Paul Pogba ego takes a hit with Alexis Sanchez arrival at Manchester United
Paul Pogba ego takes a hit with Alexis Sanchez arrival at Manchester United
When Alexis Sanchez was spirited out of Manchester City’s grasp with the offer of financial terms on par with Pogba’s three weeks ago, the Old Trafford marketing machine powered through the gears again. “The announcement posts generated 75 percent more interactions than the announcement of the sale of the world’s most expensive player last summer,” executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward proudly informed shareholders.
Manchester United plc booked £581.2 million ($808.6 million) of revenue in the 2016-17 financial year. Some £275.5m of that derived from commercial income, the highest return of any Premier League club. In contrast to certain domestic and European rivals, all of that commercial revenue was self-generated; none of it dependent on cosy sponsorship arrangements with companies held by United’s owners.
Woodward’s marketing department is extremely good at what it does. There can, however, be unexpected repercussions to selling shirts, merchandise and assorted “global”, “regional”, “media & telecommunications” and “financial” partnerships by hyping and trading on the images of star acquisitions.
Back on the football pitch a partnership that should be generating goals for United has so far engendered strife. Of the four matches in which the earlier superstar signing has appeared, United have delivered two expected victories and suffered two worrying defeats. Critically, Pogba has spent a significant period of each game watching Sanchez from the bench.
The France international was rested for the FA Cup win at Yeovil, then substituted after 63 minutes in the defeat at Tottenham. Dropped from the starting line-up versus Huddersfield, Pogba played only the last 25 minutes. Reinstated for Sunday’s visit to Newcastle, he lasted 66 minutes before being removed from an underperforming team trying to recover a goal deficit.
A media debate has rumbled around him over tactics and the player’s capabilities. Prominent commentators like Graeme Souness argue that Pogba is unable to understand “the responsibility that comes with being a central midfielder.” “He plays like a schoolboy running after the ball in the playground,” was Souness’ most damning comment, in The Sunday Times.
When Wayne Rooney took the unusual step of advising an opposition manager on how best to use a key player, an amused Jose Mourinho responded to his former captain’s assessment that “Paul Pogba is a classic box-to-box player” who should be liberated of some defensive responsibility.
“This week I got a bit confused when some people say a box-to-box has to play free of defensive duties,” said Mourinho. “That is not box-to-box: That is a box in the box, and stay in that box, and doesn't move from that box. I think this country produced a lot of amazing box-to-box players — I had the pleasure to coach some of them - but I think nowadays with some pundits, some agents, some family members, I think the concept of the box-to-box is changing a little bit.
“When people ask what is the best position for Paul to play? Paul is a midfield player. Depends on the tactical system the team plays - he can play with two, he can play with one, he can play with three, but he will be always a midfield player. And it is difficult to find a midfield player with more potential than Paul has. Because Paul has everything."
Team Pogba agrees with Rooney. According to individuals familiar with the situation, the Frenchman wants to be played on the left-hand side of a midfield three with a third man charged with helping Nemanja Matic shield United's defence. The idea is to emulate the Juventus system in which Pogba's established himself as one of the game's most valuable players.
Ego lies at the core of the complaint. The perception is that Pogba's importance to United is such the team should be set up to allow him to be its key protagonist. Sanchez's signing is said to have piqued that ego, Pogba's representative initially making noises over reports that the new arrival was to be paid more than his client; the player himself discontent he's had to take on defensive duties to accommodate the new forward in the starting line-up.
Conscious of the need to protect a fragile back four, Mourinho emphasises the importance of positional diligence. He sees a footballer with the physical and technical potential to dominate a midfield and will continue to encourage Pogba to express that potential for the benefit of his team.
At this level of football, playing for yourself is a self-defeating exercise. No matter how your club markets you.
Celtics beat Cavs in Game 5, lead NBA Eastern Conference finals 3-2
- Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points — his ninth 20-point game of the postseason — and the Celtics held LeBron James to two fourth-quarter points.
- Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary.
BOSTON: LeBron James is tired. The young Boston Celtics seem to be getting stronger.
Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points — his ninth 20-point game of the postseason — and Boston beat Cleveland 96-83 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics held James to two fourth-quarter points, earning their 10th straight victory in Boston to remain perfect at home this postseason and move within one win of their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010.
“I just enjoy playing in the big moments, in the big games. That’s when I have the most fun,” said Tatum, who needs one more 20-point game to tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s rookie record of 10 in a postseason.
“I can’t say it enough: We’re one win away from being in the finals,” Tatum said. “The playoffs bring the best out of people.”
Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary. The home team has won every game so far in the series, and none has been closer than nine points.
“We’re looking forward to having an opportunity to force a Game 7,” said James, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds but also had six turnovers. “It’s up to us to see if we can come back here for one more.”
Al Horford had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown had 17 points for Boston. Tatum added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals one day after finishing a single vote shy of a unanimous selection to the NBA’s All-Rookie team.
“The sky’s the limit” for Tatum , Brown said. “He’s going to continue to get better. He’s my workout partner. I expect it in myself and I expect it in him.”
Kevin Love scored 14 points for the Cavaliers, who are trying to reach the finals for the fourth consecutive season. James has played to the end in seven straight seasons.
To extend that streak, he’ll need to win two in a row.
One of them will be in Boston.
“Our focus — LeBron’s focus — is to win,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “That’s the only thing that matters.”
The Celtics opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter and nursed it the rest of the way, holding on through a four-minute scoring drought that saw Cleveland score nine straight points to cut the deficit to 83-71. But Terry Rozier hit Horford with an alley-oop to snap the skid, and that was as close as the Cavs would get.
Reserves Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart each scored 13.
James had one basket on four shots in the fourth quarter, and afterward conceded that he was worn down. He finished 1 for 6 from 3-point range in the game; the Cavaliers made just 9 of 34 attempts from beyond the arc and shot just 42 percent overall.
“I had my moments, but I think everybody at this point is tired, worn down whatever the case may be,” he said. “I was still trying to make plays, put our team in position to win.”
GOONING IT UP
Boston went on a 15-3 run in the first quarter to turn a three-point deficit into a nine-point lead. The Celtics scored nine in a row at the end of the first quarter and into the second to take a 36-19 lead, their biggest of the game.
That’s when the Cavaliers fought back .
After a hard defensive play by Morris sent Larry Nance Jr. into the first row of seats, Morris appeared to wander over and say something. Nance to jump up and body checked him; Morris responded with a one-handed shove to the face.
Aron Baynes and Brown came in to break it up, and Terry Rozier put a body on Nance. After a review, the referees called technicals on Rozier, Nance and Morris. Kyle Korver made the foul shot to make it 36-20 and Cleveland went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to eight points, 36-28.
But Morris made a long 3-pointer to stop the scoring drought, and soon hit another to cap an 8-2 run that made it a double-digit lead.
Smart said the Celtics wanted to more aggressive at home.
“At their place, they were the aggressor,” he said. “That showed and they came up with the victory. We just wanted to be that team tonight.”
Teams that win Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series win 83 percent of the time. ... James had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists at the half. Tatum had 13 points, and Horford had 10 points and seven boards at the break. ... Baynes made his first start of the series, subbing for Morris. ... It took until midway through the third quarter for a Cavs starter other than James or Love to make a basket. J.R. Smith sank a floater to make it 63-50, and George Hill followed with a jumper of his own. ... The Celtics were 10-0 in the playoffs at home in 1986. ... Horford had his 7th double-double of the postseason, matching a career high he set in 2015.