EPL

Solskjaer has 'no problem at all' with Pogba meeting Zidane

By Sports Desk October 18, 2019

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insists he has no concerns over Paul Pogba's commitment after the Manchester United midfielder was pictured with Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Pogba, who has been in Dubai as part of his recovery from an ankle problem, was photographed meeting Zidane during his trip to the region for the Dubai Artificial Intelligence in Sport (DAIS) Conference and Exhibition.

The picture has further fuelled rumours about Zidane's possible interest in signing the player in January, with Pogba having been unable to secure an exit from Old Trafford in the previous transfer window.

However, United manager Solskjaer has no problem with meeting and has full confidence that Pogba wants to stay at the club.

"I've never heard Paul say he doesn't want to be here," he told a news conference.

"Paul is part of our plan going forward and Paul knows that. I've spoken to Paul many times. He's been playing through pain barriers. He's been criticised right, left and centre, but he came back, [against] Rochdale, Arsenal, he could easily have opted not to play them, but he wanted to play them.

"He wanted to try to get back, it was too painful, so we had that scan and now he's on the way back, he's mending, he's recovering, he's been on a few days off working and there's a picture. That's the way it is with Man United. I don't have any problem with that at all."

Solskjaer, who allowed Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to leave for Inter without replacements being brought in, has previously said he would not keep a player at United against his will while he attempts to create a more desirable mentality within the squad.

United have struggled for goals this season, though, with injuries to Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford further depleting their forward line, and they head into Sunday's match against Liverpool with just two wins and nine goals scored from eight Premier League games.

Solskjaer, though, is not concerned that the short-term drawbacks of his rebuilding work could mean he is not given enough time to reap the possible rewards of his long-term vision.

"The time is always right to make the right decision," he said. "It was the right time to make those decisions and go on with the squad that we have. The injuries didn't help, we're getting players back now and I'm sure between now and Christmas if you see a full-strength squad then we'll get the results.

"The last few weeks have been difficult, they have been, but it's not like two or three weeks will tell me they were the wrong decisions. They were the right decisions. Listen, [for] the culture that we want to build, I had to make those decisions. That's it.

"When you lose the majority of your front creativity that we started with, you're going to struggle to create as many chances as you'd like. The Newcastle [United] game, we had 75 per cent possession but you can't create that opening…

"The pressing up high has been very good, the attitude, desire has been very good, but as you say, not enough chances created, chances haven't been taken. Sometimes that's confidence, that's human nature, you see players missing chances that they normally would not miss. But it's up to us to keep working and get the ball in between the posts. That goal never moves. It's the easiest bit because you know where it is."

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    Stones scored twice – his third brace for club and country – in City's 4-0 Premier League victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.

    The win, City's fifth in succession in the top flight, sent Pep Guardiola's team into second place above defending champions Liverpool, who could only draw with leaders Manchester United at Anfield.

    Though Palace, shorn of the injured Wilfried Zaha, were hardly a threat, Stones and his centre-back partner Ruben Dias were rock solid as City gave boss Guardiola an early birthday present the day before he turns 50.

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    Stones, a big-money signing from Everton in 2016, appeared to be surplus to requirements after an injury-hit 2019-20 campaign, with the 26-year-old handed just 12 league starts.

    However, his first Premier League goals for City – and his first in the top flight since he netted for Everton against United in April 2015 – have capped off a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

    "We knew it was a tough game today. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get goals. I need to contribute by getting those goals," Stones told Sky Sports.

    "I'm just trying to keep improving, building day by day on the training pitch, give a platform for the lads to express themselves up the pitch and get some goals.

    "We're taking great pride in it, keeping clean sheets, it's what we're there to do. Hopefully we can keep the run going, keep as many clean sheets as we can because we know how vital they are in big games and in games like today.

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    Asked how tough it had got when he was out of the side, Stones replied: "Very. It's always tough when you're not playing and you don't get a run of games, and when you do you don't perform to what you can do because maybe you've put too much pressure on yourself.

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    Stones' first goal was a glancing header from Kevin De Bruyne's sensational outside-of-the-boot cross – the Belgium midfielder's 100th assist for City.

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    "I remember a few, off the top of my head, to Leroy [Sane] when he was here, some outrageous passes that you just don't know how he's done it.

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    Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead early in the second half prior to Stones celebrating an unlikely second, and a classy finish from Raheem Sterling wrapped up a fifth successive league win for Pep Guardiola's ever-improving City.

    In search of his milestone moment, De Bruyne attempted to tee up Sterling with a quick exchange of passes in the 26th minute, when the Belgian might have been better served to shoot.

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    Gabriel Jesus was unable to beat Vicente Guaita after latching onto Gundogan's flick-on, but the Germany midfielder took matters into his own hands 11 minutes after the restart, robbing Andros Townsend on the edge of Palace's box and dispatching a fantastic finish into the top-right corner.

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