Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reiterated his desire to keep Paul Pogba after he once again caught the eye in Manchester United's 1-1 draw at Southampton.

Pogba provided four assists in a 5-1 rout of Leeds United last weekend and the midfielder set up Mason Greenwood's equaliser at St Mary's on Sunday after a Fred own goal gave Saints a first-half lead.

Former Juventus man Pogba became the first player to provide five assists in the opening two games of a Premier League campaign.

The 28-year-old is in the final year of his contract and has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, but Red Devils boss Solskjaer hopes he will extend his stay at Old Trafford.

When asked about Pogba's future, Solskjaer said: "That's going to be the question every week now until he does [sign a new deal].

"As I've said all the time, Paul is a top player and the talks between the club and his representatives I'm not involved in but he knows how much I care about him and we want him to play well for us."

He added: "He's been very good. Paul has come in bright, with his own personality. He's lean, he's been working hard over the summer and he's enjoying himself.

"I think we've seen that Paul wants to contribute. Of course you don't see him in the dressing room or in training, but he's really determined, he shows his winning mentality and I'm very pleased with him."

 

United felt they should have been awarded a free-kick for a foul on Bruno Fernandes by Jack Stephens just before Saints' opening goal.

Solskjaer was puzzled that referee Craig Pawson and the VAR saw nothing untoward and thinks the officials are being too lenient early in the new season

He said: "We should do better. If we don't get the foul, we should make sure we block the shot, put your body on the line and make sure they don't get a shot on target.

"That being said, it's a foul. He goes straight through Bruno with his own hip and his arm across him and I'm a bit, not worried, but we have to look at it because you can't go from one extreme going from volleyball or basketball last year to rugby now.

"I've liked the more lenient way, more men's football but it's still basically a foul. You can see early on they got the crowd going with a few tackles and we did suffer a few tackles, which was their thinking early on it looked like."

Solskjaer also revealed winger Amad Diallo could go out on loan before the transfer window closes.

The former Norway striker said: "He's a top player and what he's done in training in the last week or so since he came back from the Olympics has been really impressive. If we find the right place for him we will probably let him go, if not he will be in the squad very soon.

"He's training with us and doing really well, I'm sure if he stays he will contribute but if the right offer comes for him we have to consider it of course."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged Paul Pogba and Manchester United to make sure they build on their statement performance against Leeds United.

The Red Devils started their Premier League season with a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds at Old Trafford last week, with Bruno Fernandes scoring a hat-trick in a convincing victory.

Pogba recorded four assists as part of a stellar performance, one more than he managed in the whole of the 2020-21 league season.

The France star became only the seventh player in Premier League history to set up four goals in a single match, and the first for United.

There remains uncertainty about Pogba's future, with his contract expiring next year, although Solskjaer insists talks are ongoing between the club and the midfielder's representatives.

For now, the United manager is keen for his players to keep up their high standards when they head to Southampton on Sunday, facing a team they beat 9-0 in their previous meeting in February.

"That's negotiations with Paul's representatives and the club," Solskjaer said of Pogba's contract talks. "Me and Paul work together every day here and keep on trying to improve, improve the team and enjoy ourselves. When you win games, you enjoy yourself more.

"We've got to make sure that this one game and we get big headlines and all the praise we get... it's about bringing more energy to the next one and being better. One swallow never makes a summer."

Another United player tipped to leave before the transfer window closes is Jesse Lingard, who thrived on loan at West Ham last season and has been linked with a permanent move back to the club.

Solskjaer, however, has encouraged Lingard to find a way back into the regular United line-up.

"Jesse's first priority is to get into our team," the United manager said. "Whenever you're employer is Man United, that's your priority. Together, we can have great moments.

"With players in a squad like I've got now, it's difficult to say that, this weekend, you're not playing. I've got to leave players out never mind from the starting XI, but from the squad. But they have to know that they're going to play a part if we're going to be successful.

"He's come back bubbly and he's got a big part to play."

Solskjaer still expects to see players leave on loan in the coming days. Wales international Dylan Levitt has joined Dundee United for the rest of the season, while James Garner is expected to return to Nottingham Forest, where he spent some of 2020-21.

However, Solskjaer suggested Amad Diallo could stay at United after impressing during training following his return from Olympic Games duty with Ivory Coast.

"I'd definitely think Jimmy will go on loan, that's more or less done, he's done really well in pre-season and really impressed me," Solskjaer said. "For his career, another six months or a season in the Championship will help him.

"With Amad, I have to say he's doing really well, really well in training, he's come back a little later after the Olympics and he's looking really good. I wouldn't be surprised if he stayed. It has to be the right loan, right move, right club, right way of playing for every player."

Paul Pogba assisted four of Manchester United's goals as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side started their 2021-22 Premier League campaign with a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds United.

Bruno Fernandes netted three of them, with Mason Greenwood and Fred also getting in on the action as United issued a statement of intent.

Chelsea followed up that victory with a 3-0 win over Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, while Liverpool rounded out the day by beating newly promoted Norwich City by the same scoreline.

Leicester City, Everton, Watford and Brighton and Hove Albion also claimed wins to get their seasons started in style.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the key statistics from across Saturday's fixtures.

 

Manchester United 5-1 Leeds United: Pogba and Fernandes leave Whites reeling

Pogba became the seventh player in Premier League history to assist four goals in a single game on Saturday, as he and Fernandes helped United seal a record 20th opening-day win. 

Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Santi Cazorla and Harry Kane had previously teed up four goals in a Premier League match.

Two of Pogba's assists were for Fernandes, whose hat-trick was the 10th scored on the opening weekend of a Premier League season, while the playmaker was the first United player to achieve the feat since Lou Macari in 1977.

Mason Greenwood benefitted from a sublime Pogba pass shortly after Luke Ayling's sensational equaliser – the full-back's first top-flight goal – and he is now the fifth-highest scoring teenager in the history of the competition with 18 goals.

United netted five goals in their opening game of a Premier League game for only the second time, after beating Fulham 5-1 in August 2006, while Leeds shipped five in an opener for the first time.

Norwich City 0-3 Liverpool: Records tumble as Salah stars

Liverpool might have relinquished their Premier League title last season, but Mohamed Salah picked up where he left off last term as he scored and provided two assists in Liverpool's 3-0 win at Norwich.

Salah teed up both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino before netting himself in the 74th minute. It means he has scored on matchday one in all five of his Premier League seasons with Liverpool, while he is the first player in the competition's history to find the net on five consecutive opening weekends.

Norwich have now lost 11 successive top-flight games – only Sunderland have had a longer losing streak in the competition.

Firmino came on from the bench to score Liverpool's second. It was the 49th league goal scored by a substitute under Jurgen Klopp, the most of any side in the competition since the German joined in 2015, while the Brazil international also brought up the Reds' 8,000th league goal in the process.

Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace: Pulisic predictably punishes Eagles again

This trip to Stamford Bridge played out in painfully familiar fashion for Palace, who have lost more Premier League games against Chelsea (19) than versus any other side in the competition's history.

In a routine 3-0 opening-day victory, the Blues became the third team – after Tottenham (nine) and Liverpool (eight) – to win eight in a row against Palace in the Premier League era.

The nature of the first two strikes was predictable, too, with Marcos Alonso netting Chelsea's 50th direct free-kick goal in the competition – trailing only United (64) – before Christian Pulisic grabbed his fifth in five games against Palace, more than versus any other opponent.

The third was slightly more surprising, as centre-back Trevoh Chalobah's superb strike made him the second youngest Chelsea player to score on their Premier League debut for the club after Paul Hughes (22y 40d for Chalobah, 20y 274d for Hughes against Derby County in 1997).

Everton 3-1 Southampton: Benitez off to a winning start

Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment at Everton but his tenure started with a 3-1 win over Southampton. It was the first time the Toffees have won a league match in which they trailed at half-time since September 2015.

On the other hand, since Ralph Hasenhuttl took over at Southampton in December 2018, they have lost 60 points from winning positions in the Premier League, more than any other side.

Adam Armstrong opened his Southampton account to put the visitors ahead at Goodison Park. Since the start of 2019-20, only Ivan Toney (55) has scored more goals in the top four tiers of English football.

Fresh from Olympic glory with Brazil, Richarlison scored the equaliser and has now netted in each of his last four league games against Southampton.

With Abdoulaye Doucoure lashing Everton ahead, Dominic Calvert-Lewin made it 3-1 with a diving header. He has now netted 12 headed goals in the league since the start of 2019-20, four more than any other player.

Elsewhere, Leicester City saw off Wolves 1-0 thanks to Jamie Vardy's first-half effort. The Foxes have lost just one of their last 25 home league games against the Midlands club.

Only Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer (all eight) have scored more goals on the opening weekend of Premier League campaigns than Vardy (seven).

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa: Ings on the spot but post-Grealish era starts in defeat

Watford have now lost their opening league match in just one of the past 15 campaigns (W8 D6), after the Hornets overcame Aston Villa 3-2.

Emmanuel Dennis became the fourth different Nigerian player to score on his Premier League debut to put Watford ahead, with Ismaila Sarr registering his 20th goal for the club before Cucho Hernandez became the first Colombian to net on his debut in the competition.

John McGinn scored his second goal in the space of four league appearances, as many as he had in his previous 55, to pull one back, before Danny Ings converted a late penalty.

He is the 24th player to score on his Premier League bow for Villa, while his spot-kick was the 2,000th penalty scored in Premier League history.

Meanwhile, Burnley are now winless in their last 11 home league games (D5 L6) since beating Villa 3-2 in January, equaling their longest run without a win at Turf Moor, after Brighton came from behind to win 2-1.

Mason Greenwood is a man and no longer a boy, according to Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Bruno Fernandes fired a hat-trick in an emphatic 5-1 win over Leeds United at Old Trafford, while Paul Pogba illuminated his side's Premier League opener with four assists – more than the three he managed in the entirety of the 2020-21 top-flight campaign.

The landslide scoreline did not appear on the cards when Luke Ayling's piledriver brought Leeds level in the 48th minute, but soon afterwards Greenwood latched onto Pogba's majestic pass to hurl the floodgates open.

The 19-year-old forward missed England's Euro 2020 campaign through injury but was quickly up to speed on the opening weekend.

Although nominally playing as a centre forward, Greenwood only touched the ball in the Leeds box twice – one of these for his goal.

Instead, he caused persistent problems by dropping deep and disrupting the Leeds midfield, such as in the build-up to a first-half opportunity for Pogba when the game was goalless.

"I've got forwards who can play different positions. He scored a goal from the left-wing position, he's so effective from the right, he can still be a number nine and centre-forward but he drops in," said Solskjaer, who sent on Jadon Sancho for a second-half debut.

"He's a natural footballer and the way he's developed the past couple of seasons… the way he burst away on that second goal, that's a man compared to the boy who was in the first team two years ago.

"He's worked so hard in pre-season to get his fitness up and he's ready to go.

"I think you can see the forwards we've got into the team with Mason, Jadon, Marcus [Rashford], Anthony [Martial] and Dan [James], they can play different positions.

"Edinson [Cavani] is probably our only one who is fixed in one position. The rest of them we should leave them to enjoy developing in their careers.

"I remember Wayne [Rooney] Carlos [Tevez] and [Cristiano] Ronaldo playing together. Good players can always play together. We need movements and that's what we had today."

 

Greenwood's lead-restoring goal drew a particularly rapturous response from the Stretford End and Solskjaer explained the promise of playing in front of fans had persuaded veteran Uruguay striker Cavani to extend his Old Trafford stay.

"The last 18 months have been strange. The only interactions have been through the media," he said.

"You watch the games on tele, you haven't had that feeling of connection. To be reunited with the fans again, it’s important for the players.

"This is the real Man United, this is how I sold Man United to Edinson, for example. You can't leave after one season playing with no fans. Man United is fans and players and everyone together."

That answer had been in response to a query over whether Pogba was more likely to remain a United player in these circumstances after further speculation about his future.

"The short answer is, 'yes'," Solskjaer added.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed Bruno Fernandes' risk-taking and explained how he gave Paul Pogba the freedom to inspire Manchester United to a 5-1 opening-day demolition of Leeds United.

Fernandes scored his first United hat-trick, the 10th opening-day treble in Premier League history, while Pogba laid on four assists to kick-start their challenge to dethrone Manchester City in style.

Pogba is the seventh player to assist four goals in the same Premier League game, his performance serving as an emphatic demonstration of his quality amid speculation over his future with the France star's contract set to expire at the end of the season.

On Saturday's evidence, Fernandes and Pogba can successfully spearhead United's quest for their first Premier League title since 2013, with Solskjaer heaping praise on both.

"He's a risk-taker, he's a Man United player. When you're a forward at Man United, you need to have confidence, a little bit of arrogance and take risks," Solskjaer told BT Sport of Fernandes.

Explaining Pogba's role, Solskjaer said: "I've had a great relationship with Paul since he was a kid. Today was just about 'go out there enjoy yourself' because he had 45 minutes against Everton [in pre-season] that were not his best, but today we just gave him the freedom of roaming wherever you want to go and get on the ball.

"All the best players would want to feel our trust in them and confidence, and Paul is one of them who can create moments out of nothing. I was impressed by his fitness, so that's a good sign."

Jadon Sancho came off the bench to make his debut, while United confirmed the signing of former Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane before kick-off, Pogba's France team-mate receiving a rousing reception as he was introduced to the fans.

"There's eight or nine players that aren't here today, you've got a bench with quality, we've done well in the summer window, Raphael coming in today as well, which I think gave the crowd a boost and the players, so you're excited of course," said Solskjaer of United's depth.

"There's always a next game, this is one, great start. This is the way I want to see my team play, it's not just because it's Leeds, but I want to see them running, going forward, taking risks and we looked fit and some of these players haven't played more than 45 minutes before today."

After the very wholesome and, well, very Arsenal scenes at the Brentford Community Stadium on Friday, a little bit of the other side of football with fans landed in Manchester for the resumption of a simmering and bitter rivalry.

Running scraps between Manchester United and Leeds United supporters in the city centre, including one clobbering another with a bin. The Leeds contingent not so politely enquiring over the identity of new signing Raphael Varane as he was paraded to the Old Trafford faithful, who then burst into a hearty rendition of, "We all hate Leeds scum!" inside 20 seconds.

Nature is healing.

Of course, novelty becoming normality with all its warts is something everyone can broadly get behind after the past 18 months. Ideally without WWE re-enactments using waste disposal facilities, but you play the cards you're dealt.

Another familiar narrative as the masses returned to the Stretford End was Paul Pogba's future in Manchester and how uneasily it sat. Once again, the France midfielder was reported to be keen on a move away from the club he re-joined for £89.3million in 2016 – a fee only overtaken as a British record by Jack Grealish's switch to Manchester City earlier this month. Once again, he appears to be going nowhere.

Lionel Messi's arrival means there is no longer enough elasticity in the Paris Saint-Germain books to bring Pogba to the French capital, leaving him to make the best of a curious status within Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

Jadon Sancho is the new headline signing and Bruno Fernandes' bottomless well of goals and assists has led some to idly question whether Pogba would be missed that much.

But, aside from both being attacking midfielders, they are elite players of different and contrasting qualities. When those talents mesh as they did in United's riotous 5-1 win over their foes from the other side of the Pennines, they suggest the most obvious route to quenching a four-season trophy drought.

The difference in approach was highlighted by two first-half one on ones, with such openings always on the agenda due to a porous Leeds midfield that badly missed Kalvin Phillips at its base.

In the 27th minute, after Mason Greenwood snaffled a loose ball in the centre circle, Pogba was sent clear. His stepover worked an angle to beat countryman IIlan Meslier in the Leeds goal and he clipped a left-footed finish just wide.

Had it gone in, it would have been a beautiful finish, every bit as attractive as the throughball with which Pogba released Fernandes three minutes later. The Portugal star mashed a shot towards goal that bounced off Meslier and spun in. Fernandes lacks Pogba's aesthetics but he gets things done and relentlessly so.

Luke Ayling's blistering 48th-minute equaliser gave us a more agreeable instance of top bins and could have been a pivot point in the contest. Well, it was. Just not the one you might have expected.

For once, there seemed to be little danger when Pogba collected possession inside the United half in the 52nd minute, but the pass with which he brought Ayling back down to earth and sent Greenwood scampering away to finish via the post was a piece of implausible perfection.

Fernandes made it 3-1, clumping a shot into a crowded goalmouth that Ayling cleared from behind the line. Not pretty, but no matter.

Pogba now had a hat-trick of assists and his partner in crime claimed the matchball as he thundered home Victor Lindelof's raking pass. Beauty but of a more visceral kind than Pogba typically deals in.

Twenty minutes on from Ayling's leveller, Fred made it 5-1 and Pogba had gorged himself to surpass his Premier League assists tally of three from 2020-21 in a single lunchtime.

He departed to a standing ovation as the new hero Sancho entered the fray alongside Anthony Martial. Once the England winger is up to full fitness and Marcus Rashford returns from shoulder surgery, it will be fascinating to see what configuration Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opts for.

Granting Pogba the roving role from the left flank that allowed him to decimate Leeds would leave a couple of high-profile wide attackers disgruntled most weeks.

There could be changes in formation, with Saturday's 4-2-3-1 wheeled out as much by necessity as design. But Pogba's six passes to Fernandes were more than he made to any United team-mate and look what that led to.

A deeper role for the Frenchman when the other attackers return would be the easy call, but why sever an alliance that looked utterly unplayable here? The start of Fernandes' story at Old Trafford once looked like it might be the end of Pogba's. They should be allowed the chance to script something far more compelling in tandem.

Bruno Fernandes scored his first Manchester United hat-trick and Paul Pogba produced four assists as they made a superb start to their Premier League challenge with a 5-1 win over Leeds United.

With Old Trafford buoyed by the signing and introduction of Raphael Varane on the pitch before kick-off, the returning fans were treated to an excellent attacking display.

Fernandes and Pogba – aided by a generous Leeds defence – were to the fore, the former benefiting from Pogba's creative talents in opening the scoring on the half-hour mark.

Pogba laid on two further assists for Mason Greenwood and Fernandes to put United in command in the second half after Luke Ayling's screamer had briefly levelled matters.

And, after Fernandes completed his treble, the former Juventus man teed up Fred to complete the rout in the 68th minute.

Leeds' defending throughout the first half was distinctly haphazard and Illan Meslier had to be alert to turn the ball behind after Pascal Struijk's backpass deflected off Greenwood.

Greenwood was involved again as he slid Pogba through on goal, only for the France midfielder to waste a golden opportunity and fire wide of the near post.

Yet Leeds refused to heed those warnings and Pogba made amends with a superb pass to tee up Fernandes after Meslier punted the ball straight to Scott McTominay, the Portuguese squeaking the ball under the goalkeeper's legs.

For all United's dominance in the first half, they were pegged back three minutes into the second when Ayling left David de Gea with no chance with a vicious right-footed drive from just outside the area.

But Old Trafford was in a stunned silence for just over three minutes as Pogba responded in equally remarkable fashion, his pinpoint long-range pass met by Greenwood, who raced down the left flank and restored the hosts' lead with a strike across the face of goal that went in off the post.

Solskjaer's men then gave themselves breathing room as Pogba made it a hat-trick of assists by finding Fernandes, whose neat turn sent Junior Firpo to the turf and was followed by a composed finish that Ayling could not prevent from crossing the line.

Fernandes' third breached the Leeds goal much more emphatically, Victor Lindelof this time the supplier as United's number 18 latched onto his ball over the top and beat Meslier with an unstoppable volley.

A hugely enjoyable day for the United fans was rounded off by Fred's simple close-range finish and Jadon Sancho coming off the bench to make his debut, Pogba leaving the pitch to a standing ovation after a display that illustrated why signing him to a new contract should be top of the club's to-do list.

Jadon Sancho will be involved for Manchester United against Leeds United on Saturday but Raphael Varane is not available, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said.

England winger Sancho, a £73.9million (€85m) signing from Borussia Dortmund, has been training this week after struggling with illness following his holiday.

Red Devils manager Solskjaer confirmed Sancho is ready to make his competitive debut against Marcelo Bielsa's men at Old Trafford.

"Jadon is going to be involved," Solskjaer told reporters on Friday. "Unfortunately, he was ill after his holiday, so we lost out on a few days of training, but he's gelled really well with the group. He's going to be involved."

However, centre-back Varane will miss the game as his move from Real Madrid has yet to be finalised.

The France international has been isolating after arriving in England, as per coronavirus protocols, but there are some outstanding matters to resolve before he can be registered as a United player.

"He's not trained with us," Solskjaer said. "Things take time. Unfortunately, with the isolation, the delay, it's not 100 per cent done yet. I can't say he will be involved, I can probably say he won't be.

"It always happens, it's little things. The big hold-up was isolation, quarantine. It'll be done soon."

There have been questions over the involvement of Anthony Martial, who has been linked with a possible move away from United in the transfer window.

The France international missed the final two months of last season with a knee injury but played 45 minutes of the 4-0 friendly win over Everton.

Solskjaer insisted he has no plans to allow the forward to leave despite the reported interest from elsewhere.

"I wouldn't be surprised if other teams targeted Anthony because he's a very good player," he said. "I've got no plans whatsoever for him to play against us.

"He's come back strong, hungry, with a determination to prove his fitness and quality, because last season was a disappointing one for him. He's up for the challenge. He's a Man United player and we're happy to have him. He's proven doubters wrong so many times."

Solskjaer added that there is little update on the future of Paul Pogba, who is in the final year of his contract at United.

"It's been spoken and written about so often," he added. "Every discussion I've had with Paul was a positive one, he knows what we want and hopefully he keeps on in the background and they make decisions. It'll always be like with this with Paul; he's a media magnet."

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is a free agent after his time with Barcelona officially ended.

The Argentina international has been heavily linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi is yet to declare his intentions and unlikely to confirm his next move until later this week at the earliest.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD CONSIDERS LAST-MINUTE MESSI MOVE

Manchester United have entered the race for free agent Messi and are considering a late offer to pip PSG, claims the Daily Star.

Messi's exit from Barcelona was confirmed over the weekend, although the 34-year-old refused to declare his next destination amid strong links with PSG.

The report claims United are considering an opportunistic bid, with competition still swirling for Messi's signature and his PSG move unlikely to be progressed until later this week.

However, Ole is reporting that Messi will be in Paris on Tuesday, with the PSG deal almost done.

 

ROUND-UP

- AS claims that Messi's imminent move to Paris Saint-Germain could signal a transfer swoop from Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappe. PSG and Mbappe appear to have been drifting apart in recent times, with the France international opting not to extend his contract due to expire in 2022.

- Messi's imminent move means PSG have ended their interest in signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba,  according to Le Parisien. The France international's agent Mino Raiola had opened talks with PSG about a switch and Pogba was keen on the move but no offer was made.

- Chelsea and Roma have agreed to Tammy Abraham's transfer terms with the move subject to the player's approval, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. This is part of a cascade of moves as Chelsea are set to land Romelu Lukaku from the Nerazzurri, with Roma striker Edin Dzeko headed to Inter.

- Lyon have submitted a bid for Liverpool's Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, claims L'Equipe. Shaqiri was largely a bit-part player at Liverpool last season.

- Liverpool are also looking to add to their squad as they eye a move for young Belgian talent Jeremy Doku from Rennes, according to Voetbal 24.

On August 9, 2016, Manchester United completed a deal that was expected to transform them back into title regulars.

Paul Pogba – who had left United in 2012 – arrived in an £89.3million (€105m) deal from Juventus, a then-world record transfer fee.

Five years on, Pogba seems to be at something of a crossroads in not just his United career, but as a player altogether.

Like in 2016, Pogba heads into the 2021-22 season on the back of an impressive European Championship with France.

Unlike in 2016, Les Bleus failed to go deep in the competition, dropping out in the last 16 stage to Switzerland.

That game in June perhaps provided the perfect summary of Pogba the player. A global superstar in his own right, the 28-year-old has perhaps never hit the heights his talent suggested, or at least not on a consistent basis.

An exquisite long-range strike put France 3-1 up against Switzerland, yet it was Pogba who dawdled on the ball and was robbed of possession as Les Bleus contributed to their own downfall in Bucharest.

But just how has Pogba fared in the five years since he arrived back at Old Trafford, and what could come next?

 

HIS UNITED RECORD

Pogba has made 199 appearances in all competitions for United in his second spell at the club, with Marcus Rashford (252), David de Gea (216) and Anthony Martial (208) playing more games in that time.

Indeed, only De Gea and Rashford have played more minutes than Pogba's 15,708. While he has struggled at times with niggling injuries, he has more often than not been consistently available throughout his time at Old Trafford, with De Gea and Rashford the two players to start more games than the former Juve star (174).

Pogba has played 134 times in the Premier League since 2016, helping United to 73 victories –  a win percentage of 54.5 per cent.

He has missed 56 league games, with United's win percentage dropping down to 50 per cent in those matches, underlying that he is perhaps more crucial than some of his critics would suggest.

It has to be said, however, that Bruno Fernandes' arrival in 2020 did see Pogba take a back seat.

The Portugal playmaker has already netted more goals (40) in all competitions than Pogba (38), in 119 fewer appearances, though 21 of Fernandes' goals have come from the penalty spot.

Rashford, with 39, is the only United player to record more assists than Pogba, who has teed up as many as he has scored, while the Frenchman's 301 chances created is a team-high, 66 clear of second-placed Rashford.

Pogba ranks in the top three for dribbles attempted (624), with 393 of these being successful, displaying his ability to carry the ball through the thirds, and his total of 11,723 passes is way clear of Nemanja Matic in second (9,849).

 

PARIS FOR PAUL?

With just 12 months left on his contract, talks of a move away for the Frenchman at the end of his deal continue – Paris Saint-Germain his most likely destination, given their reported interest last year.

PSG already have a wealth of midfield options, though, including former team-mate Ander Herrera, Euro 2020 winner Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes.

Pogba completed 1595 passes last term, yet the PSG trio, along with Idrissa Gueye, averaged out at 2126 successful attempts – perhaps aided by their domination on the ball in Ligue 1.

Despite this, only Paredes (322) completed more passes in the final third than the United midfielder's 282, suggesting a different dimension Pogba could bring to Mauricio Pochettino's midfield.

Pogba also won 255 duels, recovering possession 242 times when doing his defensive duties for Solskjaer. Idrissa Gueye, PSG's best performer in this area, only managed 201 successful duels and 208 recoveries in two games more.

However, Verratti, who featured in 11 fewer games than Pogba, was victorious in 233 duels and made 174 recoveries  – could the pair form Pochettino's pivot next season?

While Pochettino now also has Georginio Wijnaldum, who made 262 recoveries albeit in six more games for Liverpool last year, to call upon, Pogba would add undoubted quality to the French giants in every midfield aspect.

Everyone wants Lionel Messi but few have the resources to sign him.

Paris Saint-Germain appear to be strong favourites to land the Argentina international.

A deal could happen in the coming days.

 

TOP STORY - PSG CLOSE IN ON MESSI

PSG believe they are close to a deal to land Lionel Messi.

ESPN reports PSG have been in contact with Messi's father and agent Jorge "for some time" and are set to offer a three-year contract. 

Sky Sport Italia says the deal is more likely to be for two years with an option to extend it to a third. 

The ESPN report said adding Messi would make it more likely Kylian Mbappe would stay with the club rather than leave when he is out of contract next year, though it would end PSG's pursuit of Paul Pogba, partly due to FFP concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are set to pay about £95million for Romelu Lukaku as Inter prefer a cash-only deal, the Daily Mail reports. Calciomercato says the Blues offered Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso in a swap deal but the Nerazzurri were not interested. 

- Inter are looking within Serie A to replace their outgoing striker, Sky Italia says, with Atalanta's Duvan Zapata and Roma's Edin Dzeko their preferred options.

- Barcelona are trying to come to an agreement with Lille on midfielder Renato Sanches, Le10 Sport reports. 

- Rafa Mir is set for a move from Wolves to Atletico Madrid, with Fabrizio Romano reporting personal terms have been agreed. 

- West Ham have offered €14m (£12m) to Marseille for Duje Caleta-Car, L'Equipe reports, saying the Ligue 1 side are holding out for €20m (£17m).

Pep Guardiola's quest to conquer Europe and continue domestic domination with Manchester City has seen him sign Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish in a deal reportedly worth £100million.

Grealish becomes the most expensive signing in Premier League history after being prised away from Villa Park, where he had spent his entire career and captained his boyhood club since 2019.

The England international, who helped the Three Lions to a first major final appearance in 55 years at Euro 2020, has regularly been linked away from Villa but committed his future after rumoured interest from Manchester United, signing a long-term contract in 2020.

In the 2020-21 campaign, the 25-year old contributed with six league goals and 10 assists, while also creating 81 chances across 26 appearances for the Villains.

Dean Smith will no longer have the playmaker to call upon, though, as Guardiola has demolished the previous Premier League transfer record – set by Paul Pogba's return to United in 2016 – to secure Grealish's services.

After City's record-breaking acquisition of Grealish, Stats Perform looks at the other most expensive signings in English top-flight history.

PAUL POGBA – Juventus to Manchester United, £89.3m

Jose Mourinho's first transfer window with the Red Devils saw the France midfielder return to Old Trafford in a then-world record transfer.

Since making that reunion in 2016-17, only Marcus Rashford (78) and Anthony Martial (64) have been involved in more Premier League goals for United than Pogba (57 – 28 goals, 29 assists), while the midfielder has created more top-flight chances (207) than any other player for the club during this period.

He scored and assisted one apiece for France at Euro 2020, while only Antoine Griezmann (10) created more chances than Pogba's eight for Les Bleus.

HARRY MAGUIRE – Leicester City to Manchester United £80m

United broke the world transfer record for a defender in 2002 when they signed Rio Ferdinand for £30m and 17 years later they acquired Maguire for more than double that fee.

The centre-back endured a tricky start to life in Manchester, however, his quality eventually shone through as he strung together 71 consecutive appearances for United.

Despite missing the last four games of the 2020-21 campaign, Maguire ranked second in the Premier League for aerial challenges won (135) and fifth for successful duels (203) before featuring prominently at Euro 2020 for England.

 

VIRGIL VAN DIJK – Southampton to Liverpool, £75m

Jurgen Klopp, albeit under contentious circumstances, convinced Van Dijk to move away from St. Mary's Stadium in December 2017.

The commanding Netherlands captain guided Liverpool to their sixth Champions League success in 2018-19 before playing a key role as the Reds ended their 30-year wait for an English title.

Van Dijk's absence severely affected their Premier League defence last term. Klopp's men have won 75.8 per cent of their league matches with Van Dijk in the side since his debut in January 2018, a figure that falls to 54.3 per cent in his absence.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU – Everton to Manchester United £75m

The Belgium forward never settled in at Old Trafford and left after two seasons, despite converting 42 times in 96 games for United.

Lukaku scored twice in United's stunning Champions League last-16 comeback victory over Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 before completing a switch to Inter, where he helped Antonio Conte's men to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

During the title-winning campaign, Lukaku shunned doubts over his finishing as he converted almost one in four chances to bag 24 goals and improved his link-up play to form an effective partnership with Lautaro Martinez. Since his Inter debut only five players have scored more goals in Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku (64).

He has now been linked with a return to former club Chelsea in a deal which could shatter Grealish's new record.

 

JADON SANCHO – Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United £73m

After leaving Manchester City in 2017 for Borussia Dortmund, Sancho found himself signing for the red half of Manchester four years later. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer pursued Sancho for multiple transfer windows and finally got his man in the wake of England's Euro 2020 shoot-out heartbreak.

Since the start of the 2018-19 campaign, the 21-year-old has been directly involved in the joint-most goals of any English player across the top five European leagues (78), while he has played fewer minutes than Harry Kane – also on 78 – in this period.

Sancho also became the first Englishman to reach at least 10 assists for three consecutive seasons in Europe's top-five leagues since David Beckham, who achieved the feat between 1997-98 and 2000-01 for Alex Ferguson's United.

Paul Pogba would have been scrutinised much more by the English media and fans if he had refused to attend training, according to former Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand, after Harry Kane allegedly skipped Tottenham's Monday session.

Kane was expected back at Spurs to begin his pre-season preparations following a post-Euro 2020 break, but widespread media reports claim he did not show up.

Spurs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It has been suggested by some publications that Kane believes he has a gentleman's agreement with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy that would allow him to leave the club this month.

Kane, a product of Spurs' academy, hinted before Euro 2020 that he felt he needed to leave in order to win trophies, and he has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester City ever since.

But Ferdinand has seemingly been surprised by the neutral coverage of the situation, suggesting Pogba – a frequent target for criticism by certain sections of the English media – would have endured rougher treatment were he to behave similarly at United, with recent reports claiming he also wants out.

Writing on his official Twitter account, Ferdinand said: "Let Paul Pogba not turn up for Man Utd training and see how the English media and fans go mad!

"Helicopters and police forces [would be] out searching [for] his location immediately.

"And I'm not saying that Kane and his tactics to leave are wrong (if we are to believe what's being said). Harry wants trophies and he isn't getting any younger."

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher disagreed with Ferdinand's belief that Kane was not necessarily in the wrong if the reports were true, however.

Kane has scored more times in the Premier League (166) for Spurs than any other player, while only Sergio Aguero (184), Wayne Rooney (183) and Thierry Henry (175) have greater goal hauls for a single club than the 28-year-old.

And Carragher feels Kane – who signed a six-year contract in 2018 – could put his legacy at the club in jeopardy by trying to force a transfer.

"I disagree, it is wrong not to turn up for training," Carragher wrote in response to Ferdinand.

"We all know he wants to go and can totally understand why. But Harry should not ruin his name or relationship with the supporters who idolise him just to get the move. Spurs will always be HIS club."

Kane finished as the Premier League's top scorer with 23 goals in 2020-21.

He also set up 14 to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists in a single season, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

Kane then finished the Euros with four goals – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick (five each) managed more – to draw level with Gary Lineker as his nation's leading scorer at major tournaments.

Kieran Trippier has one year remaining on his Atletico Madrid contract.

The England international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

It has been reported that Trippier wants to return to England, having left Tottenham for LaLiga in 2019.

 

TOP STORY - TRIPPIER TO WAIT ON UNITED MOVE

Manchester United target Kieran Trippier is willing to wait until late in the transfer window to secure his move, reports the Telegraph.

Atletico Madrid full-back Trippier is said to have set his sights on a move to United, who have already been busy in the transfer market by launching moves for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

The report claims Trippier is prepared to sit tight and wait for United to raise the funds required to put together a move for the 30-year-old former Manchester City junior.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa are ready to restart talks with Jack Grealish about a new deal next week as Manchester City begin to ramp up their interest, according to the Express and Star.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is being lined up by West Ham,  with a proposed £20m bid set to be tabled, according to the Daily Mail. It had been reported Zouma may be used in a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

- Barcelona are lining up a second bid to sign Juventus defender Cristian Romero after having had a player-plus-cash deal turned down, reports SportItalia. Tottenham are also keen on Romero.

- Celtic could make a move for ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is currently on Tottenham's books, says BBC Sport.

It seems clear that Paul Pogba will not remain at Old Trafford for the long haul.

Also clear: Paris Saint-Germain's interest in the France midfielder.

The big question that remains to be answered is the timing of a potential move for the Manchester United man.

 

TOP STORY – PSG WEIGH UP POGBA OPTIONS

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in a move for Paul Pogba but are still debating when to make their bid.

According to The Athletic, PSG have begun discussions to determine Pogba's interest in a move but have not made a formal approach to United.

While the report says a bid is expected within the next few weeks, it remains a possibility that PSG could wait until Pogba is out of contract in 2022 and deal with the player directly.

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