In-form Pogba: “I was in the shadows”
Paul Pogba is on fire and is clearly loving life under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
The French midfielder has probably been the main beneficiary of Jose Mourinho’s departure at Manchester United in December, as Solskjaer has built the team around Pogba since taking over on a caretake basis.
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Pogba has scored four goals and added four assists during Solskjaer’s five-straight Premier League wins to kick off life at Old Trafford and his influence on United’s play was evident in the huge 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
His wonderful pass to set Marcus Rashford free for the game-winner at Wembley summed up his growing confidence levels and he almost scored a few times himself in the second half after galloping into the final third.
Speaking to reporters at Wembley after the game, Pogba summed up his situation and the difference Solskjaer has made in his first six games in charge.
“Before the coach arrived I was in the shadows, on the bench, and I accepted that,” Pogba said. “It is a pleasure to play again. Now I am always smiling... It’s a pleasure to be reunited with him. I knew him from the academy and the reserves, when his nickname was ‘Supersub’. He is doing a really good job. As a player he knew the mentality of this club. He has come back to help us and it is going very well.”
Solksjaer worked with Pogba in the academy and reserve team at United during his first steps as a coach and the confidence he has given the Frenchman is clear for all to see. He is flourishing alongside Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard and the pace, trickery and power of that quartet has opposition defenses retreating readily.
Mourinho never seemed to trust Pogba and always wanted to make him into a more defensive central midfielder. Solskjaer has taken the shackles off and is reaping the rewards of allowing his attacking players to do what they do best: create and score goals.
Pogba’s return to form is the biggest indicator that Solskjaer is doing a great job at reviving Manchester United on the pitch, as they’re now just six points off the top four and waiting in the shadows to pounce and secure UEFA Champions League qualification.
If Solksjaer is going to get the job on a permanent basis at the end of the season, Pogba will have to stay fit and in-form. Crucially, the World Cup winner is also emerging as a leader of this team and his influence in the dressing room will be key to keep all of the players on Solskjaer’s side.
As long as Pogba is happy and is playing in the correct position, United will be heading in the right direction.