Monday 22 January 2018

Pogba brothers set to be cut above in Europa reunion

Saint Etienne's Florentin Pogba. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Saint Etienne's Florentin Pogba. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Simon Peach

Florentin Pogba has marked the "magical" encounter against younger brother Paul Pogba by having both of their squad numbers shaved into his hair.

Anticipation has built since Manchester United and Saint-Etienne were drawn against one another in the Europa League last-32, pitting the Pogba brothers against one another. The siblings have come a long way from the artificial pitches of Roissy-en-Brie in the Paris suburbs - an occasion Florentin is celebrating with the kind of haircut his younger brother would be proud of. A bleached number 19, the St Etienne defender's squad number, has been cut into his hair, with Paul's number, six, crafted into the other side ahead of the first leg at Old Trafford.

"The 19 is my squad number and the six is for him," Florentin said. "It's going to be a magical moment and I hope he and I enjoy it the best we can. No anguish at all, absolute excitement for me. I'm really passionate about the game and I cannot wait to play in this historic stadium and to play against my little brother."

The 26-year-old hopes the last-32 tie goes the same way as the table tennis matches against his "little brother" as Saint-Etienne look to secure a shock result in Manchester.

Their mother, Yeo, will be at the first leg and next Wednesday's return fixture in France, enjoying the "one-off" occasion to the maximum.

"Mum's going to be here," said Florentin, whose twin brother, Mathias, plays for Sparta Rotterdam after time with Wrexham, Crewe, Pescara, Crawley and Partick.

Saint Etienne's Florentin Pogba. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Saint Etienne's Florentin Pogba. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

"Obviously these things don't happen very often in a player's career, the chance to see her two sons playing against each other, so she'll be here and at the return leg too. She can't lose really, can she? So it's going to be a fantastic night for her and a moment of real joy that she will enjoy watching both of her boys play."

It is a moment the whole family are relishing and look set to enjoy whatever the outcome.

"We've given each other some stick and there was some banter straight after the draw was made, but since then we've been so focused on our respective league games," Florentin added. "We've not been in that much particular contact about this one. For sure it's a momentous occasion for us, an occasion full of joy, and for sure I'll be swapping shirts with him."

"Jose Mourinho, meanwhile, believes that Manchester United's success in cup competitions this season could leave them "in trouble" as their campaign progresses.

Tonight's game commences a run of four straight cup fixtures for United, including an EFL Cup final against Southampton. Progression past Blackburn in Saturday's FA Cup fifth round tie would mean Mourinho's men play just one Premier League fixture in the next month.

The Portuguese is concerned that fighting on all fronts could leave his squad on the back foot in the tight race for a place in top four and consign United to another year in Europe's secondary competition.

"We cannot choose the competitions at Manchester United. We know that our situation is really complicated," he said. "We know that the Europa League is also a competition where we play on Thursdays and that makes it even more difficult for us. The accumulation of FA Cup, League Cup, match postponements is really hard."

Nevertheless, Mourinho promised "go seriously" when selecting his starting line-up for the first leg and Saturday's trip to Ewood Park. Luke Shaw will play no part against Saint-Etienne, missing out on the match-day squad for the fourth consecutive fixture. Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick will be rested.

Manchester Utd v Saint-Etienne,

Live, BT Sport 2, 8.05

Irish Independent

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