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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Pogba insists he and his fellow France players have no problem with head coach Didier Deschamps but were "disgusted" by the team's failure at Euro 2020

Draws against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine in World Cup qualifying have followed France's wretched European mission.

Despite going into Euro 2020 as many people's favourites, France were knocked out on penalties by Switzerland in the second round, with Pogba seen in a lively discussion with Deschamps after the game.

Deschamps has been boss of France since 2012 and is set to lead his reigning world champions into next year's World Cup, assuming they qualify.

Manchester United midfielder Pogba looks set to face Finland on Tuesday as France attempt to end a run of five successive draws – including the 3-3 thriller with the Swiss that was followed by the spot-kick sucker punch.

France had never before drawn five consecutive games, and they perhaps need a win to lift spirits.

Speaking about his post-Switzerland talks with Deschamps, Pogba told TF1 on Sunday: "It wasn't hard-nosed. It was a discussion with frustration. But it was just that. There is nothing at all. It's going very well with the coach."

Pogba added: "We were disgusted with the Euro. But we want to get over that and move on. It really hurt us. When you think back to that match against Switzerland, nobody would have imagined that. We are the ones who lost the game. It was not Switzerland that won it."

France led 3-1 against the Swiss but folded in the closing stages of normal time, and Pogba said: "If we replayed the game it wouldn't be the same. We would certainly have changed the way we entered the field."

Against Finland, Deschamps will be determined his team avoid another slow start.

France have surprisingly conceded the opening goal in each of their last five games, their longest such run since another run of five from November 2009 to June 2010, during Raymond Domenech's reign as national coach.

They sit top of Group D but Finland, four points behind in second place, have two games in hand, making Tuesday's clash in Lyon a significant game in how the campaign pans out.

Anthony Martial scored just his second goal for France as the world champions were held to a 1-1 draw by Ukraine in World Cup qualifying.

Mykola Shaparenko's sublime strike had put the home side in front just before half-time, but Martial forced home an equaliser five minutes after the restart.

Substitute Moussa Diaby hit the post as Les Bleus toiled in vain to find a winner, with Didier Deschamps' men having now drawn five matches in a row in all competitions.

France were winless in four games in Kiev heading into this contest and there was little that was confident about their early play, Antoine Griezmann flashing a shot wide with one of his few openings.

Ukraine looked more dangerous on the break and Andriy Yarmolenko spurned a good chance when his header was saved by Hugo Lloris.

The breakthrough came just before half-time. Martial was denied by Andriy Pyatov after being played in by Paul Pogba, and the home side broke forward, Roman Yaremchuk's cross was cleared by Kurt Zouma to Shaparenko on the edge of the box, and he swept a stylish first-time strike high past Lloris.

Martial's miss took him to 28 consecutive shots without scoring for France, but he had more luck with his next attempt. Adrien Rabiot's header dropped kindly for the Manchester United forward, whose half-volley from six yards was too powerful for Pyatov to keep out.

Diaby skipped into space after good work from Benzema but his low strike clattered off the base of the right-hand post, before Pogba tried his luck with a long-range strike that Pyatov held, as the visitors toiled to no further avail.


What does it mean? France solid but unspectacular in qualifying

France have nine points from five matches in Group D, giving them a five-point lead at the top having played two more matches than second-place Finland.

The world champions are unbeaten in qualifying for Qatar 2022 and remain in a good position, but there is growing concern around their uninspiring performances.

France's five successive draws include three games at Euro 2020, where after a 3-3 draw with Switzerland in the last 16 they lost a penalty shoot-out.

Ukraine are third in the World Cup group, having drawn all five of their games.

Pogba pulling the strings

Almost all of France's good work came through Pogba, who attempted a huge 66 passes in the Ukraine half as he tried to pick through a resolute defence.

There was little creativity aside from the United midfielder, which explained his ambitious shot as the clock began to tick down.

Can the rescue act continue?

France have conceded the opening goal in five consecutive matches, their longest such run since the days of Raymond Domenech from November 2009 to June 2010.

There is over a year to go until Qatar 2022, but France at the moment appear to be limping their way towards defending their crown.

What's next?

France host Finland in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, with Ukraine heading to the Czech Republic for a friendly a day later.

Aurelien Tchouameni said he is inspired by Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante as the Monaco sensation continues to be linked with Chelsea and Manchester United.

Tchouameni is reportedly wanted by Premier League giants Chelsea and United following his exploits in Ligue 1.

Before the weekend's fixtures, the 21-year-old midfielder ranked first in possessions won (209) and tackles won (52) in the top five European leagues in 2021, while he was tied for fifth in duels won (221).

Tchouameni's performances under Niko Kovac earned a France call-up for the first time as Les Bleus face Bosnia-Herzegovina in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday before continuing their road to Qatar 2022 against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on September 7.

Amid speculation over his future heading into the international break, Tchouameni was asked about his inspirations, and he told reporters: "I followed a lot what [United midfielder] Paul [Pogba] was doing. Since he started his career.

"Now I have the chance to be with him and [Chelsea midfielder] N'Golo [Kante]. They are players who are very successful at their clubs, so I try to see what they do and take inspiration from their strong characteristics.

"There are also some players I didn't get to see play at the time, like Patrick Vieira. Foreign players too, like [Manchester City and Belgium midfielder] Kevin De Bruyne. I try to look at everything that is good in the midfield and their characteristics to inspire me."

Meanwhile, France head coach Didier Deschamps will be without Dayot Upamecano for the three World Cup qualifiers after the Bayern Munich centre-back suffered a right thigh injury.

Upamecano has been replaced in the squad by Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet.

Manchester United duo Paul Pogba and David De Gea expressed their excitement for Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford after defeating Wolves 1-0 on Sunday.

United set an English football record as they reached 28 away games without defeat with Sunday's win but the travelling fans had more reason to celebrate earlier in the week.

The Red Devils announced on Friday that a deal worth £12.8m (€15m) plus £6.9m (€8m) in add-ons had been agreed with Juventus to bring Ronaldo back to Manchester for a second spell.

And following United's record-breaking outing at Molineux, De Gea spoke excitedly about linking up with the Portugal captain.

"It’s like a dream for all the Manchester United fans, for us," the Spain goalkeeper said to Sky Sports post-match.

"To have him [Cristiano Ronaldo] back it is going to be great, you can feel in the atmosphere. Hopefully, he can bring something special as well to make the team even better. It's great to have him."

 

Pogba, who surpassed Ronaldo's Premier League assist record for the Red Devils against Southampton last Sunday, echoed De Gea's sentiments.

"Everybody knows [what he brings]," the Frenchman told Sky Sports. "He's already a legend in this club and he's coming back, so obviously it's huge for us, for the club.

"He's going to bring his experience, his quality and obviously when he comes the level goes up.

"We're really pleased he's coming but the most important today is the win so when he comes we keep this mentality of winning, and keep winning."

Ruben Neves was furious that a "clear foul" by Paul Pogba was not given in the build-up to Manchester United's winning goal at Wolves.

The Red Devils claimed a 1-0 Premier League victory at Molineux on Sunday courtesy of Mason Greenwood's strike with 10 minutes of normal time remaining.

The result moved United to seven points from their first three games and stretched their unbeaten run away from home to 28 games, a record in English league football.

However, Wolves were incensed that the goal was allowed to stand, with Pogba having caught Neves low on the shin in a 50-50 challenge on the edge of the home side's penalty area shortly before debutant Raphael Varane teed up Greenwood.

Referee Mike Dean allowed play to continue, much as Craig Pawson did in United's previous game at Southampton when a robust challenge on Bruno Fernandes prior to Saints' opening goal went unpunished.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Neves said: "Everyone saw it, everyone saw my leg. We always do meetings and everything with referees about VAR. I don't know why.

"They said before the season started they will look for contact – if the contact is strong enough, they will give the foul. I showed them my leg.

"I think maybe because last game it was a foul before the Southampton goal, maybe now they did the opposite. I showed my leg to the ref, I showed [it] to the assistant ref, I cannot say anything more.

"After the game, he said 'you both go to the ball' and I said 'yes, we both go to win the ball but I was the one who touched the ball'. It's a foul, a clear foul."

Sky Sports pundits Roy Keane and Graeme Souness agreed, with the former Liverpool midfielder branding the challenge "a leg-breaker", but Pogba was adamant there was no reason to award a free-kick.

"My view is this is the Premier League, it's a 50-50. Every weekend, that is happening," he said.

"I need to see it again, but I didn't touch him. I won the ball and we scored. I need to see it again."

A Manchester United great, could Cristiano Ronaldo end up in the blue of the Red Devils' neighbours?

Ronaldo is reportedly set to leave Serie A powerhouse Juventus and a move to Manchester City is on the cards.

United fans will not be happy…

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO TO JOIN CITY AFTER JUVE FAREWELL

Cristiano Ronaldo will leave Juventus for Manchester City, according to Portuguese journalist Goncalo Lopes.

Ronaldo – who is in the final year of his Juve contract – has been eyeing a Turin exit amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Lopes claims a sensational move that will see United great Ronaldo play for neighbours City is a "done deal", while Gianluca Di Marzio says the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will farewell his team-mates on Friday.

 

ROUND-UP

Kylian Mbappe is on the verge of moving to Madrid in a blockbuster transfer from PSG. The France international dominates the front page of Friday's L'Equipe, with the headline "Mbappe is at Real Madrid's door". The same outlet claims Madrid are desperate to claim a deal now before he becomes a free agent as they fear competition from the Premier League, where United and Liverpool are believed to be interested.

- If Mbappe does leave, L'Equipe states that PSG will target Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, United midfielder Paul Pogba and Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga.

- ESPN Brazil says PSG are trying to sign Brazil international Richarlison from Everton.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Raheem Sterling could leave City if the right bid arrives as Bernardo Silva also continues to be linked with a move away amid interest from Atletico Madrid and Milan.

Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Milan are interested in United full-back Diogo Dalot, according to Sky.

- Per The Athletic, there is caution a deal that would see Saul Niguez leave Atletico for United could happen. Chelsea are also reportedly in talks.

A Manchester United great, could Cristiano Ronaldo end up in the blue of the Red Devils' neighbours?

Ronaldo is reportedly set to leave Serie A powerhouse Juventus and a move to Manchester City is on the cards.

United fans will not be happy…

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO TO JOIN CITY AFTER JUVE FAREWELL

Cristiano Ronaldo will leave Juventus for Manchester City, according to Portuguese journalist Goncalo Lopes.

Ronaldo – who is in the final year of his Juve contract – has been eyeing a Turin exit amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Lopes claims a sensational move that will see United great Ronaldo play for neighbours City is a "done deal", while Gianluca Di Marzio says the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will farewell his team-mates on Friday.

 

ROUND-UP

Kylian Mbappe is on the verge of moving to Madrid in a blockbuster transfer from PSG. The France international dominates the front page of Friday's L'Equipe, with the headline "Mbappe is at Real Madrid's door". The same outlet claims Madrid are desperate to claim a deal now before he becomes a free agent as they fear competition from the Premier League, where United and Liverpool are believed to be interested.

- If Mbappe does leave, L'Equipe states that PSG will target Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, United midfielder Paul Pogba and Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga.

- ESPN Brazil says PSG are trying to sign Brazil international Richarlison from Everton.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Raheem Sterling could leave City if the right bid arrives as Bernardo Silva also continues to be linked with a move away amid interest from Atletico Madrid and Milan.

Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Milan are interested in United full-back Diogo Dalot, according to Sky.

- Per The Athletic, there is caution a deal that would see Saul Niguez leave Atletico for United could happen. Chelsea are also reportedly in talks.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reiterated his desire to keep Paul Pogba after he once again caught the eye in Manchester United's 1-1 draw at Southampton.

Pogba provided four assists in a 5-1 rout of Leeds United last weekend and the midfielder set up Mason Greenwood's equaliser at St Mary's on Sunday after a Fred own goal gave Saints a first-half lead.

Former Juventus man Pogba became the first player to provide five assists in the opening two games of a Premier League campaign.

The 28-year-old is in the final year of his contract and has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, but Red Devils boss Solskjaer hopes he will extend his stay at Old Trafford.

When asked about Pogba's future, Solskjaer said: "That's going to be the question every week now until he does [sign a new deal].

"As I've said all the time, Paul is a top player and the talks between the club and his representatives I'm not involved in but he knows how much I care about him and we want him to play well for us."

He added: "He's been very good. Paul has come in bright, with his own personality. He's lean, he's been working hard over the summer and he's enjoying himself.

"I think we've seen that Paul wants to contribute. Of course you don't see him in the dressing room or in training, but he's really determined, he shows his winning mentality and I'm very pleased with him."

 

United felt they should have been awarded a free-kick for a foul on Bruno Fernandes by Jack Stephens just before Saints' opening goal.

Solskjaer was puzzled that referee Craig Pawson and the VAR saw nothing untoward and thinks the officials are being too lenient early in the new season

He said: "We should do better. If we don't get the foul, we should make sure we block the shot, put your body on the line and make sure they don't get a shot on target.

"That being said, it's a foul. He goes straight through Bruno with his own hip and his arm across him and I'm a bit, not worried, but we have to look at it because you can't go from one extreme going from volleyball or basketball last year to rugby now.

"I've liked the more lenient way, more men's football but it's still basically a foul. You can see early on they got the crowd going with a few tackles and we did suffer a few tackles, which was their thinking early on it looked like."

Solskjaer also revealed winger Amad Diallo could go out on loan before the transfer window closes.

The former Norway striker said: "He's a top player and what he's done in training in the last week or so since he came back from the Olympics has been really impressive. If we find the right place for him we will probably let him go, if not he will be in the squad very soon.

"He's training with us and doing really well, I'm sure if he stays he will contribute but if the right offer comes for him we have to consider it of course."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has challenged Paul Pogba and Manchester United to make sure they build on their statement performance against Leeds United.

The Red Devils started their Premier League season with a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds at Old Trafford last week, with Bruno Fernandes scoring a hat-trick in a convincing victory.

Pogba recorded four assists as part of a stellar performance, one more than he managed in the whole of the 2020-21 league season.

The France star became only the seventh player in Premier League history to set up four goals in a single match, and the first for United.

There remains uncertainty about Pogba's future, with his contract expiring next year, although Solskjaer insists talks are ongoing between the club and the midfielder's representatives.

For now, the United manager is keen for his players to keep up their high standards when they head to Southampton on Sunday, facing a team they beat 9-0 in their previous meeting in February.

"That's negotiations with Paul's representatives and the club," Solskjaer said of Pogba's contract talks. "Me and Paul work together every day here and keep on trying to improve, improve the team and enjoy ourselves. When you win games, you enjoy yourself more.

"We've got to make sure that this one game and we get big headlines and all the praise we get... it's about bringing more energy to the next one and being better. One swallow never makes a summer."

Another United player tipped to leave before the transfer window closes is Jesse Lingard, who thrived on loan at West Ham last season and has been linked with a permanent move back to the club.

Solskjaer, however, has encouraged Lingard to find a way back into the regular United line-up.

"Jesse's first priority is to get into our team," the United manager said. "Whenever you're employer is Man United, that's your priority. Together, we can have great moments.

"With players in a squad like I've got now, it's difficult to say that, this weekend, you're not playing. I've got to leave players out never mind from the starting XI, but from the squad. But they have to know that they're going to play a part if we're going to be successful.

"He's come back bubbly and he's got a big part to play."

Solskjaer still expects to see players leave on loan in the coming days. Wales international Dylan Levitt has joined Dundee United for the rest of the season, while James Garner is expected to return to Nottingham Forest, where he spent some of 2020-21.

However, Solskjaer suggested Amad Diallo could stay at United after impressing during training following his return from Olympic Games duty with Ivory Coast.

"I'd definitely think Jimmy will go on loan, that's more or less done, he's done really well in pre-season and really impressed me," Solskjaer said. "For his career, another six months or a season in the Championship will help him.

"With Amad, I have to say he's doing really well, really well in training, he's come back a little later after the Olympics and he's looking really good. I wouldn't be surprised if he stayed. It has to be the right loan, right move, right club, right way of playing for every player."

Paul Pogba assisted four of Manchester United's goals as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side started their 2021-22 Premier League campaign with a 5-1 thrashing of Leeds United.

Bruno Fernandes netted three of them, with Mason Greenwood and Fred also getting in on the action as United issued a statement of intent.

Chelsea followed up that victory with a 3-0 win over Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, while Liverpool rounded out the day by beating newly promoted Norwich City by the same scoreline.

Leicester City, Everton, Watford and Brighton and Hove Albion also claimed wins to get their seasons started in style.

Using Opta data, we take a look at the key statistics from across Saturday's fixtures.

 

Manchester United 5-1 Leeds United: Pogba and Fernandes leave Whites reeling

Pogba became the seventh player in Premier League history to assist four goals in a single game on Saturday, as he and Fernandes helped United seal a record 20th opening-day win. 

Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes, Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, Santi Cazorla and Harry Kane had previously teed up four goals in a Premier League match.

Two of Pogba's assists were for Fernandes, whose hat-trick was the 10th scored on the opening weekend of a Premier League season, while the playmaker was the first United player to achieve the feat since Lou Macari in 1977.

Mason Greenwood benefitted from a sublime Pogba pass shortly after Luke Ayling's sensational equaliser – the full-back's first top-flight goal – and he is now the fifth-highest scoring teenager in the history of the competition with 18 goals.

United netted five goals in their opening game of a Premier League game for only the second time, after beating Fulham 5-1 in August 2006, while Leeds shipped five in an opener for the first time.

Norwich City 0-3 Liverpool: Records tumble as Salah stars

Liverpool might have relinquished their Premier League title last season, but Mohamed Salah picked up where he left off last term as he scored and provided two assists in Liverpool's 3-0 win at Norwich.

Salah teed up both Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino before netting himself in the 74th minute. It means he has scored on matchday one in all five of his Premier League seasons with Liverpool, while he is the first player in the competition's history to find the net on five consecutive opening weekends.

Norwich have now lost 11 successive top-flight games – only Sunderland have had a longer losing streak in the competition.

Firmino came on from the bench to score Liverpool's second. It was the 49th league goal scored by a substitute under Jurgen Klopp, the most of any side in the competition since the German joined in 2015, while the Brazil international also brought up the Reds' 8,000th league goal in the process.

Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace: Pulisic predictably punishes Eagles again

This trip to Stamford Bridge played out in painfully familiar fashion for Palace, who have lost more Premier League games against Chelsea (19) than versus any other side in the competition's history.

In a routine 3-0 opening-day victory, the Blues became the third team – after Tottenham (nine) and Liverpool (eight) – to win eight in a row against Palace in the Premier League era.

The nature of the first two strikes was predictable, too, with Marcos Alonso netting Chelsea's 50th direct free-kick goal in the competition – trailing only United (64) – before Christian Pulisic grabbed his fifth in five games against Palace, more than versus any other opponent.

The third was slightly more surprising, as centre-back Trevoh Chalobah's superb strike made him the second youngest Chelsea player to score on their Premier League debut for the club after Paul Hughes (22y 40d for Chalobah, 20y 274d for Hughes against Derby County in 1997).

Everton 3-1 Southampton: Benitez off to a winning start

Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment at Everton but his tenure started with a 3-1 win over Southampton. It was the first time the Toffees have won a league match in which they trailed at half-time since September 2015.

On the other hand, since Ralph Hasenhuttl took over at Southampton in December 2018, they have lost 60 points from winning positions in the Premier League, more than any other side.

Adam Armstrong opened his Southampton account to put the visitors ahead at Goodison Park. Since the start of 2019-20, only Ivan Toney (55) has scored more goals in the top four tiers of English football.

Fresh from Olympic glory with Brazil, Richarlison scored the equaliser and has now netted in each of his last four league games against Southampton.

With Abdoulaye Doucoure lashing Everton ahead, Dominic Calvert-Lewin made it 3-1 with a diving header. He has now netted 12 headed goals in the league since the start of 2019-20, four more than any other player.

Elsewhere, Leicester City saw off Wolves 1-0 thanks to Jamie Vardy's first-half effort. The Foxes have lost just one of their last 25 home league games against the Midlands club.

Only Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer (all eight) have scored more goals on the opening weekend of Premier League campaigns than Vardy (seven).

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa: Ings on the spot but post-Grealish era starts in defeat

Watford have now lost their opening league match in just one of the past 15 campaigns (W8 D6), after the Hornets overcame Aston Villa 3-2.

Emmanuel Dennis became the fourth different Nigerian player to score on his Premier League debut to put Watford ahead, with Ismaila Sarr registering his 20th goal for the club before Cucho Hernandez became the first Colombian to net on his debut in the competition.

John McGinn scored his second goal in the space of four league appearances, as many as he had in his previous 55, to pull one back, before Danny Ings converted a late penalty.

He is the 24th player to score on his Premier League bow for Villa, while his spot-kick was the 2,000th penalty scored in Premier League history.

Meanwhile, Burnley are now winless in their last 11 home league games (D5 L6) since beating Villa 3-2 in January, equaling their longest run without a win at Turf Moor, after Brighton came from behind to win 2-1.

Mason Greenwood is a man and no longer a boy, according to Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Bruno Fernandes fired a hat-trick in an emphatic 5-1 win over Leeds United at Old Trafford, while Paul Pogba illuminated his side's Premier League opener with four assists – more than the three he managed in the entirety of the 2020-21 top-flight campaign.

The landslide scoreline did not appear on the cards when Luke Ayling's piledriver brought Leeds level in the 48th minute, but soon afterwards Greenwood latched onto Pogba's majestic pass to hurl the floodgates open.

The 19-year-old forward missed England's Euro 2020 campaign through injury but was quickly up to speed on the opening weekend.

Although nominally playing as a centre forward, Greenwood only touched the ball in the Leeds box twice – one of these for his goal.

Instead, he caused persistent problems by dropping deep and disrupting the Leeds midfield, such as in the build-up to a first-half opportunity for Pogba when the game was goalless.

"I've got forwards who can play different positions. He scored a goal from the left-wing position, he's so effective from the right, he can still be a number nine and centre-forward but he drops in," said Solskjaer, who sent on Jadon Sancho for a second-half debut.

"He's a natural footballer and the way he's developed the past couple of seasons… the way he burst away on that second goal, that's a man compared to the boy who was in the first team two years ago.

"He's worked so hard in pre-season to get his fitness up and he's ready to go.

"I think you can see the forwards we've got into the team with Mason, Jadon, Marcus [Rashford], Anthony [Martial] and Dan [James], they can play different positions.

"Edinson [Cavani] is probably our only one who is fixed in one position. The rest of them we should leave them to enjoy developing in their careers.

"I remember Wayne [Rooney] Carlos [Tevez] and [Cristiano] Ronaldo playing together. Good players can always play together. We need movements and that's what we had today."

 

Greenwood's lead-restoring goal drew a particularly rapturous response from the Stretford End and Solskjaer explained the promise of playing in front of fans had persuaded veteran Uruguay striker Cavani to extend his Old Trafford stay.

"The last 18 months have been strange. The only interactions have been through the media," he said.

"You watch the games on tele, you haven't had that feeling of connection. To be reunited with the fans again, it’s important for the players.

"This is the real Man United, this is how I sold Man United to Edinson, for example. You can't leave after one season playing with no fans. Man United is fans and players and everyone together."

That answer had been in response to a query over whether Pogba was more likely to remain a United player in these circumstances after further speculation about his future.

"The short answer is, 'yes'," Solskjaer added.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hailed Bruno Fernandes' risk-taking and explained how he gave Paul Pogba the freedom to inspire Manchester United to a 5-1 opening-day demolition of Leeds United.

Fernandes scored his first United hat-trick, the 10th opening-day treble in Premier League history, while Pogba laid on four assists to kick-start their challenge to dethrone Manchester City in style.

Pogba is the seventh player to assist four goals in the same Premier League game, his performance serving as an emphatic demonstration of his quality amid speculation over his future with the France star's contract set to expire at the end of the season.

On Saturday's evidence, Fernandes and Pogba can successfully spearhead United's quest for their first Premier League title since 2013, with Solskjaer heaping praise on both.

"He's a risk-taker, he's a Man United player. When you're a forward at Man United, you need to have confidence, a little bit of arrogance and take risks," Solskjaer told BT Sport of Fernandes.

Explaining Pogba's role, Solskjaer said: "I've had a great relationship with Paul since he was a kid. Today was just about 'go out there enjoy yourself' because he had 45 minutes against Everton [in pre-season] that were not his best, but today we just gave him the freedom of roaming wherever you want to go and get on the ball.

"All the best players would want to feel our trust in them and confidence, and Paul is one of them who can create moments out of nothing. I was impressed by his fitness, so that's a good sign."

Jadon Sancho came off the bench to make his debut, while United confirmed the signing of former Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane before kick-off, Pogba's France team-mate receiving a rousing reception as he was introduced to the fans.

"There's eight or nine players that aren't here today, you've got a bench with quality, we've done well in the summer window, Raphael coming in today as well, which I think gave the crowd a boost and the players, so you're excited of course," said Solskjaer of United's depth.

"There's always a next game, this is one, great start. This is the way I want to see my team play, it's not just because it's Leeds, but I want to see them running, going forward, taking risks and we looked fit and some of these players haven't played more than 45 minutes before today."

After the very wholesome and, well, very Arsenal scenes at the Brentford Community Stadium on Friday, a little bit of the other side of football with fans landed in Manchester for the resumption of a simmering and bitter rivalry.

Running scraps between Manchester United and Leeds United supporters in the city centre, including one clobbering another with a bin. The Leeds contingent not so politely enquiring over the identity of new signing Raphael Varane as he was paraded to the Old Trafford faithful, who then burst into a hearty rendition of, "We all hate Leeds scum!" inside 20 seconds.

Nature is healing.

Of course, novelty becoming normality with all its warts is something everyone can broadly get behind after the past 18 months. Ideally without WWE re-enactments using waste disposal facilities, but you play the cards you're dealt.

Another familiar narrative as the masses returned to the Stretford End was Paul Pogba's future in Manchester and how uneasily it sat. Once again, the France midfielder was reported to be keen on a move away from the club he re-joined for £89.3million in 2016 – a fee only overtaken as a British record by Jack Grealish's switch to Manchester City earlier this month. Once again, he appears to be going nowhere.

Lionel Messi's arrival means there is no longer enough elasticity in the Paris Saint-Germain books to bring Pogba to the French capital, leaving him to make the best of a curious status within Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

Jadon Sancho is the new headline signing and Bruno Fernandes' bottomless well of goals and assists has led some to idly question whether Pogba would be missed that much.

But, aside from both being attacking midfielders, they are elite players of different and contrasting qualities. When those talents mesh as they did in United's riotous 5-1 win over their foes from the other side of the Pennines, they suggest the most obvious route to quenching a four-season trophy drought.

The difference in approach was highlighted by two first-half one on ones, with such openings always on the agenda due to a porous Leeds midfield that badly missed Kalvin Phillips at its base.

In the 27th minute, after Mason Greenwood snaffled a loose ball in the centre circle, Pogba was sent clear. His stepover worked an angle to beat countryman IIlan Meslier in the Leeds goal and he clipped a left-footed finish just wide.

Had it gone in, it would have been a beautiful finish, every bit as attractive as the throughball with which Pogba released Fernandes three minutes later. The Portugal star mashed a shot towards goal that bounced off Meslier and spun in. Fernandes lacks Pogba's aesthetics but he gets things done and relentlessly so.

Luke Ayling's blistering 48th-minute equaliser gave us a more agreeable instance of top bins and could have been a pivot point in the contest. Well, it was. Just not the one you might have expected.

For once, there seemed to be little danger when Pogba collected possession inside the United half in the 52nd minute, but the pass with which he brought Ayling back down to earth and sent Greenwood scampering away to finish via the post was a piece of implausible perfection.

Fernandes made it 3-1, clumping a shot into a crowded goalmouth that Ayling cleared from behind the line. Not pretty, but no matter.

Pogba now had a hat-trick of assists and his partner in crime claimed the matchball as he thundered home Victor Lindelof's raking pass. Beauty but of a more visceral kind than Pogba typically deals in.

Twenty minutes on from Ayling's leveller, Fred made it 5-1 and Pogba had gorged himself to surpass his Premier League assists tally of three from 2020-21 in a single lunchtime.

He departed to a standing ovation as the new hero Sancho entered the fray alongside Anthony Martial. Once the England winger is up to full fitness and Marcus Rashford returns from shoulder surgery, it will be fascinating to see what configuration Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opts for.

Granting Pogba the roving role from the left flank that allowed him to decimate Leeds would leave a couple of high-profile wide attackers disgruntled most weeks.

There could be changes in formation, with Saturday's 4-2-3-1 wheeled out as much by necessity as design. But Pogba's six passes to Fernandes were more than he made to any United team-mate and look what that led to.

A deeper role for the Frenchman when the other attackers return would be the easy call, but why sever an alliance that looked utterly unplayable here? The start of Fernandes' story at Old Trafford once looked like it might be the end of Pogba's. They should be allowed the chance to script something far more compelling in tandem.

Bruno Fernandes scored his first Manchester United hat-trick and Paul Pogba produced four assists as they made a superb start to their Premier League challenge with a 5-1 win over Leeds United.

With Old Trafford buoyed by the signing and introduction of Raphael Varane on the pitch before kick-off, the returning fans were treated to an excellent attacking display.

Fernandes and Pogba – aided by a generous Leeds defence – were to the fore, the former benefiting from Pogba's creative talents in opening the scoring on the half-hour mark.

Pogba laid on two further assists for Mason Greenwood and Fernandes to put United in command in the second half after Luke Ayling's screamer had briefly levelled matters.

And, after Fernandes completed his treble, the former Juventus man teed up Fred to complete the rout in the 68th minute.

Leeds' defending throughout the first half was distinctly haphazard and Illan Meslier had to be alert to turn the ball behind after Pascal Struijk's backpass deflected off Greenwood.

Greenwood was involved again as he slid Pogba through on goal, only for the France midfielder to waste a golden opportunity and fire wide of the near post.

Yet Leeds refused to heed those warnings and Pogba made amends with a superb pass to tee up Fernandes after Meslier punted the ball straight to Scott McTominay, the Portuguese squeaking the ball under the goalkeeper's legs.

For all United's dominance in the first half, they were pegged back three minutes into the second when Ayling left David de Gea with no chance with a vicious right-footed drive from just outside the area.

But Old Trafford was in a stunned silence for just over three minutes as Pogba responded in equally remarkable fashion, his pinpoint long-range pass met by Greenwood, who raced down the left flank and restored the hosts' lead with a strike across the face of goal that went in off the post.

Solskjaer's men then gave themselves breathing room as Pogba made it a hat-trick of assists by finding Fernandes, whose neat turn sent Junior Firpo to the turf and was followed by a composed finish that Ayling could not prevent from crossing the line.

Fernandes' third breached the Leeds goal much more emphatically, Victor Lindelof this time the supplier as United's number 18 latched onto his ball over the top and beat Meslier with an unstoppable volley.

A hugely enjoyable day for the United fans was rounded off by Fred's simple close-range finish and Jadon Sancho coming off the bench to make his debut, Pogba leaving the pitch to a standing ovation after a display that illustrated why signing him to a new contract should be top of the club's to-do list.

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