Football

Mourinho hails McTominay after leaving out Pogba for Sevilla draw

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho described Scott McTominay as "fantastic" after selecting the young midfielder ahead of Paul Pogba for yesterday morning's (Singapore time) Champions League last-16, first-leg goalless draw with Sevilla.

In recent times, Mourinho has been critical of Pogba's performances and the Portuguese made a statement by selecting McTominay, 21, alongside Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic in midfield.

The United boss later complained that there had been too much focus on Pogba before and after the match, and not enough on a player making his second Champions League start.

"In my pre-match interview, I had four questions and three were about Paul, and Paul was not even playing. That's a bit strange," he said.

"If I were one of you (journalists), I would ask if the Manchester United manager agrees that McTominay had a fantastic performance, and my answer would be: Yes, he had a fantastic performance.

"He looked a senior player, a player with great maturity. Scott probably looked like a man with dozens and dozens of matches in the Champions League when this is only his second (start)."

The Red Devils youth product responded to his manager's praise saying: "Obviously it's so important for me to repay the manager whenever he puts trust in me in these games...

"Big nights, big occasions. That's what you want in your career."

As fate would have it McTominay played most of the game alongside Pogba, who came on after just 17 minutes when injury forced Herrera off.

The French star played his part in a typically cautious, backs-to-the-wall away European performance from Mourinho's side. But, tellingly, he later refused to stop for journalists in the mixed zone of the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

"Paul made a big effort to try to give the team what I asked of them," insisted Mourinho.

"He gave us stability. For a match away to Sevilla, we had a good percentage of the ball and Paul had responsibility for that."

Mourinho said the scoreline "reflected what the game was", despite the Old Trafford side managing just one shot on target all evening.

He said: "The stats are what they are. Sometimes you have 15 shots, but 13 of them are what I call statistic shots. So the result reflects what the game was like.

"If you ask me is it a good result, I say it is not good, it is not bad."

United are hoping to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2014, while Sevilla have never made it past the last 16 of the Champions League in three attempts in the last decade.

Their coach Vincenzo Montella, who was pleased with his side's effort, believes Sevilla have a good chance of progressing, despite struggling recently in big matches away from home.

He said: "We always play to score and try to be superior to our opponents. It is not always possible, but that is what we have to do." - AFP, REUTERS

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