EPL

Ronaldo will raise Man Utd's level, says Pogba

By Sports Desk September 06, 2021

Paul Pogba anticipates the level of quality and expectation at Manchester United will increase after Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford.

Ronaldo's sensational return came as a shock towards the end of the transfer window, with United's neighbours Manchester City having appeared favourites to sign the Portugal captain.

The 36-year-old is in line for a second United debut on Saturday when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side face Newcastle United - the team Ronaldo netted his only Premier League hat-trick against during his first stint at the club.

And Pogba is relishing the prospect of potentially playing with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who became the leading goalscorer in men's international football when he netted a double in Portugal's 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland last week.

"It's always a pleasure to play with the best, it’s a plus for the players to be able to train with a great player," Pogba told Telefoot.

"He's going to raise the level of the team."

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009, scoring 118 times in 292 appearances as he collected three Premier League titles and a Champions League crown before joining Real Madrid.

 

It is not just in attack that United have improved, though, as Raphael Varane provides Solskjaer's defence with a World Cup-winning centre-back.

At 28, Varane is in the prime of his career. He joined from Madrid in July, with the move officially completed on August 14, making his debut in the 1-0 victory over Wolves, registering the assist for Mason Greenwood's winner.

During his time in Madrid, Varane won LaLiga three times and triumphed in the Champions League four times, while also winning the 2018 World Cup with France.

Pogba, too, was a part of the 2018 success in Russia, and he knows all about the qualities Varane brings to the table.

"Raph's [Raphael Varane] arrival is a positive for the club, we have a great relationship, we've known each other for a while," Pogba continued.

"I'm happy that he's with us at Manchester [United] to bring his experience and quality to the table."

Varane put in an accomplished performance in his United bow, making a team-high five clearances, successfully completing one tackle and winning four of the eight duels he competed for.

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    The England skipper had not experienced such a league goals drought since August 2016, and his loss of form follows a turbulent period in his career when he looked set to leave Spurs.

    Kane appeared destined for a move to Manchester City, but that transfer did not materialise as the Premier League champions could not prise him from the north London club's clutches.

    He had five goal attempts in Sunday's 3-1 derby defeat to Arsenal but could not find a way past Aaron Ramsdale.

    "He doesn't look happy," Neville said.

    Pointing to Tottenham's 3-0 defeat to Chelsea in their previous game, Neville said: "Last week was a risk, I thought, shoving him out on the left wing. He was out on the left wing last week.

    "Today I thought he did play higher, to be fair, but the balls played up to him were just long punts in the first 20 minutes.

    "Harry doesn't look himself in terms of his body language. He looks like he's still carrying over the situation from over the summer.

    "He could still have had two or three goals today and a penalty, so there's still a contribution, but he's just not himself. Neither is Son [Heung-min].

    "Son and him look like they've had their balloons burst at a party as a kid. That's what it looks like."

    Neville said Spurs have "good senior pros" in their ranks, as he sought an explanation for why their form has nosedived since starting the league campaign with three straight wins.

    Rough losses to Crystal Palace, Chelsea and now Arsenal have seen them plummet from the top of the league and into mid-table.

    Nuno Espirito Santo may have a big job on his hands in turning Spurs back into a winning side, and Neville suspects some players are pining for a coach in the mould of former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

    "Those players to me look like they want a high-pressing, Pochettino-style coach that plays out from the back and gets the centre-backs on the six-yard line, rather than one that sits behind the ball and counter-attacks," former Manchester United captain Neville said on Sky Sports.

    With the derby defeat, Nuno became the first Spurs boss to lose as many as four times in his opening 10 fixtures since Glenn Hoddle in 2001.

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    He has also failed to get a goal in back-to-back games against Arsenal for the first time in his Tottenham career.

    Former Spurs captain Ledley King said of his old team-mate: "He cares, but there's no doubt he's out of shape at the moment. He's out of form. He's a big part for the club so when he's not playing well we struggle."

  • Nuno takes responsibility for Tottenham capitulation in north London derby Nuno takes responsibility for Tottenham capitulation in north London derby

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    "We were not aggressive enough to control the dynamic of Arsenal in midfield. We suffered when we wanted to go in front and we allowed Arsenal to always come to us. By saying that, bad decisions."

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    Harry Kane struggled again, though his tally of five attempts more than doubled the total amount he had managed across his other four Premier League appearances so far this season.

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    Spurs have now conceded three goals in their last three league games for the first time since September 2003.

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    Arteta added: "I'm pretty worried because it doesn't look very positive at the moment."

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