After that emphatic and dramatic win against Manchester City, United fans and players have their spirits high due to the fact that they stopped City from having a title wining party in their own back-yard. Although, the game was looking almost over after being two goals down, United turned the tide around in the second half with a brace from Paul Pogba and a late Chris Smalling winner. The derby gave us many insights on how the Red Devils will be a team to be to be afraid of next season, defeating the so called ‘Unbeatables’, ‘Best team in England’ in clearly a tactical master-class from Jose Mourinho. The match also showed us the true talents and outstanding performances of many players. Alexis Sanchez, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young and Paul Pogba all had an exceptional game. But, the most stand-out player amongst the lot was by far, Pogba. His performances also proved that he should be played deeper in the attacking half of the pitch in order to get out his full potential.
Pogba, was signed from Juventus last season for a world record fee of 89 million (then). For United, it was like a return of a prodigal son, who had returned to his homeland. Pogba was part of the youth squad that graduated including Jesse Lingard. But, he wasn’t deemed fit as per United standards when he was young and was sold off to Juventus for a price under a million. After his return to United and English football, there was immense pressure on the then world record signing to live up to the hype. But, after a slow start, Pogba started to find his feet with his boyhood club, striking up great chemistry with the players and showed glimpses of his endeavors in Turin. In his second season, Pogba was subject to a lot of criticism due to his inconsistent form and crazy hair-cutting antics. He was slated by many pundits who said that he doesn’t play for the badge and is taking thinks to lightly. There was also a partial blame on his development hammered on Mourinho, who made help play in a very defensive role, which hindered his attacking ability.
During his time at Juventus, Pogba was the understudy of Italian Legend, Andrea Pirlo. The Italian maestro was an instrumental figure for Pogba. Both of them possessed similar qualities of creativity and going forward. Back in the day, no one could intercept a sublime pass from Pirlo and also his great long balls. It was at Juventus, where Pogba developed his qualities of pace, strength, shooting and passing, mastering all the arts of creativity. After Pirlo left, Pogba became the talisman and key creative factor in the side, making him one of Serie A’s most feared players at a slender age. He was given the full license to go forward and attack and he had nothing to worry about, as he had the likes of Sami Khedira and Claudio Marchisio taking up the defensive duties as holding midfielders. He was deployed mainly as a box-to-box midfielder with the freedom to go forward or even sometimes played as an attacking midfielder, either ways he got the job done. He racked up astonishing stats of 34 goals and 43 assists in his entire 178 appearances for Juventus. He also went on to win 4 consecutive Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia’s and two Supercoppa Italiana during his time at Turin. He also went on to win the 2013 Golden Boy award, three consecutive Serie A Team of The Year inclusions, 2015 UEFA Team of The Year, 5th in the 2015 Ballon d’Or and was the top assist provider In the 2015/16 season in Italy.
After he switched to Old Trafford, his playing style completely changed. Not saying that ‘his’ playing style changed, but, he is being to restrictive. Mourinho prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders. In this season, Pogba has been playing in this system alongside Nemanja Matic. His attacking freedom has been very restrictive as compared to his time at Juventus. United bought a player in Pogba, who possess high attacking and creative abilities. Whilst at United, he has bound with the unnecessary defensive duties imposed on him. You might think what is Matic bought for? Matic, bought for the special reason of allowing Pogba to roam freely in the attacking third supporting the strikers. But unfortunately, Matic isn’t looking enough. Even with his inclusion, Pogba is still committing to his defensive duties. Mourinho stated that Pogba’s role in the United style is a classic box-to-box midfielder, which means he will defend when need be and join the attack when on the counter. But what sense of him playing a box-to-box, when Jose has had a defensive approach all this time this season. It looks as if Pogba isn’t moving ahead of the centre line. Mourinho also stated that Pogba prefers to play a box-to-box in a 4-3-3 formation. In United’s default 4-2-3-1, they usually tend to switch to a 4-5-1, making Pogba’s role more defensive. But, that wasn’t the case against City. Pogba played in a 4-3-2-1 but in an attacking midfielder for a change. The result turned out to be great. Two goals, brilliant attacking display and the Man of the Match. United should seriously capitalism on Pogba’s performance against City, which also showed us how important a player he is and a vital factor for the remaining season and next. But, how should United capitalize on this?
United have a player in his prime with high caliber who can take the world by storm. Even if he changes his hairstyle more than an average footballer, his qualities are out of this world. He is just confined by the chains of defense. United should build a squad around it’s core players namely being Pogba, Sanchez and Lukaku. In United’s case it should be Pogba. The creative ability that Pogba has, he can carry the whole team and become the chief creator and catalyst of the squad on the contrary that Matic gets support, allowing Pogba to move forward. In The Derby, Matic was partnered with Herrera, who did a splendid job acting as an anchor. The solution is a new signing. It is no secret that United will sign a new midfielder because of Carrick’s retirement and Fellaini’s undisclosed future. United require a midfielder with versatile attacking and defending qualities which will only benefit Pogba, who will create the tempo of the whole team. United are targeting the likes of Milinkovic Savic, Fred, Kroos and many others.
Players of their skill sets will help Pogba move forward which the team clearly needs. Unless Pogba doesn’t move forward, attackers won’t too and creating chances will be very difficult. Pogba’s off field relationship with the whole squad is great, especially, Lingard, Lukaku, Martial and Rashford, all attackers. His charisma is also catching the eye of Sanchez. Imagine that strong chemistry will bring such fruitful results if he is allowed to move forward as the attackers are nearly telepathic. All this only possible with a new signing to support Matic and Pogba. He has a total of 14 goals and 15 assists in his two seasons combined. With the required support, Pogba can carry the whole team forward with lethal attackers upfront. Pogba needs to start playing as an attacking midfielder with proper support behind him so that he can support the ones ahead of him. It is only possible with significant investment in midfield. Pogba has the potential to carry the whole team forward and win titles only if he is given the license to attack ad if the team is built around him.
To conclude, United need to capitalize on their 89 million investment and invest around him. Pogba is like the machine which needs fuel to run. Here Pogba is the fuel, Matic is the electricity and a new signing will be the fuel to complete the axis and set this world-class machine run smoothly!
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