Paul Pogba relishing big games as Manchester United march on at Fulham

Manchester United’s in-form striker Paul Pogba said greater challenges lie ahead for the club after scoring twice in a 3-0 win away to Premier League strugglers Fulham on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2019
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Paul Pogba relishing big games as Manchester United march on at Fulham

LONDON: Manchester United’s in-form striker Paul Pogba said greater challenges lie ahead for the club after scoring twice in a 3-0 win away to Premier League strugglers Fulham on Saturday.
The French midfielder fired United into an early lead and, after Anthony Martial made it 2-0, wrapped up the win with a second-half penalty at Craven Cottage.
Victory continued United’s meteoric revival under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as they climbed into fourth in the Premier League, one point above Chelsea, who face Manchester City today.
By contrast, United were 11 points adrift of the top four when Jose Mourinho was sacked as their manager in December.
“It feels great, that’s what we wanted since Ole came,” Pogba, who had a strained relationship with Mourinho, said.
“We talked about this there’s still a long way to go but we want to stay there.”
United have won 10 of their 11 matches since former Red Devils striker Solskjaer returned to Old Trafford.
“We were very far behind and now we get back to the top four but there’s still a long way to go with big games coming up so it won’t be easy,” Pogba said ahead of a Champions League last 16 first leg against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
“It will be the big games coming up now that decide where we end the season.”
As for his goal double against Fulham, Pogba said: “It’s always great to score goals, most important is to win games. When you score but don’t win it’s not the same feeling.
“I just focus on trying to put the ball inside the goal. This game was very important, like you can see we are fourth, even though Chelsea haven’t played. It’s a good sign, even though we have to carry on to stay there.
“We’ve played better but getting two quick goals in the first half changed the game. Ole helps every player play at their best, Ole is himself. He’s not acting and he’s given joy and confidence to everyone.
“The team has a really good atmosphere. You can see on the pitch the effect (of him).
“There is a long way to go with big games coming up. We’ve got to focus on PSG and try and get points from the big teams,” he said.
Solksjaer, the man of the moment at United, said he was pleased his side managed to recover from a shaky start in which Fulham created two very clear-cut chances.
“The first 10 minutes we made it hard for ourselves but the last 80 minutes pleased me. We managed the game well which you have to do away from home and we played some fantastic football.
“The players have some fantastic qualities. I’ve supported United for many years and as a United fan you go into every game thinking you’re going to win it. We’re on a great run but I think the players are feeling the same.
“We know how good Paul Pogba is and he scored a great goal,” the Norwegian said.
“We want to keep moving forward and hang onto this fourth place. When you win games, you’re always happy and I think the crowd will enjoy the trip home,” he added.
For Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri, it was yet another frustrating day at the office.
“We created two great chances in the first 10 minutes but after we conceded we gave it to them and lost our composure. When you play against big champions you can make mistakes,” he said.
“I tried to give my players more opportunities by playing with two strikers and Ryan Babel in behind. We didn’t create anything very dangerous and the penalty finished the match.”
On Andre Schurrle’s substitution, Ranieri explained himself by saying: “I know the fans were not happy but I had two players with flu in the week, including Andre Schurrle. I can understand the fans always want their players to play but it’s not always possible.
“We will work to try and win our next two games. We’re always positive.”


Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

Updated 15 February 2019
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Blue Point focused on Al-Quoz glory after magical run at Meydan

  • Star sprinter proves class with easy G2 win in Dubai.
  • Charlie Appleby hopeful over Al-Quoz Sprint chances.

LONDON: Star sprinter Blue Point is on course for glory in the much-anticipated Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. That is the message from Godolphin after a brilliant victory in the G2 Meydan Sprint on Thursday.
The Dubai-based stable have long held high hopes for the Shamardal horse and the five-year-old’s win confirmed that they have something special on their hands.
Blue Point took up the running from Faatinah with more than two furlongs to race and readily opened up daylight over his rivals approaching the final furlong, quickly going clear.
For Charlie Appleby the performance only went to prove that Blue Point has it in him to steal the show on Dubai World Cup night in March.
“If he brought his class, he was going to be good enough to win, but we had left a bit on him because the G1 Al-Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night is our target,” the Godolphin trainer said.
“No disrespect to this race, and we were pleased to win it, but it was the right stepping stone onto the Al-Quoz.
“I was pleased to see him in the paddock, more so than a couple of days ago when it looked like he had a couple of pounds left on him. He had tightened up a bit.
“We were always confident that he was going to come forward for whatever he did. He is a five-year-old now and a professional — getting better with racing. He came alive two furlongs down and it was only a matter of William asking him to pick up and do a bit of work.”
The “Boys in Blue” always place a lot of focus on the World Cup night and a second win in the Al-Quoz sprint — Appleby saddled Jungle Cat to victory last year — is one of the aims for the famous race meeting in March.
“I am very pleased and, all being well, he should step forward for it and all roads will now lead to the Al-Quoz Sprint,” Appleby said.
“I feel that he is not overly exposed as a sprinter — we looked after him as a two-year-old and a three-year-old, while he wasn’t over-raced last year so he is entitled still to be learning.”
Added to the optimism surrounding Blue Point is the fact that William Buick feels he is coming to form at just the right time.
“It was a nice comeback opportunity for Blue Point and he did it very comfortably, doing everything right. It was lovely to see him come back like that,” the jockey said. “He has probably matured a little bit compared to 12 months ago and the biggest difference this year is that he is a G1 winner this time. He had proved himself and feels like a very confident horse — there is no question that he is a top sprinter.”
Meanwhile, Godolphin’s star G1 performers Hartnell, Best Of Days and Alizee have been entered for the world’s richest mile race, the $5 million All-Star Mile to be run at Flemington on March 16.
Head trainer James Cummings confirmed that all three horses will seek a place in the famous race.
“We think it’s great the way in which it really engages with not only the racing audience, but potentially reaching out beyond just that and bringing in a wider audience from not only Australia, but from around the world,” Cummings said. “We’re really excited to be a part of the richest mile race anywhere in the world.”