Pogba dismissal triggers French feud

China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-04 07:56

Red-carded United star fuming with countryman Koscielny

LONDON - Jose Mourinho revealed Paul Pogba was furious with France teammate Laurent Koscielny's reaction to the red-card tackle that rules the Manchester United midfielder out of this weekend's summit meeting with Manchester City.

Pogba was sent off in the 74th minute of United's 3-1 win at Arsenal on Saturday for a dangerous, studs-up tackle on Hector Bellerin.

 Pogba dismissal triggers French feud

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny beats Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku to a header during Saturday's English Premier League match at Emirates Stadium in London on Saturday. United won 3-1. Andrew Couldridge / Action Images via Reuters

Koscielny responded to the foul by appearing to urge referee Andre Marriner to send off Pogba, who sarcastically applauded Marriner as he headed for the tunnel.

And United boss Mourinho made it clear the France star wasn't happy with the decision or his compatriot's supposed part in it.

"I just know that Paul is frustrated. A bit disappointed with this colleague, Koscielny, with this kind of reaction," Mourinho said.

"He is very frustrated because everybody knows that Paul is a clean player and it was not his intention at all to be close to a red card."

As well as his anger at Pogba's treatment, Mourinho was frustrated at what he saw as Arsenal diving in the closing stages.

Danny Welbeck and Alexandre Lacazette, appealed in vain for penalties and, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, Mourinho said: "I know the pitch is amazing and maybe breeds a desire to go to the floor.

"If it was hard, no; if it was mud, no - the pitch is absolutely beautiful but I think they were a bit too much.

"If it's not a penalty, it's not a penalty."

Pogba's red card will earn him a three-match ban and his absence from the Manchester derby is a huge blow to United's hopes of closing the gap on the leader.

City is five points ahead of United, but was expected to extend that lead to eight with a win over lowly West Ham on Sunday.

Regardless of that result, United can still close the gap when its hated neighbor arrives at Old Trafford this weekend.

But Mourinho refused to label the seismic showdown as a make-or-break moment in the title race.

Asked if United's fourth straight league win had sent a message to Pep Guardiola's City team, he said: "No message. We go match after match.

"We are second in the table. We won four consecutive matches. We managed to win and play well. I'm happy but there is no message."

While Mourinho was coy about the derby, he was effusive in his praise of his players after they won at Emirates Stadium for the first time since 2014, ending their recent struggles in away league games against top-six opponents.

"We started with that desire and intensity, we played high and created mistakes," the Portuguese said.

"There were amazing individual performances and collectively we were very strong."

'Fantastic' De Gea

United was indebted to David De Gea for a stunning display, the Spaniard making 14 saves - some of jaw-dropping quality - as he tied the record for most stops by a goalkeeper in the Premier League era.

"He made fantastic saves," Mourinho said. "What I saw was the best goalkeeper in the world."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger saw the two penalty appeals differently to his old rival and he took a swipe at Marriner's performance.

"Last night I watched Napoli versus Juventus on TV and we watched a top-class referee. If you want to analyze well, watch the difference between them and us and then you will see," he said.

Even so, Wenger acknowledged that the Gunners' shortcomings contributed to a loss that effectively ends their title bid.

Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard punished terrible Arsenal defending to put United 2-0 up by the 11th minute. Lacazette got one back but Lingard's second sealed the points.

"You have to dictate from the start and show strength in duels from the back," Wenger said.

"I felt that at the back our concentration was not sharp enough from the start and not dominant enough."

Conte concedes catching City is big ask

Antonio Conte admits retaining the Premier League title may be out of Chelsea's reach despite an impressive recent run of results ahead of its midweek Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid.

The Blues fought back from a goal down on Saturday to beat Newcastle 3-1 courtesy of two goals from Eden Hazard either side of a headed effort from Alvaro Morata.

The win leaves defending champion Chelsea third on 32 points, eight behind pacesetter Manchester City, after six wins in its past seven Premier League matches.

"I am happy, but you know very well that there is a team in this league that is doing extraordinary things, and it's Manchester City," said Conte.

"Otherwise, I think we are staying up there with the other teams."

Chelsea hosts Atletico on Tuesday in its last Champions League group match knowing that a win will guarantee it top spot in Group C ahead of Serie A side Roma. And a Hazard performance against the Spaniards similar to Saturday's would go a long way to securing the Blues first place.

"Eden enjoys playing our type of football," said Conte.

"He is an important player for us. We can change our system around him. He can play as a second striker or he can play as a number 10 when we play 3-4-3."

Conte said it would be special to see Hazard in action for Belgium against England at the World Cup next year, joking that he would have to ask his Chelsea teammates Gary Cahill and Danny Drinkwater to treat him gently.

"Gary knows very well Eden's skill. For this reason, he must pay great attention. Every day to have a training session with this type of player and this skill makes you stronger."

Despite a bright start for Newcastle, Rafa Benitez's side slumped to its fifth defeat in six league games, a run that has seen it drop into the bottom half of the standings.

Benitez, who won the Europa League with Chelsea four years ago, said: "We made mistakes against good players. With the quality they have, they punish you. We were in the game and you never know what can happen at one each, 2-1."

Agence France-presse

(China Daily 12/04/2017 page23)

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