Saturday 20 January 2018

'Get Pogba to United or i'll break your legs'

Ibrahimovic's warning to agent who sealed £90m Old Trafford deal

Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrate a United goal
Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrate a United goal

Zlatan Ibrahimovic jokingly told his agent he would "break his legs" if he allowed fellow client Paul Pogba to move anywhere other than Manchester United.

Mino Raiola, who represents both players, as well as Henrikh Mkhitaryan, oversaw the deals which took all three to United this summer.

Pogba's protracted world record transfer took time to get over the line amid reported interest from Real Madrid but once he had completed his own move to Old Trafford, Ibrahimovic gave Raiola a nudge to ensure Pogba followed him.

"Zlatan told me, 'Do not transfer Pogba elsewhere or I will break your legs," Raiola told Volkskrant.nl.

Pogba has taken time to settle since returning to United but produced a much improved display against Leicester on Saturday, getting on the scoresheet in a 4-1 victory.

Prior to that game, Raiola made known his feelings that Jose Mourinho had not been playing Pogba in his favourite position - on the left-hand side of an attacking trio.

"Pogba still has to find his place in the team," said Raiola.

"My preferred position for him is left attacking midfielder. With his power, stamina and technique... Pogba would be unplayable in that role. But Mourinho takes the decisions."

The win against Leicester came on the back of an EFL Cup victory at Northampton, but before that United had suffered three successive defeats.

Juan Mata, also among the goalscorers against the Foxes, was pleased to see the team react and believes it sets United up nicely for this week's matches against Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League and Stoke in the Premier League heading into the international break.

"After a week that had been complicated, two wins - in the EFL Cup and against Leicester- are the best proof of the team's reaction. This game is exactly what we needed," wrote the Spaniard in his blog.

"We are looking forward to having two good games at home this week and making the fans enjoy as they did last Saturday. It would allow us to go to the international break with very good feelings."

Meanwhile, manager Jose Mourinho's pre-match message of embracing the occasion of playing in front of a packed Old Trafford crowd inspired Manchester United to a 4-1 rout of Premier League champions Leicester City, defender Chris Smalling has said.

After back-to-back Premier League defeats by Manchester City and Watford, United were under pressure from their fans and returned to winning ways with Smalling beginning the rout of the champions with a first half header.

"The boss really wanted to get the enjoyment factor across," Smalling told the club's website (www.manutd.com). "He stressed how there is 70-odd thousand people in the stands who want to be in our shoes and in his shoes.

"It's a case of realising how lucky we are and how we should go out there and enjoy it. You can see that everyone did enjoy it and the message clearly did get across."

The victory moved United to sixth on the table with 12 points from six games and released the pressure on the club and Mourinho, though his decision to relegate England captain Wayne Rooney to the bench created more speculation.

Smalling, however, said the 30-year-old is still the "main man" under Mourinho.

"He was the same, as in before the game when we're all getting ready. He is often one of the most vocal and he was the same on Saturday," Smalling added.

"Regardless of whatever the situation is, whatever game, whether he is on the bench or playing or whatever, he is always that same type of character and that's why he is England's main man and our main man."

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