Paul Pogba returned to action for Manchester United in their 4-1 victory over Newcastle United in the Premier League. The Frenchman inspired ‘the Red Devils’, scoring a goal and assisting another. He strolled back into the side as if he had never been away. Picking up exactly where he left off before the injury running the game with his technique and athleticism will be encouraging for the United faithful. He lifted everybody around Old Trafford and has reinstated hope in the fans.
Over 2 months had gone by since Pogba last took the field for United. He limped off with a thigh problem 19 minutes into his sides Champions League Group A contest against Basel. Unfortunately for the former Juventus man, who was given the captains armband in the game against Basel, the injury was worse than first feared and he was sidelined for considerably longer than first thought.
Even more unfortunate for Pogba, the injury came as he was showing his worth on the pitch. The signing of him from Italian champions Juventus made sense. A player who has huge popularity with fans around the globe and was widely recognised as one of the best young players in the world helped the club make a statement. Pogba started the current campaign on fire. 4 games brought him 2 goals and 2 assists in the league. His aura was growing and it felt like something special was happening. Then the injury hit.
The team seemed to brush off Pogba’s absence with 4-0 wins in the Premier League over Everton and Crystal Palace, with a 1-0 away triumph over Southampton in-between. A 4-1 League success over Burton Albion in the League Cup came during this period also.
Then came a drab affair at Liverpool. A goalless draw and negative tactics put in place by Jose Mourinho highlighted the United number 6’s absence. In the big games expectations on top players is increased. Missing Pogba for one of United’s toughest away days of the season was a major problem for the club. While Mourinho’s tactics may have been defensive even if Pogba was available the threat United would have carried would have been greater with him involved.
It was not necessarily the results that suffered while Pogba was injured. Although United had some poor results. The stand out one being the 2-1 defeat at Huddersfield. It was the style of play. Mourinho’s man seemed to be missing some creativity. The absence of Pogba, who is expected to link the midfield to the attackers, really showed.
Another event which emphasised the void left by the midfielder was when United visited Chelsea. Mourinho implemented a similar negative game plan for the trip to Stamford Bridge that he did when he went to Anfield. The difference was that Chelsea were a little more open than Liverpool were. Chelsea were victories and it found United slipping further away from Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Manchester City.
Manchester United’s talisman has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He can manage it. He is a player who always wants the ball regardless of the situation. He may not make the right decisions on every occasion but he wants to be in the position to make them. It is remarkable that he has this ability and it takes pressure off other players around him.
Pogba’s importance to Manchester United has been emphasised. His return coincides with the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and both having huge personalities will have a positive effect on the squad. His form on his return has been remarkable and he will only get better. It is vital that he continues to take control of games and use his technique and reputation to drive Manchester United forward. If he can do that consistently the title race will get very interesting very quickly.
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