Paul Pogba cannot explain why his relationship with Jose Mourinho turned sour at Manchester United, but claims to have a much different bond with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Pogba was United's marquee signing for 2016-17 – Mourinho's first season in charge at the club – and helped the Red Devils to a Europa League title that campaign.

Yet Mourinho's second term failed to live up to expectations and, after a difficult start to the 2018-19 season, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager was dismissed, with Solskjaer replacing him, initially on an interim basis before taking up the role full time.

Mourinho's relationship with members of United's squad was said to have deteriorated, with an apparent training ground argument with Pogba coming after the France star was stripped of a vice-captaincy role in September 2018.

Though Mourinho has since left United, Pogba's future remains unclear. His agent, Mino Raiola, has made several claims that the 28-year-old wishes to leave the club, and the midfielder's contract is up at the end of next season.

For Pogba's part, he revealed he enjoys his relationship with Solskjaer, while still being none the wiser as to why he and Mourinho failed to get along, though hinted he does not believe the Portuguese's man-management style is correct.

"What I have now with Ole is different, he wouldn't go against the players," Pogba told Sky Sports. "He wouldn't go against the players.

"Maybe Ole wouldn't pick them, but it's not like he puts them on the side like they don't exist anymore. That's the difference between Mourinho and Ole.

"Once I had a great relationship with Mourinho, everybody saw that, and the next day you don't know what happened. That's the strange thing I had with Mourinho and I cannot explain to you because even I don't know."

Pogba's numbers – then and now.

While Pogba's relationship with Mourinho ultimately failed to last, he did make more appearances (108) and starts (100) than any other United midfielder between August 2016 and December 2018.

Indeed, Pogba's goal tally from that time span is 20, joint-most among United midfielders, alongside Jesse Lingard, while the former Juventus man also registered 22 assists in all competitions. 

No United midfielder created more chances than Pogba (168) under Mourinho, while he also led the charts for minutes played (8,825).

In comparison, Pogba has played 6,240 minutes in all competitions under Solskjaer, ranking second for midfielders behind Fred (7,595) while he has made the third-most appearances (83) and starts (67).

Pogba's 17 goals in that time pale in comparison to Bruno Fernandes' 36, with his 15 assists seven fewer than the ex-Sporting CP playmaker's tally of 22.

An impressive tackle success rate of 62.18 per cent from 119 challenges does show a different side of Pogba's game, perhaps proving the more defensive role which has been asked of him during Solskjaer's stint.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer conceded it was not worth the risk for him to keep Paul Pogba on the field as Manchester United ran out comfortable winners over Granada en route to the Europa League semi-finals, a move which the midfielder agreed with.

United booked their place in the Europa League semis with a 2-0 win on Thursday, sealing a 4-0 aggregate victory over the Spanish side.

Edinson Cavani scored his 50th European goal – his first for United in Europe – before Jesus Vallejo headed into his own net in the closing stages as the Red Devils set up a showdown with Roma.

United have sealed their place in the semi-finals of a European competition for the 18th time in total, with Liverpool (19) the only English club to have managed more in that regard.

Pogba, however, was taken off at half-time during the contest. He teed up Cavani's opener with a clever flick, but received a yellow card shortly after and committed a total of three fouls, including one on Yangel Herrera which resulted in Granada's players crowding the referee demanding a second booking.

Solskjaer was left reeling after deciding not to take Fred off while the midfielder was on a booking in a Champions League defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in December, only for the Brazilian to then see red, and took no chances on this occasion.

He told BT Sport: "I think sometimes in a game, Paul wants to win so much, he went into a couple of tackles after his yellow card, I thought no, I don't want to risk that. Even though he played well.

"We missed three [players] today, the season's been hard enough as it is anyway."

For his part, Pogba had no issue with the reason for his substitution.

"Some tackles, a yellow card. I had to come off obviously," he told BT Sport. "The yellow card was unfortunate. It wasn't a yellow card for me but you have to accept it. We won the game, that's the most important thing.

"I know the foul just after it, I saw all the players trying to get me out. [The manager thought] It's better I come off before red card."

Solskjaer also suggested United created their own problems to an extent, saying: "[Granada] do give you a game, a physical game. You do have to defend.

"When you can't keep the ball as long as you should do, it's more difficult."

Serie A side Roma – boasting former United players Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling – await in the final four after they overcome Ajax in the quarter-finals.

"I've not seen too much of Roma," Solskjaer continued. "They've had two good games against Ajax, they defend well, as Italian teams always do, experienced team, and we all know [Edin] Dzeko, so any ball in the box is a dangerous one.

"We're looking forward to it of course, we're in the semi-final, it feels like a proper European tie, Roma is a club with lots of tradition, history, but we've done well against Italian teams."

United reached the semi-finals last season, only to lose to Sevilla.

They have reached four semis previously under Solskjaer, twice in the EFL Cup, once in the FA Cup and once in the Europa League, though they are yet to win a trophy during the Norwegian's tenure.

"I don't think there's any," Solskjaer responded when asked if his team were scarred by previous defeats.

"You just go into every game wanting to win. We're going into them hoping to get to the final. If we can finish this season with a final and a trophy, great."

Cristiano Ronaldo's future beyond this season has been a hot topic of discussion.

The 36-year-old Portuguese forward appears set to exit Juventus after three seasons in Turin, despite being contracted for another year.

Ronaldo has been linked with former club Real Madrid and a switch to the United States, but there may be another option.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO IN UTD-JUVE SWAP DEAL

Manchester United want to sign Cristiano Ronaldo this off-season and would consider a swap deal with Juventus for Paul Pogba, according to Calciomercato.

Ronaldo played for United from 2003 to 2009 in the earlier part of his career, making almost 300 appearances for the Red Devils before his blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

Pogba, who spent time at Juventus from 2012 to 2016, has also been the subject of transfer speculation.

Juventus have this week been linked with a mega swap deal with United as they look for a transfer shake-up this off-season.

ROUND-UP

- The Independent reports Harry Kane's preference, if he was to leave Tottenham, is to remain in England and join either United or Manchester City.

- Juve forward Paulo Dybala has attracted interest from Premier League pair United and Chelsea, claims Tuttosport.

- United are also keen on an off-season move for Madrid defender Raphael Varane, according to The Mail. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United have also been linked with Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate, Sevilla star Jules Kounde and Villarreal defender Pau Torres.

- The Daily Mail reports Bayern Munich are bullish they can sign Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland as Robert Lewandowski's heir if he remains in Germany for one more season amid widespread interest this upcoming off-season. Haaland has been heavily linked with City, United, Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira is wanted by Argentine giants Boca Juniors, reports TyC Sports. Torreira is currently on loan at Atletico Madrid.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says Paul Pogba can help Manchester United get their spark back as the midfielder prepares to make his Premier League return.

Pogba is set to play his first top-flight game in almost two months since suffering a thigh injury against Everton on February 6.

Following his return from injury he scored in the Europa League against Milan and featured against Leicester City in the FA Cup prior to the international break, when he played three times for France to continue building up his fitness.

United have only scored more than one goal in one of their last eight games across all competitions.

But Solskjaer hopes a refreshed Pogba can help to reverse that trend, starting with Sunday's home Premier League clash against Brighton and Hove Albion.

"It is a massive boost," Solskjaer said about the return of Pogba. "He has come back bright and is ready to go. 

"We know how important he will be for us and how important he has been. 

"To have players of his quality out for longer periods shows the quality of the others, that we have done so well. 

"But towards the end of this season having Paul back fit and getting our forwards firing again, hopefully we can get that spark back and score more goals again."

Forwards Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood are in contention to play if they emerge unscathed from training on Friday and Saturday.

Edinson Cavani is also poised to continue his comeback after a frustrating run of injuries.

But fellow attacker Anthony Martial and defender Victor Lindelof missed the first of those two training sessions.

Brighton have won consecutive matches against Southampton and Newcastle United going into the clash with the Red Devils.

Solskjaer added: "Since I came we have played them quite a few times and we have always had some hard-fought games, difficult games. 

"When you prepare for a game against Brighton you can see all our players with bright eyes because they respect the way they play and the quality they have had against us. 

"We know we have to be on our best to earn the right to play. You have to work really hard to get the ball off them."

Brighton have never won away against Manchester United in 12 previous visits, losing on each of their last six trips to Old Trafford.

United are looking to keep five consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since August 2017, when they were managed by Jose Mourinho.

But if Brighton are able to win a third straight top-flight game, it will be the first time they have achieved the feat since October 2018.

They would also become the first team in over a decade to win away at both Liverpool and United in the same Premier League season.

Lionel Messi has been tipped to leave Barcelona for either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

But Haaland could reportedly unlock Messi's future.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND TO CITY MEANS BARCA STAY FOR MESSI?

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could hold the key to Lionel Messi's future at Barcelona, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Barca, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

City have been tipped to sign Messi, but should they step up their pursuit of Haaland, the Premier League leaders could reportedly drop their interest in the Barca captain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says new Barca president Joan Laporta is preparing a contract renewal for Messi, who is set to become a free agent at season's end.

- Bayern Munich are eyeing a move for Tottenham star Son Heung-min, claims Football Insider. Son has reportedly been offered a bumper new contract by Spurs, but the former Bayer Leverkusen forward is wanted in Munich.

- Sporting CP's Joao Palhinha, Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria and Sander Berge of Sheffield United are on the list of midfielders to replace City veteran Fernandinho, reports A Bola.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Juventus and Barca are interested in Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli. The Italy defender is out of contract in 2022 and is reportedly seeking a €6million-a-year contract.

Napoli are eyeing Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi and sporting director Igli Tare, claims Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli. Gennaro Gattuso has been tipped to leave Napoli at the end of the season, with ex-Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, Luciano Spalletti and Hellas Verona's Ivan Juric among the possible replacements. But Lazio duo Inzaghi and Tare are being monitored to replace Gattuso and Cristiano Giuntoli in Naples.

United are interested in Lille defender Sven Botman, according to Fabrizio Romano. Sevilla star Jules Kounde has been on United's radar but the club's asking price of €80m (£68m) is too steep.

- Romano also says there is no agreement with United and Paul Pogba over a new contract. Pogba has been linked with former club Juve, Madrid and PSG.

Mino Raiola claims Alex Ferguson did not "believe" in Paul Pogba during his first stint at Manchester United and says he does not "give a f***" whether he deals with the club again. 

Pogba left United for Serie A powerhouse Juventus in 2012 – a year before Ferguson stood down as United manager – after his contract expired, only to re-join the Red Devils in 2016 for what was then a world record transfer fee of £89million.

The France midfielder's future has been the subject of much discussion since Raiola claimed his client's time at United was "over" in December, prompting speculation of a possible return to Juve or a move to LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

Pogba's contract is set to expire in 2022, although United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently said an "open dialogue" about a new deal for the 28-year-old is ongoing.

Ferguson, who enjoyed a trophy-laden 26-year reign at Old Trafford, has publicly criticised Raiola for his role in Pogba's departure, but the agent insists he wanted the World Cup winner to stay at the club. 

"When Ferguson criticised me, that was my biggest compliment anybody could give me," Raiola told The Athletic. "Ferguson is used to people coming in and [saying]: 'Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir'.

"All I have to say that when Ferguson left Manchester United the club's owner [the Glazers], by buying back Paul Pogba, told me that I was right. Because I didn't want to take Paul Pogba away. [Ferguson] didn't believe in Paul Pogba.

"So when Ferguson says: 'I don't like him', it's the biggest compliment that I could have. It's like saying Sepp Blatter says: 'I don't like him'. Fantastic. I don't care what Ferguson says."

Never shy of expressing an opinion, Raiola was typically forthright when asked how the Pogba situation has affected his relationship with United.

"I don’t give a f*** if I never do another player with Manchester United. I'm not in their hands," he added.

"I'm independent. We have only one party that we take care of: our players. And as long as our players like us, you do what you have to do."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer insisted he had no regrets over his team selection after Manchester United lost 3-1 at Leicester City in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Former Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice either side of Youri Tielemans' solo strike as Brendan Rodgers' men booked a Wembley semi-final against Southampton.

Mason Greenwood equalised shortly before half-time in a rare moment of inspiration for United, as Paul Pogba and Donny van de Beek combined to fine effect.

But the midfield duo were only fit to play for an hour, having recently returned to action, and Bruno Fernandes was unable to have a decisive impact from the bench.

Solskjaer felt such juggling was a necessity after a packed schedule in which his side overcame Milan in the Europa League on Thursday.

"I would have started the same team again. We felt [Pogba and Van de Beek] had more than 45 minutes in them," he said.

"They're important players for us, that's why we started them.

"We picked a team that we felt was going to win the game or give us a foundation to win the game.

"We knew players like Donny and Paul wouldn't last more than an hour."

Fernandes' 23 goals and 13 assists mean he leads the way in both categories for United this season.

However, among outfield players, only captain Harry Maguire (3,945) and fellow defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka (3,651) have played more minutes than the Portugal playmaker's 3,488 for the Red Devils across all competitions.

"Every team selection has reasons behind it. Bruno has played very, very much football," Solskjaer said.

"The boy is a human being. He has played a game every three or four days.

"It was a chance to start both Donny and Paul. The accumulation of games maybe caught up with us.

"With Bruno, I know he wants to play but sometimes you make decisions for the benefit of both the team and him."

While plenty of managers will be apprehensive about the forthcoming international break and what it might mean for their players at the business end of the season, Solskjaer believes it comes at a good time for certain members of his squad.

"I think the international break will give Paul and Donny chances to play, it'll give Anthony [Martial] a chance to go away," he said.

"They will get a change of scenery. You get energy from that. The boys have been at Carrington training ground now every day for a long, long time.

"The break comes at a good time and we'll be ready at Easter, don't worry about that."

Solskjaer added: "If and when we're successful, we have to handle [fixture congestion] and hit a higher level than we did today.

"That's what we're striving towards and, under these circumstances, which are unprecedented, I've been impressed by my boys.

"They've been excellent. The run we've been on has been excellent. Unfortunately we couldn't find our normal selves tonight and sometimes that happens."

Manchester United remain in talks with Paul Pogba over a new contract but they are not the immediate focus of the midfielder, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. 

Pogba came off the bench to send United into the quarter-finals of the Europa League, his close-range finish securing a 1-0 win at San Siro and a 2-1 aggregate success over Milan. 

The France star is out of contract at the end of next season and has been heavily linked with a return to Juventus. 

Solskjaer believes Pogba's performance illustrated his affection for the club, but contract discussions are not at the forefront of his mind. 

"I think everyone in the team, Paul included, are just focused on doing as well as we can this season," Solskjaer told a media conference ahead of Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final with Leicester City.   

"I don't think any energy would be used on the speculation. Of course we've got discussions and talks, when you see Paul playing like this, back training, it shows how much he cares for us, how much he enjoys playing and how much we can benefit from him playing." 

Solskjaer is not anticipating Pogba playing the full game against Leicester, though he is confident the World Cup winner can still have an influence. 

"We'll have to see how long he can play," Solskjaer added. "I don't think he can last 90 minutes, I'm not sure he can start. 

"You see the impact he can make if he comes on as a sub. If he feels ok, maybe we can start him as well. I hope he's ready to start."

Marcus Rashford is a doubt after making way for Pogba with an apparent injury, while Edinson Cavani could again miss out with a knock. 

Anthony Martial has missed the last two games with a hip injury, though he has still been picked in the France squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers. 

However, Solskjaer is not concerned by Martial's inclusion by Didier Deschamps. 

"I just want Anthony fit. Same with Paul, we just want them to go and play. They've missed too many games," said Solskjaer.  

"This was a hip injury he got against Milan a week ago. We hoped he was going to be ready for West Ham. Then he couldn't make that one, he was close to getting fit for this one [Milan second leg], hopefully he'll make Sunday. 

"We're not sure, because it's not reacted how we'd want. It'll just benefit him if he's fit enough to go with France and play."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes Paul Pogba can give Manchester United a "big boost for the rest of the season" after he made an instant impact on his return from injury.

Having not featured in United's previous 10 games, Pogba scored within three minutes of coming on as a substitute against Milan in the Europa League, his goal securing a 1-0 victory in the second leg at San Siro.

The result was enough to see the Premier League side progress 2-1 on aggregate, meaning they will be in Friday's quarter-final draw.

Solskjaer was delighted to have the France international available again, particularly as he had been in such outstanding form prior to suffering a thigh problem against Everton in early February.

"We've missed Paul. He's been out for over two months and any team would miss a player like Paul Pogba," Solskjaer told BT Sport.

"He was just getting into his best form. He's very important for us and will give us a big boost for the rest of the season. Today, he made a very, very big difference."

United had conceded a late equaliser in the first leg at Old Trafford, yet this time they held firm to keep a clean sheet against their Italian opponents.

Goalkeeper Dean Henderson produced an excellent save to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic an equaliser, while Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire excelled in defence for the visitors.

The centre-backs both made five clearances, plus the same number of interceptions each, though Solskjaer was pleased with how the whole team had worked so hard to keep Milan at bay.

"You give yourselves a chance to win games of football [with clean sheets]," the Norwegian said.

"Dean had a fantastic save towards the end, from the big lad (Ibrahimovic). I'm very pleased with everyone and their defending, right from the front.

"Dan James, Mason [Greenwood], Marcus [Rashford] and Bruno [Fernandes] - the front four pressing like they do.

"We always know that the back six – with Scott [McTominay], Fred and the back four – always give everything."

Solskjaer felt United should have had an early penalty following Fikayo Tomori's challenge on James, the referee's decision to refrain from awarding a foul ultimately not costly.

But Solskjaer said it demonstrated just how cup ties can hinge on key decisions.

"You've got to be spot-on in cup competitions. Anything can happen," the United boss said.

"Today, I think it's a penalty on Dan James in the first minute, or five minutes, whatever. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don't. If you get that against you, anything can happen in cup competitions.

"We are through, we're confident and we're looking forward to the draw."

The Red Devils have an FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester City to come at the weekend, their last fixture before the international break.

Luke Shaw felt Manchester United had to overcome an "awful" first half to defeat Milan 1-0 and seal their place in the Europa League quarter-finals. 

The last-16 tie was finely balanced after a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford in the first leg, with the hosts looking the more likely scorers in the opening half of the return fixture after United's bright start had quickly fizzled out. 

However, Paul Pogba's introduction for the second half proved decisive, the substitute firing in the only goal of the game in the 48th minute at San Siro. 

Shaw was delighted to see Pogba back in action again after missing 10 games through injury, but acknowledged Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side must improve as they look to secure silverware this season. 

"Obviously very happy we're through, but I'll be honest – and I think the lads and the staff will agree with me – we weren't good at all, especially in the first half when we were awful," Shaw told BT Sport. 

"In the first 10 or 15 minutes we started well, kept control of the ball. But it was like a switch – we turned off and were very sloppy.  

"We kept giving away balls and bringing pressure on ourselves. We were lucky, but then second half it always helps when you have a world-class player like Paul to come on and make a difference.  

"He did that - it's brilliant to have him back. The most important thing tonight was the result and getting through to the next round, no matter how we played.  

"But we know we need to be better than tonight."

United have progressed from each of their last two knockout ties with Milan in European competition, though they needed a fine save from Dean Henderson to deny Zlatan Ibrahimovic an equaliser.

Next up is an FA Cup quarter-final against Leicester City, the Red Devils travelling to the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

"Obviously, Milan are a top side and we knew it would be hard, especially coming here. The result wasn't in our favour [from the first leg], so it's a very good win," Shaw continued.

"The most positive [thing] is we are through and have got players coming back. The squad is looking much better than it did last week, so it’s good times now. 

"Hopefully we can push on, because we've got a big game around the corner at the weekend."

After cup duty at the weekend, Shaw will join up with the England squad. He has been recalled by national team boss Gareth Southgate for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland, just reward for his outstanding form at club level.

"I'm extremely happy – it's a massive honour to get selected for your country," the left-back said.

"Obviously, I’ve been out of the fold for quite a while, I’ve had ambitions to get back into the squad. Luckily I’ve done that, so I just need to keep going."

Substitute Paul Pogba marked his return from injury with the only goal as Manchester United defeated Milan 1-0 at San Siro to reach the Europa League quarter-finals.

Pogba had missed United's previous 10 games due to a thigh issue suffered in the 3-3 home draw with Everton in early February, yet he did not take long to make an impact on proceedings in the second leg.

Having replaced Marcus Rashford at the break, the France international cleverly fired in a loose ball in the 48th minute to secure his side a 2-1 aggregate triumph.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic - back from injury himself in time to feature off the bench – was unable to help Milan manage a response following his introduction, meaning the Serie A side have now failed to win five in a row at home.

United had triumphed 4-0 on Italian soil in the previous round, albeit that was against Spanish opposition in Real Sociedad, with their tie moved to Turin due to travel restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They started brightly in Milan too, yet it was the hosts who created chances towards the end of the first half. Alexis Saelemaekers tested Dean Henderson from distance, while Rade Krunic volleyed wide under pressure just before half-time.

The hosts – as they had done at Old Trafford – were assuming control for long periods.

However, Pogba punished Milan after they had failed to clear Daniel James' deflected shot, using a feint to create the space to lift the ball over goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma from a tight angle.

Henderson came to United's rescue to deny Ibrahimovic, and Pogba came close to doubling both his and the visitors' tally, looping a header onto the roof of the net. In the end, though, one goal was enough.


What does it mean? 

Milan's slump continues; Stefano Pioli's squad have now won just twice in their last 10 outings, during which they have gone out of two cup competitions and slipped off the pace in the Serie A title race.

In contrast, United are now 14 unbeaten in all competitions. Catching neighbours Manchester City in the Premier League is nigh-on impossible, so Europe - along with the FA Cup - offers a huge opportunity for Solskjaer to claim silverware, further strengthening his position amid continued improvement.

A United front at the back

Pogba gets the headlines after his goal secured qualification for the last-eight draw, which takes place on Friday, but United's defensive line also deserves great praise.

Victor Lindelof, who produced two crucial blocks to keep the hosts at bay, and centre-back partner Harry Maguire were excellent. The pair finished with five clearances apiece, as well as making five interceptions.

Rash fails to make a mark

Rashford had played down concerns over burnout ahead of the fixture, despite missing the initial meeting with Milan with a slight injury. He has also been nursing a shoulder issue.

However, the England international had just 16 touches in the opening half – the lowest total for any United outfield player – before being replaced by Pogba, who had a far greater impact.

What's next?

United travel to Leicester City in the last eight of the FA Cup on Sunday, ahead of the international break. Milan, meanwhile, are in action in Serie A on the same day, visiting Fiorentina.

Ousmane Dembele has been called up to the France squad for the first time since November 2018 for their World Cup qualifiers later this month. 

The Barcelona forward has scored eight goals in 34 appearances across all competitions this season, and has done enough to convince Didier Deschamps he deserves another chance at international level. 

The 23-year-old's last appearance for Les Bleus came as a substitute in a 2-0 Nations League defeat to Netherlands more than two years ago. 

He is joined in the squad for the games against Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Bosnia-Herzegovina by Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele and Atletico Madrid's Thomas Lemar.

Ndombele has not played for his country since June 2019, while Lemar last featured for the World Cup winners in November of the same year. 

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, who has only just returned to training after missing six weeks with a thigh injury, is also included in Deschamps' penultimate squad ahead of the rearranged Euro 2020. 

Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola has been recalled, but there was no place in the 26-man squad for Corentin Tolisso, Dayot Upamecano, Nabil Fekir or Steven Nzonzi.

France begin their qualifying campaign at home to Ukraine on March 24 before away games with Kazakhstan on March 28 and Bosnia-Herzegovina three days later.

 

France squad:

Alphonse Areola (Fulham), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Mike Maignan (Lille); Lucas Digne (Everton), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich), Presnel Kimpembe (Paris Saint-Germain), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Kurt Zouma (Chelsea); N'Golo Kante (Chelsea), Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspur); Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hopes to have four or five players back from injury when Manchester United face Milan in the Europa League last-16 second leg on Thursday.

United manager Solskjaer expects forwards Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial to be fit, the former having missed seven of United's last eight matches and the latter having limped out of the 1-1 first-leg draw against Milan with a hip problem.

Donny van de Beek, who has been sidelined since February 22, may also be ready to return, while Paul Pogba – who last played in the 3-3 Premier League draw with Everton on February 6 – could also be back in the squad.

With Marcus Rashford having returned from ankle trouble in the 1-0 Premier League win over West Ham on Sunday and David de Gea now free to return after self-isolating, United could look in much better shape for the return fixture at San Siro, where the tie is poised at 1-1.

"Injury-wise, I hope that we have four or five players back for that game," Solskjaer said after the win over West Ham. "We hope, or it's very likely that Edinson and Anthony are fit. Donny, hopefully as well. Paul even might make the trip. David is back from isolation.

"That's more numbers. Today, we even had two goalkeepers on the bench, so we need them back."

United's hard-fought win over the Hammers, earned through a second-half own goal from Craig Dawson, lifted the Red Devils back into second in the Premier League table.

While they are 14 points behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand, they now have a nine-point cushion to West Ham in fifth, putting them in a strong position at least for a top-four finish.

Solskjaer was delighted with the attitude his players displayed three days on from conceding an injury-time equaliser to Milan, even if the performance was not quite up to scratch in attack.

"It's been a big week for us. We're starting to build some momentum in the league. We've opened the gap further to West Ham, which was important to us," he said.

"We want to improve on last season. We want to get to a final, we want to move up the table. This week was always going to be massive. The reaction after the late equaliser that Milan scored was really good because you never know how that can affect you.

"It looked like everyone wanted to show what they could do, the first 15, 20 minutes, maybe a little bit too eager, lacked a bit of composure. The attitude was spot on, When we got the composure, we built more and more pressure and momentum.

"We had to readjust a little bit. After 15, 20 minutes, there was a break in play and we just had to get to grips with our composure. We kept firing passes into each other and couldn't find a red shirt whatsoever.

"We've had four clean sheets now [in a row] and that's always the foundation. We want to score goals, we're creating big chances. I feel we're getting back to what we can. It's only a week ago we beat City 2-0, so I don't want to be greedy. Nobody can score four or five goals in every game in the Premier League. You've got to earn it. We always back our players to score enough goals."

Mason Greenwood performed well as the central striker but was unable to end his goal drought, with Lukasz Fabianski making a fine save to deny him in the first half before he smashed a shot off the post in the second.

The 19-year-old has only scored once in 23 league games this season, having managed 10 in just 12 starts in 2019-20, but Solskjaer is not concerned.

"His performance was really good, he deserved a goal," said the United boss. "He's played really well lately. He linked the play well for us, he held it up for us, and he had our two best chances, a great save by Fabianski and unfortunately, he hit the post on the second one.

"He kept creating chances for others as well. I'm very pleased with Mason at the moment."

United have kept four straight clean sheets in the Premier League for the first time under Solskjaer, last doing so in January 2018 when Jose Mourinho was at the helm.

Solskjaer's United have only lost one of their last 23 Premier League games (W14 D8), this after suffering three defeats in their opening six games of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain is homing in on Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba.

Pogba has been linked with a move away from United since his agent Mino Raiola said he had no future at the club in December.

The 27-year-old has been at United since 2016 but struggled for impact over the past two seasons.

 

TOP STORY - POGBA'S PARISIAN PLAY

PSG have made contact with Pogba's agent and placed him on their list of transfer targets, according to Foot Mercato.

The report claims PSG sporting director Leonardo has recently been in touch with Raiola.

The 27-year-old World Cup winner has never played in Ligue 1 in his native France.

ROUND-UP

Manchester United goalkeeper uncertainty persists with the Daily Star claiming the Premier League giants have added Burnley's Nick Pope to their transfer list, although Tottenham are interested too.

- The Sunday Mirror is reporting United are set to offer manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a new deal.

Tottenham are lining up Southampton's Jannik Vestergaard, according to the Sunday Mirror too.

- Football Insider claims that a deal for Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum to go to Barcelona this close season is "95 per cent done".

- Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer is hot property right now and Algerian publication Competition claims Paris Saint-Germain are leading the race for his signature, ahead of Manchester City.

- TeamTalk has reported Arsenal and Everton are interested in Fulham centre-back Ibane Bowat.

Arsenal and Tottenham are both keen on Sheffield United's Sander Berge, according to Jeunes Footeux.

Bruno Fernandes being hailed as the signing who turned around Manchester United's fortunes would have been difficult for Paul Pogba to take, according to Nani.

Fernandes has received rave reviews for his incredible performances since arriving at Old Trafford from Sporting CP just over a year ago.

The attacking midfielder has recorded 40 goal involvements – 23 goals and 17 assists – in 41 Premier League appearances, leading him to be touted as the player who can lead United back to the top.

Former United winger Nani, a four-time Premier League winner, thinks every United squad member would have had to take stock after Fernandes' stunning impact.

And adapting would have been particularly tough for Pogba, who was previously established as the star man.

Nani feels Pogba and the rest of the United players have adjusted well over the past year to increasingly incorporate Fernandes' individual brilliance into better team performances and results.

But he believes the connection between World Cup winner Pogba and Portugal international Fernandes must get stronger still.

Nani told Stats Perform News: "There are different [types of] players on the field - you have Bruno Fernandes, a smarter attacking player, and Pogba who can do a little bit of both [attacking and defending].

"Pogba can handle the game a bit for Bruno to go a little bit up [the pitch]. They have to try to have the connection. 

"It is not easy, when you [Pogba] are the player for the club, the midfield star, and another player arrives to the team and starts performing so well.

"And then [it is not easy] that everyone starts talking just about the player and, 'He made the team change, he made everything'. 

"All of that could have a little bit of an impact in every head on the team. 

"But what I see in the last games, the players adjust to that. They have confirmed [in ther minds] a little bit what Bruno can give to the team.

"And Bruno is part of the team so now they look like more of a strong team. 

"So I'm very confident about the next games until the end of the season. I think there will be a surprise to the end of the season because they are still in the Europa League. Let's see."

Pogba has just over one year left on his current contract and agent Mino Raiola said in December his client wanted to leave United.

While Raiola later backtracked somewhat during the January transfer window, he insisted he would still push for a transfer at the end of the season, though the club have talked about a new deal.

Nani was asked whether Pogba's continued presence in the headlines meant he had become a distraction for United.

"At this moment, I see him as one of the important players at Man United," Nani said about Pogba.

"But I don't know what he has on his mind, if he wants to leave or if all this news is making some problems in his head.

"I don't know if he has full concentration on the team, on the games, on the goals of the team. 

"I saw him when he was struggling with some injuries and then he came back and started playing, he was improving his performance. He was doing well. 

"He was helping the team, but we know Pogba can do much better, he can do much more because he is a top player in this position. He's not using all his strength, all his qualities. 

"But if he wants to stay at the club, for sure he will perform much better very soon. He needs to continue to improve his game, his confidence and try to help the team in the way he can."

Pogba has been out of action for a month since suffering a thigh injury in the dramatic 3-3 draw with Everton.

While United are unbeaten in seven games without him, four of those contests have been draws, including Wednesday's goalless encounter at Crystal Palace.

That was their sixth goalless Premier League draw of the season, their joint-most ever in a season, along with 2004-05 and 2016-17.

It is also the first time United have drawn three consecutive matches 0-0 in all competitions since October 2015, when they were playing under Louis van Gaal.

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