Caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has overseen a dramatic return to form for Paul Pogba has said the World Cup winner has the qualities to be captain of Manchester United.
The France midfielder was told in September by then-manager Jose Mourinho that he would never captain the club again, days after an apparent disagreement over tactics.
Mourinho denied at the time that there had been any fallout between the pair, having taken the decision to strip Pogba of his role as United vice-captain.
The decision was made public days after Pogba appeared to question Mourinho’s approach by telling reporters that United should “attack, attack, attack”.
Pogba, who performed erratically for his club over the first half of the season, has scored five goals in six appearances since Solskjaer arrived as interim boss on December 19.
The Frenchman made his debut for United’s reserve team when Solskjaer was their manager during the 25-year-old’s first spell at the club.
The Norwegian said that he has long believed Pogba has what it takes to lead a team, although made clear that he is happy with United’s current set-up, with Ashley Young the regular captain on the pitch while Antonio Valencia, who has made just eight appearances this season, is the club captain.
“I know the boy from before, and he’s a leader,” Solskjaer said ahead of his team’s FA Cup fourth-round match against Arsenal on Friday.
“He’s a character who influences people. He cares and wants to be successful.
“He knows he can’t do it by himself. It’s a team game and he’s a character who brings so many good things with him when he’s enjoying himself, I have to say.
“You see the personality. He loves playing football. He’s a larger-than-life character. That’s just the way he is.
“When the performances come as well, that marries together as a good leader and you see what it meant to him winning the World Cup. So for me, yes, he’s captain material.”
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Solskjaer, though, says he is not worried about the way that players such as Pogba and teammate Jesse Lingard use social media.
“It’s part of the era we live in,” he said. “That’s just society now, that’s what they’re used to, the kids now. I’m not, but they are.
“And it’s all positive, it’s all good messages and I don’t have any problem with that whatsoever because that’s Paul, that’s Jesse. We’ve got certain rules obviously, and it’s common sense.”
Solskjaer said that there were no immediate plans to give Pogba the captain’s armband, adding that he felt the role could sometimes be given too much significance.
“Ashley’s wearing the armband, yes because Antonio’s struggled with fitness as well, in and out,” said Solskjaer.
“Antonio’s still the club captain, but Ash is wearing the armband when he’s playing. I’ve never been a fan of ‘You’re this and you’re that’.”
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As Amazon burns, Brazil’s Bolsonaro tells rest of world not to interfere
Amid growing international criticism over the wildfires raging through the Amazon, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday admitted farmers could be illegally setting the rainforest ablaze but told foreign powers not to interfere.
French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary General António Guterres both took to Twitter to express concern about the fires that have reached a record number this year, devastating vast swathes of forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change.
Bolsonaro responded angrily to what he regarded as meddling.
“These countries that send money here, they don’t send it out of charity. … They send it with the aim of interfering with our sovereignty,” he said in a Facebook Live broadcast.
But earlier on Thursday, he said that Brazil alone lacked the resources to control the fires.
“The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?” he asked reporters as he left the presidential residence. “We do not have the resources for that.”
Fires in the Amazon have surged 83% so far this year compared with the same period a year earlier, government figures show.
Although fires are a regular and natural occurrence during the dry season at this time of year, environmentalists blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting the forest alight to clear land for pasture.
Farmers may have had at least tacit encouragement from the firebrand right-wing president, who took power in January. Bolsonaro has repeatedly said he believes Brazil should open the Amazon up to business interests, to allow mining, agricultural and logging companies to exploit its natural resources.
On Wednesday, he blamed non-governmental organizations for setting the fires, without providing evidence. He appeared to row back on Thursday, when he said for the first time that farmers could be behind the fires.
Ghana draws African-American tourists with ‘Year of Return
US preacher Roxanne Caleb blinked away the tears as she emerged from a pitch-dark dungeon where African slaves were once held before being shipped across the Atlantic to America.
“I wasn’t prepared for this. I’m heartbroken,” she told AFP as she toured the Cape Coast slave fort on Ghana’s ocean shore.
“My mind still can’t wrap around the fact that a human being can treat another worse than a rat.”
Caleb is among the African-American visitors flocking to Ghana as it marks the “Year of Return” to remember the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in Virginia.
The West African nation is banking on the commemorations to give a major boost to the number of tourist arrivals as it encourages the descendants of slaves to “come home”.
Cape Coast Castle, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the capital Accra, is a major magnet for those visiting
The white-washed fort lined with cannons was one of dozens of prisons studding the Atlantic coast where slaves were held before their journey to the New World.
A string of prominent African-Americans have headed to the site this year to mark the anniversary since the first slave landing in 1619.
Among them was a delegation of Congressional Black Caucus led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that toured last month.
– ‘Can’t forget history’ –
For those visiting it is an emotional rite of passage.
“This has been understanding my history and my roots where I came from,” Caleb said.
“I am very thankful I came here as part of the Year of Return.”
Sampson Nii Addy, a corrections officer with the Montgomery police department in Alabama, said he and his family had found the tour an “education”.
“I think every black person needs to come around to learn history; how people were treated,” the 52-year-old told AFP.
“We can’t forget history but we can always learn something from it.”
Ghana, one of the continent’s most stable democracies, has long pitched itself as a destination for African-Americans to explore their heritage and even settle permanently.
In 2009 President Barack Obama visited with his family and paid homage at the Cape Coast Castle.
The “Year of Return” has added fresh impetus and the country is hoping it will increase visitor numbers from 350,000 in 2018 to 500,000 this year, including 45,000 African-Americans.
Kojo Keelson has spent nine years guiding tour groups around the Cape Coast Castle and says 2019 has seen a surge in interest as Ghana looks to rake in tourism revenue of $925 million (830 million euros).
“It’s like a pilgrimage. This year we’ve a lot more African-Americans coming through than the previous year,” he told AFP.
“I’m urging all of them to come home and experience and reconnect to the motherland.”
– ‘Love to come again’ –
Akwasi Awua Ababio, the official coordinating “Year of Return” events, pointed to high hotel occupancy rates as he said “enthusiasm is very high and we’ve got huge numbers coming from the US and Caribbean”.
He insisted that beyond the major economic boost, Ghana was also looking to use the new connections it is forging to convince the descendants of slaves to resettle for good and help the country develop.
“Human resource is always an asset and we need to see how we can welcome them home to utilise their expertise and networks,” the director for diaspora affairs at the presidency said.
The African American Association of Ghana brings together those who have moved to West Africa and offers help to integrate them into their new surroundings.
President Gail Nikoi praised the “Year of Return” initiative by Ghanaian leader Nana Akufo-Addo and said the country was “setting the stage for future engagements and involvement of African-Americans and other Africans from the diaspora in the development of this country.”
But she said the authorities could still be doing more to help attract arrivals and convince them to stay.
“Dialogue and engagement is the first step,” she said.
While most of those visiting Cape Coast were not thinking about settling back permanently — they said the trip had opened their eyes to both their own history and what Ghana has to offer.
“It has broadened my horizons about how we came to be here and what our ancestors went through,” said William Shaw, 57, from Montgomery.
“I would love to come again. There is a lot more to see here in Ghana… at least once in a year I’d advise African-Americans to come back to their native land and learn about their history.”
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