Belfast Telegraph

Juve's boss warns Pogba over return to Red Devils

By Samuel Stevens

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has suggested Paul Pogba would be taking a step back if he was to return to Manchester United in a world-record deal this summer.

The France midfielder left Old Trafford in 2012 on Sir Alex Ferguson's watch but new manager Jose Mourinho has informed the club's hierarchy that he considers the arrival of Pogba to be essential to his plans this season.

After helping his country reach the final of the European Championship this summer, until suffering extra-time heartbreak against Portugal, Pogba described United as his "first family" during a recent interview.

But Allegri, who insists no formal offer has been received for the 23-year-old, says he is unperturbed by the speculation.

Speaking to Italian media this weekend, the former Milan manager revealed his belief that Juventus are among the "top four" clubs in European football, reminding Pogba that a move to United would mean forsaking a place in the Champions League.

"I am calm about the English rumours," Allegri said. "Anyone who has the opportunity to leave Juventus has to consider things very carefully, because right now Juve are among the top four European clubs.

"This is not a selling club that just lets its players go. Pogba belongs to Juve and at the end of the day he too will want to win another Scudetto and hopefully the Champions League.

"We have grown in terms of appeal and awareness of our own capabilities. So far our market this summer has been eight out of 10, bringing in players of international pedigree like Medhi Benatia, Dani Alves and Miralem Pjanic."

Meanwhile, new United recruit Henrikh Mkhitaryan is confident he can play a leading role at the club after delivering an encouraging display in the 2-0 pre-season friendly victory against Wigan Athletic.

The Armenian joined the 20-time champions of England from Borussia Dortmund for £26m this summer as Mourinho continues to renovate the squad he inherited from Louis van Gaal.

Mourinho gave Mkhitaryan 45 minutes in the first-half at the DW Stadium on Saturday afternoon to prove himself ahead of the trip to China for the International Champions Cup next week.

Will Keane and Andreas Pereira scored the first goals of the Mourinho era as United strolled to victory against Wigan in a match which also featured a debut for £30m defender Eric Bailly and a return from injury for Luke Shaw.

Mkhitaryan said: "I would say it was a good game. The first half was a little bit difficult because we couldn't score a goal.

"But we made a good game and thank you to my team-mates. I was trying to feel comfortable. I think day by day it will be better. I am trying, because the first days are always very difficult.

"You have to get to know your team-mates and their qualities, so I am trying to learn everything very quickly.

"Game by game it will be better and better. Of course we're getting ready for the new season so we are trying to do everything the coach is asking," the new signing added.

The former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder's manager was delighted with his display, too, lauding him as a "top-class player" whom he considers invaluable to his Old Trafford project being a success.

Mourinho said: "Mkhitaryan is a top-class player and currently at the best stage for a footballer - 27 to 28 years old.

"He is magnificent the way he thinks about football, he thinks very quickly and it's so sweet how he touches the ball.

"He can play in different positions behind the striker. He doesn't have the sharpness yet but his performance was very positive," the Old Trafford boss added.

Belfast Telegraph


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