Marcus Rashford has spoken of how Manchester United allowed him to join their academy programmes early after his mother let them know of tough circumstances at home.

England forward Rashford has helped charity FareShare reach a goal of supplying three million meals to vulnerable children in the United Kingdom by the end of June amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Late on Sunday, Rashford published an open letter pleading with the UK government not to stop a food voucher scheme, which was set up to guarantee meals to children when schools were shut down in March, next month.

In the letter, Rashford spoke about his own experiences growing up and went into more details during an interview with BBC Breakfast.

He revealed his mother, Melanie, had spoken to the Red Devils about their home situation and United allowed him to join up at age 11 rather than 12.

"My mum was a single parent, she had five kids all living in the same house. The programme that I started at 11 years old, you're supposed to start it at 12 years old," he said.

"It basically gives you accommodation closer to the training facilities and a new school and she worked that hard to push it forward because she knew that was a step I needed to take.

"I needed to be eating the right food as I was growing, I needed to be close to my team-mates, my new school and my new school friends. She made that decision when I was 11 years old and United allowed it.

"That was the reason I ended up going at a younger age to the others, it was to help my mum with her situation and also get me out of the situation we were in.

"So there is always a big element of sacrifice to get to the top level and that's the one we had to make."

Rashford went into further detail about how the household managed a tight budget. 

"My mum, she did the best she could, we used to go to a shop called Pound World and everything was under a pound," he added.

"We would schedule out the week, we would get seven yoghurts and you could have one yoghurt a day and so on. She did the best she could within the circumstances.

"There are some families out there, like mine, that have four or five kids and it is literally impossible for her to take control of the situation.

"This is all going on at a time when kids should be concentrating on school work and stuff like that.

"It is crazy to think this is still going on in 2020 and it's something I don't believe should be happening."

In his letter, Rashford said MPs should "make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority" and "this is not about politics, this is about humanity. Looking at ourselves in the mirror and feeling like we did everything we could to protect those who can't, for whatever reason or circumstance, protect themselves. Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?"

Rashford added: "It's written from the heart and it's about how my life was at the moment - the letter is to open up and let people understand the impact on families and to know I've done the right thing.

"What families are going through now, I've once had to go through that - and it's very difficult to find a way out. 

"It's very important for me to help people who are struggling. Whether the outcome changes or doesn't change - that's why I wrote it."

Jadon Sancho has been linked to Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid among others.

Sancho is reportedly looking to leave Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

But a reunion with former club Manchester City could be on the cards for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO WILLING TO RE-JOIN CITY

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is open to returning to Manchester City, according to The Sun.

Sancho is tipped to leave Dortmund at the end of the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season amid strong links to Manchester United, as well as Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

However, Sancho is believed to be willing to re-join City – the club he left for Dortmund in 2017.

 

ROUND-UP

- With uncertainty over Sancho, United could turn to Jack Grealish. The Daily Star says Aston Villa captain Grealish has his heart set on moving to Old Trafford.

Tottenham want to sign Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva, reports The Sun. Silva is set to leave the Ligue 1 champions on a free transfer and Jose Mourinho is keen to bring the Brazil defender to Spurs. Arsenal and Everton are also eyeing the 35-year-old.

- Corriere della Sera says Gianluigi Donnarumma is ready to extend his contract with Milan, though the new deal could include a €60million release clause. The Italy international goalkeeper has previously been linked to the likes of Juventus, Madrid, PSG and United.

- Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini is committed to staying at the capital club despite reported interest from Juve, United and PSG, claims Sky Sport Italia and Tuttomercatoweb.

Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, according to Cadena COPE. Atletico are determined to renew Partey's contract but the LaLiga side are resigned to losing the Ghana international – who has also been linked to United.

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford wrote a personal letter to parliament, asking the United Kingdom government to continue providing free meals for vulnerable children.

Rashford has helped charity FareShare reach its goal of supplying three million meals to vulnerable people in the UK by the end of the June amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK government is set to stop a food voucher scheme, which was set up to guarantee meals to children when schools were shut down in March, next month.

United and England forward Rashford published an open letter to members of the House of Commons, calling for the scheme to be extended.

"The Government has taken a 'whatever it takes' approach to the economy – I'm asking you today to extend that same thinking to protecting all vulnerable children across England," the 22-year-old wrote.

"I encourage you to hear their pleas and find your humanity. Please reconsider your decision to cancel the food voucher scheme over the summer holiday and guarantee the extension. This is England in 2020, and this is an issue that needs urgent assistance.

"Please, while the eyes of the nation are on you, make the U-turn and make protecting the lives of some of our most vulnerable a top priority."

"This summer should have been filled with pride once more, parents and children waving their flags," he said. "But, in reality, Wembley Stadium could be filled more than twice with children who have had to skip meals during lockdown - 200,000 children according to Food Foundation estimates.

"As their stomachs grumble, I wonder if those 200,000 children will ever be proud enough of their country to pull on the England national team shirt one day and sing the National Anthem from the stands. Ten years ago, I would have been one of those children, and you would never have heard my voice and seen my determination to become part of the solution.

"… This is not about politics, this is about humanity. Looking at ourselves in the mirror and feeling like we did everything we could to protect those who can't, for whatever reason or circumstance, protect themselves. Political affiliations aside, can we not all agree that no child should be going to bed hungry?

"Food poverty in England is a pandemic that could span generations if we don't course correct now. Whilst 1.3 million children in England are registered for free school meals, one quarter of these children have not been given any support since the school closures were ordered.

"We rely on parents, many of whom have seen their jobs evaporate due to Covid-19, to play substitute teacher during lockdown, hoping that their children are going to be focused enough to learn, with only a small percentage of their nutritional needs met during this period.

"This is a system failure and without education, we're encouraging this cycle of hardship to continue. To put this pandemic in to perspective, from 2018/2019, nine out of 30 children in any given classroom were living in poverty in the UK. This figure is expected to rise by an additional one million by 2022. In England today, 45 per cent of children in Black and minority ethnic groups are now in poverty. This is England in 2020."

Jadon Sancho would be a great fit at Manchester United because his creativity and intelligence on the ball set him apart from the club's other pacy players, says Louis Saha.

Sancho's decision to leave Manchester City's academy for Borussia Dortmund in August 2017 has proven to be an inspired move.

The 20-year-old has become a leading star in the Bundesliga, where he has scored 17 goals and assisted 16 alone this season, while emerging as a regular in Gareth Southgate's England squad.

Sancho is among the most sought after players in world football, with United among those heavily linked to a big-money move, while Liverpool and Real Madrid have also been tipped to compete for his signature.

It remains to be seen what approach teams will take in the transfer market following the financial uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

But former Red Devils striker Saha, a two-time Premier League winner at Old Trafford, has no doubt he would shine at United.

Asked by Stats Perform News if he would be a good fit, Saha replied: "Totally, yes. 

"He is a player that is uncatchable, he's clever, quick, very precise. He's got the legs, the stamina, the quality. 

"He's very creative for that type of player. When you have all those things, like I said about speed and creativity, but precise as well. 

"So, imagine how deadly these things are. You can't stop the guy and at the same time he is very precise because he knows how to stop when passing the ball."

Saha also explained what attributes Sancho can bring that perhaps Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial do not.

"It's really hard because players, for example, Anthony and Rashford, it can be hard for them because most of the time they're going so quick so it's hard to deliver the good pass like Juan Mata would do," he added. 

"He's got that ability to address the right passes, the right weight of the pass because of his intelligence."

Manchester United may be getting closer to finding a way to land Ajax star Donny van de Beek.

Van de Beek has been linked to numerous European giants after impressing with the Eredivisie outfit.

United are among them and the Premier League side could be ready to make a sacrifice to bring the Netherlands international to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD FIND WAY TO LAND VAN DE BEEK

Manchester United will sell Andreas Pereira to bring in Van de Beek, according to the Mirror.

Van de Beek has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, but United could beat the LaLiga giants to the midfielder.

The 23-year-old has managed double-digits in goals in three straight seasons, netting 10 times in 37 games in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and Manchester United may keep Alexis Sanchez. On loan at Inter this season, Sanchez is contracted at United until 2022 and the Mirror says the Chile international could stay at the club if he accepts a squad role over being first choice.

- Barcelona are said to be struggling to find a suitor for Philippe Coutinho. Marca reports no clubs have made a move for the playmaker so far.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is being linked with an Arsenal exit. However, The Sun says the Premier League club are willing to sell Ainsley Maitland-Niles to fund a new contract for Aubameyang, or find the forward's replacement. Aubameyang's deal at Arsenal expires next year.

- Several clubs are reportedly eyeing RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. Tuttosport says Arsenal are favourites to land the 21-year-old ahead of Milan. Staying at Arsenal and La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Justin Kluivert could join the club from Roma, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan – on loan at the Serie A club this season – heading permanently in the opposite direction.

- Speculation continues around Achraf Hakimi. Marca reports Bayern Munich are keeping an eye on the defender's situation, with the 21-year-old on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid this season.

- Juventus could be preparing to sell Aaron Ramsey. The Mirror reports Tottenham are one of several clubs to have been offered the chance to sign the midfielder.

Paul Pogba will not leave Manchester United in the next transfer window despite continuous speculation regarding his future, according to the midfielder's "close" friend Adnan Januzaj.

Pogba, who played alongside Januzaj in United's academy, returned to the Premier League club from Juventus in 2016 for a then-world record fee of £90million.

However, his critics have accused him of not justifying that price tag, with his form somewhat inconsistent.

Injury problems have restricted the Frenchman to just seven Premier League appearances this season, while he and his agent Mino Raiola have not been shy in hinting at a desire for a move away.

But with United reportedly adamant they will not entertain the prospect of Pogba leaving, his former team-mate Januzaj, now at Real Sociedad, is confident the midfielder will remain at Old Trafford.

Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, Januzaj said: "I think he will stay. Paul and I are still close.

"We have known each other since we were kids when we were in the United academy. Our families are also friends and we all keep in touch. That will never change."

Pogba has been linked with a potential move to Real Madrid for much of his second spell with United, where he has a contract until next year - though the club hold an option to extend it until 2022.

Los Blancos coach Zinedine Zidane has said he is a keen admirer of his compatriot.

Pogba suffered successive ankle problems earlier in the season, but with the coronavirus-enforced suspension leading to a three-month pause, the 27-year-old has been able to restore his fitness.

He is now expected to play a major role for United in the remaining weeks of the Premier League season, teaming up with new signing Bruno Fernandes in midfield for the first time.

United resume their campaign away to Tottenham on Friday.

Jose Mourinho believes it is "too risky" for Tottenham to play any more friendlies before they return to Premier League action.

Spurs enjoyed a training friendly with Norwich City on Friday - the action split into four 30-minute quarters - as players from both clubs try to quickly get back up to speed ahead of the restart.

Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko, Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn - who were all injured prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension to the 2019-20 season - were all involved.

Mourinho would ideally like to fit in another game before Friday's huge clash with his former club Manchester United, yet he is not prepared to gamble given Spurs' packed schedule upon the resumption.

"We are not going to have any more friendlies. We think it would be good, but it's too risky," Mourinho told the club's website.

"We are going to do a normal preparation week, starting on the Monday and going through to Friday. After that, we've two more days and then West Ham, so the next 10 days are going to be busy.

"We have to adapt to this new reality, which is what we've tried to do.

"We have to think that the points are there to fight for. With fans or without fans, the points are there on the pitch. Ourselves and United will have to fight for them."

Mourinho was pleased that his players were able to experience a match situation inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium without fans, as will be the case in the top flight due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"We needed minutes, we needed to know the feeling of playing here without our supporters and to have this training session with another Premier League team is the best thing," the Portuguese coach added.

Spurs face an uphill battle to qualify for next season's Champions League - they sit eighth in the table, seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with nine games remaining.

Jadon Sancho's future could be resolved sooner rather than later.

The England international is tipped to return to his homeland after leaving Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Premier League leaders Liverpool are reportedly at the front of the queue for the 20-year-old attacker.

 

TOP STORY – REDS IN POLE POSITION FOR SANCHO

Liverpool are leading the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to Le10 Sport.

Sancho is a player in demand, the former Manchester City youngster linked with a return to England via Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested, but Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool appear to be favourites to land the England international if Sadio Mane leaves Anfield.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims United are considering a move for Lazio striker Ciro Immobile. The Italy international has scored a Serie A-high 27 goals this season amid links to Liverpool and Napoli.

Chelsea are not close to reaching an agreement over Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, says The Athletic. Chelsea have emerged as favourites to sign Havertz, who is also reportedly wanted by United, Liverpool, Madrid and Barcelona. But Chelsea – who are set to bring RB Leipzig's Timo Werner to Stamford Bridge – are apparently nowhere near matching Leverkusen's asking price.

- The Independent reports Dortmund are set to beat United to Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old is coveted by Dortmund and United, however, the Bundesliga side are viewed as the more attractive option to give the wonderkid game time.

- Could Dries Mertens leave Napoli for Barcelona? Mertens' contract is set to expire, though the Belgium forward has been tipped to sign an extension. Het Nieuwsblad says Barca could turn to the Napoli star if they are unable to prise Lautaro Martinez from Inter.

Chelsea believe Champions League football will convince Leicester City's Ben Chilwell to snub Manchester City for the London club, according to the Daily Mail. Chelsea have been linked to another full-back – France Football claims the Blues are eyeing Paris Saint-Germain's Layvin Kurzawa, who is available on a free transfer and wanted by the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Inter.

- Tuttosport says Inter are targeting Nice centre-back Malang Sarr. The 21-year-old has also been linked to Pep Guardiola's City.

- According to The Telegraph, Barca are prepared to pay a portion of Philippe Coutinho's wage to help the Brazilian leave Camp Nou. Tottenham and Newcastle United are possible destinations.

Liverpool are eyeing a double transfer raid on Wolves for stars Ruben Neves and Adama Traore, says The Sun.

Barcelona director Xavier Vilajoana said the LaLiga champions have no intention of selling Ansu Fati amid links to Manchester United, denying talks over a possible transfer.

Fati has reportedly emerged as an alternative target to Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho for United as the Premier League giants eye attacking reinforcements.

There has been talk of United making a £100million (€111m) bid for 17-year-old Barca sensation Fati, who only made his senior debut in August.

However, Vilajoana dismissed the speculation over Fati's future at Camp Nou.

"For us, there's no story with Ansu, we have never spoken about selling him," Vilajoana told Sport.

"We won't use players from the academy to make cash. In principle, we have no intention of selling the players we believe will make the first team."

Vilajoana added: "I think he's happy. He will be an important player in the coming years."

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Fati had scored four goals and supplied an assist in 16 LaLiga appearances for Barca.

Fati has played 24 matches in all competitions this season, scoring five goals.

LaLiga leaders Barca will return to action with a trip to Real Mallorca on Saturday.

Saul Niguez insisted Atletico Madrid remains his "home" despite transfer speculation, revealing he has never spoken to any club over a potential move elsewhere.

Saul signed a nine-year contract extension with Atleti in 2017, though the long-term deal has not stopped rumours about the Spain international's future in the capital.

Manchester United have been strongly linked with the midfielder, though he is unaware if anything has gone further than stories in the media.

Saul made clear how happy he is in Madrid as he aims to help Diego Simeone's squad seal a top-four finish in LaLiga this season.

"I see things on Instagram or in newspapers which you publish, but I haven't heard anything from any club," Saul told Radio Marca.

"I'm focused on finishing this season, achieving the objective [of finishing in the top four] and then dreaming about the Champions League.

"I have a long-term contract, which I signed because I want to stay here. I don't have any problem staying here because my family are here, it's my home.

"People say, 'come out and deny it', but then if you deny it and something happens, you look bad.

"I just stick to playing football and what has to happen will happen, I'm just focused on achieving Atletico's target, which is to be in the top four, and then try to get the most desired target of the season."

Atletico return to action on Sunday when they travel to Athletic Bilbao for their first fixture since the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They have not played since a 3-2 extra-time win over Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League on March 11, a result that saw them eliminate the titleholders to reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

Juventus are confident of renewing Paulo Dybala's contract, according to chief football officer Fabio Paratici.

Dybala is contracted to the Serie A champions until June 2022 and said in an interview with CNN this week he was waiting for the club to initiate talks.

The Argentina international has struggled for form since Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival at Juve, scoring 23 goals in all competitions since the start of 2018-19, fewer than he managed in 2017-18 alone.

Maurizio Sarri has acknowledged it is difficult for Dybala, who was linked with a move to Manchester United in the previous close season and has expressed an interest in playing for Barcelona, and Ronaldo to "coexist" in the same team.

However, Paratici is optimistic about Dybala's long-term future in Turin.

Ahead of the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against Milan on Friday, Paratici told Rai Sport: "We are not worried, as we started discussing the situation with Dybala and his entourage, so we are absolutely optimistic and confident.

"Everyone who goes to negotiate a contract wants an improvement, so that's entirely logical."

Asked about Juve's reported interest in Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo, he added: "This is not the time to talk about the transfer market, it's already been done when there was no football being played, but we want to fully enjoy this moment when Italian football returns."

Juve's clash with Milan is their first game in over three months, after football was suspended across most of the globe in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Marcus Rashford has changed his attitude to become a "proper leader" for Manchester United, according to Louis Saha.

England striker Rashford was enjoying the most productive season of his career, with 14 goals and four assists in 22 Premier League appearances, prior to suffering a back injury in January.

It was feared he would miss the rest of the season and Euro 2020 but, with the football calendar having been largely suspended for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Rashford is now fully fit to play as United prepare to return to action against Tottenham on June 19.

The 22-year-old has also spent the pause in the season championing charitable causes and engaging with fans on social media, with his most significant work seeing him help FareShare provide three million meals to vulnerable people in the United Kingdom.

Former Red Devils forward Saha thinks there has been a shift in the application of United's younger stars, with Rashford showing the qualities of a future captain.

"Yes, I think the attitude, the drive, the actual consistency, all those things are leadership qualities," Saha told Stats Perform News.

"You said that sometimes it's really hard for a striker to lead and, if you do, you need that. You need those three: consistency, drive, and, of course, talent.

"What is very important is having that dedication to actually look around and grab someone who needs to be grabbed and shout at them. All those things are essential.

"They don't have that platform as much as I had when I was playing. I had Roy Keane, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Rio [Ferdinand], Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, [Paul] Scholes, [Ryan] Giggs, all those players. You could rely on those guys.

"There are definitely four or five players who are very important to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. I would say that, based on [his] record, he is not young anymore, almost because he started really young.

"He's one of the starters for England. And Rashford, as much as we can compare to Anthony [Martial] has done the same.

"The attitude... I'm not saying they had a bad attitude; they had the attitude that was in line with what Manchester United needed at the time.

"Maybe this attitude was okay when you had leaders around like proper players who win trophies and all that, and it was fine. Maybe I was like this at the time, but I had players to do what I can't do. I had to actually evolve and be a leader.

"When I spoke to Scott McTominay, he was young as well, he had to do it. All those players who made that improvement process for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer were very important, and I think for Rashford, the introduction of [Harry] Maguire was important to give that kind of confidence aspect.

"That's why you give the platform for Rashford to make the difference all the time because he can do it because his work rate is amazing and that thing he maybe missed in one year because maybe he thought 'I've got my position, I'm respected, I've got my status so I don't need to do this or that'.

"Those things can be a bad sign for those playing behind you. Now you can see he is a proper leader."

Sven-Goran Eriksson believes his England starting XI was stronger than the current generation, but feels Gareth Southgate's overall squad is more impressive.

Eriksson became the first non-British manager to be appointed England boss when he left Lazio to take over in 2001, turning around their qualification campaign for the 2002 World Cup and securing a spot at the tournament in Japan and South Korea.

With the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Michael Owen, the Three Lions were fancied to make an impact.

But they were beaten by eventual champions Brazil in the last eight. Two years later they fell at the same hurdle in Euro 2004 to Portugal, who also sent England packing in Eriksson's final tournament in charge – the 2006 World Cup.

One of the main legacies of Eriksson's time in charge was a perceived inability to get the best out of England's so-called 'golden generation', but he thinks Southgate has more options at his disposal.

When asked if he feels the current England team was better than his, Eriksson told Stats Perform News: "Maybe not, but they have more choices today than we had.

"Number 20, number 21, the quality went down a bit. It's easier today, there are many hugely talented football players.

"They did well at the last World Cup, they will be even better in the next Euros. It's a new generation. They are young, they are good.

"They have a lot of quality all over. It looks like a very hungry team. They have a lot of pace and that's important.

"If you defend well, then you will be very strong in counterattacks and then, you have a born goalscorer [Harry Kane], and you need that man who can score [many] goals in a major tournament."

Recently, Eriksson was criticised by Ferdinand for apparently urging the former Manchester United centre-back to not play out from the back – but the Swede insists that was not the case.

"He was one of the best central defenders in the world, maybe the best, and as he rightly said, he could play," Eriksson added. "He was a very modern central defender. Football was different then.

"Everybody wants to play like Barcelona, but not everybody should. Not everyone can play like Ferdinand. But that back four was very, very strong.

"I always in all my career was very keen not to lose the ball when we have it in our own half of the pitch: you give opportunities to your opponents to create.

"If you're going to lose it, then do so up front, but if we could play in a secure way from behind, then do it, if not then don't make life difficult for us. But I never ever said don't play from the back."

Euro 2020 was due to start on Friday, but due to the coronavirus pandemic it was postponed for 12 months in March.

England will face Croatia, Czech Republic and as yet undetermined third team, who will be decided by the qualification play-off, when the tournament takes place from June 11, 2021.

Manchester United star Marcus Rashford has helped FareShare reach its goal of supplying three million meals to vulnerable people in the United Kingdom by the end of June.

Rashford, 22, has been championed throughout the coronavirus pandemic for his commitment to helping those in need through charitable causes.

The England international has been getting involved in online gaming tournaments for charity and reserving United tickets for workers in the UK's National Health Service.

But arguably his most significant work has been with the charity FareShare, who, with Rashford's help have now reached the point where they will be able to provide a huge number vulnerable people in the UK with food.

He insists there is much work still to be done, though, and pledged to continue helping such causes for as long as there are British children without access to meals.

Writing on his official Twitter account on Thursday, he said: "Guys, I have AMAZING news!! We had a goal that by end of June FareShare would be able to supply 3million meals to vulnerable people across the UK.

"TODAY we have met the financial goal to provide these meals. Thank you all SO much for the support.

"And whilst I'm celebrating this, there is SO much more to do. Trust me when I say, I will keep fighting until no child in the UK has to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

"This is England in 2020 and families need help."

Paul Pogba is ready to play his best football for Manchester United and "shut down the critics", says former Red Devils striker Louis Saha.

France World Cup winner Pogba has struggled to deliver on the expectations that surrounded him when he returned for a second spell at United almost four years ago.

The former United academy prospect, whose career first properly flourished after a move to Juventus in 2012, has often faced blame for United's mediocre form since his return to the Premier League.

Fellow Frenchman Saha says Pogba, who has recovered from the injuries that have disrupted his season, is now determined to contribute to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team when English football resumes this month.

The United manager has been publicly supportive of Pogba, who could pair up with eye-catching January recruit Bruno Fernandes in midfield, and Saha says he remains a gem of a footballer.

Speaking to Stats Perform News, Saha said of Pogba: "He's one of the best players in the world.

"He had a tough season plagued by injuries. He came back very motivated, that's what some of the players told me.

"When I talk to him on the phone, he's super motivated, so I really want to see not a new Pogba, but Pogba with support. I don't think he was supported.

"Now he has Bruno Fernandes next to him, who's another leader, another creator."

Saha said that at times with Pogba, shortcomings were made out to be "all his fault".

"I'm really excited about that sharing of the responsibilities, I really want to watch that team," said Saha, who won two Premier League titles at United.

Saha, a United player from 2004 to 2008, accepts Pogba will be linked with other clubs at the end of the season.

"The season is almost over and with the transfer market, his name will probably be in the box," Saha said. "But he's very motivated, he's incredibly talented, he already proved himself, but now he has a better platform to improve and shut down the critics, sometimes justified."

Another French player at United, Anthony Martial, has linked up well with Fernandes already, with their interplay earning plaudits this week from manager Solskjaer.

Saha praised Martial's development this season, in which he has become a regular scorer for United.

"I'm a real fan of Anthony," Saha said. "I was frustrated maybe a year ago because I knew his potential but, on the pitch, I saw him lost left or right. The guy, he can do anything, he's got huge potential."

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