Why Paul Pogba can be the difference for Manchester United

Despite back-to-back disappointing results for Ralf Rangnick’s Manchester United, there have been some real positives; one of which being the return of Paul Pogba.

In his first game back against Middlesbrough, the Frenchman was able to win a penalty which Cristiano Ronaldo failed to dispatch and then won the ball back for Jadon Sancho’s opening goal.

Yesterday, Pogba provided the finishing touch in the 18th minute where his measured shot found the roof of the net. A shot which complemented a solid individual performance despite the Reds dropping two points in their race for the top four.

The 1-1 draw meant that David MoyesWest Ham were able to leapfrog United in the table. However, there have been positive signs that Old Trafford will be seeing more expansive football in the coming months.

Of course, opposition hasn’t been brilliant, but United have shown development in controlling games and creating chances, while slowly improving on the defensive side too — In the last two games, United had 52 shots on goal and limited their opposition to just 15 attempts on goal.

Pogba in action against Middlesborough – his first game for the club since returning from injury earlier this month. Credit: Reuters

Ironically, this is the most well-rounded the team has looked since Rangnick joined the club, even though the end results have left supporters less than pleased. One reason for this improvement in United’s general play is the return of Pogba, and he could very well be an underlying factor behind any kind of top four push in the remaining 15 matches of the league season.

Whether his quality is being shown from the midfield or the left-hand side, Pogba gives this United side more control, more progression and more creativity.

He’s a player who has a wide variety of assets, however, they are limited and his weaknesses are highlighted when he’s forced into playing deeper, as he was in the latter stages against Sean Dyche’s men where his performance slightly dropped off in quality when he had to perform as the deepest midfielder after Scott McTominay was subbed off for Jesse Lingard.

Perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of Pogba’s game is his strength and ability to hold on the ball under pressure. He uses his body exceptionally, as shown for his penalty win against Middlesbrough, and his footwork can allow him to pass the ball on or take-on a player in order to progress and sustain pressure against the opposition.

Too often, United have lost possession causally which created struggles to progress and sustain pressure. Pogba can not only progress the ball through the thirds with his excellent passing range, but also through receiving the ball in more advanced areas and making it stick, something that some of Rangnick’s other forwards struggle to do.

His stature is not only useful in possession, but also out of it. Pogba won seven of his 10 aerial duels against a Burnley side known for their size and strength. The Frenchman also was able to claw possession back in order for Bruno Fernandes to create the goal scored in the FA Cup last week.

Pogba scored his first goal of the season against Burnley.

Pogba is not an all-action midfielder who is brilliant out-of-possession, but he can be a very useful asset defensively when his primary role is as an advanced attacker, not a number six.

Currently a point behind West Ham in fourth with a game in hand, United do still have a realistic chance of securing Champions League football next term, but with Arsenal and Tottenham within close persuit — both with games in hand on the Reds — there will need to be further improvement.

However, we are seeing gradual improvement and for once, with these dropped points, we’re feeling hard-done-by rather than embarrassed. That usually means the results are around the corner.

For those results to come though, United need to build on these performances and look to control matches for longer periods than at the moment. The best person to allow them to do that is Paul Pogba. His skillset could very well be crucial to what kind of position United are in at the end of the season, and then he could very well be leaving the club after the conclusion of the campaign.

But for now, at least, Paul Pogba is one of the most important players for Manchester United and Rangnick should look to ensure that he’s facilitated and not playing as the deepest midfielder.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: