Man Utd: The first six fixtures of the new Premier League season
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Paul Pogba silenced harsh criticism from Manchester United legends Gary Neville and Roy Keane about his performance despite Switzerland’s unbelievable win on penalties over France in the last-16 at Euro 2020. Vladimir Petkovic’ men will face Spain in the quarter-finals.
The French got off to a nightmare start when Haris Seferovic easily rose above Clement Lenglet to head home inside the opening 15 minutes.
Things looked like they could be going from bad to worse for the heavy favourites when VAR awarded Switzerland a penalty, but Ricardo Rodriguez’s spot kick was saved by Hugo Lloris.
Sensing their opportunity, France immediately sprung into life, Karim Benzema scoring twice in the space of three minutes to turn the tie completely on its head.
Pogba played an important role in his second strike, providing the pre-assist to Kylian Mbappe with a smart body feint and pass, while his passing ability helped to set up a number of good chances throughout the match.
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The United midfielder then chipped in himself with a quite sublime strike from around 25 yards out, bending it into the top right corner with a serious goal of the tournament contender.
France seemed to be easing through, but the engrossing tie threw up another twist when Seferovic bagged his second 10 minutes from time, and then Mario Gavranovic produced the unthinkable to score an equaliser and take arguably the game of the tournament into extra time.
An extra 30 minutes could not seperate the two teams, with Switzerland emerging successful from the penalty shootout when Kylian Mbappe’s spot kick was saved.
Former Red Devils captain Gary Neville led the criticism at half-time, insisting Pogba was all at sea playing alongside N’Golo Kante as a midfield pair and leaving the defence too vulnerable.
He said on ITV: “We talked about the attitude of the French team, but they haven’t got a clue what they’re doing.
“Not one part of the team, from the front to midfield to the park, has got a clue at all, and it’s demonstrated by the goal.
“The goal was an absolute embarrassment. If you look at the front three, they don’t get back goalside.
“Pogba runs across Kante, leaves a space. Two can’t cover the width in midfield anyway.
“That back five, they haven’t got a clue. Rabiot at left wing-back, that needs to change. I think it did with Kimpembe.
“The centre-backs on the goal, the front three ambling, Pogba runs across Kante, you don’t do that in a two in midfield.
“Pogba can’t play in a two-man midfield, Kante doesn’t play in a two-man midfield and it’s been proven.
“They’re all over the place at the back, there’s no shape to them, Kimpembe should be tight and Lenglet’s body shape is all wrong.
“To be honest with you, the only benefit for France is it’s happened early in the game and they’ve got a chance to get out of it.”
Former team-mate Roy Keane stated his belief in the break that Pogba and Kante were lacking energy, which they duly provided in the second half to turn the tide around.
“The one thing you need in football is enthusiasm,” said Keane. “They don’t look like they’ve got an appetite for the game. They’re not playing as a team.
“For all the quality they have, two lads in midfield are all over the place, the strikers are just hanging on to their quality that that will be enough. That’s not enough at this level.
“I could play for Switzerland tonight. If you gave me time on the ball, I’d still be playing. They’re in huge trouble.”
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