Pogba in­jury hands United a derby scare

French mid­fielder a doubt to face City at the Eti­had Sta­dium to­mor­row

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Jamie Jack­son Re­ports

Manch­ester City v Manch­ester Utd Eti­had Sta­dium, to­mor­row, 4.30pm Live on Sky Sports Premier League Paul Pogba has handed Manch­ester United a ma­jor in­jury scare be­fore to­mor­row’s derby clash at the Eti­had Sta­dium.

The mid­fielder has im­pressed for José Mour­inho’s side in re­cent matches, the World Cup win­ner a key fac­tor in United’s up­lift in form.

United and Pogba have won their last three matches, in­clud­ing Wed­nes­day night’s im­pres­sive 2-1 vic­tory at Ju­ven­tus but the French­man was un­able to take part in full train­ing yes­ter­day. In­stead Pogba un­der­took an in­doors ses­sion at United’s train­ing com­plex due to what is un­der­stood to be a “small in­jury”.

Mour­inho’s squad have a fi­nal ses­sion to­day be­fore the trip to City so the man­ager will hope Pogba can take part be­fore any de­ci­sion about his avail­abil­ity for the match is taken.

The United man­ager, mean­while, wants his side to take the fight to the Premier League lead­ers in the derby.

United are nine points be­hind City af­ter 11 matches as they travel to the Eti­had but they are en­joy­ing a fine week, hav­ing won at Bournemouth and Ju­ven­tus, while last month they drew at Chelsea af­ter lead­ing un­til the clos­ing mo­ments.

Mour­inho, asked whether the wish was to go toe-to-toe with Pep Guardi­ola’s team, said: “We are go­ing to try. I can­not say we are go­ing to be suc­cess­ful in our mo­ti­va­tions, in our de­sire, but we played two dif­fer­ent matches away against two very good teams – Chelsea and Ju­ven­tus – and we man­aged to get good re­sults.

Per­for­mances

“And even if the good re­sults were not in our pock­ets the per­for­mances were there, the pos­i­tive at­ti­tude was there so we are go­ing to try but Manch­ester City are a very pow­er­ful team.”

Mour­inho re­fused to be drawn on the al­leged breaches of FFP rules by City but did praise their foot­ball oper­a­tion.

“It is dif­fi­cult for me to an­swer be­cause I fo­cus on my job, I fo­cus on the four lines [pitch], fo­cus on foot­ball. If you want to speak about their foot­ball po­ten­tial we can speak and foot­ball po­ten­tial starts with in­vest­ment, and af­ter that of course there is a qual­ity of the work, of the or­gan­i­sa­tion – I think that is un­touch­able.

“But what is be­hind I can­not say but in this mo­ment I have only to think about foot­ball, and to think about foot­ball is to think about Manch­ester City as a foot­ball team there.”

Romelu Lukaku could be avail­able again fol­low­ing a ham­string in­jury. Mour­inho said: “Lukaku is train­ing with the team this [Fri­day] morn­ing. If his response is pos­i­tive – and we have of course one more ses­sion to­mor­row – he is ready.”

Mean­while, Raheem Ster­ling has signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion at Manch­ester City and re­vealed how watch­ing videos of him­self has al­lowed him to be­come more ruth­less in front of goal.

The for­ward, whose fresh terms ties him to City un­til 2023, scored a ca­reer-high 23 goals last sea­son, in­clud­ing 18 in the Premier League. This sea­son Ster­ling has reg­is­tered seven in 14 ap­pear­ances in­clud­ing three in his last two.

Ti­tle chal­lenge

Guardi­ola be­lieves United could still mount a strong ti­tle chal­lenge even if they lose the derby.

“Win or lose they are not out. It’s not pos­si­ble in Novem­ber. They’ve al­ready shown they can re­cover. They are a big club, with big men­tal­ity,” said the City boss.

“United have the his­tory and al­ways they are there. Maybe in March, April [you could say that] but ev­ery­thing can change at this stage.”

Guardi­ola recog­nises the derby as a spe­cial oc­ca­sion for fans but does not want to over­play the sig­nif­i­cance of this par­tic­u­lar game at this stage of the sea­son.

He also points out that City lost the cor­re­spond­ing fix­ture last April but the big­ger, more im­por­tant, pic­ture was that they were crowned cham­pi­ons a week later.

“All der­bies are spe­cial. I think in Spain there is more noise than here but they are spe­cial, spe­cial for ev­ery­body. But we are in Novem­ber. Maybe the game at Old Traf­ford [in March] will be more im­por­tant.

“We’ve lost der­bies and we were not able to win here. I un­der­stand how im­por­tant it is but we played quite well and in the end we were cham­pi­ons. That is what counts the most and if we keep get­ting three points we’ll be cham­pi­ons again. It has never been easy for City to beat United.”

– Guardian

Paul Pogba: ‘small in­jury’

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