Raphael Varane lauded Paul Pogba after the midfielder starred for France in their Euro 2020 opener against Germany.

Didier Deschamps' world champions started their Group F campaign with a 1-0 win in Munich on Tuesday – Mats Hummels' own goal the difference.

France also had two goals disallowed for offside, with Germany never truly clicking into gear as Joachim Low's decision to recall some veteran campaigners did not go according to script.

Instrumental in the win was Pogba, whose exceptional pass to Lucas Hernandez ultimately resulted in the unfortunate Hummels, who looked ponderous and out of place in Germany's back three, turning into his own net.

Playing on the right of a midfield three alongside Adrien Rabiot and N'Golo Kante, Pogba attempted more passes (52) than any of his team-mates, with 40 of them (76.9 per cent) finding a blue shirt.

His 78 touches topped the charts for France, while no other player on the pitch drew more fouls (four), made more interceptions (three) or gained possession on more occasions (12) than the Manchester United man.

"He started very early with France, he plays with a lot of maturity, he has so many qualities," Varane said of Pogba.

"The difficulty for him is to choose when to use his force. He is a complete player. He has found a balance in his game, he has been performing for many years, he brings a lot to the group in relation to his character. He is at a very good level."

Asked if Pogba could be a choice to captain Les Bleus, Varane added: "The captain's armband for Pogba in the future? He's maturing. He has this strength of character, he knows how to convey that to the group, he is respected and on top of that he sets the mood!

"He's a leader, he could easily wear the French team's armband."

 

Varane partnered Samuel Umtiti during France's successful run at the 2018 World Cup, but played alongside the sometimes erratic Presnel Kimpembe at the heart of Les Bleus' defence on Tuesday.

They combined for 12 clearances – Varane's tally of nine a game-high – and looked solid against a Germany attack featuring Serge Gnabry, Kai Havertz and the returning Thomas Muller.

"It's a collective performance. When [Kylian] Mbappe loses a ball and recovers it five seconds later, that gives us strength," Varane said, referencing the high press France deployed at the Allianz Arena.

"Kimpembe and I have complementary qualities, we talk a lot. It's not a question of motivation in this kind of match. We motivate each other.

"We also spoke a lot with our midfield to defend well and succeed in countering opposing attacks. We had to be very focused."

Paul Pogba insisted France must deal with being labelled as favourites to win Euro 2020 after he led the way with a supreme performance against Germany.

Mats Hummels' own goal gifted Euro 2016 runners-up France a 1-0 win over Germany in their opening Group F encounter in Munich on Tuesday, putting Les Bleus well on their way to progressing to the last 16.

France – who finished with just one attempt on target – had opportunities to add to their lead, with Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema having goals disallowed for offside, though Joachim Low's Germany ultimately failed to make their luck count as they lost their opening game of a European Championship for the first time.

The winner came in fortuitous circumstances, with Hummels turning in from Lucas Hernandez's cross.

Pogba's exceptional pass played in France's left-back, however, and the Manchester United midfielder was on top form, attempting more passes (52) and more in Germany's half (31) than any Les Bleus player.

He also amassed a team-high 78 touches – albeit that total was 50 less than game-leader Toni Kroos (128) – and went in for 20 duels, the most of any player.

With the world champions having been tipped to lift the trophy they missed out on against Portugal on home soil five years ago, Pogba is adamant France must live up to the billing.

"The performance of the team is the most important. Without them, I would not have been so efficient," Pogba, who was also involved in a flashpoint with Antonio Rudiger when he appeared to complain that the Germany defender had bitten him, told M6.

"They helped me, they have everyone made the effort. This victory is for everyone, those who are also on the bench and in the stands to support us.

"Everyone was talking about our status as favourite, our attack, the group of death. We must assume our status with humility."

Didier Deschamps is aiming to become the first person to win the European Championship and World Cup as both a player and coach, and was delighted with a resilient display.

"We had a big match against a very good opponent," Deschamps told M6.

"I knew that my players were going to be ready, we were fighting for everything, even if in the first half we could have got the ball out a little better. We did not suffer that much in the second period. It's a tough game.

"This is our first game. In our group, taking these three points is important. We were at the level, this victory is good for us."

Deschamps' counterpart Low said he could not have asked for any more effort from his Germany side, who mustered 10 attempts to France's four, albeit only one of them hit the target.

"We really gave everything. We fought until the end, for 90 minutes," Low told beIN Sports.

"What we missed was a goal. We conceded a goal that we could have avoided, but otherwise I have no criticism to make. We lost a match, but we continue."

Germany next host defending champions Portugal, while France travel to Budapest to face Hungary.

There was a worrying incident shortly before France's Euro 2020 game with Germany involving a Greenpeace parachutist and the stadium Spidercam. No, honestly.

The apparent protester, his chute emblazoned with 'Kick out oil', slowly circled his way towards the Allianz Arena pitch but collided with the mechanism by which the camera was suspended. Debris almost hit Didier Deschamps in the France dugout, while the man was given medical attention after coming to rest on the turf. Nobody was injured, thankfully.

It turned out that surprising wonders dropping from the sky was the theme of the day, as France began their quest for continental glory with a 1-0 win in Munich. That's a circuitous route to talking about the spontaneous brilliance of Paul Pogba. No, honestly.

Twenty minutes had gone in the first meeting of Group F's three big guns. Germany and France had nullified one another, their 3-4-3 and 4-3-1-2 systems keeping the previous two World Cup winners from laying a glove on each other. Before the game, Deschamps described these teams as the best two in the continent, and you could certainly not accuse either side of lacking respect for their opponents.

Then, Pogba appeared. A throw-in from Benjamin Pavard, a one-two, a lay-off from Karim Benzema, and the ball was into the midfielder's feet. And then it was out of them, a languid, looping pass drifting over the heads of the German back three and into the path of Lucas Hernandez, the only player who seemed aware the move was even on. His mishit cross was promptly shinned into his own net by Mats Hummels, who was perhaps still wondering how the ball had got there.

 

In many ways, it was a typical Pogba pass: it was incredible he even saw it but, once he had, of course he was going to try it. The Manchester United man is the king of the unanticipated, never shying away from the implausible, for whom the very idea of keeping it simple seems like an affront. At club level, it makes him a target for traditionalist critics; for France, he becomes the match-winner.

One of Deschamps' real triumphs has been to construct an imperious unit out of France's mighty individuals. They allowed Germany more than 60 per cent of the possession but conceded only one shot on target, their defensive cohesion summed up by Antoine Griezmann sprinting back to challenge Joshua Kimmich on the right wing shortly before injury time.

When the defence is this strong, and when N'Golo Kante is patrolling the middle, it gives Pogba the licence – the compulsion, even – to try the unexpected. It's why he rejected two simple passes to the left and drove away from his own box surrounded by three players, winning a free-kick that led to Adrien Rabiot hitting the post. It's why he found himself in the number 10 position 66 minutes in, another sublime square ball over the top finished stylishly by Kylian Mbappe but ruled out for offside. It's why Benzema's late tap-in was also disallowed, Mbappe having strayed beyond the last man because Pogba's attempt at an elaborate turn ended up delaying his own throughball.

Pogba attempted 52 passes in total, more than anyone else for France. He had 78 touches, more than anyone else for France. He contested 20 duels, five aerial duels, won four fouls and made three interceptions – all more than anyone else for France. He won back the ball 12 times and gave it away a further 22, both, naturally, the highest figures in the contest.

Matches at these tournaments are so often tactical, attritional battles, where the risky pass, the inspired finish can make all the difference. That's standard practice for Pogba, a player who reminds us there's no reason to fear falling when you live for flying.

Paul Pogba has dismissed rumours of a rift between France team-mates Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud – while also stating he has not yet been offered a new Manchester United contract.

Giroud came off the bench to score a double in France's friendly win over Bulgaria on Tuesday, though he caused a stir in a post-match news conference when he seemed to suggest some irritation at strike partner Mbappe, who failed to pick out the Chelsea forward on several occasions.

During their time together on the pitch, there was only one pass between Giroud and Mbappe, with the former Arsenal man finding the Paris Saint-Germain star, who did not return the favour on any other occasion.

According to reports, a furious Mbappe wanted to hold a news conference to defend himself after hearing Giroud's comments.

Pogba, however, scotched rumours of any discontent in the squad as France prepare for their Euro 2020 campaign.

"The only tensions are on the back, on the legs. The physiotherapists are there for that," Pogba joked in a news conference.

"Frankly, I'm on the inside, there is nothing, there has always been a very good atmosphere with everyone. We will go directly to the subject – between Olivier and Kyky, there is nothing at all.

"I think that what was said may have been poorly conveyed. Kylian, his qualities, he can score and do a lot of assists, he does it, he plays for the team even though I always tell him that it would be good if he defended a little more!

"There is nothing, nothing has come out, I don't feel any tension, nothing at all."

The reports concerning Mbappe and Giroud were not the only rumours Pogba had to contend with.

On Thursday, several reports suggested his club United had started talks over a new deal, with Pogba's current contract expiring in 2022, while there has also been talk of interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

Though he did not confirm if initial talks had started or not, Pogba insisted no offer was on the table.

"Contacts with Paris? I have one year of contract left. Everyone knows that," Pogba said.

"No concrete proposal [from United] yet. I am still at United. My thoughts are about the Euros. I am focused. I have more experience than before, I am focused on the present. I have an agent who takes care of all that."

Paul Pogba has warned France they need to remain humble to avoid Euro 2020 disappointment, adamant they will just be seen as a "PlayStation team" if they are not successful.

Les Bleus head into the Euros well fancied for more glory, having won the 2018 World Cup and seeing their already-remarkable pool of talent improve even further.

France are one of two European nations – with Belgium – to have reached at least the quarter-finals of the past three major tournaments, while their squad accumulated the second-most minutes (522,421) across the top five European Leagues this season among those to qualify for the Euros – they certainly are not short of experience.

As many as 14 of their 26-man squad were in Russia three years ago, while they are now able to add Karim Benzema into the mix again – the Real Madrid star recalled after nearly six years in the international wilderness.

Benzema goes into the tournament on the back of his best goalscoring season (30 in all competitions) since netting 32 in 2011-12 and bolsters a position that was arguably seen as the weakest in the France squad, with Olivier Giroud often chosen to lead the line in Russia.

 

Add Benzema to Kylian Mbappe and a semi-resurgent Antoine Griezmann, who had a hand in 25 goals (15 scored and 10 assists) across all competitions since the turn of the year for Barcelona, and Didier Deschamps has a potentially frightening front three.

Griezmann boasts a brilliant record in international tournaments after being involved in more goals (14) over the past two such events than any other European player.

 

But France are not just a force to be reckoned with in attack, their record of 1.6 shots on target conceded per 90 minutes in the Euro 2020 qualifiers was not bettered by any other team, though their pedigree and reputation will count for nothing if they fail to rise to the occasion at the Euros, according to Pogba.

"We have a PlayStation team but it will remain a PlayStation team if we don't win a trophy," the Manchester United midfielder told Eurosport.

"We have to live up to expectations and there'll be even more expected with Karim's return. It's nice to see a teamsheet like that... It's always an honour but you always have to be present on the pitch.

"Being world champions and having a team like that, we will be expected to do even more.

"We must remain humble. I want to give this message: It's not a foregone conclusion. We hear a lot of talk but we keep out feet on the ground."

Les Bleus will be attempting to become the fourth team to win back-to-back World Cup and Euros – in no particular order – after West Germany (Euro 1972, World Cup 1974), France (World Cup 1998, Euro 2000) and Spain (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012).

If Deschamps lifts the trophy at Euro 2020, he will become the first person ever to win the World Cup and Euros both as player and manager.

There is lots on the line for France, and they certainly have a squad capable of making amends for their Euro 2016 final disappointment.

But, as Pogba has pointed out, arrogance will do them little good in a group that also contains Germany and defending champions Portugal.

Paul Pogba believes his France team-mate N'Golo Kante would be a worthy winner of the Ballon d'Or after playing a key role in Chelsea's Champions League success.

It was not too long ago that speculation suggesting Chelsea were tempted to cash in on Kante was rife, with the midfielder struggling with a few injuries in 2019-20.

But he enjoyed a strong 2020-21, evidenced particularly by his performances towards the end of the season in the Champions League.

The 30-year-old stamped his presence all over the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and was named man of the match for both legs in a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

During the second encounter in London, Kante made five interceptions – only bettered by six from Jorginho – but also made more passes in the opposition half (25) and created more chances (three) than any other Chelsea player.

Heading into the final, he was one of just six midfielders in the 2020-21 competition with a passing accuracy above 85 per cent (86.4), an accuracy into the final third of above 80 per cent (82.1), more than 40 ball recoveries (63), over 500 touches (511) and at least 25 possession wins in the middle third of the pitch (42).

Then, in the final itself, Kante won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and, as the shortest man on the pitch, won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team won more. Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0, with Kante a vital component as Pep Guardiola's men lost the midfield battle.

While some in the past might have limited Kante's strengths to the more defensive aspects of the game, his form in the Champions League highlighted that to be unfair, with the World Cup winner actually a far greater all-round player than many give him credit for.

Indeed, international colleague Pogba thinks he is deserving of the most illustrious individual prize of all.

"What I would like to say to the whole world is that the 'NG' we have seen in recent months has always been the same," Pogba told Eurosport. "We talk a lot about his performances but he has always been as good as ever.

"There was no Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi in the semi-final, so it's good to see the performances of the midfielders or even the defenders.

"I said a long time ago that it would be appropriate, if Chelsea won, for him to win the Ballon d'Or. It would be deserved, too.

"He's always performed well. I'm not surprised by what he's doing, I'm just surprised that he's still doing it. He has always played matches like that."

A stunning move for Cristiano Ronaldo could be in the works.

The Portugal captain may end up back with a former club in a swap deal.

The price for Manchester United would be high.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO SWAP DEAL RUMOURED

If Manchester United want to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, they may have to surrender Paul Pogba.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Juventus would consider using the 36-year-old forward in a swap deal for Pogba, who has a year left on his contract.

The question is whether United would part with the 28-year-old France midfielder in return.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City could land Harry Kane via a cash-plus-swap deal that sends Gabriel Jesus to Tottenham, the Daily Star reports. 

- Arsenal are interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde and Bayer Leverkusen's Edmond Tapsoba, according to The Athletic. 

- Barcelona have not given up in their attempts to sign Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus, Marca reports.

- Lazio have joined Roma as suitors for veteran centre-back Jerome Boateng with the Germany international set to leave Bayern Munich. 

- Granit Xhaka is a target for Jose Mourinho's Roma, and Arsenal have said they want £17million for the midfielder, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports. 

- Pedrinho will leave Benfica before next season, ESPN reports, with Shakhtar Donetsk the likely destination for the 23-year-old Brazilian. 

- Crystal Palace will speak to former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo about replacing Roy Hodgson, The Sun reports. 

What does the future hold for Achraf Hakimi?

In his first season with Inter, the Morocco international claimed the Scudetto.

However, his time in Milan could already be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI TO PSG?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign star Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Inter won the Serie A in 2020-21 but find themselves in a tough financial situation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with head coach Antonio Conte already opting to depart.

Hakimi, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni could reportedly be sold to ease some of the economic pressure at San Siro.

PSG are believed to be interested, though Inter are demanding more than €60million for the 22-year-old, who only joined from Real Madrid at the start of the season.

Madrid have the right of first refusal and can match any offer for their former defender, while Bayern Munich and Chelsea have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are plotting a shock bid for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. The England international found himself out of Pep Guardiola's starting XI at times in 2020-21. Madrid and Barca have been previously linked.

Paul Pogba remains a dream signing for Juventus, reports Calciomercato. Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez have emerged as targets for Juve, though the Bianconeri are still keen on Manchester United star Pogba, though Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul is an alternative.

- Romano says Barca are open to selling Philippe Coutinho, though Arsenal are not interested in the former Liverpool attacker.

Lionel Messi's contract extension is a priority for Barca before any new signings are made, according to the front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo. Barca have been tipped to bring in Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers. Gianluigi Donnarumma – another free agent option as his Milan contract expires – is also a possible recruit.

- According to Romano and widespread reports in Italy, Luciano Spalletti has agreed to replace Gennaro Gattuso as Napoli head coach.

Paul Pogba believes Manchester United will come back stronger following the disappointment of losing the Europa League final.

United were beaten 11-10 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out by Villarreal in Gdansk on Wednesday, goalkeeper David de Gea missing the crucial kick after the game had finished 1-1 after extra time.

The defeat means manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is still waiting to claim his first trophy in the job.

Indeed, the Red Devils have not won silverware since triumphing in the same competition under Jose Mourinho in 2017.

For Pogba – who was substituted in the 116th minute, denying him the chance to take a penalty – the defeat was a disappointing way to finish the campaign, though the midfielder quickly switched his focus to the future.

"I needed some days to reflect after the match," Pogba wrote in a Twitter post to accompany a picture of the United squad gathered together.

"Of course, very upset not to win the final but we're a team that will look forward with our heads held high.

"Thank you to all of the fans for the support. We will come back stronger."

Pogba played in 42 games in the campaign for United, scoring six goals and providing the same number of assists as Solskjaer’s side finished second in the Premier League.

However, before he is back in action at club level, Pogba will be involved for France at Euro 2020.

Didier Deschamps' reigning world champions are in Group F for the round-robin stage, along with Germany, Hungary and Portugal, who denied Les Bleus in the Euro 2016 final in Paris courtesy of an extra-time winner.

Where will Harry Kane play in 2021-22?

The Tottenham star Kane reportedly wants out of his boyhood club.

Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are ready to pounce…

 

TOP STORY – KANE SEEKING SPURS DEPARTURE

Harry Kane has told Tottenham he wants to leave the club in the off-season, according to widespread reports in England.

Frustrated at a lack of silverware in London, Spurs star Kane would reportedly prefer to remain in the Premier League amid links to champions Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Kane is believed to be open to a LaLiga switch, with Barcelona among his admirers.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Diario AS claims former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane if the Frenchman leaves Real Madrid. Club great Raul, who is currently in charge of the Castilla team, is another option. It comes as Madrid push to bring in a franchise player in the form of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich's David Alaba are also wanted amid links to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and United midfielder Paul Pogba.

- The Sun says City are considering a mega move for Barca superstar Lionel Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Messi is reportedly open to reuniting with Pep Guardiola in Manchester on a one-year deal.

Barca are weighing up the futures of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto, reports Mundo Deportivo. Due to their financial situation, the players could be asked to take a pay cut as Lyon captain Memphis Depay prepares to arrive on a free transfer. City forward Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, Haaland and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum have also been linked.

- Lille's Jonathan Ikone is Dortmund's top priority as the Bundesliga club prepare for life without Jadon Sancho, according to France Football. Sancho has been tipped to join United or Liverpool, while Dortmund are also eyeing PSV sensation Donyell Malen, Ajax forward David Neres and Pedro Goncalves of Sporting CP.

Paul Pogba joked he would understand if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left him out of his starting line-up more regularly as Manchester United boast a better win rate without the midfielder.

Pogba has been in good form for United of late, scoring one and assisting four more in his last seven appearances in all competitions.

The France international has six goals to his name overall this season, including three in the Premier League and the same number of assists.

That puts Pogba level with Luke Shaw in terms of direct goal involvements for United in all competitions this season and behind Mason Greenwood (seven), Anthony Martial (seven), Edinson Cavani (10), Marcus Rashford (18) and Bruno Fernandes (27).

However, despite Pogba's clear influence on the side, the statistics show United tend to fare better without the 28-year-old in their starting line-up.

The Red Devils have won nine of the 15 matches Pogba has not been included from the first whistle in the top flight this term, compared to 10 wins in 18 games with him in the XI – 2.2 points-per game compared to 1.9 respectively.

United's average of 2.3 goals per game without the ex-Juventus man in their starting line-up falls to 1.6 when he starts, meanwhile, and they concede fewer goals (0.7) when he is not included from the beginning than when he is (1.4).

When the win-rate figure was pointed out to him in an interview with Canal+, Pogba – who has been linked with Juve and Real Madrid – said: "Well then you will have to bench me! I didn't know that. 

"If the team is doing better without me, I would understand completely if the coach puts me on the bench and that is totally normal. 

"I will keep that one in my mind, I will. That is a good challenge for me."

Pogba's figures have improved in terms of average number of interceptions (up from 0.52 to 1.27) and tackles (1.49 to 1.72) this season compared to last, owing to the deeper position he has been asked to play in.

And the World Cup-winning midfielder is happy to play his part if it means others helping United to achieve their targets.

"I try to be as decisive as possible, despite being further from the goal," he said. "I have other qualities than those of being a match winner. 

"I'm deeper on the pitch and more defensive. It's an N'Golo Kante role, let's say. I feel good. Physically I feel better."

Will Lionel Messi stay or leave?

The superstar Barcelona captain is set to become a free agent, though the LaLiga giants are determined to re-sign Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested but Messi could reportedly extend his Camp Nou career.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI SET FOR BARCA STAY?

Lionel Messi is closer to staying at Barcelona than joining Paris Saint-Germain, according to L'Equipe.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with his contract due to expire at season's end amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Barca are keen to re-sign Messi, who is encouraged by the Copa del Rey triumph and Joan Laporta's plans, despite an offer from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca have reached out to PSG regarding a possible reunion with Neymar, however, RAC1 says the Ligue 1 holders are not willing to sell the Brazilian superstar.

Everton are plotting a bid for soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero, reports the Daily Star. Aguero will leave the Etihad Stadium on a free transfer and the forward has been linked with Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter and Tottenham.

- Fabrizio Romano says Leicester City are working on a deal to sign Lille star Boubakary Soumare, who has previously been linked with Manchester United, Tottenham, Inter and Napoli.

- The Sun claims Borussia Dortmund have joined United and PSG in the battle sign Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Milan ultras met with star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and demanded he sits out the fixture against Serie A rivals Juventus if he does not renew his contract. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and he is yet to re-sign amid reports he is in talks with Juve. The Italy international has also been linked with United, Chelsea and PSG.

United are prepared to sell Paul Pogba if he does not commit to a new contract, according to The Sun. Juve and Real Madrid are reportedly eyeing the French star. It comes as The Sun also claims United are not willing to part ways with Donny van de Beek following a difficult first season at Old Trafford.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he wants to keep Paul Pogba amid doubts over his future.

Pogba is out of contract at the end of next season and there have been question marks over the French star since his agent Mino Raiola claimed his client's time at United was "over" in December.

Linked with a Juventus return and move to Real Madrid, Pogba has been in inspired form for United, who are second in the Premier League and on the brink of the Europa League final following Thursday's 6-2 semi-final first-leg rout of Roma.

"No, of course not," said Solskjaer when asked if he would have the club cash in on Pogba at season's end ahead of Sunday's showdown against rivals Liverpool.

"I have always said with Paul that I enjoy managing him, I enjoy coaching him, I enjoy talking to him and I also enjoy challenging him because he is a winner.

"He wants to be better and that's why he listens. You can see he's enjoying himself here as well.

"He has a smile on his face. It's important we treat each other with respect and I try to treat everyone with the same amount of respect.

"But there are some players you have known since they were young lads and that's the case with Paul: the longer you have known them the easier it is to have a bond with them."

Pogba has scored six goals in all competitions for United this season, including three Premier League goals and as many assists.

United have avoided defeat in both meetings with Liverpool in all competitions this season (W1 D1) – the last time they faced the Reds as many as three times in a season without losing any was in 1998-99 (W2 D1), with this the eighth campaign they have met more than twice since then.

In the Premier League, United have won just one of their last nine meetings with Liverpool (D6 L2) and are winless in five against the Reds (D3 L2). They last had a longer winless run against Liverpool in the top-flight between December 1989 and October 1992 (seven games).

United have drawn seven league games 0-0 this season – only in 1980-81 (eight) have they been involved in more goalless draws in a single league campaign. The Red Devils have the most goalless draws of any side in the Premier League this season.

Alex Ferguson was manager and Michael Owen scored twice when Paul Pogba was handed his Manchester United debut at Leeds United, where on Sunday he could make a 200th appearance for the club.

It was September 20 2011 when Pogba made that first Red Devils senior outing. It came in an EFL Cup tie at Elland Road, Pogba coming off the bench to replace Ryan Giggs as the visitors scorched to a 3-0 victory.

United are back at Elland Road on Sunday for their first Premier League clash at Leeds since October 2003, and Pogba will complete a double century of matches for the club should he be selected by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Pogba said: "Obviously, it's a great achievement for me, playing against Leeds, I know the history with Leeds and I know it's going to be a good game. And, for me, 200 you say? I'm surprised. I didn't know."

In a question-and-answer session with fans for the United website, Pogba added: "I remember I started, playing my first game was against Leeds, and now it's 200 so it's kind of beautiful for an achievement. And the most important thing, I hope, I really hope that we win my 200th game."

Pogba's first-team career with United at one stage looked to be over almost as soon as it started, as he left at the end of that 2011-12 season to join Juventus, with Ferguson accusing the then youngster of showing a lack of respect.

Four years later, Pogba returned to Old Trafford, and there have been ups and downs since. His relationship with Jose Mourinho appeared to badly deteriorate before the manager was sacked in December 2018, and Pogba last week reflected on how he got on much better with Solskjaer than with the Portuguese.

Pogba has scored five goals and had six assists this season from 35 games, well down on his career best of 16 goals and 11 assists in 47 games in the 2018-19 season.

However, last season he contributed only one goal and three assists in 22 matches, so the World Cup winner at least seems to have turned a corner.

Across his 199 games to date for the club, Pogba has scored 37 goals and had 39 assists.

Pogba is a Muslim and is following the customs of Ramadan, the month of prayer and reflection which runs until mid-May.

Muslims who are able to are encouraged to fast during daylight hours, and Pogba says he can remain physically strong enough to keep playing at his best during the period.

"I would say now I'm just getting used to it," he said. "I've been doing it for years. I have a professional nutritionist as well here, who helps me with what I have to eat and also when I train, he gives me some stuff, some protein, so I don't lose too much muscle and it's okay.

"I'm lucky. It's not that hot, you know, so I can deal with it. It's not that hard, you know. It's okay and it's for a good cause so it's good."

As they prepare to head to West Yorkshire, United have good recent memories of facing Leeds, having won the reverse fixture 6-2 at Old Trafford in December. Only twice in the Premier League have they done the double over Leeds (1996-97 and 1999-00).

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