Paul Pogba: Manchester United out to avenge Stamford Bridge defeats
Paul Pogba is eyeing revenge and a much-needed win when Manchester United host high-flying Chelsea.
Sunday’s Old Trafford encounter promises to be a mouth-watering clash as the Blues home in on the title and Jose Mourinho’s side looks to kick-start their top-four tilt.
The United boss insists there is no added emotion facing former club Chelsea, but this season’s defeats at Stamford Bridge clearly rankle with the world’s most expensive player.
The Reds bowed out of the FA Cup after a narrow 1-0 loss in the capital last month, compounding a 4-0 league humiliation in October that still sticks in the craw.
“Well, this season Chelsea have beaten us two times and, obviously, we don’t want that to happen a third time,” Pogba said. “We want to win.
“Obviously they are ahead of us, they’re playing for the title and, for them, it’s important to win this game. For us as well, because we’re playing for the top four as well, so it’s going to be a game that’s really important for each team.
“We have to be focused and get ready and show them revenge, it’s revenge for us. So, let’s be positive about it and hopefully go and win this game.”
United have gone unbeaten in 21 league matches since the October’s Stamford Bridge humbling, but 10 draws during that run leaves them scrapping for Champions League qualification rather than the title.
Chelsea’s far superior cutting edge means the league leaders are 18 points better off than fifth-placed United, although the west Londoners’ turnaround this season should offer Mourinho’s side hope.
The Portuguese was sacked in December 2015 for the Blues’ dismal title defence, but summer appointment Antonio Conte, a man Pogba knows well from Juventus, has brought belief and organisation back to the team.
“They have a great team and everybody knows that,” the France midfielder said.
“When you’re playing in the Premier League, you have to have a bit of luck as well but you create the luck.
“They have a manager who pushes them and they have players who want to show the world that Chelsea are still alive and, last year, that didn’t happen.
“But you never know, that’s what the beautiful thing in the Premier League.
“You never know what’s going to happen. They’ve done good this season.”
Pogba says the Chelsea players “know exactly what to do” under Conte, having experienced how hard players are drilled on the training ground from his time at Juventus.
Conte meanwhile admits he cannot stop United targeting Eden Hazard.
Belgium winger Hazard, nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award, was singled out for some rough treatment by United when the teams met in the FA Cup last month
At the time Conte was angered by the visitors’ approach but, ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Old Trafford on Sunday, the Italian says he has not made any preparations for more of the same.
“No, it’s very difficult to prepare for this type of situation,” he said.
“We are preparing the tactical aspect of the game and trying to find the best solutions offensively and defensively. This game will be very tough but I didn’t prepare anything for this situation.
“The coach has to work on the tactical aspect, the physical aspect, the psychological aspect. In this type of game it’s important to prepare your team to face every situation – tactical, physical or mental – to be ready.
“My expectations are for a tough game. I think when I talk about a tough game I invoke the tactical, physical and mental aspects.
“It’s not right to tell only one of these aspects. There are many great players but technicality is not enough. You must have good impact physically and with the right mentality.”
If Chelsea are to cement their place at the top of the table they will have to keep United talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet.
The 35-year-old has scored 28 goals in his first season in England, and Conte feels he is playing some of the best football of his illustrious career.
“Zlatan now is at the top of his form,” added Conte.
“I think he’s a great player now, a top player. He’s not only a finisher, he plays for the team. For me, he’s one of the best players in the world.
“So we must have good defensive organisation and pay great attention because, when he attacks the box, he’s very dangerous. Also when he receives the ball he’s dangerous. He’s a very dangerous player.”