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Antonio Conte’s comments on Man United star pile more pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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It is easy to forget that Antonio Conte was the one who first unlocked the potential of Paul Pogba at Juventus.

The Frenchman moved to Italy on a free in 2012 and became a leading light in Turin, eventually returning to Manchester United for a club record £89m in 2016.

Pogba was integral for a Juventus side that won four successive Serie A titles and reached the Champions League final in 2015.

At United though the midfielder has failed to regularly produce the type of form he showed so often in Italy.

First Jose Mourinho and now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have found it difficult to fit Pogba into a system that best compliments his obvious quality, but also covers up for his flaws.

Many of those flaws lie in the defensive side of his game. Solskjaer has eventually opted to play Pogba on the left of the attack, rather than in midfield.

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On occasions where the Frenchman has been deployed centrally United have often been exposed – this dates back to the first few games of his second coming at Old Trafford.

Conte’s genius

At Juventus, in a team full of veteran quality, Pogba grew steadily. Alongside the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, the young Frenchman blossomed.

The now 28-year-old’s apparent lack of defensive understanding was rarely – if ever – apparent during his time in Italy.

Conte, whether through a well organised system or impressive individual coaching, was able to mentor Pogba in a way that made him an asset defensively.

He even highlighted those qualities after Juventus beat Torino back in 2014.

“Pogba was definitely more solid in midfield, he fought for every inch defensively and I think this was a very important game for him tonight,” Conte said.

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“He’s got great potential and could be a great player both offensively and defensively for Juventus. That is me saying this, remember I used to be up and down the field myself in my playing days.

“Paul can fulfil his potential and become a great champion. It’s our duty to make him grow in the right way in order to understand the game and adapt to different situations.”

Such defensive compliments are yet to be bestowed on Pogba in England.

Solskjaer’s predicament

Pressure is mounting on Solskjaer, first and foremost, following another defeat at the weekend. To make things worse Conte, winner of league titles at three different teams, is a man out of a job.

The Italian has succeeded in England with Chelsea back in 2017.

So not only is Conte a credible candidate for United’s board, but he has a proven track record of getting the best from the biggest investment in the club’s history.

See also  Man United board decide January transfer budget for 'No.1 candidate' to replace Ole Gunnar Solksjaer as he begins house hunt

A Pogba in full flight would certainly take the Red Devils up a gear, with his talent undeniable.

If the Frenchman can play in central midfield then it also fixes another, rather expensive, potential problem.

Solskjaer had several areas he want to address in the summer – he got his defender and a winger but missed out on a man in the middle of the park.

Already that is haunting them, with teams playing through United, just as Leicester did in their 4-2 win.

Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips have both been touted as men who could solve the team’s problems.

Hiring Conte however could do all that for a fraction of the price, with the aforementioned duo likely to cost north of £60m.

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Barcelona youngster in line to bench Jordi Alba for Real Sociedad clash – report

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As Barcelona drew 0-0 against Rayo Vallecano for the season opener, Jordi Alba was among the five to be substituted off to make way for offensive depth. The Spaniard is usually among the brightest offensive outlets in the team, but failed to make an impact last week.

Alba also looked out of his depth during pre-season, and it was reported that people within Barcelona were surprised that he started over Alejandro Balde.

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The 18-year-old was impressive during the run-up to the league opener, and was expected to take Alba’s place in the lineup.

While that did not happen vs Rayo, Javi Miguel reports that he is in line to start against Real Sociedad as the left-back. Xavi has informed Balde about his decision, and has told him to train with high intensity leading up to the game.

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Balde has been linked with an exit from Barcelona, especially given Marcos Alonso’s imminent arrival. However, an impressive performance at Anoeta could open the doors for his continuity.

The Chelsea defender has reportedly completed his move to Barcelona, subject to registrations and signatures. The club plan to announce it in the coming days if they are able to register Jules Kounde in time for the game.

Balde played in every single one of Barça’s pre-season fixtures, even registering an assist — to Raphinha —, against Inter Miami.

See also  Man United board decide January transfer budget for 'No.1 candidate' to replace Ole Gunnar Solksjaer as he begins house hunt

Barcelona fans will hope the gamble pays dues, especially because it will likely not go down well with Alba, who is one of the team captains

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Barcelona yet to receive any offers for exit-bound right back, price tag sits at €20m

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Barcelona are said to be pushing Sergino Dest towards an exit, but a recent report from journalist Adria Albets has confirmed that the player does not have any offer at the moment.

Regardless of what has been said in the past, neither have Manchester United tabled any formal offer for the right-back, nor have they made contacts with the 21-year-old’s representative.

For the moment, Barcelona are clear pretty clear about offloading Dest but in order to fulfil the operation, they are demanding in excess of €20 million.

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For that particular reason, his agents are finding it hard to find a suitor as no club is willing to match the valuation for a player who is already fallen down the pecking order.

Xavi has so far preferred to use make-shift centre-back, Ronald Araujo, as a full-back. And while the Uruguayan has done well at times, it’s pretty clear that the team is looking to bring in a full-time right-back this summer.

For that, several players such as Hector Bellerin, Juan Foyth, Diogo Dalot, Thomas Meunier and Jeremie Frimpong have been considered, but there remain several complications in carrying out the operation

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To begin with, Villarreal’s valuation of €42 million for Juan Foyth is proving to be a hindrance.

Barcelona are finding themselves in this situation mostly because their attempt to sign a certain Cesar Azpilicueta failed.

Meanwhile, as far as Dest is concerned, he knows in order to get regular minutes, he needs to move away from Camp Nou, but Barcelona’s asking price of €20 million is putting a stop to his desire.

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Manchester United were thought to be weighing up a fresh move worth €20 million for the defender, but the Premier League side is yet to make any formal move. Hence, the Dutch-born American defender continues to train within the Barcelona ranks for the time being.

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Report: Chelsea prepared to listen to offers for their ‘huge talent’, will demand nearly £60m

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Report: Chelsea prepared to listen to offers for their ‘huge talent’, will demand nearly £60m

Chelsea would reportedly prefer to sell Christian Pulisic rather than loan him out this summer.

According to The Sun, Manchester United are interested in signing the 23-year-old Blues attacker on loan

is understood that Chelsea would rather offload the American on a permanent basis, though.

The report says they’ll listen to offers for Pulisic during the next couple of weeks, but want to recuperate the full £58million they paid for him a few years ago.

See also  Man United make offer to sign top player – Scott McTominay could be part of shock deal

With Chelsea demanding nearly £60million for the forward, will any club step forward with a bid?

Chelsea prefer to sell Pulisic

It makes little sense doing Man United a favour by sending them Pulisic on loan, so you can fully understand why a permanent transfer would make much more sense.

Described as a “huge talent” earlier this year by Gary Neville, Pulisic is a player that frustrates supporters at Stamford Bridge.

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The winger can produce moments of brilliance in the final third, but there’s no major consistency in his game.

He finished last season with eight goals and five assists in 38 matches across all competitions, which wasn’t a bad return considering he missed a couple of months with an ankle problem

However, the United States international can’t seem to become a real favourite under Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel.

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His 2019/20 campaign is proof of what a talented player he can be.

The forward had 21 direct goal contributions in 34 Blues appearances, but it was a familiar case of injuries interrupting him whenever he builds up some momentum.

It would be quite a surprise if a clubs willing to fork out a near-£60million sum for him.

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