Jose: United’s problems ‘still there’

Jose Mourinho says the problems at Manchester United haven't gone away since he was sacked, insisting the club's troubles are rooted in the 'players, organisation and ambition'.

Mourinho was dismissed in December having shepherded the Red Devils to their worst start to a season in 28 years.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in as interim replacement and the Norwegian oversaw an immediate turnaround in fortune as United went on an extended winning run.

It reached a summit when they turned around a first-leg deficit with a 3-1 Champions League last-16 success that stunned Paris St-Germain in March.

That was enough to get Solskjaer a permanent job, but United's season fizzled out thereafter. They finished tamely in the league and won't have Champions League football next season with their sixth-place finish.

Mourinho, having finished second last year, says the problems still exist at United, but he denies that Paul Pogba was the reason he lost his job.

The French World Cup winner was stripped of the vice-captaincy before an animated disagreement between the pair at the club's training ground, but that is not the reason he failed, says the Portuguese.

Asked if he was a victim of Pogba, Mourinho told French newspaper L'Equipe: "No, no. The problems are there, you can imagine that the problems are the players, the organisation and the ambition.

"I will only say that I cannot say 'yes' when you ask if Paul was the only one responsible."

Man United are 4/6 to finish in the top four next season but Mourinho feels they have plenty problems to overcome as he appeared to defend his record.

"On Manchester United, I only want to say two things. One is that time has spoken. Two, it's the problems are still there," he added.

The Red Devils are 5/2 to win a major trophy in the 2019/20 season.

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Solskjaer lays down the gauntlet

Sunday's final game of the season may have a significant say on the futures of some of the Manchester United players, according to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

A win for the Red Devils at home to already-relegated Cardiff could see them finish fifth in the Premier League but with no Champions League football to look forward to next term, a summer overhaul is expected.

Star names such as Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have been heavily linked with departures,while Solskjaer says he will give youth a chance on Sunday having made no secret of his desire to promote some the club's youngster's ahead of next season.

The Norwegian took over at Old Trafford in December but after a record-breaking start, the feel-good factor seems to have abated and he now looks to be suffering from a similar malaise to that endured by predecessor Jose Mourinho.

One thing in Solskjaer's favour though is that the board appear on his side and his stock has been boosted by the news that Mike Phelan has agreed to become his assistant permanently.

The 46-year-old already seems realistic about next term, admitting that a title push could be some way off.

Instead, he is keen on improving his squad and is unafraid to get rid of some of his big names if they once again fail to perform against the Bluebirds.

"I have been quite honest," he told reporters. "Challenging for the title would be miraculous next season. This summer is about players who last here for many years."

On the Cardiff fixture, he added: "You never know in football. It might be the last game but it might be the start of some careers as well. We've had some young players knocking on the door all season really and we'll start with one or two of the kids as well."

A United win on Sunday is priced at 2/7, with the draw 11/2 and Cardiff 10/1 to take the points.

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Premier League: Can United End Disappointing Season on a High?

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Manchester United vs Cardiff City

Manchester United’s disappointing Premier League campaign is mercifully coming to an end. The Red Devils have been in a horrific slump during the tail-end of the season, which has cost them Champions League football for next year.

United will at least hope to finish the season on a high in front of their home fans as they face relegated Cardiff City.

Despite a valiant effort by the Bluebirds, they are going back down to the Championship next year. The Premier League 2019 betting odds clearly don’t favour them to claim a famous win at Old Trafford, but this might be as good a shot as they’re going to get as they face a struggling United side.

Talking Points

Changes coming for United

United’s end-of-season run-in has been nothing short of disastrous. The door was wide open for them to take a top-four spot with their rivals also dropping points, but they failed to capitalise as their Premier League 2019 results just fell off a cliff.

The Red Devils have won just two of their last eight league matches and are winless in their last four (two losses, two draws). They are coming off back-to-back 1-1 draws: at home against Chelsea and, embarrassingly, at bottom-side Huddersfield.

After taking the lead early in both matches, United were unable to hold on and did not have the cutting edge to produce another goal.

United’s attack has been alarmingly bad during their rough end-of-season stretch. They have scored just three goals from open play in their last six matches — two of which have come from midfielder Scott McTominay, of all people.

 With virtually nothing left to play for, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may opt to make changes to the side in order to give some youngsters a run out at home.

Strikers Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez, who started against Huddersfield, are both significant injury doubts. That opens the door for 17-year-old Mason Greenwood to get his first career United start with Marcus Rashford up top.

United have only won three of their last seven matches at home. Although, two of their three draws did come against Liverpool and Chelsea, while their lone defeat was against leaders Manchester City.

Cardiff City are still looking to disappoint us odds and win vs Manchester United despite being relegated

Neil Warnock’s side will go back to Championship next year after being relegated

Cardiff’s last stand

Cardiff City’s brief return to the Premier League is coming to an end. Despite the obvious lack of top-quality personnel, Neil Warnock’s side scrapped and clawed for most of the season. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly enough to ensure safety.

They gave themselves a glimmer of hope when they beat relegation rivals Brighton away from home. But they’ve since lost their last three games, which gives them nine defeats in their last 11 outings.

A major factor in Cardiff’s struggles this season has been their sheer inability to get goals. They have scored just 32 goals, the second fewest behind bottom club Huddersfield. Bobby Reid and Victor Camarasa are their joint leading scorers this season with five goals apiece.

That scoring problem has been more pronounced away from home, where they have netted only 11 times and twice in the last five games. They couldn’t even find a way to score against Fulham — the worst defence in the Premier League — in their last away game.

History

Manchester United and Cardiff have met 27 times overall. Unsurprisingly, United hold the edge in wins with 13 while Cardiff have six. There have also been eight draws between the two.

However, they have faced each other just three times in the Premier League era. Cardiff held United to a 2-2 draw in Wales, but United have since won the last two meetings.

United’s current manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was in charge of Cardiff the last time the Bluebirds visited Old Trafford in 2014. United won that match, 2-0.

Their first matchup this season was a dominant 5-1 win for United. Marcus Rashford started the scoring early with a goal inside three minutes, while Jesse Lingard bagged a second-half brace.

Betting Tip

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Manchester United vs Cardiff City Under 3.25 Goals @ 2.08
May 12, 22:00 (GMT+8

The last day of the season usually throws up some weird results. But a Cardiff win doesn’t seem likely. us odds currently have Cardiff priced at a whopping 11.00 on the 1X2 market.

What does seem very likely, though, is a low-scoring affair. Cardiff have surprisingly kept things fairly tight away from home. They’ve allowed more than two goals just once in their last 10 away games. That includes a 2-0 defeat at Man City.

Meanwhile, both teams have had their struggles scoring recently. And with United possibly fielding a teenager or two, the chances of this game having over three goals seems unlikely.

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?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Solskjaer issues United warning

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has warned his Manchester United side that they will have to lift their game significantly if they want to spring a Champions League shock on Barcelona.

The Red Devils laboured to a 2-1 Old Trafford Premier League victory over West Ham on Saturday, with both of their goals coming courtesy of penalties converted by Paul Pogba.

Next up is a Tuesday evening trip to the Nou Camp to take on Barca, who hold a 1-0 lead from the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie, meaning that boss Solskjaer's charges will have to repeat their win at PSG in the last round to progress.

And the Norwegian is aware that his players will have to perform to a higher level than they did against the Irons.

He told BBC Sport: "They played better than us, it is fair to say, I don't think anyone will disagree. We got away with it, sometimes we have lost when we should have won, so over a season it evens itself out.

"We got away with it, got three points and in a few years no-one will remember how we played if we finished in the top four.

"Of course, we have a game on Tuesday night too, which may have played on the player's minds.

"With a performance like this we all know we will struggle in Barcelona and we will have to improve."

United can be backed at 7/1 to win the game in Barcelona on Tuesday, while they are 8/1 to reach the semi-finals and 5/2 to go all the way and win the Champions League.

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Premier League: United Claim Points, West Ham Deserve Plaudits

Manchester United 2-1 West Ham United

Manchester United may have picked up three valuable Premier League points as they continue their chase for a top-four spot, but West Ham’s performance was worthy of praise.

This was a match which had only a few Premier League 2019 highlights but my word, they were telling.

A match of importance for both sides, neutral us followers will tell you the visitors deserved at least a point — and they would be right.

West Ham, who were coming off another disappointing 2-0 defeat against Chelsea, were literally a width of the goal frame and a David De Gea fingertip from victory.

That they return south empty-handed means Premier League 2019 betting odds on United claiming a top-four finish remain a possibility.

Highlights of the game

In summing up, three players will be the focus of the post-match discussions.

Step forward Paul Pogba, De Gea and Felipe Anderson.

West Ham had managed to get the ball into the net after just nine minutes. Anderson’s volley was impressive but was ruled offside – although replays suggested otherwise.

Fortune favoured United again a short time later.

After 18 minutes the returning Marcos Rojo found Juan Mata, who shaped to shoot but was felled by a clumsy Robert Snodgrass challenge at the edge of the box.

In or out of the box, foul or not, a penalty was awarded, and Pogba confidently drilled home the resulting spot-kick.

The dangerous Anderson, who scored in West Ham’s 3-1 win against United earlier this season, went close with a flick-on which just needed a touch from a team-mate. Later on, Chris Smalling headed over from a Mata corner.

Anderson was third time lucky five minutes after the restart as he delivered a deserved equaliser for the Hammers.

Pogba wasn’t on the same wavelength with De Gea as West Ham gained possession from the keeper’s roll-out. Manuel Lanzini then delivered an inviting cross which Anderson reached ahead of the dozing Rojo and expertly converted.

As West Ham passed the ball around confidently, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent on Marcus Rashford for Mata. The youngster almost immediately made his mark, forcing Lukasz Fabianski into a fine one-handed save.

While United improved, they still failed to convince and looked like a side which had lost four of their past five matches in all competitions.

As Solskjaer bravely sent on young players Andreas Pereira and Mason Greenwood, West Ham piled forward.

A superb shot from one of the visiting substitutes, Michail Antonio cannoned back off the crossbar. He then teamed up with another lively replacement,  Grady Diangana, whose header was destined for the top corner until David De Gea somehow clawed the ball away.

In those moments it showed how much West Ham have missed the talented Antonio.

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini looks defeated during their Premier League battle against Manchester United

West Ham United manager Manuel Pellegrini looks disappointed following their 2-1 defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford

Coach Manuel Pellegrini had his head in his hands as De Gea somehow kept his side level. It was to get worse for the visitors moments later when Anthony Martial was brought down in the penalty area by Ryan Fredericks.

For the second time, Pogba was coolness personified from the spot. How crucial that game-winning penalty could be, we will know in a month’s time.

Key statistics

Pogba has been directly involved in 22 Premier League goals this season (13 goals, nine assists) – more than in any previous campaign.

Anderson is the first West Ham player to score home and away against Man Utd in the same season since Jermain Defoe in 2001/02.

Only Ruud van Nistelrooy (eight in 2002-03) has scored more penalties in a single Premier League campaign for Man Utd than Pogba (seven) this season.

No team has taken more Premier League penalties than Man Utd this season (12, one more than Crystal Palace). It’s the most they have ever been awarded in a Premier League campaign.

West Ham had 18 shots in this match, their most in a Premier League away game since December 2016 (24 vs Leicester).

United are unbeaten in the last 11 meetings at Old Trafford, winning nine and drawing two.

Juventus Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 2.26 1X2 Ajax @ 5.20 Total Goals 2-3 @ 1.89 Third Line text CLICK HEREDisclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.UEFA – Champions League

The Red Devils have not kept a clean sheet for nine games in all competitions – their longest run since a 10-match sequence in 2012.

Although, they are unbeaten in their last 14 home league games (won nine, drawn five), last losing at Old Trafford in August against Tottenham.

Meanwhile, the Hammers are winless in eight league away games, losing seven and scoring just twice.

West Ham have kept just five Premier League clean sheets this season — only Fulham have recorded fewer.

What’s next?

It’s a quick turnaround for United. They travel to Barcelona on Monday to play the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final the following night – their third game in a week. They trail 1-0 after the first leg.

They then travel to Everton on Easter Day in the Premier League.

As for West Ham, they host Leicester City on Easter Saturday and then it’s a derby with an edge on April 27 as they travel to Spurs.

 

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Solskjaer: No concern over Pogba

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has played down concerns that midfielder Paul Pogba could be interested in a big-money summer move to Real Madrid.

The 26-year-old France World Cup winner had struggled for form during the early stages of the current campaign, but has been rejuvenated since Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho just before Christmas.

Pogba has scored 11 Premier League goals so far this season and, ahead of a Tuesday evening Premier League trip to Wolves, Solskjaer says he is not too concerned about the swirling rumour mill.

He told reporters: "Paul is happy here, he's playing well. There were talks about the international break and what kind of issues that causes.

"One of the issues is that the players are always available for the press. He answered a general question, about how any player would like to play for Real Madrid. He didn't talk about himself."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane had previously stated when asked about a possible summer move for Pogba: "He brings so much and there are few players who bring as much as he does…but he is not my player, he is at Manchester.

"He has always said that, after Manchester, Madrid has always interested him. So when his experience at Manchester ends, why not come here to Madrid?"

United were held to a 1-1 draw when they met Wolves at Old Trafford earlier this season, while an FA Cup sixth round meeting in the Black Country finished 2-1 to the hosts last month.

The Red Devils are 1/1 to win on Tuesday evening and are 17/2 to triumph by a 2-1 scoreline, with the men from Manchester 6/5 to claim a top-four finish come the end of the season.

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Euro 2020: World Champions turn to Europe

Moldova vs France

France swept all before them at Russia 2018 to win the World Cup in true Gallic style; and now Les Bleus are about to get their Euro 2020 campaign under way at the Stadionul Zimbru in Moldova.

Even before a ball is kicked Didier Deschamp’s team is up there in the Euro 2020 betting odds as a likely winner, along with the likes of Belgium, England and Spain.

And they couldn’t have asked for a much gentler start to the next challenge. No disrespect to Moldova, but when Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe arrive in Chisnau, a world ranking of 170 is unlikely to be of much help!

It should be a regulation win for Les Bleus, but as we often say, it’s 11 against 11 and if the home crowd can raise the roof to get behind their boys then who knows?

Talking Points

France players in the mood

There are few better sights than France in full flow, and when their players are in the mood the football can be breathtaking. Deschamps claims he has a happy camp, though a couple of his big names have had something on their minds since the World Cup.

Following Atletico Madrid’s Champions League exit, speculation over Griezmann’s club future has intensified, with rumours of continued interest from Barcelona. The La Liga champions were tracking the France star in the summer and may still be hopeful of capturing his signature in 2019, though Premier League giants Manchester United are also said to be interested. And that might be tempting for the Atleti man as his France team-mate Paul Pogba has settled well under the leadership of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Pogba is a man we’ll see often in the Euro 2020 highlights if he can replicate the form he showed in the World Cup and, indeed, in the Premier League after the departure of Jose Mourinho. Red Devils fans will hope the gifted midfielder’s mood swings are a thing of the past.

Paul Pogba is a man to watch in France in their upcoming match against Moldova in Euro 2020

Paul Pogba during his training with Didier Deschamps

One of the biggest news stories of Russia 2018 was the emergence of PSG’s Kylian Mbappe as a world class talent as he terrorised defences with his electric pace, trickery and killer instinct.

It could be a torrid night for the Moldova defence.

Damage limitation for Moldova?

This is a baptism of fire for the hosts, who find themselves in a very tough Group H, containing a dangerous Turkey side and the well organised and perennial achieving Iceland, alongside the World Champions of course. Tiny Andorra provides a chance for a win, and Moldova has proved it can take points from the lesser lights, recently beating San Marino and drawing with Belarus and Luxembourg.

But the cold hard facts are that they are currently ranked as the fifth worst side in Europe, and head coach Alexandru Spiridon has won only one of the 11 games he’s been in charge.

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Midfielder Radu Ginsari is the current top scorer with seven goals and can play as an attacking midfielder or wide man. But Moldova’s highest profile player is Cagliari defensive midfielder Artur Ionita. The tough tackler has been a big influence in Serie A this season and will have a lot of work to do on Friday.

History

Moldova is yet to qualify for a major championships having finished bottom of Group D in the run up to World Cup 2018; and they finished third in their Nations League group.

France also failed to win their Nations League, missing out on a semi-final place, losing to a resurgent Holland, but they have recently beaten Uruguay and Germany and have won 12 of their last 17 games, scoring 30 goals

Betting Tip

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Moldova vs France France, Asian Handicap -2.25 @ 1.82
March 23, 03:45 (GMT+8)

When we take a look at the us odds for this fixture it’s clear as day that Asian Handicap Betting is the way to go. The hosts need a lift at odds of 12.00 to win, while Les Bleus are at a tiny 1.11 and the draw is an unlikely outcome at 8.75.

Under Spiridon, Moldova has had six clean sheets in 11 games but has failed to score in seven, and if there is a glimmer of hope, France has won just one for its last four away games.

I can’t see anything other than a comfortable start for Les Bleus and I suspect Mbappe could run riot.

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?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

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FA Cup: United Gain Revenge to Pile Pressure on Sarri

Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United

In a repeat of last season’s FA Cup Final, this was the perfect way for Manchester United to gain a modicum of revenge.

Two regular adversaries went head-to-head, and United knocked out the title holders on their own turf – their first domestic cup victory over Chelsea since 2002 which predated the Roman Abramovich arrival.

After losing Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to injury when their Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain was goalless last week, United struggled.

Despite those absences, this FA Cup tie saw them rediscover their mojo as they ran out deserved winners.

Highlights of the game

Arguably the competition offering both sides with their best chance of silverware this season, this was a match which also pitted together two managers (home boss Maurizio Sarri and interim United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) with uncertain futures.

One was under particular pressure, although Sarri’s side has not played particularly badly despite a couple of recent hammerings.

But for a fine double save from Sergio Romero, they may have had an early lead.

David Luiz’s free-kick beat the wall and forced the Argentina goalkeeper to keep the ball out before he then managed to beat away Pedro’s follow-up.

Minutes later, Gonzalo Higuain met Jorginho’s excellent delivery with a powerful header which flew narrowly wide. Margins like that can often decide games, and the next two headers provided two of the FA Cup 2019 highlights.

Just past the half-hour mark and Paul Pogba delivered a quite perfect ball. One of his midfield sparring partners, Ander Herrera, planted a header down and beyond Keza Arrizabalaga.

us observers will have known the next goal was crucial, and it arrived at a crucial time.

On the stroke of half-time, in fact.

Pogba played a 1-2 with Marcus Rashford and the seemingly rejuvenated Frenchman headed home the second from the superb return pass.

Into the second half and a fine tackle from Luke Shaw denied Pedro a likely goal, but many home fans seemed disillusioned and hardly encouraged their team by chanting ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ at Sarri as the time ticked away.

Sportingly, they did applaud former favourite Juan Mata as he was substituted in the closing stages, while United also brought on a man with a liking for this competition in Alexis Sanchez, who recalled after injury.

Meeting in the FA Cup for the fifth time in six years, Chelsea rarely looked like becoming the first team to knock United out of five consecutive meetings.

The full-time whistle signalled jubilation for the away fans, and the FA Cup 2019 betting odds will make United second favourites for this competition, although they face another tricky test in the quarter-finals after being drawn away to Wolves.

As for Chelsea, Sarri deserves to be given time to lead out his side at Wembley in this weekend’s League Cup Final – he did guide them there, after all – although the media hullabaloo will argue otherwise.

One thing does seem certain, however.

Maurizio Sarri is still in hot waters after failing to advance in the FA Cup

Maurizio Sarri stands in front of the Manchester United bench during their FA Cup clash

Given the way the club has operated under Abramovich, it is hard to see Sarri still being in charge at Stamford Bridge next season.

Key statistics

Chelsea have lost six of their last 11 games in all competitions (won five, lost six), more defeats than they suffered in their previous 41 (won 28, drawn eight).

This was only the third Red Devils’ triumph in their last 23 away games against Chelsea.

This was the 64th time in less than 22 years that these two clubs have met, making it the most-played fixture between English sides since the start of the 1997-98 season.

The Red Devils have eliminated the FA Cup holders on an unrivalled 11 occasions.

Chelsea have only failed to score in two of their last 51 cup ties at Stamford Bridge – tonight and last season in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final vs Arsenal (0-0).

What’s next?

It’s another big one for United who entertain Liverpool on Sunday (February 24) before a tricky trip to Crystal Palace three days later.

Their busy Premier League schedule continues with a home match against Southampton on March 2.

Chelsea have the second leg of their Europa League tie with Malmo at Stamford Bridge on Thursday (February 21) – they have a 2-1 advantage from the first leg – and then face Man City at Wembley in the League Cup Final.

The West Londoners schedule is even more hectic as they then face two Premier League matches at home to Spurs and away to Fulham later that week.

 

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Genesio hails Ndombele potential

Lyon head coach Bruno Genesio has tipped rising midfield star Tanguy Ndombele to be a success at a major European powerhouse in the future.

The 22-year-old, who made his senior debut for France in October of last year, is set to have a chance to show just what he can do against the best in Europe when Lyon host Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

And Genesio has no doubts that Ndombele has the quality needed to rise to the top, likening his player to France World Cup winner, Paul Pogba, once of Juventus and now at Manchester United.

He told Tuttosport: "I do not like comparisons, but Ndombele can be a new Pogba. He is strong physically and, above all, technically.

"Tanguy with the first touch manages to beat even three players and when he starts dribbling he is difficult to stop. He can play in any position in midfield.

"He has started scoring, but in the future I expect him to develop at the goal level. He must become a midfielder with eight-to-10 goals per season.

"Tanguy Ndombele will become a leading midfielder. I would not be surprised to see him at Juventus, but I would like to enjoy him a little more here at Lyon first."

Lyon and Barcelona have played six times previously in the Champions League, with the French club yet to register a victory against the Spanish giants.

Les Gones are 7/2 to win the game on Tuesday evening, with a 1-1 draw priced at 13/2 and a 2-2 final scoreline available at 11/1.

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Pogba revels in United form

Paul Pogba says he is delighted with Manchester United's run of form but there is no time to relax with so many big games ahead.

The midfielder scored twice for United as they moved into the top four in the Premier League with a 3-0 victory away at struggling Fulham.

Pogba gave United an early lead at Craven Cottage, Anthony Martial scored a second after 23 minutes and Pogba scored his second and United's third with a second half penalty to make the game safe.

It was United's 10th win in 11 games since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho, a run of form that has seen them get back into contention for a place in the Champions League next season.

The win at Fulham moved them above Chelsea into fourth in the table, the Blues needing a point or better at Manchester City on Sunday to climb back above United.

Pogba said after the game that now they are in such a run of form, they have no intention of letting it slip.

He told the BBC: "It feels great, that's what we wanted since Ole came. We talked about this there's still a long way to go but we want to stay there.

"We were very far behind and now we get back to the top four but there's still a long way to go with big games coming up so it won't be easy. The big teams now they just stay there. It will be the big games coming up now that decide where we end the season."

The first of those "big" games comes in midweek when United are in Champions League action with the round of 16 first-leg against Paris St Germain at Old Trafford.

United are 6/4 to win the game and take a lead back to the French capital while PSG are 13/8 and the draw is 5/2.

United then travel to Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup next Monday before a return to the Premier League, at home to Liverpool on 24th February.

United are 6/1 to win the FA Cup this season with Chelsea, who beat them in last year's final 11/2.

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