EPL

In-demand Pogba praises Man Utd title rivals: Premier League obviously the best in the world

By Sports Desk January 15, 2021

Paul Pogba feels the Premier League is clearly the best in the world as he outlined the scale of the challenge facing Manchester United in the title race.

The World Cup winner is relishing United sitting top of the table after 17 games.

Pogba's winner against Burnley on Tuesday put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team top of the standings at this stage of campaign for the first time since Alex Ferguson's last season.

The midfielder explained fighting for the biggest trophies is why he returned to the club from Juventus in 2016.

While his agent Mino Raiola has said Pogba wants to leave United, he believes the division his current club play in is tougher than those he would be in if he joined reported suitors Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid.

"That's why I came here," Pogba said to Sky Sports about United's return to the top of the league ahead of Sunday's crucial away game with Liverpool.

"That's why I came back here. It was to go and win.

"Obviously when you come you want to win straight away. But things happen. You try to build, and sometimes things happen you didn't expect, but it's for a good reason. 

"Maybe this year we can win it, who knows? It made us improve, know about ourselves, get more experience, so everything happened for a reason.

"In my head you always want to win the first year, second year, the third year, but it's not as easy as it seems.

"You have teams that have been great as well, our neighbours [Manchester City] have been great.

"Everyone is building teams, buying top players, so obviously this league is the best league in the world, and you know it's not going to be easy."

Pogba form key to United revival

After a difficult start to the season, Pogba's return to form has been important to a United side heavily reliant on the production of Bruno Fernandes.

Pogba previously conceded he was struggling with his recovery from coronavirus and a long-term injury absence in the early stages of the season.

Opta data highlights his level of improvement, which started with the spectacular goal in a comeback win over West Ham on December 5, a performance that came just before Raiola's remarks caused fervent transfer speculation.

From that West Ham game, Pogba has two goals and nine created chances in seven appearances and six starts.

He is averaging 65 passes and 55 completed passes per 90 minutes during that period, second only to Nemanja Matic for United, while his 7.7 recoveries per game ranks fourth among outfield players.

After being in and out the team earlier in the campaign, Pogba has played 576 minutes in the Premier League in that time – behind only captain Harry Maguire (720), Marcus Rashford (646), Fernandes (641) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (630).

Prior to that West Ham game, Pogba started just four times and made seven Premier League appearances.

He did not have a goal or an assist in that period and registered just two key passes. United won three, drew one and lost three of those first seven Premier League outings.

Starting with the West Ham match, the seven Pogba has played have produced five wins, two draws and no defeats.

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    Jordan Henderson joked that he is ready to put a call in to Steven Gerrard as Liverpool eye a favour from Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season.

    After coming from behind to beat Southampton 2-1 in their penultimate fixture of the campaign, Jurgen Klopp's side remain in with a shout of clinching the title on Sunday.

    But, for that to happen, they must first win their Anfield clash with Wolves and then hope that Manchester City drop points at home to Villa.

    Pep Guardiola's men came out on top in a similarly tight race in 2018-19, and Henderson says he is ready to call on his former Anfield teammate Steven Gerrard - now the manager of Villa - as he looks for a different outcome.

    He told Sky Sports: "It's hard. We've had this before when they played Brighton [and went 1-0 down] and the crowd cheer and you know what's going on and it's hard to focus on the game. 

    "Hopefully that experience, we've learned from it and we can just concentrate on the game and what we need to do. 

    "Hopefully, Stevie and Villa can do us a favour at City. I might give him a call now, actually!"

    That Liverpool have been able to take the title race to the last day owes much to the efforts of the heavily rotated team that clinched victory at St Mary's on Southampton.

    Takumi Minamino was among nine alterations to the line-up, and scored just as he had done on his last Premier League start - a whopping 514 days ago.

    That ability to come in from the cold and contribute pleased Henderson, who remarked: "I feel like we've done that really well all season.

    "The lads who might not have played as much as they would have liked, they've got to come in and show what they're all about. 

    "I felt as though all the lads did that tonight, took the opportunity, and in a Premier League season you need absolutely everyone."

    James Milner echoed his captain's sentiments in urging Liverpool to simply focus on what they can control on the final day of the season.

    However, he also insisted that Klopp's men have done themselves proud in pushing City so close regardless of Sunday's outcome.

    He said: "Try and win our game, that's all we can do, and that's all we've been trying to do since we sort of had a reset in January. 

    "We were so far behind and we went for it, had a mental reset, and since then we've really pushed. 

    "They're an incredible team to go up against and, whatever happens this season, I think we've done ourselves proud. 

    "But you're coming up against a top team like Manchester City so all we can do is try and win our games and try and keep the pressure on right until the end. 

    "All we could do is take it to the last game."

  • Yorke lands coaching job with Australia A-League club Macarthur Yorke lands coaching job with Australia A-League club Macarthur

    Former Trinidad and Tobago international and Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke has landed a coaching role with Australia A-League (ASL) club Macarthur FC.

    The journey to such a position has been a long and arduous one for the 50-year-old who has in years gone by often complained of a lack of diversity in English football.  According to Yorke, despite the recommendation of legendary coach Sir Alex Ferguson he struggled to even land interviews.  The ormer top marksman has, however, finally gotten his chance.

    The Trinidadian has, however, served football in other capacities, taking a role with the Trinidad and Tobago national team, as an assistant coach, in 2009, after retiring from the sport.

    Yorke, who was also an advisor within the Manchester United youth set-up, also interviewed for a job with Sutton United but was not selected to coach the National League club.  The former player was also thought to have been in contention for the Aston Villa job earlier this season but the team opted for former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard.

    He has, reportedly, agreed to a two-year contract with Macarthur, which is based in Southwestern Sydney.  Another Caribbean international, Adrian Marriapa, who represents Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, is a part of the squad having joined the team last season.

     

     

  • Liverpool squad stars 'like Ferraris in the garage' – Klopp Liverpool squad stars 'like Ferraris in the garage' – Klopp

    Liverpool's squad players were describes as "Ferraris in the garage" by Jurgen Klopp after the title chasers came from behind to beat Southampton.

    Klopp made nine changes to his line-up for the trip to St Mary's on Tuesday, where Liverpool realistically had to win to keep hopes of winning the Premier League title alive.

    Although the Reds fell behind to Nathan Redmond's opener, Takumi Minamino pulled them level before half-time and Joel Matip's header secured a huge three points.

    Minamino also scored in his most recent previous Premier League start for Liverpool – a 7-0 win over Crystal Palace in December 2020. That gap of 514 days between scoring in consecutive starts for a top-flight club is the longest since Duncan Ferguson's 533 days for Everton from April 2002 until September 2003.

    Klopp was proud of the result and said any further success that EFL Cup and FA Cup winners Liverpool experience this season is down to the strength in depth they possess.

    "I'm so happy about the performance, it was a bit touching, to be honest," Klopp told a post-match news conference.

    "These boys, it's like having Ferraris in the garage. Harvey [Elliott], I'm not sure when he played last. Curtis [Jones], no rhythm, he played from time to time. Takumi Minamino, it's a crime he's not playing more often. Oxlade [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain] didn't even play and he's in outstanding shape.

    "It's really tough for the boys, but whatever happens this year happened because of this group. It's exceptional, and tonight they showed that again."

    Klopp added to Sky Sports: "I've never had a group like this. Because we win most of the time there are not a lot of things you can really argue about. But there are two opportunities how you can deal with it: you give up, or you play your role in the group, and this group push each other constantly.

    "In the end it's absolutely outstanding. We came here and had to do what we did, and it worked out because of the boys." 

    Joe Gomez hobbled off injured at half-time and did not return for the second half. Klopp was hopeful the defender had avoided a serious injury, though he reportedly left the stadium on crutches.

    "I hope we are lucky. Joe himself has pain but not too much, but it was really like a shock to the system,” Klopp said.

    “He was sitting in the dressing room, when I spoke to him he was in a good mood so I think we were probably lucky, but we have to figure that out."

    Liverpool are one point behind leaders Manchester City, and will have to beat Wolves at Anfield on Sunday to stand any chance of winning the Premier League.

    City will be entertaining Aston Villa at the same time, but Klopp is not planning to chat to Steven Gerrard before he takes his side to the Etihad Stadium.

    "No, of course not … There's no reason to talk to him [Gerrard]. We all know Villa wants to win because Villa wants to win," said Klopp.

    "We have to first win our game, we can't talk about Wolves as if they will not be there. It's difficult enough.

    "Imagine we went there with one ear in Manchester and [Raul] Jimenez headed in the ball. We will be 100 per cent focused.

    "So many things happened in this second half of the season. If we become champions it would be deserved as well, but for that we have to win."

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