FootballSport

Manchester United rely on Pogba to survive the Season

The Frenchman’s brief cameo against Watford has to be just the start if the Red Devils are to rescue their current campaign

Manchester United’s best hope of salvaging their season rests at the feet of Paul Pogba and his ability to play at his best.

Pogba contributed more than any other player as United were humiliated against Watford. He managed to play around 20 minutes – and such was his form, that defeat may have been avoided had he played from the start.

His passing was as remembered, the best that United have seen since the retirement of Michael Carrick. His ability to pick a pass would match anything on offer at Barcelona, and he would certainly stand out in Real Madrid’s midfield.

Juventus, another potential suitor, have nobody with his range. It nevertheless appears that he will remain at the club for at least the rest of the season, and if he continues the form from his last appearance, United might yet scrape a top-four finish.

Pogba’s return would allow United to relegate Jesse Lingard back to the bench. Lingard is an odd mixture of effort and ineffectiveness. Whether it is deliberate or not, he is rarely found in positions where his talent and bravery is tested. Instead, he is a safe and pedestrian player. That might be useful in central midfield, but serves to blunt attacks when he is deployed as a number 10 or on the wing.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer clearly knows that United are struggling for guile. He has occasionally given Juan Mata the chance, but it appears that age has caught up with him dramatically in the last couple of seasons. Never the fastest, his body hampers him carrying out even the most basic tasks.

Pogba may only be intermittently fit, and intermittently focused, but when he is determined, he carries the ball serenely and with impressive technique. There is nobody in the squad who offers the same, nor is there an easily secured alternative available for transfer.

After speculation over his willingness to compete for United, Pogba demonstrated his talents at Vicarage Road. It is not enough to overturn a couple of seasons of criticism, some justified and some hysterical, but it points a way forward for club and player.

Olabisi Olabode

NTA2, Lagos Network Centre

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