Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Pogba relishing ´beautiful´ Man Utd 200th game, back where it all started at Elland Road

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 24 Apr 2021

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Alex Ferguson was manager and Michael Owen scored twice when Paul Pogba was handed his Manchester United debut at Leeds United, where on Sunday he could make a 200th appearance for the club.

It was September 20 2011 when Pogba made that first Red Devils senior outing. It came in an EFL Cup tie at Elland Road, Pogba coming off the bench to replace Ryan Giggs as the visitors scorched to a 3-0 victory.

United are back at Elland Road on Sunday for their first Premier League clash at Leeds since October 2003, and Pogba will complete a double century of matches for the club should he be selected by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Pogba said: “Obviously, it’s a great achievement for me, playing against Leeds, I know the history with Leeds and I know it’s going to be a good game. And, for me, 200 you say? I’m surprised. I didn’t know.”

In a question-and-answer session with fans for the United website, Pogba added: “I remember I started, playing my first game was against Leeds, and now it’s 200 so it’s kind of beautiful for an achievement. And the most important thing, I hope, I really hope that we win my 200th game.”

Pogba’s first-team career with United at one stage looked to be over almost as soon as it started, as he left at the end of that 2011-12 season to join Juventus, with Ferguson accusing the then youngster of showing a lack of respect.

Four years later, Pogba returned to Old Trafford, and there have been ups and downs since. His relationship with Jose Mourinho appeared to badly deteriorate before the manager was sacked in December 2018, and Pogba last week reflected on how he got on much better with Solskjaer than with the Portuguese.

Pogba has scored five goals and had six assists this season from 35 games, well down on his career best of 16 goals and 11 assists in 47 games in the 2018-19 season.

However, last season he contributed only one goal and three assists in 22 matches, so the World Cup winner at least seems to have turned a corner.

Across his 199 games to date for the club, Pogba has scored 37 goals and had 39 assists.

Pogba is a Muslim and is following the customs of Ramadan, the month of prayer and reflection which runs until mid-May.

Muslims who are able to are encouraged to fast during daylight hours, and Pogba says he can remain physically strong enough to keep playing at his best during the period.

“I would say now I’m just getting used to it,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for years. I have a professional nutritionist as well here, who helps me with what I have to eat and also when I train, he gives me some stuff, some protein, so I don’t lose too much muscle and it’s okay.

“I’m lucky. It’s not that hot, you know, so I can deal with it. It’s not that hard, you know. It’s okay and it’s for a good cause so it’s good.”

As they prepare to head to West Yorkshire, United have good recent memories of facing Leeds, having won the reverse fixture 6-2 at Old Trafford in December. Only twice in the Premier League have they done the double over Leeds (1996-97 and 1999-00).

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