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Friday 17 November 2017

Martial backs Pogba to win Ballon D'or

United striker insists his fellow countryman only getting better

(l-r) Martial and Pogba. Photo: PA
(l-r) Martial and Pogba. Photo: PA

Anthony Martial is convinced that his Manchester United team-mate Paul Pogba is a future Ballon d'Or winner.

Pogba was the world's most expensive player until Neymar joined Paris St Germain from Barcelona in a world record £200.6million transfer earlier this month.

The 24-year-old France midfielder had a mixed first season after returning to United from Juventus in a then-world record £89m deal in August 2016.

But Pogba has impressed at the start of the new campaign as United have set the early Premier League pace.

Pogba scored in the 4-0 wins against West Ham and Swansea after being given added freedom following the summer acquisition of Nemanja Matic.

"I would say he is probably the best midfield player in the world," United winger Martial says in an upcoming MUTV documentary about Pogba.

"Paul is very mentally strong and he is very sure of himself.

"He is a big guy, he is very technical on the ball and he has lots of endurance.

"He is still young, too, so he has a lot to work on and he can get even better.

"If he continues to play and improve like he is doing then I think he is also going to win the Ballon d'Or award in the next five years."

Convincing

Meanwhile, Nemanja Matic says United are ready to handle pressure situations after a convincing start to their Premier League campaign.

Manager Jose Mourinho admitted after Swansea were swept aside at the Liberty Stadium that the challenge will come when United fall behind and "try to change the result".

But Matic is in no doubt that United will pass that test, saying: "In football there is always pressure.

"You can ask the players from Swansea and they will also feel the pressure because they have a lot of supporters who come to see them in every match.

"At Manchester United it's always special when you play for this club.

"There is always pressure, but we are ready to cope with that."

Matic was an influential figure again as United crowned a commanding display with three goals in the final 10 minutes.

Swansea barely mustered a shot in anger as Matic protected the back four and put United on the front foot.

Such was Matic's authority in the midfield area that it again appeared illogical why Chelsea sanctioned his £40million move to Old Trafford last month.

Matic declined to comment when asked if he was surprised Chelsea let him leave Stamford Bridge, but the Serbia international expressed his delight at being at United.

"I'm happy to be here, I really enjoy it. We are all friends in the changing room and that's very important," Matic said.

"The season is long, we have a great squad and good communication.

"I'm happy to be part of this. This is just the beginning but I am confident.

"It was important for our confidence not to concede a goal. When you do that it means you're concentrated and that you fight for every ball.

Opportunities

"If you defend well in attack you will always have some opportunities during the 90 minutes. I'm happy we used four of them."

United, meanwhile, are getting closer to re-signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Mourinho has told executive vice chairman Ed Woodward that he wants the 35-year-old Swede back on the Old Trafford books.

It is understood United have stepped up their work on the deal but the timing of the completion is still uncertain.

The club and Ibrahimovic were set to activate his one-year option clause to stay at the end of his 12-month deal but the plans were wrecked when the striker tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament in the Europa League quarter final tie at Old Trafford in April.

Ibrahimovic vowed to return "even stronger" after the injury and he's been posting encouraging videos on Instagram of his comeback trail.

Mourinho has to submit his Champions League squad to UEFA at the end of the month but, despite Ibrahimovic's incredible progress, it is doubtful he would be ready for match action before the group stages end in the first week of December.

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