Paul Pogba believes Manchester United’s historic comeback against Paris St-Germain will be playing on Barcelona minds as he warned his team-mates they would have to be “killers” to pull off another extraordinary Champions League rescue act.
Pogba’s call-to-arms ahead of the second leg of their quarter-final at the Nou Camp next Tuesday, when United must overturn a 1-0 deficit, was echoed by Romelu Lukaku, who urged the side to show “more heart and b——-” than they did at Old Trafford. United became the first team in European Cup history to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a knockout tie when they beat PSG 3-1 at the Parc des Princes in the previous round last month to progress on away goals and Pogba says it could hand them an important psychological advantage in Barcelona.
“Paris will probably be in their minds, for sure, because they saw what we could do against PSG,” said the United midfielder, who refused to answer questions about his future amid interest from Real Madrid. “We know that we can hurt them. We saw a team [at Old Trafford] that we can beat and we believe we can beat them.”
To achieve that, United will have to be far more clinical in front of goal than they were on Wednesday night, when they failed to register a shot on target from 10 attempts and, in that regard, they may not be unhappy that the second leg is away.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said previously that he prefers it that way around and, given their form and struggle for goals at Old Trafford this term, it is easy to understand the manager’s rationale. United’s counter-attacking set-up seems more naturally suited to playing on the road – some of their biggest problems have come when they have the majority of the ball and have struggled to break down teams who sit deeper – and the statistics largely support that.
Alarmingly, United have won only half of their 22 matches at Old Trafford in all competitions this season, compared to 14 wins from 24 away, and they have managed 11 more goals on their travels.
The difference has been most pronounced in the Champions League and, in that respect, the prospect of going to the Nou Camp might not necessarily hold as much fear for United as playing four of their final six Premier League matches at Old Trafford, starting with the visit of West Ham United tomorrow evening. Currently sixth, three points adrift of Spurs in fourth, United face a serious fight to finish in the top four.
United have scored just once from 65 shots in five Champions League home matches, only 11 of which have been on target. Contrast that to nine goals from 17 shots on target in four away matches – which included a 2-1 win at fellow quarter-finalists Juventus as well as the PSG triumph – and it helps to explain why United believe an upset in Catalonia is not unfeasible.
“We have to avoid giving them chances and be killers in front of goal,” Pogba said.
United’s principal attackers are favouring playing away this season. Lukaku and Anthony Martial have twice as many goals on the road – 10 and eight respectively – as they do at Old Trafford. Marcus Rashford has scored just four times at home compared to nine away and Jesse Lingard has four away goals to his name but just one at Old Trafford.
United scored three goals from four shots on target against PSG, with Lukaku claiming two of those, and the Belgium striker says it will need to be a similar story again.
Asked what the key would be, Lukaku said: “Taking our chances and not conceding a goal, and playing with more heart and b——- [than at Old Trafford]. We have to be better on the ball.”
Alexis Sanchez – who is in line to make his comeback against West Ham after almost seven weeks out with a knee injury – could be involved against Barcelona and Lukaku believes the Chile striker will have an important role to play until the end of the season, despite his woeful form for United.
“He is a positive person and the most important thing is that he is the happiest he can be and that us as players must give him more confidence because with the qualities he has, he can be one of the best players in the league,” Lukaku said.
“I hope that he can help us finish in the top four and go on in the Champions League.”
source: The Telegraph