Tag Archives: Paul Pogba

Martial, Rashford and Greenwood – the Premier League’s deadliest front three

Much has been made of Manchester United over the past five/six years of football, with the loss of a plethora of attacking talent the club has been criticised for its poor recruitment. Yet for all the money they have spent two of their dangerous front three are academy graduates.

Perhaps slightly under the radar is the fact they have scored more goals than Liverpool’s much-talked about front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino. Granted United have played lesser opposition in Europe but it is still an impressive feat nonetheless. This article takes a look at their development as a front three.

Mason Greenwood

Possibly the most exciting out of these talents is 18-year-old Mason Greenwood. The Bradford-born striker scored two wonderful goals against Bournemouth as his side tore them apart 5-2. This took him on to a tally of 15 goals in all competitions this season.

For a young player playing his full debut season that record certainly makes for impressive reading. ESPN even tweeted out how he has scored more goals than Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria put together.

 

If Greenwood was to score another five goals during the rest of the campaign, he would help break a very impressive long-standing club record.

It will be the first time that three United players have scored 20 or more goals in the same season since 1964-65, when Denis Law (39), David Herd (28) and John Connelly (20) did the same thing.

 

Given the fact he only recently started playing consistently in the Premier League you have to be impressed with numbers he’s managed to put up.

A real earmark of his play has been the quality of his finishing, his two goals against Bournemouth showed fantastic shot power and accurate finishing, the ability to do that at this level and at only 18 years old, it shows he could be the real deal. In fact he has already outscored Marcus Rashford’s debut season. So in that sense he’s showing more promise.

In fact, only Michael Owen , Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney have scored more goals in a single Premier League campaign at the age of 18 and under. The esteem of that company alone should give you an idea of his talent.

United have been longing for their academy talents to replicate the class of 92, and while a group of that caliber is extremely rare, Greenwood certainly has the potential to be a superstar for club and country.

Marcus Rashford

A hero on and off the pitch this season. It feels as though Marcus Rashford has been around for a while and you’d be right in thinking that considering he has played 206 games for the club (according to transfermarkt). Alongside this he also had 38 caps and 10 goals for the England first team – so he has plenty of match experience for a 22-year-old.

Over his time at the club he has amassed 65 goals and 35 assists, which when looked at is a pretty impressive number. Rashford has long been criticised for his lack of goals, particularly in the Premier League.

That is within reason, before this campaign the most he’d scored was 10 goals, and he’s smashed that with 15 this time around. The England striker has improved every season – scoring 5, 5, 7, 10 and now 15 goals. A steady rise but a clear improvement in form.

He’s now hit 20 first the season in all competitions, easily performing at his best, which could be due in part to the creative talents around him like Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, etc.

Perhaps the role of a Manchester United no.9 is one that has put added pressure on his ability to perform at the highest level. The controversy surrounding his position (was he an inverted winger or a striker?) stunted his growth as he was moved around the pitch constantly.

This campaign has shown that he does have a real ability to grow and evolve into a word-class attacking player, and if this steady upwards trajectory continues who knows how many goals he could get.

His positive charity work outside the game has also earned him respect and admiration, and he has proved he has a mature head on his shoulders and at such a young age too – that can only bode well for his attitude on the pitch.

Anthony Martial

Martial has had an odd time at Manchester United. The Frenchman came in for a lot of money and has always had buckets of ability. His debut goal against Liverpool is still a thing of beauty. Despite this we have yet to really see his true potential.

Perhaps his disappointing career for France has removed him from the spotlight – scoring one goal in 18 caps. In 213 appearances for United he has 68 goals and 35 assists, only marginally better than Marcus Rashford.

Now at the age of 24, Martial would ideally need to find his form and we have seen his talents fully with this post-lockdown campaign.

He equaled Rashford’s tally of 20 goals for this season and at times has looked unplayable. His long range goal against Bournemouth tells you all you need to know about the ability of the man.

A lot has been made of his attitude and at times he hasn’t looked settled at the club but the return of this post-lockdown United has seen a complete u-turn in the player. Pogba and Martial both look happy at the club – the addition of Bruno Fernandes has apparently had a great impact on the dressing room atmosphere.

Martial seems like a player that thrives off the ability of those around him and this allows to play with a great deal of confidence. At times, he has looked lost but others he has looked like a real superstar.

His current form suggests that he is happy to stay and has found a team he can believe in and enjoy playing with. So from a United point of view, long may it continue.

What can they achieve?

The question on every United fans lips is now, can they achieve greater heights?

The beginning of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reign as manager was faultless but it took a real nose dive and you could forgive people for thinking the same thing could happen again.

If the form of these three players continues in the same fashion, we could see a very dangerous United side going into the next campaign. With the Europa League still to content for, there is a lot of hope surrounding the club that a season, which looked dead and buried, produce a European trophy and Champions League football.

With such a small gap between this and next season though, you have to wonder how United will compete next year. It appears, however, Solskjaer could be building a fantastic team. Defensively there is still work to be done – but the future certainly looks a lot brighter for the red side of Manchester.

What have we learnt since the Premier League resumption?

After the return of Premiership football to our screens, have we really learnt much about the League since the resumption?

Well, the wait has certainly been worth it some pundits have said but has it really been worth the build-up of over 100 days?

What we have learned already is that Liverpool are a step closer to their title dream. We are all having to get used to the sight of very few people inside stadiums. VAR certainly won’t go away and even technology has the odd blip, which leads to more controversy up and down the land.

As we are all getting used to viewing football as we have never seen before. One good talking point has been welcomed around the country. The sight of both sets of players, officials and team personal taking the knee in solidarity together. Such a welcome sight and fully applauded. It’s is so good to see the Premier League sending out a message to the rest of the footballing and sporting world that Black Lifes Matter.

Aside from Liverpool edging towards lifting the title, on just the first day back since the resumption, controversy reared its ugly head once again when Sheffield United were denied a certain goal when technology failed. Admittedly it’s the first time this has unfortunately happened for over 9,000 times the system has been in place. What a time for this to happen, as the Premiership was taking centre stage.

One has to feel sorry for Michael Oliver- England’s top referee- as he was trying to explaining to surrounding players that his watch didn’t make a noise to indicate that the ball had crossed the line. Not his fault but wouldn’t it have been more sensible that somebody in the truck watching pictures of the match would have seen that clearly the ball was over the line? That person in the VAR room could then have communicated with Oliver to say to him to check the monitor at the ground and make his own mind up about the decision. If he was allowed to do this, then make no mistakes Sheffield Utd would have been awarded the goal.

We also learnt since the resumption that Arsenal players are certainly struggling with fitness levels, having already seen a handful of players taken off through picking up injuries. Clearly the three-month break has affected them, which is a big concern of their fitness levels. Yes, every team has looked leggy at times which is understandable due to not playing competitive football for over three months but for some sides including Arsenal it begs the question, what instructions were the players given to do for training during lockdown and resuming back into training? Something definitely isn’t right there.

However, nothing has changed with the Gunners defence, which still looks as fragile as before the enforced break. Arsenal need leaders, now they haven’t got any. Oh, for the leadership chiefs such as Tony Adams and Martin Keown- who must be shaking their heads every time they watch Arsenal play- who must begin to wonder will this problem ever be rectified.

We also learn in the past few days how good a player Bruno Fernandes is and the return of a hungry Paul Pogba. I didn’t think I would ever be saying that for a long time.

Despite appearing to not be worrying about a haircut- Yes Roy there are mobile hairdressers around who will be queuing up to cut your hair- Hodgson is building a very dogged and tenacious side in Crystal Palace. Looking a very well-oiled unit, especially at the back, having not conceded a goal in almost six hours of football. Palace could be outsiders to possibly sneak into a Europa League spot come the end of the campaign.

The two W’s after the restart, Wolves and West Ham appear to be going in different directions. The Hammers are in a relegation dogfight, while Wolves are flying thanks to the brilliant duo of Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez – 23 goals this season and counting.

Another interesting point would be that since the resumption the sides struggling at the bottom of the table have really struggled since the restart. A fact that could be put down to playing home games with no crowd behind them to raise morale. However, you would have felt that with eight games to go, crowd or no crowd wouldn’t need to lift players, who know they have a massive battle on their hands to stay up.

To finish, although in most games playing with no fans present it is no material advantage to both sides, over the weekend in both Premiership and Championship games there were only five home wins out of 22 games played. When it comes to a derby match, it clearly will benefit both teams to have fans in the stadium. Take the weekend’s Merseyside derby between Everton and Liverpool. A game that was played with no passion and at times looked similar to a practice game. A lukewarm encounter which hardly got going. Not much commitment from both sides aside from a couple of late chances. This game desperately needed a full house at Goodison Park, which I’m sure would have given the game more of a feisty contest that normally happens in derby matches.

We must, however, remember that for the foreseeable future this is the way that football will be for a while. We will get used to it, with fan noise or not, carboard cut outs or not and drink breaks, which so far are amounting to a managers team talk on the pitch.

It is either this or nothing. I know what alternative I would rather have. Even if it means watching Mike Dean with that amazing grey beard and listening to Roy Keane bemoaning about Manchester United’s crop of current players. Welcome back Premiership, we really have missed you!

 

Football world responds to the death of George Floyd

In a recent turn of events in the United States of America amid pandemic, the racist events have resurfaced due to Geroge Floyd’s death. Geroge Floyd was an American-African who died due to the atrocity of white policemen in Minneapolis. He was hand-cuffed and was held around his neck in a kneeling position for around nine minutes which resulted in the death of Floyd. This has sparked the violent protests across the United States.

The protesters upped their ante on Tuesday which resulted in a complete shutdown of lights in White House.

Supporting the fight against racism, footballers and their clubs have come out to show their collective support for George Floyd. Not only football, but the sport stars across the globe like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Tiger Woods, Coco Gauff have also joined the protest.

Showing their support, Borussia Dortmund stars Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi displayed “Justice for George Floyd” while celebrating their goals against Paderborn. Similarly, Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram kneeled during his celebration. These actions have irked the German Football Association and are investigating the incident.

However, the investigation from the German Football body made International football organisation, FIFA, interfere with the matter. FIFA president, Gianni Infantino asked the FA’s to applaud their players for their support against racism rather than handling the sanctions on them.

Players have taken the incident personally as many are targeted with racial abuse across Europe and the globe. The Football Association in England have stated that they will take a “common sense” approach towards the players if they are found imitating any action supporting the anti-racism movement.

Here is how the football players and football clubs across the globe have come out in the support of George Floyd:

 

Paul Pogba

 
 

Premier League

 

Marcus Rashford

 
 

Jadon Sancho

 
 
 
 

Liverpool

 

Arsenal

 

Bayern Munich

 

Kylian Mbappe

 

Frenkie de Jong

 

Serge Aurier

 

Lionel Messi

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Layvin Kurzawa

 

The Paul Pogba Dilemma

On August 9th 2016, Manchester United completed a deal, for a then world record £89 million fee, to bring Paul Pogba back to Old Trafford after he had left the Red Devils for £1.5 million in compensation to join Juventus in 2012.

Now almost like a yo-yo, it has been reported that the Old Lady are in talks to bring Pogba back to Italy. This could be bad news for Manchester United as Paul Pogba was arguably their best player in the 2018/19 season, despite the negative criticism he seemed to constantly receive. He scored 16 goals and contributed 11 assists in all competitions for Manchester United last season. If United were to cash in on the Frenchman, what effect would the transfer have off and on the pitch?

Off the Pitch

There are many issues that arise away from the game played on match days if Paul Pogba were to be sold. Firstly, there is his social media presence and the exposure it brings to the club. The tweet that announced Pogba’s return to United using the hashtag ‘#POGBACK’ gained 84,000+ retweets and 89,000+ likes on twitter, showing how United used the player to gain massive worldwide exposure upon the transfer’s announcement. Pogba himself also has 34.9 million followers on Instagram, which these two examples show the influence the Frenchman has on the ever-growing platform of social media.

However, despite the added exposure the player brings to the brand, his performance on the field has been brought into question and this has been related back to his antics on social media. By selling Paul Pogba and buying someone less present on the site it may reduce the pressure to perform on the pitch and there promote a more positive image of the club’s brand. Also, by not relying on promotion through players it may improve the quality and the strength of the club’s own social media channels.

In terms of sponsorship, despite his constant criticism from fans, Ed Woodward is very impressive in his ability to gain and maintain high level sponsorship for Manchester United, such as the sleeve sponsor of Kohler and the shirt sponsor of Chevrolet, so the departure of one player would not be a problem. If Pogba was to leave and the team was not improved in his absence, then the problem would arise, as the team would significantly decrease in quality and therefore be a less marketable product for Woodward to bargain with.

Finally, in terms of shirt sales, it seems that despite being the top selling shirt when he first joined, when Alexis Sanchez joined United in 2018, the Manchester Evening News reported that he was the top selling shirt for that season. It seems that the shirts will still sell regardless of who is on the back, be it due to hype or performance, and if another player steps up to be United’s star player, they will more than likely occupy the shirt sales Pogba once had. This shows how off the pitch there may be an initial dip in financial gain due to Pogba leaving but in the long term it will be negligible.

On the Pitch

Losing Paul Pogba creates a major creative deficit in the United team. As the team’s top goal scorer and top assister last season, it leaves a big hole for any prospective new signings to fill. However, the transfer does not need to be like for like. A central midfielder could provide the similar level of chance creation needed for United to succeed, but a No.10, or a winger could also be the spark that will drive United’s attack. We will look at some of the prospective transfers United could make to solve their problems.

Paulo Dybala

We begin with the 25 year old Argentinian that could be involved as part of the Pogba transfer, as Juventus will look for a more cost-effective way to bring their former European Golden Boy winner back to the Allianz Stadium. Paulo Dybala’s impact in the Juventus team has suffered since the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, with a return of 10 goals and 4 assists. This drop-in form has been consistent with all of Juventus’ attacking line; Dybala was joint 2nd topscorer with Mandzukic, Bernadeschi contributing 2 goals and Douglas Costa contributed 1, such is the effect of Cristiano Ronaldo, with his high level of shots taken and his commanding presence on the field. To base the quality of the player on this season would not give a true representation of his ability.

Therefore, to get a better representation of what Manchester United would be getting as part of the deal, it would be better to look at Dybala’s 2017/18 season; his best in a Juventus shirt. Dybala scored a team high 22 goals in the Serie and contributed 5 assists, he also completed 1.6 key passes a game according to WhoScored.com, the same as Pogba contributed this season. Dybala also completed 2.8 dribbles a game compared to Pogba’s 1.7, this meant that Dybala was a more direct attacking force, taking more players out of the game. Slotting in just behind the striker, Dybala would provide a similar number of goal contributions while adding a great goalscoring threat.

Bruno Fernandes

The most natural replacement for Paul Pogba that Manchester United have been heavily linked to is the 24 year old Portuguese playmaker. Bruno Fernandes has contributed to 42 goals in 48 games for Sporting CP this season. With 33 of these coming in the league, this means that Fernandes has contributed to 46% of Sporting’s goals in the Liga NOS this season, compared to Pogba who has contributed to 34% of Manchester United’s league goals. This means that that Fernandes would not be fazed by the weight of expectation to be the creative centre of the Red Devils midfield.

He is also a versatile player, having played on the wing at times this season and in this position, he has shown an aptitude for crossing. Along with his 3.6 key passes per game, Bruno Fernandes completes 1.8 crosses per game. This would allow for a multi-pronged attack for the Red Devils and help them improve greatly in an area where they struggle, despite the relative height of their team, with players such as Lukaku being able to get on the end of high quality crosses. The further tactical versatility this would provide for Solskjaer would be an attractive proposition

With a reported price tag of anywhere between £62-72 million for the midfielder, he would be an expensive risk given that he is unproven in a big league, but his numbers and impact seem to lean towards him being a smart signing to help with United’s rebuild and plug the hole that losing Pogba would leave.

Jadon Sancho

The final player that could be the creative force for United next season is the young English prodigy and winger, Jadon Sancho. Sancho obviously plays in a completely different position than Pogba, but as previously stated it does not need to be a ‘like for like’ replacement, the player just needs to be able to consistently create chances and therefore improve the goalscoring form of the team.

Sancho is 19 years old and English, therefore fitting the young home grown profile linked with Solskjaer’s rebuild, together with other players United have been linked such as Sean Longstaff and Declan Rice. This means his hefty price tag would be justified in United’s long-term plan.

In the league this season, Sancho contributed to 26 goals in the league, 12 goals and 14 assists. He was the second top assister in the top 5 leagues, only coming behind Eden Hazard who contributed 15 assists. As a right sided winger he would also address the problem United have had for many years now where the players they play there, such as Lingard and Mata, prefer to cut in and act as number 10s rather than act as natural wingers.

His pace and skill on the ball would also be a great weapon for Manchester United to start counter attacks and that is probably why Dortmund value him so highly. With the purchase of Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard, losing Sancho would not be a great issue for Dortmund, however that does not mean they will sell him any cheaper, meaning United would have to break the bank to get their man.

What’s the damage?

Overall while losing Paul Pogba would be indicative of the revolving door policy that seems to have haunted United since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, it would not be the end of the world for Manchester United. The dependence the squad has on him is more due to the lack of quality overall and with proper investment and a good replacement, his influence will not be sorely missed. While an exceptional world class player on his day, he does at times, suffer from inconsistency, which is problematic when he is the player that United depend upon to operate.

In terms of revenue streams, Manchester United are more than likely to recoup the entire fee plus profit that they paid for Pogba back in 2016 and on pitch performance provides financial results. If the rebuild goes to plan and general performance improves, things such as social media interaction and shirt sales will improve along side this. Some fans, such as myself, will be sad to see Pogba go, but if he was to leave, the impact would hopefully (if all things fall into place) not be the worst thing in the world.

Should Jesse Lingard be a regular starter for Man Utd?

Manchester United have thrived this year, despite being second place in the league. And one of the stars has been Jesse Lingard, who, as a Manchester United fan, has been at the club all of his life. He came through the youth set-up, got the odd start in the first team and now has established himself as a great talent and asset for José Mourinho.

In 2012, Sir Alex Ferguson said, “He is 19, came through our youth system and is built like Jean Tigana was for France. But he never got into the limelight until he was about 24, and I think that’ll be the same for Lingard.”

That quote proves, if ever any more proof were needed, that Sir Alex Ferguson was a football genius. He got it spot on with Lingard, who has already scored eight goals this season.

The fact that United’s attack is so destructing, with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez and even Paul Pogba, and Lingard is still fighting and doing extremely well for minutes proves that he is the talent that can do excellently for his boyhood club.

He scored the winner at the weekend against Chelsea, in a crucial game which saw United claim second place, and it is fair to say that without Lingard, United would not be anywhere near where they are now, especially with the race so tight for the Champions League places, and the fact that he has offered so much in goals, assists and most importantly work ethic.

Having a fan on the pitch is always a bonus, and Mourinho is seeing that Lingard is a great bonus to him with his sheer determination, running around the pitch and work ethic. Therefore, it is clear to see that Lingard should definitely be a regular starter, or at least super-sub, as he was on Sunday, for Manchester United.