Tag Archives: Paul Pogba

Golden Boy award winners – Ranked

It was announced earlier this week that Barcelona youngster Pedri was the winner of the 19th edition of the coveted ‘Golden Boy’ award.

The award is handed to the best Under-21 player in Europe’s top leagues based on a vote by sports journalists, based on the performances during the calendar year.

Looking through the list of previous winners, there have been some hits and misses as to how their careers ended up. But who is the best? Who is the worst? I’ve ranked them all, starting with the worst.



Alexandre Pato

The Brazilian was one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Brazil when he joined AC Milan but after an impressive couple of years, injuries took their toll and Pato never made the impact he was meant to. It might strike you to realise he is only 32 these days, but plays in the MLS with Orlando.

Anderson

If you look at Anderson’s CV, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t be this low down. But when you consider that injuries absolutely battered him throughout his career and most of those accolades came due to being part of an amazing squad, he has to be near the bottom.

All Golden Boy winners from 2003 and where they are now, including,  Balotelli, Renato Sanches and Haaland – The Sun

Mario Balotelli

The Italian broke onto the scene with Inter Milan, but a career that has been clouded in controversy didn’t go without it’s moments. The ‘Why Always Me?’, the fireworks, the fights with the manager are balanced out with the assist for *that* Aguero goal and his Euro 2012 performances get him off the bottom.

Anthony Martial

The Manchester United man is only 25-years-old as of this writing, but he’s really failed to kick on since winning this award in 2015. He’s lost that X-factor he had when he first moved to Old Trafford and while he’s got time to turn it around still, at his current trajectory he’d be considered a disappointment.

Rafael Van der Vaart

The inaugral winner of the award was a star for Ajax before earning himself a move to Real Madrid via Hamburg. But under the brightest of lights he struggled to really make an impact and the rest of his career was spent as being the best player in relatively mediocre sides.

CM: Sanches on the move; Jorge Mendes' plan with AC Milan

Renato Sanches

The star of a young Benfica side who helped Portugal to their first ever international trophy at Euro 2016, Sanches looked destined for greatness. A poor move to Bayern Munich and injuries have stalled his development and while he finally looks to be getting back to a high level, it’s too early to have him above some of these guys in the list.

Mario Gotze

There may not be a more iconic career moment from anyone on this list than Gotze scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final during extra-time in 2014. Since then though it’s been downhill, with injuries and a loss of form seeing him become a shadow of his former self. He’s only 29 now, but he plays for PSV in the Eredivisie.

Pedri

2021’s winner gets into this list at this height simply because it’s far too early to put him any higher or lower. His career has been strictly high points thus far, becoming a key member of the Barcelona team and putting in amazing performances during Euro 2020 to help Spain to the semi-finals. If he continues at this level, he will be one of the best in the world without a doubt.

Matthijs De Ligt

The only defender to win the award, De Ligt is still considered one of the best young defenders in the world. After helping Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals as their teenage captain, he earned a move to Juventus where he’s failed to rip up any trees but has maintained a steady level of performances. There’s definitely more to come from the Dutchman.

João Félix has already received the Golden Boy Award! - SL Benfica

Joao Felix

Felix blew up with his performances for Benfica in the Europa League and earned a nine-figure move to Atletico Madrid. Since moving though, injuries and a style of play that doesn’t really suit him have seen him stagnate. We’ve seen some top level performances in that time though, so we know the talent is still there.

Isco

The Spanish playmaker was a superstar in the making and was a key member of the Spain and Real Madrid side for years, with his brilliant guile and technical ability on show regularly. He’s won it all but the last few years have seen him barely touch the pitch and that will affect his legacy somewhat. A top player though, without doubt.

Erling Haaland

2020’s winner is currently regarded as one of the best strikers in the world despite being just the tender age of 21. His phenomenal goalscoring record has got everyone’s attention and the ease with which he’s taken to top level football is a sight to behold. He has got a long and successful career ahead of him, without a doubt.

Two Liverpool players make shortlist for Golden Boy award - with one former  Reds youngster nominated - Liverpool Echo

Raheem Sterling

The Manchester City and England winger won the award during his time at Anfield as a Liverpool player and hasn’t looked back since. He is the City player with the most goals under Pep Guardiola, has won everything at club level except the Champions League and even helped England to their best tournament finish since 1966 at Euro 2020. A superstar.

Paul Pogba

Despite his time in England since returning to Manchester United splitting opinions on him, Pogba’s talent is and always has been undeniable. He broke into a title winning Juventus team, is a leader at international level and scored in a World Cup final. His United stint may be up for debate, but his career is not.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas has had success everywhere he has been until he moved to Monaco, but the levels he reached during his prime have him down as one of the best midfielders of his generation. He won everything there is to win at club level and international level, while being a key player in every success and will be remembered greatly despite the winding down of his career at a relatively young age.

Pin on My Boy

Sergio Aguero

The man with the most iconic moment in Premier League history, Aguero’s legacy as a world class footballer is undeniable. He is the player with the most hat-tricks in Premier League history, the most goals in Man City history, the most goals by a foreign player in Premier League history and he’s top three goalscorers in Argentinian national team history. Unfortunately forced to retire early due to heart problems, but he will go down as a great.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe is only 22-years-old at the time of writing this, but his legacy is already solidified. He won the league with Monaco as a teenager against a dominant PSG side, then switched to Paris to become a cornerstone of their recent success. He’s won golden boots, trophies and even became the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final. The scary thing is, he’s only getting better too.

Wayne Rooney

It’s crazy to think that some people believe Wayne Rooney never fulfilled his potential despite ending his career as the all-time top goalscorer for Manchester United and England. He won it all at club level, playing several positions and is the owner of several iconic moments. A world class footballer and one of the best his country has ever produced, he was a true golden boy.

GOAL on Twitter: "Lionel Messi winning the European Golden Boy trophy back  in 2005 🏆 https://t.co/Iumxd5UBpi" / Twitter

Lionel Messi

There was no other option for the number one ranking of this award, because the greatest player of all-time won it back in 2005. The only ‘Golden Boy’ to go on to win the Ballon d’Or, he has gone on to do everything except win a World Cup and his legacy will transcend generations. Without a doubt the greatest I’ve ever seen, it’s a no brainer that he sits at number one on this list.

Is it finally time for Donny Van de Beek to get a chance?

It’s fair to say that one of the biggest mysteries in European football over the last season-and-a-half has been surrounding Donny Van de Beek.

The Dutch midfielder joined Manchester United in a £40m deal last summer from Ajax, adding to their central midfield options with a more technically secure footballer.

He started his career on the bench against Crystal Palace as they were beaten on his debut, but he came off the bench that day to score his first goal for the club.



At first, it seemed as though he just needed a bedding-in period after joining later in the summer than the rest of the squad and he just needed to get up to speed.

But fast forward to November 2021 and Van de Beek is yet to be afforded the opportunity to make his mark at Old Trafford.

Since signing for the club, the 24-year-old has managed just 530 minutes of Premier League action across 21 appearances, with only four starts for the club. He has featured for just 15 minutes this season in the league.

To put that into context, Daniel James has mustered up 128 minutes for Manchester United this season in the Premier League and he left the club in August to sign for Leeds United.

Donny van de Beek of Manchester United looks on with Daniel James during a first team training session at Carrington Training Ground on August 11,...

With United’s current poor form, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has tried to stick with what has worked for him in the past meaning Van de Beek’s chances have been as limited as ever.

But following the 2-0 defeat to Man City last time out in the Premier League, Solskjaer’s job has never been under the microscope more than it currently is.

Add to that the fact Paul Pogba has been ruled out until the new year with a thigh injury, it means a midfield spot may have just opened up for Van de Beek.

We’ve seen countless times that the duo of Scott McTominay and Fred doesn’t work, while Nemanja Matic is the most defensive of all the midfielders in the squad.

Donny van de Beek and Paul Pogba of Manchester United walks off after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old...

Van de Beek is the most obvious and natural replacement for Pogba in midfield and if Solskjaer is serious about wanting to turn the club’s fortunes around, then he needs to try different things to get new results.

He hasn’t yet tried to give Van de Beek an extended run in the team and for all he knows the former Ajax man could be his knight in shining armour.

So far during his career at Old Trafford Van de Beek hasn’t been trusted to get significant playing time when the team have been losing, drawing, winning or even had the team rotated.

There will be no better time than now and with the January transfer window around the corner and no sign of Solskjaer going anywhere any time soon, it’s Van de Beek’s time to shine.

Paul Pogba out for 8-10 weeks with thigh injury

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has been ruled out of action for 8-10 weeks with a thigh injury.

The France international was training with his national team on Monday night, where footage captured him pulling up with an injury during a shooting drill with the team.

He limped out of the session and withdrew from the national team with a thigh problem, and an initial scan has suggested that he will be out until the new year now.



According to French outlet RMC Sport, Pogba’s thigh injury will keep him out until January at the earliest with an 8-10 week period likely until he’s back to full fitness.

Pogba was already suspended for Manchester United’s next league game against Watford on November 20th following his red card in the defeat to Liverpool, but he will now miss games against Villarreal, Chelsea, Arsenal, Crystal Palace, Young Boys, Norwich, Brentford, Brighton, Newcastle, Burnley and potentially Wolves too.

The injury will come as a huge blow to United, who have been in dire form in recent weeks with just four wins in their last 12 games.

Pogba had been one of the club’s better performers at the start of the season but his form has gone cold during that run, much like most of the squad, but his talent is still undeniable.

The 28-year-old’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season and he is free to talk to other clubs from January about a potential transfer in the summer, should he not agree a new deal at Old Trafford before then.

His future looks bleak now with no playing time during that period and United desperate to stem the flow after suffering embarrassing defeats to Liverpool and Man City in consecutive games at home.

Manchester United show they can go toe to toe against the top sides

Manchester United all but cemented their second place finish this season with an excellent come-from-behind performance to beat Tottenham 3-1 in north London.

The Reds started slowly but burst into life after a brilliant assist from Paul Pogba found Edinson Cavani who slotted past Hugo Lloris, only for the goal to be ruled out when VAR noticed that Scott McTominay stroked the cheek of Heung-Min Son in the build-up and deemed it a foul.

The South Korean international made matters worse for United as he was able to get on the end of a Lucas Moura pass to tap into an empty net and give Spurs a 1-0 lead going into half-time.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side came out strong in the second half though and turned in the best performance of their season so far to turn the game on its head. A fine one-touch pass and move goal saw Cavani have a shot saved before Fred smashed home the rebound to equalise.

A lovely nutmeg from Bruno Fernandes then found substitute Mason Greenwood, who whipped a delicious cross into Cavani who scored a fine diving header for the lead and goal his performance deserved. Paul Pogba then capped a fine individual performance with a mazy run before finding Greenwood, who beat Sergio Reguilon before rifling past Lloris at the near post in added time to seal the three points.

It was the type of performance that United fans have been waiting for this season against the top sides. They had an intent about their play throughout and while the first 30 minutes were a bit slow, it can be accepted because of their trip to Europe in midweek.

Spurs never created any real opportunities in the first half bar a few snap shots that tried to catch Henderson out at the near post, and in the second half they created even less. Even their goal came as United tried to refocus after the absolute joke of a decision to rule out what was a perfectly good opener just five minutes before.

The win showed that Solskjaer’s side do have the quality and personnel to go toe-to-toe with the better teams in the league. Earlier in the season they were (rightly) criticised for their approach against the top sides, lining up in a really defensive shape with no intention of winning – just not losing.

They earned a win over Liverpool in the FA Cup third round which showed they should have approached the league game a few days prior to that in a different way, then they were able to end Manchester City’s unbelievable 22 game win-streak in March with a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium.

That set the tone but they were still counter attacking performances where the attackers were clinical. This was a more complete performance, where they dominated the ball, created chances throughout the game, played quickly and didn’t give up any chances of significance to the opposition.

While still not completely convinced on Solskjaer’s abilities as manager in the long term, you can’t dispute the job he is doing at the moment. He is in charge of the best Manchester United team in the post-Ferguson era and has developed a unity and togetherness in the squad we haven’t seen since the legendary Scot.

His signings are performing well for the most part and while a style still isn’t really present and obvious, the fact United have lost just once in 24 league games shows that they’re obviously doing something right.

It’s fair to say that while Solskjaer has found a winning recipe, he now needs a few finishing touches on the squad with key positions to really get them challenging. What he has now though, is capable of competing and going toe to toe rather than looking to counter and hope.

Granada vs Manchester United – Europa League quarter-final predictions

The Europa League enters it’s serious phase as the quarter-finals are finally upon us in Europe’s secondary competition.

England have two representatives remaining and both teams got favourable draws, with the Manchester United coming up against La Liga side Granada, while Arsenal will come up against Czech Republican’s Slavia Prague.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made it through to this stage after crashing out of the Champions League at the group stages, overcoming Real Sociedad 4-0 on aggregate in the last 32 before beating AC Milan in the San Siro to claim a 2-1 aggregate win to set up this tie. Granada on the other hand had a slightly less comfortable run to this round, beating Napoli and then Solskjaer’s former side Molde 2-0 at home, before losing the away legs 2-1 and sneaking through 3-2 on aggregate both times.

Manchester United’s poor start to the season has somewhat faded away on the results side of the season, as they currently sit in second place in the Premier League and opened up a four point gap over third place Leicester and a nine point gap ahead of fifth place Chelsea.

Granada’s domestic campaign isn’t going so sweetly, as they currently sit in ninth place in La Liga with 36 points from 29 games, their last three games in a row in all competitions and four of their last six.

United’s game plan will be obvious. They have the better individual players and are in far better form, so you would expect them to hold onto the ball and try to carve Granada open through their most creative players in Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. They have tremendous pace on the counter attacks which Granada will know all about, but they do struggle against more direct and tricky wingers.

The Spaniards themselves tend to attack down the right hand side with Antonio Puertas the key man down that side, while former Valencia and Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado leads the line at 36 years of age. They’re very good at creating chances although taking them has been an issue this season, with only 34 league goals scored in 29 games – although they have scored 12 in ten Europa League games.

They’re also good from set-pieces, with centre-back German Sanchez scoring three times this season already. It’s something Manchester United will need to be aware of, having struggled from set-pieces at times this season including the equaliser for Milan in the first-leg at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils will likely rotate their squad slightly, with the likes of Donny Van de Beek and Axel Tuanzebe potentially getting starts while Mason Greenwood will be keen to carry on his decent form after scoring in each of his last two games.

Ultimately, this is Manchester United’s tie to lose. They’re by far the better team, with the better players and stylistically they should be able to dominate the game in any phase they so choose. Granada will no doubt put up a good fight and in Spain they could well grab themselves a sneaky draw to take back to Old Trafford, but they will need to play the perfect game twice in a week and hope Manchester United don’t show up in order to progress.


PREDICTION

Granada 0-2 Man United
Man United 3-0 Granada
(Man United to progress 5-0 on aggregate)

What is France’s best XI for the Euros?

Every now and then you get a nation that has a pool of players available to fill three of four starting XI’s capable of winning a tournament.

Most recently was Spain, who won three international tournaments in a row between 2008-2012, had a generation of players that were part of the most dominant side of the post-war era but were also spread all over the continent at the biggest club sides.

Now, France are the leading generation when it comes to player development with a pool of players to pick from as deep as the Atlantic. But with Euro 2020 around the corner and the World Cup 2022 qualifiers underway, what is their strongest lineup?

GOALKEEPER

There are a handful of positions in the side that aren’t up for debate right now and goalkeeper is one of them.

Tottenham stopper Hugo Lloris is the captain of the national team and has been the man to don the number one shirt since 2009 and is the most capped goalkeeper in the history of Les Blues. He maintains a high level of performance for the team, even since winning the World Cup two years ago and he is still the best option.

Starter: Hugo Lloris


DEFENCE

The defence on paper is one of the most stacked positions that manager Didier Deschamps has to choose from. The likes of Aymeric Laporte, Jules Kounde, Wesley Fofana are yet to be capped fully at senior level, while Real Madrid’s starting full-back Ferland Mendy is only recently breaking into the team.

France v Portugal - Nations League - Group 3 : News Photo

Despite naturally being a left-back, Mendy would be my pick on the right-hand side of the defence. He is both footed, excellent in both directions, quick and great on the ball so would provide plenty of balance to the team. That would also allow Theo Hernandez to continue in the left-back role, where he has been impressive for AC Milan this season and the national team. Lucas Digne is another option, but Hernandez is that bit more dynamic and for me just edges it in their personal battle.

In the centre, Deschamps has so many options. Aside from the three previously mentioned players the likes of Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Dayot Upamecano, Kurt Zouma, Clement Lenglet, Ibrahima Konate and even Samuel Umtiti are all candidates for the starting berths. Despite such a plethora of talent, Deschamps is likely to go with the experience and quality of Varane and Kimpembe. They both possess great pace, great positioning, are good aerially and with the ball at their feet while also having leadership qualities.

Starters: Ferland Mendy, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Theo Hernandez


MIDFIELDERS

Deschamps tends to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation because of the plethora of attacking options he has, but I think a fluid 4-3-3 formation could be the best way forward. There is already so much depth involved in the position with players such as Adrian Rabiot, Eduardo Camavinga, Moussa Sissoko, Houssem Aouar all in and out of squads.

Without a doubt, if fit, Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba will be starters in the heart of the pitch with their attributes balancing perfectly to help at both ends of the pitch. Rather than use Antoine Griezmann as the number ten option though, Tanguy Ndombele should come into the team.

The Spurs midfielder has had an excellent season on an individual basis and deserves to start in a slightly more advanced role. For Spurs he has played as both an eight or a ten and has the creative abilities to help the attack. He also allows for familiarity to switch to a more defensive 4-3-3 shape if necessary as he can naturally play in that position also. It would allow Deschamps to use the same players regardless of opposition but slightly alter the setup if necessary.

Starters: Ngolo Kante, Paul Pogba, Tanguy Ndombele


FORWARDS

When everyone is fit, the forward department is likely the one easiest to pick from for Deschamps such is the quality of his options.

Olivier Giroud has been a staple of the French national team in recent years as the centre forward and sits just seven goals behind Thierry Henry at the top of the all-time scoring charts for the national team. Despite that, the way he plays means that France’s attacks become a little bit one dimensional. He’s shown an ability in the past for his club that he is able to come off the bench and make a difference and at 34-years-old he’s unlikely to be too picky about it being a starting role or not.

France v Ukraine - International Friendly : News Photo

Out wide, Kylian Mbappe is the golden boy of French and potentially world football and is a guaranteed starter. His pace, explosiveness, skill and phenomenal output when it comes to scoring and assisting. On the opposite flank, whether it be on the left or right, Ousmane Dembele is the man that should get the spot. When fit he possesses all the skill and quality to be one of the best in the world and with both men’s ability to play on both flanks it allows plenty of freedom and interchanging throughout a game.

Up front, Antoine Griezmann deserves the spot. His appearance in the 2-0 win over Kazakhstan made it 45 international games in a row that he has featured in, more than anyone else in the post-war era for the French national team. He has a great international record and despite going on bursts of form this season for Barcelona, he currently has 14 goals in all competitions for Los Cules. He’d be able to drop deeper to link the midfield to the attack of play on the shoulder of the defence to run in behind.

Starters: Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele

Manchester United beat AC Milan thanks to Paul Pogba’s reminder of quality

Manchester United progressed into the Europa League quarter-finals with a 1-0 win at the San Siro over AC Milan, thanks to substitute Paul Pogba’s goal after returning from injury.

The Frenchman has been missing for almost two months with a hamstring injury picked up in the 3-3 draw with Everton in January, but returned to the substitutes bench in this must-win game for the Reds.

He came on at half-time for Marcus Rashford, who suffered a reoccurrence of his ankle problem, and scored just three minutes later with a fine dummy and strike at the near post as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side held on for a huge win in Milan.

It was a tough first half, where the visitors were very sloppy in possession and struggled to create clear-cut chances once again. Bruno Fernandes had arguably his worst performance in a Manchester United shirt, completing just 54% of his passes in the first 45 minutes.

Enter Pogba, who’s presence in the team immediately seemed to settle the team as the rest of the team looked to him and gave him the ball as much as possible.

His goal was a well taken strike and meant the game opened up even more in United’s favour and a stellar defensive performance from both Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire meant a fifth clean sheet in six games.

Lindelof turned in a man of the match performance on the night, winning headers, clearing crosses and stopping a few counter attacks when left exposed when his full-back was caught out high too. Maguire was dominant aerially once again, even once Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench, and his passing was good from the back to link Luke Shaw into attacks well too.

Pogba’s return to the team was the boost the team have needed with the added quality in midfield. His ball retention was excellent and exactly what the team was missing during this most recent period of bad results, with his intelligence and quality on the ball a huge ingredient in how good a player he is.

It’s not a coincidence that United crumbled when he went off injured and struggled for form while he was away, but now as they welcome him back into the side for the business end of the season they will be hopeful that he can pick up exactly where he left off.

It’s a swift and timely reminder of how important the 28-year-old is to this side and just how difficult he will be to replace should he leave in the summer as he enters the final 12 months of his contract.

United now will look ahead to the last eight of the Europa League, knowing they are likely to be favourites against whoever they draw and are now the favourites to win the entire competition for the first time since 2017.

My Perfect Footballer #2 – Micah Fanimo

WORDS BY MICAH FANIMO

The beautiful game has enabled us to see so many different footballers, who have and still are taking us through so many different emotions.

Football is a game where we have seen tears of joy, heartbreak and sorrow, all which can happen within 90 minutes.

In my almost three decades of watching the sport, I have had a lot of favourite players and have taken a liking to their attributes. All of this has assisted me in creating in what I believe to be, the perfect footballer.


Football Brain
Fernando Redondo

A cerebral footballer player, it was like watching a symphony. He controlled not only his team but that of the opposition. A brilliant, intelligent, tactical mind. A truly superior player.

Heading Ability
Cristiano Ronaldo

You didn’t think I was going to create my perfect footballer and leave out Cristiano Ronaldo, did you? His heading ability is second to none. The spring, the hang, the power? Unmatched. His header against Roma in the Champions League for Manchester United, or the one against United for Real Madrid where he jumped twice the height of Patrice Evra? Ridiculous.

Physique
Paul Pogba

We have seen many different physiques and body types dominate world football – I mean look at the difference between Messi and Ronaldo. There is no one truly dominant one. However, the physique I most admire is that of Paul Pogba. Standing at 6ft 2′, his frame is perfect for my ideal footballer. Strong core, long legs and perfect body symmetry.

Hands
Rory Delap

Only one answer for me regarding this and that is the great Rory Delap. Not the most authentic footballer but ask any Premier League Team between 2009 and 2012 who the player they feared the most with the ball in their hands was. He is renowned for having one of the most feared throw-ins in football, an absolute cannon which could cause trouble if the ball went out anywhere in the opposition half.

Tackling
Ivan Cordoba

What a player this man was. His man marking ability and timing in the tackle was second to none. What made his efficiency even more effective was the fact he was only 5ft 8′. You don’t normally see defenders that small this day and age. His tackling stood out in the early 00’s when Inter Milan were on the rise and eventually won five Serie A titles in a row.

Agility
Franck Ribery

With a frightening change of direction and speed, my choice for agility will be Frank Ribery. Even now in Serie A at 37 years of age, his burst of acceleration and movement still has younger players confused. During his prime for Marseille and Bayern Ribery was one of, if not the, most agile wingers in world football.

Passing
Guti

One of the best and most underrated creative players and playmakers of his generation. His vision and weight of pass is amongst the all-time greats with both execution and aesthetics. Passing range and ability to provide assists for teammates – we all remember the back heeled assists for Benzema and Zidane, right?

First Touch
Lionel Messi

Out of his many glorious attributes, this is the one that I believe is the most important to his success as a player. Lionel Messi is often and widely regarded by many as the best dribbler of all time and is still going strong at the age of 33. This is all made by his first touch. It usually takes players out the game before he even starts dribbling. A glorious deft touch which constantly leaves defenders in his wake.

Speed
Kylian Mbappe

This was a very tricky area. It’s not just having the speed, it’s how the uses it. Mbappe has freakish speed which he has displayed at every level. Whether it’s running past a player or galloping down the pitch on the counter attack. Not many players have that top level speed and intelligence to go along with it.

Dribbling
Eden Hazard

This was close between him, Andres Iniesta and the late, great Diego Maradona for me. However, If Messi takes the throne for first touch, then Hazard takes the throne for dribbling. An absolute wizard with the ball at his feet with the ability to glide past four or five players at will on a weekly basis. With his low centre of gravity and stocky frame, it is almost impossible to get the ball off Eden Hazard when he is in full flow.

Skills
Ronaldinho

Without question. There has been no player, past or present, that has displayed the array of skills this man has on a football pitch. It is impossible to even compare. He stands alone.

Crossing
Kevin De Bruyne

Sorry Becks. Ideally this is would be you, but I found a player who can do this with both feet. A lovely delivery with either the left or right foot and with just as much variation. Aesthetically it might not be easy on the eye to most, but I love it.

Right Foot
Thierry Henry

The finesse king. The best player to ever play in the Premier League and the best striker of my generation by an absolute mile. Thierry Henry’s right foot needs to be immortalised. Nothing it couldn’t do – well apart from score in a final, but I’ll give him a pass.

Left Foot
Adriano

“I played with great champions. I played with players that were already…wow. I played with players that I saw were a talent and became…wow, but the one I felt could do it longer, and he didn’t do it, was Adriano when I was at Inter. He could shoot from every angle, nobody could tackle him, nobody could take the ball, he was a pure animal.” — Zlatan Ibrahimović.

I have seen many left foots in my life. So many devastating goals, passes, tricks and flicks. However, I have never seen one quite as revered as Adriano’s. The Emperor.


You can follow Micah on Twitter:
@MixahFanimo

Manchester United Leave It Late To Progress To Carabao Cup Semi-Final

Manchester United left it late but came away with a hugely impressive 2-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park to set up a Carabao Cup semi-final clash with Manchester City.

United dominated early on but couldn’t find the net, before both teams cancelled each other out for most of the second half. It took until the 88th minute for the Red Devils to break the deadlock, when Anthony Martial fed the ball into Edinson Cavani who took one touch onto his left foot, before powering a strike into the bottom corner.

It was a truly fantastic goal and showed exactly why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer moved to bring him in during the summer transfer window.

Everton pressed for an equaliser into stoppage time, which allowed Manchester United to wrap up the victory when Marcus Rashford fed Martial on a counter attack for the Frenchman to slot the ball into the corner.

It means the Reds progress to a fourth consecutive semi-final under Solskjaer, although they’re yet to make it to a final yet.

Tactically on the night, the Norwegian got it spot on. Pogba started as the deepest midfielder with Van de Beek on the left and Mason Greenwood on the right, with Cavani up front supported by Bruno Fernandes.

Right from the off they got on the ball well, played the ball forwards quickly and with intent and created chances. They pressed high too, causing plenty of defensive errors but the only thing they missed was the clinical finishing to put Everton to the sword early on like they did against Leeds.

It was only the second time this season that they’ve been able to win a game that Bruno Fernandes played in without the Portuguese magnifico getting a goal or assist. They’ve begun showing that they can win games without relying too heavily on him and the return to form of Paul Pogba has been a big part of that.

Manchester United are finally starting to look like a well oiled machine, Solskjaer is getting big decisions right and the Reds go marching on, on, on.

Paul Pogba: The Time Has Come to Say Goodbye

Mino Raiola is at it again with talk about Paul Pogba’s future, or lack thereof, at Manchester United.

The French midfielder has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford for years now, since a public fallout with then manager Jose Mourinho after he won the World Cup with France in 2018.

Pogba has spoken publicly about his ‘dream’ to play for Real Madrid, while Italian giants Juventus have also publicly spoken about their wish to bring him back to the club after his departure in a £89m move back in 2015.

Since then, he has struggled to live up to the expectations placed upon him in a red shirt. While many of the problems he’s faced haven’t been entirely in his control or of his own fault, he hasn’t helped himself.

Now, on the eve of Manchester United’s biggest game of the season so far, Raiola has come out once again and this time declared that “Paul Pogba – Manchester United: it’s over”.

With 18 months remaining on his contract, Pogba’s time at Old Trafford is coming to a head. There were suggestions this summer when no club came forward with a bid for him that Pogba was now happy at the club and open to renewing his contract beyond 2022.

The club were reportedly open to extending his deal too if a deal could be reached, but it seems now he’s likely to leave sooner rather than later.

It hasn’t quite worked out for Pogba at Old Trafford and now with 18 months left on his contract and January approaching, Raiola has made his move to get Pogba out.

While a January move is highly unlikely, next summer is very possible. It would be the last real opportunity that Manchester United have to make any money on the player but with the COVID-19 pandemic still rife, there is no guarantee that they will get a substantial bid for the player.

With Bruno Fernandes and Donny Van de Beek at the club now, United are definitely in a better position than previously to deal with Pogba’s departure. Despite that, they would need to replace him in the squad because despite his flaws and poor showings in recent times, his quality is undeniable.

If you put Pogba on a pitch doing drills, he can do everything. If you put him in a team of working parts, he shines – just ask Didier Deschamps and the French national team. But when the team is in disarray as Man United have been since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement way back in 2013, Pogba becomes as much of a liability as he is an asset.

Many of the fans have had enough of him, the pundits have very rarely been on his side and the media have had an agenda against him since the minute he returned to England. That said, his performances on the pitch haven’t helped to sway those negative feelings and situations like this one just make it all worse.

The best option for all parties at this point is quite clearly to say goodbye and for everyone to go their separate ways.

Pogba will shine at a different club that is prepared for his arrival, likely Juventus, where there is already a clear winning strategy and formula and he is coming in to play his part. United will make some money back and hopefully invest it into a replacement with quality who can do the job they needed him to do to begin with.

It’s time to say goodbye, but United fans will be hopeful of one more thing to cheer when he leaves at the end of the season other than his departure.