Premier League, Old Trafford – Manchester United 3 (Valencia 9, Martial 38, Lukaku 72) Stoke City 0
Manchester United eased clear of Liverpool and Chelsea to slot in just the 12 points behind Manchester City, while Stoke showed Paul Lambert that he has plenty to work with.
Stoke did very well in the first half, restricting United’s space and creating a couple of decent chances for Stephen Ireland. But then on nine minutes, the brilliant Paul Pogba opened up the pitch with a pass for Antonio Valencia who, mystifyingly, came inside Josh Tymon and absolutely pasted a left-footed curler into the far top corner.
And Pogba was instrumental in United’s second goal too. Valencia dispossessed Tymon and found Lukaku, who found Pogba; and his square pass for Anthony Martial was at the perfect pace for him to curl in a trademark and fantastic finish from outside the box.
Stoke struggled to replicate the same goal threat in the second half, and United’s goal was coming for sometime before it arrived. And that was in the 72nd minute, a break started by Pogba seeing the ball move through Jesse Lingard and Martial before Romelu Lukaku, who had a good game, used skill then power to control a cross, hold off two men, and punish home a finish.
United might have scored more, but Mame Biram Diouf, on as sub for Stoke, missed a sitter in the closing stages; it didn’t matter. United have now won three in a row after a dodgy period, while Stoke have more than enough to stay up; the question is whether Paul Lambert is the man to extract it from them.
Have United found some attacking cohesion? United's front players interchanged more than usual tonight, with Romelu Lukaku spending plenty of time on the right wing. This made them much harder to defend against, especially with Paul Pogba breaking from midfield; if they can add Alexis Sanchez to the mix they will be a hard night for anyone.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Paul Pogba (Manchester United) Allowed to roam, he was unplayable, spraying long passes off either foot, prompting with short passes, and using his amazing touch, vision and power to generally bully Stoke.
Romelu Lukaku has contributed directly to 13 goals this season, scoring 10 and assisting three.
Paul Pogba has contributed directly to 14 goals in his last 14 league games, making 10 and scoring four.
Manchester United: De Gea 7, Valencia 7, Jones 7, Smalling 6, Shaw 6, Matic 6, Pogba 8, Lingard 6, Mata 6, Lukaku 8, Martial 7. Subs: Fellaini 6, Rashford 6, McTominay 6.
Stoke City: Butland 7, Bauer 7, Zouma 5, Martins Indi 6, Tymon 5, Allen 5, Fletcher 5, Shaqiri 7, Ireland 5, Choupo-Moting 5, Crouch 5. Subs: Wimmer 5, Sobhi 6, Diouf 5.
9’ - WHAT A GOAL! Manchester United 1-0 Stoke City (Valencia) NOW I HAVE SEEN IT ALL! ANTONIO VALENCIA SCORES A HOWTIZER WITH HIS LEFT FOOT! United actually work the ball really well, Pogba picking up possession on the left, handing off Ireland as he makes his way infield before spreading beautifully with the outside of his foot. Valencia then came inside Tymon, presumably assuming his goal to be safe, only for the unelash of a curling, rising, screeching brute to be uncorked, flying past Butland.
24’ - Ireland nicks the ball off Pogba, sneaking up from behind, so when he gets the ball back, Pogba boots him in front of the ref. Free-kick Stoke, 35 yards out, and Shaqiri takes it too quickly. Stoke, though, keep United pinned, and when Bauer crosses, De Gea finds himself pinned by Crouch on the far post and can only fumble into the middle. It looks for all the world like Choupo-Moting will score, but Jones flings himself into a terrific block to concede a corner. It's wasted.
38’ - WHAT A GOAL! Manchester United 2-0 Stoke City (Martial) Tymon overruns the ball and is robbed by Valencia, close to halfway He then finds Lukaku down the line, and he holds up really well before laying back for Pogba, who rolls the ball under his studs before squaring across the edge of the box at the perfect pace for Martial to rrrrrrasp a signature sidefooter past Butland. What a finish that was!
46+1’ - On the stroke of half-time, Shaqiri, in the middle and just outside the box, beautifully controls a pass from Bauer, killing it. pulling it down and setting it at his feet. He then sends Jones for a bag of chips, feinting one way and turning the other to open a route to goal ... but he doesn't get the power or elevation that would have beaten De Gea, who saves very well indeed. .
72’ - GOAL! Manchester United 3-0 Stoke City (Lukaku) Pogba does excellently to nick possession, setting Lingard off with a gentle touch. He carries the ball deep into the Stoke half before spreading left to Martial, who pings one at Lukaku, which is killed very well, allowing him to hold off Wimmer like a rag doll before spanking a low shot past Butland at the near post. He's earned that, he's played well tonight and done plenty of good work outside the box.
86’ - Oh wow! Shakqiri clips a ball into the middle, which Diouf controls really well on his chest, escaping Smalling. As it drops, he lashes a shot that De Gea foots back to him, and somehow, with Ireland in the middle waiting for a pass and the keeper on the floor, he drags a miserable effort into the near post side-netting.
Paul Pogba is optimistic that Manchester United can beat rivals Manchester City this weekend despite his suspension.
Pogba believes that United can take three points at Old Trafford, and highlighted the importance of three points:
“I have complete trust in the team. Even if I'm not there, I'll be there watching the game, giving positive energy, and hopefully we're going to win.
“It's a big derby and the atmosphere is going to be big. We want to win, we need to win as well.
“They need to win because they know that we are behind and we are closing and closing.
“We are still eight points behind, so with an eight-point gap we cannot win the league. We are still behind.
“But if I didn't believe that, I'd stop playing football now."
While Pogba remains hopeful, he has acknowledged that he is upset to be missing out on such a big game, however he is not dwelling on his red card:
“I'm very disappointed because I really want to help the team and wanted to be there for this derby.
“We're all playing football to play those kind of games and, unfortunately for me, I won't play. That's destiny.
“I say 'destiny' because I cannot go back in the past. You have to think about the future, the present, obviously, and then after it's the future."
Pogba denied there was any malice in the challenge that saw him sent off, saying that the tackle looked worse than was intended:
“I didn't really speak after the game - I didn't have time - but I think Hector, I know him as well, and I would never give him a tackle like this.
“Unfortunately for me, I thought he would put his feet in and he was in a position that was a disadvantage for me, so I did it.
“It looks very bad, but the intention wasn't like that. They had the decision, the referee, got the red card and that's football.”
The French international knows that the game with be a heated affair with the city rivalry:
“United against City has always been a big, big derby.
“One city, two clubs. You know how it is, so I won't tell you what's going to happen.
“It's going to be a big atmosphere in the stadium and a big game with a big team and big players, so that's the game you want to play.
“Unfortunately I won't play, but I'll be there to help the team mentally.”
He also believes that United will have to be fully committed for the game, and show the same attacking ruthlessness that they demonstrated in the opening minutes against Arsenal:
“We need to. To win those games you need to give everything. You need to be there offensively, defensively.
“You need to kill the game when you have one chance, because they are City and they have quality as well in front and they can kill the game at any time.
“They're first for good reason, because they've been doing great at the start of the season.
“They keep winning, they didn't lose one game and obviously mentally they're very strong. We need to be as good as they are, mentally.
“Mentally I need to be there to boost the team and hopefully it will help.”
Manchester City player Kevin De Bruyne has responded to Paul Pogba's wish that he hopes for City players to be injured by saying Karma is, "s***."
Pogba had said in a recent interview of City: "Some day I hope they are going to slip and I hope, and I know that it’s bad to say things like that, but I hope for us that some very important players get injured.”
This led to some citing the effect of karma on Pogba when he was sent off on Saturday evening against Arsenal for an ugly foul on defender Hector Bellerin.
De Bruyne, however, rejected the notion of karma, which is a spiritual principle of cause and effect, part of religions including Hindusim, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Taoism.
“I don’t believe in that s**t, I’m a very straight forward guy.
“If someone believes it is karma then OK - everyone has their right to their opinion.
“I don’t want anyone to get injured. It’s a competition, you want to play against the best teams and the best players.”
De Bruyne shrugged off Pogba's comments, and while acknowledging his talent, did not speculate on what affect his absence would have on United's approach:
“I don’t care. He can say whatever he wants. We just have to be focused on whatever we’re doing.
“It depends what they want to do.
“He’s a massive player - I know him a little bit, and he’s unbelievable.
“He took a red card and that’s the way it goes. You have injuries and suspensions.”
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has said that the hamstring injury suffered by Paul Pogba is a “long-term” and is in the same bracket as Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Pogba, 24, suffered the injury during the 3-0 win over FC Basel in the Champions League on September 12 and he has been missing since.
Speaking at his press conference ahead of the game against Crystal Palace on Saturday Mourinho said he didn’t have any indication as to when Pogba will return.
"His injury is not one that I can have the hope like I can have with Valencia or Jones. With them, I have the hope to see them training and to have a positive answer [on their availability soon]. But with long-term injuries, I don't speak about them, so Ibra, Pogba, Rojo and these players, I don't think about them."
As well as Pogba Mourinho confirmed that Michael Carrick and Phil Jones will miss the Palace match.
The France international picked up a hamstring injury in Champions League action against Basel and could now be missing for up to six weeks
Paul Pogba leaves Old Trafford on crutches as Jose Mourinho says midfielder could miss ‘a few weeks’
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba left Old Trafford on crutches on Tuesday after appearing to pick up a hamstring injury and manager Jose Mourinho fears he may miss 'a few weeks'.
The Frenchman went down in the 16th minute of the Champions League match against FC Basel and had to be replaced by Marouane Fellaini, who went on to open the scoring.
Pogba, who started the match as captain for the night, ended up leaving the stadium on crutches.
Whilst Mourinho didn’t confirm anything after the game, he did say he thinks the midfielder could miss ‘a few weeks'.
"I don't know. I just know from experience it's a muscular injury. In my experience, muscular injury stops you from playing for a few weeks, I think.
"It looks for me too [like a hamstring injury] but I haven't spoken yet to the medical department.”
Mourinho was keen not to make a big deal about the injury, pointing to the replacements in midfield that United can call upon.
"Squads are for this, squads are for injuries, squads are for suspensions. We don't cry with injuries. So if no Paul for Sunday, we have Herrera, we have Carrick, we have Fellaini and we have Matic."
Pogba had started the season in superb form and had already struck up a good understanding with summer signing Nemanja Matic.
Jose Mourinho is on the hunt for a right-back this summer and the France midfielder believes the PSG defender fits the bill
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is the main reason why Paul Pogba has failed to reproduce his form for France at club level, writes Paul Parker, after his impressive show against England on Tuesday night.
I think we all get tend to caught up in how much Paul Pogba cost, and what value he is bringing to the club for the £89m that was apparently paid. The boy can play as he showed against England on Tuesday, but he needs to be allowed to breathe.
We have seen him play for his country and Juventus over the past few years. Especially when he was in the Champions League with them.
But then he arrives at Old Trafford, and is not the player we had expected.
Antonio Conte knew how to use him at Juventus, Didier Deschamps knew how to use him for France and Max Allegri knew how to use him for Juve too.
The only manager who hasn't used him right is Mourinho. He's in a more forward position with France. Let him go to play there with United.
Don't expect him to be your defensive one, to be negative to try to destroy because he's a big strong boy. That's not his strength.
Anybody who watched him last night would have seen how good he is with the ball at his feet, and how good he is as an influence when he hasn't got the ball because his movement affects everyone around him.
If United are going to get the best out of him, they are going to have to sacrifice him so he can go to play the role he was made for.
Ander Herrera and Pogba have been fine together, but is it going to be enough to turn Manchester United into an attacking force? No, it's not.
United's negativity as a team affected them, especially in terms of the amount of goals they scored. As far as I'm concerned, Mourinho won't listen.
If he's seen that performance against France, he'll probably carry on doing what he thinks is right.
It isn't about what everybody else is saying or what people like Paul Parker are saying: the Paul Pogba with Juventus and France isn't the same player who is with Manchester United.
Suddenly a few people are going to be looking over the next few weeks to see if Mourinho watched the match last night.
He might think: 'Hold on, I have to change this'. It should be about the team, not about himself and improving his reputation as a coach.
They have a major improvement to make in terms of scoring goals, and Pogba further up the pitch is very much needed.
As we know, he can be quite clinical when he does get the opportunities.
He's hit the frame of a goal a few times, but you see what he can do when he runs at people. Look at what he did in the box to Gary Cahill.
You think to yourself: 'he is wasted 30 or 40 yards behind, he should be working 30 or 40 yards closer to goal'.
It's totally wrong he's been played that way. He is a player who has been held back from showing how good he is, and is trying to impress in a position he hadn't played before.
Herrera isn't being played in his best position and is also too far back. You can see the difference N'Golo Kante made to Pogba last night, allowing him to go and express himself.
Herrera can go and play a man-to-man marking role, but anybody can do that. He's another player who has been slightly wasted, but not as much as Pogba.
England well short of required quality
We have to define what is needed for England. And when you go to Scotland playing two holding midfielders, you find out.
Then you play against France, and have Eric Dier and Alex Oxlade-Chamberalin in there - you can't say that's a great midfield.
When it comes to playing against more quality in Paris, Dier was found wanting against France with the movement they possess, with and without the ball.
Oxlade-Chamberlain cannot play central midfield for England against top quality opposition. It works okay for Arsenal at times, but Dier also got exposed with his passing.
There is still a long, long way to go for England as you saw with the way we capitulated against 10 men.
Getting a late 2-2 draw with Scotland is not going to lead you to the promised land when you get to the finals in Russia.
Former Old Trafford defender Paul Parker feels Jose Mourinho's Manchester United side are still well short of what is expected of them despite their Europa League triumph against Ajax in Stockholm.
If there is one English side who are capable of doing okay in the Champions League next season, you would probably say it is Manchester United.
Simply because Jose Mourinho sets up not to lose. Even though over two legs, you would have to bring a pillow with you to watch it.
United would be the most difficult team to beat from the Premier League, but that doesn't mean it is enjoyable. Is it in the best traditions of United's history? Certainly not.
Winning the Europa League has taken the pressure off the manager.
When Rafael Benitez won the same tournament with Chelsea in 2013, Mourinho wasn’t too nice about it. He was very critical of it.
He also said Ajax shouldn’t be in the Europa League because they played in the Champions League this season.
Well, in theory he should not go into the Champions League because he’s won the Europa League.
His gamble on one match to make or break the season has paid off. In gambling, a lot of people live that way, but they normally die that way too.
United are in the Champions League. Mourinho should be happy because Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool are in there. He now can’t accuse other teams of getting advantages in rest periods during the season.
It’s all worked out because other teams will be playing a similar amount of games. But at United, you can’t keep looking for excuses.
For many, many years before Jose Mourinho arrived, United coped with the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup. They coped because that is what United are built for.
As a club, they build their season to compete on all fronts. They should be equipped to do that, and that’s what Mourinho must do.
" There can be no excuses about being tired because the top five teams are in the same boat, and every club wants to amongst them."
They all want to play 60 plus games because that tends to mean success in your season. The more games you play, the more opportunity you have to win things.
Everyone will be looking to Mourinho to win the Premier League. Manchester United need a league title five years after Sir Alex Ferguson won the last one.
The last two seasons have been very poor. You are judged on where you finish in the league. Are Mourinho's side any better than Louis van Gaal's? No.
Finishing sixth isn’t good enough for United, certainly not 24 points behind the champions. They must be able to make up that points difference. Trying to win the league by winning games is always going to be better than going out not to lose.
That is the tradition of the club set by men like Fergie. When United are playing cagey, you are relying on individuals. That’s when it becomes worrying.
We have to remember football is a team game. It is easy to destroy, but the hardest thing in football is to create.
You can’t keep being dependent on players to keep doing things when they are being asked to be secondary defenders and make up 60 yards to join an attack
United need to go out and realise that they are respected because they are United. Everybody is ready for that attacking wave to come forward when you are playing United.
Not sitting back watching, and thinking the tide has gone out.
Paul Pogba sums up United's problems. He is not a holding midfielder. So much has been taken away from his game. I think he’s tried too hard to impress this season after that world record £89m price tag.
He’s been having too many touches of the ball which isn’t really in his nature. He’s also been giving away silly fouls because people are working harder against him.
He hasn’t had the greatest of seasons. Expectations are high. United have got to kick on, Mourinho has to kick on and Pogba's got to kick on. He can do what he wants with his Twitter emoji, dancing and his hair when he is part of a United side that are the real deal.
There is no point marketing yourself if you are not delivering on what you are good at
It is time for Mourinho to deliver a Premier League challenge.
He escaped a lot of flak by winning one game in Stockholm. He won't get away with it again.