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Anthony Martial could be sold for £40 million during the January transfer window – reports

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial could be sold during the January transfer window according to reports. It is suggested that the Old Trafford club could be seeking as little as £40 million for him.

Martial could move to a Premier League rival too, which is not something that really bothers me as the player is not really doing much to ensure he reaches his full potential at the club, which is something that will get me lots of opposition from the supporters that seem to think he is one of the best players at the club.

Eurosport reported the rumour, which seems logical as there were many rumours in the summer that United were seeking to offload the player, which would be a good time to do so. It has even been reported that Martial turned down a deadline day switch to Olimpique Lyonnais during the summer transfer window, which seemed strange considering the signing of both Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo this summer.

Martial, 25, has three years remaining on his current contract with United, which also includes the option of another year to be added. The Frenchman can play on the left-wing and the right-wing, also as a centre-forward – which is where he has played a lot of his football.

More recently though, the likes of Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and now Ronaldo will be more prevalent in the position, which sees Martial on the bench in most matches and only playing as a rotation options, which is not the best for his career.

Martial earns £250,000 per week, according to reports, which could be a sticking point for any interested club, unless the player is willing to take a huge pay cut to give him regular playing time, which is the best thing he could do as he must be frustrated knowing that his future at United is limited to a bit-part role.

It is suggested that United have informed the representatives of Martial that he is free to leave in the New Year, which gives the suggestion, if the reports are right that Martial has no future at United. That said, there are many other players at the club in the same predicament but they are still there as suitors are put off by their wage demands.

Martial feels, according to the report, that the £40 million price tag set by United may price him out of a possible move in the New Year but he needs to think about his contract and that United will be seeking to recoup money spent on the forward on deadline day in the summer of 2015.

In the summer, Atletico Madrid showed interest in the Frenchman but they have singe re-signed Antoine Griezmann, so their need to sign Martial no longer seems plausible. I am sure there will be clubs interested in Martial but he also needs to realise that he is key to getting a move away by reducing his wage demands.

He could remain at United until the expiry of his contract in the summer of 2024, earning £250,000 per week but finding frustrating with a lack of playing time, which will ruin his chances to represent France on the international stage. He could severely reduce his wage demands and play week in and week out.

Last season, Martial made a total of 36 appearances in all competitions, scoring seven goals and nine assists, which was not a good season for him considering what he achieved the season before. During the 2019/20 season, the Frenchman made a total of 48 appearances, scoring 23 goals and 12 assists, which was his best season for the Old Trafford club.

Currently, Martial has made just five appearances for United, failing to score or assist a single goal, playing just 100 minutes of football. He is in the squad to face West Ham United in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening at Old Trafford, but whether he starts the match or excels, remains to be seen.

Based on the players at United in the attacking positions this season, Martial is going to find it hard to get ahead of them. Cristiano Ronaldo will be the main striker with Edinson Cavani standing in, when he is fit. Mason Greenwood is a player for the future, who can play on the wings with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford also able to play on the wings – with Rashford able to fill in as the striker at times – when he is fit.

Added to this, Anthony Elanga has done well when given an opportunity, which kind of leads Martial put on his ear as they have all offered so much more than the Frenchman when given chances. Rashford and Greenwood are able to score more goals, Sancho should offer that when he settles in and Ronaldo and Cavani are self-explanatory in terms of what they offer.

It is suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to sell up to five players in the not too distant future – Martial being one of those. The others are suggested to be Jesse Lingard – who is out of contract next summer, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Donny van de Beek. There may not be much truth to the list though – these are just rumours.

Written by John Walker

Paul Pogba: On target for a memorable 2021/22 season – his best yet?

Paul Pogba has started the 2021/22 season in great fashion with four assists in the 5-1 demolition of Leeds United in the first Premier League fixture at Old Trafford this season, also getting another assist in the 1-1 draw against Southampton at St Mary’s, which was largely positive, well apart from the result. However, it still means that United are undefeated on the road in 27 matches, which has seen the club match the same record as Arsenal which was set almost 17 years ago. If United avoid defeat away to Wolverhampton Wanderers this coming weekend, the record will be theirs.

Some say there is nothing to be positive about under the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer but there has been bags of positivity but it just does not register with the Ole Out brigade, who seem to moan about anything. I saw one of them suggest that it was ‘individual brilliance’ that saw United beat Leeds in the opening Premier League match of the season, but if it was anything else, it would have been Solskjaer’s fault for them. The excuses are becoming a joke, but then again, most of these people are a joke, let’s be honest.

Back to Pogba, he has been subject of a lot of speculation this summer with Paris Saint-Germain linked to him before the arrival of Lionel Messi, who left Barcelona as a free agent after the deal to re-sign the Argentinian was not ratified. That cost Pogba a move to the French capital, if the speculation was anything to go by. However, he does seem to be happy at United and has never actually suggested, not this summer anyway, that he wanted to leave United. It has been a few years since he announced that he wanted a fresh challenge.

Pogba will be a free agent in the summer of 2022 and it seems likely that he could leave United as a free agent for the second time in his career, which would be embarrassing for the club and Solskjaer will end up being blamed by the section of the so-called fanbase that they represent. It is not his fault and there will be someone to blame but it will be a Glazer or Ed Woodward as the way they have been running the club has been poor, not getting the players that previous managers wanted, always aiming for the cheapest option.

Imagine if during the years post-Sir Alex Ferguson that United had done things the way the managers of the club wanted at the time. Could the club be in a better position today? Of course, that is not an answer that anyone could give but would love to be able to see it out and see what happened. That is not going to happen though.

United have spent the best part of £1 billion on players since the summer of 2014, which most of has been wasted on players who did not fit into the club, did not want to be at the club or did not really make an impact. That just proves that the club needed a new identity, which is what they have under Solskjaer, whether you agree or not. There is a direction that the club is heading in, a plan for the now and the future and a level that the club aspires to become.

It has been better under Solskjaer that it was under Jose Mourinho, even though he won the FA Community Shield, the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League. If Solskjaer was the manager at the time, instead of Mourinho, United would be in a great place right now. Many supporters today do not have patience, which is worrying as having everything from the moment that you want it is not really worth it as you have not lied the journey. The journey is the majority of the experience. If you have everything from the start, what is the point of having it?

Despite Pogba being linked with an exit of the Old Trafford club this summer, Solskjaer recently confirmed to the media that he would still be a United player at the closure of the summer transfer window in a week’s time. The Mirror quoted the Norwegian manager as saying:

“Yes, I expect Paul to be here when the first of September comes.

“If you’ve got a five-year contract or a one-year contract, when you sign for Man United you have to rise to the challenge of performing on a consistent level.

“I’m not worried whatsoever that the length of any player’s contract is changing the level of their motivation and inspiration.

“You want to play well for your team, your team-mates, yourself, your family, every time you play. What I expect is that the attitude and the approach to every game is the right one.

“That we have the same focus, the right focus, the right professionalism and. With that, I have no worries about Paul whatsoever.”

When Pogba returned to United, which came four years after he walked away from United as a free agent in the summer of 2012, costing United £89 million in the summer of 2016, the player stated that he had unfinished business at the Old Trafford club. Obviously he wants to be playing for a club that will challenge for the Premier League title, push in both the Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup and challenge to win the clubs fourth UEFA Champions League trophy. Any player would want that. However, with the Glazers at the club, that was never on the cards as money tops success for that family and that needs to change.

The rules of business states that to accumulate you need to speculate and the Glazer’s just seem to be interested in accumulating and not really speculating. Yes, monty has been spent over the years but the plan of action in where that money was spent was not the best. It looked like someone who did not know about football was splurging money on players that he thought would fit the squad rather than players that would actually fit into the squad, I guess that is Ed Woodward for you.

You cannot blame Pogba for being unhappy that United were not challenging and were left well behind Manchester City, who will moan about other clubs spending large transfer fees on players and suggest that they cannot afford to do that, all of a sudden splurging £100 million on Jack Grealish and interested in Harry Kane, who will cost £150 million. All this from a club who has one of the best teams in the Premier League, despite the vast majority of players being bought to make the squad better, rather than being coached to make the squad better. If City spent more time on bringing through youth rather than opening the chequebook every transfer window, they might earn more respect in the game.

Pogba will want to challenge for all the best trophies in club football. He has already reached the pinnacle in international football, winning the FIFA World Cup with France in the summer of 2018, but falling short in Euro 2020 this summer. At Juventus, Pogba won the Series A title each season he was at the club, also winning two Coppa Italia’s and Supercoppa Italiana’s. Coming back to United, a club he had spent three seasons with, mostly playing academy football, he wanted to achieve success with the club, which came in his first season but soon faltered as the owners of the club did not really back Mourinho, which on hindsight may have been right as he was sacked during his third season managing the club.

Italian journalist, Fabrizio Romano has recently confirmed that United and Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola, who is a very vocal agent and does not care what he says and who to, have been in contact again regarding a new contract for Pogba. There is no agreement yet and nothing to suggest that there will be but with the arrival of Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, Pogba might see the chances of United working towards winning a Premier League title, amongst other things as more likely that it was without them at the club.

United need to secure the defence, fix a problem in the midfield and work out the attack to win things. As Sir Alex Ferguson once said; “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. This could be the season that something starts for United and with Pogba in the form he is in, looking happy on the pitch, he could be a player that could help United deliver what has been missing since the 2012/13 season – a Premier League title. The club has not lifted the Emirates FA Cup since Louis van Gaal’s last season at the club (2015/16) which saw his fate days later as he was himself sacked.

With five assists to his name, which has gone a long way to bettering his achievements last season which saw him score six goals and nine assists in 42 appearances. With five assists in two appearances this season so far, it is likely that he will beat the number of assists he obtained last season. If he can bring 10-15 goals this season, added to what Bruno Fernandes could achieve, putting the ball into the box for the likes of Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood and even Anthony Martial, who has been in dire form in the two matches he has been involved in, something could well be cooking at United. If Pogba ends up staying at United, long-term, it is likely that with the squad the club has, trophies are not far away as long as the work is done on the pitch with nobody hiding this time. Hopefully he can see this for himself but the 2021/22 season could be his best yet at the Old Trafford club.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United announce the signing of Raphael Varane – a determined and talented winner

Manchester United have confirmed the signing of Raphael Varane, who has arrived from Real Madrid for a reported fee of £42 million, signing a four-year contract with the option of a fifth. The Frenchman arrived at United’s training ground in Carrington on Tuesday to start his medical ahead of the move being completed and it has been suggested that he could feature in the squad to face Leeds United in the opening Premier League match of the season at Old Trafford on Saturday. It is an exciting time for United, who have already signed goalkeeper Tom Heaton and winger Jadon Sancho this summer in a bid to strengthen the squad ahead of a possible title charge during the 2021/22 season which will need to end positively for United and Solskjaer.

Varane, 28, started his football career as a youth in 2000 with Hellemmes, leaving the club in 2002 for Lens, making his first team debut in the 2010/11 season, playing a total of 24 times for the French club, scoring two goals. In the summer of 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson, the then United manager, was interested in signing Varane and ended up signing Phil Jones for £16.5 million from Blackburn Rovers instead and less than ten days later, Varane signed a six-year deal with Real Madrid, which on hindsight, was a better move for him considering Ferguson retired two-years later and United suffered massively under the management of David Moyes, then Louis van Gaal, then Jose Mourinho before Solskjaer arrived at the club.

Varane made 360 appearances for Real Madrid in his ten seasons at the club, scoring 17 goals and seven assists and during his period at the club he won all the major honours he could at the club, winning three La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey trophy, three Supercopa de España trophies, four UEFA Champions League trophies, three UEFA Super Cups and four FIFA Club World Cups – an 18-trophy haul at the Spanish club. Varane is also a regular in the France national team having been capped 79 times for his country, scoring a total of five goals. He also helped his country win the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018, which was a big feat for the country twenty years after winning the tournament for the first time – on home turf in 1998.

Varane is a winner and will want to continue to achieve such things in the challenge that he has accepted. Ten years ago, he would have been a good signing for United but in the same period of time, United have won one Premier League title, one Emirates FA Cup, one Football League Cup, one UEFA Europa League and three FA Community Shields – which is not comparable to what he achieved in Spain. It might have been different is Ferguson had not retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, but I doubt it would have been the same. The right decision was made by the player and he achieved everything he could with his teammates at Real Madrid and now the challenge will be to help get United back to the top, which is the major challenge.

Real Madrid would have preferred to re-sign Varane on a long-term contract but it was a new challenge that he craved. Along with United, there was interest from Premier League rivals Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, who had already signed former Real Madrid teammate Sergio Ramos, who was a free agent this summer. It did not look feasible for the French club to sign Varane based on the players that they had signed this summer, which seems to have ended with a big signing, getting Lionel Messi as a free agent, who left Barcelona at the weekend. But it was suggested that Varane only wanted to sign for United, which makes the so-called fans who continue to moan about the manager look silly as they reckon top players do not want to play for Solskjaer.

That is clearly not the case as both Jadon Sancho and Varane will have signed for the club this summer, both of them exciting talents who will help to improve United going forward. The defence will be much stronger with both Varane and Harry Maguire in the centre of defence and the strength in depth will continue with Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly – providing they all remain fit – giving some quality on the bench as well as on the pitch. With Sancho’s signing, United brought in an experienced winger to play on the right, which has been a problem position for many years at the club, despite the arrivals of both Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo, who arrived last summer and in January, respectively.

Varane will be looking ahead to the new challenge that lies in wait at United, playing in the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup. It may take in a while to settle into the team and he may not start immediately, which will depend on his fitness levels. He did upload content onto social media this weekend, an image of him watching the pre-season match against Everton, with United winning 4-0 and a video of his training in the garden in Manchester, after he arrived earlier in the week. There is a chance that his fitness level will be quite high and that he can get started as soon as possible. Speaking to the official Manchester United website about signing for the club, Varane said:

“Manchester United is one of the most iconic clubs in world football and the chance to come here and play in the Premier League is something I couldn’t turn down.

“There is a lot more that I want to achieve in my career and I know I’m joining a squad full of great players who will all have the same determination to win matches and trophies.

Having spoken to the manager I can see how much progress has been made over the last few seasons and I now join a group ready to play at the highest level.

“I want to make an impact here and I will give everything to become part of this club’s illustrious history.”

Solskjaer will be please with his business so far this summer; signing Heaton, Sancho and Varane so far, which could be better with a defensive minded midfielder arriving too, but that will result on getting fringe players out of the door too, whether on loan or on permanent deals. The challenge of the 2021/22 season will be tough for Solskjaer as he will be expected to win a trophy or the so-called fans who think he should be sacked will become prevalent in their own circles once again – thinking that can control what happens at the club. The squad has been turned around since Mourinho was sacked – perhaps these people cannot see this? Solskjaer, speaking to the official Manchester United website about his new signing, said:

“I’m absolutely delighted that we have managed to secure one of the best defenders in the world over the last 10 years.

“Raphaël [Varane] is a proven winner who we have tracked over a long period of time and we know just how much of a dedicated professional he is.

“We have great depth of international defenders and he will add his immense skill set and leadership to that group.

“He is a unique defender with a rare combination of top-level attributes that I know will rub off on our younger players.

“He has won everything there is to win but I know that he is still determined to succeed, I can’t wait to welcome him into the squad.”

Written by John Walker

The problems with Paul Pogba that need to be solved – a lack of consistency and a lack respect

Paul Pogba left Manchester United as a free agent in the summer of 2012, which at the time was considered a loss for United and then manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Pogba left for Juventus, signing as a free agent which meant that United would only receive compensation for the development of the player whilst he was part of the academy, which stood at £800,000, leaving the club at the age of 19. Pogba made his first team debut for United in the 2011/12 season, making a total of seven appearances, playing in the Premier League, the Carling Cup and the UEFA Europa League – playing a total of 195 minutes of football.

Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola seemed to open his mouth again, negatively (in relation to United) regarding Pogba’s future at the Old Trafford club. He gave the impression that the Frenchman wants to leave the club, which could well be the case. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano covered the quotes from Italian news source Tuttosport which talked about Erling Braut Haaland and Pogba even talking about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The comments came just over 24 hours before United’s UEFA Champions League clash with RB Leipzig in Germany which is a make or break match for United. Raiola was quoted as saying:

“[Erling Braut] Haaland is like [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic when he was 20. [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer is a good guy but he was wrong when he said that Erling is like [Romelu] Lukaku… it would be better if Solskjaer thought about finding a way to make [Paul] Pogba play like a champion, instead of talking about Haaland.

“Haaland is like a painting, he is like Munch’s Scream because he causes fear in the defenders. He called me after being substituted at 85: he had scored four goals, he wanted to score another. He was furious! He wants to be the best also if he’s playing checkers.

“I can’t talk about Haaland release clause. Rumors say Real Madrid want him? This is not new to me… but he is very happy with Borussia Dortmund. Erling wants to win the UEFA Champions League. When he’ll leave the club, it will be for his ambition and not for money.

“Maybe Juventus could be Pogba’s next club… why not? The relationship between Paul, Juventus and former teammates is excellent. But with the Covid impact, many clubs can’t sign him. For sure, it’s time to leave Manchester United.”

Raiola stated that Solskjaer should be finding a way for Pogba to play like a champion. Surely that would be down to Pogba to do that. Over the past few seasons, Pogba has been average for United which is a problem for both the player and the club. If Pogba was all that his agent thinks that he is, surely United would not have had to sign both Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek over the last two transfer windows (January 2020 and Summer 2020). Gary Neville tweeted on Monday evening, suggesting that Pogba will have know about Raiola’s comments and if not, he should be coming forward with a statement to distance himself.

A lot of United supporters have been less than impressed with Pogba’s performances for the club over the past few seasons. In the 2018/19 season, Pogba scored 16 goals and 11 assists in 47 appearances – which was the best season he has ever had for a club. At the time, it seemed like a defining moment for positivity but turned into what seems like the peak of his career. The following season saw him on the sidelines through injury for the majority of it and this season, he has been less than impressive when he has played. It seems that Pogba sees other people to blame for his demise, when he would be the first person to apportion blame to.

Before Fernandes signed for United, Pogba would most likely be the player that player in the number ten role at the club, which is a position he had played in for a lot of the time under Jose Mourinho. But with Fernandes’ start to life at United, Pogba would have to settle for a role out of that area either in a midfield diamond or a midfield two, playing in a pivot role. This is clearly not good enough for Pogba or his agent. Not that long ago, France manager Didier Deschamps criticised United for how they were treating Pogba only for the player to play in a similar position for France and perform poorly for his country.

Up until today, Tuesday 8 December 2020, Pogba has played 170 times since making his return to the club in the summer of 2016. He has scored 34 goals and 35 assists playing 13,482 minutes of football. Statistically, this means that the Frenchman has offered 0.2 goals per appearance and 0.41 goal contributions (goals and assists) per appearance. He has offered one goal every 397 minutes with a goal contribution every 195 minutes. Some may think there are great stats but for a player that only seems to want to be the main man in the team, the stats are quite poor.

Fernandes has been at United since the end of January, not even spending a full calendar year at the Old Trafford club yet and has better stats than Pogba. The Portuguese midfielder has made 38 appearances for the club, scoring 22 goals and 15 assists in 2,987 minutes of football. This means that Fernandes has scored 0.58 goals per match and 0.97 goal contributions (goals and assists) every appearance. He has scored a goal every 136 minutes, with a goal contribution every 81 minutes. This is why Fernandes is the player that will most often play in the number ten role at the club.

If Pogba wants to take this position, he will need to out perform Fernandes or at least show that he is capable of doing what the Portuguese midfielder does, which does not seem all that likely, in my opinion. It is a shame that this is happening. Pogba seemed excited to return to United four years ago but the summer before last showed that he wanted a change, which also suggests that everything he said in 2016 was just for the sake of saying something, not saying it with meaning. United need to deal with Pogba in the right way, ensuring that they are not lumbered with a player that does not want to be there.

The question would be who would want him and who could afford him? The footballing world is still aiming to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters are just starting to return to matches in small numbers and it will be a long time before clubs start to recover financially from this. Juventus are said to be interested in re-signing the Frenchman but at this moment in time, it seems unlikely that they could afford him without adding a player, or a number of players, in a possible deal. That could easily be scuppered as United will not necessarily want players in exchange for the Frenchman. A cash deal would be next to impossible.

There have been suggestions of Cristiano Ronaldo returning to the Old Trafford club, so if United were interested in making that happen, there could be some interest in the deal but it would not necessarily be a great deal for United, given the age of the Portuguese winger and the fact his resale value will greatly reduce over time so United would be wise to ask for the player plus cash for a deal to happen. Pogba has also been linked to Real Madrid and Barcelona over the past few summers and it would seem that both clubs would find a possible deal for the Frenchman hard to make possible – for the same reason as Juventus.

It is an unfortunate situation for Pogba and United to be in. Pogba’s contract would be set to expire in the summer of 2021 but when he signed his contract in the summer of 2016, there was a clause added for a further year, which has seemingly been activated, although there has been no confirmation from the Old Trafford club regarding this. Ideally, if Pogba wanted to stay at United and ‘finish what he started’, he should get rid of his agent and concentrate on his career not some pipe dream that Raiola has been telling him about – of course, that is just my opinion, not an actual fact. I don’t think Raiola is a positive role model.

Written by John Walker

Ones to Watch: Hannibal Mejbri – young, French and talented and seeking glory

Manchester United signed Hannibal Mejbri during the summer of 2019 from AS Monaco in a deal that is reported to be worth £9 million with the Old Trafford club paying £4.7 million, the rest in add-ons. The France U17 international made his debut for United’s U18 team against Derby County back in September, a 5-1 defeat for United. The delay in him signing and playing was down to international clearance. Before coronavirus pandemic stopped world football, Mejbri had played 13 times for the U18s, also playing five times for the U23s this season.

The 17-year-old has scored one goal for the U18s, the opening goal in a 2-1 victory over Manchester City, also assisting three more goals for the U18s, assisting another three at U23 level, not scoring there yet – although there is plenty of time for him to do so. Mejbri has been capped for France U16s 12 times, scoring one goal and has risen to the U17s, playing three times, scoring twice. He is yet to be picked for the U18s as he will clearly be seeking to rise up the ranks for both club and country during his career. He comes highly-rated and has been picked on by opposition supporters with Leeds United fans chanting a profane ‘Sideshow Bob’ chant in a recent FA Youth Cup clash, which United won.

Mejbri played for Paris FC, before playing for Monaco and his former coach from the French capital, Reda Bekhti has praised the player’s talent and skill and tipped him for a big career. It is clear as to why United made the move for the talented teenager with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looking to entrust youth and keep United’s club DNA similar to the periods under both Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s most successful managers. Speaking about Mejbri to Goal, Bekhti said:

“I believe he has what it takes to make it to the first team, I think he is on the right path. With humility, work, patience and the help of God, he will evolve in the first team. That’s something he greatly deserves.

“His football strengths are mainly based on his ability to see things before others. On a football field he has intelligence far above the average.

In addition to this, he has a lot of technical ability and is a modern midfielder who is capable of combining excellent recovery of the ball, fast transitioning and the ability to finish.

“From the earliest age he had the charisma and personality. He was already giving out instructions and he was often captain.”

Bekthi also drew comparison to Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, who is also French with the coach suggesting that Mejbri has a similar playing style, which is something that we might see in the Premier League in the years to come. Obviously, Mejbri has the belief that he can play for the first team and will be seeking to earn the chance to show just what he can do. Bekhti concluded by saying:

“Today when compared to a Premier League player, I see it as Matteo Guendouzi.

“Like Hannibal [Mejbri], he is French, from French training, and grew up in the Paris region.

“His playing style is similar to what Hannibal can do in the Premier League in the coming years.”

Mejbri has the ambition to play in the big leagues, and when he signed for United he suggested that he hoped to reach the first team in two years, which could see him playing alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes by the time he reaches the tender age of 18. This shows the confidence he has in himself, which some might mistake for arrogance but that is not a bad thing either. United U18 head coach, Neil Ryan, the son of former United forward Jimmy Ryan, has given some good advice to the young Frenchman, saying;

“He will get targeted by any opposition he plays and that is what he has to learn: how to channel and focus his energies and not to get caught up in that.”

He will need to learn to keep his football answering his critics, not letting that red mist come over him and see the reactions that are not needed in the game. United beat massive competition to sign Mejbri last summer with Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal all credit with interest in signing the then 16-year-old. I am sure Monaco will be regretting whatever happened, which effectively ended the players stay at the Principality club. Mejbri’s father did give a hint of something around the time United signed the player, saying:

“Something bad happened. For our family, it was very hard to live. It’s a real shock, a trauma. Mistakes were made.

“From there, I consider that the relationship of trust between the club and our family is destroyed. Something broke. It’s hard to keep working with people when there’s such a lack of trust.”

Class of 92 graduate and United legend, Nicky Butt, who was the head of the academy until the summer of 2019, seeing the backroom staff of the first team being restructured with Butt becoming the head of first-team development instead, reporting directly to Solskjaer, admitted that United had problems signing Mejbri. Specifically keeping the transfer under the radar because of the high-profile nature of the player. Butt said:

“It’s hard to get him under the radar when we’ve chased him for so long and he’s come from a big club for a big fee, so that’s impossible.

“But you want to get young people under the radar because, coming from a different country and getting the price tag on your head and coming to one of the biggest clubs in the world, there’s going to be so much pressure in the first place.

“I’ve got a 16-year-old kid who, I would hate that pressure on their shoulders, but they have that and it’d be foolish to put them out there too soon, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. They’re children.

“There is a long road to the first team and big bumps and some are going to do what Mason (Greenwood) or Marcus (Rashford) have done, some might go the Jesse (Lingard) way – going on loan five or six times and getting there.

“We’ve got some really good players that I believe will play for Man United. When, I don’t know. But they will play for Manchester United and, yeah, some of them have been brought through the ranks from seven, eight, nine or 10.”

Butt would have liked to get Mejbri signed without the attention they got in the summer as that puts a spotlight on the player, which might be too much for them at a young age. However, the 17-year-old is doing well at United right now and has done well at both U18 and U23 level. He has a long way to go, as confirmed by Butt although he is heading in the right direction. Solskjaer has given many youth players time in the first team this season with the likes of Axel Tuanzebe, Brandon Williams and Mason Greenwood playing more than any other academy graduate this season. Mejbri has the ingredients to make his career special and United will be doing the right thing by keeping him grounded and on the path to reaching the first team.

So far during the 2020/21 season, Mejbri has continued his form from last season showing that his development is coming on in leaps and bounds. During the 2019/20 season, which was curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, Mejbri made a total of 19 appearances for the club, playing at U18 and U23 level, scoring one goal and six assists, which was a good start for him at the club. However, so far this season, after a total of eight appearances, the 17-year-old has scored three goals and four assists for the club, predominantly playing in the Premier League 2, also playing in the EFL Trophy, also called the Papa John’s Trophy. Mejbri’s season started on the 9 September 202 in the Papa John’s Trophy against Salford City with United winning the match 6-0.

The Frenchman scored one goal and two assists in that match, which was a great start for him. His first league match was a 2-0 defeat to Leicester City, which was a bad start for United. Then followed a 5-3 defeat to Liverpool in the league with Mejbri scoring one goal and one assist, showing his ability for his club. United then beat Rochdale 5-4 on penalties in the Para John’s Trophy, continuing their fine form in the cup competition. In the league, draws against Blackburn Rovers (2-2) and Arsenal (3-3) followed. A 2-1 victory over Everton then a 5-2 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion got United back to winning ways with Mejbri scoring a goal and an assist in the latter. It is going to be a long, tough season but one that should show his abilities, talents and sheer determination to succeed for United.

Written by John Walker

Ousmane Dembele ‘very close’ to signing for Manchester United – reports

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele is reported ‘very close’ to signing for Manchester United this summer. Spanish news source AS has suggested that the French winger signing for United would unlock the funds required for Barcelona to sign Memphis Depay this summer with the player seeking to leave Lyon. Dembele was linked to United back in May and it was suggested at the time that the player could have been available for £37 million back then, which is not quite the case at this moment in time. The report from AS suggests the Old Trafford club would need to spend between €50-€60 million on the player, which is a lot more than £37 million.

If the player was to leave Barcelona, it would allow the club to drop their wage bill, which will already be high because the club have kept hold of Lionel Messi, who is the clubs highest earner on nearly £1 million per week. It is suggested in the report, which was translates by Sport Witness, that United would be happy to pay between €50-€60 million for the French winger this summer, despite his seemingly poor record at the club after signing from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2017. Since signing for the club, he has missed 80 matches in three seasons due to various injuries with hamstring injuries the most regular.

This could well be a concern for United, who have many players already at the club who seem to spend a lot of the time on the sidelines through injury, rather than being available to play regularly instead. Dembele, if he signed for United, would need to watch himself and ensure that he was available more often than not, if a certain injury is preventable. The report does not state that any deal has been done or that an offer has actually been made but for something like this to be generated, there must have been some initial talks which might have reached advanced stages or that this whole story has been made up by the media. It seems strange to be true right now.

Lyon are said to be keen to sell Depay this summer with the player wanted by Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman, so if this happens, it could see Barcelona raising the money to bring Depay to the Nou Camp this summer. Depay seems to have a €25 million selling price this summer and the French club could half that to €12.5 million in order to sell the player this summer. There must be something desperate going on in order to do something like that – probably financial problems that could have become escalated because of the coronavirus pandemic or something similar. It seems strange that United have all of a sudden been linked with Dembele once again.

Dembele has played a total of 75 times for Barcelona in three full seasons 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, including the one appearance he has made so far this season. In total, the French winger has scored 19 goals and 16 assists at the club, which is not something that will be seen as outstanding, in all honesty. Whilst at Borussia Dortmund, Dembele made a total of 50 appearances, scoring 10 goals and 22 assists, which for his age at the time, was good. The player is still only 23 so with injury avoided, he could find his feet at a new club, providing this is true and not just another rumour that goes nowhere, like we have seen all summer with Jadon Sancho.

At his first club, Stade Rennais, Dembele made a total of 29 appearances, scoring 12 goals and five assists. There seems to be few options for United this summer when seeking to sign a new winger with Sancho said to be the number one target all summer. If United do in fact make a move for Dembele, it would suggest that United will no longer pursue Sancho, which seems strange. There was a chance to sign the player this summer, but it passed by with nothing. Could this be a move to show Dortmund that United would be prepared to go elsewhere, seemingly alerting them that they will move for another player or it is just a rumour that has no legs?

Written by John Walker

Hannibal Mejbri ‘has a long way to go’ but his talent and quality is there for all to see

Hannibal Mejbri had a great match against Salford City in the first group stage match of the EFL Trophy which saw Manchester United U21s beat the club owned by Class of 1992 graduates Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Phil Neville – who between them own 60% of the club with Peter Lim owning the other 40%. It was a great start for United who scored six goals against the League Two side. United and Salford share the group with Rochdale and Morecambe.

Mejbri opened the scoring in the eighth minute of the match, assisted by James Garner. United’s lead was doubled in the 29th minute of the game through Arnau Puigmal, assisted by Anthony Elanga. In the 46th minute, Mark Helm scored the third goal, assisted by Mejbri. Then came three goals in four minutes from the 70th minute with Charlie McCann, assisted by Helm, then in the 73rd minute Helm was assisted by Garner followed by the sixth and final goal in the 74th minute scored by Elanga, assisted by Mejbri.

Mejbri, who joined United’s academy last summer (2019) in a transfer from principality club AS Monaco with United spending £9.3 million on the player, who came highly regarded. The French midfielder is considered as one of the top talents in United’s academy and his performance against Salford, along with what he achieved at United in his debut season, will leave supporters thirsty for more. It is suggested that the player wants to make the first team in a few years time.

United’s U23 coach, Neil Wood who saw fellow coach Quinton Fortune leave the club this week to take up a coaching role at Reading within their first team, joining former United defender John O’Shea who retired from the game at the Berkshire club and started coaching within the Reading first team last season. Many have speculated that Mejbri could find himself in the first team if he keeps developing in the way he has but Wood has poured cold water on that with The Mirror reporting him as saying:

“As much as he is a good player there’s still a long way to go with Hannibal, he’s still got a lot of learning to do, a lot of improving.

“You can see the good bits of his play, he’s got great feet, he’s got great vision, he’s tenacious, but there’s still work to be done with him.

“I wouldn’t get carried away and say he’s going to be in the first team, but he’s willing to work, he’s willing to improve.

“He’s got a very good understanding of the game and a very good understanding of what he needs to get better at as well.

“We’re going to keep working with him this season, he’s had a very good pre-season, we’re very pleased with his pre-season, and we’re hoping he can take that into the season ahead.”

Mejbri has a great future ahead of him and will continue to get chances to play at a higher level this season with Wood likely to select him in the upcoming EFL Trophy matches against Rochdale (6 October 2020) and Morecambe (10 November). That said, the player is likely to be considered at U18 level with United opening their season against Liverpool on Saturday but also at U23 level, when the season starts. United will be back in the top flight of the Premier League 2 this season after winning promotion last season, despite the coronavirus pandemic cancelling the season.

Written by John Walker

Manchester United and Arsenal to battle over Boubakary Soumare

Manchester United and Arsenal could go head to head once against for the signature of Boubakary Soumare this summer. The Lille defensive midfielder was linked to United during the January transfer window with the midfield being a problem area for United at the time but United added Bruno Fernandes to the squad during that window. There is no doubt that United will be seeking to sign a player that could allow Nemanja Matic to receive sufficient rest through the course of the full season.

It is suggested by The Sun that Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta will look to sign Soumare after completing the signing of Gabriel Magalhaes from the French club in a deal worth £27 million, seemingly beating United to the transfer of the Brazilian defender with United reportedly getting involved in the deal on the eleventh hour, which seems to be a typical thing for journalists to report, giving rumours longevity and allowing another article to talk about his Arsenal beat United to the signing of the player.

The Daily Mail has reported that the 21-year-old could be available for around £50 million this summer, which could be comparative with other midfielders available this summer – Donny van de Beek for instance. It is suggested that Arsenal will face serious interest from United and Liverpool for the Frenchman this summer, which might be a ruse by the media to make it look like Arsenal are a big club again, after finishing eighth in the Premier League last season, only earning UEFA Europa League football by winning the Emirates FA Cup.

Soumare is a player who has raised his game for his club, vastly becoming an integral figure since making his first team debut in 2017. The player was also linked to Newcastle United in January, rejecting that move and staying put in France, presumably knowing that bigger clubs would be in touch during the summer transfer window, even despite the coronavirus pandemic. Arsenal are said to be interested in signing two midfielders with Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar linked.

United have a better relationship with Lille after signing Nicolas Pepe last summer and not Magalhaes this summer, which could mean that United will be broadcast as the losers once again, even if they had not even made a move for the Frenchman. Personally, I would rather see United sign a player like Van de Beek this summer as he would help to add more creativity, meaning that either Paul Pogba or Bruno Fernandes could be rested safe in the knowledge that at attack minded player will still be on the pitch. Regarding Matic though, a replacement will need to be found.

That said, James Garner, after what could be a successful loan spell this season, should United find him a club where he will play a lot of first team football, could be a rotation option for Matic from next season, which could see him ready to mount a challenge in the United first team. I would rather see him play than sign a player for £50 million, which could hamper Garner’s first team chances for a number of years, seeing another talented player leave the club for pastures new.

Written by John Walker

Anthony Martial opens up on the change made which took his game to the next level

Manchester United forward Anthony Martial has revealed that his increased fitness levels have helped to take his game to the next level at the Old Trafford club. The Frenchman had his best season at the club, scoring 23 goals and 12 assists (35 goal involvements) in 48 appearances, beating his previous best of 17 goals and nine assists (26 goal involvements) in 49 appearances during his debut season (2015/16). In recent seasons, the Frenchman has been criticised for poor performances which saw the player sulk like Nicolas Anelka more often than not.

Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as the United manager, and after a series of chats with the Frenchman, Martial is not fitter, strong and in a position whereby he is the best central attacking player at the club. However, in the near future, the Frenchman could be challenged by Mason Greenwood, who according to Solskjaer is the best finisher at the club. He has seldom been chosen to play centrally and his 17 goals and five assists from 49 appearances this season have come from the wide positions. Martial, speaking about the changes, as reported by The Mirror, said:

“My job, or aim is to score goals. Then when I don’t have the ball it’s to be the first defender, meaning I have to press and close down.

“It’s something we work on in training and we’ve also worked hard on my fitness too, I’ve put in some great work with the coaching staff.

“Now I just want to make sure I continue in the same vein in order to be even better for next season.”

The 2019/20 season saw United forward line, Marcus Rashford, Martial and Greenwood score a total of 62 goals with a further 28 assists, meaning they have contributed a total of 90 goal contributions, which is a great achievement considering that United squad was struggling to score goals not all that long ago. When you add the contributions of Bruno Fernandes to this; 12 goals and eight assists – 20 goal contributions, with just four players, United will have seen 110 goal contributions during the season, which is a great achievement in itself.

Martial and Rashford have a healthy rivalry at the club in terms of scoring the goals. Whilst Rashford was in form late in 2019 and suffered his broken back at the start of 2020, if was left to Martial to carry the responsibility for United, despite the fact he had suffered an injury layoff too. Speaking with Inside United, the official Manchester United magazine, and reported by The Mirror, the Frenchman spoke about his rivalry with Rashford and the fact that it is healthy, Martial said:

“It doesn’t drive us on, not especially. Because we just try to help each other out. For example, there are some games where maybe a shot is on and then I decide to wait and see, and I give him the ball because I want him to score.

“And he does the same thing for me, so you see, we’re not just focussed on scoring all the time. We’re always going to do everything we can for the team to win.

“Which means that if he is better placed than me or I’m in a better position than him, we’ll always give each other the ball in order to score.

“I think it’s that which means… there is a healthy competition there, but the biggest thing is the positive rapport that we have with one another, which is like that.”

Martial, Rashford and Greenwood have former a deadly trio at the club this season. The Frenchman also spoke about Greenwood, after the 18-year-old had a breakthrough season at the Old Trafford club. Solskjaer confirmed that the player was the best finisher at the club and he proved it on the pitch, scoring some stunning goals for the club and showing his ability in the game, which has seen him likened to United legend Robin van Persie, which is great for the teenager and will inspire his to continue developing, which is something that he did physically during the lockdown. Martial said:

“The thing that strikes me about Mason is how effective and clinical he is. I get the feeling that whenever he shoots on goal, he scores! They are two really good players. It’s up to us to keep training hard and working to perfect how that trio works together.

“We mustn’t forget either that there are other players on the side lines who are pushing really hard to get a game. We need keep going and have to perform well in order to be able to play and win our games.”

Written by John Walker

Moussa Dembele open to Manchester United transfer this summer

Olympique Lyonnais striker Moussa Dembele is open to a move to Manchester United this summer according to the Manchester Evening News. United were last linked to the player last summer as they looked to replace Romelu Lukaku, who signed for Inter Milan last summer and most notably did not win the UEFA Europa League on Friday evening, although he scored the goal that won the match for Sevilla. The 24-year-old is considered to be a hot prospect this season.

In his second season at Lyon, Dembele made a total of 46 appearances, despite the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons being cancelled shortly after suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. The Frenchman has scored 24 goals and seven assists this season, playing in Ligue 1, the Coupe de France, the Coupe de la Ligue and the UEFA Champions League, reaching the semi-finals where Lyon were beaten 3-0 by finalists Bayern Munich.

Dembele could well be a player that fits into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad this summer with the club needing an out and out striker. However, in January, United signed Odion Ighalo from Shanghai Shenhua for the remainder of the season, which was extended due to the coronavirus pandemic with United keeping the player until the end of January 2021. Based on that, United’s need for a striker could see the club wait until January to secure a deal or even finalise a deal but signing one this summer would be a boost for the squad.

Dembele is a player that has a lot of respect from United supporters, especially after defied all odds with the French club beating Manchester City in the quarter-final of the Champions League this season with the Frenchman scoring a brace to win the match after replacing former United forward Memphis Depay in the 75th minute of the match, scoring his first in the 79th minute, restoring the French clubs lead then sealing the win with his second in the 87th minute of the match.

Next season though, Lyon will not be playing European football, not qualifying for either the Champions League or the Europa League after finishing in seventh place in Ligue 1 after the season was cancelled. Lyon club legend and sporting director Juninho feels that the clubs future is safe but that there will be departures this summer. Speaking to RMC Sport and reported by The Sun, Juninho said:

“The aim now is to continue working, immediately with Ligue 1. We will have to work. If we continue like this, we will be back in this competition.

“When you are well paid, you need motivation every day, we are going to concentrate on Ligue 1. There are the basics.

“There will be departures, but I am not worried. When you have players who play very well in a competition like this, like Moussa [Dembele] and Houssem [Aouar]…

“We will have to show the same spirit to be back in the Champions League next season.”

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW