Pogba propels United attack

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-20 07:51

Joins Ibrahimovic in returning from long injury layoffs

MANCHESTER, England - Paul Pogba, returning from a 12-match layoff with a hamstring problem, made an immediate impact with Manchester United on Saturday, setting up the equalizer for Anthony Martial before scoring his team's third goal in a 4-1 romp over Newcastle United.

The match also marked the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from career-threatening knee surgery, and United manager Jose Mourinho said the emotion was palpable.

Ibrahimovic, who tore knee ligaments against Anderlecht in April, drew the biggest cheer of the day when he appeared as a 77th-minute substitute.

 Pogba propels United attack

Manchester United's Nemanja Matic, Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling go up for a header with Newcastle United's Aleksandar Mitrovic during United's 4-1 English Premier League victory at Old Trafford in Manchester on Saturday. Andrew Yates / Reuters

"The second half was ours," said Mourinho. "We had control, goals, beautiful actions ... and still time for a very emotional scene for all of us, who stayed close to such a professional with one of the biggest injuries in football.

"Zlatan coming back was a joy for everyone, but for us close to him it was more than that, it was a big emotion to see the big guy back."

Pogba was sorely missed during his two-month absence, not least by striker Romelu Lukaku who ended a run of seven games without a goal by adding the fourth for United.

Mourinho would not talk about Pogba during his layoff, but the manager was forthright about the French international's value to United, although he now has to make a decision whether or not to select him for Wednesday's Champions League group match against Basel.

"He was top," said the United manager. "It looked like he was not out, he came back with a great performance, a really great performance. He had great influence.

"I agreed with him he had to make the decision of coming out at the first sign of fatigue because we don't want to go over the limit so he played a little bit more than an hour.

"He affects our football. When he was injured I decided to close my mouth, we cannot be crying, we have to find solutions that we have but we all know - myself and the players - that some players influence the level of the team.

"So with him we had much more creation, we have a second way out from the first phase and I'm so happy. Let's see the best decision for Wednesday."

Lukaku on target

Pogba celebrated wildly, on his way down the tunnel, when Lukaku scored the fourth goal in the 70th minute and Mourinho was equally pleased to see the Belgian return to scoring ways.

"Strikers like to score goals," he said.

"It's not a problem for me if he works like he always does and doesn't score, but for their self esteem and self confidence they want to score goals.

"He wasn't doing that for a few matches and I know that can affect a striker's confidence, so I was really happy that he scored that goal."

After the teams traded goals, Chris Smalling headed United into a 2-1 lead in first-half injury time, although Newcastle came close to snatching an equalizer before the break when an Isaac Hayden shot was turned aside and Matt Ritchie's follow-up shot was almost deflected in by Dwight Gayle, who scored the opener.

"I'm really pleased and proud of my players for their effort in that opening 30 minutes," Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez said.

"But when you pay big money for players, they can make the difference.

"If we had scored a second it might have been different, but even if we had scored a second, you can't think a game with Man United is finished with their level of players.

"You know it is going to be 90 minutes of suffering, but it's a pity because we had chances."

Agence France-presse

(China Daily 11/20/2017 page23)

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