"It's nice for some commentators to have a little go," said Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as another news conference turned into a discussion about a player not in his recent plans.

The "commentator" in question was probably Marco van Basten, the Netherlands and Ajax great who is perhaps the most authoritative voice wondering aloud why Donny van de Beek can't get a game for Manchester United.

Since signing from Ajax for an initial £34.7million in September, Van de Beek has played 61 minutes in England's top flight, all of them as a substitute. Even with Paul Pogba restricted largely to the role of impact-sub, with post-COVID-19 fitness concerns still a problem, Van de Beek appears below Bruno Fernandes, Juan Mata, Scott McTominay and Fred in the midfield pecking order, and that's despite scoring a goal on his Old Trafford debut.

Solskjaer made it clear the Netherlands international will get his chance and he handed him a first start in all competitions against RB Leipzig on Wednesday. Perhaps that first league start will come this weekend against Arsenal; maybe Solskjaer will give in to curiosity and start Van de Beek, Pogba and Fernandes together.

Could such a system work?

TRIO TROUBLES

Part of Solskjaer's problem here is obvious: Van de Beek, Fernandes and Pogba are midfielders with similar technical qualities, so fitting them all in the same line-up is a challenge. Their average positions in league football last season, for instance, are all neatly within the centre circle.

The issue is heightened by Solskjaer's preferred formations.

Solskjaer tends to favour a 3-4-1-2, such as he did in the 2-1 win at Paris Saint-Germain, when United face stronger opponents who expect to have more possession. That formation allows Fernandes to play as a number 10 and speeds up the transitions to counter-attacks, but it also depends on ball-winners covering the ground behind him. Against PSG, that pairing was Fred and McTominay, and it worked well – they won six free-kicks and regained possession 14 times between them. Van de Beek came on with 88 minutes gone for a tiring Fernandes.

When Solskjaer switches to a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, as is his preference for most Premier League matches, the stability of the midfield relies on at least one of Fred, McTominay or Nemanja Matic as the anchor while Pogba and Fernandes are given more freedom to roam. Should Van de Beek slot into this line-up, United would sacrifice a more defensive-minded player, which could put the back four at risk of runners bearing down on them, as was their undoing in home defeats to Crystal Palace and Tottenham.

UP FOR THE CHALLENGE

So prevails the conventional wisdom, anyway. But Van de Beek could be better suited to these systems than it appears if Solskjaer decides to be bold.

Van de Beek's attacking strengths are clear. Last season in the Eredivisie, he managed the same number of shots (44) as Fernandes did in the Premier League, at an average of 2.1 per game (down on Fernandes' 3.3, but higher than Pogba's 1.6).

In his 23 appearances, he got eight goals – again, level with Fernandes – and five assists from a hugely impressive 41 chances created. In terms of open play, Van de Beek outperformed Fernandes (1.7) with chances created on average per 90 minutes (1.9). His average passes in the opposition half were at 29.9, well down on Pogba (47.2) and Fernandes (45.6), but Van de Beek had well over double the number of touches in the opposition box per 90 (7.8) than either of his new team-mates.

That paints a picture of Van de Beek in a box-to-box role, one that would suit one side of a 4-3-3 or a forward position in a 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-1-2. Where, then, would the defensive balance come from? Well, from Van de Beek.

His 46 Eredivisie tackles last season gave him an average of 2.2 per game, greater than Fernandes (1.7) or the deeper-lying Pogba (1.6). He also outperformed those two for interceptions (16) and possession won (111), although his average per 90 minutes for each were similar to Fernandes.

Van de Beek also averaged 42.7 passes per 90 minutes in the league in the 2019-20 season but with a higher accuracy than Fernandes (82.3 compared to 75.7). A player capable of winning back the ball and retaining it as he can would offer a sufficient level of defensive stability alongside Pogba and Fernandes, particularly with his positional nous, in games where United expect to control the ball. And Pogba is accomplished in a deeper role, anyway: he played 30 passes in his own half per 90 minutes in the league last season, and 47 in the opponents' half. He can influence proceedings at both ends by holding position while Van de Beek and Fernandes are given free rein, knowing the Dutchman will be willing to track back and cover.

EXCHANGE POLICY

If a Pogba-Donny-Bruno set-up is to work, though, they need to start functioning together as a passing unit.

In the second half of last season, when Pogba was fit again and Fernandes firing after his January arrival, the duo combined effectively in United's league run-in. They exchanged 129 passes in 661 minutes on the pitch together, creating seven chances for each other and each providing an assist. Those are encouraging numbers from the early months of a partnership.

This season, though, they have exchanged 38 passes in 230 minutes, indicating a slight drop in their link play, and neither has yet created a goalscoring chance for the other.

Van de Beek has only made four passes to Fernandes and two to Pogba but, for a player to play just 61 minutes, that's not too surprising. It does, though, indicate the need for each to get used to the others' ways of working if a strong midfield trio is ever likely to be formed.

That said, of the seven passes Fernandes has ever played to Van de Beek in the Premier League, one created a goalscoring chance. If that ratio continues, there are strong odds Van de Beek will turn performances into regular goals and force Solskjaer's hand when it comes to his team sheet.

Former Barcelona advisor Ariedo Braida claimed the LaLiga giants turned down the chance to sign Erling Haaland before his meteoric rise as they felt the Norwegian star did not have the profile to fit in at Camp Nou.

Haaland has quickly emerged as one of the best forwards in football, having rose to stardom at Austrian champions Salzburg before joining Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund in January.

The 20-year-old scored 44 goals across all competitions in 2019-20 – 16 of those coming in 18 appearances after a mid-season move from Salzburg to Dortmund.

Haaland already has five Bundesliga goals in as many appearances this term, while he has netted seven across all competitions.

Braida, who was relieved by Barca in 2019, revealed the Catalan powerhouse passed on Haaland during his time at Molde as he hit out the club.

"I was studying players and I wrote down some names like Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, when he was still playing in Norway," Braida told Marca.

"But at the club they told me no, that he didn't have the Barcelona profile. I also suggested other players from Italy, like [Nicolo] Barella, who is now at Inter, or [Nicolo] Zaniolo, who plays at Roma.

"But if you don't have the responsibility to do this because it has been given to others, you can't do anything. I was isolated."

Haaland is set to make his 10th Champions League appearance against Zenit on Wednesday.

The Norway international is already guaranteed to have scored more goals than any other player in their first 10 in the competition, with Haaland having netted 11 goals in nine games so far, averaging a goal every 59 minutes.

Braida also discussed Barca's previous interest in Manchester United and France star Paul Pogba.

Pogba left Serie A champions Juventus and returned to United in 2016, despite Barca's apparent pursuit.

"It's not a lie. It is true that Albert Soler and I went to Milan and met with the Juventus board," Braida said. "But despite the talks, there was no real intention to sign him. 

"In fact, Pogba ended up staying that summer in Turin and did not go to another club. I said he was a great player, I was talking about it with Albert Soler, with whom I consider that he had a good personal relationship, but again, professionally we could not work together because I was not allowed."

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has hit out "unacceptable fake news" after reports claimed he has quit international football over comments made by France president Emmanuel Macron.

Macron described the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in a north-western suburb of Paris this month as an "Islamic terrorist attack".

Paty, 47, is said to have shown controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils. The knife-wielding attacker was shot dead by police in the aftermath of the attack.

Reports suggested Pogba, a practising Muslim, took offence over Macron's comments and has decided to call time on representing the world champions.

However, Pogba posted a picture on Instagram of an article stating he had ‘quit playing for France’ and wrote "unacceptable fake news" over the top.

The former Juventus man made it clear he has no intention of retiring from Les Bleus duty and plans to take legal action.

"I am appalled, angry, shocked and frustrated some "media" sources use me to make total fake headlines in the sensible subject of French current events and adding my religion and the French National Team to the pot," Pogba wrote.

"I am against any and all forms of terror and violence. My religion is one of peace and love and must be respected."

He added: "I am taking legal action against the publishers and spreaders of these 100% Fake News."

Pogba made his France debut in March 2013 and has gone on to win 72 caps. He played the full match in the World Cup final victory over Croatia two years ago.

Thomas Tuchel labelled Paul Pogba one of the best midfielders in the world ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's clash against Manchester United.

PSG host United in Paris on Tuesday to begin their Champions League campaign in Group H.

Ahead of the clash, Tuchel lauded Pogba, who has been linked with a move to the Ligue 1 champions previously.

"He is one of the best midfielders of the world. That's the key to stopping him," the PSG coach told a news conference.

"Bruno Fernandes who makes a lot of deep passes. One of the best teams in Europe in offensive transition. It's necessary to stop counter-attacks.

"We want to have the ball, we want to play with a lot of possession, we want to impose our style. We have to play with a good structure to play good pressing."

Pogba's former United team-mate, Ander Herrera, also praised the France international.

Herrera, who left the Premier League club for PSG last year, believes Pogba will be a Ballon d'Or contender if United start winning multiple trophies.

"I think he has it all. I've already said that there is no midfielder like him. He can do everything, one-on-one, box-to-box, he can do everything. He has all the qualities," he said.

"He now plays a little deeper than when I was there because Fernandes plays like a number 10. I think he has all the qualities to become one of the best players in the world.

"It's true that when you see the list of players who are candidates for the Ballon d'Or, you have to play in the team that wins everything. I think that if Man United wins titles, he will be in the list for the Ballon d'Or and the end-of-season trophies.

"But, I am a PSG player now, I wish the best for Paul and Man United because they are in my heart but [on Tuesday] I will fight in a different team, we will fight for our team, our place."

Will Manchester City land Lionel Messi?

City were reportedly close to luring Messi to the Premier League during the previous transfer window.

Messi remains at Barcelona, but City are believed to be planning another move.

 

TOP STORY – CITY CONTEMPLATING MESSI MOVE

Manchester City are considering an offer to prise Lionel Messi from Barcelona in January, according to the Daily Star.

Messi handed in a transfer request at the start of the season and the Barca captain was tipped to join City before opting to remain at Camp Nou.

Pep Guardiola's City, however, have not given up on Messi as they eye a £15million (€16m) bid for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner – who was also linked to Juventus, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain previously.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror claims Barca are eyeing January moves for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and City defender Eric Garcia. Lyon captain Memphis Depay has also been linked.

Liverpool and Tottenham are set to battle it out for the signing of Leeds United's £50million midfielder Kalvin Phillips, reports the Mirror.

- The Sun says Manchester United are circling for Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde. United believe a swap deal involving Paul Pogba could be possible due to Valverde's £640m (€705m) release clause.

N'Golo Kante has no intention of leaving Chelsea, according to Le10 Sport. The France international has been linked to Inter and Madrid.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed a new dawn in Manchester United's 2020-21 campaign after they accelerated away from Newcastle United in the closing stages at St James' Park on Saturday.

United had been thrashed 6-1 at home by Tottenham in their previous match before the international break and looked set for another testing outing when Luke Shaw's own goal gave Newcastle a second-minute lead.

However, the Red Devils responded impressively to win 4-1, with Harry Maguire's equaliser followed by late goals from Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Marcus Rashford, even allowing for the scorer of the second to miss a penalty.

Solskjaer was delighted with his team's character as they now look to build on this result and picked out Maguire - under-fire after poor performances with club and country - for special praise.

"It's a great result and great character to come back, led by a very inspirational captain," Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

"The boys came together really well. They are looking forward to every game. Today I rested a few and they have come on and done the business for us.

"Harry scored and leads by example. He showed good character, I am happy for him. He had a couple of difficult weeks since he last played for us.

"The season started for us today. We have come up to the speed of the game and that showed today."

With Paris Saint-Germain to come on Tuesday, a United team already weakened by the enforced absences of Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani saw some big names start on the bench.

Paul Pogba was chief among them and was joined by Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles - two new signings - while Mason Greenwood did not even make the 18.

Solskjaer revealed Pogba was restricted to a role as a second-half substitute partly due to fitness complaints while away with France.

"Paul had hip and back problems when he was away with France, so it wasn't right to start him," the manager explained after bringing on both the World Cup winner and Van de Beek with the game still level.

"We have got big games coming up. Everyone has to perform when they come on. I am delighted for him."

Harry Maguire has been passed fit to start for Manchester United at Newcastle United, where new signing Alex Telles and midfielder Paul Pogba were among the substitutes.

United captain Maguire was sent off in England's Nations League defeat to Denmark in midweek and suffered a knock just before his red card.

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed on Friday his skipper required a late test to see if he would be fit for the trip to Tyneside, but he was selected alongside Victor Lindelof, continuing a run that has seen Maguire play every Premier League minute since joining United.

Lindelof replaced Eric Bailly in one of five changes from United's humiliating 6-1 home defeat to Tottenham prior to the international break.

Pogba was another to make way, alongside Nemanja Matic, with Solskjaer preferring the duo of Fred and Scott McTominay in the centre of the midfield, Donny van de Beek remaining among the substitutes.

World Cup winner Pogba this week openly discussed the possibility of joining Real Madrid.

Anthony Martial is suspended following his red card against Spurs, but there was no Mason Greenwood in the matchday squad either.

With Edinson Cavani still in quarantine, Marcus Rashford was therefore named up front, supported by Juan Mata and Daniel James.

Telles - a new signing like Cavani - only made the bench, meaning Luke Shaw kept his place despite a poor showing in the Tottenham game.

Newcastle, who beat United 1-0 at St James' Park last season, made just the one change from their win over Burnley as captain Jamaal Lascelles returned from injury.

Bruno Fernandes has reportedly emerged as a transfer target for Barcelona and Real Madrid. 

The Manchester United midfielder this week denied reports he had a bust-up with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following their 6-1 loss to Tottenham. 

While that rift has been denied, it has seemingly put LaLiga’s giants on alert. 

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID, BARCELONA LOOKING AT FERNANDES

Real Madrid and Barcelona are ready to battle for Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes, according to The Sun. 

Fernandes only arrived at Old Trafford in January, signed in a deal worth €80million (£67.6m) from Sporting CP. 

Contracted until 2025, the Portugal international has scored 10 goals and provided eight assists in 17 Premier League games. 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and the Manchester Evening News reports Manchester United have triggered the one-year extension to Paul Pogba's contract, keeping the midfielder at the club until 2022.

- Giovanni Reyna, 17, is catching the eye at Borussia Dortmund. ESPN reports the teenage midfielder is on the radar of Barcelona and Real Madrid after a stunning start to the Bundesliga season. He has scored once and provided three assists in three league games.

- Contracted at Arsenal until next year, Mesut Ozil's future remains a talking point. The Daily Express says manager Mikel Arteta has given the playmaker two months to prove himself at the Premier League club.

- Crystal Palace reportedly tried to land Watford attacker Ismaila Sarr on Friday. Sky Sports says a £25m bid from Palace for Sarr was rejected by the Championship club. Sarr has been linked to Liverpool and Manchester United previously.

- In MLS, Robbie Keane could be set for a return to the LA Galaxy. The Sun reports Keane has agreed to replace Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who is under pressure with the Galaxy bottom of the Western Conference. Keane played for the Galaxy between 2011 and 2016 and is the club's second highest goalscorer.

Paul Pogba may have declared playing for Real Madrid is his dream, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plans to get the best out of the midfielder at Manchester United over the next two years.

While representing France during the international break, Pogba told a news conference that he would welcome the opportunity to play for LaLiga's champions.

He said: "All footballers would love to play for Real Madrid. It is a dream for me. Why not one day?"

The 27-year-old, who is also said to be a target for Barcelona, has a contract at Old Trafford until June but the club possess an option to extend that agreement by another year.

Solskjaer appeared to suggest that will be exercised and he has no intention to let Pogba leave early.

"Paul's our player," Solskjaer said on Friday when asked about Pogba's comments.

"He's gonna be here for another two years and I'm sure Paul is focused on doing his best for us and we want to see the best of Paul.

"In the next couple of years I'm sure we'll get the best out of him."

United shelled out what was at the time a world-record fee of £89million to re-sign Pogba from Juventus in August 2016, looking to add creativity and goalscoring to their midfield.

He enjoyed an impressive 2018-19 season, scoring 13 goals and supplying nine assists in 35 Premier League appearances – his best return in a single top-flight campaign.

However, he has struggled with injuries since, being involved in four goals (one scored, three assisted) in 19 league appearances since the start of 2019-20. The perception has consequently been that he has failed to live up to expectations.

Yet in just over four seasons since returning to United, Pogba has had a hand in 51 goals (25 scored, 26 assisted) in the Premier League – five midfielders have registered more over the same time frame with Kevin De Bruyne leading the way on 87 (30 scored, 57 assisted). Furthermore, he has averaged a goal involvement every 180.3 minutes – essentially one every two games.

That is an improvement from the 198.6 mark during his time at Juventus, where he was involved in 50 goals (28 scored, 22 assisted) across four seasons at Serie A. Only Miralem Pjanic (57), Antonio Candreva (61) and Marek Hamsik (71) played a role in more over the same timeframe.

If Solskjaer feels he is yet to get what he expects out of Pogba, he will clearly need to take the Frenchman's career to new heights.

France coach Didier Deschamps hailed "leader" Paul Pogba after a 2-1 Nations League win over Croatia on Wednesday.

Pogba came off the bench in Zagreb and his long pass led to Lucas Digne setting up Kylian Mbappe's 79th-minute winner.

Antoine Griezmann's eighth-minute opener had earlier been cancelled out by Nikola Vlasic, but France ensured they moved onto 10 points – equal with Portugal in Group A3.

Deschamps was full of praise for Manchester United midfielder Pogba, particularly for the pass that led to Mbappe's goal.

"About Pogba, of course we could talk about him being unquestionable, but we could say the same of Antoine Griezmann," Deschamps told a news conference.

"He is one of the leaders, he has this capacity to be decisive and also to be a leader in the group. He didn't start because it was wiser for him not to start, with the problem that he had.

"But yes, he is one of the most important players of the team. Even though, sometimes, it could have some hard times. But he has this strength to bring together.

"And also, he has this quality in the pre-assist. I don't take away anything from the quality of the centre of Lucas Digne, but he has this technique quality, not necessarily by dribbling as he used to do it before, but this pass is the one that triggers everything."

France will face Finland in a friendly next month before completing their Group A3 campaign against Portugal and Sweden.

Sergio Ramos could reportedly leave Real Madrid for Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain, while Paul Pogba is being linked to Barcelona.

Madrid captain Ramos, 34, has been at the LaLiga giants since 2005, but his contract is expiring at the end of the season.

And his situation is catching the eye of two European giants.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS, PSG EYEING RAMOS

Juventus and PSG have tabled contract offers for Madrid star Ramos, according to El Chiringuito.

Ramos is out of contract in June next year, leading to fresh speculation over his future.

The Spain international has won five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Amid a difficult financial position, Barcelona could also be looking at players coming out of contract. Mundo Deportivo reports Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba may become targets.

- Inter reportedly offered Bayern Munich and intriguing exchange during the transfer window. Sky Germany says Christian Eriksen was offered to Bayern by Inter, who wanted Jerome Boateng, but the Bundesliga champions turned down the deal.

- Sergio Romero wants out of Manchester United. The Sun reports the goalkeeper has begged the Premier League giants to let him leave amid apparent interest from MLS.

- Harry Wilson could be set for another loan spell away from Liverpool. After spending last season at Bournemouth, Wilson is being offered to Swansea City, according to The Sun.

- Danny Welbeck may stay in the Premier League. The Daily Mail reports the forward, who was released by Watford earlier this month, is attracting interest from Brighton and Hove Albion.

- West Ham's move for Brentford forward Said Benrahma has stalled, according to The Telegraph, and Aston Villa may make a move for the 25-year-old.

In his heyday, Arsene Wenger was widely praised for his trust in young players and eye for developing talent.

After all, Cesc Fabregas, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie are just a few of the players he helped nurture into top-level international footballers.

But for every Henry is a superstar who got away… Or so Le Professeur would have us believe.

A football manager can't sign everyone, but as the joke goes, Wenger seems to have tried to buy all of them - all of the players. Or, all the really good ones anyway. Funny, that.

The Frenchman has been doing the media rounds of late and most recently floated the idea of Cristiano Ronaldo playing alongside Henry, Robert Pires, Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp in an interview with the BBC.

So, with that as the jumping-off point, we put together an XI made up entirely of players who supposedly came close to joining Wenger at Arsenal…

GIANLUIGI BUFFON

As the story goes, Wenger's pursuit of Buffon got to the point where the pair had dinner together during his days with Parma, but Juventus soon came along and made him the most expensive goalkeeper in the world at the time.

Everything suggests he would've been a remarkable signing in terms of ability and longevity. In 2017 he became the oldest player to captain a side in the Champions League final at 39 years and 126 days – and he's still going, three years on.

RAPHAEL VARANE

Granted, Wenger may not have explicitly said that he almost bought Varane during his formative years, but he was certainly frustrated to have missed out on him in 2013 when he queried why Arsenal hadn't been in for him two years earlier.

Varane has gone on to establish himself as one of the world's best centre-backs and in 2018 became just the third player to be on the winning team in the Champions League and World Cup finals in the same year, emulating Christian Karembeu (1998) and Roberto Carlos (2002).

VINCENT KOMPANY

It's arguable that Arsenal's biggest weakness in Wenger's final 10 years at the helm was their defence – a host of underwhelming options were signed and discarded.

Oh how different it might have been had they signed Vincent Kompany in 2006 when his agent claimed they were interested. He went on to captain Manchester City to two Premier League titles and played 265 times in the top-flight, more than any other Belgian.

GERARD PIQUE

It seems a long time ago that Pique was at Manchester United, struggling to earn a place in the starting XI, but even before then he could have ended up at Arsenal – and, stylistically, one has to wonder whether that would have been the better move for him.

Wenger has previously admitted they tried to get Pique but they were unable to beat United to his signature. He returned to Barcelona in 2008 and has since won three Champions League crowns, just one of three players to play every minute of those finals.

ROBERTO CARLOS

OK, to be fair to Wenger, this isn't one he has specifically claimed – rather Roberto Carlos himself hinted at the move in 2003 as his Real Madrid career appeared to be winding down.

As it was, he ended up staying in Madrid until 2007 before moving on to Fenerbahce, Corinthians, Anzhi Makhachkala (remember them?) and Delhi Dynamos.

N'GOLO KANTE

The one who got away… Twice. That's right, Wenger says he tried to sign the industrious Kante when he was at Caen and Leicester City.

He played a starring role as the Foxes remarkably claimed the Premier League title in 2015-16, before then joining Chelsea and becoming the only player to win the Premier League in successive seasons with different clubs.

PAUL POGBA

When Pogba left United in 2012, a whole host of fellow European heavyweights were linked with him, including Arsenal, but Juventus swiftly struck a deal and the Gunners' attempts fell flat.

He of course left Juve again in 2016, though the then world-record fee United paid was never likely to be matched by Arsenal, and in 2018-19 Pogba became the first United player to appear in the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Team of the Year since Robin van Persie six years earlier.

YAYA TOURE

In hindsight, this one looks a particularly odd miss from Arsenal. Yaya Toure had a trial with the Gunners in 2003, a year after his brother Kolo signed for them, but wasn't particularly outstanding in a trial game and work permit difficulties made it tricky for him to join permanently.

That didn't stop him from enjoying a fine career, however, and he eventually made it to the Premier League in 2010 when joining Manchester City, with whom he became just the second African player to score in both an EFL Cup and FA Cup final.

LIONEL MESSI

That's right, the one you've been waiting for. In an alternate universe, Fabregas, Pique and Messi could have spent the best years of their careers in north London – Wenger attempted to prise all three away.

But six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi had already gotten "too big" reputation-wise when Arsenal made their move. In Barcelona he stayed and he has since become LaLiga's all-time leading scorer with 445 goals in 488 games – a truly remarkable feat, though not as impressive as playing well against Stoke City on a cold Tuesday night, some might have you believe.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC

In fairness to Wenger, he insists he has no regrets about not signing Ibrahimovic when he was a 17-year-old on trial. Whether he says as much privately is another matter.

Regardless, Ibrahimovic can console himself with the fact he has gone on to enjoy an incredibly successful career and scored Champions League goals for six different clubs, more than any other player in the competition's history. Unfortunately for him, however, he has never won European football's top prize.

CRISTIANO RONALDO

And finally, the other one you've been waiting for. Arguably the quintessential Wenger "nearly signed" claim relates to Ronaldo, whom he says almost joined Arsenal before United made their move in 2003. Like Buffon, Ronaldo also had discussions with Wenger over food, but he says the Gunners were pipped at the last.

Wenger apparently regards this as his biggest regret, and understandably so – Ronaldo has gone on to win everything in the game, including five Ballons d'Or, and is the Champions League's top scorer with 130 goals in 170 games.

Paul Pogba dreams of playing for Real Madrid and has had no discussions about extending his Manchester United contract.

United shelled out a then-world record £89million to sign Pogba back from Juventus in 2016 but the France international has struggled to match the lofty expectations placed upon him.

The 27-year-old enjoyed an impressive 2018-19 season, scoring 13 goals and supplying nine assists in 35 Premier League appearances – his best return in a single top-flight campaign.

However, he has struggled with injuries since, being involved in four goals (one scored, three assisted) in 19 league appearances since the start of 2019-20.

Pogba expressed a desire for a new challenge ahead of that campaign but a move away from Old Trafford is yet to materialise.

A return to Juventus and a switch to Madrid have been mooted, and Pogba would relish the chance to play for LaLiga's champions.

"All footballers would love to play for Real Madrid. It is a dream for me. Why not one day?" said Pogba while on international duty with France on Thursday.

"[But] I am in Manchester and I love my club. I perform in Manchester, I have fun and I want to do everything to put the club back where it deserves to be.

"I will give my all, like my team-mates and the club. We all want to come back to the best level."

Pogba was part of France's World Cup-winning squad in 2018 but has only lifted the Europa League and EFL Cup since returning to United.

His contract at Old Trafford is due to expire in June, though there is an option for it to be extended by a further year.

Pogba is yet to hold any talks with the club over his future but expects to have them soon enough.

"There's been a lot of talk, and I prefer not to. I prefer to be focused on football and especially my recovery," said Pogba.

"I have not spoken with [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward. There has been no mention of a renewal.

"For now, I'm in Manchester and I'm thinking about getting back to my best.

"I think there will be a time when the club will come and talk to me and maybe offer me something, or not. So far, nothing has happened."

Paul Pogba is set to make his first appearance for France since June 2019 after he was included in Didier Deschamps' 24-man squad for the October internationals, with Eduardo Camavinga keeping his place.

Pogba, who last featured for Les Bleus in a Euro 2020 qualifier against Andorra 16 months ago, was due to be included in France's squad for games against Sweden and Croatia in September, but tested positive for coronavirus.

Rennes teenager Camavinga was a surprise replacement, and went on to make his debut in a 4-2 win over Croatia on September 8.

The 17-year-old has once again been selected by Deschamps, who was able to welcome back Manchester United star Pogba.

"He knows the place he has in the group," Deschamps said of Pogba in a news conference on Thursday.

"He had a very complicated last season. I prefer to have him there, available."

Camavinga also drew the praise of France's World Cup-winning coach.

"He has the ability to do things very well. Especially in the use of the ball," Deschamps said. "He is not at all rushed on the ball. He has everything going for him."

France face Ukraine in a friendly on October 7, before a Nations League double-header against defending champions Portugal and World Cup 2018 runners up Croatia.

Deschamps, however, insists he has no complaints over a pile up of fixtures after a 10-month absence from international football due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I'm not going to say that there are too many games. We went 10 months without a game," Deschamps added. "There will be rotation. All the players will have a longer playing time."

Also included in the squad is Lyon playmaker Houssem Aouar, who also tested positive for coronavirus prior to the September fixtures.

Aouar has been strongly linked with Arsenal, with Deschamps acknowledging the youngster may not join up with the squad on Monday – or could leave the camp – if a deadline day move is being pushed through.

France squad in full:

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Mike Maignan (Lille), Steve Mandanda (Marseille); Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid); Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes), N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Steven Nzonzi (Rennes), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Houssem Aouar (Lyon); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (PSG).

Paul Pogba scored as a second-half substitute to seal a 3-0 win for Manchester United over Brighton and Hove Albion in Wednesday's EFL Cup last-16 tie at the Amex Stadium.

United required a 100th minute penalty to claim an undeserved 3-2 win at this ground in the Premier League on Saturday but found things a lot easier in this latest encounter.

Pogba found the net via a deflected free-kick 10 minutes from time after being brought off the bench with United toiling at the time, albeit a goal to the good through Scott McTominay's first-half header.

Juan Mata set up that opener and was also on target with the visitors' second goal of the game before Pogba took over, sealing a third win in a row for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in all competitions. 

Bruno Fernandes, the scorer of United's dramatic goal at the same venue four days ago, was left out of the squad as Solskjaer made 10 changes, compared to nine for Brighton.

Those mass changes perhaps explain the disjointed nature of the first half, with McTominay finding a way through a minute before the interval from the only real opportunity.

Mata sent in a teasing free-kick from the right and McTominay was left all alone five yards out to head past Jason Steele - his first goal since the Manchester derby in March.

United were grateful to the reactions of back-up goalkeeper Dean Henderson for keeping them level with 67 minutes played, getting down to his left to tip Leandro Trossard's effort wide of the post.

The visitors used that warning wisely by scoring an all-important second goal six minutes later through Mata, who controlled Donny van de Beek's delightful backheeled pass and picked out the bottom-right corner.

Pogba, introduced along with Marcus Rashford, made certain of a place in the quarter-finals with a free-kick from 20 yards that took a telling deflection off the wall on its way past Steele.

Page 1 of 16
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.