Fresh from victory over a marauding Liverpool side — which involved keeping the most dangerous attacking trio to nil barring a self-inflicted wound — Manchester United have reason to feel confident. The gap between their city rivals remains vast by every possible metric, but they have cemented their position as best of the rest.
Either by luck or design, José Mourinho today fielded his best starting side. They were able to exploit weakness in the opposition defence, finish clinically, control the midfield and defend robustly. In light of the result, and United’s performance, Mourinho will inevitably arrive at one startling conclusion: his best side does not include Paul Pogba.
What does Pogba Actually do?
It is difficult to justify leaving a £90m player on the sidelines. When fit, such players are mainstays of most team sheets. Having arrived with such fanfare, Pogba was lauded as one of the top three midfielders in the world. He would be the man to win the battles in the middle of the park, and become the creative spark absent since the retirement of Paul Scholes. Despite this, many of us have been left scratching our heads at Pogba’s performances, and I increasing come back to the same question: what exactly does Paul Pogba do?
Defensively, he is robust and enjoys a battle but ultimately lacks the discipline to remain in the correct position, often leaving his colleagues exposed. In attack, he much prefers the so-called “Hollywood Pass”, which his teammates often struggle to reach or control, if it lands near them in the first place. He operates best on the left of a midfield three, but a £90m player cannot be so limited to only excel in one very specific role. Flashes of brilliance are not enough. At that price point, top-level consistently trumps combustibility.
Matić and McTominay are the Future Now
Manchester United were set up perfectly in their game against Liverpool, and they were not lacking anything that Pogba could offer. In midfield, Nemanja Matić and Scott McTominay controlled the midfield and moved the ball across the park with such ease that it is difficult to envisage Paul Pogba benefiting them. Matić and McTominay are the future of Manchester United’s midfield.
Mourinho will know, deep-down, that Pogba is adding no unique value to his side. Continuing to play him as a first-choice is to hide embarrassment over the signing more than anything else. Rumours of a broken down relationship continue to plague both parties, and a dignified break-up in the summer may be for the best.
Pogba is a brand. He is charismatic, well humoured and a very rounded human being. He has a star quality, his footballing talent notwithstanding, that appeals to the greats of European football. He may be better suited to the less competitive yet still glamorous surroundings of PSG, or even Real Madrid. I’m sure one of them would gladfully take him off Manchester United’s hands and end this distracting sideshow.
Unfortunately, not even Paul Pogba can dab his way out of this one.
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