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Man United need to get on same page, Ronaldo's mixed Juve debut, more

It's all about spin, I guess. Spin, and how you view the person doing the talking.

Paul Pogba came out after Manchester United's 3-2 defeat at Brighton and,  as I saw it, took the loss on the chin.

"The attitude that we had was not like we wanted to beat them," he said. "They had more hunger than us and that showed on the pitch. I put myself first. My attitude wasn't right enough. We'll keep trying and pushing and obviously it's a lesson for us."

I read that as a team captain saying the blame rests with the players on the pitch, himself first and foremost. Perhaps excessively so, too, because much of United's attacking output came via Pogba and the individual errors that cost Jose Mourinho's side the game weren't down to him. But hey: win and lose as a team. Pogba is taking responsibility and, along the way, he's perhaps deflecting some blame from his embattled manager.

Some, especially those who see everything through Mourinho vs. Pogba lenses, had the opposite view, seeing it as a veiled attack on the manager since "attitude" is presumably something he's supposed to instill.

Others, like Paul Scholes, took a different tack and skewered Pogba.

"I hope that is lost in translation," he said. "There is no defence for that comment, there is no defence for it. You say it to yourself, don't you? You're constantly saying it to yourself: 'Attitude right, make sure it's right.' You don't need other people to tell you. You don't need a manager to tell you that, or your teammates."

Needless to say, I don't get Scholes' comment. Pogba isn't using it as an excuse; he's offering an explanation about why his team was so poor. He's owning the defeat and he's doing it in public, something that may be novel to Scholes since he very rarely spoke after matches.

Maybe Scholes could get his "attitude right" by repeating "attitude right" over and over again in his head. For whatever reason, this didn't happen with United's players and all Pogba is doing is admitting it.

Individual errors led to all three Brighton goals and the center-backs, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, will get the brunt of the blame, with Mourinho's critics pointing out that both were his signings (and neither was exactly cheap). That's all true, but Ashley Young was equally at fault for the first goal; and in midfield, both Fred and Andreas Pereira struggled. Up front, there was little creativity despite some sustained spells of possession.

Paul Pogba tried to take the blame for Man United's defeat at Brighton but still got criticism as others tried to read too much into his remarks.
Paul Pogba tried to take the blame for Man United's defeat at Brighton but still got criticism as others tried to read too much into his remarks.

Things should improve as the season settles down. When Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard (who sparked things into life somewhat when he came on) and Alexis Sanchez are all fit and capable of playing from the first minute, this team gets qualitatively better. And against most Premier League sides, that ought to be enough.

The back four, on the other hand, is an issue that will linger. It's not that they're all terrible, but Mourinho's past statements have spoken volumes about how he feels about some of these guys. Now it's up to him -- and them -- to make it work.

Ronaldo endures mixed-bag debut for Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo's debut was something of a mixed bag. He played well, forced a tremendous save out of Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino (whom he sent to the hospital following a fortuitous collision and later called to wish him a speed recovery) and generally looked lively. He also failed to score and Juve as a whole had to huff and puff in coming from behind for a 3-2 away win against arguably the worst side in Serie A.

After nine seasons at Real Madrid, the last four with mostly the same cast of characters in the attacking third, it will take Ronaldo some time to build the requisite chemistry with his teammates. But it's not lost on anybody that he looked better in the final half-hour playing on the left with a genuine center-forward like Mario Mandzukic down the middle rather than leading the line on his own. That's something Max Allegri will need to figure out: how the pieces fit to get the best out of the club's record investment.

Real begin post-Ronaldo era with a win

Real Madrid drew 48,466 to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sunday's 2-0 victory over Getafe and the first Liga match of the post-Cristiano Era. As my colleague points out, the last time they drew less than 50,000 was in May 2009... which happened to be the last league game before Ronaldo joined the club. It may be a coincidence, but it's a creepy one.

As for the match itself, Julen Lopetegui left out Luka Modric and Casemiro, using Dani Ceballos in midfield, while Keylor Navas got the nod ahead of Thibaut Courtois between the sticks. You can already see Lopetegui's work with the front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio switching positions and pressing aggressively against an opponent that sat deep and played on the counter.

It was important to start on the right foot after the SuperCup defeat, and Real did just that.

Seeking meaning in Chelsea's 3-2 win over Arsenal

Chelsea's clash with Arsenal was one of those matches that was so wide open you didn't quite know what to make of it. On the one hand, the attacking prowess both teams showed -- Chelsea raised "Sarriball" to an art in the first 25 minutes, while Arsenal could have had four or five goals of their own by half-time -- left you wondering how devastating these teams could be going forward. On the other hand, the ease with which both were carved up left you wondering whether a side like Manchester City would score double figures against them.

The big thing to remember is that both Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri are new this season and, on top of that, have had little time work given the late return of many players from the World Cup. That said, unless things suddenly click into place, you imagine Emery won't be able to play the fatally high line we've seen. And equally, Sarri may want to revisit his back line too -- particularly the full-backs, who have yet to come to grips with the required movements his system demands.

The difference, ultimately, was the two clubs' highest-paid players. Eden Hazard came on half an hour from time and set up Chelsea's winner. Mesut Ozil had one of his anonymous days, failing to press Jorginho and -- apart from an early strike -- disappearing as the game went on.

Messi inspires Barcelona to easy victory

Talk about hitting the ground running. Lionel Messi scored twice against Alaves, hit the woodwork twice and would have had a raft of assists with better finishing from Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele. Along the way he scored Barcelona's 6,000th goal, which was fitting since nearly a decade ago he scored number 5,000.

It's a good job he was on top of his game because Barcelona struggled in the first half against an Alaves side that had given them trouble in each of the past two seasons. Ernesto Valverde's first-half lineup, with Sergi Roberto in midfield and Philippe Coutinho on the bench, didn't quite work and he fixed it by sending on the former Liverpool man at half-time.

There's still plenty to work on, but the good news is that when you've got a Messi on this form, you don't need to worry about the results.

Man City are on a different planet right now

Pep Guardiola's range of solutions is seemingly endless right now. Against Huddersfield he switched to a back three with Vincent Kompany at the heart of the defence and played a front tandem of Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero. Kun nabbed a hat-trick in City's 6-1 win and you imagine against certain opponents the front two is something we might see again. It does mean losing the pacy wingers, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, but then again if the opponent is defending deep, there isn't much space for wide men to run into anyway.

But the real bonus was David Silva's man-of-the-match performance. He hadn't actually played since the World Cup but it was as if he'd never been away. The absence of Kevin De Bruyne was hardly felt. No sense in getting carried away just yet -- and to be fair, Huddersfield are, on paper, the weakest side in the Premier League, weakened further this weekend by several absentees -- but City appear to be on a different planet right now.

Sassuolo stun revamped Inter

After a summer that saw them pick up Radja Nainggolan, Lautaro Martinez, Stefan De Vrij, Keita Balde, Matteo Politano and Kwadwo Asamoah, many saw Inter as the most credible threat to Juventus in Serie A. So the 1-0 opening-day defeat to Sassuolo has some scratching their heads.

There's definitely room for improvement (the less we see of Dalbert at left-back, when Asamoah can play there, the better), but a lot of credit should go to Sassuolo and their fearless manager, Roberto De Zerbi.

Last season he took over at Benevento when they were dead certs to go down and the team played some impressive attacking football. They were relegated but it did not go unnoticed. This year, at Sassuolo, he has a far better squad and has maintained that attacking, creative impetus. They'll be fun to watch and might well spring a surprise or two along the way.

Mbappe to the rescue for PSG

Just as he did last week -- partly by necessity, partly by design -- Thomas Tuchel packed his Paris Saint-Germain side with youth for the visit to Guingamp. Colin Dagba, Antoine Bermede, Christopher Nkunku and Timothy Weah all got a start and that may be part of the reason why they found themselves a goal down at half-time.

Lucky for PSG that they have another teenager on the bench, except this one is on another level entirely. Kylian Mbappe came on at half-time and after Neymar equalised from the spot, the superstar sub banged in two late goals to send the Parisians to a 3-1 win. He was humble afterward, as you'd expect, saying that Neymar is the true star of PSG and he has a long way to go and blah-blah-blah. But the way he's going, he may well supplant his teammate sooner rather than later.

What a goal from Edin Dzeko!

Roma left it late to win at Torino but when it came, it was special. Edin Dzeko channeled his inner Marco Van Basten with this goal, set up after a brilliant run from Justin Kluivert who was very bright after coming off the bench.

OK, so I feel funny comparing anyone to Van Basten, perhaps the most technically gifted center-forward I remember seeing. And, yes, this Van Basten goal was on a bigger stage. But the technique and the degree of difficulty is similar, as is the outright confidence of knowing you could easily take it on your chest but you choose the tougher option instead.

Kane breaks his August "curse"

See? Harry Kane does score in August. So much for the voodoo and the superstition.

Tottenham's win over Fulham, after a difficult first half, keeps them ticking along nicely. The flaws (whether real or potential) are still there but they have a different dimension now in Lucas Moura, who scored in the 3-1 victory. And that Kieran Trippier free-kick was sublime, especially the way he turned to celebrate before the ball had even crossed the line: when you hit it that sweetly, you just know it's going in.


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