none of the speed or skill which Dembele combines so effectively.

On Saturday against Real Valladolid, Dembele started for the first time since that set-back and showed flashes of his best before being taken off to rest for Tuesday.

Ousmane Dembele Barcelona Atletico

“At times we’re on the counter and I can’t get there in time!” Luis Suarez told Diario Sport.

“I’m not able to get there and Leo is even further behind [Dembele]. We say ‘he goes really fast, we’ll never catch him!’

“When he starts to run, we need to start further ahead of him to be there at the right time. If not, it’s impossible to keep up.”

The Uruguayan can joke away, but having a player who is so speedy is a big boon for him and Messi, the same way Neymar was before his move to Paris Saint-Germain.

What’s pleasing for Barcelona is that the conversation around Dembele now purely concerns his quality and not his unprofessional habits.

Suarez was one of a few team-mates to publicly rebuke Dembele earlier in the season, telling him to be more responsible.

Late nights, chowing down on junk food and poor timekeeping threatened to derail his season after a promising start.

But Dembele has cleaned up his act. He is training well now, with a good attitude. Nelson Semedo and Valverde have attested to that fact. And the only thing left for Dembele to do is produce in games which matter.

His last gasp equaliser against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano at the end of November was the first step in the right direction.

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“I had a spell on the bench, but that’s normal because during a season there are always difficult moments,” said Dembele, who knows exactly what he must produce, and when.

“I have faith in myself and I will keep trying to do what I know how, and to be decisive. It’s important to score in key moments.”

The first in a series of those is fast approaching as Champions League-chasing Barcelona head to Lyon.


Solskjaer tops Mourinho’s Manchester United win total for whole season in just 13 games

Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has again managed to eclipse Jose Mourinho’s win total for the club in the 2018-19 season, this time in all competitions.

The Red Devils caretaker manager added yet another success to his impressive start at Old Trafford, claiming a 2-0 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition.

First-half goals from Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba proved the difference for Solskjaer’s side as they went to Stamford Bridge and came away with the win.

Bouncing back from a setback last week at Old Trafford against Paris Saint-Germain, Solskjaer now has his side back to winning ways ahead of this weekend’s clash against rivals Liverpool.

And in the process, Solskjaer bested his predecessor in the win column yet again.

A few weeks ago, the Norwegian netted his eighth Premier League win at the helm, surpassing Mourinho’s total of seven for the season.

On Monday, Solskjaer made it 11 wins from 13 games, outclassing Mourinho, who managed just 10 victories in 24 games before he was sacked in December.

It is no surprise to see United having success under Solskjaer, as he has given new life to Paul Pogba.

With his goal and assist for Herrera’s opener, Pogba has now been directly involved in 15 goals since Solskjaer was appointed.

The only Premier League player who can boast a better record over that span that is Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son, who has scored and assisted a combined 16 goals.

Likewise, it dwarfs what Pogba did with Mourinho, as the midfielder managed five goals and four assists in 20 games under the Portuguese manager.

And yet, Solskjaer, who has reinvigorated Pogba and many of the team’s other stars with a more attacking philosophy, had a Mourinho-esque possession stat in the win over Chelsea. 

The Red Devils saw just 33.1 per cent of the ball in the contest and still came away with the victory. That was their lowest possession total in nearly a year – Mourinho’s side in March 2018 only managed 32.1% against Liverpool but also came out victorious.

The key to that success without the ball comes in blunting your opposition, and United did that very well against Maurizio Sarri’s attack.

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Chelsea managed only two shots on target in the entire contest, with both attempts coming in the 11th minute.

It was only the second time in 51 cup outings the Blues have been held off the scoreboard, with the other coming in January 2018 against Arsenal in a scoreless Carabao Cup semi-final leg.

Chelsea will aim to bounce back from the disappointment in their midweek fixture against Malmo in the Europa League, holding a 2-1 advantage in the tie as it shifts back to Stamford Bridge.