Paul Pogba taking high expectations in his stride

French midfielder determined to help United close in on Champions League goal

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba at a press conference ahead of the Europa League game against Anderlecht. Photograph: Virginie Lefour/AFP/Getty Images

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba at a press conference ahead of the Europa League game against Anderlecht. Photograph: Virginie Lefour/AFP/Getty Images

 

Paul Pogba has rejected claims he should score more for Manchester United as unfair because he is not an attacker. The midfielder also responded to Rio Ferdinand’s criticism of his social media activity by saying times have changed since the former captain’s playing days.

Pogba has scored seven times in 43 appearances for United since joining in the summer for €108 million from Juventus. He has hit the post on eight occasions and pointed to this when asked about his goal return. “It’s true that I’ve had a lot of chances,” he said. “It’s football. Once it goes in and once it doesn’t. We keep trying and training hard to make it happen.”

Last month Sky pundit Jamie Carragher described Pogba as a “defensive liability”. Pogba said: “The press are expecting me to be a defender, a midfielder and a striker – I just have to focus on my job.

“People talk about the mountain of the transfer. People are looking me, saying: ‘Pogba should score goals, Pogba should do this.’ Sometimes if I can make the team win, I will do it. If I was scoring the goals that hit the crossbar, I don’t think people would speak like this. But it’s football. We just enjoy it, we love it.”

In the Premier League Pogba has managed 30 shots on target, a respectable return for a midfielder. His 2,625 touches put him second only to Liverpool’s James Milner, with N’Golo Kanté, the Chelsea midfielder, making 200 fewer. Pogba has also made more than 2,000 passes, again ranking him second in the category, behind Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. ”

In February Ferdinand scolded Pogba and Jesse Lingard for posting a video online of their goal celebration because United were sixth and at that stage had won nothing. At the close of that month United claimed the League Cup. Pogba, who faces Anderlecht in today’s Europa League quarter-final first leg, indicated Ferdinand’s comments were not unwelcome.

“I took it as advice because it’s a big club,” he said. “I spoke with him and he told what he meant. It’s different generations, it’s nothing bad. What is on the pitch is on the pitch and what is outside the pitch is outside the pitch.

“For me, it’s just enjoying life with Jesse Lingard. When I’m on the pitch, I’m serious. I’m focused and I want to win. I feel great. We won two trophies [including Community Shield]. Obviously I want to do better; you can always do better. I can say I’m doing good, the team is doing good and we are looking forward to [trying to] win the Europa League. We are going to fight for the top four. . . ”

United are fifth in the Premier League, four points behind Manchester City with a game in hand so winning the Europa League could be a more viable route.

Pogba, 24, said: “I came to United to do big challenges. We have everything to do it – we have the manager, the staff, the players. We have to go back to the Champions League. That’s the objective, that’s the big one.”

Mourinho, who left the captain, Wayne Rooney, behind because of an ankle problem, said: “We need and we don’t need to play in the Champions League. We don’t need because Manchester United’s history is so big and Manchester United is so bigger than many other clubs that are playing Champions League that, if Manchester United doesn’t play Champions League for four years, that doesn’t affect the prestige, the dimension and history of the club. But Manchester United feels that it’s the competition adapted to the history and ambitions of everyone at the club, so we want to play.”

Regarding recent reports that David de Gea could join Real Madrid in the close season, Mourinho said: “I’m not interested in the speculation. I think if the player is, he shouldn’t because we are playing very important teams and every match for us is crucial.” Guardian Service

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